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President, Betras miss the mark

Published: Sun, February 2, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

On Tuesday night, President Barack Obama pointed to Youngstown when he talked about the U.S. riding the new wave of high-tech manufacturing. On Thursday morning, Obama was at a Costco store (with its shelves filled with products made in China) in Prince George’s County, Md., to continue his push for an increase in the minimum wage. Go figure.

The miscue was not surprising, given that the president missed the mark in his address to Congress and the nation.

After the way he was mistreated last year by the Republican majority in the House of Representatives — this following his landslide re-election victory in November 2012 over Republican Mitt Romney — there was every expectation that the theme of his State of the Union address would be “It’s pay- back time.”

Though the president cannot force Republicans in the House to go along with him on such major issues as immigration reform and the restoration of unemployment benefits for more than 1 million Americans, he is not without power when it comes to spending money.

Democrats in Congress who have had to suffer the consequences of Republican intransigence would have welcomed a litany of actions to punish those members of Congress who have not only opposed him but have been disrespectful.

Instead, the president was so determined to be presidential that he came across as somewhat wimpy.

To be sure, his plan to govern by presidential executive order grabbed headlines, but there are limits to what he can do without congressional approval.


Divided government — Democrats control the Senate — is not working because the Republicans have made it clear that they do not intend to give Obama any major victories.

Indeed, in this year’s statewide elections, GOP candidates will be running against the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare.

Opinion polls show that majority of the people do not support the health insurance reform initiative.

When Obama talked about Youngstown in his State of the Union address, he should have gone a step further and announced that additional federal funding was being funneled to America Makes, formerly the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute in downtown Youngstown. It was launched in 2012 with $30 million from the federal government and $40 million from a consortium of universities, colleges and businesses in the technology belt encompassing Pittsburgh, Youngstown and Cleveland.

Where would the additional money come from? How about the congressional districts and counties around the country that chose Romney over Obama.

Indeed, the president should have turned to House Speaker John Boehner, R-8th of West Chester, and told him that money for a variety of projects in his southern Ohio congressional district was being redirected to Mahoning County.

Not only that, the president should have announced that the C-130 cargo planes that were reassigned from the Youngstown Air Reserve Station to a base in Arkansas were being brought back.

Arkansas voted for Romney, while Obama received almost 65 percent of the vote in Mahoning County.


This is all about politics, which is why Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras missed the mark last week in his appeal to the president to visit Youngstown.

Betras has launched a public campaign to persuade Obama that coming to a regtion that has long supported him would be a good move.

“Mr. President please come visit us. We love you for mentioning us so much,” one of his social media postings said. .

Really? Pleading for Obama’s attention when he owes us more than words — albeit spoken on national television? The president needs friends.

Betras should have been on the telephone Tuesday night with national Democratic Party leaders letting them know that Obama should have been in Youngstown last week, instead of visiting a Costco store in Maryland or stopping in Pennsylvania.

Democrats, who face an uphill battle to win the statewide election in Ohio, need more than kind words to keep them politically engaged.

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