President Barack Obama's use of a rare joint session of Congress to deliver a jobs speech on Thursday reflects a political strategy to try to blame Republicans for an economy at risk of sliding back into recession. The choice of venue -- the Republican-controlled House of Representatives -- is aimed at sending a clear message to voters that if his plan to reduce high unemployment is blocked by Congress, it is Republicans and not the White House standing in the way of job growth.
With unemployment stubbornly high and most Americans unhappy with his handling of the economy, Obama's speech is part of a 2012 election strategy to shift some of the blame for the struggling economy onto Congress and to portray it as obstructionist. "It's very important for the president to invoke Congress from the very beginning of this round in the jobs debate," said Jared Bernstein, chief economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden until April 2011.
They weren't foolin'. In case there was even a shred of doubt remaining over the overtly political motivations behind this joint-session spectacle, look no further than the Obama campaign email blast that went out moments ago. Team Obama is already fundraising off of this allegedly serious policy speech, casting Republicans as obstructionists, and urging his supporters to help hold Congress "accountable." Pathetic:
Dear XX –
I'm about to head to the Capitol to ask Congress to act on my plan to put Americans back to work. Before I do, I wanted to write you directly to remind you that the fight to create jobs -- and provide the kind of economic security for middle-class families that's been slipping away over the last decade -- won't begin or end with the speech I give tonight.
What happens will be up to you. In the coming days and weeks, it will be = up to you to pressure Congress to act -- or hold them accountable if they = do not. If you're with me, let me know. And the campaign will make sure you are looped into our efforts to support this plan:
Talk to you soon,
But by all means, mainstream media, let's all keep treating this speech like it's an important, substantive event.