Villaraigosa says forget Weiner, focus on the economy
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa voiced dismay on Sunday about the “three weeks of scandal” that enveloped U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-New York), calling the news coverage a circus and saying a greater focus should be placed on the country’s economic needs.
Three days after Weiner resigned in a scandal over sexually provocative text messages, Villaraigosa said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that more emphasis was needed on double-digit unemployment and the plight of Americans threatened with foreclosure.
“For most of us, watching that circus, and the amount of time and air that it consumed," he said, "it feels like you're on another planet.”
The mayor made his remarks one day before giving a major policy speech in Baltimore as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, calling for the expedited withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and a greater investment in domestic spending. His appearance also came days after he and other Los Angeles officials had to field questions about the text messages of a high-level official at the city’s airport agency.
Last week, Los Angeles World Airports Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey said she had received information that a deputy executive director at the airport, Michael Molina, had sexually explicit content on his city-issued cellphone. She said Molina resigned after she asked him about the allegations.
During his “Meet the Press” appearance on Sunday, Villaraigosa signaled that a failure by Congress to raise the debt limit, and a default on the nation’s obligations, would have a negative effect on the unemployment rate. And he complained that not enough was being done to retrain workers so they could get “back into the workplace.”
“We're cutting infrastructure and transportation. In America's cities, we're saying that America needs to focus at home again," he said. "And this issue of the war in Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq is now an issue that's front and center of the debate in our cities.”
Villaraigosa accused Republicans of refusing to cut defense spending and Democrats of failing to pursue entitlement reform -- addressing the growing cost of Social Security and Medicare. But he gave a harder time to Republicans, including former President George W. Bush, over the handling of the deficit.
“When Bush inherited a surplus and over an eight-year period of time took us to the highest deficit and debt in our history, you have to call it like you see it," Villaraigosa said. "And the Republicans certainly have put us here.”
-- David Zahniser
Photo: Antonio Villaraigosa and Doris Kearns Goodwin, presidential historian, appear on "Meet the Press," June 19, 2011. Credit: William B. Plowman / NBC/Getty Images