Political Animal


January 23, 2012 8:35 AM Romney: U.S. economy ‘getting better’ under Obama

By Steve Benen

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) appeared on “Fox News Sunday” yesterday and argued that President Obama’s policies “have actually made our economy worse.” Then he said it again. And again. All told, the House Republican repeated the claim five times in one interview (and in each instance, host Chris Wallace offered no pushback whatsoever).

For those who care about reality, Boehner’s claim isn’t true. Since the president took office, every aspect of the American economy — job creation, economic growth, manufacturing, the stock market, etc. — has improved considerably. Repeating a lie five times doesn’t make it true.

But what I find especially important about this is the extent to which Mitt Romney, the likely Republican presidential nominee, disagrees with Boehner.

Consider this remarkable exchange between Romney and conservative radio-host Laura Ingraham late last week: (thanks to F.B. for the tip)

INGRAHAM: You’ve also noted that there are signs of improvement on the horizon in the economy. How do you answer the president’s argument that the economy is getting better in a general election campaign if you yourself are saying it’s getting better?

ROMNEY: Well, of course it’s getting better. The economy always gets better after a recession, there is always a recovery. […]

INGRAHAM: Isn’t it a hard argument to make if you’re saying, like, OK, he inherited this recession, he took a bunch of steps to try to turn the economy around, and now, we’re seeing more jobs, but vote against him anyway? Isn’t that a hard argument to make? Is that a stark enough contrast?

ROMNEY: Have you got a better one, Laura? It just happens to be the truth.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say this may be the most important statement Romney has made since launching his 2012 presidential campaign. Think about it: the likely GOP nominee argued, on the air and on the record, that the economy is getting better under President Obama, and it “happens to be the truth” that Obama took steps to turn the economy around, resulting in more jobs for American workers.

If Laura Ingraham had asked a Democratic ally of the president the same question, she likely would have heard a similar answer.

What’s more, as I noted over a week ago, Romney keeps saying this. He told voters in South Carolina and New Hampshire that under Obama, the economy is “getting better.”

Romney’s message, of course, comes with a catch: he believes the economy is improving, but he doesn’t want the president to get credit for it. But as Ingraham noticed, that’s an argument that will fail miserably.

A month into 2012, the Republican is effectively arguing, “Sure, Obama inherited a deep recession. And sure, he took a bunch of steps to turn the economy around. And sure, we’re now seeing more jobs being created and more economic growth. But vote against him anyway.”

This isn’t just a tough sell; it’s an impossible one.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • Danp on January 23, 2012 8:41 AM:

    and in each instance, host Chris Wallace offered no pushback whatsoever

    ...kinda like Ron Popeil.

  • c u n d gulag on January 23, 2012 8:50 AM:

    "This isnít just a tough sell; itís an impossible one."


    Not ever.

    Not never, ever, underestimate the ignorance, stupidity, viciousness, laziness, xenophobia, racism, and misogyny of the average American voter, or the MSM that's supposedly out there to "inform" them.

    Not never, never ever.

    If you can have public union members voting for a vicious Conservative Kochsucking whore of a thug like Scott Walker, what makes anyone think people won't vote for Slick Lying Mitt, or Slippery Sleazy Newt?

    Besides, as Davis Ex Machina said at another site, Andrea Merkel will probably have more to do with who gets elected President in the US than anyone else.

    If you want Obama to get reelected, and I most certainly do, then hope that Europe doesn't flush itself down the sh*tter with its austerity programs before Election Day.

  • stormskies on January 23, 2012 8:52 AM:

    How many times did Laura Ingraham have to change her DEPENDS during this truth telling ?

  • Vokoban on January 23, 2012 8:53 AM:

    @ gulag It's Angela, not Andrea. Other than that you're probably right. And I as a German wouldn't bet a single ‚ā¨ on her coming to reason. She has an uphill battle for re-election herself, and starting the spending machine for Southern Europe is a sure killer for her.

  • martin on January 23, 2012 9:06 AM:

    There is a difference between getting better and doing well. I'm just not sure Mitt is capable of selling that argument.

  • Skip on January 23, 2012 9:08 AM:

    Interesting...if Mitt is going to lose to Gingrich, is he making an effort to ensure that Gingrich will lose to Obama? A kinda of neener neener neener ....be funny if Gingrich got the nom (no, that part isn't funny) and Mittens endorsed Obama...hahaha.

    I don't understand, though. Why truth now, Mitt? After years of flopping like a fish?

  • walt on January 23, 2012 9:13 AM:

    Republicans are praying for economic catastrophe and may yet get it. Europe is still out there, a very dark cloud on the global horizon. But if the economy improves over the next year anyway, they have to put say what they can to minimize it. Their problem is that they've been conspicuous in their efforts to hold back recovery, so apart from the racists and airheads living in Foxland, their message won't resonate that deeply. Republicans are very unpopular for a reason.

  • spsie on January 23, 2012 9:17 AM:

    I don't agree with the premise that republicans have to lie in order to win the election, or that the economic argument is simply down to 'improving' and 'not improving'. Which ever candidate is successful in painting a inspiring and clear picture for where America 'should' be and how to get there (through policy) will likely win.

    Both parties are abysmal at this, however the advantage goes to Obama for 2012.

  • T2 on January 23, 2012 9:19 AM:

    the GOP problem is if the economy is actually coming out of the tunnel, it will be relatively easy for the general public to see, regardless how many times Boner says it isn't. At a point, he'll start to look like a !gasp! Liar, Chris Wallace or not.

  • zeitgeist on January 23, 2012 9:24 AM:

    i particularly like Laura's implicit message: who cares about the truth, we have a campaign to run!

  • Danp on January 23, 2012 9:26 AM:

    I don't agree with the premise that republicans have to lie in order to win the election

    Good luck finding a Republican candidate that agrees with you.

  • DAY on January 23, 2012 9:29 AM:

    That was the flop. Today we will hear the flip.

  • g on January 23, 2012 9:39 AM:

    and in each instance, host Chris Wallace offered no pushback whatsoever

    Slightly OT, but germane - this morning I'm listening to NPR's Don Gagnier covering Romney in Florida, and after a sound snippet of Romney criticizing Gingrich's lobbying career, Gagnier says, "Gingrich claims...." and trots out a refutation in Gingrich's defense.

    Mind you, Gingrich hasn't directly refuted the Romney speech that was quote. It's Gagnier himself paraphrasing Gingrich's claim to have been a "historian" for Fannie and Freddie, several weeks ago.

    So - here we have an even worse example of the media's stenography. Instead of clarifying Romney's largely false assertion with a statement of fact about what Gingrich was actually doing with Fannie and Freddie, our Nice Polite Republican media is basically arguing Gingrich's lies for him.

    It's beyond stenography.

  • Rathskeller on January 23, 2012 9:43 AM:

    No, no, no, this is silly. Mitt is going to continuously be able to say, in what will be a continuing recovery in 2012, that Obama held back what would have been a flourishing economy. He's not necessarily doing anything wrong by conceding some changes, and he has plenty of reasonable arguments. By embracing reality like this, he's going to be able to appeal to some so-called independent voters.

    I hate the guy, but you are off base here.

  • chopin on January 23, 2012 9:45 AM:

    zeitgeist has the perfect punch line to the ad the Dems should run of the Ingraham/Romney clip. It brilliantly sums up the attitude of BOTH Fux News and Willard.

  • Lis Carey on January 23, 2012 9:56 AM:

    One of Romney's few virtues is that he checks in with reality on a regular basis. Doesn't mean he won't tell bare-faced lies; we've seen already in this campaign that he will. But he remembers what reality is, and that it matters in some very practical ways.

    It's why he's the least horrific option the GOP has, and why they won't rally 'round him in November if he's the nominee.

  • c u n d gulag on January 23, 2012 10:11 AM:


    I have a friend whose name first name is Andrea, and her last name is close to Merkel.

    Also too - Andrea Mitchell.

    Like I said - Ooooooooooooops!!!

  • Registeredguest on January 23, 2012 11:03 AM:

    I wonder if Arthur Brisbane saw the Fox segment where Wallace doesn't challenge Boehner and thinks that Wallace would have been too much of a "truth vigilante" to question Boehner's claim.

  • Just Dropping By on January 23, 2012 11:28 AM:

    I'm assuming Romney is being this candid because he doesn't want to be accused of "talking down" the economy when he gets to the general election.

  • SpaceSquid on January 23, 2012 12:11 PM:

    Wouldn't we want to be making this case if the tables were turned, though? If McCain had won in 2008, and whatever lunatic fiscal insanity he'd wrought upon the country hadn't prevented a recovery, wouldn't we all be saying "Correlation isn't causation, and nuts to all of your post hoc BS"?

    As I read it, Romney is arguing here that just because things are getting better, it doesn't mean Obama gets the credit, and it doesn't mean someone else couldn't have gotten the recovery started faster and better. A lot of people might disagree with that argument (myself included), but I fail to see how on its own terms the statement is logically unsound or unlikely to persuade.

  • Anon on January 23, 2012 1:06 PM:

    Bottomline, if this President doesn't get credit for the sacrifices he's made for this country after the people who created the mess did nothing to help clean it up, only caused more chaos, all hell will break lose both in and against this country. While some Americans may like being willingfully ignorant, a lot of people around the world are watching this nonsense baffled at how the current GOP has not been banished from the political scene at this point. I find it very telling that some on the left have called this President weak, when it is them that are ever so willing to make excuses for the GOP lies that are told about this President and are too cowardly to stand up and confront them head on. There are no excuses, the economy has slowly but surely been turned around under this President, so why would the majority vote for a head of the party who got us in the mess in the first place?

  • exlibra on January 23, 2012 3:56 PM:

    ROMNEY: Well, of course itís getting better. The economy always gets better after a recession, there is always a recovery. [Ö]

    And that's the crux. Obama has nothing to do with the economy's improvement; economy always improves, by its own, miraculous self, after each dip. It's in its nature to do so.

    It's exactly the same kind of argument he offered re: Osama Bin Laden. "Any president would have done it", he said. Ie Obama just happened to be around, when Osama got killed. And Obama just happened to be around (idly lolling in his Oval Office padded armchair) when economy improved. Not a big improvement and no BFD. But, with president Romney, the economy would take off like a rocket!

    Boner may be saying otherwise, but Boner is an unsubtle soak. Mormons don't drink, so Romney is capable of a more subtle version of the same calumny.

  • JS on January 23, 2012 4:33 PM:

    People may be getting a bit too far into the weeds here. It's not that there are that many (truly) independent voters who will or won't listen to Romney's argument that he 'could have done better than Obama'.

    This topic goes to the conventional political science that says if the economy is seen to be improving, it's almost impossible to upend a sitting President. Conversely, if the economy is seen to be declining, it's very hard for even a high-skilled incumbent to hold the White House.

    The thinking is that Romney should be trying to convince as many people as he can that "you are worse off than you were four years ago" - as that is generally the most salient narrative question when a President is running for re-election.

    And consider the political ad you can make out of Romney's own words. Sheesh.

  • m2c2 on January 23, 2012 5:32 PM:

    Not an apples-to-apples analogy with the Bin Laden catch. There is one confirmed (Tora Bora-sp?) and at least one highly probable (in Pakistan) event where Bush et al. had a chance to go directly for Bin Laden and backed off because they did not want to anger Afghan/Pakistani leaders. So no, not "any president" would have done it.

  • Ura Lying Obamass kissing Hack on January 23, 2012 5:52 PM:

    "Since the president took office, every aspect of the American economy ó job creation"

    You're a crack smoking braying jackass:



    Charting The US (Un)Recovery:


    Come January 2013 we will stop you democrat islamo-marxists from destroying America.

  • giantslor on January 24, 2012 3:43 AM:

    Now I know Romney is a RINO. He actually said something that wasn't total bullshit.

  • RC on January 24, 2012 3:35 PM:

    It's beyond obvious that Romney's argument is that, yes, the economy is getting better, but it's not getting better fast enough... and/or, the recovery would have been faster with someone else in charge, etc.

    It's not a difficult concept to grasp, but the black-and-white political commentators like the author of this piece simply don't get it. They can't fathom that the economy might improve with some action, inaction, or the wrong action.