The office of the presidency confers certain authority, such as having access to data collected by executive branch organizations before the information gets released to the public. Presidents usually review that data before making pronouncements, just to be sure that they don’t get undercut later by conflicting analyses from one’s own branch of government. Or, in Tuesday’s case, almost simultaneously:

OBAMA: All these actions — the Recovery Act, the bank capitalization program, the housing plan, the strengthening of the non-bank credit market, the auto plan, and our work at the G-20 — all have been necessary pieces of the recovery puzzle.

They’ve been designed to increase aggregate demand, to get credit flowing again to families and businesses, and to help families and businesses ride out the storm. And taken together, these actions are starting to generate signs of economic progress.

At the same time, the Treasury was announcing this:

Retail sales dropped sharply in March, the government reported, and wholesale prices fell steeply. Both pieces of data underscore the hard slog the nation faces to emerge from its deep recession and the limitations of more optimistic talk from Washington. The stock market fell 2 percent, as measured by the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index. …

And the latest economic readings yesterday underscored that conditions remain weak. Retail sales fell 1.1 percent in March, compared with the previous month. Analysts had expected a slight gain.

The Commerce Department said that sales fell among every type of retailer except food and beverage and personal-care stores. The largest decrease was at electronics and appliance stores, which dropped 5.9 percent. Auto sales fell 2.3 percent compared with February, while clothing stores were down 1.8 percent.

When compared with the same month last year, total March sales dropped 9.4 percent.

And unemployment jumped to 8.5% in March as well. So where are those signs of progress? Didn’t anyone bother to tell President Obama of the bad numbers his own branch would announce the same day as he bragged about his policies generating progress on the economy? The right hand of this administration does not know what the left hand is doing …. and it’s arguable that the head in between doesn’t have much of a clue, either.

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Illustrations by Chris Muir of Day by Day. Be sure to read the adventures of Sam, Zed, Damon, and Jan every day!