Obama's 'Grand Bargain' Pitch Smacks of Campaign Politics

Obama delivers campaign-style speech in Tennessee.

President Obama
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President Barack Obama employed the same partisan politics he chastises Republicans for using in a speech aimed at convincing them he's willing to compromise on an economic blueprint moving forward.

[READ: GOP Slams Door on Obama's 'Grand Bargain']

Obama, speaking in Chattanooga, Tenn., at an Amazon distribution center, laid out a similar vision for job creation that he stumped for last week in Missouri and Illinois – increasing manufacturing, investing in infrastructure and renewable energy and natural gas production and increasing exports.

"If we don't make these investments and reforms, we might as well throw up the white flag while the rest of the world forges ahead in a global economy; and that does nothing to help the middle class," he said.

Striking a contrarian rather than conciliatory tone, the president put the blame squarely on Republican shoulders for the anemic economic recovery and the more than 700,000 public sector job losses the White House says were the result of the automatic budget cuts known as the sequester.

"We've seen a faction of Republicans in Congress hurt a fragile recovery by suggesting they wouldn't pay the very bills Congress rang up and threaten to shut down the people's government if they can't shut down Obamacare," he said. "It doesn't help a company like Amazon when hundreds of thousands of customers have less money to spend."

[ALSO: Boehner's Office Says They Learned of 'Grand Bargain' From AP Wire]

Obama also pointed his finger at Republicans for "taking their eye off the ball" when it comes to focusing on policies that would improve the economy, a charge often levied at his administration as it pursued health care reform, immigration reform and climate change policies.

"I'm willing to work with Republicans on reforming our corporate tax code, as long as we use the money from transitioning to a simpler tax system for a significant investment in creating middle-class jobs," he said. "That's the deal."

But Obama sounded more like he was throwing red meat at a campaign rally rather than offering an olive branch to his opponents.

"Gutting protections for our air and water isn't a jobs plan; gutting investments in things like education and energy isn't a jobs plan," he said, mocking Republican proposals. "Putting all your eggs in the basket of an oil pipeline that may only create about 50 permanent jobs, and wasting the country's time by taking something like 40 meaningless votes to repeal Obamacare isn't a jobs plan."

And though he espoused optimism that politicians could find a way to work across the aisle, Obama's pitch may ultimately have done more harm than good.

[OPINION: Obama Speaks at Amazon, Home of the Low Wage Worker]

"It won't be easy, but if we're willing to take a few bold steps – and if Washington will just end the gridlock and set aside the kind of slash-and-burn partisanship we've seen these past few years – our economy will be stronger a year from now," he said.

Republicans earlier in the day rejected Obama's overture, based on background reports of his speech, as being more of the same economic proposals they have long disagreed with and argued his new pitch for a 'grand bargain' contained no new concessions.

"Republicans want to help families and small businesses, too," said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, in a release. "This proposal allows President Obama to support President Obama's position on taxes and President Obama's position on spending, while leaving small businesses and American families behind."

 

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