Obama's Personal Role In One Man's Job Search
President Obama got personal with one voter in his Google+ hangout Monday evening, when he promised to help her husband find a job. And apparently it wasn't just a rhetorical stunt. Obama sent out the man's resume to various contacts in his area, and several recruiters have come calling, reports The Associated Press.
Jennifer Wedel, a 29-year-old insurance agent and mother of two in Fort Worth, Texas, made the news earlier this week when she asked the president in a live chat why foreign workers were getting temporary visas, called H-1B, sponsored by companies to do highly skilled work. The country wasn't desperate for highly-skilled workers, she said. Her husband, a semi-conductor engineer, had 10 years of experience, but hasn't been able to find a permanent job since he was laid off three years ago.
Obama replied that he was surprised; he'd heard from industry leaders that those kinds of high-tech workers were in serious demand. He asked Wedel to send him her husband's resume. "I'd be interested in finding out exactly what's happening right there," he said.
Wedel told the AP Wednesday that the White House deputy chief of staff, Alyssa Mastromonaco, called her two days later and told her that Obama was on the case. And recruiters have contacted the family multiple times since.
Republicans have spinned the incident as emblematic of an out-of-touch president. The Republican National Committee edited a video together to that effect, and the National Republican Congressional Committee launched the site Careerdestroyer, where Americans can submit their resumes to the White House, so that "the Democrats will finally get 'what's happening' -- their policies have destroyed careers across the country."
But conservatives aren't against the H-1B visas Wedel was complaining about. The American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, published a report Tuesday arguing that the government should issue more of the visas, because skilled immigrants are a great boon to the U.S. economy. The report calls the recent decline in the number of these visas a sign that the country is "moving backward."
Wedel's concern about the visas wasn't placated by Obama's response. "It's really an issue that's kind of hush-hush," she told journalist Peter G. McDermott after the hangout. "Big corporations lobby for H-1B. And when the president, or whoever, talk about creating jobs, you think of the people who are on the streets, or the people of the Occupy movement. You don't really think college-educated with 10-years-plus experience who can't get jobs."
Wedel, who called herself a "good Republican," told McDermott that she would probably vote for Obama in the fall. "I have been so disappointed with the presidential race. I haven't seen anybody who would have been a good replacement," she said. "I know how Obama is now. I know how he rolls. So I'd probably vote him back in."
She later told the AP that Obama's personal help in her husband's job hunt wouldn't play a role in her decision come November. "Just because he's able to send a resume out, that's not going to be a vote factor," she said. "We're just one American. There are thousands of Americans just like my husband with no job."
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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