WASHINGTON – President Obama said he'll launch an effort this week to "refocus" the attention of lawmakers on the concerns of middle class families, dismissing what he called "phony distractions" that have left his agenda stalled in Congress.
Obama will travel Wednesday to Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., a symbolic venue where as a young senator he once spoke about his economic vision, for a speech that he said would serve as the "kickoff" for a series of events in the coming months aimed at "changing the nature of the conversation" in the nation's capital.
While it won't have the "razz-a-ma-tazz" of a campaign event, Obama said, the speech represented an important effort to begin to attempt to "put behind us the distractions and the phony debates and nonsense that somehow passes for politics these days, and get back to basics."
"You run for office and win so that you can actually get things done. It's the beginning, and not the end of a process," he said at a gathering hosted by Organizing for Action, his former campaign operation. "Across the board we've made progress but we haven't yet delivered on restoring that basic bargain that we believe in."
Even as he attempts to leverage the presidential bully pulpit, Obama told his supporters that it was more important to "get folks activated and involved." To that end, OFA supporters gathered for what it called an "August Action Summit" to plan events during the congressional recess next month on priority issues like immigration reform, gun safety and climate change.
Congressional leaders who addressed the gathering said they would also rely on the organization to help deliver new Democratic reinforcements for the president's final years in office.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi dismissed the agenda of congressional Republicans as "nothing," and their timetable as "never." She said comments this weekend from House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) -- that Congress should be judged more for laws it repeals as for laws it passes -- only confirmed that.
"We have to keep the heat on," Pelosi said, calling for help to "change the minds of the people to change the minds of the electeds."
"The president will be only as strong as his Congress," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said. "So you have to do everything you can."