At his presser today, Obama was asked by a reporter whether his new jobs tour has devolved into little more than a Truman-style political campaign against a “do nothing Congress.” In response, he essentially called on the media to take a stand on whether the GOP is really offering any real jobs plan of its own:
What I’ve tried to do is say, Here are the best ideas I’ve heard. Not just from partisans, but from independent economists. These are the ideas most likely to create jobsnow an strengthen the economy — right now. And that’s what the American peole are looking for.
And the response from Republicans has been, “No.” Although they haven’t given any good reason why they’re opposed to putting construction workers back on the job or teachers back in the classroom. If you ask them, well okay, if you’re not for that, what are you for?
The answer we’re getting right now is, “we’re going to roll back all these Obama regulations.” So their big economic plan to put people back to work right now is to roll back financial protections and allow banks to charge hidden fees on credit cards again? Or weaken consumer watchdogs?
Or, alternatively, they’ve said, we’ll roll back regulations that make sure we have clean air and clean water. Eliminate the EPA. Does anybody really think that that is going to create jobs right now and meet the challenges of a global economy that is weakening, with all these forces coming in to play?
Here’s a good question. Here’s a little homework assignment for folks. Go ask the Republicans what their jobs plan is, if they’re opposed to the American Jobs Act. And have it scored, have it assessed by the same independent economists that assessed our jobs plan. These indepenent economists say we can grow the economy by as much as 2 percent and as many as 1.9 million workers wold be back on the job. I think it would be interesting to have them do a similar assessment. Same people. Have those economists evaluate what over the next two years the Republican jobs plan would do. I’d be interested in the answer.
I see some smirks in the audience, because you know that it’s not going to be real robust. The question is, Will Congress do something? If Congress does something, then I can’t run against a “do nothing” Congress. If Congress does nothing, then it’s not a matter of me running against them. I think the American people will run them out of town. Because they are frustrated. And they know we need to do something big and something bold.
This was greeted by some comments on Twitter about how “professor” Obama is assigning the media “homework.” But it was actually a revealing moment that’s worth dwelling on. Obama didn’t quite say it directly, but he was basically calling on the news media to take a real stand on a core question: Are Republicans really making a legitimate contribution to the debate over what to do about the economy? And he even called out reporters who, he said, already know the answer to that question. In so doing, Obama revealed palpable frustration with the state of our discourse, in particular the constant accusation that he is being “political” in pushing jobs proposals, simply because Republicans won’t pass them. His answer, translated, was: Can we all stop pretending that eliminating the EPA constitutes a jobs plan?
It remains to be seen whether this kind of continued pressure on Congress will reverse Obama’s political fortunes, barring any easing of unemployment. As I’ve noted repeatedly, it’s likely that Obama will continue to pay the heaviest poltical price for the economy, even if Republicans and some Senate Dems are blocking Obama jobs proposals that have broad public support. Indeed, at another point during the presser, he essentially acknowledged this to be the case, suggesting that “cynicism” about his and the rest of the government’s failure to fix the jobs crisis would persist as long as Congress fails to act.
But that aside, the challenge he presented to the media was certainly an interesting and relevant one.