A few weeks ago, Democrats waited desperately for Obama to start calling out Republicans in Congress, instead of just "Congress" or "Washington," for blocking action on jobs and deficit -- or, back, then, on deficit and jobs. And the change did come, in the runup to the jobs bill rollout. On September 3, in the weekly address, it was the same old pablum: Congress failed to pass a clean extension of the transportation bill. On Labor Day, he named them that (till then) must not be named (when criticizing):
But we’re not going to wait for them. (Applause.) We’re going to see if we’ve got some straight shooters in Congress. We’re going to see if congressional Republicans will put country before party. (Applause.) We’ll give them a plan, and then we’ll say, do you want to create jobs? Then put our construction workers back to work rebuilding America. (Applause.) Do you want to help our companies succeed? Open up new markets for them to sell their products. You want -- you say you’re the party of tax cuts? Well then, prove you’ll fight just as hard for tax cuts for middle-class families as you do for oil companies and the most affluent Americans. (Applause.) Show us what you got. (Applause.)Since that moment, week by week, day by day, the attacks have grown more focused, more direct, more confrontational, more sustained.
September 8, when he rolled out his jobs bill, he tweaked a Republican article of faith without naming names:
I know some of you have sworn oaths to never raise any taxes on anyone for as long as you live. Now is not the time to carve out an exception and raise middle-class taxes, which is why you should pass this bill right away.Eleven days later, unveiling his deficit reduction plan, he moved to direct, sustained rebuttal of Boehner:
You know, last week, Speaker of the House John Boehner gave a speech about the economy. And to his credit, he made the point that we can’t afford the kind of politics that says it’s “my way or the highway.” I was encouraged by that. Here’s the problem: In that same speech, he also came out against any plan to cut the deficit that includes any additional revenues whatsoever. He said -- I'm quoting him -- there is “only one option.” And that option and only option relies entirely on cuts. That means slashing education, surrendering the research necessary to keep America’s technological edge in the 21st century, and allowing our critical public assets like highways and bridges and airports to get worse. It would cripple our competiveness and our ability to win the jobs of the future. And it would also mean asking sacrifice of seniors and the middle class and the poor, while asking nothing of the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations.Four days later, he was standing on a bridge linking McConnell and Boehner's districts, challenging both of them:
So the Speaker says we can’t have it "my way or the highway," and then basically says, my way -- or the highway. (Laughter.) That’s not smart. It’s not right. If we’re going to meet our responsibilities, we have to do it together.
...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.Now in Dallas today (hat tip to Greg Sargent), turning his fire on uber-obstructionist Eric Cantor, he's taken the attack a step further, accusing Republican leadership of taking bread out of people's mouths:
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.
Yesterday, the Republican Majority Leader in Congress, Eric Cantor, said that right now, he won’t even let the jobs bill have a vote in the House of Representatives. He won’t even give it a vote.And then, he plucked a recent ThinkProgress catch and deployed Reagan against his putative disciples:
Well I’d like Mr. Cantor to come down here to Dallas and explain what in this jobs bill he doesn’t believe in. Does he not believe in rebuilding America’s roads and bridges? Does he not believe in tax breaks for small businesses, or efforts to help veterans?
Mr. Cantor should come down to Dallas, look Kim Russell in the eye, and tell her why she doesn’t deserve to get a paycheck again. Come tell her students why they don’t deserve to have their teacher back.
Come tell Dallas construction workers why they should be sitting home instead of fixing our bridges and our schools.
Come tell the small business owners and workers in this community why you’d rather defend tax breaks for millionaires than tax cuts for the middle-class.
And if you won’t do that, at least put this jobs bill up for a vote so that the entire country knows exactly where every Member of Congress stands. Put your cards on the table.
I realize that some Republicans in Washington are resistant, partly because I proposed it. (Laughter and applause.) I mean, they -- if I took their party platform and proposed it, they’d suddenly be against it. (Laughter.)
We’ve had folks in Congress who have said they shouldn’t pass this bill because it would give me a win. So they’re thinking about the next election. They’re not thinking about folks who are hurting right now. They’re thinking, well, how is that going to play in the next election?
what we’ve said is, let’s reform our tax code based on a very simple principle, and it will raise more money without hurting working families. Here’s the principle: Middle-class families, working families, should not pay higher tax rates than millionaires or billionaires. (Applause.) I don’t know how you argue against that; seems pretty straightforward to me. Warren Buffett’s secretary shouldn’t pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett. (Applause.)Finally, he channeled almost verbatim the latest star of liberal viral video, Elizabeth Warren:
Now, when I point this out -- it seems very logical to me, but when I point this out, some of the Republicans in Congress, they say, oh, you’re engaging in class warfare. Class warfare? Let me tell you something. Years ago, a great American had a different view. All right? I’m going to get the quote just so you know I’m not making this up. (Laughter.) Great American, said that he thought it was “crazy” that certain tax loopholes made it possible for millionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying 10 percent of his salary. All right?
You know who this guy was? Wasn’t a Democrat. Wasn’t some crazy socialist. It was Ronald Reagan. (Applause.) It was Ronald Reagan. Last time I checked, Republicans all thought Reagan made some sense. (Laughter.) So the next time you hear one of those Republicans in Congress accusing you of class warfare, you just tell them, I’m with Ronald Reagan. (Laughter.) I agree with Ronald Reagan that it’s crazy that a bus driver pays a higher tax rate than a millionaire because of some loophole in the tax code. (Applause.)
And let me make one last point, because you’ll hear this argument made: This is not about trying to punish success. This is the land of opportunity. And what’s great about our country is our belief that anybody can succeed. You’ve got a good idea? Go out there and start a new business. You’ve got a great product? You invented something? I hope you make millions of dollars. We want to see more Steve Jobs and more Bill Gates -- creating value, creating jobs. That’s great.
Your current mayor did great work in the private sector creating jobs, creating value. That’s important. But remember, nobody got there on their own. I’
Of course, even as Obama has escalated in this way, the drumbeat of bad economic news has grown more relentless, his poll numbers have dropped further, and the Republicans have dug in. As the EU dithers over Greece, an economic tidal wave hovers over Obama, and all of us. He may have turned to jobs too late. He may have turned to fight too late. But better late than never.