The president jokes about unemployment and says ATM machines kill jobs. Mean-while, one of his top aides says 2012 voters should avoid "affixing blame." Sounds to us like someone who knows he's in trouble.
The Republican National Committee could not have scripted a more damning sound bite. President Obama on Monday attended his administration's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness at an enviro-friendly lighting firm in North Carolina. Considering the dismal state of the economy, it should have been a subdued event.
But when it was explained to the president that the federal permit process for construction and infrastructure projects can cause delays ranging from "months to years," and "in many cases even cause projects to be abandoned," a gaffe ensued.
It was remarked to the president, "I'm sure that when you implemented the Recovery Act, your staff briefed you on many of these challenges." A smiling Obama responded, "shovel-ready was not as . .. uh ... shovel-ready as we expected."
Even the staging couldn't have been more hurtful. Big signs reading "Jobs Council" loomed above him and adorned the desk at which he sat. After the president's quip, members of his "Jobs Council," led by his friend, General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, laughed heartily.
During the event, the president asked, "How do we deal with making sure our regulations make sense, so that we start eliminating ones that don't work, aren't making consumers better off or aren't improving our quality of life?"
Was that a joke too? Shouldn't the president have known the answer to that question before running for president — not nearly 2 1/2 years into his term of office? Start eliminating defective, job-destroying regs? Start that process this late in the game?
If the president's joke wasn't funny to the nearly 2 million Americans who had jobs when Obama signed the Democrats' $800 billion stimulus into law, but don't have jobs today — or the other 12 million unemployed Americans — his ATM crack is even less amusing.
"The other thing that happened," the president claimed in an NBC "Today Show" interview Tuesday, "is there are some structural issues with our economy where a lot of businesses have learned to become much more efficient with a lot fewer workers.
"You see it when you go to a bank and you use an ATM. You don't go to a bank teller. Or you go to the airport and you're using a kiosk instead of checking in at the gate."
ATMs and automatic check-ins were invented since the stimulus? They weren't around when the country was enjoying 4.5% unemployment under George W. Bush? It's a socialist fairy tale to blame automation for killing jobs; it's always brought new jobs because it lets businesses expand faster.
In 1963, AFL-CIO president George Meany similarly called automation "a curse" and "a real threat" that "could bring us to national catastrophe." But automation reduced the price of any and every type of manufactured good, and made more wealth available for new projects and new jobs. Has the U.S. economy of the last half-century been a "catastrophe"?
No wonder former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told CNN on Monday that the 2012 election shouldn't be about "affixing blame" for the economy. And no wonder Obama says his family is "not invested in daddy being president."
For someone whose ideas have failed and who is incapable of considering better ones, he seems to know that more time with the family is an idea the voters may take him up on.