New York Times reporter Jackie Calmes spent Labor Day with President Obama in Detroit, who spoke at a heavily union rally featuring speakers from organized labor. One of them, Teamster President Jimmy Hoffa, used just the sort of militant rhetoric against the Tea Party that would certainly have been condemned by the Times if coming from Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, or any other conservative politician or activist. Yet Hoffa was completely absent from Calmes’s Tuesday story, “For Obama, a Familiar Labor Day Theme.”
What Hoffa said: "President Obama this is your army!...Everybody here has got to vote. If we go back and keep the eye on the prize, let's take these son of a bitches out and give America back to America where we belong."
But Calmes didn’t even mention Hoffa’s presence as one of the rally’s warm-up speakers:
Labor Day must seem like the movie “Groundhog Day” to President Obama. On Monday, for a third year he celebrated the holiday that honors workers with union members and their families in a political swing state, promising job-creation measures to reduce a 9 percent unemployment rate and calling on the Republican opposition to “put country before party.”
Mr. Obama, speaking to a riverfront crowd estimated by the police to number 13,000, said he would propose “a new way forward on jobs” in his speech on Thursday to a joint session of Congress, which returns this week from its August recess.
Calmes certainly emphasized the rally’s union label, which makes the Hoffa omission even more odd.
And almost three years into the Obama presidency, Calmes still won’t hold Obama responsible for the woeful U.S. economy, and once again insisted against evidence that the stimulus is working.
Flying here with Mr. Obama were several union leaders, including Richard Trumka, president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., who has been critical of his compromises with Republicans.
Also joining Mr. Obama was Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, who, as Mr. Obama told his audience, gave the president a Labor Day address that President Harry S. Truman delivered in Detroit in 1948, the year of his come-from-behind election after campaigning against “do-nothing” Republicans.
Afterward, Mr. Levin said he told the president, “Here’s a ‘give ’em hell’ kind of speech.”
The president’s Labor Day addresses trace the stubbornness of the crisis he inherited.
In 2009, he spoke to an A.F.L.-C.I.O. picnic in Cincinnati, just after the government reported 216,000 jobs lost in August -- relatively good news because it marked a second month of declining losses from a high of 750,000 as Mr. Obama took office. Six months earlier, in February, a Democratic-controlled Congress had passed his two-year, $800 billion stimulus program of tax cuts and spending.
“It’s working,” Mr. Obama said then. Most economists agreed, though many have since concluded that the package was not forceful enough to counter a recession and crises in the financial and housing sectors. Republicans, who generally opposed it, continue to say that the stimulus program failed and that they will not support another round.