Obama: I won't 'twiddle my thumbs' waiting for GOP
July 27th, 2013
08:57 PM ET
5 years ago

Obama: I won't 'twiddle my thumbs' waiting for GOP

(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.

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (425 Responses)
  1. Bruning von Stauffen

    He does realize that congress is the one that passes budgets, laws & spending bills, doesn't he? He only signs them after they have been approved by both chambers of congress. And a large segment of the voting population have elected congressmen to oppose his plans. I know I did.

    July 28, 2013 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  2. why

    The economy tanked because of the housing bubble.

    What caused the housing bubble?

    Hint: It wasn't Bush or Iraq.

    July 28, 2013 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  3. Average American

    Where has this man been for the past 5 years? Oh. that's right he and his family have been on vacation. Almost forgot.
    He has been campaigning. Campaigning? Hey Obama. You were elected 5 years ago. You can stop campaigning now.

    Sign of failure. Blame everyone else for your failure

    July 28, 2013 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  4. Wes Scott

    Those who claim that Obama is anti-business are not illiterates who believe anything and everything they are spoon-fed by right wing talk radio. Unfortunately, he is the most pro-business President we have ever had – to the exclusion of protecting citizens from the ravages of corporate greed and pollution.

    July 28, 2013 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  5. Rosa

    Good! Do what you can without the worthless obstructionist GOP. Why these anarchists have any business being in government is beyond me.

    July 28, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  6. Doug from Seattle

    Hmmmmmm; let's think about this for a minute.

    1. The stock markets are at record highs

    2. Home prices are rebounding

    3. The unemployment rate is going down (less than 5% in the Seattle metro area)

    4. The growth rate of health care costs is at its lowest rate in decades

    5. Expanded individual liberty and freedoms of millions of LGBT citizens

    6. Got us out of Iraq and, no too long from now, we'll be out of Afghanistan

    7. Is vigorously fighting to protect the voting rights for all

    8. Is protecting a woman's right to choose

    9. Fighting for equal pay for equal work

    10. Fighting for pragmatic immigration reform

    I could go on, but I have work to do. President Obama is the best president we've had in several generations! Republican's have clearly shown that they are a party with no new ideas and are morally bankrupt. Clearly the GOP cannot lead, nor can they follow! It is simply time for them to get out of the way so we can move forward into the 21st century!!!!

    July 28, 2013 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  7. sgurdog

    Reforming healthcare in America is not doing nothing. That's what he was elected to do and that's what he and Democrats did and there will be NO GOP credit given when people realize the good that comes from it, which is exactly why the GOP wants to repeal it. If you people think that taking the stock market from the 6,000 range to 15,500 and saving millions of Americans 401K which is reliant on the health of said stock market, is doing nothing to improve the economy, then you are ignorantly blind to reality. I'm no fan of what Wall St. did and what they continue to do in the name of profit and greed, but I'm no fool hell bent on eating from a dumpster when I retire. Gov't is broken, that is a fact. Bush and cronies broke it, and if you want to sit out the next 4 years waiting for the next saviour then YOU are the problem with America today. Get off your bums and rattle some cages of your own representatives who have done nothing to help the situation. Financial crisis was 2008, before Obama. Stop acting like you ever had hope for change and admit your accountability in voting with emotion rather than intelligence.

    July 28, 2013 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  8. ironman59

    For all those screaming Obama is anti-business you do remember the following. The President proposed giving the same tax breaks to companies that bring jobs back onshore as they get fro sending theme offshore. The gop controlled house overwhelmingly voted that down. So, who is really against bringing jobs back to the country and who is truly anti-business. Let's not forget the gop really haven't attempted any immigration reform. They know illegal immigrants make for a cheap labor force that won't complain and lead to higher profits.

    July 28, 2013 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  9. Virginia

    I blame the GOP, especially those in the House of Represenatives. We could have been on the road to economic recovery much sooner if they hadn't been playing their games. All they ever wanted was to discredit Obama and try to impeach him. What a bunch of racists! How anyone can continue to reelect these losers year after year is beyond me. The young people are turning against the republicans and that is good news. As years go by, and more young people vote against them, they should be an antique. Can't wait.

    July 28, 2013 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  10. damn John

    oh the fearful do rant about their "imagined" future as if they are not a part of it. You poor conservative fools, at least recognize the reptilian eggs shell that you're still dragging behind you along with your bloody knuckles,

    July 28, 2013 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  11. Willy100

    I think he has GOT IT – – we are WORRIED – – and all he does is give Speeches – and Blame the GOP – – Let's MAKE JOBS

    July 28, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  12. Tampa forward

    Obama is the Franklin Delano Roosevelt of this century. Republicans are useless.

    July 28, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  13. Paul

    John Boehner campaigned for Republicans in 2010 on jobs, jobs, jobs. He lied to the public. I can not think of one thing the Republicans have done to help the economy. They have wasted their (and our) time and money on "social" issues. They have repealed Obamacare 40 times (isn't once enough to get their point across)? The Republicans only agenda seems to be to say "NO" to anything Obama wants and that includes jobs programs, infrastructure, and other worthwhile projects. I guess they would rather hurt the entire country if that helps them politically. Sad bunch

    July 28, 2013 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  14. wm Scot

    My life sucks and its all Obama's fault. I cannot get a decent job because the people I believe in and listen to say its Obama's fault so it must be. We all know he could never be a great president just look at him !
    The plan works if you say it enough times people will believe it just read how Her Goebbels did it in Germany.
    What a bunch of sheep following the GOP machine !

    July 28, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  15. Salty Bob

    Note from Mr. Bonner. Don't measure our success one the Bills we pass but the lame ass attempts at stopping this president form doing anything, as well as our 30+ attempts at repealing everything he has ever done. We are now part of the divided states of America. The religious right the Tea Party Big money persons want to control the message, as well as the future course country will take. We the people are all that stand in their path. Now the GoP want to take the power we hold and limit our only means to be effective by limiting our right to vote and redistricting the areas we live in to make our vote mean less. This all the GoP and its Right wing crusader's has left Lies, cheating, and raciest policies meant to divide.

    July 28, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  16. jharry

    Oh, the clown in chief has something to say about jobs, 6 years too late. What a fool.

    July 28, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  17. rla

    Isn't twiddling your thumbs all you do when you lead from behind????

    July 28, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  18. Ron L

    First to those of you who are attempting to blame the President for this situation you are mistaken. For you who think this President is anti-business, you are mistaken. For those of you who think this President can really change the current state of our economy by himself, you are mistaken. Here is what the President would like to see: 1) The minimum wage raised to at least $10.00. This will HELP the economy and the deficit. All of you who think this will hurt small business, look at the history of when the minimum has been raised it the past. It NEVER has hurt the economy. You see the WORST thing about the current minimum wage is a person working 40 hours a week on it still has to get assistance from the government to survive!!! In effect we are saving the Wal-Marts, Targets, McDonalds, millions of dollars in wages by having to give their workers government aid while their company thrives and grows!!! There is something fundamental wrong with that. The second thing the President would like to see is a 5 year infrastructure plan passed by the Congress that aggressively addresses the 2 Trillion dollars of work that needs to be done. If you check the past in this area for every $1.00 the government has spent on infrastructure there has been a payback of $1.50 to $3.00. A Win-Win for the nation it would improve roads, bridges, sewer systems.the electric grid, and the economy; yet we have been unable to do it. The third thing the President would like to see is the tax structure change in America where the rich seem to be able to get really unfair tax advantages over the working class of America. Yes, lower the tax rate on corporations, but at the same time get rid of 80% of the loop holes. NONE of this is anti-business; NONE of this can be done by the President alone!! Which unfortunately in todays political climate there is little chance any of it will be accomplished in the next 3 years.

    July 28, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  19. Terry

    I laugh at those condemning the GOP as much as I laugh at those condemning the President. It really is funny how people fawn over those elected leaders that we have. Politics in America is a joke and to actually think that any of them heave yours or mine best interests in mind is laughable. Neither side cares about us only about polls and how long they can keep their jobs including this president, and yes he will be out of a job but this is about power and how much he will have left when he leaves office. The current GOP is a bunch of knuckleheads and the Dems while preaching about helping the poor actually do nothing to help. One amazing fact is that the economy grows more under dem presidents than it does under repub presidents. But before you go all hostile remember this...when the economy grows the rich get richer while the poor get poorer. It happened under Clinton and Bushy, so neither side has the poor in mind just the repubs are more open about it.

    July 28, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  20. jtj33

    Hey Princeton Bob

    "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"

    That Kool-Aid sure has dumbed you down. Obamacare IS a disaster so far. And to get our money back from GM we would have to sell OUR stock at over TWICE the value it is. There are 3,000,000 less people in the workforce than when Obama took office. The stock market is held up by Benny Bernanke printing money from thin air.

    Meanwhile 'phony scandals' produced real dead Americans. (Benghazi – Fast and Furious – Seal Team 6) The IRS really criminally targeted Americans. And I'm sure you agree with Obama that Ft. Hood was 'work place violence' and not a terrorist attack. Idiots like you still think it was the video.

    July 28, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  21. ChrisM

    I see the flotsams have drifted over from the faux news blog

    July 28, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  22. Bob Common Sense

    The amount of nonsense on these posts is astounding.

    OF COURSE the GOP is to blame – they've made it their mission since 2008 to oppose EVERYTHING the president has had to offer. All those "scandals" have resulted in nothing. The GOP has not produced ONE jobs bill or anything creating jobs.

    If the GOP spent 1/100th as much time on jobs as they have on regulating women's bodies and trying to repel Obamacare, we might actually be somewhere today!

    Facts are facts – and they stand behind the president, not the GOP.

    July 28, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  23. What a mess!!

    Many of us knew in 2008 that Obama was a deceitful, totally unqualified empty suit, and five years later nothing has changed! What a mess!

    July 28, 2013 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  24. Doug Lynn

    Question: What major industrialized country already has the highest corporate tax rate in the world and is looking at adding more taxes on corporations if they do not provide medical insurance for their employees? Given these simple truths, how can anyone believe our current Washington leaders care about improving the economy and seeing job growth?

    Some of the most Left leaning corporations, the Entertainment industry and the Technology industry, are the absolute worst when in comes to paying US corporate taxes. Instead they move their enormous profits overseas to countries with lower tax rates. Meanwhile, our utility companies and millions of smaller, US only corporations see 40% of their income go to the government instead of lower prices or new expansion. The high tax rate greatly discouraged them from saving the profits from the good years so they can keep people employed during the bad years, contributing to the high unemployment rate during tough times. Big government is the enemy of the good jobs, not the solution.

    July 28, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  25. mickinmd

    I hope the American people finally get it through their heads that the "higher wages for the working class destroys the economy" is SO wrong when the total wages HAVE been going up, but virtually only for the top 1%. The top 1% earned 9% of American income in the 1970's and 24% now – an all-time high. The top 5% earns 35%+ of all income yet spends only 14% of consumer spending, meaning much of it ends up in offshore accounts and doesn't come back to help the economy grow. Putting some of the money back in the hands of the working classes would help the economy.

    July 28, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
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