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Jobs Dominate Political Agenda for Obama, Republican Rivals

October 14, 2011 at 12:00 AM EST
Jobs dominated the political agenda for President Obama and his Republican rivals on Friday, as everyone seemed to agree on the need to do something but there was little agreement on what to do. Ray Suarez reports.
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JIM LEHRER: Talk of jobs echoed back and forth today across the political divide. Everyone seemed to agree on the need to do something about the struggling recovery and high unemployment, but there was little agreement on what to do.

Ray Suarez reports that President Obama and Republicans sparred at a distance.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The more goods and services we sell abroad, the more jobs we create here at home.

GOV. RICK PERRY, R-Texas presidential candidate: Creating jobs in America is as simple as changing presidents.

RAY SUAREZ: The president of South Korea, sporting a Detroit Tigers cap, picked up the theme at a General Motors plant outside Detroit with President Obama.

LEE MYUNG-BAK, South Korean president (through translator): There is one thing on the minds of both President Obama and I, and that is jobs. It is about creating good, decent jobs, and it is about keeping those jobs. And this is what keeps us awake.

RAY SUAREZ: The two presidents were there to showcase a newly adopted trade agreement. But Mr. Obama also pointed to the auto bailouts he backed for GM and Chrysler, and the jobs they saved.

BARACK OBAMA: There were a lot of politicians who said it wasn’t worth the time and wasn’t worth the money. In fact, there are some politicians who still say that. Well, they should come tell that to the workers here at Orion, because two years ago it looked like this plant was going to have to shut its doors. All these jobs would have been lost. The entire community would have been devastated.

RAY SUAREZ: Meanwhile, at a Pittsburgh steel mill, one of the president’s Republican challengers, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, unveiled his energy and jobs proposal. It would involve opening more federal lands, such as Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, for energy production, increasing offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, and stripping the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases.

Perry said the plan would create 1.2 million jobs.

RICK PERRY: We’re standing on top of the next American economic boom, and it’s the energy underneath this country. And the quickest way to give our economy a shot in the arm is to deploy the American ingenuity, to tap American energy.

But we can only do — we can only do that if environmental bureaucrats are told to stand down.

RAY SUAREZ: Near Memphis, Tenn., Republican Herman Cain defended his 9-9-9 tax plan to boost the economy and create jobs. It’s drawing more scrutiny and criticism as Cain surges in the polls.

HERMAN CAIN, (R) presidential candidate: You see, politicians put together stuff that they think can pass. Businessmen put together plans that solve the problem.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

HERMAN CAIN: The American people, I ask you, do you want a plan that can pass or one that solves the problem? That’s what this is about.

RAY SUAREZ: Congress is caught up in the battle over jobs as well. Senate Republicans have blocked the president’s plan, but, yesterday, they offered their own. It calls for blocking new regulations until the unemployment rate drops to 7.7 percent, and for lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent.

Arizona Sen. John McCain is one of the plan’s main advocates.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-Ariz.: President Obama and my friends on the other side of the aisle in the Senate believe that they can create jobs through government spending. We believe that we can create jobs through growth.

RAY SUAREZ: Senate Democrats are expected to begin taking up individual pieces of the president’s jobs bill as early as next week.