President Barack Obama’s chief political strategist, David Axelrod, said Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney “is living on a different planet” because he opposes the Obama administration’s plan to create more jobs for teachers, firefighters and policemen.
The administration is seeking to recover from a week of economic and political developments that put the president on the defensive and complicated his re-election campaign. These included a June 1 report that the unemployment rate increased in May, the failure of Democrats and unions in a recall vote against Republican Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin and accusations of leaking classified information on cyberattacks and drone strikes.
Obama also opened himself to Republican attacks by saying “the private sector is doing fine” during a White House news conference on June 8. He later clarified his remarks by saying “The economy is not doing fine.”
Romney mocked the president for his comments, casting Obama as out of touch with economic reality while campaigning in Iowa and questioning the administration’s calls for additional federal spending to boost job growth.
“The president called the press conference to say that because of the storm clouds that are rolling in from Europe and elsewhere, we need to undergird our economy,” Axelrod said today on ABC’s “This Week.”
The private sector is “certainly doing better than the public sector,” Axelrod said in a separate interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“We’ve lost 250,000 teachers in the last couple of years, every community in the country is feeling it,” Axelrod said on ABC. “We’re not going to win, and our kids are not going to win, unless we invest in education, so I would suggest he’s living on a different planet if he thinks that’s a prescription for a stronger economy.”
Jobs in the U.S. grew by 69,000 in May, the fewest in a year and less than the most pessimistic forecast in a Bloomberg News survey of private economists. The unemployment rate rose to 8.2 percent last month from 8.1 percent in April, the first rise since June 2011.
“This administration has done more to crash business than anyone in history,” former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said on the ABC program. Romney’s plans to lower taxes and boost private sector growth “is far superior” to Obama’s efforts to boost public-sector jobs and increase regulation, Santorum said.
The Wisconsin recall, in which Walker beat Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett by a margin of 53 percent to 46 percent, sent both parties racing to spin the results as they compete for the swing state in the November election.
Walker said his victory means Romney can be competitive in Wisconsin, which Obama campaign manager Jim Messina listed as “undecided” in a campaign video released June 4 -- the day before the recall vote.
“Six months ago, I think the White House had it firmly in their column,” Walker said of the state on Fox News Sunday. “I think it’s up in the air.”
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former White House chief of staff, downplayed the importance of the Wisconsin vote in an interview on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” program.
While that election turned partly on Walker’s opposition to collective bargaining rights for public employees, Emanuel said voters rejected using it to settle a public-policy dispute.
“I think people know when you’re recalled, it’s got to be something severe,” Emanuel said. “You’ve committed corruption or something of that level. And I think that’s where the judgment was. This was not the tool for disagreeing with his policies on collective bargaining or other issues.”
The Obama campaign is also facing Republican claims that the administration has leaked information about drone strikes and cyberattacks in an effort to burnish the president’s national-security credentials.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder appointed two federal prosecutors June 9 to investigate possible leaks after news reports detailed an alleged U.S. cyberattack on Iran’s nuclear program, a thwarted bomb plot by al-Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate and Obama’s personal role in approving a so-called “kill list” for targeted strikes by armed drones overseas.
Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who was defeated by Obama in the 2008 presidential election, has called for an independent special counsel to look into the disclosures.
“It’s obvious on its face that this information came from individuals who are with the administration,” McCain told CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “The president might not have done it himself, but the president is certainly responsible.”
Representative Mike Rogers, the Michigan Republican who leads the House Select Committee on Intelligence, questioned whether federal prosecutors would be able to adequately investigate a “parade of leaks” that would have them questioning leaders in the Defense and Justice departments and other military and policy-decision makers, speaking on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
Rogers and Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, who leads the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said they are examining potential legislation to deter such leaks.
Feinstein, a California Democrat, said on CBS she doesn’t think the Obama administration was responsible for the leaks.
“I have no information,” she said. “No, I do not believe that.”
To contact the reporters on this story: Katarzyna Klimasinska in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org; Anna Edney in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at firstname.lastname@example.org