Week In Politics: Obama's Jobs Speech
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
Between the president's speech last night and the Republican presidential candidates' debate the night before, there is a lot to talk about with our regular Friday political commentators, E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and David Brooks of the New York Times. Hi. Welcome back.
DAVID BROOKS: Thanks.
DIONNE: Good to be here.
BLOCK: We heard Scott Horsley mention the call last night that the president made repeatedly - pass the jobs bill right away. It was also his theme on the road today in Virginia. Let's listen to a bit of his message to voters in Richmond.
BARACK OBAMA: If you want teachers in the classroom, pass this bill. If you want small business owners to hire new people, pass this bill. If you want veterans to get their fair share of opportunity that they helped create, pass this bill. If you want a tax break, pass this bill.
BLOCK: Pass this bill, maybe that mantra becomes the 2011 version of yes we can for the Obama campaign. E.J. Dionne, if people last night were hearing a feistier President Obama, today he seemed to amp it up even more. Are you hearing a fundamentally new tone coming from President Obama?
DIONNE: It is a new tone and I think the best part of the speech reflected in that speech today, again, is that it wasn't, oh, I'm gonna negotiate with Speaker Boehner or, well, we can work this all out. No, it was pass this bill which was full of ideas Republicans had favored in the past. And so it was essentially asking the Republicans, what's your problem? And I think what's interesting here is that you have - David wrote nicely about the bill, Paul Krugman wrote nicely about the speech.
BLOCK: On the same page.
DIONNE: And so liberals were reassured that he made it bigger than they thought it would be.
BLOCK: Well, David Brooks, what do you think? Is the president's message to Congress, as E.J. is saying, pass this jobs bill, take it or leave it, my days of negotiating are over? If you reject this, I'm gonna lay that failure at your feet. You will be, as Harry Truman said, the do-nothing good-for-nothing Congress.
BROOKS: And so everybody has to take doing something quite seriously.
DIONNE: The other is they could fill it with poison pills. Okay, we'll pass the president's program, but here are a whole bunch of regulations on environment or labor that Obama's actually for and they throw those in the bill and call it bipartisan. So it's going to be tricky, that kind of maneuvering. We will back to Washington sausage-making.
BLOCK: Well, it is interesting because we have heard some notes of bipartisanship, coming at least from the Republican leadership saying there are parts of this plan from the president that they like. We did see this before, though, that the Republican leadership thought they were working out a deal with the administration and then they backtracked when the Tea Party wing cried foul. Where does this end up, David?
BROOKS: I think the legitimate doubts is - are they stimulative? We may be entering a double dip recession right now. Infrastructure spending will take months and months, potentially a year to get on board. Is that really going to be stimulative? There are legitimate questions to be asked about that. But on the other hand, I do think Obama threw things in their face that they have no principled reason to be against - at least some of the things.
BLOCK: E.J., we've heard the response from the Mitt Romney campaign to the president's speech. They said you're 960 days too late. Has the damage been done? Is this a speech that should have been made quite some time ago, before the whole debt ceiling mess?
DIONNE: On the other hand, I'm not sure that a lot of the conservatives who might be open to at least some of this stuff now would have been open to any of this if you hadn't had the jitters and the stock market gyrations of the summer. I mean, a lot of people who weren't really in favor of any kind of stimulus were saying - although we don't use that word anymore, notice he used jobs, jobs, jobs, not stimulus. But a lot people are saying we need this now.
BLOCK: I want to talk to you both about the Republican presidential debate on Wednesday night, the first debate that included Texas Governor Rick Perry. And he, notably, did not back off his earlier statement that Social Security is, as he refers to it, a Ponzi scheme. In fact, he repeated that same claim several times. David Brooks, did Rick Perry help himself in that debate or hurt himself?
BROOKS: It was I think a window into his character at what he's good at. And so, there were certain answers will make Republicans extremely happy. So on net, I think he helped himself - not as much as Mitt Romney did - but he did fine.
DIONNE: I think, first of all, on the substance, this is a very right wing group that the whole idea was cut taxes, slash spending, junk regulations. And the number of things - claims were made that weren't true.
BLOCK: could Mitt Romney get off this frontrunner strategy? Yes, he could. Could he go after Rick Perry? Yes, he did. And he went after him on Social Security. And guess what? Republican primary voters are considerably older than the average American. That was exactly the right issue to attack on.
BLOCK: Okay, thanks to you both. Have a good weekend.
DIONNE: You, too.
BROOKS: Thank you.
BLOCK: E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and David Brooks of The New York Times.
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