A study came out this week demonstrating, not surprisingly, that pundits and politicians tend to be consistently wrong with their predictions. (As an aside, I was not surprised but quite happy to see that Paul Krugman was rated as the most accurate prognosticator, with former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, Sen. Charles Schumer, and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi close behind; George Will was among the least accurate.)
It made me think of how, from the time Barack Obama stood on the steps of the Capitol and took the oath of office, Republicans made destroying him politically their number one priority. In doing so, facts were optional (death panels and socialism, anyone?). After all, like the study shows, they could make all kinds of outlandish threats and predictions, and they didn't have to be (and weren't) correct.
But as the last week or two unfolded, I was struck by how several news events absolutely obliterated three of the top lies told by Republicans to try and bring down the president (no matter the cost to the country).
1. President Obama is soft on terrorism/won't protect the country/is a Muslim sympathizer. From the time Obama took office, he has had to contend with a Republican campaign to portray him as weak on national security. The attacks really took off after the unsuccessful attempt by the "underwear bomber" on Christmas Day 2009, as the Republicans engaged in what Steve Benen brilliantly described as a "collective display of pants-wetting."
But the record shows that Obama has been more aggressive than his predecessor was in targeting and killing terrorist group leaders, including authorizing more drone attacks. But the last couple of weeks really made the Republican scare tactics look downright silly. First, NATO bombed Muammar Gaddafi's home, killing his son. Then, putting nearly 10 long years of frustration to bed, Obama authorized a daring and well-planned operation to kill Osama bin Laden at his retreat in the suburbs of Islamabad. (Remember, George W. Bush didn't prioritize catching or killing bin Laden.)
And while terrorists may be able to strike in the United States no matter what precautions are taken by the president, it is telling that the greatest domestic terrorist attack of the last 100 years took place on Bush's watch (despite being given a memo in August 2001 entitled "Bin Laden determined to strike in US"), but, to date, under Obama, no foreign attacks have been successful on U.S. soil.
Based on the week's events, Republicans will look idiotic if they again try to engage in scare tactics based on an idea that Obama isn't capable of keeping the American people safe.
2. President Obama wants to raise your taxes. These attacks were works of pure fiction, given that Obama campaigned that he wouldn't raise taxes on anyone making more than $250,000 per year, and would cut taxes on most families below that range. And what did he do? Exactly what he promised. In fact, he went beyond his campaign promise, agreeing to extend the Bush tax cuts for everyone, including the wealthy. The result? The Bureau of Economic Analysis just found that Americans now enjoy their lowest tax burden since 1958.
You can argue the wisdom of extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy (I think it was a horrible decision that will further increase the deficit while helping nobody who needs assistance). But despite the fear mongering tactics of Republicans who promised the American people Obama wanted raise their taxes, he has been a tax-cutting president.
3. President Obama wasn't born in the United States. The thing is, it's not like anyone with a quarter of a brain actually doubted Obama's place of birth. After all, he released a scan of his birth certificate in 2008, and Honolulu newspapers reported his birth at the time. But on April 27, as unnecessary as it was, Obama released his long-form birth certificate, putting the issue to rest once and for all.
Many Republicans claim they never questioned Obama's place of birth, and that the birthers represented a small percentage of the party. But even days before Obama released his long-form birth certificate, a CBS News/New York Times poll showed that 45 percent of Republicans believed the president was born outside of the United States. And more importantly, most Republican politicians and pundits who claimed not to be birthers offered only lukewarm dismissals of such claims, refusing to condemn those that questioned the location of the president's birth.
The release of Obama's birth certificate has given Americans a lot of questions to ask themselves: Why did Republicans spend so much time on a patently ludicrous accusation, even while the country was grappling with important problems, including a struggling economy, two wars, and national security, just to name a few? What does it say about a party that would conduct its business that way? And why was this president hit with this kind of an accusation? Nobody asked John McCain for his birth certificate or doubted his eligibility for the presidency, even though he was actually born outside of the continental United States (in the Panama Canal Zone). To be clear, I am not challenging McCain's eligibility. It would be ludicrous to do so because he was legally qualified to run. I am only pointing out that McCain didn't have to endure this kind of scrutiny about his place of birth. Why do you think that is?
And drowned out by the bigger stories of this week, GM quietly announced Thursday it has tripled its profits.
GOP claims about Obama's actions in the auto industry have been proven to be wrong.
Republicans have been portraying Obama as a socialist, someone out of the political mainstream, since he took office. But the facts show that this just another GOP lie. One third of Obama's stimulus bill was made up of tax cuts, he extended the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, and his health care overhaul, rather than cut out the private insurers, instead handed them millions of new customers. And, of course, his 2012 budget proposal includes a five-year freeze on domestic spending and cuts to a bevy of programs that help low-income Americans and the environment.
Again, you can argue the merits of his proposals, but the Republican lies about Obama's ideological position have been exposed. And the news of GM prospering is just the latest example of Republicans mischaracterizing the president. He never intended to nationalize the industry.
In any event, at a time when the country faces important decisions to make and short- and long-term problems to address, no real effort is being made to come up with solutions, and no real debate is taking place, mainly because Republicans are too busy doing whatever they can to politically destroy the president, often by making false claims about him. But the events of the last two weeks have highlighted the strategy, revealing so many GOP assertions as being straight-out wrong.
I have no hope that the Republicans will change how they operate. But I do hope the American people have taken notice and will react accordingly.