Blasting the GOP as wilfully indifferent to American struggles, President Barack Obama issued a rebuke Friday to Republican attempts to thwart his economic agenda, offering a stark contrast that Democrats hope will yield electoral success in November.
Obama’s remarks at a picturesque lake in Minneapolis were billed by the White House as a speech on the economy. But as Obama ripped into his political foes before 3,500 cheering supporters, the political undertones were less than subtle.
“They don’t do anything, except block me and call me names,” an indignant Obama said against a backdrop of sailboats and a band shell shaped like a castle. He insisted that as the nation works to restore middle-class prosperity after the recession, congressional Republicans are the only holdout.
Playfully warning his audience that he was in the mood to “say what’s on my mind,” Obama accused Republicans of letting greed and gridlock perpetrate an economic system that is rigged against American families. He said he gets the sense that Republicans just don’t get what Americans are going through.
“The basic attitude is everybody is just crazy out there. If you read the fine print, it turns out the things you care about, right now, Democrats are proposing,” Obama said.
That’s why Obama is moving ahead without Congress, he said. In the absence of congressional cooperation, Obama’s administration has been pursuing executive actions he can take unilaterally.
It’s a strategy that’s drawn indignation from Republicans, prompting House Speaker John Boehner to announce plans to sue the president for exceeding his authority. “They decide they’re going to sue me for doing my job,” Obama quipped.
But Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, said that it is Obama and Democrats who are blocking House-passed bills to create jobs. “The president keeps doubling down on policies that have failed to increase prosperity,” Steel said.
Still, the president’s election-year salvo put a sharp edge on a populist argument Democrats across the country are making as they work to persuade voters that they – not Republicans – are on the side of the middle class. With Obama’s approval ratings sagging, Democrats are seeking to protect their fragile Senate majority and avoid losing even more seats in the GOP-controlled House.
The president started his morning with an unannounced stop at a Minneapolis job training center, where he and Labor Secretary Tom Perez joined nine young mothers training for customer service jobs. “All of us start at different places. I was basically raised by a single mom,” Obama said, adding that like these young women, his own mother benefited from grants and programs that enabled her to support her family.
Obama’s remarks at Lake Harriet capped a two-day trip to Minnesota aimed at putting the president up close and personal with “real America,” where Obama frequently laments that the concerns of everyday citizens are detached from partisan bickering in Washington.
A day earlier, Obama launched what the White House dubbed a “Day in the Life” tour by lunching with a working mom whose letter about her financial struggles grabbed Obama’s attention when it landed on his desk. He also ditched his motorcade in the evening in nearby St. Paul, strolling through boutique shops and food joints and chatting up pedestrians in an attempt to reconnect with the voters who twice have sent him to Washington.
Jacki Parker, a retired teacher and school counselor who came to hear Obama speak on Friday, offered a groan when asked to give her take on Washington.
“There’s enough to accomplish that people don’t need to be at each other’s throats all the time,” she said.
Associated Press writer Brian Bakst contributed to this report.