On Friday, President Obama once again called on a gridlocked Congress to pass his proposals to jumpstart the stalled economy — particularly increased financial aid to local and state governments to prevent further job losses for police officers, firefighters, teachers, and other public-sector workers. "The private sector is doing fine," Obama explained, noting that private companies have added 4.3 million jobs over the last 27 months and 800,000 in 2012 alone, while the public sector has taken a huge hit. Republicans, of course, were quick to seize on the comment as evidence that Obama is clueless when it comes to the economy. "Is he really that out of touch?" said GOP rival Mitt Romney. "For the president of the United States to stand up and say the private sector is doing fine is going to go down in history." Did Obama give the GOP a gigantic gift?
Yes. Obama really blew it: Obama called the press conference to assure Americans that he knows the economy still isn't growing fast enough, says Jonathan Chait at New York. But with one unfortunate soundbite, he seemed to "transmit the opposite of that intended message." Obama undermined his own attempts to "remind everybody that he has a plan to improve the economy and Republicans are blocking it." Instead, "he wound up giving Republicans a line" that "will no doubt be repeated on Republican campaign ads between now and November."
"Obama steps on message, GOP steps on economy"
But his words are being taken out of context: "There's no question that Obama left himself wide open to this attack," says Kevin Drum at Mother Jones. But keep in mind that Obama was describing a basic economic reality: The private sector is adding two million jobs a year, while government is laying off 200,000 workers a year. This undeniable fact "has been a big contributor to our anemic recovery."
"Obama: Private sector is 'doing fine'"
So what? Obama cherry-picks soundbites, too: Republicans are surely taking the president's words out of context, but Obama is hardly innocent when it comes to that particular sin, says Michael Scherer at TIME. In 2008, when John McCain claimed that "the fundamentals of the economy are strong," the Obama campaign "gleefully used the seven words to paint McCain as disconnected from the real fear and misery gripping the country." Obama's gaffe won't cost him the election, but "such mistakes do allow his opponents to build a damaging narrative," and Obama's regrettable six words "may leave a mark."
"As economic concern mounts, President Obama says 'the private sector is doing fine'"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why Pakistan won't hunt down the terrorists within its borders
- Sorry, GOP, tax cuts don't pay for themselves
- How academia's liberal bias is killing social science
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Pope Francis' American problem
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Are there dogs in heaven? Let's hope not.
- Hey, bosses: Stop giving bonuses to your employees
- Why torture doesn't work: A definitive guide
- Diagnosing the Home Alone burglars' injuries: A professional weighs in
Subscribe to the Week