Archive for Thursday, September 6, 2012

FACT CHECK: Clinton claims of compromise a stretch

September 6, 2012


— It's a fact of life in Washington that what one party considers a principled stand, the opposition considers pigheadedness. Compromise? That's the other guy's problem.

But when former President Bill Clinton took the stage at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, he portrayed President Barack Obama as a pragmatic compromiser who has been stymied at every turn by Republicans. There was no mention of the role that the president and the Democrats have played in grinding compromise to a halt on some of the most important issues facing the country.

That was among the lines by the former president and others Wednesday that either cherry-picked facts or mischaracterized the opposition. A look at some of them:

CLINTON: "When times are tough, constant conflict may be good politics but in the real world, cooperation works better. ... Unfortunately, the faction that now dominates the Republican Party doesn't see it that way. They think government is the enemy and compromise is weakness. One of the main reasons America should re-elect President Obama is that he is still committed to cooperation."

THE FACTS: From Clinton's speech, voters would have no idea that the inflexibility of both parties is to blame for much of the gridlock. Right from the beginning Obama brought in as his first chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, a man known for his getting his way, not for getting along.

One of the more high-profile examples of a deal that fell apart was the outline of a proposed "grand bargain" budget agreement between Obama and House Speaker John Boehner in 2011.

The deal would have required compromise from both sides. It slashed domestic spending more than most Democrats wanted and would have raised some taxes, which most Republicans oppose.

Boehner couldn't sell the plan to tea party factions in the House or to other conservative activists. And Obama found himself accused of going too far by some Democratic leaders. The deal died before it ever even came up for a vote.

In another instance, Obama appointed a bipartisan group, known as the Simpson-Bowles Commission, to recommend ways to fix major fiscal problems like Social Security and Medicare. The commission issued its recommendations but fell three votes short of formally endorsing them. And Obama mostly walked away from the report. He later incorporated some of the less contentious proposals from the report into legislation he supported.

But that ensured the tough compromises would not get made.

The problem with compromising in Washington is that there are few true moderates left in either party. The notion that Republicans are the only ones standing in the way of compromise is inaccurate.

CLINTON: Clinton suggested that Obama's health care law is keeping health care costs in check.

"For the last two years, health care spending has grown under 4 percent, for the first time in 50 years. So, are we all better off because President Obama fought for it and passed it? You bet we are."

THE FACTS: That's wishful thinking at best. The nation's total health care tab has been growing at historically low rates, but most experts attribute that to continued uncertainty over the economy, not to Obama's health care law.

Two of the main cost-control measures in Obama's law — a powerful board to keep Medicare spending manageable and a tax on high cost health insurance plans — have yet to take effect.

Under the law, Medicare has launched dozens of experiments aimed at providing quality care for lower cost, but most of those are still in their infancy and measurable results have yet to be obtained. Former administration officials say the law deserves at least part of the credit for easing health care inflation, but even they acknowledge that the lackluster economy is playing a major role.

Meanwhile, people insured through the workplace by and large have seen little relief from rising premiums and cost shifts. According to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, the average premium for job-based family coverage rose from $13,375 in 2009 when Obama took office to $15,073 in 2011. During the same period, the average share paid by employees rose from $3,515 to $4,129.

While those premium increases cannot be blamed on the health care law — as Republicans try to do — neither can Democrats claim credit for breaking the back of health care inflation.

CLINTON: "I know many Americans are still angry and frustrated with the economy. ... I experienced the same thing in 1994 and early 1995. Our policies were working but most people didn't feel it yet. By 1996, the economy was roaring, halfway through the longest peacetime expansion in American history."

THE FACTS: Clinton is counting on voters to recall the 1990s wistfully and to cast a vote for Obama in hopes of replicating those days in a second term. But Clinton leaves out the abrupt downward turn the economy took near the end of his own second term and the role his policies played in the setting the stage for the historic financial meltdown of 2008.

While the economy and markets experienced a record expansion for most of the rest of Clinton's two-term presidency, at the start of 2000, there were troubling signs. Then-Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan warned in February 2000 that "we are entering a period of considerable turbulence in financial markets."

Sure enough, the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite stock index and the Dow Jones industrial average both peaked in March 2000. The bursting of the high-tech bubble dragged down the economy and markets through the rest of the year. From September 2000 to January 2001, when Clinton left office, the Nasdaq dropped 46 percent. Even now, in 2012, the Nasdaq has not returned to its 2000 peak. By March 2001, the economy toppled into recession.

Also, as president, Clinton supported the 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, a law dating back to the Great Depression that separated banking from high-risk financial speculation. Robert Rubin, who had been Clinton's first treasury secretary, helped broker the final deal on Capitol Hill that enabled the repeal legislation to pass. Some financial historians say the repeal of the law paved the way for banks to invest in risky investments like mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations that played a role in the 2008 financial meltdown.

Associated Press writer Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar contributed to this report.


Orwell 5 years, 3 months ago

This isn't fact checking; it's analysis, and pretty weak "everybody does it" analysis at that. Conflating the two functions – investigating the truth of specific claims vs. giving context to generalities – degrades them both.

D+. Graded on an Associated Press curve, a solid C.

Larrytown 5 years, 3 months ago

I agree 100%. This is just an analysis...and not a fact checking article. Clinton provided many facts...and a few opinions in his speech. None of which were refuted in the above article.

Liberty275 5 years, 3 months ago

No, it means the 50% that don't pay taxes will have us paying their part as usual.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 5 years, 3 months ago

I would think that the Dems position on "Paying your fair share" would mean that everyone should pay federal income taxes.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 3 months ago

The fact is that both parties have moved considerably to the right over the last 20 or so years. But it's also a fact that the official Republican agenda since Obama came into office has been 100% obstructionism and refusal to compromise on anything.

The net effect is what's been termed as Democratic unilateralism (by Republicans) would have been seen as compromise legislation 25 years ago.

jesse499 5 years, 3 months ago

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jesse499 5 years, 3 months ago

Compromise: My way or the highway.The Demaocratic party or the Republican party do not care about the American people they just care about party. As long as they keeping getting their unreal PERKS and unreal Pay and RETIREMENTS it's going to stay that way.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 5 years, 3 months ago

The parties are no different than the unions. Their biggest concern is the survival of the union or the party and to hell with the members. Reminds me of the way our local school board runs things.

somedude20 5 years, 3 months ago

"The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."-Mitch McConnell

Carol Bowen 5 years, 3 months ago

Factcheck has become "feedback check". The last few releases mix facts and opinion on both sides. It's not as interesting to read. It just feeds the debates with opinion reruns.

fiddleback 5 years, 3 months ago

The main headline is what's a stretch...

If you read the details about how the budget compromise fell apart, it's pretty clear that Boehner couldn't get his petulant caucus to accept minor revenue increases paired with the massive spending cuts they demanded.

On Simpson-Bowles, Obama made a tactical retreat of not endorsing the drafted plan only after Ryan led the Republicans on the committee to vote against endorsement and final report submission. Obama essentially withdrew from a process that he knew was already a dead end, and then adopted some of the recommendations later.

So in both cases, you have a president compromising so much that he is agreeing to measures that would offend much of his own party. But then he withdraws in the face of continued opposition from the House rather than waste everyone's time with political theater.

Parts 2 and 3 can be summarized as "Clinton claimed too much credit for..." So no, not exactly a fact-checking haymaker...

And somehow I doubt Biden's speech will come anywhere near the dishonesty of Ryan's.

jafs 5 years, 3 months ago

Not really.

There are different stories about the impasse between Boehner and Obama - some blame one, some the other - it's not really clear what happened there to me.

The S-B commission got a number of R votes, so your comment there is also inaccurate. It's quite clear that there was something in the commission that everybody disliked in some way.

fiddleback 5 years, 3 months ago

So you read both stories? On the budget deal, you don't know what happened but call the linked portrayal "inaccurate." Can you explain?

On S-B, yes, there were a number of Republican and Democrat yes votes. 4 Democrats voted no, and I should have said "Ryan * and 2 other House* Republicans voted against". But again, they voted as a hard-line bloc over taxes and doomed the report, and while I think Obama should have endorsed it, it certainly wasn't going to pass the House.

jafs 5 years, 3 months ago

Your link on the budget deal says pretty much exactly what I said.

It fell apart, and both sides are blaming the other, and we don't know exactly what happened.

On the S-B vote, you just have to look at the final vote - 11/18 voted to forward the recommendations to Congress, and 7/18 voted against it. There was bipartisan support, and also bipartisan opposition.

If you look at the specifics of the recommendations, it's clear that there are things in there that both sides like, and also both sides dislike, so it's not surprising there were D and R on both sides. In fact, the surprising thing was how much bipartisan support it got, more than expected.

fiddleback 5 years, 3 months ago

jafs, these are hardly "who-fired-first?" fogs of war, and you can understand what happened if you read more in depth. I heartily disagree that the debt deal story lays blame evenly. While both sides have their spin, the final page states the real obstacle:

"And yet, in the end, while both leaders had profound reservations about a grand bargain that would threaten their parties’ priorities, what’s undeniable, despite all the furious efforts to peddle a different story, is that Obama managed to persuade his closest allies to sign off on what he wanted them to do, and Boehner didn’t, or couldn’t. While Democratic leaders were willing to swallow either a deal with more revenue or a deal with less, Boehner’s theoretical counteroffer, which probably reflected what he would have done if empowered to act alone, never even got a hearing from his leadership team."

On S-B, nobody disputes that there was support and opposition from both parties, but on the Politifact link, even two leading conservative thinkers concede that Ryan's group was the fatal element:

"The House Republicans voted as a bloc -- they were the only ones to vote as a bloc, and I think that was its undoing. They voted to oppose it because it didn’t repeal Obamacare, which to me seemed more like an excuse for the vote against it when they had already made up their minds to oppose it. … I don’t know if Rep. Ryan was the ringleader of the group, but he certainly was the most visible and well known." --Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense

"The reality is that the three House Republicans who voted against it, unlike the Senate Republicans, were instrumental in keeping the plan from coming directly to Congress. They were not alone, to be sure, since they were joined by some House Democrats, and the president deserves chastisement for not endorsing at least the plan's structure in the subsequent State of the Union. But the fact is that John Spratt (the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee) voted for the plan, and one of the other House Democrats on the Commission, Xavier Becerra, subsequently indicated a willingness to act on entitlement reforms, while none of the three House Republicans were willing to budge on taxes." --Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute

jafs 5 years, 3 months ago

You seem committed to your view which blames R.

I think it's not that clear. During the debt deal negotiations, they were close to a deal, and then Obama asked for a bunch more tax revenue, right? Boehner then walked away, and the deal fell apart.

What if Obama hadn't asked for the extra revenue?

It's too simplistic to just blame the R - both sides are at fault for not solving our financial situation. Norquist pledge R are adamently opposed to tax increases, but D are opposed to changes to Medicare/SS, etc. There was plenty in the debt commission's recommendations that bothered people on both sides of the aisle.

I'd have to look at the count again, but I believe if all the D on the commission had voted for it to go to Congress, and Ryan + House Republicans still voted against it, it would have gotten the 14 votes it needed. Ok - I looked it up - there were in fact 4 D who voted against it. It got 11 votes, and needed 14, so if 3/4 D who voted N had voted Y, it would have been forwarded to Congress. More D voted N than R in fact - 4/3.

Why are you so intent on blaming the R, when it's clear that both sides are to blame?

All reasonable analyses of our financial situation conclude that we need both increased revenue and decreased spending, and both sides have problems with parts of this idea - that's why we're not fixing it.

fiddleback 5 years, 3 months ago

I'm not at all saying that the president and Democrats are absolved from all blame; I'm saying that they were by far the more compromising side, and their missteps (which admittedly the Gang of 6 endorsement/revenue changes were) pale in comparison to the rigidity of the hardline R House members. You mentioned the cause yourself: the Norquist pledge is the ultimate prescription for gridlock and obstruction. I fully admit to laying more blame there, and you conversely seem committed to denying the pledge's fatal toxicity and creating what I would call a false equivalence.

I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree. And besides, round 2 of this fight is already on the horizon at year's end.

jafs 5 years, 3 months ago

So both sides are bad, but the other's worse?

I just fail to see the point of such attempts to retain some sort of partisan superiority.

The Norquist pledge is a problem, but it's not the only problem, by any means. Why didn't 4 D vote to forward the debt commission's recommendations to Congress for an up-down vote? Can't blame that on the pledge, right?

fiddleback 5 years, 3 months ago

No, my point isn't for the sake of superiority; it's to identify that herding cats is that much harder when half of the House has pledged to reject anything with a tax/revenue increase. You'll find plenty of Democrats willing to agree to entitlement reforms; the four S-B Democrats who voted against probably had those concerns and other reasons, though at least one, Becerra, was open to endorsement before it was clear that the House R's would vote no.

Both the debt deal and S-B were tilted towards GOP demands, not the Democrats' preferences and sacred cows, so no huge surprise that you had D's voting no on S-B. But the tilt still wasn't good enough for the no-taxes repeal-Obamacare House GOP members. The same thing happened on at full scale on 3/28 when the House voted down Simpson-Bowles 382-38. Most Democrats voted against knowing that it had no chance anyway.

To make it a hyperbolic metaphor, just because an unarmed man and a man with a gun do the same thing, doesn't mean all actions are equally desired and it's not really a hostage situation.

jafs 5 years, 3 months ago

So a D who would have voted Y decided to vote N because some R were going to? What about having the courage of your convictions, and voting as you feel correct regardless of what others do?

And, why would D vote against it in the House if they liked it? Same question.

You seem to be holding the D to a much lower standard than the R, from where I sit.

Again, if 3 out of the 4 D who voted against it had voted for it, it would have gone to Congress for an up-down vote. Why would you blame R that it didn't?

If they had voted it through, then we would have seen what happened in Congress - if all D had voted in favor of it, and R had obstructed it and made it fail in some way, then your conclusions would be warranted. Otherwise, you seem to be constructing a narrative that blames R while excusing D, even when both are responsible for what happened.

fiddleback 5 years, 3 months ago

Regarding courage of convictions, I don't know what their various reasons were or how many besides Becerra really vacillated. I would suspect a couple opposed it from the outset. And to be clear, I do hold any D on the committee who voted 'no' equally responsible. But if you have something that is or should be 70%+ palatable to the GOP and less than 50% palatable to Dems, but you have House GOP members sworn to rigidly refuse anything but 100%, why wouldn't you identify that rigidity as the most fatal element? It's not a narrative and it's not an attempt to excuse uncompromising attitudes on the left; it's simply identifying the single most toxic and consistent obstacle to compromise.
Sure, if the Dems had offered unified supported of S-B, the blame would be obvious. But the its partisan tilt made that unlikely. I'd say that if we didn't have Norquist controlling how over 200 House GOP members vote, your both-sides-deserve-equal-blame position would be warranted.

jafs 5 years, 3 months ago

Well, originally you blamed Ryan and the House R for the failure of the debt commission to go to Congress - you must have changed your tune a bit.

You don't get to decide that something is 70% palatable to the GOP and 50% palatable to the D.

The Norquist pledge is a problem, absolutely. It's just not the only problem, from my perspective. And, I never apportioned "equal blame" - I just said both sides are responsible.

Look - if the D want to show everybody how toxic and horrible the Norquist pledge is, they should vote for the compromises, and let the Norquist R shoot everything down, then publicize that relentlessly.

If they had done that with the debt commission, it would have been interesting. In fact, I wonder again why they didn't - if they were sure it would be shot down, what's the risk? The fact that some voted against it would more likely indicate they were afraid it would pass, and they didn't want that.

fiddleback 5 years, 3 months ago

My initial post placed particular blame on Ryan and the House R's, yes, because they voted in bloc due to taxes and Obamacare, and two conservative wonks on a non-partisan fact checking site concur with that view. It of course doesn't mean that the Dems' 'no' votes aren't also to blame. But my original wording is defensible, so no change of tune required.

I found your objection to my characterization to be somewhat quibbling, though I can understand your desire to strike a more bipartisan stance. And sure, you can dispute how palatable the plan was to each party. And yes, of course, if the plan was at all acceptable to the Dems, they should have supported it and let the GOP take blame for obstructing. But there's a lot herd mentality on both sides.

Again, I think it's entirely fair for Clinton to characterize the Democrats as more compromising if only because there's no equivalent to the Norquist pledge on their side. That's all I was really driving at, because although you've clarified that you're not apportioning blame equally, the AP authors make no such distinctions.

HutchSaltHawk 5 years, 3 months ago

I am at the point that no one knows the facts, or is able to report the facts honestly with an unbiased viewpoint.

BigDog 5 years, 3 months ago

autie - I think you are blinded by party politics. The Senate and its leader Harry Reid have blocked many proposals that come out of the House, never letting them come up for debate. Currenly there are 32 different bills that the House has passed related to jobs .... the Harry Reid and Democrat-controlled Senate has brought up for debate ZERO. The House passed version of budgets ... never debated in Senate.

Both parties/ both chambers have done it ... it is time people stop looking at just the political party

Carol Bowen 5 years, 3 months ago

The proposals sent over fom the House were designed to be rejected. There was no attempt at compromise by the House Republicans. It was all showmanship.

Armstrong 5 years, 3 months ago

hear_me, did any of those proposals have to do with a budget like the one we have been without for about 1200 days

Carol Bowen 5 years, 3 months ago

Yeah, I've been wondering about the budget, too. I don't think so. Those strategies have become so routine, I quit paying attention.

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