(CNN) - President Barack Obama explained why, amid a series of executive branch controversies, his renewed focus on the economy matters: it's not only about financial stability, but about equal opportunity.
The message he sees as "jobs and justice" from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s March on Washington 50 years ago still rings true, Obama told The New York Times in an interview published Saturday evening.
To the many Americans who today are uncertain about their future, the 1963 march taught valuable lessons on racial equality and opportunities for "working folks," he argued.
The remarks, days after the president spoke on race and the Trayvon Martin case, came while he was on a campaign-style economic tour.
"Racial tensions won't get better; they may get worse, because people will feel as if they've got to compete with some other group to get scraps from a shrinking pot" if individuals do not see a stable fiscal future, Obama said.
"If the economy is growing, everybody feels invested. Everybody feels as if we're rolling in the same direction," he continued.
Obama's midweek schedule looked familiar to watchers of his 2012 campaign and first White House term, when he favored speaking to crowds at colleges and businesses around the nation over Washington venues when advocating his economic priorities.
After visiting universities in Illinois and Missouri and speaking on the importance of education to the economy, he flew to the port in Jacksonville, Florida, where he called for investment in infrastructure. On Monday, he will speak at a Tennessee shipping center about manufacturing, jobs, and economic growth; then on Wednesday, he will travel to Capitol Hill to meet with Democrats in the House and Senate.
He cast aside the questions about such issues as the National Security Agency leaks, Internal Revenue Service political scrutiny and U.S. handling of the Benghazi, Libya, attack last September. "With an endless parade of distractions, political posturing and phony scandals, Washington has taken its eye off the ball," he said, although he was not specific about which controversies he was referring to.
The White House plans to continue the economic push into the fall.
In the same time frame, he is also expected to make perhaps the most important economic decision of his second term: naming a new individual to chair the Federal Reserve. Ben Bernanke's term as chairman is set to expire in January.
Obama told the Times he wanted someone who would go beyond tracking inflation and focus on market stability.
"The idea is to promote those things in service of the lives of ordinary Americans getting better," he said. "I want a Fed chairman that can step back and look at that objectively and say, Let's make sure that we're growing the economy."
He disputed Republicans' claims about job creation should the controversial Keystone pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast be constructed. The 2,000 temporary construction jobs he predicted - far less than the 20,000 some Republicans have said to expect - would be a "a blip relative to the need" for job creation.
He suggested that concerns over the pipeline's environmental impact could be addressed to his satisfaction because "there is no doubt that Canada at the source in those tar sands could potentially be doing more to mitigate carbon release."
In the interview, the president acknowledged that people are "anxious" and "frustrated" about their own financial future even while the economy overall improves.
Some do not see the potential for upward mobility, which he called "part and parcel of who we were as Americans."
It predates the fiscal crises of the last decade, he said, and despite the bloated national debt, the federal government's austerity measures have hurt the government's ability to effect change in diverse areas such as climate change and immigration.
"I want to make sure that all of us in Washington are investing as much time, as much energy, as much debate on how we grow the economy and grow the middle class as we've spent over the last two to three years arguing about how we reduce the deficits," he said, blasting what he called "a damaging framework in Washington."
And he issued a stern warning to Capitol Hill Republicans: "I'm not just going to sit back if the only message from some of these folks is no on everything, and sit around and twiddle my thumbs for the next 1,200 days."
A series of polls this month have shown Obama's approval rating is below the 50% mark. But his scores - in the mid- and upper-40s - rank well above those of Congress, which came in at 21% and 12% approval in two surveys conducted about a week ago.
key word: SCANDALS
Anyone else smell goose cooking?
Obami is anti business
So many dumbed down Americans. The comments from the Obama haters are pathetic, sad echoes of right wing spinners! Get a brain!
Same song, second .... No wait .... Third .... No wait ... Fourth ,,,,, no wait ... Fifth ..... No wait .... Sixth .... (You get the picture) ... Verse!
Failure-in-Chief.........first mixed race President, NOTHING more....
All he has done, is twiddle his thumbs..........he has been a total disaster, as a leader. he has been a dictator, and NOT a leader. He has opposed the will of the people, time and again. He is so arrogant, he reeks of "royalty". He is the person you can't help, but despise.
Who is name because they are crazy. Can't check website so Obama paid person.
Well, well, well. It would seem that people are finally waking up....
Don't go blaming Obama for everything, as much as I hated the Bush and Obama bailouts they did stabilize the economy. It would have been far better to pass that bailout money through our hands first, which would have allowed us to get out from under our massive debts and financial destruction and quicken the economic recovery. He is right to point out the obstructionist GOP who are sincerely more focused on their political agenda than on the American public's health, financially or otherwise. It's not simply up to Obama to come to Republicans and compromise, it's up to them to also reflect, admit and reform their own proven failures that helped bring about the Great Recession. People think it was all about housing, but we had a credit bubble that if you look at the data coincides with the 2005 credit card bankruptcy reform act the GOP dominated government pushed through that allowed these too big to fail companies to load us up with more debt than we could afford and gave them the legal edge in keeping us trapped in that debt for many years to come. Look it up, acknowledge this was a failed policy and reform it to put some accountability back on the lender instead of making us the victim and the suspect.
What a disappointment and embarrassment this guy turned out to be as president.
obama: Divider in chief.
Every word from his lips is the vitriol stoking the flames of hate and partisanship.
I am sure the Obama haters will have a field day here but you all fail to recognize the true problems facing us today. There are no good politicians. Republicans apparently can't remember things or use common sense. Bush was a very destructive president. Terrible. Then McCain was propped up only to choose Sarah Palin as his running mate. If you think McCain/Palin would be good for this country, you are insane.
Everything Obama says about the GOP is true. Almost everything they say about him is a lie.
What a joke. I used to think Bush was as bad as we could possibly get. I was so wrong!
I don't blame you mr Prez what has congress done lately...........they will not work with you they said so............do what you need to do Prez cause the gop sure as hell does not care about the american people
the gop is a joke and worthless................work prez and for the losers that are always complaining they are part of the PROBLEM......haters know nothing but hate
do what you need mr. Prez gop don't give a damn about anything but them selves and the all mighty $$
tell me what's wrong... I immigrated 12 years ago with nothing in my pocket. Now, I got a decent house that would be paid up in couple of years, two kids done with college and on their own, hardly any debt at all, and gainfully employed. Many african-americans that work in my place come and go. They just don't last long and complain about work. Most of them drives a Cadillac Escalade or Lincoln Navigators. I'm just wondering where they get their money when I'm way above their payscale and driving a beat-up corolla. Now tell me where is the inequality they're complaining about.
TSB8C : "This is his 18th speech where he said he was now going to have a renewed focus on the economy.". So let's see- first it was Obamacare is going to doom this economy – that was a false scare. Then it was the bailout of GM etc which was never going to work. Well, it worked. Then during the election, as President Obama, talked about social issues and women's rights, Romney-Ryan insisted the focus should only be on the economy and not on any other issue..well that didn't work out. And now as the economy gets better, with stock markets at all time highs, the housing market recovering and employment slowly recovering, you guys are on this "why are you talking so much about the economy" trip. Do you all realize how much of a laughing stock you are except on Faux news. The economy would have been much better if the Republicans in Congress had been willing partners to the American people in turning it around and Mitch Mcconell had taken his constipation medicine!
I guess It's time to blame the republicans again. Oh, and by the way, the 2014 mid-term elections are coming up. What a coincidence.
He's in 2014 campaign mode.
Usually, most presidents lead and compromise with legislatures. But this president likes to hold to his tight regulatory non-growth policies.
He's such an empty suit leader. What a waste of our and our children's 8 years! We'll never get those years back.
By the way, an economist from Morning Star said he would not be surprised if our 2nd quarter GDP numbers were negative growth numbers.
Remember too that politics doesn't just happen in Washington. Most of it is manufactured by select groups that see the big picture and they're very patient in getting to the finish line, which doesn't mean they stop running their game. I fully believe that the establishment knew exactly what was happening in the financial markets and knew there would be hell to pay, although hardly anyone there spoke out about it, but a select few, until it was too late. This was thought out and those who haven't been punished or held accountable are the culprits behind the political disfunction. If you can take control of DC, which Republicans did for 6 years, then you can divert treasury funds to the tycoons of your choice, thereby insuring that you'll get an advance and then future returns on that investment through political donations and armies of ready made whackos willing to scream and shout out real intellectual debate. Then you simply wait out the political damage it may cause to your party as you try to make the party that takes your place at the head of the table pay for all of you party's diabolical schemes to raid the treasury by cutting their own throats. Deficit reduction is a ruse to cut funding to US, the people, while continuing to lavish money on the real blood suckers in our democracy.
GOPers are still obstructing and blaming Obama because nothing gets done. Vote the GOPers out of office in 2014.
Republicans, Fox and Hate Radio don't wan't any jobs created. Period.
Billions for Israel, Nothing for Detroit. That's America Folks.
First 2 years of Obama actually had successful and historical legislation passed. Once the GOP won back the house that all changed, so those who say they've been waiting 5 years, it's been 3 years of deadlock and dread. If you want to get something done then please include the GOP in your equation because facts do matter.
build consensus, inclusive and open; all marks of a leader. Too bad we don't have leader...
The weak minded are still supporting this weak, totally ineffective and corrupt president. Amazing!