President Obama is set to speak to a University of Michigan audience in Ann Arbor Friday, but first he had some words for a southeast Michigan radio audience.
In a pre-taped interview on Paul W. Smith's morning radio show on WJR News Radio, Obama reiterated many points from his State of the Union address, and honed in to praise American automakers' for their continuing recovery.
But first he previewed his upcoming speech at U of M. When Smith mentioned students had waited in the cold for hours to get tickets to the event, the president replied with a hearty "Go Blue!"
While that cheer may please many a Wolverine, it's the science, math and technology students that Obama lauded most.
"We've got to make sure that young people who aspire to be engineers, who aspire to be doctors, who aspire to be computer scientists -- and community colleges as well -- get training for the high-skill jobs," Obama said.
No direct love for humanities majors, but the president did elevate the issue of college affordability for all students.
"The key fact that I think a lot of families have learned is that college tuition has actually been going up faster than health care costs, faster than inflation and way faster than wages and income have gone up," he said.
Obama offered some oblique criticism of state education policies that have left local college and universities underfunded, leading to hikes in tuition costs.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder cut higher education funding in the state 15 percent last year, and Michigan colleges and universities have lost a combined 30 percent of their government funding in the last 10 years.
"States aren't supporting colleges and universities as much as they need to," Obama said, but he also laid some blame on the schools themselves. "Colleges and universities haven't been as creative as they could be to keep costs down," he said.
Smith shifted the conversation to talk about GM, Chrysler and Ford's return to profitability. Just before the president's appearance, Smith spoke with Ford CEO Alan Mullaly about news that the automaker made its largest yearly profit since 1999.
Talking car sales allowed Obama a chance to reiterate his role in the auto industry bailout.
"When we had to make the decision to help, we stood to lose a million jobs," Obama said. "Not only are the Big 3 automakers iconic and symbolize what built the American middle class, there are suppliers, there are businesses, there are restaurants -- you name it -- that would've been devastated by that loss."
The president touched on other themes from his State of the Union address, including a call to raise taxes for top earners, make smarter spending cuts, develop American oil and gas resources and encourage Washington politicians to cooperate more often.
"There's going to be a time and a place for campaigning and electioneering, but when you're in Washington try to do your job and focus on what matters to the American people, which is building business and putting people back to work, making sure this country's moving forward," Obama said.
Still, he admitted that a conciliatory stance might not be the best approach for Democrats.
"Sometimes I've got to blame my Democrats for reaching out too much to Republicans and being too patient with them," he said.
The conversation cut off a bit abruptly, and Smith had to explain that an error in the studio had lost the station some of the recording.
"When I finished the conversation I looked at the sheepish faces through the glass and they said 'It's all gone, all 17 and a half minutes of that conversation are gone,'" Smith explained.
WJR was lucky to get much of the recorded interview back, but losing the tape would not have been a total public information disaster. Obama, after all, will likely make many of the same remarks again in his speech to his University of Michigan audience Friday morning.