President Obama works rope line in Atkinson, Ill., Aug. 17, 2011.
President Obama works rope line in Atkinson, Ill., Aug. 17, 2011. Carolyn Kaster/AP
It's safe to say President Obama probably isn't going to get much of anything that can be seen as an initiative of his administration through Congress in the next 15 months.
Obama and congressional Republicans have two entirely different prescriptions for how to create jobs, for instance. Obama emphasizes investments in infrastructure that would employ construction workers, for instance.
Meanwhile, congressional Republicans argue that their agenda of tax cuts and fewer regulations would cure a too-high jobless rate.
So there will likely be stalemate on pretty much anything that isn't considered must-pass legislation, like the debt-ceiling increase which, as we know, wasn't considered a must-pass bill by a considerable number of Republican lawmakers.
What's a president to do? Obama and his aides have decided to take a page from the Harry Truman playbook and run against a do-nothing Congress.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday that after Labor Day, the president will make a major speech on his job-creation proposals.
Carney told NBC News' Chuck Todd on the Daily Rundown:
You know he's been talking about this fairly frequently in the last couple of weeks since the deficit or rather the debt ceiling deal was reached, and he's very focused on specifically jobs and growing the economy.
So it won't be one plan. It'll be really two proposals. He will, in early September, begin to talk — put forward a proposal of job-creating ideas and economic-growth ideas that will contain some of the things he's talked about like extending the payroll tax cut which puts money in every American family's pockets —
MR. TODD: Infrastructure bank, free trade agreements —
MR. CARNEY: That kind of stuff but other new ideas.
MR. CARNEY: Well, you know, I'm going to let the president, you
know, unveil those.
MR. TODD: Okay.
MR. CARNEY: But they will all be things that, in a normal
universe, should have broad bipartisan support. And we really expect that the Congress will come back, having been at home in their states and districts, having heard the urgent call from their constituents for compromise, for getting things done, for working together in Washington to do things to create jobs and grow the economy that we can actually get this done.
But the definition of a "normal universe" varies depending on whether it's election season or not and we are definitely already in the throes of the 2012 campaign.
So what's normal now is for the congressional Republicans to draw contrasts with Obama, contrasts the eventual Republican presidential nominee should be able to piggyback on.
To that end, House Speaker John Boehner issued the following statement:
"In the third year of his term, Americans are still asking President Obama, 'Where are the Jobs?' That's why Republicans, in contrast to the Democrats who run the White House and Senate, have made creating a better environment for job creation our number one focus.
Boehner has his own do-nothing Congress strategy. Actually it's a do-nothing, other-side-of-Congress strategy. House Republicans plan to run against the Senate which is controlled by Democrats.
The House has led, but unfortunately we cannot act alone. Too many House-passed jobs bills remain stalled in the Democratic-controlled Senate, and we continue to urge our colleagues in the Senate to act.
Back to Obama borrowing from Truman's 1948 playbook. Truman popularity had reached a low ebb.
But the Democrat successfully shifted voter unhappiness to the Republicans who ran the 80th Congress by almost daily proposing legislation he said would improve the lot of average Americans. He watched as Congress shot down same, then added each rejection to his bill of particulars against that GOP Congress.
Obama is likewise preparing the ground to run a do-nothing Congress. He will propose, congressional Republicans will dispose, as in discard, and he will then be able to accuse them of thwarting policies that could change the lives of millions of Americans for the better.
Given the circumstances, it's actually about the only viable strategy left to the president.