Your mainstream press corps can’t explain squat!

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 6, 2012

CNN’s pitiful fact-check: Last night, after Bill Clinton’s strong address, a terrible horrible bad thing occurred.

CNN asked Tom Foreman and Erin Burnett to conduct a fact-check. “You know what?” Burnett said. “There were lots and lots of numbers in here, some of them accurate, some of them not.”

The notion of Burnett conducting a fact-check made the analysts tear at their hair. But it fell to Foreman to air the claim which would be under review.

“Listen to some of what the president had to say,” the CNN newsman thoughtfully said. Then he played tape of this statement:
CLINTON (9/5/12): President Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did. Listen to me now. No president—no president, not me, not any of my predecessors, no one could have fully repaired all the damage that he found in just four years.
It’s hard to believe that someone could doubt the accuracy of the highlighted statement. Somehow, though, Foreman managed.

Or something. Very few things end up being clear when our press corps gets to work.

This is the way Tom Foreman proceeded. We were especially stunned by the highlighted passage:
FOREMAN (continuing directly): Now, see, that was a key, key line in terms of context here. Because (inaudible) try to say really is, “Vote for President Obama because he'll be like me, but now let me explain why he didn't succeed the way I did.” And look at the comparison here, because I think this is important context, no matter how you look at this.

Like President Obama, President Clinton came into office with soaring joblessness, 7.1 percent for Mr. Clinton. That's within just a few points—tenths of a point of what Mr. Obama faced. But there the similarity ends.

Under President Clinton, the rate steadily dropped down to the 5 percent range at the end of his first term, deep down into the 4 percent range by the time he left office, pretty much full employment at that point.

Not the case for Mr. Obama. In the Clinton years, average wages rose about 30 percent. Nothing like that really happened during the Obama years. Wages did not rise anything—nothing like that.

Clinton inherited a $290 billion deficit, changed it to a $236 billion surplus by the time the Clinton years were done. Mr. Obama has inherited a $459 billion deficit. Yes, that's worse. But it's even worse now, $1.3 trillion.

And home ownership rose to a record high during the Clinton years. It's declined under President Obama, and the mortgage crisis, although we have to be fair about that, it still is quite high in the mid-60 percent range.

But it's really clear when you look at those numbers, very different economic performance from these two administrations, and they're at pains now to explain this and try to make that context work for them and not against them.
Foreman kept “proving” the point that Clinton conceded—good times returned more quickly during his own first term.

But what about Clinton’s explanation? What about his claim that Obama “started with a much weaker economy than I did?”

Good God! Foreman compared the deficits the two men inherited—but in Obama’s case, he gave the deficit for the fiscal year which ended in September 2008! By the time Obama entered the White House, fiscal year 2009 was well underway—and as the economic collapse continued, the projected deficit for that year was soaring past $1 billion.

Duh. This report appeared in the Washington Post two weeks before Obama took office. The reporter was Lori Montgomery:
MONTGOMERY (1/8/09): The nation's budget deficit will soar to an unprecedented $1.2 trillion this year, congressional budget analysts said yesterday, a startling tide of red ink that could dampen enthusiasm on Capitol Hill for some of President-elect Barack Obama's most ambitious priorities.

In the first official estimate of the damage done to the nation's finances by a weakening economy and various financial-sector bailouts, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that the gap between government spending and available revenue will exceed 8 percent of the overall economy by the end of September, a chasm not seen since the end of World War II.
In the wake of the financial collapse, that was the deficit picture Obama inherited. Foreman gave the deficit for the fiscal year before the financial collapse.

In his entire life, Bill Clinton has never made a more obvious factual statement: “President Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did.”

Amazingly, CNN wondered if that statement was true! And Foreman proceeded to demonstrate a very troubling fact:

Your mainstream press corps can’t explain squat! They’re very good at reciting scripts. But that’s the extent of their range.

Truth to tell, it has been years since we actually had a press corps. Last evening, Foreman left our team of young analysts keening and tearing their hair.

14 comments:

  1. Quaker in a BasementSeptember 6, 2012 at 12:28 PM

    Bob, if you're agog at CNN's fact-checking fumbles, you'll love what the AP produced this morning:

    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/bill-clinton-dnc-speech-fact-check-finds-president-claims-compromise-a-stretch-article-1.1153053

    In short:
    CLINTON: Romney's chief pollster said the campaign wouldn't let fact-checkers dictate to them.

    FACT: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Monica Lewinsky."

    Don't believe me? See for yourself.

    ReplyDelete
  2. President Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did. Listen to me now. No president—no president, not me, not any of my predecessors, no one could have fully repaired all the damage that he found in just four years.

    [I think, I know this is false. Take a look at real GDP growth from 1993 to 1936 which was 10.93% yearly, 10.21% per capita yearly, and see just how false Clinton was.]

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You don't mean 1936.

      Also, what your statistics would supposedly prove about the economic conditions *Obama* had to contend with is far from apparent.

      Well, actually, it's quite apparent:

      The growth Clinton presided over tells us absolutely nothing about what Clinton "could have" done in Obama's place.

      Delete
    2. The rapid economic growth in Clinton's first term proves what different economies the two men inherited. In other words, it proves the opposite of what you think.

      Delete
  3. Mr. Somerby:

    You know, as well as anyone, that Tom Foreman was not trying to "explain" or "fact-check" Clinton.

    There is no way you can understand what Foreman did, as long as you think he was trying to "explain" or "fact-check."

    What explains his performance (a word chosen advisedly) is that he was trying to generate a case against Obama. Period.

    That's what he wanted to do, and he did it by bullshitting.

    Quoting the wrong year's deficit as what Obama inherited? That's supposed to be an accident? Stupidity? Malfeasance?

    No.

    The man was trying to make Obama look bad, and chose a bogus baseline, quite on purpose, toward that end.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The recession Clinton inherited was pretty much over by the time he was inaugurated. Some sources limit that recession to 1990-91. There's absolutely no comparison between the economies the two men inherited. I don't know if this was deliberate, like Swan says above, or just another example of incompetence and ignorance on the part of our media.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Clinton immediately put a hiring freeze on government workers upon assuming office. A few months later, when I graduated from college in June '93, jobs were hard to find. Recovery still took some time (though short).

      Horace Feathers

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  5. Change your $1 Billion figure to $1 Trillion or you will match Foreman's ineptitude.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Heavens's forbid a typo here or there. I understood what Bob meant. If you have spent any time reading Bob you know that typos are common. Why don't you offer your services as a proof reader?

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  6. Bob, you're right about the FY. ( Oct 1 through Sept 30.)

    2008 deficit, (2007 FY) $458.55 B.
    2009 deficit, (2008 FY) $1,412 T. Bush's last FY
    2010 deficit, (Obama's first full FY $1.294 T
    2011 deficit $1.299 T

    That's where the Bush $459 Billion BS comes from.
    Bush's legacy to Obama was more than a $1 Trillion deficit.
    But hey, who's counting?

    The US economies that Clinton, Bush, and Obama inherited were dissimilar in many more ways than the respective surpluses or deficits handed over.

    ReplyDelete
  7. 1. by many other measures, the economy obama inherited was WAY worse than that Clinton inherited.

    2. didn't Clinton benefit from an economic bubble?

    3. who's to say how much economic performance is even attributable to what a president does?

    4. i can't believe no one seems to have noticed the glaring "apples to oranges" comparison embedded in the following:

    Clinton inherited a $290 billion deficit, changed it to a $236 billion surplus by the time the Clinton years were done. Mr. Obama has inherited a $459 billion deficit. Yes, that's worse. But it's even worse now, $1.3 trillion.

    Clinton didn't get a surplus until towards the end of his SECOND term. Obama hasn't even finished his first.

    ReplyDelete
  8. "who's to say how much economic performance is even attributable to what a president does?"

    Tell that to your boys Mitt and Paul.


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A reading of Mike L.'s 2:12 comment that has Romney and Ryan as his "boys" is a misreading.

      Delete