A year after pledging to build a new foundation for American growth and prosperity, President Obama is delivering a progress report. And he's accusing Republicans of fighting the effort every step of the way. In remarks at Pittsburgh's Carnegie-Mellon University, Mr. Obama said "From our efforts to rescue the economy to health insurance reform to financial reform, most (Republicans) have sat on the sidelines and shouted from the bleachers."
His speech continues a White House effort to regularly get Mr. Obama away from Washington, both to connect more directly with the American people and to lose the backdrop of partisan wrangling that has marked much of his 16 months in office. Pittsburgh was chosen to showcase a city that has rebuilt itself, from the nation's steelmaker to an enclave of high technology.
A year ago, the President identified four pillars of American society in need of reform; health care, energy, education and financial regulation. The bitter, partisan fight over health care reform was a contrast to the more bipartisan approach toward new financial regulations. But of both, Mr. Obama declared Republicans the party of "no." "They said no to protecting patients from insurance companies and consumers from big banks." he said.
With an eye toward the November midterm elections, President Obama predicted Republicans "will campaign furiously on the same economic argument they've been making for decades." "This is the same crowd," he said, "that took the record $237 billion surplus that President Clinton left them and turned it into a record $1.3 trillion deficit."
Carnegie Mellon economist Allan Meltzer disagreed. He said of Mr. Obama "his rhetoric was divorced from current reality: his administration and the Congress continue to increase government spending." And House Republican leader John Boehner said "It's clear from his harsh partisan rhetoric today that President Obama has run out of excuses for his broken promises on the economy."
Ironically the Congressional Budget Office projected, today, that the nation's debt will reach $8.8 trillion by the end of the year, the highest percentage of GDP in 58 years. And the interest on the debt it projected to reach $723 billion by 2020
The President said stopping the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is the nation's "top priority" right now. He called it a battle we are waging "every minute." The spill, he said, "may prove to be the result of human error - or corporations taking short-cuts that compromised safety." In any case, he said, "we have to acknowledge that an America run solely on fossil fuels should not be the vision we have for our children and grandchildren."
With the White House under pressure from some quarters to devote more federal resources and be more involved in directing BP's resources in cleaning up the spill, the President again vowed the government would do all in its power. But he also warned there could be similar accidents in the future, saying "we have to acknowledge that there are inherent risks to drilling four miles beneath the surface of the earth." Mr. Obama called for rolling back oil company tax breaks and using the money on clean-energy technologies. And Obama pushed lawmakers to pass the energy bill now stuck in the Senate.
Wendell Goler serves as a senior White House and foreign affairs correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC), joining the network in 1996.