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. Iam Thatiam

    At this point, 5 years into his presidency, Obama's got to figure that he will have to move forward with ZERO help from the do-nothing Republicans in Congress. But he's defeated them at almost every turn so far, so maybe he can still get a few things done before he leaves in 3 years........and hands things off to Hillary Clinton.

    July 28, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  2. Jim

    With that being said. If the election was being held again tomorrow, this guy would win AGAIN! Which is sad.

    July 28, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  3. Tim

    Obama doing what he does best, twiddling his thumbs.

    July 28, 2013 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  4. Jim

    With everthing being said. If the election was to be held again tomorrow, this guy would win AGAIN! Which is pretty sad.

    July 28, 2013 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  5. bobby

    I may not agree with the president on some concerns, as is my right. But those who from the very start of President Obama's first term continue to "make this a one term presidency" even when the whole nation said enough already. The repubs does not want Obama to succeed, it would tell to world that America is not willing to tolerate anything or different..

    July 28, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  6. Mercury

    The Right has spent the entire past five years sabotaging this administration, while complaining that it's getting nothing done.

    July 28, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  7. Az

    The Obama economy = 4 in 5 near poverty. Effort at making all Americans equal is working! Unfortunately the wrong end of the spectrum is targeted as the benchmark for equal!

    July 28, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  8. Obamafixesthings

    Most of the people posting about President Obama must not have read any news for 4 years. Osama bin laden is dead. GM lives. The deficit is falling. The ACA is improving peoples lives. No Americans are dying Iraq. We are leaving Afghanistan to the people who live there. The list is much longer, and those that read know it. Please stop hating and start supporting the sound policies of our great President. America will be better off.

    July 28, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  9. guest

    Obama wasn't yet waited for anyone to use his corrupt executive branch for selfish political gains. Thank you Congress limiting the damage from this abusive, lying tyrant. Maybe the republic will survive if individuals stand up to the bully.

    July 28, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  10. plain&simple

    The haters.....HATE...... That's what they do!!! That's all they do. Anyone can see who they are....except them!

    July 28, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  11. rla

    A leader could change these things but an ideologue can NOT because he is blind to the nation and does not understand that the constitution is more important than is his presidency and certainly more important than his ideology!

    July 28, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  12. Obamafixesthings

    Ron L this is not a place to make common sense post. Most people on this page live in a make believe world where President Obama is an evil villain and the Republican House only wants to help the little guy.

    July 28, 2013 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  13. don in albuquerque

    Let me see, from the comments I have read..........If you try to fix the economy, if you try to save what is left of our dwindling resources ( and I'm talking about things like air and water, not oil), if you try to make the rich and corporations pay their fair share of taxes, if you try to put the working person on the same level playing field as the rich (college fees, and politically), if you try to feed and care for those who cannot care for themselves then you are.......
    A Socialist
    A Nazi
    A Communist
    A Marxist............
    Gee, whoever said it was going to be easy to do the right thing.

    July 28, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  14. rs

    It is perhaps illustrative of the problems overwhelming the GOP these days.
    Their scorched Earth political philosophy of "NO Negotiation" leaves them with 6 solid years of non-achievement. Face it, they have not done one single solitary thing to help Americans at the depth of the greatest economic downturn since the Crash of '29.
    Yet, they some how feel entitled to try to hold the economy, and our collective well-being hostage to "get their way". Unfortunately, they HAVE no policies to replace the ones from the President and the Democrats. The laws they have passed have zero impact on the problems at hand- they are simply their crazy culture wars boiler plate for their insane core. True, their unpatriotic and anti-govermnet rhetoric has no doubt damaged the faith Americans have in their government, that hardly paves the way to a Republican comeback, rather it highlights the irony that Republicans hate government (and by extension, the people it represents) SO MUCH, they'll do anything to seize power.

    To what end? To wreck the environment? Establish their own brand of Sharia-like law? This is the problem. With Republicans in their death spiral, being post-policy means that they won't do anything for this great nation or her citizens... they don't know how anymore.

    July 28, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  15. rs

    Rick McDaniel
    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.
    LOL. Who filibustered their own bill when it was in danger of actually being passed by the Senate? Rick, really, is your reality so different from everybody else's? The GOP HAS DONE NOTHING good for America for the last 6 years- the jury is still out about the disaster that was the administration of G.W. Bush. Collectively, all little faux patriots like you and the GOP have to their credit is a pantheon of the world's worst gynecological regulation seen since 1900. Otherwise, you guys have got butkis, and raw, irrational hatred.

    July 28, 2013 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  16. ThinkAgain

    @mickinmd: " Putting some of the money back in the hands of the working classes would help the economy."

    Ah, but that wouldn't help the 1% who only care about winning the pissing contest they're engaged in with the rest of the planet's oligarchs. So the 1% will continue to fight tooth and nail against anything that will help the working classes.

    July 28, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  17. republicans suck ass

    Look at us, all getting along. awwe 🙂

    July 28, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  18. bobo

    More Executive Orders Mr.Obama?

    July 28, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  19. ed

    The housing bubble has been replaced by the stock market bubble. GM has created over 30000 jobs in China since they were saved and eliminated twice that many at home through plant closings, resourcing suppliers, and cancelling dealership contracts. The Obama phone has made billionaires out of Mexican telecom owners. The cost of putting food on the table has doubled. The cost of filling your tank has doubled. The cost of health insurance is growing even more rapidly with deductibles going up and services going down (but thank God we now have "free" birth control). We can only hope the Blamer in Chief keeps campaigning and keeps his laser focus off the economy. We would be a lot worse off if we did not have the House keeping Obama in check. Will all you lemmings still believe the media that things are great when you can't feed your family because milk is 8 bucks a gallon and you can't afford to drive your car to get to the site anyway.

    July 28, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  20. onlyfacts

    Wake up people! The problem with this country is not the government. It is Fox "news" dumbing down the right and it is working. If Fox was not around these idiots would only hear facts instead of twisted crap designed to make people skeptical. If Hannity says Obama bad, all his followers automatically think, Obama bad, without ever checking to see if Hannity is telling the truth, then the GOP just gets away with destroying this country because the idiots have no clue they've been duped. TURN OFF FOX "news"!

    July 28, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  21. rs

    The sad thing here is the GOP is caught between two paradigms- one where they have no legitimate policy -on anything meaningful, except "not what the President wants". This includes: fair wages, equal pay, voting and civil rights, retaining a social safety net for the poor, the sick and the elderly. They don't support good schools (well, unless they are private), environmental or safety laws, worker's rights, a functioning judiciary and on and on. The GOP, politically has nothing. Nothing but irrational hatred for the President, and the half of the country that he represents.

    Yet, despite all of their anti-American and anti-government rhetoric- they seem to think they can, and want to run our great nation. What does that tell you? Personally, I feel it is a sign that there is an enemy in our midst- one who will change our nation for the worse, away from the lofty goals and ideals of the founders. The GOP wants a theocratic plutocracy- and NONE of us are invited.

    July 28, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  22. Feisty Redhead Roselle, IL

    President Obama comes from a long line of thumb twiddlers. LOL.

    July 28, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  23. kenman

    Yes, he has no respect for the other branches of government, only HIS executive branch; he wants to RULE and, judging by some of the uninformed commenters here, they are willing to be RULED!

    If HE weren't so petty and thin skinned, and stopped blaming everyone else for his failings, he might actually have created so good will, BUT, when his policies are so socialistic, divisive, and proven by experience to be destructive, HE should have no cooperation.

    We just have to try to survive this man who was never qualified to be more than a community organizer; and I bet he wasn't very good at THAT! Who knows? There is no evidence of it, or his sublime academic performance, or much of anything else except voting "present" in most of his time in the Illinois Senate, and from the most corrupt political system in the nation, Chicago!

    HIS Presidency is more an indictment of voter ignorance and loss of the noble architecture of our nation!

    July 28, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  24. rs

    don in albuquerque
    Let me see, from the comments I have read..........If you try to fix the economy, if you try to save what is left of our dwindling resources ( and I'm talking about things like air and water, not oil), if you try to make the rich and corporations pay their fair share of taxes, if you try to put the working person on the same level playing field as the rich (college fees, and politically), if you try to feed and care for those who cannot care for themselves then you are.......
    A Socialist
    A Nazi
    A Communist
    A Marxist............
    Gee, whoever said it was going to be easy to do the right thing.
    Don't forget my personal favorite Don. The "Islamo-Fascist" tag the GOP tried to hang on our President.

    These fools wring their hands and moan how that mean, nasty old President just won't work with these poor old GOPpers- no freakin' wonder!

    July 28, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    'renewed focus on the economy matters' we thought he was 'focused like a laser' the entire time?

    July 28, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17