Obama Touts Jobs Bill, Scolds Congress at Georgetown Waterfront Park

Photo by Robert Devaney

Just ahead of a probably doomed Senate vote on his infrastructure bill, President Barack Obama popped into Georgetown today before a friendly audience of hard-hatters, dignitaries and pols to tout the need to pass his infrastructure bill.

The president, who’s been in high dudgeon campaign mode ever since he proposed his jobs bill weeks ago, all but bounced onto a podium at the the newly dedicated Georgetown Waterfront Park, where he used a huge, billowing American flag and a small audience of perhaps 150 to 200 selected guests as a backdrop, highlighted by sunlight bouncing off yellow hard hats.

Right behind him: Key Bridge, one of five major bridges that connect Virginia to Washington, D.C.

“Two of these five bridges are rated ‘structurally deficient,’ ” President Obama said, “which is a fancy way of saying that you can drive on them but they need repair. Nearly 120,000 vehicles cross these two bridges every single day, carrying hundreds of thousands of commuters and families and children.”

As union workers and locals, including construction workers looking on from above on the Whitehurst Freeway, listened and applauded, the president touted the need for infrastructure repair programs and jobs while painting a bleak picture of weakened highways, congested traffic, slow trains and unsafe bridges.

As is his wont, the president combined his considerable, high-energy charisma with a reliable wonkishness, tweaking Congress, providing urgency and armed with a truck-load, if you will, of statistics.

“All told, our aging transportation infrastructure cost American businesses and families about $130 billion a year," he said. "That’s a tax on our businesses, that’s a tax on our consumers. It is coming out of your pockets."

This being a political year, like every year these days, the president, who has indicated that he’s going to get things going with or without congress, chided the Republicans in Congress. “Last month, Republicans in the Senate blocked a jobs bill that would mean hundreds of thousands of private sector construction jobs repairing bridges like this one," he said. "It was supported by the overwhelming majority of the American people. It was paid for. And yet, they said no.”

He enlisted the help of workers in the audience, the congressmen and women in the audience, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray—all of whom “get it,” according to the president. Obama even cited a Republican president for support. “The bridges and highways we fail to repair today will have to be rebuilt tomorrow at many times the cost,” he said, quoting none other than GOP and patron saint of fiscal conservatism, President Ronald Reagan. “We just put up a statue of him at the airport. Since when do we have Republicans voting against Ronald Reagan?”

If quoting a legitimate GOP deity wasn’t enough, the president went even higher for support. He noted that the House of Representatives have been debating a commemorative coin for baseball and legislation reaffirming that “In God We Trust” is our motto.

“That’s not putting people back to work,” he said. “I trust in God, but God wants to see us help ourselves by putting people back to work”.

And on that note, like a magician, he swept away. “God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.”

There was the rope line, there were handshakes, and then he was gone. It was like one of those television commercials for new Ford cars in which a news crew pops up magically, anchors announce the virtues of cars, a mike is thrust out for a quote, and they fold up their tents and disappear.

Obama’s speech was a bit longer that that kind of scene, but it was just as brisk, just as sharp and clear. It was a salvo, cleanly delivered with kinetic energy, one of many that probably won’t stop until election eve 2012.

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Wed, 28 Jun 2017 09:58:30 -0400

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