Obama vs. Romney: Who do you trust?

The Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact tells an interesting tale of the tape when it comes to the current bare-knuckle presidential campaign. While the respected and much-cited political watchdog certainly does not reinforce the long-faded, Pollyannaish view of many Obama supporters that the president is a pure-hearted messiah who’s incapable of deceit, at the very least it does show that he’s more candid than his opponent.

Of the 452 Obama statements PolitiFact has made a ruling on as of this writing, 72% have been rated true, mostly true, or half true (22%, 23%, and 27%, respectively). By contrast, 12% have been rated mostly false, 14% have been rated false, and 2% have been rated “pants on fire.”

That’s not exactly a sterling record, of course. If you had a friend who lied 28% of the time, he probably wouldn’t be your friend anymore. But if you had a friend who lied like Mitt Romney lies, you’d want to key his car and pour sugar in his gas tank.

Of the 201 Romney statements PolitiFact has analyzed, just 58% have been rated true, mostly true, or half true (15%, 16%, and 27%). Sixteen percent were rated mostly false, another 16% were rated false, and 9% were rated “pants on fire.” So according to PolitiFact’s analysis, on important matters of policy, Mitt Romney tells the truth a bit more than half the time while making a complete and shameful mockery of the truth nearly 10% of the time.

The candidates’ VP choices follow a similar pattern. People may have been put off by Joe Biden’s blunt approach during his debate with Paul Ryan, but blunt can be refreshing, and it’s often just a synonym for honest – or at least it is in comparison to the slippery tactics of the Republican hopefuls.

Biden’s numbers are as follows: true, 19%; mostly true, 22%; half true, 27% (for a total of 68%); mostly false, 16%; false, 13%; and “pants on fire,” 3%.

Paul Ryan? According to PolitiFact, he can’t be counted on to tell the truth even half the time: true, 9%; mostly true, 18%; half true, 21% (for a total of 48%); mostly false, 36%; false, 9%; “pants on fire,” 6%.

So if you look at just the statements that are the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, the tally goes like this: Obama, 22%; Biden, 19%; Romney, 15%; and Ryan, 9%.

When it comes down to who’s lying through their rotten, stinking teeth, the numbers look like this: Romney, 9%; Ryan, 6%; Biden, 3%; and Obama, 2%.

So as we lurch toward the conclusion of what many would agree has been a remarkably disingenuous campaign (on both sides), the question remains: Who should you trust?

To me, it’s clear. I may see the world through azure-colored lenses (after all, this blog is called “Left Business Brain,” not “Sucking Up to Plutocrats”), but on issues that matter most to Americans, I believe President Obama has been far more forthright.

It started on Day One of his presidency. As Obama made sincere efforts to get our country back on track, 15 top Republicans (including Perfidious Paul Ryan) plotted to undermine the new president. This happened literally on the day of the inauguration.

Rather than make an honest effort to find common ground with the president and revive the economy – which the previous (Republican) administration had driven into the ditch – GOP lawmakers decided to stonewall. Not only was there no honeymoon period for the president, there was no fare-thee-well half-drunk toast at the reception.

“If you act like you’re the minority, you’re going to stay in the minority,” said Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy at the time, according to Robert Draper’s book Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives. “We’ve gotta challenge them on every single bill and challenge them on every single campaign.”

And oh, they followed through on that promise – with a vengeance.

According to Michael Grunwald, whose book The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era was adapted by Time magazine for the article “The Party of No,” Republicans were as deliberate as they were deeply entrenched when it came to obstructing Obama’s efforts to resuscitate the economy while the country struggled to get back on its feet.

Here’s just one example that shows the stunning depth of the GOP’s appetite for obstruction, from a blog post by Grunwald:

Vice President Biden told me that during the transition, he was warned not to expect any bipartisan cooperation on major votes. “I spoke to seven different Republican Senators who said, ‘Joe, I’m not going to be able to help you on anything,’” he recalled. His informants said [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell had demanded unified resistance. “The way it was characterized to me was, ‘For the next two years, we can’t let you succeed in anything. That’s our ticket to coming back,’” Biden said. The Vice President said he hasn’t even told Obama who his sources were, but Bob Bennett of Utah and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania both confirmed they had conversations with Biden along those lines.

So even with the economy on the brink of collapsing and the country hemorrhaging jobs at a frightening clip, the message to the new administration was clear: You will get no help from Republicans. So why, then, didn’t Obama press his agenda more forcefully when Democrats still had control of both houses of Congress? Answer: Republicans used the filibuster at a record pace.

Thankfully, Obama did manage to pass a stimulus bill over the objections of every single Republican House member. Some economists credit that bill with helping to steer the country away from another great depression, but not one Republican representative was willing to go on record as supporting the measure.

The Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is another interesting case study. Since the landmark legislation was originally passed in 2009 with virtually no Republican support (remarkably, not one Republican House member voted for it), the now-GOP-controlled House has tried more than 30 times to repeal it.

Of course, the fact that no House Republicans supported the original bill and have been united in opposition to it since its passage has been used as proof that Obama can’t reach across the aisle and govern in a bipartisan manner. It’s more fuel for the absurd notion that he’s a my-way-or-the-highway ideologue who’s more interested in his liberal schemes than doing what’s right for the country.

But ask yourself this: How is it possible that an idea that was originally concocted by the ultra-right-wing Heritage Foundation, was supported by Newt Gingrich, and was implemented by the current GOP presidential nominee could get no Republican support after it was embraced by Barack Obama? That’s the story of the individual mandate, which suddenly metamorphosed into the linchpin of a global socialist plot when Obama adopted it as a pragmatic way to win support for comprehensive health care reform.


Of course, viewed within the context of the GOP’s campaign of obstruction, that mystery clears up in the blink of an eye. Republicans were not interested in a bipartisan effort to create jobs – they were interested in returning one of their own to the White House.

So what’s happened since that fateful inauguration-day GOP meeting? Despite getting virtually no help from Republicans during his first term, Obama has managed to pull the economy out of the ditch and get it headed in the right direction. In January of 2009, the same month when Obama was inaugurated, our country lost around 800,000 jobs. In October, the economy added 171,000 jobs. Despite this, Romney continues to claim that we’re worse off than we were four years ago.

So after basing his party’s convention on a brazen lie (the convention theme, “We Built It,” was a clumsy response to a sentiment Obama never actually expressed), Romney has doubled down by premising his entire campaign on another lie – that Obama has made the economy worse.

Most galling of all, Romney thrashes Obama for his supposed naked partisanship and failed stewardship of the economy after Romney’s own party did all it could to undermine the president’s recovery efforts – and did so in as brutally a partisan manner as it possibly could.

Unfortunately, this strategy has worked – up to a point. But I have faith that the majority of Americans will ultimately see through it. We’ll found out soon.

In case you hadn’t guessed, this blogger proudly endorses the president, and anticipates an Obama victory when all is said and done. Let’s just hope for a little more honesty and bipartisanship from the opposition party during his second term.

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