Former GE CEO Jack Welch sort of wishes he could go back in time to edit his now-infamous tweet that strongly suggested President Obama’s campaign managed to somehow manipulate the job numbers released Friday that showed a decrease in the unemployment rate to 7.8 percent. That’s not to say he disagrees with what he wrote. Welch just thinks he should have made it clear he wanted to imply something, not state it outright, which obviously makes sense considering pretty much everyone agrees it’s a ridiculous assertion, as the Associated Press points out.
When CNN’s Anderson Cooper questioned him on what evidence he had to write what he did, Welch acknowledged that “A question mark would have been better,” before quickly adding that, “I stand by that these numbers have to be examined.” (Transcript available here.)
Welch, who frequently criticizes Obama’s administration, wrote early Friday on Twitter: “Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can’t debate so change numbers.”
When CNN’s Ali Velshi pushed Welch on the inaccuracy of the tweet, Welch fired back: “I should have had a question mark, Ali, at the back of it, let’s face it, OK?”
Velshi started out saying that Welch is “the best CEO in America” before harshly criticizing him: “To say something like this is like Donald Trump saying that president Obama is not an American citizen without any proof.”
Throughout the CNN interview Welch emphasized that what he was questioning was how “implausible” the numbers seemed considering they amounted to the “highest numbers of household employment since June of 1983, the biggest year of the Reagan recovery.” But he also was careful to emphasize that he was “not accusing anybody of anything.”
The New York Times’ Joe Nocera writes that while it’s “ludicrous” to suggest that “a handful of career bureaucrats” would manipulate unemployment data, it is true that there’s “something a little strange about the way the country derives its employment statistics.” But the lesson in this questioning of the jobs data needs to be that it’s a bit “absurd” to think that a presidential race could be decided on the unemployment rate. It’s not just because the short-term numbers aren’t really reliable, but also because no president has such a strong grip on the economy.
“There is rough justice in the way things are playing out,” writes Nocera. “Having spent the last year wrongly blaming the president for high unemployment, Republicans can only stand by helplessly as the unemployment rate goes down at the worst possible moment for them.”