- The Washington Times - Friday, June 1, 2012

Under a withering round of Republican attacks over a disappointing employment report, President Obama headed to Minneapolis Friday where he unveiled a new initiative aimed at helping returning veterans land jobs in the private sector and planned to attend fundraisers in Minneapolis and Chicago that afternoon and evening.

But the employment report released earlier Friday that showed lower-than-expected job growth and a rise in unemployment to 8.2% overshadowed the president’s trip. Mr. Obama has hoped to focus attention on establishing a Veterans Jobs Corps and easing licensing hurdles for vets to land jobs during a visit to a Honeywell International plant in suburban Minneapolis.

Presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney, who has centered his campaign on Mr. Obama’s handling of the economy, wasted no time in pouncing on the latest numbers, which were fare below what economists and investors had been expecting.

“It’s now clear to everyone that President Obama’s policies have failed to achieve their goals and that the Obama economy is crushing America’s middle class,” Mr. Romney said in a statement.

Mr. Romney cast the new numbers in an exceedingly negative light, calling them “devastating news for American workers,” and ridiculing Mr. Obama for choosing the re-election slogan of ‘forward’ when it seems like we’re moving backward.

“We can do much better in America,” he said.

The report also gave Republicans in Congress new ammunition against Mr. Obama’s policies, even as the president Friday tried to blame Congress in part of the weak economic numbers, saying it was not time to “sit on your hands.”

President Obama’s “failed policies have made high unemployment and a weak economy the sad new normal for families and small businesses,” GOP House Speaker John A. Boehner said in a statement.

While acknowledging that “significant headwinds” and the global economic crisis are hampering the economic recovery, the White House emphasized the positive signs in the May report — industry sectors, such as manufacturing, that are showing job growth.

Asked if there was a fear of recession, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the administration is focused instead on long-term trends, not the month-to-month numbers.

“The longer-term trends still indicate that we have an economy that is adding jobs,” he said during a briefing with reporters on Air Force One, although he acknowledged that “it’s readily apparent we’re not adding jobs” at a fast enough pace.

Instead of letting Congress off the hook when it comes to the president’s priorities, the jobs numbers are further proof that the middle class needs more relief, he continued.

“We’re digging out of a very deep hole,” he said. “We’re also seeing continued instability in [Europe]… Middle-class families need support.”

During remarks before 1,700 people at the Honeywell plan, Mr. Obama continued to make his case for several items on his “to-do” list for Congress, including extending tax cuts for clean energy companies and ending tax breaks for companies that move jobs overseas.

Mr. Obama also repeated his call for Congress to create a jobs corps for veterans and thanked Honeywell for leading the way in hiring veterans. He also announced an executive order to liberalizing the credentialing and certification process for various manufacturing positions that are in demand across industries.

“I believe that no one who fights for this country should have to fight for a job when they come home,” Mr. Obama said. “…These men and these women have done incredible work, and that’s the kind of leadership and responsibility that every business in American should be wanting to attract.”

One veteran who earned a Bronze Star for his service, couldn’t find a job as a first-responder when he came home because he lacked the credentials the job required, Mr. Obama recalled.

“If you can save a life on the battlefield, you can save a life in an ambulance,” he said. “If you can oversee a convoy or millions of dollars of assets in Iraq, you can help manage a supply chain or balance books here at home.”

Encouraging private business to hire more veterans has been a top priority for the administration, and Mr. Obama’s re-election team has accused Mr. Romney of failing to offer a plan to help veterans transition from the battlefield to private business.

Citing the May jobs report, Mr. Romney’s campaign said veterans have been hit especially hard by the president’s failed economic policies.

“With more than 9 percent of our most recent veterans struggling to find work and nearly 800,000 veterans unemployed, it’s clear that we need a leader who will do more than President Obama has to grow our economy and ensure that we provide for our returning troops,” said Curt Cashour, a spokesman for Mr. Romney’s Virginia operation.

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