June 22, 2017

Obama Seeking to Take Credit and Set Course for Economy

It may also be a reflection of how little the president — any president — can do to alter the country’s economic trajectory while he is faced with global forces that shape the financial system in the United States, as well as a domestic political system that has ground to a standstill, particularly over economic issues like taxes and spending.

The new public relations effort, which begins with a major address Wednesday and as many as six economic-themed speeches over the next two months, is intended to give Mr. Obama a chance to claim credit for the improving economy and to lift his rhetoric beyond the Beltway squabbles that have often consumed his presidency.

But the speeches will not contain big new proposals, senior administration officials said Monday, speaking to reporters on the condition that they not be quoted. Nor are they designed to break the hardening stalemate on economic issues between a president and his Republican adversaries in Congress. Instead, they will repackage economic proposals that the president has offered for years — sometimes in new formats, the officials said.

“The point is to chart a course for where America needs to go,” Dan Pfeiffer, the president’s senior adviser, said in an e-mail to the president’s supporters Sunday night. Officials said that course has improved significantly during Mr. Obama’s administration, giving Americans a sense of stability, if not complete economic security.

Mr. Obama’s adversaries on Monday were quick to point out that the president has frequently launched similar efforts to redefine or restate his economic agenda, often accompanied by rhetoric from his advisers about a new direction or emphasis. Most have run headfirst into opposition on Capitol Hill.

In the fall of 2011, Mr. Obama addressed a joint session of Congress to unveil a $447 billion jobs bill that has not passed. In 2012, as his re-election campaign neared its end, Mr. Obama renewed his vision with a 20-page economic plan. In his State of the Union speech in February, the president refocused on the economy after beginning his second term focused on gun control, immigration, climate change and gay rights.

And just this past May, Mr. Obama announced he was restarting his “Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tour,” with stops in Baltimore and Austin.

“They’ve been saying the same thing for four years,” said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader in the Senate. “The previous Democrat Congress passed his agenda — Obamacare, the stimulus, thousands of pages of regulations — and the economy is treading water. More taxes, more regulation, and more failures to unleash American energy jobs are not the answer.”

Republicans say Mr. Obama should have spent less time passing health care legislation early in his presidency and more time improving the economic fortunes of Americans.

“Memo to Obama and the White House: speeches don’t create jobs,” said Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee.

Senior administration officials on Monday conceded that the president was partly to blame for the Washington conversation veering away from the economic issues that many Americans believe are the most important. One official said that it was incumbent on Mr. Obama to shift the overall focus of the debate in Washington, and that has not happened.

In some cases, the White House has chosen to spend its time and political capital on other topics. Mr. Obama made it clear early this year that he wanted Congress to make a major push to pass an overhaul of the nation’s immigration system. The president also responded to the shooting of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School by calling for broad new gun laws. His allies argue that the health care law and an immigration overhaul will help the economy, and they blame Republicans for blocking many of Mr. Obama’s economic policies.

But officials also criticized Republicans, especially in the House, for seizing on what the White House says are overblown scandals: the targeting of nonprofit groups at the Internal Revenue Service and the actions of officials in the wake of the attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

And they noted that some of the distractions in Washington have been out of Mr. Obama’s control. When oil spilled from the Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico in the summer of 2010, it consumed the White House for weeks. Hurricane Sandy’s destruction late last year and the tornadoes in Oklahoma City in May required presidential attention, as did tensions in the Middle East. Even the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case prompted presidential remarks on Friday.

Administration officials said the timing of the speeches was broadly related to the looming fiscal deadlines that are likely to spark bitter fights in Congress later this fall. Republicans are already promising big fights over extension of the nation’s debt limit and new budget battles.

But Mr. Obama’s aides said that the president wanted to avoid using the speeches as a negotiating platform over legislative programs. They said he would talk about housing, jobs, education, retirement and health. But they cautioned reporters not to expect a Congressional to-do list from Mr. Obama.

That decision is driven, the president’s top aides said, by a conclusion that there are no magic answers that will accelerate the economy’s recovery or help provide jobs to the millions of people who are still having trouble finding one.

Administration officials said they hoped Mr. Obama’s speeches would help frame the contours of a conversation that was broader than the Congressional debates in Washington, in part by reaching out to Americans, business owners and others.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/23/us/politics/for-obama-another-round-with-the-economy.html?partner=rss&emc=rss