The Big Lie: President Obama’s tenure has been marked by a failure to fulfill his own promises to grow the economy and cut the deficit, while squandering his historic opportunity to lead the world.
The Truth: President Obama’s critics must fictionalize his record in order to justify supporting Republicans who have failed in every way the president has succeeded.
How do you attack a president who prevented a Great Depression? A president who saved the auto industry and passed student loan, credit card and health care reform while securing trillions in deficit cuts? How do you bring down a president who oversaw the capture of Osama bin Laden and the destruction of most of the leadership of al Qaeda? A president who ended one war and convinced the nation to responsibly end another?
If you’re a former John McCain adviser with a huge crush on Paul Ryan, you simply make up a different president to attack.
Historian and Harvard professor Niall Ferguson has done just that in his screed featured on the cover of this week’s Newsweek. What amounts to a a free Romney campaign ad was clearly intended to balance Michael Tomasky’s factually accurate lashing of Mitt Romney published by Newsweek last month. Ferguson’s article is a tour de force of the same tired bromides that have been used to bash the president since the day he took office, along with a cavalcade of falsehoods.
The chief arguments presented by Ferguson are recycled Republican clichés. First, he blames the president for job losses that began in January 2008, when Hillary Clinton was still the frontrunner in the Democratic primary. Second, he upbraids Obama for predictions and promises made before anyone—including the Bush Administration — had any idea how deep the financial crisis would become. But I haven’t seen a single right-wing critique of this President that doesn’t rely on faulty predictions from early in 2009 as the crisis was unfolding. Suddenly the fact that the Bush economy was worse than anyone expected is this president’s fault.
What makes Ferguson’s attack particularly contemptible is his willful deception about the Affordable Care Act, insinuating that the President broke his promise to pass health care reform that would not add to the deficit. His reform doesn’t. It cuts the deficit by billions. Rebutting criticism by Paul Krugman, Ferguson said he had deliberately referred to just one part of the bill, intentionally misleading the reader. This admission of trickery prompted economist and Berkeley professor Brad Delong to issue a demand to Newsweek and the Daily Beast: “Fire his ass.” Delong went on to say that Harvard should examine whether Ferguson has the moral character to teach at the university.