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Obama rallies CEOs for stimulus

From NBC's Athena Jones

WASHINGTON -- President Obama took a page from the campaign trail Wednesday when he brought together 13 CEOs to push for the passage of package to help the struggling economy.

The session, though closed to the press, was reminiscent of the kind of roundtable Obama-as-candidate held during the long campaign season to discuss everything from nuclear proliferation to America's ability to compete with the rest of the world.

Video: Google CEO Eric Schmidt discusses Obama's plan to build out broadband infrastructure and his thoughts on what's needed for an economic recovery.

In attendance at the meeting were Steve Appleton of Micron Technology; David Barger, of Jet Blue; Motorola's Greg Brown; John Bryson, the retired CEO of Edison International; Debra Lee of BET Holdings, Inc; Xerox's Anne Mulcahy; Antonio Perez of Eastman Kodak; Michael Splinter of Applied Materials; Corning's Wendell Weeks; and Ron Williams of Aetna.

Obama, in remarks to an East Room audience after the meeting, spoke about recent job losses at big corporations underscoring the need for swift action that makes "good economic sense for their workers and companies."
He added, as he has at nearly every opportunity since taking office, that he hopes to sign the stimulus plan into law in the next few weeks and went on to stress that most of the money would be spent immediately on job creation and noted that there was skepticism about the size and scale of the plan. He also said a new Web site -- Recovery.gov -- would allow the public to follow how the government uses taxpayer money.

"I firmly believe with what Justice Brandeis once said, that sunlight is the best disinfectant," Obama said, "and I know that restoring transparency is not only the surest way to achieve results, but also to earn back that trust in government without which we cannot deliver the changes the American people sent us here to make."

But the president again insisted that solving the nation's economic problems would take more than just government action, returning to the theme of "responsibility" he has stressed since last Tuesday.

"In the end, the answer to our economic troubles rests less in my hands, or in the hands of our legislators, than it does with America's workers and the businesses that employ them," he said. "They are the ones whose efforts and ideas will determine our economic destiny, just as they always have."

Google Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt, a frequent sight at roundtables on the campaign trail, was also at the meeting and Honeywell CEO David Cote and IBM's Sam Palmisano both spoke to an East Room audience in support of the plan, before Obama delivered his brief remarks.

Palmisano said it was imperative for business and government to come together and Cote said the economic situation was "dire" and thanked the president for not being too timid to take bold action.

"We're very supportive of the reinvestment act. Our message would be it has to get done fast," Cote said. "We can't let perfect be the enemy of good."

Richard Parsons, the former head of Time Warner who has been tapped to head Citigroup, was also at the East Room event.