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. owij

    obama does not know anything about the economy, everyone knows that, including him.

    July 27, 2013 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  2. Peaceful

    Give them hell President Obama. I am tired of paying the good for nothing congress for being bullies and not doing their jobs. Those jobs being to help our country, not themselves. To do what they were elected to do and not what the big corps have paid/bribed them to do.. I hope the GOP isn't waiting to be in the white house to start their selfish ways again. Almost everyone sees what they are about now. We have seen enough to keep them out of the white house for a long time.

    July 27, 2013 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  3. Rick

    That's all this guy knows how to do....give speeches.....and even those are sucking hind-end now....

    July 28, 2013 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  4. tpatriot

    In other words Obama is going to try to circumvent the Constitution, Rule of Law, and institute what he thinks is right regardless of the Laws limiting his power to do so.

    July 28, 2013 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  5. OldAsDirt

    Debt doesn't get you jobs. The government's debt necessitates spending 1/3 of our revenue on debt service. The debt is 50% greater now than when the President took office. Were the debt equal to when he took office, we'd have billions of dollars to spend on infrastructure rather than using it to reward investors in the business of loaning operating cash.

    July 28, 2013 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  6. Doug

    "With an endless parade of distractions, political posturing and phony scandals,..."
    This is how this clown describes law breaking activities by his administration? Look, look at my left hand while I rob you with my right. This idiot, this foul excuse for a man, this moron that doesn't know what's going on in his administration till he reads about it in the paper, this is "our leader"? The dishonesty, the lying, the misinformation, the "what difference does it make" from the current administration is more than just nauseating and insulting, in my opinion, it reaches the level of criminal actions.
    And now this piece of krap wants to tell us forget all the "phony scandals" and believe he is more than just "talkin' jive". Believe it as you will, for myself, I have to go puke!

    July 28, 2013 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  7. marctheduck

    Oh yeah. The GOP has been holding up Obama in turning around the economy the last 5 years. What a joke!

    July 28, 2013 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  8. DaveinIL

    Did I miss the part where Obama became Pharaoh? "So let it be written, so it shall be done"

    July 28, 2013 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  9. eyeballstab

    Last ditch effort to remain somewhat relevant. Your done man,you're true nature is plain as day. We know your a liar,we know your willing to stoop to anything to get your approval up. Play the race card all you want the only people that care what you think are just as worthless as you are. The foundation of you're legacy is built on sand sir. We refuse to listen or comply. the walls of tyranny you have constructed will be destroyed.

    July 28, 2013 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  10. Jeff Kelly

    Hello Amerika,

    I was just joking around when me and Eric gave the banditos a couple of guns. We were playing spy vs. spy for the nsa. Aw Bengazi, heck, I didn't even like the guy. IRS, heck nobody likes them anyhow Obamacare. Hey my buddies need to get some bandaids every now and then, Those darn Republicans can't even take a joke.


    July 28, 2013 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  11. Daniel Correa

    President Obama might want to remember that we do our best to operate under (at least the guise of) democratic principles, not dictatorial rule. Whether he likes it or not, our Constitution envisions a limited Executive, who is to EXECUTE (NOT MAKE by himself) the laws. The branch that represents the people directly (House of Representatives) and the the States (the Senate) are the legislative, democratic branches, who cannot be bypassed without at the same time bypassing the will of the people.

    July 28, 2013 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  12. Lee

    The GOP controlled House so despises Obama that they are willing to hurt the country and its interests in attempting to block ANYTHING the President wants to do good or bad. They are very much on the track for evolving from A) sore losers to B) irrelevant and C) a threat to the nation's success. They found and are using the 'playbook' from the Whig Party... not seeming to care that the Whigs disappeared as a result of using this playbook too.

    July 28, 2013 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  13. Walter

    "Twiddle your thumbs"? That's exactly what you've been doing for 4 and 1/2 years.

    July 28, 2013 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  14. Donn Arnold

    Once again, Obama pretends that the NSA, IRA, Bengazi and DOJ scandals are being made up. He's using. The "ignore it so they will go away" approach. They will NOT go away. Hillary, too, will pay for her incompetence in Bengazi.

    The campaign is over Mr. Clinton. Stop running away from your screwups and go back to Washington and face the music. And NO we won't give you a blank check.

    As for the economy, why have you waited for 4 1/2 years to focus on it?

    PS...Obamacare is going down.

    July 28, 2013 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  15. EdL

    Obama, were you twiddling your thumbs during your first term?

    July 28, 2013 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  16. J.V.Hodgson

    Republicans are, having lost the 2012 election and being defeated in the one term presidency policy back where they started from:
    1) No taxes of any kind
    2) Repeal PPACA or defund it
    3) Cuts to Medicare and Medicaid and other social security programs
    4) Talking jobs and the economy but proposing nothing.
    5) Talking debt an default again to force thru their minority policies. the problem with this is that last time they could argue no budget... this time they can't so they refuse reconciliation
    Also the other difference is PPACA is the law ( like it or not), threatening repeal either directly or indirectly guarantees such will never be passed; Obama would veto. Only idiots play such inane games.
    Debt is growing much more slowly and the budget deficit significantly reduced but they never mention those facts.
    Unemployment is down, not far enough but it is a fallacy to say the Obama economic policy is not working.... and I have not heard one single good job creating idea from the Republicans who went to pols on jobs, jobs, jobs in 2012.
    Obama is right to put his policy goals and objectives to the people during his speeches especially when he is following by going to the house and senate to discuss the same.

    July 28, 2013 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  17. AmericanByChoice

    Republican party is intellectually bankrupt and does not understand the country post 9/11. The old folks still seek guidance from Reagan and Nixon. Wakeup !!! time has changed. The young party members are not able to sort out their priorities because old ones in the party want to guide them with the principles that were good forty or fifty years ago. Under these circumstances President can not and should not wait for any contribution from Republicans. Let us go ahead and educate our youngsters and strengthen the economy by making America leader again in science and technology.

    July 28, 2013 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  18. 78001905

    Seriously!? 5 Years later and this is the best you can do? How stupid does obama think Americans are?

    July 28, 2013 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
  19. notsofast10

    So 6 years in and now he is going to get started????

    July 28, 2013 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  20. Bob Simpkins

    Phony scandal? Lets see, 4 dead Americans, one an Ambassador, and our US Government made a conscious decision to not send them any help and let them die. Who made this decision? Why?? And lets see more, using the IRS to intimidate (mostly) Republican and Democratic voters? The "we will get to the bottom of this" has been filed as to not open and make the administration look bad. The list goes on and on....

    July 28, 2013 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  21. Daniel

    So I guess the "Damaging Framework" in Washington is having a split Congress in which he does not have full control. The endless parade of phony scandals has nothing to do with him. Arguing about reducing deficits in which we have a potential booming economy doesn't matter. His approval rating in the 40 percentile has nothing to do with him. When in reality, the economy booms because of fake money printing. The damaging framework is because the majority of the country doesn't agree with him(populous does, physical area doesn't). His horrible rating is because of his phony scandals that seem to grow endless....which most americans do no follow them. I love my country.... love where I live....but all of our morals are going downhill. All of our blessings seem to be outdone by our shortcomings...All of our drive to succeed seem to be downsized by our ability to gross income. All of the racial tension seems to be getting more aggravated because inequality seems to be attributed to the past tense instead of the present tense. No one in our country is afforded inequal opportunity, only unfortunate beginnings....it all depends on the decisions that people make and the amount of desire and dedication people put into their future.

    July 28, 2013 12:56 am at 12:56 am |
  22. PatriotAtLarge

    "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.'

    So let's throw another 6-12 MILLION more workers legally entitled to work. They broke the law, and only deserve to get on the back of the line and apply like everyone else. That's the FAIR path to citizenship.
    \Big Business wants to depress wages by (ab)using H1B visas, AND having more workers than there are jobs to fill. How about Americans First?

    July 28, 2013 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
  23. Bill Smells

    He won't wait for the GOP, but he'll wait 6 years to start addressing the problem.

    Waste of space.

    July 28, 2013 01:20 am at 1:20 am |
  24. Peter Q Wolfe

    What can President Obama do considering the state of Congress? I really dislike the tone of partisanship like immigration, tax code reform, regulation reform, infrastructure, economic trade agreements, increasing R and D credits and investments and protecting the environment are in very high demand right now and into the medium and long term future of the U.S. We really need to replace the sequester with something that will work but we need to reform the military horde around the world just a waste of potential to ask me anyways.

    July 28, 2013 01:27 am at 1:27 am |
  25. Roscoe

    Been twiddling thumbs for years, why stop now?

    July 28, 2013 01:30 am at 1:30 am |
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