The big news at yesterday’s circus-like Donald Trump endorsement of Mitt Romney had nothing to do with anything Trump said or did. Lost in all the noise was something far more important: Mitt Romney again flip-flopped on a topic that has become absolutely central to his whole candidacy — the question of whether the President made the economy worse.
At the presser yesterday, Romney claimed:
“He’s frequently telling us that he did not cause the recession, and that’s true. But he made it worse.”
Keeping track of Romney’s shifting assertions on this subject is a dizzying task, but here goes. Romney first made the claim that Obama made the recession “worse” in his announcement speech back in early June. It was swiftly debunked by independent fact checkers here at the Post and at the Associated Press, both of whom pointed out that the recession actually ended on Obama’s watch. Undaunted, Romney repeated the claim a few weeks later.
Soon after that, an NBC reporter confronted Romney over his falsehood, and Romney backtracked, claming: “I didn’t say that things are worse.” More recently, Romney reverted back to his old line, trotting out the highly dishonest claim that the “net” job loss on Obama’s watch proves he is a job destroyer — another way of saying he made things worse. Fact-checkers then questioned that claim, too. Since then, Romney has begun to acknowledge that, okay, the economy is “getting better,” but only in spite of Obama’s policies.
Now Romney is back to saying Obama made things worse again.
Outside of Jackie Calmes, NBC (see above), and a few independent fact checkers, no one is calling out Romney’s nonstop, almost comic dissembling on this question. And by the way, the claim that Obama made the economy or the recession worse is not a subjective one; according to economists, there are actual metrics we can use to evaluate whether it’s true. And this assertion is perhaps more central than anything else to Romney’s whole case against Obama. Shouldn’t it be scrutinized?
I get that this level of dishonesty is almost disarming to reporters and news orgs; it’s so brazen and ubiquitous that it’s hard to know how to attack it. But as Steve Benen noted recently: “It’s time for journalists to pick up their game.” Come on, people, the guy is playing you for suckers on a daily basis. And this is kind of important, you know? More important than anything Trump says.
* New jobs numbers beat expectations: Big, big news:
Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 243,000 in January, and the unemployment rate decreased to 8.3 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.
Job growth was widespread in the private sector, with large employment gains in professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, and manufacturing. Government employment changed little over the month.
* Susan G. Komen controversy grows and grows: It gets big treatment from both the Washington Post and The New York Times, and Komen founder Nancy Brinker’s claim that politics and caving to the right had nothing to do with the decision appears to be collapsing, as Komen board member John D. Raffaelli goes public:
Mr. Raffaelli said that Komen had become increasingly worried that an investigation of Planned Parenthood by Representative Cliff Stearns, Republican of Florida, would damage Komen’s credibility with donors...A growing number of religious organizations had become concerned that donations to Komen would benefit Planned Parenthood and had advised members not to give to Komen. Rather than risk offending some donors with a relatively small portfolio of grants, Komen decided to largely cut off Planned Parenthood, Mr. Raffaelli said.
Senator Barbara Boxer, one of the Dem Senators leading the charge against Komen, notes that the group has “hit a raw nerve with the American people,” and points out that its decision to align itself with “right wing forces” is only doing itself further damage.
* Women are key to Dem efforts to hold the Senate: An interesting political backdrop to the Komen controversy: The pro-choice group EMILY’s List is playing heavily in this cycle’s Senate races, because the record number of women running for the Senate may end up deciding whether Dems hold control of it.
* Obama reelect reality check of the day: There’s been a lot of silly chatter about those Gallup numbers showing Obama’s 2011 approval rating below par in the states he needs to win reelection. But Ron Brownstein offers a sober analysis explaining why those numbers do illustrate the depth of the challenge he faces.
Key caveat: These polls measure dissatisfaction that reigned before Obama shifted the discussion away from the deficit and towards jobs and tax fairness, and before the upticks in economic optimism soe polls has shown lately.
* A key metric for Obama’s reelection: Nate Silver proposes 150,000 per month as the key threshold to clear, on the theory that the history shows that job growth in an election year is a pretty good predictor of an incumbent’s chances.
* Next up on jobs: Obama today will unveil $1 billion in funding for a new Veterans Jobs Corps, but perhaps this bit is more interesting: “Obama is also expected to announce that the budget to be released this month includes $5 billion in funding proposed in the American Jobs Act to spur police and firefighter hiring in 2012.”
This, of course, was voted down by Republicans in Congress last time around.
* Scott Brown, Obama’s new best friend: Get this: The campaign of Scott Brown, who’s facing a stiff populist challenge from Elizabeth Warren, is now proudly circulating video of Brown shaking hands with none other than the President, as proof of Brown’s “independence” fro the GOP. As Kevin Robillard joked: “would any Republican office create a video of their senator shaking hands with Obama?”
Key footnote: There was a time when Brown was one of the Tea Party’s leading standard bearer, another sign of how much the political landscape has shifted since 2010.
* Is Romney concerned about the poor? Paul Krugman proposes we answer the question by looking at his policies:
the candidate has endorsed Representative Paul Ryan’s plan for drastic cuts in federal spending — with almost two-thirds of the proposed spending cuts coming at the expense of low-income Americans... I believe Mr. Romney when he says he isn’t concerned about the poor. What I don’t believe is his assertion that he’s equally unconcerned about the rich, who are “doing fine.” After all, if that’s what he really feels, why does he propose showering them with money?
As I’ve been noting here, Romney’s endorsement of the Ryan plan will be crucial to Dem efforts to tie the likely nominee to the unpopular GOP Congress, a strategic imperative.
* Oh, well. It was worth a try: That initiative from Sherrod Brown and Jeff Merkley to get Senators to divest in stocks in companies impacted by their legislating failed yesterday in the Senate, 26-73.
This general idea was first suggested by Obama in his State of the Union address but even many Dems couldn’t bring themselves to stomach it.
* And Romney embraces high profile birther: Philip Klein makes the conservative case against Mitt Romney’s boneheaded appearance with Donald Trump yesterday, noting that Romney has now forever linked himself with Trump’s crazy statements, particularly his high-profile birtherism.
Just to recap: The likely GOP presidential nominee cheerfully embraced a fellow who ran a presidential campaign (if you can call it that) premised almost entirely on the suggestion that Obama is not the legitimate president of the United States.