The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's headquarters is only blocks away from the White House. But during the first two years of President Obama's term, the distance between the two institutions seemed far greater. The Chamber--Washington's most powerful business lobby--clashed with the administration over foreign money in elections, vigorously opposed Obama's health care and financial reform legislation, and helped brand Obama as anti-business.

On Monday, however, Obama visited the Chamber in yet another effort to enlist corporate America in his post-State of the Union campaign to promote job growth and invest in education, innovation, and infrastructure. In an address to 200 executives, Obama urged companies to hire and invest while promising to eliminate unnecessary regulations, simplify the tax code, promote free trade, and reduce government spending. "Maybe if we would have brought over a fruit cake when I first moved in, we would have gotten off on a better foot," he joked. "But I'm going to make it up.”

Was Obama's neighborly gesture a good idea?

  • Chamber and Obama Need Each Other, observes MSNBC's First Read. The White House knows Obama can't get re-elected if he's considered anti-business, First Read explains. And the Chamber doesn't want to be considered anti-Obama if he stays president for the next six years, especially since several large companies have defected from the Chamber because of the group's opposition to the administration.
  • But There Are Obstacles Ahead, notes Michael D. Shear at The New York Times. He explains that Chamber President Tom Donohue is still warning about government over-regulation, particularly when it comes to health care reform, which Obama is committed to defending.
  • Chamber Cares About Profits, Not Jobs, declares ThinkProgress:
The Chamber has a history of being singularly focused on boosting profits, not creating American jobs. The Chamber has pushed for unfettered free trade deals, sponsored a series of conferences to teach businesses how to outsource jobs to China, and even lobbied against legislation that would have created over 1.7 million jobs."
  • That's What Business Is About! counters Hot Air's Ed Morrissey.

The purpose of business is to make money for its investors, not to act as full-employment laboratories to make politicians look good. If government makes the cost to hire too high through regulatory expansion, the private sector will respond with fewer jobs and tighter productivity. That's not a moral failure but simply the consequence of free markets and investor choice.