By Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 23, 2011; 9:21 AM
CLEVELAND - Protesters in Libya were calling for the ouster of longtime leader Moammar Gaddafi in the latest anti-government revolt in the Middle East and North Africa. Tensions over public employee unions that emerged in Wisconsin last week have spread to Indiana and Ohio. And in Washington, a shutdown looms if Republicans and Democrats cannot agree to a continuing resolution to keep the government running.
President Obama on Tuesday said nothing about any of these issues. Determined to focus on the economy, which voters cite as their No. 1 concern, the president spent the day in Cleveland trying to both solicit ideas for improving the economy and highlight his administration's policies already in place to create more jobs.
The White House has determined that it cannot be viewed as ignoring the economy, even in the midst of major crises. So Obama spends at least one day each week out of Washington talking about his plans to boost jobs and economic growth. On Thursday, he will be in Washington to speak to a jobs council he has created.
White House officials note that the president is being briefed frequently on all the other issues, and the administration is laying out its positions. But the names Gaddafi, John Boehner or Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker did not pass Obama's lips during public appearances Tuesday. Instead, he invoked the names of those who had created small businesses in Cleveland, as well as a joke about one of his favorite subjects.
During a panel on tax policy and access to capital, Obama was asked why he decided to come to Cleveland.
"I just felt bad when LeBron left," he said, referring to the NBA star who left the Cleveland Cavaliers in July to join the Miami Heat.
The president has no speeches or public events scheduled, but will visit injured soldiers at the National Naval Medical Center.