President Barack Obama took a swing at Republican front-runner Donald Trump on Friday, saying continued job growth shows the United States is “pretty darn great right now."
The Labor Department announced Friday that the economy added 242,000 jobs last month, with the unemployment rate holding steady at an eight-year low of 4.9 percent. What’s more, the data provided added ammunition for a White House eager to craft a legacy for the president and Democratic candidates preaching a need to build on his economic policies.
The Labor Department revised its December and January figures, concluding the economy added 30,000 more jobs than previously reported.
"That is progress,” Obama told reporters at the White House. “Six straight years of job creation.”
The president then showed the White House is taking the prospect of a Trump nomination seriously, taking a swipe at the billionaire real estate mogul’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.
"The numbers, the facts, don’t lie," Obama said.
"I think it’s useful, given that there seems to be an alternative reality out there, from some of the political folks, that America’s down in the dumps. It’s not. America is pretty darn great right now, and making strides right now.”
Trump’s slogan is plastered across red, white, blue, black and camouflage caps, visors and other head wear for sale on his campaign’s official website. Last weekend, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., slid on a red “Make America Great Again” cap in his home state when he endorsed Trump.
The slogan also is always prominently featured on signage wherever Trump goes, and has emerged from the lips of surrogates such as 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, Sessions, and even -- unexpectedly -- Iowa GOP Sen. Charles E. Grassley.
“We need to make America great again,” Sessions told a wildly cheering crowd after “Sweet Home Alabama” blared from the loudspeakers at a stadium in Madison, Ala. “I am pleased to endorse Donald Trump for the presidency of the United States. I believe a movement is afoot that must not fade away. It has the potential to have the American people's voices heard."
Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Obama chose to use Trump-like rhetoric because news networks are so focused on the “colorful candidates who are talking down the economy.”
"The longer-term trends were further cemented in this month's job numbers," Earnest told reporters shortly after Obama's comments, noting those big-picture figures are what the president focuses on most with regards to employment policy.
"There's a vigorous political debate going on in the country," he said. "The debate in the general election will be focused on whether or not we build on the progress that we've made over the last seven years ... or are we going to turn back to the policies that actually led to the 'Great Recession'?"
Trump, however, sharply disagrees with Obama's assessment of the economy. He frequently says the actual unemployment rate could be as high as 42 percent because only about 60 percent of Americans actually have jobs.
“Our economy is not doing well,” Trump said during a recent GOP debate in Texas. And he warned that Obama’s signature health care law “is going to destroy our economy completely.”
Trump vowed, if elected, he would usher in policies that would spawn “a dynamic economy.” He has been vague, however, about the substance of those policies.
Contact Bennett at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @BennettJohnT. Related: Obama: Don't Buy the Economic 'Snake Oil' See photos, follies, HOH Hits and Misses and more at Roll Call's new video site. NEW! Download the Roll Call app for the best coverage of people, politics and personalities of Capitol Hill.