Obama Makes a Pilgrimage to Youngstown
By Anne E. Kornblut
President Obama diverted his attention away from health care -- briefly -- on Tuesday morning to make what is becoming a ritual political stop on economic tours, visiting the General Motors plant in Lordstown, Ohio.
Obama's aim was to rally the unionized workers at the plant, and to remind voters in the beleaguered Youngstown area that his economic plans were aimed at lowering their unemployment rates. Then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (N.Y.) made a similar trip to the Lordstown plant during the Democratic primaries last year, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) visited a few months later.
Obama, appearing after a roundtable with workers, had good news to embrace: the auto plant is hiring back about 1,000 workers this month. The move is a result of the administration's efforts to bolster the industry and the economy overall, the president said.
"There were some people who said, 'You can't do it,'" Obama said. "Our belief was that if GM retooled and reinvented itself for the 21st century, it would be good for American workers, it would be good for American manufacturing, it would be good for America's economy. And I'm pleased to report that's exactly what's begun to happen at plants like this and others across the country."
He continued: "Because of the steps we have taken, this plant is about to shift into higher gear.150 of your coworkers came back to work yesterday. More than a thousand will be coming back to work in less than three weeks as production of the Cobalt ramps up. And next year, this plant will begin production of the Chevy Cruze, a new car that will get more than 40 miles per gallon."
Obama also announced new emissions standards being unveiled today, promising to end "uncertain and conflicting fuel economy standards." He said the health care fight is related to the auto plant's fate -- drawing large cheers from the crowd when he declared that workers should be spending time negotiating better wages rather than fighting for health coverage.
Obama's next stop today is another union gathering, the AFL-CIO convention in Pittsburgh. If the morning event was any indication, he may be in a mood to rouse the faithful: as workers shouted and cheered, Obama wrapped up his speech by declaring himself a fighter on behalf of Ohioans. "Give it to me, guys -- because we're going to rebuild, right here, right now," Obama said. "We're going to make Ohio work again."
Posted at 11:56 AM ET on Sep 15, 2009
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