UPDATE, August 14: The AP has corrected its story. The related BizzyBlog post is here.
In his coverage of the latest Monthly Treasury Statement showing July and year-to-date federal budget deficits of $69.6 billion and $974 billion, respectively, Christopher Rugaber at the Associated Press, aka the Administration’s Press, cut President Obama a significant break when he wrote that “GOP candidate Mitt Romney has criticized Obama for failing to cut the deficit in half, as he pledged to do during his 2008 campaign.”
The problem is that Obama’s “pledge” wasn’t a campaign promise at all. It was a promise made on February 23, 2009, over 3-1/2 months after he won the presidential election and more than a month after his inauguration. The, uh, Associated Press had the scoop that he would make this promise two days earlier:
Barack Obama wants to cut the federal deficit in half by the end of his first term, mostly by scaling back Iraq war spending, raising taxes on the wealthiest and streamlining government, an administration official said Saturday as the president worked to finalize his first budget request.
Obama’s proposal for the 2010 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 projects that the estimated $1.3 trillion deficit he has inherited from former President Bush will be halved to $533 billion by 2013. That’s a difference of 9.2 percent of the overall economy now vs. 3 percent in four years.
He’s expected to outline some broad themes of his budget request Monday at a White House summit on fiscal policy and touch on it during his first speech to Congress on Tuesday evening. He is slated to officially send at least a summary of it to Congress on Thursday, barely a week after his $787 billion economic stimulus plan becoming law.
Two days later, it was official, as Jake Tapper noted in a look-back post at his ABC Political Punch blog in February of this year:
Obama’s Broken Deficit Promise
“This is big,” wrote White House director of new media Macon Phillips in a February 23, 2009 blog post, ”the President today promised that by the end of his first term, he will cut in half the massive federal deficit we’ve inherited. And we’ll do it in a new way: honestly and candidly.”
Indeed, President Obama did make that promise that day, saying, “today I’m pledging to cut the deficit we inherited in half by the end of my first term in office. This will not be easy. It will require us to make difficult decisions and face challenges we’ve long neglected. But I refuse to leave our children with a debt that they cannot repay — and that means taking responsibility right now, in this administration, for getting our spending under control.”
Whether the promise to cut the deficit in half was a campaign or post-inauguration promise is more than a little important. If it was a campaign promise, the “we didn’t know how bad it was” excuse might have some credibility. But having had well over 100 days after Obama’s election to get their arms around the situation, the President and his team can’t credibly claim that they were in the dark about the true state of the economy (I know, they will anyway). If they didn’t understand how bad things were by then, it’s their own flippin’ fault.
Perhaps the mistake Rugaber has apparently made was inadvertent and made in haste, or perhaps he can cite an obscure report somewhere to back up his contention. But after searching for anything relevant on Google News from January 1 – November 4, 2008 and finding nothing, I don’t think so. Regardless of its origins, it’s mighty convenient for an administration which has been running annual deficits of over $1 trillion for four consecutive years.
Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.