Romney’s attack on Obama

at 06:02 AM ET, 04/05/2012


(Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

Mitt Romney’s appearance this week before the American Society of Newspaper Editors convention, a day after President Obama addressed the same group, lacked the bevy of new “facts” that Obama rolled out as he lashed out at the House Republican budget plan. Instead, the increasingly likely GOP presidential nominee repeated versions of a number of claims that we have previously called into question. In the interest of fair play, as with Obama, we won’t award an overall Pinocchio rating for his speech.

“The administration pledged that it would keep unemployment below 8 percent. It has been above 8 percent every month since.”

Romney has subtly changed the wording here, dropping a reference to President Obama making this statement and instead attributing it to “the administration.”

When Romney said the president had promised this, we had originally awarded him three Pinocchios for this statement. But after lively debate with readers, we dropped that rating to two Pinocchios because one reader found examples in which Obama came close to alluding to the 8 percent figure.

Romney’s new formulation gets even closer to being accurate, but it is still a stretch to say the administration “pledged” anything.

Here’s what happened. Before Obama took the oath of office, two aides, Christina Romer, the nominee to head the Council of Economic Advisers, and Jared Bernstein, an incoming economic adviser to Vice President-elect Biden, wrote a 14-page report that attempted to assess the impact of a possible $775 billion stimulus package and how much of a difference it would make compared to doing nothing.

Thus, it was not an official government assessment or even an analysis of an actual plan that had passed Congress.

Page 4 of the report included a chart that showed that unemployment would peak at 8 percent in 2009, compared to 9 percent in 2010 if nothing was done. But the report also contained numerous caveats and warnings because, after all, it was merely a projection.

Still, the administration later cited the report in congressional testimony, giving it an official imprimatur. So, while Obama officials may not have “pledged” such a goal, it was certainly part of the administration’s talking points.

“The president’s attention was elsewhere — like a government takeover of health care and apologizing for America abroad.”

Eek, a “government takeover of health care” — from the man who as governor of Massachusetts imposed an individual health-care mandate as part of his health-care overhaul?

We have also repeatedly said that Romney’s complaint that Obama “apologized for America” is simply not true. (He’s earned Four Pinocchios for saying this.)

The claim that Obama apologized stems from a series of speeches the president made shortly after entering the White House, when he was trying to introduce himself to the world and also signify a distancing from the Bush administration through new policies, such as pledging to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

This is typical of many new presidents. Bush, for instance, quickly broke with Clinton administration policy on dealings with North Korea, the Kyoto climate change treaty and the international criminal court.

We tracked down every statement Obama uttered that partisans claim was an apology, and concluded that each one had been misquoted or taken out of context. (We also found some George W. Bush apologies overseas.) Some might argue that Obama’s speeches had an apologetic tone, but that’s different than claiming he was “apologizing for America.”

“By the end of his term in office, he will have added nearly as much public debt as all the prior presidents combined.”

This is a carefully worded statement that is factually correct. For instance, Romney uses the phrase “public debt” — the math does not work with “gross debt,” which includes bonds issued to Social Security, Medicare and the like.

Still, one can argue about whether Obama should be held responsible for debt incurred as a result of economic crises that predated his presidency.

Moreover, since the debt has kept piling up, presidency after presidency, the same claim could be made of other presidents. George W. Bush also ran up nearly as much public debt as all the presidents before him — and GOP hero Ronald Reagan even tripled the debt of all of his predecessors. (See Table 7.1 of this document.)

(Romney has also made this claim in a recent Web ad, which can be viewed below. The ad also includes the assertion that Obama thinks he is one of the four best presidents, which we have previously examined, giving a Pinocchio each to Romney and Obama.)

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    About the Blogger

    Glenn Kessler has covered foreign policy, economic policy, the White House, Congress, politics, airline safety and Wall Street.

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