For a brief moment, it looked like President Obama had cracked the code of Washington gridlock that has exhausted the public. He created momentum towards results last week by introducing a jobs package that included payroll tax cuts for small businesses that would attract Republicans and spending on construction and public sector employees that would attract Democrats. Republican leaders didn't bash the entire plan outright and instead responded with lukewarm rhetoric about reading the bill.
"This is a bill that is based on ideas from both Democrats and Republicans, and this is a bill that Congress needs to pass—no games, no politics, no delays," Obama said in an appearance in the White House Rose Garden.
But the president decided to move his chess piece despite the promising rhetoric. Like a rocket gone haywire, any chance for passage of the president's jobs plan ended when the White House announced that it would force job creators aka. "the wealthy" to pay for it.
His jobs plan has now turned into a campaign weapon that Obama will try to utilize against Republicans for months to come. The strategy has turned into cynical maneuver that is no longer focused on creating jobs, but on scoring campaign points. The White House should have created a bipartisan payment plan that reflected the jobs initiative in order to keep its credibility.
Some in the media believe that Obama may succeed in painting Republicans as obstructionists. However, the president has now boxed himself into a corner. Instead of finding creative ways to pay for his plan, he sets up an argument that the GOP is defending the wealthy. Republicans are already responding that Obama's policies are job killers. The bottom line is that Obama still owns a record unemployment rate and will still get the blame for the weak job market.
Before the White House made this play, Obama had something going for him. It looked like he was actually "trying" to do something about the economy. The speeches he has given have been carefully crafted with poll-tested language. With the plan, he could have found the middle ground and grabbed the attention of independent voters. Instead, he has now alienated the GOP instead of coopting some of them into supporting parts of his plan.
Marching around the country pointing the finger at Republicans for lack of progress is the last thing the American public wants to hear from a president elected to create change in Washington. They want results and instead will likely be forced to watch yet another needless showdown.