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. Dj Rhyme

    When I hear folks say why Obama is not wrkn with repiblicans od congress. My thght is this:
    It is easier for a large group to wrk with one person, rather than..
    One person tryn to wrk with a large group.
    Its easier to chng the way of thnking for that one person than trying to change the way of thinking for a bunch of folks of the group.
    Just a thght!

    July 28, 2013 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  2. Steveo

    Dennis; The economy was hemorrhaging over 700,000 jobs a month as the result of Bush/Repugs delisional economic policies, and I was one of them. Repugs are poison for the economy. The economy grows more during a democratic administration (it actually shrunk under Bush). More jobs are created during democratic administrations.
    Job creation since 1961:
    Republican presidents: 23.9 million
    Richard Nixon: Increase of 7.1 million jobs
    Gerald Ford: Increase of 1.3 million jobs
    Ronald Reagan: Increase of 14.7 million jobs
    George H.W. Bush: Increase of 1.5 million jobs
    George W. Bush: Decline of 646,000 jobs

    Democratic presidents: 42.3 million
    John F. Kennedy: Increase of 2.7 million jobs
    Lyndon B. Johnson: Increase of 9.5 million jobs
    Jimmy Carter: Increase of 9.0 million jobs
    Bill Clinton: Increase of 20.8 million jobs
    Barack Obama: Increase of 332,000 jobs
    So what your saying is Reagan Created more jobs than three Democratic presidents combined? What you seem to forget is while Clinton was creating those jobs, he also created that housing bubble that blew up under GWB. His administration forced banks to lower lending standards to qualify those who could not afford the loans they received in the first place!

    I will grant that the country's economics was really good under Clinton but the bill came due under Bush 43!

    July 28, 2013 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  3. amercon

    Obama plans to once again ignore Congress and the Constitution. He is functioning like a communist dictator. Obama should be impeached.

    July 28, 2013 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  4. Human first. Politics second.

    This is what we get for electing and egotistic tick to the office of President.

    Voted for him the first time. Not in 2012.

    July 28, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  5. Sweetdigs

    Some do not see the potential for upward mobility, which he called “part and parcel of who we were as Americans.”

    Yes we call those people slackers. Anybody that wants to live the american dream still can. It just doesnt come in the form of entitlements. You have to work for it.

    July 28, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  6. MaryM

    The GOP are obstructionist and all of America knows it. Vote these tearepublicans GOPers out of office in 2014.

    July 28, 2013 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  7. disqus_m4RzRjSnrs

    Twiddle or twaddle. Do you (Obama) know the difference.

    July 28, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  8. disqus_m4RzRjSnrs

    LOL. Obama is a joke and a shame.

    July 28, 2013 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  9. Ancient Texan

    DE- The unemployment average for the entire 8 years of the Bush administration was 4.7%. Obama's has NEVER been below 7.5% and never will be. There are fewer people working in America now than at any time since 1979.

    July 28, 2013 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  10. boungiorno

    just look directly in front of you people and you can see what needs to be done

    July 28, 2013 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  11. Mike Texoma

    The president proposed an infrastructure bank – an extremely cost-efficient job generator. The Republicans shot it down. The president proposed $4 trillion in budget cuts. The Republicans shot it down because the bill had a small percentage of revenue in it. The president got obamacare passed into law. The Republicans are trying to scuttle it even though 20 million more Americans will have insurance coverage it will result in a 20-50% reduction in insurance rates and a reduction in deficits. Initiatives in education and training have gone nowhere in Congress due to Republican opposition. The president wants to encourage economic growth and job formation, and the Republicans want to "starve the beast" even if it means driving America back into recession. Don't talk to me about Obama "doing nothing". Don't starve the beast and then decry the slow pace of jobs recovery. The liars and the cheaters are the men and women on this blog who refuse to acknowledge the truth. I expect the majority of Americans know.

    July 28, 2013 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  12. GK

    Hector. Hush. The Emperor wants everyone to believe that it's all okay. It doesn't matter that the country is failing so long as he keeps his cronies in power.

    July 28, 2013 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  13. Abe

    Ok folks from Senate to House Republican leadership the manifesto is undermining not participating in the nation's governance despite a duly elected pres. He has every right to call a spade a spade

    July 28, 2013 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  14. rs

    Jerry Okamura
    Is it the governments job to create equal opportunity, or is it the peoples job? If the government want the people to have equal opportunity but the people themselves do not embrace the concept, can there be equal opportunity?
    Really good question Jerry- and as with most things the Republicans want it both ways here.
    On one hand, they say they believe in the "free market", but they want oil subsidies, gas subsidies, tax breaks for corporations, farm subsidies and so on- pretty much corporate welfare- or socialism. Meanwhile they claim that the government can't make jobs, or the jobs they do make somehow don't count in the great scheme of things.
    On the other hand they want to beat up the President for not making jobs, and they don't want to pay out unemployment for people who have lost their jobs despite the knowledge that money has the greatest economic stimulus value- far more than pandering to the rich.

    July 28, 2013 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  15. dp

    Obama got a 'lightbulb' moment – 5-year into office. Things that make you say 'hmmmmm!!!!!'

    July 28, 2013 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  16. joyfulmeme

    Calling the president a liar is disingeneous & goes beyond the pale. Folks need to get out of the Fox bubble and use other sources for information.

    PBO is probably the most honest person in Washington. Most politicians lie for the hell of it and their main mission is to discredit the president. It's time for Washington to get real and stop the crap. We pay them $174,000 per year plus over $l million in expenses for about 250 days of work per year. I am sick of the lies and the do nothings that are in Washington.

    Until the nonsense stops, we waste a lot of money and time with these clowns.

    July 28, 2013 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  17. Gary

    Ok, I'm sorry, but our country is almost $17 Trillion in debt. We have to stop sending billions sending money to other countries, spending billions on welfare, food stamps and WIC here. We need to stop wasting money on un-needed polices and projects. As a country we need to get our financial house in order or there will be no United States 50 years from now. To our congress and our president, please get your heads out of your ... and start doing what is correct for the citizens of the United States.

    July 28, 2013 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  18. Garth

    Obama is good at pointing the finger and giving pretty speeches sans action, this is just another example.

    July 28, 2013 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  19. Liz the First

    We basically have had half a congress for the past 5 years. the repugs have basically refused to participate in the governing of the country ever since Obama was sworn in. I hope Obama does as many end runs around them as his powers permit to do what's right for the American people. too bad his powers don't permit him to declare the repub party a terrorist organization and send them all to Gitmo for their treasonous behavior. they obviously hate Obama far more than they love this country.

    July 28, 2013 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  20. opinion8it

    GOP is irrelevant

    July 28, 2013 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  21. Darrell44

    When the republicants get off their old tired butt's and do some work for the people of this nation, more things can get done. They are spending every bit of time they can too try to make the President look bad. All the so called Bengazie's, IRS, hoax's etc just didn't work. it only make them look stupid. The Presidents policies ARE WORKING and if the republicants would do some work instead of trying to repeal the health bill yet again (38th time) they might actually get work done. VOTE OUT ALL REPUBLICANTS!!

    July 28, 2013 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  22. Libertarded

    Wow- it continues..when will Obama own up to the mess we are in. He is all about lip service. Poking fun at republicans is exactly what he has done in the last FIVE years, it isn't his first week in office. Wake up! We need compromise and leadership. Now.

    July 28, 2013 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  23. Tim

    It is time to impeach Obama. He has should an unwillingness to respect our representatives in Congress and ignores his Constitutional limits. This is a president who is out of control.

    July 28, 2013 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  24. Namedocpayne

    Just resign and do the whole world a favor

    July 28, 2013 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  25. joe the plumber

    It all fake its phony

    July 28, 2013 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17