President Obama has done a lot of things well since January, 2009. Staying on message hasn't been one of them. In fact, that’s probably the most consistent criticism I hear from political professionals: The president doesn't understand the importance of sustained focus. He'll introduce a proposal, give a great speech, and then, poof, move onto something other issue or initiative.
That's why many of these same professionals – and, yes, yours truly – were a little skeptical when Obama introduced his jobs bill. Oh, the proposal was just fine and the speech, as always, was dandy. But would Obama follow up with a campaign for the proposal? And would he stick with it, even as other issues inevitably crowded the agenda? If Thursday's speech in Ohio is indicative, the answer to both questions is yes.
Standing in front of a “functionally obsolete” bridge linking the district of House Speaker John Boehner and the state of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Obama made a pitch for his jobs bill focusing on, naturally, infrastructure. And this was no mild mannered lecture from Obama the professor. It was an energetic, pointed broadside from Obama the agitator.
Remember those days when he wouldn’t even utter the word “Republican”? Those days are gone. He's even naming names.
...part of the reason I came here is because Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell, those are the two most powerful Republicans in government. They can either kill this jobs bill, or they can help pass this jobs bill. And I know these men care about their states. They care about businesses; they care about workers here. I can’t imagine that the Speaker wants to represent a state where nearly one in four bridges are classified as substandard -- one in four. I know that when Senator McConnell visited the closed bridge in Kentucky, he said that, “Roads and bridges are not partisan in Washington.” That’s great. I know that Paul Ryan, the Republican in charge of the budget process, recently said that "you can’t deny that infrastructure does creates jobs." That's what he said.
Well, if that’s the case, there’s no reason for Republicans in Congress to stand in the way of more construction projects. There’s no reason to stand in the way of more jobs.
Mr. Boehner, Mr. McConnell, help us rebuild this bridge. Help us rebuild America. Help us put construction workers back to work. Pass this bill.
Conventional wisdom continues to hold that Obama will get nothing meaningful out of this Congress. I continue to believe there is a chance, albeit a small one, to pry loose money for infrastructure and other worthy initiatives – like school repair, saving first-responder jobs, and expanded short-term tax breaks for the middle class – if enough pressure is brought to bear. Obama can’t do it alone; if he doesn’t get more support from outside groups and congressional Democrats, it’s not going to happen. But he’s doing his part – and, at least so far, he hasn’t let up.