President Obama opened himself up to withering Republican attacks Friday via an off-hand statement he made in a brief White House news conference.
Obama seemd to suggest that matters were going swimmingly for the private-sector part of the economy and that it was the reduction of government jobs that was the real problem.
Asked to respond to Republican charges that he was blaming Europe’s economic policies for the alleged failure of his own domestic economic policies, Obama said:
“As I’ve said, we created 4.3 million jobs over the last two, 27 months, over 800,000 just this year alone. The private sector is doing fine.”
Screech!!! As soon as the president uttered those words, it was obvious he and his campaign would be hearing this line repeated back at them for a while, and not in a good way.
Anyway, Obama continued, apparently oblivious to the troubles he had created for himself, and added context to his remarks.
“Where were seeing weakness in our economy have to do with the state and local government, often times cuts initiated by governors or mayors who are not getting the kind of help that they have in the past from the federal government. And who don’t have the same kind of flexibility as the federal government in dealing with fewer revenues coming in.”
The way many voters are feeling about public employees these days, that’s not necessarily an argument likely to get a lot of sympathy. In any event, it was completely overshadowed by his “the private sector is doing fine” comment.
Republicans were quick to pounce.
At a Capitol Hill availability with journalists, the first words out of House Speaker John Boehner’s mouth were:
“Mr. President, I used to run a small business. And, Mr. President, take it from me, the private sector is not doing well.”
He was followed by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor whose first words were:
“As the speaker said, we just listed to the president say the private sector is doing fine. I would say Mr. President, are you kidding? Did you see the jobs numbers last weeK? The private sector is not doing fine.”
Mitt Romney, on the campaign trail in Iowa, said of the man he seeks to replace:
“He said the private sector is doing fine. Is he really that out of touch?”
Mitch McConnell, like other Republicans, emailed journalists with the subject line “The private sector is doing fine?”
And, of course, Twitter was alive with Republicans jumping all over Obama as well which you can see for yourself at the #doingfine hashtag.
It may have all been payback for the way Democrats, including Obama, throttled Sen. John McCain in 2008 when, as the Republican presidential nominee he said, in the teeth of the Great Recession, “…The fundamentals of our economy are strong.”
Perhaps John Dickerson, who writes for Slate and does political analysis for CBS News, made one of the more relevant points in a tweet that seemed to suggest that Obama has some high-profile company when it comes to inducing winces in supporters and feeding frenzies among opponents.
” ‘private sector is doing fine’ = ‘not concerned about the very poor.’ Discuss.”