Ten years ago, fear and uncertainty blanketed the nation as America witnessed the worst of what mankind has to offer in terms of terrorism.
A decade later, uncertainty again pervades the country. But this is fear of a different kind. Now the worry is not about hijacked aircraft or anthrax. It's about high unemployment, a prolonged housing crisis and stagnant economic growth here and overseas.
As a result, President Barack Obama faces a daunting task when he takes the podium at 4 p.m. PST Thursday to give his long-awaited jobs speech during a joint session of Congress. He needs to deliver something more than a defense of economic policies of the past. He needs to give Americans a reason to be optimistic about the future.
Coming on the heels of last night's debate by Republican presidential candidates, the last thing the nation needs is more political rhetoric this evening. This is not about <i>his</i> job — and whether Obama will still be doing business from the Oval Office 18 months from now. It's about the jobs that 16 million Americans want and can't find.
Obama needs to convey a message of hope — despite a distressing jobless report that shows unemployment is languishing at 9.1 percent, about the same level it's been since April 2009.
Making matters worse is that nearly half of the 16 million Americans who are unemployed have been out of work for more than six months, the highest number of long-term jobless in America since the Great Depression.
Meanwhile, Obama's approval rating has also taken a nose-dive, falling from 68 percent 2? years ago to a new low of 43 percent in the most recent Gallup poll conducted last week.
But the burden is not on the president alone. The August Gallup pull showed the approval rating of all members of Congress is at a new all-time low as well — of 13 percent.
Our hope is that Washington would use this as a moment to work together toward getting America back to work — rather than allowing it to trigger more partisan backbiting.
We're reminded this week that, for a brief time following the terrorist attacks, American lawmakers showed uncommon unity. On the evening of 9/11, members of Congress even joined together on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in singing "God Bless America."
We don't expect Congress to join hands in harmony again. But we do believe they can and should lay down arms in recognition that whatever short-term political gain is achieved through bickering and fear-mongering, will be eclipsed by the long-term damage done to the nation's outlook and economy.
In his address tonight, the president is expected to propose roughly $300 billion in tax cuts as well as additional federal spending in an effort to spur job growth. His plan deserves a fair hearing. But some Republicans already are lining up to torpedo it. Others are simply planning to ignore it.
At least three Republican lawmakers say they're not even going to be in attendance when the president speaks. And Republicans have decided they're not going to give a rebuttal following the president's address.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., told Fox News that the reason there will be no GOP response is that "the speaker doesn't expect to hear much to respond to."