PBS’ Gwen Ifill hosted a town hall event in Elkhart, Indiana, the R.V. capital of the world, noting how the city had fallen on tough times at the outset of Barack Obama’s presidency. Unemployment had almost hit 20 percent, but it’s dropped to four percent. On June 1, President Obama visited Elkhart for the fifth time, delivering a speech that very much sounded as if he were running for re-election (via NYT):
“If what you care about in this election is your pocketbook; if what you’re concerned about is who will look out for the interests of working people and grow the middle class,” Mr. Obama said in a fiery, campaignlike speech, “if what you’re concerned about is the economy, then the debate is not even close.”
Aides said the president, who is expected to ultimately endorse Hillary Clinton, was eager to jump into the carnival-like political debate between Mr. Trump, the presumptive G.O.P. nominee, and the Democrats’ choice.
Railing against one of Mr. Trump’s comments — that he would roll back rules imposed on Wall Street — Mr. Obama’s voice grew louder as he declared, “That is crazy!” Sleeves rolled up and his finger wagging, the president asked the supportive crowd, “Have we really forgotten what just happened eight years ago?”
The president said that when he heard that working families were voting for the Republican economic agenda, “I want to have an intervention!”
Mr. Obama knows his legacy is at stake — eight years of effort in the Oval Office will be at risk if Mr. Trump succeeds him — but his eagerness to get back into campaign mode is partly personal.
That evening, at the PBS event, Ifill seemed a bit disconcerted that the city isn’t all that supportive of the president or his policies, noting that residents voted for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in the 2016 primary, and overwhelmingly for Mitt Romney in 2012.
“So, what gives?” asked Ifill. Newsbusters provided the clip and transcript:
GWEN IFILL: Good evening, and welcome to Elkhart, Indiana, as we sit down with President Obama and the residents of this community to discuss their concerns, look back on his time in office, and assess the feverish campaign to succeed him. This marks the President's fifth visit to the once and again R.V. Capital of the world, a small city where the unemployment rate hit 19.6 percent his first year in office, and now has dropped to about four percent, but this White House isn't get any credit for that turnaround. Residents here voted for Ted Cruz in this year's primaries, and Mitt Romney by two to one in 2012. Even when President Obama won Indiana in 2008, just as the economy was crashing, Elkhart went with John McCain. So what gives? We've asked some of the people who live here to join us on the stage of the beautiful Lerner Theater here in downtown for an intimate conversation. But first, the President of the United States, Barack Obama.
IFILL: But I first want to ask why talking to you a little bit about this campaign. What do you think it means when you hear the words “Let’s Make America Great Again?”
IFILL: And, yet, many people — including probably some folks in this room — think the deficits have gone up and the jobless rate has gone up and in fact that their lives have not improved. How — in fact, we have the nominee for — the presumptive nominee for the Republican party saying — Donald Trump — saying America is a third world nation. How do you persuade — or I suppose how does your likely Democratic successor, possible, persuade anybody that's not true?
IFILL: Do you consider at all that any of the support for him is backlash against you personally?
Well, maybe, as Katie wrote earlier this morning, it’s due to the fact that only 38,000 jobs were added last month, making it the worst jobs report we’ve seen in five years. At the same time, the labor force declined by 458,000. On top of that, the January-March quarter only saw 0.8 percent increase in economic growth. Over at Hot Air, Ed noted that part-time jobs rose dramatically. Besides scores of people opting to pay the penalty to remain uninsured because it’s cheaper, could this be due to the fact that this is exactly what Obamacare is doing the economy—turning us into a nation of part-time workers? Hillary seems to think so. Yet, the president touted the economic recovery on the stump, and now this report lands at our feet. Maybe that’s “what gives,” Ms. Ifill.