Election 2012: Mislead. Reframe. Repeat

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(The Root) — Did you know that President Barack Obama promised at the beginning of his term that he would create a 5.6 percent unemployment rate?

Oh, you didn't? Then allow the American Crossroads super PAC to clear that up for you in its anti-Obama ad, released this week. The ad suggests that Obama has not kept his promise on unemployment and has driven America $5 trillion deeper in debt.


My response, like that of many folks who have been watching all of this unfold, was to let loose a highly audible sigh and think, "But no one knew exactly how hard we were hit by the economic collapse of 2008. We were still losing jobs by the crapload!" Yes — crapload is a recognized unit of measurement. Obama simply spoke from under the shared, nationwide blanket of ignorance on how bad the economic collapse was.

But then I caught NBC News' senior political editor, Mark Murray, on MSNBC's The Daily Rundown, with Chuck Todd.

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And it turns out that Obama never made that promise. The number in the ad is from a report that came out before Obama was sworn in as president. When he was sworn in, all hell was breaking loose, and yet this ad — and many pundits — have been hammering the president on a report that came out before he took the reins? I assumed that Murray was just throwing out some sort of liberal media spin. This simply can't be. Then I found this (pdf).


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In a report titled "The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Investment Plan," economists Christina Romer and Jared Bernstein — members of Obama's transition team — explained the necessity of the stimulus plan. The chart that has set everyone buzzing is this:

This image was lost some time after publication.

The chart was a prediction as to how the stimulus plan would work and curb unemployment. This was not a promise made by Obama, but instead a prediction by economists that was connected to the implementation of the stimulus package and based on what many believed to be the state of the economy in early January 2009.

In January 2009, America lost 598,000 jobs. In February 2009: 651,000. And March 2009? 741,000. By April 2009, we were at an 8.5 percent unemployment rate. The economists' predictions had already been blown out of the water simply because of the economic horrors that the Obama administration walked into.


Can anyone genuinely say that Obama had failed America by April 2009? Don't answer that. Many folks were trying to claim that by February 2009. But all of this highlights the frustration that's causing much of the tension in this election cycle.

Is the case against Obama fair?

Now, if you're anti-war and anti-drone, then yes. Your critiques of Obama can be argued strongly. Not everyone will agree, but there is a solid argument. However, the case being made by the Republicans isn't based on any of that. It's based on the narrative that the president is an incompetent despot changing the very fabric of America — and if he's not stopped, we will be living in a Soviet Union-style country in a matter of years.


The Republican argument is that Obama undermines American values, desires to redistribute wealth, has weakened our standing in the world and has failed the American people by not fixing the economy. This is what causes the bitterness between ardent Obama supporters and conservatives.

Just watch the ads by Mitt Romney and the Republican super PACS. Obama gutted welfare. Obama is lazy. Obama just wants to be famous. Obama lied about the economy. None of these are fair descriptions of what the past three-and-a-half years have actually been.


Conservatives cry about how the president had two years of complete and total control. I won't lie to you; I've simply grown tired of saying and writing how untrue that is. Obama had to have a supermajority to pass anything. He never had one in the House and had one in the Senate for only seven weeks. Republicans abused the filibuster but continue to pretend that they were powerless.

So what that the American people had voted for those they wanted to represent them? So what that the majority of representatives and senators were Democrats who wanted to work with Obama? Republicans decided that they knew better than the majority of Americans, and now they run around screaming how they were simply helpless and run over for two years by the mean old Democrats.


Political ads like the one Crossroads America produced aren't going to stop. Crossroads just bought $11 million in advertising to push this sort of skewed narrative. With 32 days left before the election, misleading seems to be the overall plan.

I think I'll need way more scotch to get through this.

Elon James White is a writer and satirist and host of the award-winning video and radio series This Week in Blackness. Listen Monday to Thursday at 1:30 p.m. EST at TWIB.FM and watch at TV.TWIB.ME/LIVE. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Tumblr.


Like The Root on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

Elon James White is a writer and satirist and host of the award-winning video and radio series This Week in Blackness. Listen Monday to Thursday at 1:30 p.m. EST at TWIB.FM and watch at TV.TWIB.ME/LIVE. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Tumblr.

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