President Barack Obama came to my neck of the woods this week in an effort to pivot to the economy … and gripe about Republicans being mean to him. Mission accomplished on the second goal, but Obama didn’t score well with the local media on the first. KSTP reporter Tom Hauser reports that Obama didn’t have anything new to say to Minnesotans in his economic speech, calling it a “campaign rally” and a “pep rally.” As far as pivots go, Hauser told his audience that “we didn’t hear anything new,” except Obama telling people not to get cynical:
He had plenty to say about Republicans who “block me and call me names,” though:
“They don’t do anything, except block me and call me names,” an indignant Obama said against a backdrop of sailboats and a band shell shaped like a castle. He insisted that as the nation works to restore middle-class prosperity after the recession, congressional Republicans are the only holdout.
Playfully warning his audience that he was in the mood to “say what’s on my mind,” Obama accused Republicans of letting greed and gridlock perpetrate an economic system that is rigged against American families. He said he gets the sense that Republicans just don’t get what Americans are going through.
“The basic attitude is everybody is just crazy out there. If you read the fine print, it turns out the things you care about, right now, Democrats are proposing,” Obama said.
It’s worth pointing out that Obama had carte blanche for his economic agenda for the first two years of his presidency, which resulted in $800 billion in wasted and gimmicky stimulus spending and the worst US economic recovery in decades. (The civilian participation rate in the workforce is still at a 36-year low.) Voters put the GOP in charge of the House in part to “block” that agenda and offer new direction in policy — and the House has passed dozens of bills that do just that. The Senate, in control of Obama’s fellow Democrats, “block” those bills from getting a vote and then “block” Senate Republicans from offering amendments to Democratic legislation in the upper chamber.
The lack of anything new is one very good reason why Republicans aren’t rushing to endorse Obama’s economic agenda. It’s also why Obama is falling in the polls, both on the economy and overall. After all, when 54% of the public rejects Obama’s leadership and his economic policies, why should Republicans do nothing but shut up and follow? If all Obama has for the next two and a half years is whining and regurgitation, the NBC/WSJ result on leadership might end up being a high-water mark.