Mark Hemingway is an editorial page writer for the Washington Examiner.
Much to the frustration of the press corps and the country at large, President Obama went nearly a year without giving a press conference at a time when the country was in a rather precarious state economically and politically. Lately, however it seems that Obama has decided that the debt ceiling debate is the time to reengage — no doubt the looming campaign has something to do with this decision.
After enduring Obama's speech earlier Tuesday on the debt ceiling agreement, I have to say I liked it better when the president wasn't talking. At least then there were fewer opportunities for the president to haphazardly point fingers and duck blame.
Following Obama's Rose Garden speech, Politico's Ben Smith tweeted:
How many times has Obama officially "turned his attention to jobs" in his presidency? A dozen?
Well, the RNC has the depressingly detailed list of these pivots if you're interested. Suffice to say, Tuesday's speech isn't going to convince anyone that this time it's different. It's increasingly clear that the Obama administration devoted all of its energy upfront to passing the stimulus package and Obamacare and then expected the economy and entitlements to sort themselves out while they coasted until the next camapign. At a certain point, you pivot so many times you're just going in circles, like someone put a blindfold on Obama and told him we're playing Pin the Tail on the Economy.
Funnily enough, unemployment is still ridiculously high and GDP growth is grinding to a halt. Yet, if you listened to the president Tuesday, he insists the soft economy is because of "economic headwinds" from Europe, the Arab Spring and the Japanese earthquake. Oh, and congress' inability to get a debt deal done has hurt things as well. (Don't bother asking about any role the president and his policies might have had in hurting the economy.) Suffice to say, the the President expects congress to get its act together and bring some bills for him to sign immediately.
Like patent reform. Sure, moving America to a first-to-file patent system as opposed to a first-to-invent system will help with the legal and rgulatory burdens on the tech industry. But does anyone view this as a major job fix? Hardly. And patent reform has already passed both chambers, they're just waiting to iron out the details.
But we also need an infrastructre bank, because if there's anything we learned from the stimulus fiasco — it's that "shovel ready" infrastructure projects sponsored by the federal government have been an unmitigated success. (In case, you're unsure that was a joke about how throwing a trillion dollars down a rathole didn't create enough jobs.)
Congress is also derelict for not reauthorizing the FAA's operating authority, scolds the president. Of course, the sticking point there is making it easier for airline workers to unionize because... well, because unions spend hundreds of millions on Democratic campaigns despite representing just 12 percent of the workforce and making just about everything more expensive for everyone. Oh and speaking of aviation, maybe there's fewer jobs because companies such as Boeing are afraid that the Obama administration is going to stop them from building factories and creating jobs over ginned up concerns about union disputes.
Oh and some more trade agreements. Congress should do something about those. In what must have been a postively herculean feat of self-restraint, I didn't hear the president mention the words "green jobs," so there's that.
Of course, the "Washington-inflicted wound(s)" on the rest of the country — note that "Washington" designates that land mass that completely surrounds, but does not include, the White House — may mean these bills may not make it to the president's desk so he can make the kind of swift and decisive economic action that's been a hallmark of his presidency. As the president reminds, voters voted last year for "divided government, not dysfunctional government." If that's the president is acknowledging voters rebuked him last year, well, that would be a laudable and atypical moment. But given that the vice-president just supposedly called tea partiers "terrorists" Monday, it's pretty clear the White House views the dysfunction here as having a heavy starboard tilt.
So that about sums up the president's approach to the fact that nearly one in ten Americans are unemployed. Forgive me for thinking our "crisis of confidence" is far from over thanks to another stern talking to from a politician "who has an ear for eloquence and a tongue dipped in the unvarnished truth." One of these days the president might actually consider having something to say (or heaven forfend, written down) to address the horrible economy. Until then, it might be better to be thought economically feckless then open your mouth and remove all doubt.