"We’re the country that built the Intercontinental Railroad," Barack Obama.
That's what the president of the United States flat-out said Thursday during what was supposed to be a photo op to sell his jobs plan next to an allegedly deteriorating highway bridge.
A railroad between continents? A railroad from, say, New York City all the way across the Atlantic to France? Now, THAT would be a bridge!
It's yet another humorous gaffe by the Harvard graduate, overlooked by most media for whatever reason. Like Obama saying Abraham-Come-Lately Lincoln was the founder of the Republican Party. Or Navy corpseman. Or the Austrian language. Fifty-seven states. The president of Canada. Etc.
If you talk as much as this guy likes to talk instead of governing, if you believe you are a Real Good Talker as much as this guy does, you're gonna blow a few lines. But this many?
No doubt, we'll see a collection of Obama's Best Bombs on 'Saturday Night Live' this weekend, one right after the other. No doubt. Can you imagine the media coverage of such repeated historical ignorance if it had been the last Ivy League alum president who said it?
The Democrat had traveled to Ohio on Thursday to tout his American Jobs Act, the....
You know all those rusting bridges that President Obama wants to spend billions more dollars repairing to allegedly stimulate the economy?
He's headed out to one today which he's described as a "bridge that needs repair between Ohio and Kentucky that's on one of the busiest trucking routes in North America." It is on a busy trucking route, spanning the Ohio River between Covington, Ky., and Cincinnati.
It's the Brent Spence Bridge. It doesn't really need repairs. It's got decades of good life left in its steel spans. It's just overloaded. The bridge was built to handle 85,000 cars and trucks a day, which seemed like a lot back during construction in the Nixon era.
Today, the bridge sort of handles more than 150,000 vehicles a day with frequent jam-ups.
So, plans are not to repair or replace the Brent Spence Bridge. But to build another bridge nearby to ease the loads.
Politicians hate these kinds of messy distractions when they pick a place to make a symbolic statement. But Brent Spence was so tempting linking, as it does, the home states of GOP House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
But there is some possible good news for President Obama: The $447-billion jobs bill that he wanted passed "right now" back in early September is stuck in a legislative traffic jam in the Senate.
Fellow Democrat Harry Reid, the majority leader who can run that place like a school principal whenever he wants, is aware of opposition to the measure among some of his own caucus members.
And, well, darn it, wouldn't you know, Reid just can't seem to find a place for Obama's jobs bill in the chamber's overloaded schedule. As a result, as of right now Obama's "right now" jobs bill won't come up until later in the fall, possibly much later.
In a way the scheduling doesn't matter. Since the Democrat in the White House would rather have Republican opposition to it than any of its job-creating provisions, so he can have obstructionist charges for next year's campaign.
But if Congress works the way it usually does, maybe the bridge-repair money will be delayed a few years until the president's photo op Brent Spence Bridge enhancement bridge project is actually shovel-ready.
Well, it looks like the new congressional redistricting will help Ohio get rid of at least one long-term Democratic representative in next year's House elections.
According to newly drawn district lines set to go to the Ohio Legislature any day, eight-term Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Cleveland and 15-term Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Toledo are both in the same new narrow district running along the southern Lake Erie shoreline. Both have announced their candidacies.
The Buckeye state is home to House Speaker John Boehner and is losing two of its current 18 House seats.
But it will remain a key Midwestern battleground state on the presidential level. No Republican has won the presidency in more than a century without capturing Ohio.
After losing the state's Democratic primary to Hillary Clinton in 2008 (53-45), Obama beat John McCain (52-47) in the state where the Arizonan introduced his VP running mate, Sarah Palin, to the nation. Obama has visited Ohio frequently as president, most recently this week.
However, since 2008, Republicans have fed off dissatisfaction with Obama and the state's economy to hold the old George Voinivich U.S. Senate seat (Rob Portman), and win control of the state Legislature (which controls redistricting) and the governor's office (John Kasich).
They also tipped control of the congressional delegation from 10 Democrats and eight Republicans to 13 Republicans and five Democrats.
For next year the GOP is targeting first-term incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown, who easily won Mike DeWine's seat, 56-44, during the Democrats' congressional takeover of 2006. Next year, however, Democrats must defend 23 of the 33 Senate seats being contested nationally.
You could tell Kucinich was excited about the remapping. In an email fundraising appeal Wednesday, he used two exclamation marks in the first two sentences: "We have a district! The race is on!"
Without mentioning Kaptur, the House's longest-serving female Democrat, Kucinich celebrated the demise of his old Cleveland district and the slicing off of its Republican areas to buttress other GOP districts.
For her part, Kaptur said the pair shared no hard feelings over their upcoming struggle. "We are friends," she said. "This is hard for us."
He's that T-shirt-clad Everyman who lives on an Ohio cul-de-sac and forthrightly confronted a campaigning Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential contest about the Democrat's crippling small business tax policies. (See video above.)
During the course of their taped street discussion, Joe's questions prompted Obama to utter the accidentally revealing words "spread the wealth," which set off socialist alarm bells that can still be heard in conservative quarters.
Republican candidate John McCain mentioned "Joe the Plumber" several times in an ensuing debate in New York and turned Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher into a passing political icon that changed the course of the worker's life.
Since then, Joe has been a globe-trotting correspondent for conservative publications, a celebrity speaker and "tea party" worker.
And now -- guess what? -- Toledo Republicans are touting him as the 2012 challenger to Democrat Marcy Kaptur, the longest-serving woman in Congress (14 terms).
With Joe's broad tea party ties, it could become one of those symbolic races that draws donors from across the country.
Of course, what really matters is voter interest in Ohio's Ninth.
Such a challenge would surely be suicidal in Kaptur's heavily Democratic district that hasn't seen a GOP representative since Ronald Reagan was fighting Jimmy Carter's recession.
Oh, but wait!
Ohio is losing a pair of House seats following last year's census. And Buckeye voters were so happy with Obama's first two years that they not only replaced Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland with former House member John Kasich, they turned the Legislature over to the GOP too.
As it turns out, those are the folks drawing the new districts. Maybe they'll help Joe out. And help Kaptur to join Lucas County's 10.5% unemployment lines.
President Obama's weekly remarks, as provided by the White House
Hello from the Country Corner Farm in Alpha, Illinois! For the past few days, I’ve been traveling to small towns and farm towns here in the heartland of this country. I sat down with small-business owners in Gutenberg, Iowa; and ranchers and farmers in Peosta. I had lunch with veterans in Cannon Falls, Minnesota; and talked to plant workers at a seed distributor in Atkinson, Illinois. And to the girls volleyball team at Maquoketa High School, let me just say one thing: Go Cardinals.
Now, I’m out here for one reason: I think Washington, D.C., can learn something from the folks in Atkinson and Peosta and Cannon Falls. I think our country would be a whole lot better off if our elected leaders showed the same kind of discipline and integrity and responsibility that most Americans demonstrate in their lives every day.
Because, the fact is, we’re going through a tough time right now. We’re coming....
Somehow, from somewhere, a bright political strategist on the president's reelection team has come up with the idea of sending Obama out in a bus on Midwestern roads in two weeks, just like real Americans, or real Americans who can still afford a short summer road trip.
The spectacle of a passing politician's bus and waving citizens provides grand visuals for TV during the usually slow summer news days. The president of the United States might even happen upon a curbside lemonade stand operated by surprised children who deserve the kind of future he has in mind for all Americans. And more of that.
Not so good visuals of the trailing motorcade of press buses, Secret Service SUVs, SWAT team vans and communications cars. Nor the angry motorists stalled nearby because the highway and every on- and off-ramp has been closed by uniformed motorcyclists wearing large guns.
But a presidential bus tour could help refresh the image of this poll-plagued Democrat a year before his renomination for POTUS.
For weeks now Obama's only been seen at a pompous lectern lecturing members of Congress about the need to raise the national debt limit so he can make new "investments" in America's future and avoid default.
Or he's been seen reminiscing about the good old disastrous days of 2008 with Windy City poobahs who dropped $35,800 each to say they had dinner with the president.
Or Obama could not be seen in closed-door meetings with union leaders, who really liked the $787 billion stimulus plan but don't like any of this spending cut talk. As one result, Obama's job approval has never been lower.
So, on Aug. 15-17 he'll set out from somewhere and go somewhere else in a bus. You wouldn't announce your itinerary until the last minute either if you had Republicans itching to buy critical billboards along the route. And compute how few miles per gallon your big bus gets.
Political road tours do have other dangers. Remember Democrat John Edwards' bus breaking down on an icy Iowa roadside in early 2008, providing an irresistible media metaphor for his campaign on life-support?
So, where's the commander-in-chief going? Politically, Ohio, Indiana and Michigan make strong sense, although a dash into Iowa could help rain on campaigning Republicans' media parade. Yes, they're all run by Republicans now after last November's Democratic debacle. But Obama's got to retake at least two of them if he hopes to keep putting his feet up on that Oval Office desk.
However, according to Obama Press Secretary Jay Carney, the 72-hour bus trip is not political. (Laughter) No, really. Carney told doubting reporters this week, "The air of cynicism is quite thick. The idea that the president of the United States should not venture forth into the country is ridiculous."
Carney was fed such lines during his reporting days. But he persevered with the president's pitch: "It is absolutely important for the president, whoever that person is, in the past and in the future, to get out and hear from the people in different communities." Scroll down to watch Carney attempt to make that case on video.
The main trip topics will be the economy and jobs, he said. And no one would suspect the topics have anything to do with more discouraging employment figures expected out this morning.
Anyway, because the bus trip is so clearly presidential, America's taxpayers will be footing the bill for the non-political, three-day Obama odyssey through politically important Midwestern battleground states.
After all, taxpayers covered all the costs of Sarah Palin's successful One Nation bus tour back in June. Oh, wait. No, they didn't. Her political action committee paid for that.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Thursday signed a bill into law that gun owners will probably love, especially those who have permits that afford them the luxury of having concealed weapons.
The Republican, who was last seen on the links with President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, approved the measure that allows gun owners in the Buckeye State to bring their concealed weapons into establishments that serve alcohol, as well as into licensed establishments including shopping malls, nightclubs and sporting venues.
Does this mean that Pittsburgh Steelers receivers should avoid doing a version of the Lambeau Leap into the Dawg Pound at a Cleveland Browns game? Fortunately no. Businesses can prevent patrons from bringing their sidearms for safety reasons.
One detail about Ohio bars and the new law: yes, if you have a permit to carry a concealed weapon and the saloon does not bar its customers from packing heat, you are not allowed to consume any booze if you are carrying that .45. Likewise, you can't be under the influence of drugs, druggie.
But you can play darts, sing karaoke, and debate the debt ceiling all you want in that bar as long as you keep ordering Shirley Temples.
When the bill passed the Ohio Senate in April, the Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote in its editorial that it "was not entirely a surprise given the upper house's longstanding tradition of kowtowing to the handgun lobby."
Although Richard Mason of the Ohio Restaurant Assn. pleaded in a letter to the House committee chairman that they "simply feel that alcohol and guns are not a good mix," the bill went through, putting the burden on bartenders and waitresses to police their establishments from gun-totin' patrons who might be breaking the new law. Perhaps they will be packing heat too.
President Obama's not big on Oval Office addresses; no audience to play off of.
But he does love his outdoor summits.
Remember the White House beer summit after he called Cambridge police actions stupid after they handcuffed a Harvard professor friend? So POTUS had the cop and the professor and VP Joe Biden out back for a well-photographed beer.
Well, today was supposed to be the Golf Summit with the country's top two Democrats golfing all-friendly-like with Republican House Speaker John A. Boehner and his Ohio GOP pal, former representative and now Gov. John Kasich.
Republicans and Democrats in D.C. are currently arguing over trillions of dollars in cuts (scroll down for detailed stories) in order for the GOP-controlled House to go along with raising the national debt limit before the de facto Aug. 2 deadline.
They did play golf today. It was reportedly a $2 game (each), decided on the 18th hole and -- who would have guessed? -- the duo of bosses, Obama and Boehner, beat the other two.
There are ample news pool photos of the collegial gathering that were allowed to be taken at one hole. Back-pats and all that.
But judging from the official White House photo released above, it looks like it could have been the Schmooze Summit (also, there's at least one beer in there somewhere).
News consumers need to be careful on controlled events like this where the only official photo is, well, official. Like advance speech excerpts, the photos are carefully chosen to create a politically desirable impression. Remember the president lecturing the Dalai Lama photo?
In this scene, the president and VP know the photos are being snapped and look profoundly entertained by their guest speaker Speaker.
Anyway, this photo of a nonpolitical political moment in time appears to show the bipartisan quartet had a good time on a summer Saturday. No harm in that, even if they're back at it after Father's Day.
Speaker John Boehner's Remarks at Ashland University Saturday, as provided by his office
Thanks to Peter Schramm for that introduction. I’m honored to have the chance to speak with you tonight at this great event, held in honor of a great man and great Ohioan, John M. Ashbrook.
As most of you know, ‘tonight’ was originally supposed to happen a couple of months ago. We had to reschedule because I had to be in Washington for the final negotiations on the bill to keep the government running and finish last year’s budget.
I was supposed to be with all of you that Friday night. [I]nstead I spent the day on the phone with President Obama, trying to squeeze another billion dollars in spending cuts out of the most powerful man in the world. . .a very reluctant one, I might add.
I’m fairly confident this evening will be more pleasant. It already has been. So let me thank you for your patience with my schedule, and for sticking with me as your speaker tonight.
As important as that process was this spring, it was important in part because we....
As part of his struggle to regain control of the Washington debate agenda over balancing the federal budget his way, President Obama has taken to granting targeted TV interviews from the White House to select political markets around the country.
This week one of them was with Cleveland's WKYC during which he opined that he strongly disapproved of states like Ohio and Wisconsin balancing their seriously troubled budgets by limiting the bargaining abilities of powerful public unions.
Wisconsin has received much of the national attention on this issue for its limits on 175,000 public union members, although the law is currently enjoined by a court.
But Ohio has also taken firm action under the leadership of Republican ex-congressman and new Gov. John Kasich. As part of an immense, multifaceted reform and cutting process to address the state's $8 billion structural deficit, Kasich has signed a controversial measure called SB 5.
It has no effect on the wage and work-condition bargaining rights of the state's 350,000 public union members, twice the size of Wisconsin's membership. SB 5 does, however, remove sick time, pension benefits and healthcare from negotiations between unions and the government.
Obama suggested this was blaming public workers for the public problems.
Kasich was asked about the president's strong opinion. And Kasich offered his own strong response. The full answer is on the video below, but Kasich said in the 1990s he had been House Budget Committee chairman and chief architect of the last federal budget to be balanced.
He noted that Ohioans' elected representatives had reached this legislative agreement and, as required by law, balanced the state budget while preserving tax cuts. Then, he added:
"The president of the United States has I think a $13 trillion debt. Why doesn't he do his job? When he does his job and gets our budget balanced and starts to prepare a future for our children, then maybe he can have an opinion on what's going on in Ohio."
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.