With the election just about a year away Barack Obama is in full campaign mode—and he's playing hardball with Republican leaders who, in his mind, are standing in his way.
On Thursday Obama traveled to Cincinnati, Ohio in support of his new jobs bill. While there he called out House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell over their failure to leap forward in support of his agenda to create jobs, which involves massive amounts of new federal spending on infrastructure projects.
Calling on Boehner and McConnell to get behind it, Obama used as a backdrop the Brent Spence Bridge which links northern Kentucky—which McConnell represents—with Cincinnati, Boehner's hometown. The bridge, say experts, needs to be replaced and Obama, by implication, accused the two GOP congressional leaders of blocking the funding to do it because they are not on board with his nearly $500 billion jobs bill.
There are several problems with this analysis however, the least of which is that it isn't true.
First of all, the ban on earmarks prevents Congress from specifically designating funds to repair or replace this one specific bridge—or any specific bridge for that matter—as part of Obama's jobs bill. More importantly is the fact that—as the Cincinnati Enquirer reported—highway officials in Ohio and Kentucky say that "the bridge is still in the preliminary engineering and environmental clearance phase."
"In a best case scenario," the paper said, "the earliest that workers would be hired would be in 2013, but more likely 2015." A start date four years away won't do much to combat joblessness now. Or, to put it another way, Obama has found another project to trumpet that just isn't as shovel-ready as the White House is advertising it as being.
Unfortunately for the president, McConnell and Boehner failed to take the bait Obama dangled in front of them. Speaking on the Senate floor Thursday McConnell diplomatically suggested that the president "think about ways to actually help the people of Kentucky and Ohio, instead of how you can use their roads and bridges as a backdrop for making a political point."
"If you really want to help our state," McConnell continued, "then come back to Washington and work with Republicans on legislation that will actually do something to revive our economy and create jobs. And forget the political theater." Through a spokesman Boehner said the GOP majority in the House wants "to work with the president to support job creation, but political stunts and empty promises bring us no closer to finding common ground."
The president needs to learn that if he wants to play hardball with the opposition he needs to get his facts straight and not expect the national media to cover for him like they did during much of the 2008 presidential campaign. With his record he can't afford to.