Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Narrator: What do we remember in November of 2008? Was it this moment? Or this? Newscaster: This is an economy right now that cant find the bottom of bad news. Newscaster: Ten years of saving completely gone. Vanished. Poof. Newscaster: Watching the Dow Industrial Average has been like watching the heart monitor on a critically ill patient. Narrator: How do we understand this President and his time in office? Do we look at the days headlines or do we remember what we, as a country, have been through? Austan Goolsbee: The President elect is here in Chicago and hes named the members of the economic team and they all fly in for the first big briefing on the economy. Many of the leading financial figures of the world are taking the subway in from the airport and traipsing through the snow to get to the transition office. David Axelrod: There was a screen set up for slides, but we might as well have been showing a horror movie because what was described in that meeting was an economic crisis beyond anything anybody had imagined. Rahm Emanuel: You had people telling you that the auto industry was literally days from collapse. The financial sectors kind of the heart that pumps blood into the economy's was frozen up and in cardiac arrest. Goolsbee: The six months surrounding January 2009 is the worst six months ever that we ever had in the data. It was the biggest crash of household wealth that weve ever had in the United States. page Axelrod: Christi Romer, the incoming head of the Council of Economic Advisors, Mr. President, thisll be as deep as anything weve experienced since The Great Depression, and millions of people are going to lose their jobs.Tim Geithner, the incoming Treasury Secretary said the Financial systems locked up and Mr. President, it could collapse. And then Peter Orszag, the Budget Director, was the cleanup hitter, and said this is gonna add trillions of dollars to our debt. All I was thinking at that moment was, Could we get a recount? Narrator: Not since the days of Franklin Roosevelt, had so much fallen on the shoulders of one President. And when he faced his country, who looked to him for answers, he would not dwell in blame or dreamy idealism. POTUS: Our time of standing pat protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must begin again the work of remaking America. Narrator: As President, the tough decisions that he would make would not only determine the course of the nation, theyd reveal the character of the man. The first decision where to begin? Emanuel: Which is one, which is two, which is three, which is four, which is five? Where do you start? What I love about the guy he says, Were gonna do em all. Because we gotta do em all, we dont have a choice to pick. Narrator: He acted quickly with the Recovery Act, giving help where it was most urgently needed. The country had been hemorrhaging jobs more than 3.5 million lost in the six months before he took office. Middle class jobs and economy security were vanishing. The funding would keep teachers in the classroom, cops on the street, and first responders ready. And for those who were hurting, small business incentives, tax cuts for the middle class, and job training building bridges, highways, and infrastructure laying the groundwork for a new economy, and restoring the possibility of growth. But another immediate crisis confronted the President. Narrator: Auto executives had asked for another bailout. And there was pressure to act. Newscaster: Tonight, a top GM executive warned, Without help, the company will default. There is no Plan B. Elizabeth Warren: If the auto industry goes down, what happens to Americas manufacturing base? What happens to jobs in America? What happens to the whole Midwest? President Bill Clinton: If you closed all these car dealerships, and you killed all these auto parts suppliers, people have no earthly idea what wouldve happened not only to the economy, but to our self image. Emanuel: You know, a lot of conventional wisdom wanted to do what Mitt Romney did let it go. Cant be saved. Why put good money after bad? VPOTUS: Everybody. Democrats, Republicans, I mean, it was overwhelming look at the polling number do not rescue the automobile industry. Warren: The President faced a real risk either way he went. He fails to invest in the auto industry, it implodes, the economy goes further down, and blood is on his hands. The President invests, and the auto industry just cant pull it out. Thats on the Presidents hands as well. Narrator: But he knew who it would hurt the most and how devastating the loss of a job can be to an entire family. POTUS: My grandparents taught me that a job is about more than just a paycheck. They grew up during the Depression, so, they tell me about seeing their fathers or their uncles losing jobs. Even if youve got a strong spirit, if youre out of work for a long time, it can wear you down. Narrator: He decided to intervene. But in exchange for help, the President would demand action. The Bush Administration had given the car companies thirteen billion dollars, and the money was now gone. Clinton: He didnt just give the car companies the money. And he didnt give the UAW the money. He said, You guys gotta work together and come up and everybodys gotta have some skin in the game here. You gotta modernize the automobile industry. POTUS: So dont bet against the American worker, dont bet against the American people. We are comin back! Narrator: Because of the tough choices the President made, the stage was set for a resurgent U.S. auto industry. And it wouldnt be the last time this President would face a crisis that others would rather avoid. Newscaster, John Chancellor: One of the most worrisome problems facing Americans these days is the cost of healthcare and the rate at which it has increased. Narrator: It had been an issue that both parties had struggled with for more than three generations. Clinton: This is a huge economic issue because we spend seventeen and a half percent of our income on healthcare. No other big, wealthy country spends more than 11.8%. And almost all of them have better results than we do. Narrator: Healthcare costs had been rising three times the rate of inflation, crushing family budgets and choking business. And he knew that he couldnt fix the economy if he didnt fix healthcare. And he wanted to bring Washington together to share the tough decisions. Protestors: Kill the Bill! Kill the Bill! Kill the bill! Narrator: But he faced a fierce opposition, hostile to compromise. Man at Town Hall: Itll be a cold day in hell before he socializes my country. Narrator: After months of negotiation, it was unclear whether he could get the necessary votes. Narrator: Some advised him to settle. He could still claim victory if he accepted less. Emanuel: I regularly told him, Look, you dont have to spill this much political blood. You wont get the healthcare accomplishment youre seeking, but you will have something. Narrator: But he knew from experience the cost of waiting. POTUS: When my mom got cancer, she wasnt a wealthy woman. And it pretty much drained all her resources. FLOTUS: She developed ovarian cancer never really had good, consistent insurance. That tough thing to deal with, watching your mother die of something that couldve been prevented. I dont think he wants to see anyone go through that Narrator: And he remembered the millions of families like his who feel the pressure of rising costs and the fear of being denied or dropped from coverage POTUS: When you hear people saying that this isnt the right time, when you hear people more worried about the politics of it than whats right and whats wrong, I want you to think about the millions of people all across this country who are looking for some help. Narrator: And when the votes were counted, that help would come. Nancy Pelosi: The bill is passed! Narrator: Beyond the crises at home, among the toughest calls that he would make, he would make as Commander in Chief. He had promised to bring a responsible end to the war in Iraq, and bring the troops home. It was a promise kept. Newscaster: After nine years in Iraq, all the troops are returning. POTUS: Welcome home! Welcome home! Welcome home! Narrator: And it was part of his broader plan to refocus our efforts on those that had attacked us. Intelligence reports locating Osama Bin Laden were promising, but inconclusive, and there was internal debate as to what the President should do. VPOTUS: We sat down in the Situation Room\'97the entire national security apparatus was in that room\'97and the President turns to every principal in the room every secretary, What do you recommend I do? And they say, Well, forty-nine percent chance hes there, fifty-one... its a close call Mr. President. As he walked out the room, it dawned on me, hes all alone. This is his decision. If he was wrong, his Presidency was done. Over. POTUS: Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation that killed Osama Bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaida. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. Newscaster: Theyve been planning this operation for more than eight months, but in the end it came down to a period of just forty minutes when it could either be a major success or a disastrous failure.