Job numbers add to Obama's rough month

President Obama’s bad August grew worse Friday — and his Republican critics were more than happy to pounce.

“Today’s disappointing unemployment report is further proof that President Obama has failed,” presidential contender Mitt Romney said in a statement just minutes after the Bureau of Labor Statistics said the nation added no new jobs last month.

At the same time, the Republican National Committee tagged Obama as “President Zero.” As in zero growth.

Obama is headed to Camp David to start the Labor Dayweekend as he gears up for an address on jobs next week before a joint session of Congress. The president didn’t make a statement on the unemployment numbers Friday morning. Katherine Abraham, a member of the Council of Economic Advisers, spoke for the White House.

“Clearly, faster growth is needed to replace the jobs lost in the downturn,” Abraham said. “Next week, the president will lay out a series of additional bipartisan steps that Congress can take immediately to put more money in the paychecks of working- and middle-class families; to make it easier for small businesses to hire workers; to put construction crews to work rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure; and other measures that will help the economy grow while still reducing our deficit and getting our fiscal house in order.”

The disappointing jobs report puts even more pressure on Obama to propose a set of measures that seem doable, some plan that can allow him to reach an accord with the Republicans in Congress who have found their war footing.

It’s a tall order, but Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader, sounded a note of optimism in his response to the report, suggesting there were, indeed, a few areas where the GOP and the White House could find common ground. He cited allowing states more control over federal transportation funds to spur construction projects and reforming the unemployment compensation system as two examples.

“The president says he wants to put job creation first and put politics aside. We agree. It is a two-way street,” Cantor said, “and if the president is willing to roll up his sleeves and join us in helping get Americans back to work, we are ready to work together." 

At any rate, Obama has to hope September breaks better for him than the month that has just passed.

August was a month during which the president's approval ratings skidded to new lows, the nation's credit rating was slashed, an impromptu Midwestern bus tour failed to capture the public’s attention, and a scheduling snafu over his jobs speech turned into a 24-hour telenovela.

It was a month in which he was berated for simply taking a vacation, a getaway that was interrupted by both an earthquake and a hurricane, as if, as Michele Bachmann playfully suggested, God himself was expressing his unease with the way things were going.

It was also a month in which Republicans appeared to have, at least for the moment, found a warrior in Rick Perrywho offers the promise of uniting the party’s quarrelling factions long enough to take Obama on.

The early primaries remain months away, and both Romney and Bachmann (or Jon Huntsman or Sarah Palin?) will have something to say about who comes out on top, but the more Perry begins to look like a consensus nominee, the more the GOP machine can devote its energy to unseating Obama.

Whether Perry has a better chance of ultimately defeating the president than Romney or anyone else, of course, remains an open question, but there’s no doubt the White House would like to see a long, draining primary, with candidates training their guns on each other rather than Obama.

But the president and his administration haven’t been getting what they want for some time now. In that regard, Friday’s jobs report was more of the same.

james.oliphant@latimes.com

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