President Obama’s news conference today on jobs and the economy offered nothing new. He blamed the Congress and Republicans specifically. The president’s remarks on the economy and Congress echo President Truman’s on the ‘Do-Nothing’ Republican Congress. On the surface, the two are in very similar situations: there is a weak economy, the president is less than popular, it is an election year, and he resorts to blaming the House, which the other party controls. However, the central difference is that Truman matched his rhetoric with action, while Obama, so far, has not.
He also repeated a number of times we need more public sector hiring. The private sector is fine, the President said, but more jobs need to be created in state and local government.
Other than blame Republicans in Congress, and appeal to public sector unions –who are still smarting after Tuesday’s defeat in Wisconsin- the president offered very little. This is a tragically flawed strategy for the president that will do nothing to turn around either his fledging campaign or the fledgling economy.
By only blaming Republicans while failing to produce a comprehensive, centrist approach to deal with the stagnant economy in the short term, and the debt in the long term, Obama is failing the American people and seriously hurting his reelection chances.
The Obama Campaign is going to be running an ad, titled “Jobs”, in several key swings states. The ad, however, does not propose the president’s new jobs plan and it does not trumpet his sterling economic record. Neither exists. It therefore only attacks congressional Republicans for failing to pass Obama’s old jobs bill.
It ignores that the House passed parts of the bill, like a payroll tax cut, and that Republicans have passed competing bills to stimulate the economy that Democrats have disregarded.
Blaming the opposition is not a substitute for leadership. Saying your opponents have rejected your old plan is not a substitute for having a new one or working with them to achieve real compromise.
Congress “hasn’t acted fast enough” the president told his supporters at a recent rally. “Congress”, he said, “can’t just sit on their hands.” This is absolutely true. However, the president cannot just point out Republican intransigence; the president needs to at least try to overcome it.
“So my message to Congress is: let’s get to work.” Let us get to work. Truly a noble message, but the president needs to make it more than a message, and so far he has been unable to do so.
Time and again on the stump, he has resorted to telling Congress to act, never meeting with them and striking a compromise himself. This amounts to a deflection strategy, where Obama is attempting to direct the blame off himself and onto Congress. It is also phony centrism, trying to make it appear that the Republicans have an option palatable to them and a working partner, when in fact they do not.
The blame-Congress strategy worked for Truman because he gave the Republicans an opportunity to pass their legislation and work with him. Republicans in turn squandered their opportunity at the famous Turnip-Day special session of Congress. The president has not offered the Republicans his version of a Turnip-Day session. He has not presided over a grand meeting with Boehner and Reid and tried to hammer out bills that can pass both Houses and that he will sign. Instead, he has gone around the country, deflecting blame on congressional Republicans. This is neither leadership nor is it a sound election strategy.
Douglas E. Schoen is a political strategist, Fox News contributor, and author of several books including the recently released, “Hopelessly Divided: The New Crisis in American Politics and What It Means for 2012 and Beyond” (Rowman and Littlefield).
I invite you to follow me on Twitter @DouglasESchoen