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Can Obama stop 'nibbling' at unemployment?

Dave CookThe Christian Science Monitor

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said that if President Obama’s jobs speech after Labor Day does not “propose bold solutions on the jobs crisis,” and consists of “nibbling around the edge” of the issue, “history will judge him and I think working people will judge him.”

The labor chief said that, in a conversation with Mr. Obama in advance of his upcoming economic speech, “I urged him to propose what was necessary to solve the problem” as opposed to what the president thought was politically possible given Republican control of the House of Representatives.

Speaking at a Monitor-hosted breakfast for reporters on Thursday, Mr. Trumka added, “I said to him, 'Do not look at what is possible, look at what is necessary. The American public wants solutions and just because [of] the Republicans, you think this is the only thing that is politically possible, that doesn’t mean you should propose that. That means they control the agenda.' ”

Trumka’s comments come in the context of a new report from the Congressional Budget Office, released Wednesday, which predicted that America’s unemployment rate, now 9.1 percent, would remain above 8 percent until 2014.

While crediting Obama for “bold leadership” in proposing an economic stimulus package and health-care legislation, Trumka was critical of the president’s handling of the persistently high unemployment rate. “He made a strategic mistake,” Trumka said, “a number of months ago when he would talk about job creation and in the same sentence talk about deficit reduction, and people got the two confused. And he helped with that. And I think that was a strategic mistake.”

Trumka is due to see the president when Mr. Obama makes a Labor Day appearance in Detroit.