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.


donttreadonme 1 year, 7 months ago

"Liberty27519 hours, 34 minutes ago

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

What about state, local, and sales taxes? Everyone pays those. Just wondering...


donttreadonme 1 year, 7 months ago


Subjective arguments are not "fact checking", at leats not in the real world.

Fact checking has to do with indisputable facts and numbers, like Romneycare, Medicare "savings", Paul Ryan's "3 hour" marathon, or the Janesville plant "closure".


Armstrong 1 year, 7 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


BigDog 1 year, 7 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


autie 1 year, 7 months ago

Speaking of fact check, I would guess that in the first debate in front of all of America those two can sort out a few details of "gutted welfare to work" or "robbed medicare of grandma's money" or all the rest of the misdirection.

And we haven't had an obstructionist Congress. Just an obstructionist House. The whole lot should be fired. Take their ball and go home.


HutchSaltHawk 1 year, 7 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.


fiddleback 1 year, 7 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.


Carol Bowen 1 year, 7 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.


somedude20 1 year, 7 months ago

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


jesse499 1 year, 7 months ago

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 7 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.


FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 7 months ago

"shared responsibility"

Does that go for the 50% of complex uprights that pay zero, zip, nada, in federal income taxes B.J.?


Orwell 1 year, 7 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.


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