Obama, GOP trade barbs, contempt

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama’s stump speeches are becoming sharper and more contemptuous of the GOP, while the GOP’s responses are becoming more derisive of the president.

In a speech during his bus tour through the swing states of Virginia and North Carolina, Obama declared that Republicans say, “‘What’s standing between us and employment is that we’re preventing companies from polluting too much’ … we [Democrats] on the other hand, have said ‘Let’s put teachers back in the classroom.’”

Obama’s $447 billion, one-year stimulus plan was defeated in the Senate Oct. 11, prompting Senate Democrats to split the large bill into many smaller, poll-tested measures.

In a Tuesday speech at Jamestown, N.C., Obama endorsed the new approach, saying “it may be the bill was too much [for GOP legislators] … it was confusing to them, so we’re going to break it up into several pieces, and let them vote on each piece.”

GOP leaders pushed back. “He’s traveling around on a Canadian[-built] bus touting American jobs,” said Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain. The bus-tour, McCain said, is “on the taxpayers’ dime [when] it is clearly campaigning.”

Obama “is hitting the campaign trail again this week … it is the only place in America he seems to care about,” said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.

Obama’s aggressive tone, and his dismissal of GOP proposals, has become more strident as his poll numbers decline and his influence in Congress falls. On Oct. 11, for example, two Democratic senators symbolically joined with the Republican senators in voting against the stimulus bill.

Subsequently, Senate Democrats scheduled a series of votes on measures that seem to draw high public support. First up this week is a $35 billion plan to hire up to 400,000 teachers for the year leading to Election Day 2012.

GOP legislators and strategists know the individual measures are popular among the traditional Democratic base, such as teachers.

But they also say that swing-voters’ support for such spending is offset by their fear of deficits and the continuing economic recession.

In Virginia, for example, numerous Democratic state legislators declined to appear with Obama in the weeks prior to this November’s election. “We’ve asked folks in Virginia whether the Democratic candidate [in their locality] say they will campaign with Obama … support Obama and [whether] they’re proud to be under his leadership,” said Virginia GOP Chairman Pat Mullins. “We don’t have any winners yet,” he said during Monday’s press conference.

On Oct. 13, Obama dismissed the GOP’s arguments against his one-year stimulus. “The Republicans haven’t given a good answer as to why they have not agreed to wanting to rebuild our roads and our bridges and our schools, [and] they have not given us a good reason as to why they don’t want to put teachers back in the classroom,“ he said.

“Anytime and anyplace that they are serious about working on putting people back to work, we’ll be prepared to work with them,” he said, adding that “we’re not going to create a lot of theater that then results in them engaging in the usual political talking points but don’t result in action.”

Republicans say the plan would borrow funds and leave numerous jurisdictions with a huge shortfall after the election.

The GOP has also passed numerous reform bills through the House that are intended to spur economic growth by cutting long-term budgets, changing spending programs and trimming regulations. The House Republicans voted for the reforms despite fierce resistance from lobbyists and Democrats, and despite warnings from GOP strategists that Senate Democrats would bottle up the bills and use them to criticize GOP candidates in 2012.

Senate Democrats have refused to vote on many of the bills, and Obama is criticizing Republican legislators for some of their votes, including votes to roll back expensive environmental regulations.

“Barack Obama is all campaign all the time,” Priebus said in the Monday press conference. “It is what he does best, it is what he loves in life … [but] it takes more to lead [a nation] than giving speeches and taking taxpayer-paid bus tours.”

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