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Obama says he didn't realize magnitude of recession at first

President Barack Obama makes a statement to reporters about debt ceiling negotiations, Tuesday, July 5, 2011, in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington.
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

The magnitude of the worst U.S. recession since the Great Depression escaped President Obama when he first stepped into office, the president acknowledged today at his "Twitter town hall."

Asked what mistakes he made in handling the recession, Mr. Obama said today he could have done a better job at explaining "to the American people it was going to take a while to get out of this."

"Even I didn't realize the magnitude -- because most economists didn't realize the magnitude -- of the recession until" we were well into it, Mr. Obama said. He added that "setting people's expectations is part of how you respond well."

The question came during Mr. Obama's virtual town hall, in which he answered questions sent to him via the social media site Twitter.

In addition to setting different expectations, Mr. Obama said he would have responded to the housing crisis differently.

"The continuing decline in the housing market is something that hasn't bottomed out" yet, he said, while the administration has had to "revamp our housing programs several times."

The administration's marquee program, the Home Affordable Modification Program, which aims to help struggling borrowers avoid foreclosure, has been criticized from both the political left and right as a failure.

Mr. Obama defended the $830 billion stimulus package he signed in 2009, calling it "absolutely the right thing to do" to provide assistance to states, in order to keep teachers and other public workers on the payrolls and rebuild infrastructure.

More from the Twitter town hall:

Obama warns of "second recession or worse"
Obama addresses Tweet to end "war on drugs"
Obama says "back to the drawing board" on mortgage help
Obama: Time to for NASA to "revamp" space mission