Washington Extra – Drawing the battle lines
President Barack Obama’s news conference this morning was a very deliberate drawing of the battle lines ahead of November’s mid-term polls. Obama was back in campaign mode and seemed much more confident about his message again.
The key campaign message for voters and fellow Democrats: Republican policies got America in trouble, and they are still peddling exactly the same policies today.
“The policies that the Republicans are offering right now are the exact policies that got us into this mess. It’s not a situation where they went and reflected and said to themselves, ‘You know what? We didn’t do some things right. And so we’ve got a whole bunch of new ideas out here that we want to present to you that — that we think are going to help put us on the path of strong growth.’ That’s not what happens.”
The president threw down the gauntlet on taxes, effectively saying: oppose me on extending middle class tax cuts if you dare. Oppose me on letting them expire for the wealthiest Americans if you dare, I am ready for that battle.
“Why hold the middle class hostage in order to do something that most economists don’t think make sense? What I’m saying is let’s do what we agree to and that the American people overwhelmingly agree to, which is let’s give certainty to families out there that are having a tough time.”
And an offer to talk which was not really much of an offer at all.
“We can have a further conversation about how they want to spend an additional $700 billion to give an average of $100,000 to millionaires. That I think is a bad idea.”
There was also a jab at Republicans for opposing the small business bill, and a triumphant touting of the words of Republican Senator George Voinovich, whose support for the legislation means it is now likely to pass. Voinovich broke ranks with his party, telling the Washington Post the country was “really hurting” and said Republican objections to the bill merely amounted to partisan “messaging.” “We don’t have time for messaging,” he said. Obama, not surprisingly, said he could not agree more.
Everyone has been expecting Obama to have to tack to the center after the mid-term elections, but amid all the political noise, the economic policies the president is now touting are arguably pretty centrist already. Much of it revolves around business tax cuts and R and D tax credits. Jonathan Cowan of Third Way, a left-of-center Washington think-tank, said this represented a “full-throated embrace of a vision of private sector pro-growth capitalism.” That, he said, was actually a “tectonic shift “ for Obama and the Democrats. Let’s see if voters agree.
John Boehner was swift to engage in the fight, slamming “half-hearted proposals and full-throated political attacks” that will not end the uncertainty that is keeping small businesses from creating jobs. The Republican plan: extend the tax cuts for two years and cut spending back to where it was before the stimulus and bailouts. “If the president is serious about focusing on jobs, he should be willing to sit down with Republicans and discuss the new idea to get the economy moving again.”
Final observation today. Since when did “stimulus” become a dirty word? The White House has been at pains to tell people that the latest package of measures do not constitute a “second stimulus.” Obama smiled when he was put on the spot today, with a direct question about why we shouldn’t use that word to describe it. This was the closest he got: “There is no doubt that everything we’ve been trying to do is designed to stimulate growth and additional jobs in the economy.”
Here are our top stories from today:
Obama says Republicans holding recovery hostage
President Barack Obama accused Republicans of holding the middle class hostage as he pushed new ideas to stimulate the sluggish economy and try to reverse Democrats’ grim election prospects. With opinion polls showing more Americans questioning his economic leadership, the president used a rare news conference at the White House to hammer home a message that painted Republicans as obstructionist and the party for the rich.
For more of this story by Alister Bull and Caren Bohan, click here.
FACTBOX-Highlights from Obama’s news conference, click here.
Obama taps Goolsbee as top White House economist
President Barack Obama has chosen Austan Goolsbee as the new head of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, U.S. administration officials said, promoting a longtime adviser from his inner policy circle.
For more of this story by Caren Bohan and Alister Bull, click here.
Obama warns of backlash on Koran burning
President Barack Obama said he hopes a Florida pastor refrains from burning copies of the Koran on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks and warned it could cause “profound damage” to U.S. interests.
For more of this story, click here.
Obama secures crucial vote for small business plan
Retiring Senator George Voinovich will break ranks with fellow Republicans and provide the crucial 60th vote needed in the Senate to pass President Barack Obama’s small business lending package, an aide said. Voinovich’s decision to help Democrats end a Republican filibuster in the 100-member Senate will help Obama secure a big legislative victory on the economy ahead of congressional elections in November in which Democrats face large losses.
For more of this story by Donna Smith, click here.
July wholesale inventories jump 1.3 percent
Wholesale inventories surged the most in two years in July, adding to signs that economic growth in the third quarter of the year may prove a bit stronger than many forecasters had expected.
For more of this story Mark Felsenthal, click here.
U.S. defense firms map profit path as growth slows
Defense companies are betting that cost cuts and divestitures will bolster profit growth in coming years, but their efforts could fall flat in an uncertain U.S. spending environment.
For more of this story Karen Jacobs, click here.
From elsewhere …
Thousands protest Koran burning plan in Afghan north
Thousands of Afghans protested against the United States in the northeast, the largest demonstration since a small U.S. church said it planned to burn copies of the Koran, an Afghan official said. After special Eid prayers to mark the end of Ramadan, the crowd, estimated by a governor’s spokesman at 10,000, poured into the streets from mosques in Badakhshan province chanting anti-U.S. slogans.
For more of this story, click here.