WASHINGTON -- America's top two Republican leaders fired blistering broadsides Tuesday at President Barack Obama, saying that the president had made the economy and the future worse and that the United States "may never recover."
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) laid down the starkest warning, telling Fox News, "America can't live for four more years with Barack Obama as president. His policies will turn America in a direction that we may never recover from."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) piled on later in a Senate floor speech, hitting Obama for misleading young people.
The president, meanwhile, was handing out the 2012 National Teacher of the Year award at the White House and preparing to travel to the University of North Carolina to highlight student loan issues.
"It's hard to think of any politician who promised more and delivered less than our current president," said McConnell. "He was the one who would erase old divisions and bring people together. He was the one who would rise above politics as usual and usher in a new era of bipartisan harmony. A lot of people believed him. Naturally, a lot of them are even more jaded now than ever.
"Instead of fixing problems, he made them worse," McConnell continued, blaming the president for high gas prices, high unemployment, health care costs, the complicated tax code, the national debt and the possibility that Social Security benefits may have to be reduced two decades from now.
While pointing his finger at Obama, the senator charged that the president shirks responsibility. "It's the millionaires. It's the banks. It's Big Oil. It's the weather. It's Fox News. It's anything but him. And it's absurd," McConnell said. "I mean, if you believe that a president who got everything he wanted for two years has nothing to do with the problems we face, then I've got a solar panel company to sell you," he said, referring to the now-bankrupt Solyndra, which had received a $535 million loan guarantee from the federal government.
McConnell's comments in particular were delivered to counter Obama's efforts on Tuesday, which included presenting the teaching trophy and then heading out on a three-university trip to call on Congress to keep student loan interest from doubling to 6.8 percent, as it is scheduled to do this summer.
The Kentucky Republican declared that students would no longer buy what the president was selling.
"I mean, you have to think that most of these students are sharp enough to put this president's rhetoric up against his record and to conclude that it just doesn't add up," McConnell said. "As the promises of this president's campaign collide with real life, I think young people across the country will realize they got sold a bill of goods. And that next time they're promised change, they'll know enough to kick the tires first."
The White House did not immediately comment, but Democrats regularly point out that the economy was bleeding hundreds of thousands of jobs a month when Obama took over and that the country has now seen more than two years of steady, albeit slow, job growth. They also note that under the Affordable Care Act, millions of young adults now have health insurance because they can stay on their parents' plans until they reach age 26.
The office of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) issued a statement saying it was Boehner who should be taking responsibility for a "just say no" strategy that has included failing to move a Senate transportation bill designed to create 2 million jobs, blocking student loan aid and not engaging with the president on a "grand bargain" to cut deficits.
"It's time for Speaker Boehner to look in the mirror, stop casting blame, and start working with Democrats on bipartisan solutions," Pelosi's statement said.
UPDATE: 4:20 p.m. -- White House spokesman Jay Carney echoed Pelosi's office, telling reporters on the way to North Carolina that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell bears his own share of the blame for the nation's difficulties.
"I find it highly ironic that a United States senator, who enthusiastically, with great gusto and energy, supported the policies of the previous administration that contributed mightily to the worst recession since the Great Depression, comes forward with a statement like that, even though he opposed all the policies that have led to 25 straight months of private-sector job creation and 10 quarters of positive economic growth as we emerge from the worst recession since the Great Depression ... and he supported the policies that led to it," Carney said.
Michael McAuliff covers politics and Congress for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.