President Barack Obama may have given further fuel to the fire for those campaigning to unseat him in 2012. During a press event at the White House Friday morning, the president told a room full of journalists that “the private sector is doing fine.”
This comes following 40 straight weeks of the unemployment rate over 8 percent.
On ABC's "This Week" With George Stephanopoulos Sunday, discussion on the gaffe and a rough week for the president served as a starting point for a lively debate featuring Ann Coulter and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, coming at odds against Van Jones and former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell. Originally discussing how the insensitive comment may be used politically, Coulter shifted the conversation towards the public sector, and the president's plans to look to growing the public sector as a means to get people back to work and the economy back on track.
When asked earlier on the program about the "fine" remark, the president's Senior Campaign Advisor David Axelrod said "the American people are smarter than that," and understood the context of the president's remarks on our economy as "the storm clouds that are rolling in from Europe and elsewhere." Axelrod went on to say that one of President Obama's steps to promote job creation is adding jobs in the public sector:
And put the teachers and firefighters and police who have lost their jobs over the last -- we have had 4.3 million private sector jobs created over the last 27 months, but we lost almost half a million public sector jobs, and most of them are teachers. Many of them are firefighters and police. And his argument was that we ought to move on this, Congress ought to move on this.
During the panel later on in the show, Coulter said that Axelrod and the Obama campaign must be oblivious to recent political events like the Walker win in Wisconsin to even think that public sector job growth is the solution that the American people want.
"Did they not notice what just happened in Wisconsin? The country is enraged at public sector workers, and he's talking about how he need to buck up public school teachers," exhaled Coulter.
Gov. Rendell reacted to the comments by pointing to tax cuts for small businesses that hire, which are also a part of the president's plan. The former governor went on to accuse Republicans of criticizing these policies not because they believe the plan is inefficient, but only because they want to beat President Obama in November.
As the discussion began to evolve into a shouting match involving all four panelists, Stephanopoulos silenced the crowd and questioned Gov. Huckabee directly; "What is wrong with the jobs for teachers, firemen and policemen."
"There is nothing wrong with it, my did was a fireman, I love firemen jobs," replied Gov. Huckabee. "But here's what you need, you need enough firemen to put out the fires. You don’t go arbitrarily hire firemen, policemen or teachers, unless you have more kids in school. And what we need to be talking about is, we need not to be hiring more teachers, but hiring better teachers and getting rid of the ones that don’t teach.
"When 50 percent of the kids in Chicago, where Obama’s campaign headquarters is located, aren’t even graduating," added Gov. Huckabee,"we need to be talking about improving education and not just increasing the number of public employees, who in Chicago get $100,000 a year in salary and benefits."