Courtland Milloy
Courtland Milloy
Local Columnist

Cut to the chase on jobs, Mr. President

If President Obama’s Labor Day talk in Detroit was a kind of first draft of his jobs speech to Congress on Thursday, he might want to tighten up that final version by cutting the political double talk and editing those tone-deaf attempts at people pleasing.

That means it should be a short speech.

Courtland Milloy

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“Here in Detroit and all across the country, we’ve got a lot more work to do to recover,” Obama told the audience of mostly labor union workers. “But I’m not satisfied to get back to where we were before the recession. We’ve got to fully restore the middle class, and America can’t have a growing economy without a strong growing middle class. And that’s at the core of why I ran for president.”

Cut all of that.

A lot of us would love to be back where we were before the recession. So could we at least get there before you start talking pie in the sky, to say nothing of campaigning for reelection? Right now, there is no light at the end of this collapsing economic tunnel, and we need a president who can at least bring a ray of hope inside the tunnel with us.

“I don’t know about you, but I’m not scared of tough times,” Obama said in Detroit.

That’s a pretty dim ray, Mr. President.

Of course you’re not scared of tough times. What’s to be scared of when you’re fresh from a $50,000-a-week vacation on Martha’s Vineyard? Going to an oceanside villa last month while millions are losing their homes and jobs suggests you don’t know much about these tough times. And stop trying to sound like a Baptist preacher when you say, “I don’t know about you,” least people start to take it literally.

Obama told the audience in Detroit that his jobs proposal would “put Americans to work right now” but then added: “We just need Congress to get on board.”

So, in other words, the jobs proposal will not put Americans to work right now because, as everybody but Obama seems to know, Congress will not get on board.

“I’m going to propose ways to put America back to work that both parties can agree to. I believe both parties can work together,” Obama said. And in the same breath: “But we’re not going to wait for them. We’re going to see if we’ve got straight shooters in Congress — if they will put country before party.”

There you go again, Mr. Wishy-Washy.

On one hand, we’ve got the passive Obama who still believes, incredibly, that “both parties can agree.” On the other, there’s the assertive Obama who is not going to wait for the singing of “Kumbaya.” Pick one persona, Mr. President. May I suggest the straight-shooting Obama, the one who sticks to his guns?

And enough with the morsels of policy proposals that you’ve been parceling out like Kibbles ’n Bits: “I don’t want to give everything away right here,” Obama said. “I want you all to tune in on Thursday. But I will give you just a little bit.”

That’s what he did in August, saying that he had a solution to the jobs problems but adding that he couldn’t tell us about it until he returned from vacation.

Sure enough, what he gave out in Detroit was just a bit. And yet, it sounded like everything that he is expected to announce on Thursday: a proposed tax cut, some infrastructure spending, incentives for employers to hire more workers and the like.

“The time for action is now,” Obama said.

A word to the wise: Never talk about “now” being the time for action when all you’re doing now is talking. Words are not going to suffice at this late date, but since you just had to make another speech, try something like:

“Hey, folks, I’ve spent the last two years trying to make nice, but certain bullies mistook my kindness for weakness. By their actions, they would let this great nation fall. To which I say: ‘Over my dead body.’ ”

Fight at home, Mr. President, for the principles that you send Americans to die for abroad. And fight just as hard.

Your political enemies will love you no less for doing so.

 
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