The Washington Post

Obama on Letterman: President avoids debt number

David Letterman professes at one point in his discussion with President Obama to be “completely ignorant about politics.” Such a shortcoming, you might suppose, would disqualify the “Late Show” host from quizzing the president on the issues of the day. When it came to the national debt, however, the ignorance came in handy.

Having tuned in to the Republican National Convention, Letterman was moved by one of the confab’s signal messaging achievements. As he explains to the president:

Here’s what I found troubling [at the GOP convention]...They had the clock, the debt countdown clock and, I mean, this thing is going like crazy and it’s several trillion dollars. Now, what is that?

Obama responded with a recent history of government spending. Then Letterman went back to the tally: “Now, do you remember what that number was? Was it $10 trillion?”

Then came the payoff, as the president made clear that he really didn’t want to utter the word “16”: “I don’t remember what the number was precisely.”

No daylight for the fact-checkers there: Since the debt is moving so fast, precise recollections are all but impossible.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.


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