Politcal Notebook

Obama says economy remains challenged

June 4, 2011

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TOLEDO, Ohio — Faced with a dismal new jobs report, President Obama said yesterday that the economy “is taking a while to mend’’ and faces “bumps on the road to recovery.’’ But at an event to celebrate the resurgence of the auto industry, he made no mention of dour economic news that threatened to obscure his optimistic message.

Obama’s visit to a Chrysler plant in politically important Ohio came after the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that employers in May added the fewest jobs in eight months — a meager 54,000 — and the unemployment rate inched up to 9.1 percent.

Normally Obama talks about the monthly jobs numbers the day they are released, but he never mentioned them directly yesterday — an omission immediately noted by Republicans who see the economy as Obama’s greatest weakness heading into the 2012 campaign.

The president focused instead on the turnaround in the auto industry and how the government has recouped much more money than anticipated from the capital it gave Chrysler and General Motors two years ago to save them from collapse.

If he wanted validation, he got it from Chrysler employees.

“Thank you for bailing out Chrysler,’’ a woman told him as he shook workers’ hands at the plant’s exit turnstile during a shift change. “Thanks for helping me keep my job,’’ added another worker.

Recently GM, Chrysler, and Ford have been reporting significant increases in sales, although this week the industry reported a falloff in May.

“This industry is back on its feet, repaying its debts, gaining ground,’’ Obama told Chrysler workers. “Because of you we can once again say the best cars in the world are built right here in the US of A.’’

Republicans were more interested in what the president did not say. The Republican National Committee sent out a press release titled “Noticeable Omission’’ tweaking Obama for failing to address the jobs numbers.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said it would have been “a little technical to be citing specific economic statistics given the rather informal setting,’’ but that the president had the jobs numbers in mind when he spoke of bumps in the road and the headwinds in the economy.

White House officials say the overall employment trend is moving in the right direction compared to the level of job losses a couple years ago, seeking to place this month’s poor jobs report in the context of a continuing, if sluggish, recovery.

— Associated Press

House rebukes president over intervention in Libya WASHINGTON — The House scolded President Obama yesterday for launching US military forces against Libya without congressional approval, fiercely disputing constitutional powers and flashing bipartisan frustration over a nearly three-month-old conflict with no end in sight.

However, lawmakers stopped short of a more draconian resolution to order an outright end to US involvement in Libya. They rejected that measure, 265 to 148, with antiwar Democrat Dennis Kucinich of Ohio winning the votes of 87 Republicans and 61 Democrats.

Over White House objections, the House adopted a resolution chastising Obama for failing to provide a “compelling rationale’’ for the Libyan mission and demanding answers in the next 14 days on the operation’s objective, its costs, and its impact on the nation’s two other wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The resolution, though nonbinding, says US ground forces must not be used in the conflict except to rescue an American service member.

— Associated Press