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Democrats’ on-air strikes defend Obama

GOP, unforeseen circumstances faulted for economic woes

- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 21, 2011

Several top Democrats and White House aides took to the airwaves Sunday to defend the vacationing president and offer a preview of the "jobs" speech President Obama has promised to deliver when he and Congress return to Washington.

David Axelrod, Mr. Obama's top campaign strategist, said the president, who is on a family vacation in Martha's Vineyard, Mass., will outline proposals for "modest" cuts in entitlements, such as Medicare, to reduce the long-term deficit.

In return, the president wants the Republicans to back extending a 2 percentage-point payroll-tax cut set to expire at the end of this year, Mr. Axelrod said.

Mr. Axelrod and other Democrats, including former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe and former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, made the rounds of the Sunday news shows to push the message that Mr. Obama has been hamstrung by bad luck and obstructionist Republicans.

"The only thing that keeps us from acting on many of these things is pure politics," Mr. Axelrod said on CNNs "State of the Union." "The fact that we cant agree to extend a payroll-tax cut for working Americans is bewildering to me, and the only explanation is politics."

Both Mr. Axelrod and Mr. Gibbs cited the earthquake in Japan and banking troubles in Europe for the U.S. economy's woes.

"We have taken big hits in the last six months that nobody could have anticipated," Mr. Axelrod said.

On CBS' "Face the Nation," former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie said the president needs to take responsibility for the economy.

"The president can, you know, complain about bad luck," he said. "The reality is, it's bad policy."

Mr. Gillespie also said there's a "growing sense that this president may be in over his head."

On NBC's "Meet the Press," Mr. Gibbs said the president "hopes that when Congress gets back into town, that they'll act on some initiative that we all know make sense."

"The question the Republican Party's going to have to ask themselves is, are they willing to tell the tea party that they're going to do what's best for the country and not necessarily what's best for their political party," Mr. Gibbs said.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican elected with tea party support, defended the grass-roots movement against the drumbeat of criticism from Democrats as "extremists" and worse.

"The tea party wants the same thing middle-class America wants," Mr. McDonnell said on CNN. "We want less spending, we want a balanced budget and we want to keep taxes where they are."

Mr. McDonnell, who took over the chairman's post of the Republican Governors Association after Texas Gov. Rick Perry stepped down to seek the presidency, said Mr. Obama could learn from states such as Virginia, which he touted as an employer-friendly, low-regulation state.

Mr. McAuliffe, who lost in the Democratic primary for the Virginia governor's race in 2009, said Republicans "drove the economy off the cliff."

"President Obama is now trying to get it back moving again. It takes time. It took eight years for them to do what they did to the economy," Mr. McAuliffe said in an appearance on "Face the Nation."

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