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Obama: U.S. hopes to leave auto, bank businesses pretty quickly



WASHINGTON – President Obama said Wednesday he was “very hopeful” that Chrysler, which faces a government deadline Thursday to come up with a restructuring plan, will merge with Fiat and continue as a “going concern.” But he didn’t rule out “a very quick type of bankruptcy” for the automaker.

“The details have not yet been finalized,” he said, “but I’m feeling more optimistic than I was.”

The Associated Press reported that Chrysler and the Italian automaker will sign a partnership deal Thursday in the wake of last-ditch concessions by the United Auto Workers and the company’s debt holders.

Obama said he hopes the government can get out of the business of running Chrysler, GM and major banks as soon as possible.

“I’ve got two wars to run already,” he protested. “I’ve got more than enough to do.”

At the third prime-time news conference of his presidency, Obama returned several times to the crush of crises he has faced during his first 100 days in office.

He said he’s been surprised “by the number of critical issues that appear to be coming to a head all at the same time” and troubled by the political posturing that makes change difficult. He has been “humbled” by the limits even of the powers of the presidency.

Asked if the Bush administration was guilty of torturing terror suspects by waterboarding, Obama called the simulated drowning torture and added: “Whatever legal rationales were used, it was a mistake.”

Rebuffing criticism from former Vice President Dick Cheney and others, Obama said information gained might have been obtained in ways “that are consistent with our values.”

He expressed delight at Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter’s switch Tuesday from the GOP, which puts Democrats on the verge of a filibuster-proof Senate majority.

“I’m under no illusions that I’m going to suddenly have a rubber-stamp Senate,” he said, but Specter’s switch “will liberate him to cooperate on critical issues like health care, like infrastructure and job creation.”

As for the GOP, “simply opposing our approach on every front is probably not a good political strategy.”

> President Obama borrows from FDR’s playbook as he tries to slip as effortlessly into the role of comforter in chief. 10A

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