Obama highlights record, downplays Romney in Pgh

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Amidst the sweltering heat, with temperatures that rose to the 90s, hundreds gathered on the lawn of Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Fine Arts July 6 for a campaign speech by President Barack Obama. Despite the dozen or so people who were taken away by ambulance after succumbing to the effects of the heat, the crowd remained entirely energetic as Obama stepped to the podium.

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BETTING ON AMERICA—President Barack Obama waves to the crowd after concluding his campaign speech at Carnegie Mellon. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

“Now, first of all, before we do anything else, let’s also be clear that a very important situation has arisen. The White Sox and the Pirates are in first place. So we may be in the World Series together. We love each other; we can root for each other, until we get to the World Series. Then it’s every man for himself,” Obama said. “I know it’s hot. I know you guys have been waiting a while. So I want to, first of all, just say thank you to everybody for taking the time to be here.”

While the president’s speech opened on a comical note, he spent the rest of his time with a more serious, yet characteristically hopeful tone, painting a stark contrast between himself and Mitt Romney, his opponent in the 2012 Presidential Election. Among the slew of topics he touched on were education, jobs, energy, infrastructure, reforming the tax code, and reducing the debt.

“You’ve got Mr. Romney and his allies in Congress. And their basic vision is one that says we’re going to give $5 trillion of new tax cuts on top of the Bush tax cuts, most of them going to the wealthiest Americans. They won’t be paid for, or if they are paid for, they’ll be paid for by slashing education funding, or making college loans more expensive, or eliminating support for basic science and research, the kind of work that’s done right here at Carnegie Mellon, or making Medicare a voucher system,” Obama said.

He said his counter solution would be to give tax breaks to businesses that create jobs in America and don’t ship jobs oversees. He also said the economy would benefit from investment in education to develop a more skilled workforce.

“The second part of (the Republicans’) plan is let’s eliminate regulations, regulations that we just put in place to make sure that Wall Street doesn’t act recklessly and we can prevent another taxpayer-funded bailout when the financial system goes out of whack; regulations that protect our air or our water; regulations that protect consumers from being taken advantage of,” Obama said. “And that’s it. That’s their economic plan. Don’t take my word for it; go on their website. The Republicans in Congress voted for this plan. And you know what, it is a theory. It’s an idea of how you might grow an economy, if we hadn’t just tried it for 10 years before I took office.”

Despite Obama’s comments denouncing Romney’s vision for America, the president kept his comments clean, criticizing the former Massachusetts governor’s economic policy, not his inflated bank account. In fact, he rarely mentioned his opponent’s name, instead choosing to highlight his own policies and accomplishments.

“I know that sometimes modern campaigns aren’t pretty to watch, because basically so much of it involves millions of dollars on television. Most of the ads are negative, and at a certain point people get discouraged and start feeling like nobody in Washington is listening to what’s going on to ordinary folks all across the country,” Obama said. “But I’ve got to tell you, despite the cynicism and the negativism, what I think about is my first race.”

At the beginning of his speech, Obama illustrated why he first decided to run for office when he campaigned for the Illinois Senate in 1996. He also painted a picture of his and his wife Michelle’s families who came from humble beginnings.

“So none of us came from privileged backgrounds, none of us had a lot of wealth or fame. But what we understood was that here in America, no matter what you look like, no matter where you come from, no matter what church you worship at, no matter what region of the country, if you were willing to work hard, if you were willing to take responsibility for your life, you could make it if you try here in the United States of America,” Obama said.

Obama’s speech came just as the U.S. Department of Labor released numbers on job creation and unemployment. According to the June report, 80,000 jobs were created last month while unemployment remained stagnant at 8.2 percent. While Obama did not touch on these numbers, he did highlight his administration’s record of job creation.

“We’ve started to see manufacturing come back to our shores, more manufacturing jobs created than any time since the 1990s. We saw people go back and get retrained for jobs, sometimes getting jobs of the future, advanced manufacturing, new technologies and clean energy,” Obama said. “We’ve seen small businesses, who almost had to shut their doors during the crisis, but sometimes the owners didn’t take a salary because they wanted to keep their folks working. And somehow, inch by inch, yard by yard, mile by mile, they’ve been able to come all the way back and are now starting to hire workers again. Over 4.4 million jobs created over the last two and a half years, over 500,000 manufacturing jobs.”

The visit was the final stop on the president’s “Betting on American” two-day bus tour through northern Ohio and western Pennsylvania.

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