"When American jobs and livelihoods depend on getting something done, he will not wait for Congress," White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer wrote in an email to Obama supporters Saturday.The centerpiece of the Wall Street Journal report is an effort by the White House to get large employers to commit to not discriminate against hiring long-term unemployed. It certainly sounds like a well-intentioned program dealing with a real problem, but ultimately, there's a limit to how much a president can do without congressional action.
On ABC's "This Week," White House press secretary Jay Carney added: "The president sees this as a year of action, to work with Congress where he can and to bypass Congress where necessary to lift folks who want to come up into the middle class."
The Wall Street Journal reports that some areas in which Obama will look to take "unilateral action" include infrastructure development, job training, climate change, and education. Expect him to outline which goals he on which he will look to work with Congress, and which goals he will look to tackle with or without Congressional support.
Given that Republicans remain hell-bent on obstructing anything that President Obama supports—they will be delivering no less than three responses to his speech—my personal preference would be to see him confront that obstruction head-on. I'm not against him talking about ways in which he'll try to move the ball down the field even if Congress refuses, but if he does that, he can't pretend it's a substitute for congressional action.
I don't have any inside information, but I'd actually be surprised if he overlooked the fact that Congress has been historically uncooperative. When you consider things like the fact that the GOP shut down the government in October, it would be pretty stupid to give a speech about how to get Washington working without acknowledging that it can't really work unless Congress changes its ways—and whatever criticisms you may have of President Obama, he tends not to say very many truly stupid things.
It seems like the more likely scenario is that the president will use his efforts to sidestep Congress as a counterargument to those who might criticize him for passing the buck if he were to simply deliver a speech excoriating Republican congressional intransigence. Given the way the media works, there's probably some merit to that. But ultimately no amount of spin can change the fact that there are really only two solutions to the paralysis in Washington, D.C.: Either Republicans need to stop trying to destroy everything the president touches, or voters need to throw them out next November. Anything else will be status quo—or worse.