According to Mitt Romney, everything that’s going wrong in this country started when Barack Obama took office. Women lost their jobs. Families lost their homes. The nation’s debt soared.
According to Barack Obama, everything that’s going well started when he took office. The government rescued the auto industry. Energy production rose. The war against Osama Bin Laden turned in our favor.
Each candidate rejects the other’s story. Romney says the things that are going well started going well before Jan. 20, 2009. Obama says the things that are going badly went bad before Jan. 20, 2009. Both of these rebuttals are correct, which means both men are exaggerating what President Obama changed. This is what politicians do: They heap blame on incumbents, promise to change the world, and then, once elected, pretend to have done so. Don’t believe them. It’s wildly implausible that the nation’s progress or decline began on Inauguration Day. In fact, it’s false. And the candidates, in their rebuttals, show that they know it.
Obama tells a thrilling tale of slaying terrorists and rescuing American foreign policy. Addressing Americans from Afghanistan last night, he bragged: “Over the last three years, the tide has turned. We broke the Taliban’s momentum. We’ve built strong Afghan security forces. We devastated al-Qaida’s leadership, taking out over 20 of their top 30 leaders. And one year ago, from a base here in Afghanistan, our troops launched the operation that killed Osama Bin Laden.” An Obama campaign video about the Bin Laden raid focuses not on the intelligence officers who tracked down Bin Laden, or on the SEALs who killed him, but on Obama’s decision to give the final order.
Romney says the real story goes back further: “That mission was the culmination of nearly a decade of hard work and sacrifice by our men and women in the military and intelligence communities.” He’s right. Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, says credit must be shared with “the many intelligence professionals who pieced together the clues that led to Bin Laden’s hideout.” Brennan attributes al-Qaida’s decline to “intense efforts over more than a decade, across two administrations.” The CIA gathered leads for years before finding the one that led to Bin Laden. The first directive to accelerate drone strikes on al-Qaida leaders came from President George W. Bush, and the sharp upturn in strikes began in 2008, with 19 al-Qaida operatives among the 286 fatalities.
On the economy, however, Romney prefers amnesia. He starts counting job losses and foreclosures on the day Obama was sworn in. “Since Barack Obama became president, over 800,000 Americans have lost their jobs,” and “2.8 million homes have been foreclosed on,” Romney declared a month ago. Obama replies that the recession began earlier, and he’s right. According to Factcheck.org:
The unemployment rate began its rise before Obama took office, surged nearly three percentage points—hitting 7.8 percent at the time Obama took office. The rate crested under Obama at 10 percent in October 2009. Since the peak, the rate has come down—steadily but slowly—and stood at 8.2 percent for March. …
The number of households that received a foreclosure notice grew from 1.3 million to 2.3 million during Bush’s last year in office, according to RealtyTrac, a company that monitors foreclosures across the country. The number continued to rise under Obama to 2.8 million in 2009 and peaked at 2.9 million in 2010. However, the amount of households that received a foreclosure notice dropped to 1.9 million in 2011.
Romney’s manipulation of economic data on women is even more cynical. He says Obama has “lost 800,000 jobs during his presidency,” and “over 92 percent of the jobs … were lost by women. His policies have been really a war on women.” Factcheck.org exposes the dishonesty of this presentation:
The downturn in male employment began in May 2007 … By the time Obama took office in January 2009, both male and female employment were in a steep decline that continued for over a year. Male employment hit bottom in February 2010, and female employment continued to slump for another seven months, bottoming out in September 2010. … “If you look back to the start of the recession, many of the industries (construction and manufacturing) that were very hard hit initially were male-dominated,” said Margot Dorfman, CEO of the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce. … It wasn’t until later that jobs like retail and government jobs, particularly teaching jobs, began to take a hit, affecting women more, Dorfman said.