Fact-checking the president on free trade

posted at 10:45 am on August 23, 2011 by Tina Korbe

If you’ve heard the president say it once, you’ve heard him say it countless times: There are things Congress could do “right now” to get the economy moving again. You know, things like an extension of the payroll tax cut, boosts to unemployment benefits and … the quick and immediate passage of stalled free trade agreements.

Just one problem with that last one: The president has never officially submitted the trade agreements to Congress for approval. Every time I report on a speech in which the president hints the legislative branch is the hold-up, I cringe, knowing Obama is not exactly telling the whole truth. But how are listeners to know if no one calls him on it?

That’s why I was so refreshed to read Glenn Kessler’s consistently excellent fact-checking column in The Washington Post this morning. Kessler explains why Obama can claim support for the FTAs, blame Congress for its refusal to act on the agreements and yet refuse to move the trade legislation forward himself.

A key factor in the delay in submitting the trade pacts is something called Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), which was first created in 1962 to help workers and companies deal with the fallout from greater free trade. As the Congressional Research Service documented in an interesting report last month, TAA has frequently been tied to trade deals, in part to win Democratic votes for trade liberalization.

In May, the Obama administration announced that it would not seek approval of the three trade deals unless Congress agreed to restore the TAA, which had been allowed to lapse in February. What came first — the Republicans’ refusal to extend the program, citing its cost, or the administration’s decision to tie TAA to the trade deals?

Or maybe first came the huge expansion of TAA in the stimulus bill by Democrats, which made TAA a target for Republicans? Or maybe it was first the refusal of Democrats to approve the trade pacts — which date back to 2006 — in the waning days of the Bush administration?

Even with this explanation, though, the administration better be prepared to drop its talking point because Republicans have signaled a willingness to vote on TAA legislation, too. “I look forward to the House passing the FTAs, in tandem with separate consideration of TAA legislation, as soon as possible,” House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement. Meanwhile, in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have announced a deal that would allow both the FTAs and the TAA extension to move forward at the same time.

Kessler concludes Obama’s little white lie lies at the “One Pinocchio” end of his grading scale, which means Kessler thinks Obama was guilty of “Some shading of the facts. Selective telling of the truth. Some omissions and exaggerations, but no outright falsehoods.” In the end, Kessler writes, and I agree, it’s highly disingenuous of the president to give “the distinct impression that Congress is sitting on the bills, when in fact they have not yet been officially submitted for consideration.”

A more forthright mention of this issue in the future would be much appreciated, Mr. President.


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440 bottles of beer on the wall, 440 bottles of beer…

RDE2010 on August 23, 2011 at 10:49 AM

Kessler concludes Obama’s little white lie lies at the “One Pinocchio” end of his grading scale, which means Kessler thinks Obama was guilty of “Some shading of the facts. Selective telling of the truth. Some omissions and exaggerations, but no outright falsehoods.”

That’s because he’s grading Dear Liar on a curve. One Pinocchio to The Whine would be three to anyone else. Three Pinocchios to him would be, um, shoot, even the devil would be outscored by that.

rbj on August 23, 2011 at 10:51 AM

So now instead of 1% of the people knowing this, 5% by the end of the day will know it…the same 5% that doesn’t believe anything he says anyway.
Unless the MSM begins pounding the drum, it’s an interesting story that just supports my contention that he is the worst president eveh! But I felt that before reading the story.

right2bright on August 23, 2011 at 10:51 AM

Thanks, Tina. “one Pinocchio” shows the WaPo is an easy grader on Obambi. The House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee informally approved the implementing bills for all three FTAs on July 7. The next step (using the procedures specified in the Trade Act of 2002) is for the President to submit the implementing bills. Congress cannot act on its own without losing the procedural safeguards of the Trade Act. TAA is only the most recent excuse for not sending the FTAs to Congress, where they will be approved easily.

osogrande on August 23, 2011 at 10:54 AM

Liars lie.

I blame the media for installing and maintaining this clown.

justltl on August 23, 2011 at 10:56 AM

To put a point on it, Barry was lying…….again.

GarandFan on August 23, 2011 at 10:57 AM

If you really want to believe that President Obama is telling the truth, or want to believe that giant rabbits are eating your roof shingles, there are drugs you can take.

RBMN on August 23, 2011 at 10:59 AM

A refreshing change from Kessler’s most recent column in which he slammed Perry for saying of Obama “This is the president of the United States that has killed more jobs in America than I think any president in history, certainly in my lifetime…”

Kessler accomplished that by narrowing that into a study of comparative unemployment statistics among presidents, rather than acknowledging that Perry was making a larger point about the anti-business rhetoric, the Boeing persecution, and the whole anti-free market gestalt of this administration that has led those with cash to park it under the mattress until 2013.

And only one Pinnochio for Obama? Even some of the WaPo commenters are taking issue with that. Still, it’s the Washington Post and it’s some recognition, as belated and inadequate as it might be.

Drained Brain on August 23, 2011 at 11:00 AM

Facts?

He don’t need no stinkin’ facts.

All he needs is to point his finger at someone else — repeatedly, like a child with his hand in the cookie jar.

hillbillyjim on August 23, 2011 at 11:01 AM

Will no one rid him of these troublesome facts?

mchristian on August 23, 2011 at 11:02 AM

just one pinocchio? c’mon

cmsinaz on August 23, 2011 at 11:02 AM

One instance of Obama telling the truth is all that I ask of the media. Just one documented factual statement.

search4truth on August 23, 2011 at 11:03 AM

He’s hard at work, as we type, on his incredible jobs bill while cooped up in some Martha’s Vinyard compound. Cut him some slack!

/

cartooner on August 23, 2011 at 11:06 AM

If you really want to believe that President Obama is telling the truth, or want to believe that giant rabbits are eating your roof shingles, there are drugs you can take.

RBMN on August 23, 2011 at 10:59 AM

Okay. That right there is funny!

ROFLOL

GrannyDee on August 23, 2011 at 11:09 AM

A lot like Pinocchio would be more like it.

Let’s face it, the reason Obama hasn’t submitted these FTAs is because the unions would go crazy. They don’t care if uses them to beat Republicans over the head for inaction, but let him submit them, and the knives will come out.

Athanasius on August 23, 2011 at 11:09 AM

New low BIG TIME on Rasmussen…

http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/obama_administration/daily_presidential_tracking_poll

Must be Congress’s fault. Who do I send the thank you card to?

UnderstandingisPower on August 23, 2011 at 11:16 AM

Every time I report on a speech in which the president hints the legislative branch is the hold-up, I cringe, knowing Obama is not exactly telling the whole truth.

Ms Korbe, you’re really going to have to shuck years of ‘peace studies’ indoctrination, if you are going into political punditry.
The current president is a MARXIST and a DAMNED SERIAL LIAR and the MOST IGNORANT PERSON IN THE ROOM ON ANY GIVEN SUBJECT.
Your cringing about his ‘not exactly telling the whole truth’ just does not cut it.

rayra on August 23, 2011 at 11:19 AM

Only in Washington would they grade “truth” on a curve!!!

landlines on August 23, 2011 at 11:22 AM

440 bottles of beer on the wall, 440 bottles of beer…

RDE2010 on August 23, 2011 at 10:49 AM

But that’s just to the election. Still another 10 weeks after that. Think what devastating treasons he’ll commit as a ‘lame duck’.

rayra on August 23, 2011 at 11:24 AM

That’s why I was so refreshed to read Glenn Kessler’s consistently excellent fact-checking column in The Washington Post this morning.

The naïveté of a young womens mind falling for this garbage. Next you will be marveling at his 3 dimensional chess prowess. A lie is a lie is a lie no matter how you spin it.

meci on August 23, 2011 at 11:26 AM

When you have a compliant, adoring, and willing press to not only hide your lies, but to propel them as well…why not? He’s not going to stop as long as he has a cheering section, more than willing to sell their souls for this man.

capejasmine on August 23, 2011 at 11:40 AM

Fish gotta swim
Sacks gotta lie

Mason on August 23, 2011 at 11:59 AM

Wow, he looks haggard and tired in that picture for this thread. He needs a vacation from his vacation.

Alden Pyle on August 23, 2011 at 12:19 PM

Free Trade? Ogabe is only concerned with 5year plans, Soviet style..

adamsmith on August 23, 2011 at 3:10 PM

Traditionally, blaming the dog for the missing cookies is not considered a “white lie.”

And I think the WaPo is responsible for enough terrible lies that a little wrist-slap to the Administration doesn’t really move their honesty meter at all from “dishonest shill.”

Merovign on August 23, 2011 at 4:50 PM

One instance of Obama telling the truth is all that I ask of the media. Just one documented factual statement.
search4truth on August 23, 2011 at 11:03 AM

Ask and you shall receive!

“Most of you covered me (pause)… All of you voted for me.”

May 09, 2009

President Obama began with a kind of awkward TelePrompter gag — and then hit one out with a joke that cut a little too close to the bone for many conservatives.
Looking out on the crowd of 3,000, Obama declared:
“Most of you covered me (pause)… All of you voted for me.”

Other than that I’m stumped

DSchoen on August 23, 2011 at 6:34 PM