AP's ten whoppers from the SOTU speech

Only ten?  Maybe the Associated Press got as tired as everyone else listening to Barack Obama’s lengthy State of the Union speech last night and stopped paying attention after an hour.   AP’s headline focuses on the “toothless commission” that Obama demanded, but the other nine fails on their fact-check test are just as interesting and revealing (via Geoff A):

President Barack Obama told Americans the bipartisan deficit commission he will appoint won’t just be “one of those Washington gimmicks.” Left unspoken in that assurance was the fact that the commission won’t have any teeth. …

OBAMA: “I’ve called for a bipartisan fiscal commission, modeled on a proposal by Republican Judd Gregg and Democrat Kent Conrad. This can’t be one of those Washington gimmicks that lets us pretend we solved a problem. The commission will have to provide a specific set of solutions by a certain deadline. Yesterday, the Senate blocked a bill that would have created this commission. So I will issue an executive order that will allow us to go forward, because I refuse to pass this problem on to another generation of Americans.”

THE FACTS: Any commission that Obama creates would be a weak substitute for what he really wanted — a commission created by Congress that could force lawmakers to consider unpopular remedies to reduce the debt, including curbing politically sensitive entitlements like Social Security and Medicare. That idea crashed in the Senate this week, defeated by equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans. Any commission set up by Obama alone would lack authority to force its recommendations before Congress, and would stand almost no chance of success.

Of course, even his first proposal was a rather dishonest dodge of accountability, especially for Democrats.  A bipartisan commission that recommended tax hikes as a means of raising revenue would allow Democrats to shove part of the blame for raising taxes in a recession on Republicans.  It would allow more of them to tell voters, “Well, we committed to doing what the commission demanded,” or “We had to accept the commission’s findings in toto based on the rules established for it,” or other such nonsense.  We already have a bipartisan commission with 535 members to handle budgetary decisions — it’s called Congress.

The other whoppers:

  • Spending freeze – The AP points out that it will save less than 1% of predicted deficits over the next ten years — and that Obama scoffed at such a plan when John McCain proposed it in 2008.
  • Health care – Obama said the Democratic plan would allow people to keep their insurance and their doctors, but the bill doesn’t guarantee either.  Their plan has massive cuts to Medicare Advantage, which would definitely affect coverage of a large portion of America’s seniors and disabled.
  • Lobbyists – Obama has not “excluded” lobbyists from his administration; he’s hired over a dozen for key posts, and the AP notes seven of those waivers were for White House posts.  Obama called for restrictions on lobbyist contributions, but those already exist.
  • Two million jobs saved through Porkulus – The CBO puts the theoretical range between 600K and 1.6 million, but also cautions that the methodology of estimating jobs “saved or created” is “uncertain.”  The last detailed numbers the White House produced totaled 650,000 — and were found to be highly inaccurate.
  • Openness: “Obama skipped past a broken promise from his campaign — to have the negotiations for health care legislation broadcast on C-SPAN “so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents, and who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies.” Instead, Democrats in the White House and Congress have conducted the usual private negotiations, making multibillion-dollar deals with hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and other stakeholders behind closed doors. Nor has Obama lived up consistently to his pledge to ensure that legislation is posted online for five days before it’s acted upon.”

The last two are on the rate of killing al-Qaeda leadership and the status on START talks with Russia.  In both cases, the AP suspects that Obama overstates his case, but also reports that it’s difficult to measure either.  The US has never given body counts on fighting AQ in the Af-Pak theater, mainly because many of the operations are covert, and because enemy body counts fell out of favor with the Vietnam War and have been only reluctantly shared in other conflicts.

Let me add at least one other whopper that the AP doesn’t mention.  Obama repeatedly insisted that he inherited massive budgetary problems from George Bush, but the Con Law professor may want to retake his high-school civics class.  Congress passes budgets, not the President, and the last three budgets came from Democrats.  In three years, they increased annual federal spending by $900 billion, while the admittedly profligate and irresponsible Republican Congresses under George Bush increased annual federal spending by $800 billion — in six years.  And during the last three years before taking office as President, Obama served in the Senate that passed those bills, and he voted for every Democratic budget put in front of him.

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