By Sam Youngman - 06/23/09 03:27 PM EDT
In his fourth press conference from the White House since taking office, Obama told reporters Tuesday that he is not ready or even sure he needs to ask for a second stimulus package to complement the $787 billion package Obama and Democrats pushed through Congress not long after the president took the oath of office.
The president seemed to be making some wiggle room for a second request, though, noting that when he requested the first package from Congress, "nobody understood what the depths of this recession were going to look like."
At the time, Obama and his advisers said they needed the stimulus to prevent unemployment numbers from jumping about 8 percent. Earlier this month, Obama conceded that the national unemployment rate would likely eclipse 10 percent by the end of this year, a belief he restated Tuesday.
When asked how high the number might grow, Obama, conceding that he had been wrong before, declined to offer a guess.
"I'm not suggesting that I have a crystal ball," the president said.
Obama did say that he is sure that "in the absence of the stimulus the recession would be much worse."
"People are going through a very tough time right now, and I don't expect them to be satisfied," Obama said.
In the wide-ranging press conference, Obama defended his embattled healthcare proposal and his much-criticized response to Iranian unrest following that country's presidential elections.
Obama also acknowledged that he continues to "fall off the wagon" when it comes to his effort to quit cigarette smoking.
The president, who on Monday signed a bill that transfers regulatory power over tobacco to the Food and Drug Administration, said he is "95 percent cured," but he conceded "there are times when I mess up."
"Have I fallen off the wagon sometimes? Yes," the president admitted.
Obama insisted that he does not smoke around his family.
The bill he signed into law Monday, Obama said, "is not about me, it's about the next generation of kids coming up."