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Can Obama find success running against a 'do-nothing' Congress?

August 09, 2011|By Peter Nicholas | Washington Bureau
  • President Obama pauses as he speaks in the State Dining Room of the White House on Monday.
President Obama pauses as he speaks in the State Dining Room of the White… (Carolyn Kaster / Associated…)

What does a sitting president do when the stock market nosedives and even the credit-rating agencies think the U.S. political system is a hot mess?

President Obama gave a clue at a fundraising event Monday night. In 1948, Democrat Harry Truman ran against a "do-nothing" Congress. Obama may be tempted to do the same.

Speaking at a private home in Washington hours after the Dow plummeted by more than 600 points, Obama said he is willing to work with Congress but can't guarantee the results.

“Whether we’re going to see any progress out of this Congress right now, because so far we haven't seen much when it comes to innovative ideas that actually put people to work and grow the economy, remains to be seen," the president said.

Give 'em hell, Barack!

For Obama, the Republican-controlled House could be as much an obstacle to his reelection as Mitt Romney, Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann.

After months of tense negotiations, congressional Republicans got him to sign a deficit-reduction plan that relies solely on spending cuts. Obama had to back off his insistence on tax-revenue increases.

Looking ahead, Obama is advancing a series of proposals meant to boost employment. But even modest measures to renew the payroll tax cut and extend unemployment insurance benefits -- ideas that at one time enjoyed bipartisan support -- are now getting a cool reception from Republican leaders.

Republicans, Obama said, have "got a very different vision."

"And as a consequence of this debt-ceiling debacle being behind us now, what we're going to have is 16 months in which we debate this vision for America.’"

That debate will tax Obama's political skills. Even as he tries to forge compromise with Republican lawmakers, he’ll be working to convince voters that the GOP "vision" is fatally flawed.

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