Obama's "We Can't Wait" Juggling Act

Obama's "We Can't Wait" Juggling Act

By Alexis Simendinger - January 20, 2012

As President Obama visited Orlando, Fla., on Thursday to describe an initiative to expand international tourism to the United States, Vice President Biden was in Reno, Nev., to discuss the economic hazards of rising college tuitions. As Obama flew on Air Force One later in the day to New York City for four campaign fundraising events, Biden traveled to Los Angeles for an economic event with business leaders, plus another fundraiser.

The Democratic ticket’s substantive benefactors live in big cities in solidly blue states, while the voters Obama and Biden need in November reside in swing states such as Florida and Nevada. The 2012 rhythm of the presidency has thus been set: Obama and Biden are touting an economic agenda with eyes firmly clapped on swing states, while also appealing to middle-class voters by hammering Congress, while using executive clout as a stand-in for legislation, and while also collecting campaign cash at back-to-back political events from both the well- and modestly-heeled.

Obama and the vice president mix these missions within the same day, or in a span of several days, and the juxtaposition can be jarring.

For instance, this was a week in which the president declared the country must wait until 2013 or 2014 to decide if a proposed 1,700-mile oil pipeline stretching from Canada to Texas can become an environmentally safe boon to employment, followed a day later by an Obama executive order intended to create U.S. jobs by speeding up the entry of eager international visitors -- within the confines of border safeguards.

Asked by RCP to compare the job-creation urgency of Obama’s tourism initiative announced at Disney World on Thursday with the Keystone XL pipeline postponement the president announced the day before, the White House said the president’s goal is to use his executive clout in every way he can to boost the economy and create jobs.

“I think the president has been pretty consistent throughout the initiatives that have been rolled out in the last few months,” Danielle Gray, deputy director of the White House National Economic Council, said during a conference call with reporters Thursday. “His top priority is using all of his authority and powers to create jobs.”

Gray, a former White House associate counsel, pointed to support for the president’s tourism initiative from industry and business representatives. She said nothing about the Keystone project, which congressional Republicans pressed Obama to approve on an expedited basis. The president’s environmental and labor supporters are divided about the risks and rewards of the pipeline.

While the president accepted a GOP provision requiring a 60-day review at the State Department of Keystone -- a compromise attached to December’s payroll tax extension that expires Feb. 28 -- the White House had been warning that 60 days would provoke a rejection from the president because it was insufficient to fully determine Keystone’s merits and risks. Obama’s decision, announced Wednesday, places Keystone on hold until well beyond the election.

The president’s latest executive order creates an interagency task force that must within two months develop a “national travel and tourism strategy” aimed at creating more U.S. recreation and tourism jobs by throwing out the welcome mat to more visitors, especially from China, Brazil and India, where leisure travel and spending are on the rise.

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Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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