WASHINGTON - A weak labour market provided energy for criticism of President Barack Obama, with the campaign of presumptive Republican challenger Mitt Romney contending that the president's lack of executive leadership experience undermines his policies.
The unemployment rate rose to 8.2 per cent in May as the Labor Department reported just 69,000 new jobs, the fewest in nearly a year. In appearances on Sunday's news shows, Obama campaign officials cast the dismal gains in employment as evidence of growth in jobs for the 27th straight month while acknowledging that it was not at an acceptable pace.
The Obama campaign said Congress had not acted on initiatives that would lead to more hiring of teachers and construction workers. However, Romney campaign adviser Eric Fehrnstrom put the blame on Obama and touted Romney's experience running the 2002 Winter Olympics and his tenure as Massachusetts governor.
"It's not that we don't think that this president is trying. I think he is. It's just that his policies are not working," Fehrnstrom said. "We gave the keys to the largest economy in the world to a person who did not have any prior executive leadership experiences."
Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign manager for Obama, said an estimated 1 million jobs would result if Congress approved Obama's job proposals.
"They need to get off their hands and stop rooting for failure," she said. "That's really what's going on right now."
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat and an Obama supporter, and Obama senior adviser David Axelrod also criticized lawmakers.
"What we have right now is a Congress which has decided that there is a political advantage in stymying this president, putting ideology ahead of country," Patrick said.
Axelrod said: "These are the architects of obstruction, and now they're complaining about the pace of the recovery. They should put down their political hats and join us and help solve these problems."
Ohio's Republican governor, John Kasich, said Obama had failed to lead in what he called the dysfunctional environment of Washington and called on the president to stop blaming Congress.
"I can't blame the legislature for things not getting done. I have to accept responsibility," Kasich said. "I don't think they know what they want to do."
With Republicans controlling the House of Representatives and Democrats the majority party in the Senate, the co-operation required to send a bill to the president might prove to be elusive in an election year.
The Obama campaign's criticism of Congress on Sunday and its attacks last week on Romney's tenure as governor of Massachusetts marked a shift of attention from the Republican's work at Bain Capital, the private equity firm he co-founded in Boston. Republicans have argued that the anti-Bain strategy shows that Obama is against free enterprise. Some Democrats too have been critical of the Obama campaign's Bain strategy and its criticism of Romney's business career.
Former President Bill Clinton said on CNN last Thursday that Romney had had a "sterling business career" but added that Obama and Romney offer dramatically different economic proposals.
"It's my opinion, anyway, that the Obama proposals and the Obama record would be far better for the American economy and most Americans than those that Gov. Romney has laid out. That's what the election ought to be about," Clinton said.
Asked Sunday if the Bain criticism had not worked and that the campaign was stepping back from it, Axelrod said no to both questions and asserted that criticizing Romney's business record was one part of an overall argument about Romney's approach to the nation's economy.
Patrick addressed the same point and said of Romney: "He had a terrific career creating wealth. There is very little evidence that either in the public or in the private sector he's had the terrific career of creating jobs."
Axelrod appeared on CBS' "Face the Nation." Fehrnstrom and Cutter appeared on ABC's "This Week" while Patrick and Kasich were on NBC's "Meet the Press."