Rove falsely claimed Obama didn't warn economy may get worse


Karl Rove falsely claimed that "[President] Obama never said if his stimulus were passed things might still get significantly worse." In fact, Obama said in January that the economy was likely to worsen even after the stimulus had been passed.

In his July 16 Wall Street Journal column, Karl Rove asserted that President Obama "is attempting to lower expectations retroactively" and falsely claimed that "Obama never said if his stimulus were passed things might still get significantly worse in the following year." In fact, in a January 8 speech about his economic recovery plan, Obama stated, "It will not come easy or happen overnight, and it is altogether likely that things may get worse before they get better." Obama's acknowledgement that the economy was likely to worsen even after the stimulus had been passed was echoed during January and February of 2009 by other senior administration officials, including Rahm Emanuel, Christina Romer, and David Axelrod.

Rove further claimed that White House economic adviser Larry Summers promised, "You'll see the effects begin almost immediately." Rove added, "Now it's clear that those promised jobs and growth haven't materialized." But Summers didn't promise immediate "jobs and growth." Rather, after stating that "[y]ou'll see the effects begin almost immediately" during a February 14 appearance on CNN's The Situation Room, Summers specified that those effects would include prevented layoffs, tax cuts, "orders" going out for infrastructure projects, and "better maintenance of schools," adding that "the effect will build over time":

WOLF BLITZER (host): The president in Indiana, echoing his theme of change, especially an urgent need for an economic plan. But how soon might you benefit from it? I posed that question to Lawrence Summers, director of the White House National Economic Council.

SUMMERS: You'll see the effects begin almost immediately. Layoffs that otherwise would have happened in cities in towns to cops and teachers won't happen. You'll see withholding schedules adjusted so that people have more money in their paychecks. You'll see orders go out for new roads, new bridges, new computers for hospitals. You'll start to see better maintenance of schools.


SUMMERS: The effect will build, the effect will build over time. And Wolf, this is one thing people do have to recognize -- the president inherited a very, very difficult situation, a $1 trillion deficit, an economy that, frankly, was in freefall. And so while there will be clear impacts of this package that one will see almost immediately, we've inherited an economy that was programmed for substantial decline before the president got here.

BLITZER: In other words, when -- what month of this year would you tell us things are going to start to turn around?

SUMMERS: There's one thing I'm certain of -- that day will come much sooner with the president's program than it will come without the president's program. But I'm not going to hold out for you the prospect that it is imminent. Perhaps it will be towards the end of the year. Perhaps it will be early next year. Perhaps, if confidence takes hold quickly, it will be somewhat sooner.

But the situation that we've inherited is a very, very difficult one. And so the first step for policy has to be containing the damage, limiting the downturn, laying a foundation from which growth can resume. That's why the economic recovery program is so important.

From Obama's January 8 speech:

It is time to set a new course for this economy, and that change must begin now. We should have an open and honest discussion about this recovery plan in the days ahead, but I urge Congress to move as quickly as possible on behalf of the American people. For every day we wait or point fingers or drag our feet, more Americans will lose their jobs. More families will lose their savings. More dreams will be deferred and denied. And our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse.

That is not the country I know, and it is not a future I will accept as President of the United States. A world that depends on the strength of our economy is now watching and waiting for America to lead once more. And that is what we will do.

It will not come easy or happen overnight, and it is altogether likely that things may get worse before they get better. But that is all the more reason for Congress to act without delay. I know the scale of this plan is unprecedented, but so is the severity of our situation. We have already tried the wait-and-see approach to our problems, and it is the same approach that helped lead us to this day of reckoning.

From the January 19 U.S. Conference of Mayors (accessed via Nexis):

EMANUEL: There cannot be any mistakes. This is a once in a chance. We don't go back at it in the sense that if folks don't think this affected the economy -- and as the president-elect as always said, it's going to get worse before it gets better. But we have got to do it not to alleviate city budgets but to turn -- or state budgets -- or to alleviate any budgets. It is to ensure that people are back to work creating a productive economy and an ability to turn Main Street around and make it the most competitive economy and the greatest economy for working middle class families in this country.

From the February 12 edition of MSNBC Live (accessed via Nexis):

ROMER: You know, one way I describe the economy is a little bit like a Super Tanker. It doesn't change on a dime, but, you know, when you give that rudder a move, it's eventually going to move. I think that's exactly what we've done today. We've given the rudder an incredible shove and so my guess is, you know -- the president said many times, the economy will get worse before it gets better. So certainly I think the next quarter or two are still going to be rough. But we're certainly hoping by the end of the year we have turned the corner, and we're back to adding jobs rather than losing them.

From the February 25 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews (accessed via Nexis):

CHRIS MATTHEWS (host): What did you make along those lines of Chairman Bernanke's statement today that we're going to get out of this problem in two years if we get the banking thing settled? Where's the president in terms of his optimism about recovery?

AXELROD: Well, I think the president has been very clear from the beginning that it's going to take -- it's taken a while for us to get into this; it's going to take a while for us to get out of it, and it's not going to be done overnight. But we hope, over the course of the next couple of years, to see the lines turn, to see positive growth again, to see unemployment, which probably will get worse before it gets better, begin to recede again. But it's going to take time. I think the American people understand that.

From Rove's July 16 Wall Street Journal column:

So what's a president to do when the promises he made about his economic stimulus program fail to materialize? If you're Barack Obama, you redefine your goals and act as if America won't remember what you said originally. That's a neat trick if you can get away with it, but Mr. Obama won't. His words are a matter of public record and he will be held to them.

When it came to the stimulus package, the president and his administration promised, in the words of National Economic Director Larry Summers, "You'll see the effects begin almost immediately." Now it's clear that those promised jobs and growth haven't materialized.

So Mr. Obama is attempting to lower expectations retroactively, saying in an op-ed in Sunday's Washington Post that his stimulus "was, from the start, a two-year program." That is misleading. Mr. Obama never said if his stimulus were passed things might still get significantly worse in the following year.

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Wall Street Journal
Karl Rove
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