There is an old saying that success has a thousand fathers, but failure is an orphan. That gives a lot of insight into the sequestration clause in last year’s debt-ceiling deal, which has not just left Barack Obama’s own Secretary of Defense warning about its “devastating” impact on the military, but also economists warning about the damage it will wreak on the economy. Obama tried to dodge responsibility for the sequestration when Mitt Romney criticized him for it during the final debate, claiming that “[t]he sequester is not something that I’ve proposed. It is something that Congress has proposed.”
That came as news to the man who literally wrote the book on that deal, Bob Woodward. Woodward teamed up with Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler this morning, and the result is four Pinocchios — thanks to OMB chief Jack Lew’s attempt to shore up Obama’s false claim:
In sum: [Director of the National Economic Council and Obama adviser] Gene Sperling brought up the idea of a sequester, while Jack Lew sold Harry Reid on the idea and then decided to use the Gramm-Hollings-Rudman language (which he knew from his days of working for Tip O’Neill) as a template for sequester. The proposal was so unusual for Republicans that staffers had to work through the night to understand it.
Oddly, Lew in Tampa on Thursday, publicly asserted the opposite: “There was an insistence on the part of Republicans in Congress for there to be some automatic trigger…. [It] was very much rooted in the Republican congressional insistence that there be an automatic measure at the end.”
This prompted Woodward to go over his notes and interviews once again, to make sure he had gotten it right.
“After reviewing all the interviews and the extensive material I have on this issue, it looks like President Obama told a whopper,” Woodward said. “Based on what Jack Lew said in Florida today, I have asked the White House to correct the record.”
We had been wavering between Three and Four Pinocchios. But in light’s of Lew’s decision to double down on Obama’s claim, we agree it’s a whopper.
We noted the same the day after the debate, and the Daily Caller did as well. What’s interesting in this case is Obama’s efforts to distance himself from a proposal his own team succeeded in enacting through bipartisan efforts to solve the budget crisis. After all, Obama could have just responded that Republicans agreed with him, and argued that it showed the ability to work through crises on a bipartisan basis. Instead, Obama simply told a fairy tale, and the man who pushed the sequester with Harry Reid ended up backing him with another false statement.
If you want to see why this administration can’t succeed at working across the aisle, this is a great example, although there are plenty of others (such as inviting Paul Ryan to a speech on the budget and then calling him un-American for his approach). Obama managed to get Republicans to agree to the sequester trigger that his own team proposed, and the minute it went south, Obama blamed them not just for agreeing to it but falsely accusing his opponents of bringing it up in the first place.
But that’s not the end of the Pinocchios. Kessler gives Obama three more Pinocchios for his claim on the Tonight Show that Planned Parenthood provides mammograms. This repeated claim, Kessler writes, “suggests an intentional effort to mislead voters”:
The president has suggested time and again that Planned Parenthood directly provides mammograms, but the organization only offers referrals and helps women find financial resources for the exams. This suggests an intentional attempt to mislead voters about all the services that are at stake with decisions regarding federal funding for the controversial group.
Obama’s campaign points out that the incumbent was referring in each case to Planned Parenthood’s broader role as a health-care provider. But that doesn’t make his remarks any less inaccurate.
We wavered between Two or Three Pinocchios but ultimately decided the president earns Three Pinocchios for his mammogram remarks on “The Tonight Show.” He has repeated them too many times in one form or another for this to be considered just playing with words to generate a misleading impression.
Katie Pavlich called this the “Mammosham.”