President Obama met with a number of high-profile corporate CEOs on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. to discuss the state of the nation's economy in a closed meeting at the Blair House, the President's official guesthouse.
The summit focused on how companies can create jobs to raise the economy out the current recession, according to a government statement released yesterday.
'The President led the working session that lasted for more than four hours and included discussions on ideas for investment in innovation and entrepreneurship… that will promote, rather than undermine, economic growth and encouraging investment in the United States,' the statement read.
Among the nearly two-dozen CEOs in attendance, all but one was listed as a founder of the company he represented: Mark Gallogly, managing partner and co-founder of Centerbridge Partners, who also serves on the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board. Representing the tech sector was Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, but the majority of companies represented a familiar coterie of American institutions, including CEOs from GE, Dow Chemical and PepsiCo. (For a full list of CEOs in attendance, click here.)
Addressing the concern that the president's selection of CEOs was perhaps too narrowly focused on corporate megaliths, a reporter asked the U.S. press secretary, "Are we going to see new faces there?"
Robert Gibbs, the press secretary, answered that the president would like to hear from fresh faces, too.
"Obviously there's some continuity to people that you've seen before, but I think you'll also see people that have also not spent a lot of time here," he said. "The President wants to hear from them about what they see in the road ahead for the economy, and ideas that they have on continuing our economic recovery."
In a press conference preceding the meeting, the President made a few remarks about his hopes and expectations in meeting with some of the nation's most influential business leaders.
"This morning, I hope to elicit ideas from these business leaders that will help us not only climb out of recession, but seize the promise of this moment," he said. "I want to discuss our shared mission of building a strong economy for the long run."
But many have voiced their skepticism—and criticisms—about the meeting. Uri Friedman, writing in The Atlantic in an article titled "Will Obama's CEO Summit Produce Jobs?" noted "while there are signs that the relationship between the White House and the business community is on the mend, a number of pundits are skeptical about the summit's chances of success."
In a summit ostensibly about creating jobs, others chided the President for not inviting any small business representatives to participate. "First, there was no representative of small business in attendance," wrote Bob Adelmann in The New American. "Little is expected to come out of the summit except toothy smiles and headlines."
John Boehner, the Republican House Leader and frequent weeper, cast his doubts on the meeting, too. On Wednesday, he posted an article to his website titled "Five Reasons Why The White House's 'CEO Summit' Won't Help" with a subheading that noted that the "President Meets with CEOs, But What About Small Businesses?"
Perhaps in an effort to combat the cynics, government officials urged the press to consider semantics when describing the meeting. Instead of "summit," officials pushed the term "working group."
"I'll say this for like the 83rd time," said Robert Gibbs in a press conference. "Summits generally happen in Iceland, and involve trench coats and nice hats. But this is a working group."