I laughed out loud at Erika's succinct recap of Obama's press conference, but I suppose I should more substantively address some of what the president said today. In opening remarks and Q&A lasting well over an hour, Obama urged Congress to pass his jobs bill straight away. Haven't we heard that message somewhere before? The big-spending, unpaid-for Stimulus 2.0 is dead on arrival in the House, but will reportedly be taken up (finally) by the Democrat-controlled Senate later today, where it faces bipartisan opposition and is expected to fail. I'm told the vote will likely come before 5:30 pm ET. Democrats will then mobilize on an alternative piece of legislation that -- surprise! -- imposes a huge tax hike on "millionaires and billionaires." Harry Reid's proposal won't do a lick of good to create jobs, but it'll make the Occupy Wall Street crowd feel all warm and gooey inside. Oh, and Reid's bill has zero chance of becoming law, as at least one Senate Democrat has already vowed to filibuster it. Resentment-based Obamanomics at its finest. And with that, let's hit on a few major points from the presser:
(1) "Pass this bill." The president trotted out this tiresome trope again today, claiming (falsely) that his plan is "fully paid for." It's not, and disputes over funding mechanisms is the primary reason that many Democrats have refused to embrace it. Obama's rhetoric on this point would lead viewers to believe that Republicans control both houses of Congress, attacking Mitch McConnell several times by name, without ever acknowledging the real reason his legislation has stalled in the upper chamber: Democratic opposition. He claimed that he'd "love to see" and consider Republican ideas on job creation, if they existed. They do, of course; he just doesn't like them. Obama scolded the GOP for its supposed stubborn refusal to play ball with him on anything (getting shut out of stimulus, healthcare, and cap & trade discussions tends to do that), yet later acknowledged that Congress has already passed patent reform and will soon act on three long-delayed (by Obama) trade agreements. Both of these were elements of Obama's jobs plan that he mentioned in his pitiful speech last month. Now that they've advanced with Republican help, the president is downplaying their significance.
The president said there are bridges across the country that are "literally" crumbling because of inadequate infrastructure spending. I wonder how accurate this scccccary assertion is, but it still begs the question: How is this even possible after we spent over $800 Billion just two years ago on a "stimulus" bill that was sold as a gargantuan infrastructure spending effort? Maybe because only a tiny sliver of that money actually went to the so-called "shovel-ready projects," that we now know didn't really exist. Don't ask me, ask President Obama. This is all part of a broader, blindingly obvious point: Democrats had a near trillion-dollar bite at the stimulus apple in 2009. They failed. Americans and Republicans are right to be "cynical" (to invoke the descriptor the President employed repeatedly today) about coughing up another $450 Billion in borrowed money to fund more of the same. In this pitch for Stimulus 2.0, "body-snatcher Obama" doesn't even acknowledge that Stimulus 1.0 happened, let alone fell flat on its very expensive face.
Finally on this point, Obama eagerly cited the consensus of "independent economists" from "across the spectrum," who supposedly say this bill will "jolt" the economy and create jobs. It goes without saying that quite a few respected economists dissent from this view, but even if you accept the premise, these optimistic pro-jobs plan economists project that the new spending program would cost between $250,000 and $1.6 million per job "saved or created." A helpful, efficient use of taxpayer money? I think not. Forgive my cynicism.
(2) Occupy Wall Street "expresses the frustrations the American people feel." Obama expressed tentative solidarity with the incoherent "occupy" mob's general sentiments, but stopped short of an endorsement. He probably worries things may get violent, and that the public will come to realize this "movement" is largely comprised of the same anti-American, anti-capitalist, Marxist hooligans who throw violent conniptions with regularity. The president also stated that there have been no indictments or convictions of Wall Street executives in the wake of the economic collapse because their actions were "immoral" and "reckless," but not necessarily illegal. He praised the Orwellian Dodd-Frank law for righting many of those wrongs.
(3) "Complete confidence" in Eric Holder on Fast & Furious. Obama repeated the claim that neither he nor Attorney General Holder knew any of the details of the disgraceful gunrunner program that has wrought untold death and destruction -- both in Mexico and on our own soil. If they'd known what was going on, Obama said, they would have been "very unhappy." Except....Eric Holder was briefed on the program's details in at least five distinct memos nearly a full year before he told Congress -- under oath -- that he'd first been looped in. None of the journalists raised this disrepancy, nor did they ask why White House and DOJ spokesmen berated CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson for accurately reporting this story.
(4) Solyndra "pre-dates me." In other words, Blame Bush. Except...Bush-era Energy officials unanimously rejected the failed company's loan application, and many Obama-era bookkeepers recommended doing the same. Obama again expressed "confidence" that the vetting process for Solyndra was sound, and that taxpayer money was doled out "on the merits." In this case, the government's "bet" (his word) simply "didn't work out." Funny, I don't remember all the warnings of bets and risk when the Stimulus 1.0 was being peddled by this administration. Now, apparently, we're supposed to accept that huge losses and bad federal gambles are necessary facts of life. This all may sound convincing to someone who isn't familiar with this scandal, but to those of us who are paying attention, it sounds vexingly and intentionally misleading. Red flags were deliberately ignored on at least three separate occasions for political reasons, failures were covered up and papered-over, and the bad bet was restructured to help protect a prominent Obama donor. None of this came up in the press corps' questions, nor (obviously) in the president's answers. Instead, he quickly pivoted to defending the overall federal "green energy" subsidy program, which he claimed is working well. There's much evidence to the contrary. The president's main point seemed to be that we can't let China out-subsidize us on exploring and developing future clean technologies, so we must borrow more money from them to outspend them. Wonderful.
(5) Delicate dancing on Pakistan. Our "allies" in Pakistan appear to have harbored Osama bin Laden for years, tried to out a CIA station chief in Islamabad in retaliation for the bin Laden raid, gave China access to US military technology left behind at the compound, released one of bin Laden's close associates, and continue to whip up anti-American sentiment in the national media. They also have nukes and major strategic value to the US and our allies, especially vis-a-vis Afghanistan. Obama walked a fine line between condemning Pakistanis for their treachery and emphasizing their indispensability.
In summary: Pass this bill. It's paid for. Republicans have no ideas. Mitch McConnell controls Congress. Independent economists love it. Millionaires and billionaires. Fair share. Not my fault. Japanese Tsunamis. I didn't know. Bush. Pah-kee-stahn. Pass this bill. Is it 2012 yet?