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The pace of the nation’s economic recovery continues to be one of the most heavily debated issues as the presidential race enters its final stretch.
Republican Mitt Romney and his supporters have been trying to gain the upper hand in that debate by asking voters the same question that Ronald Reagan effectively used against Jimmy Carter in 1980: Are you better off than you were four years ago?
One of President Barack Obama’s top campaign surrogates, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, "acknowledged that we are not better off than we were four years ago," Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney wrote in a posting on the party’s web site on Sept. 4.
To back up the claim, the party’s state executive director, Adam Nickas, directed us to O’Malley’s Sept. 2, appearance on CBS News’ "Face the Nation." The program, moderated by Bob Schieffer, was broadcast live on the eve of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
Instead of paraphrasing the exchange in question, we’ll let a transcript from that pertinent segment of the broadcast speak for itself:
Schieffer: Can you honestly say that people are better off today than they were four years ago?
O’Malley: No, but that’s not the question of this election. The question, without a doubt, we are not as well off as we were before George Bush brought us the Bush job losses, the Bush recession, the Bush deficits, the series of desert wars, charged for the first time to credit cards, the national credit card …
When Schieffer pointed out that Bush is not on the ballot, O’Malley replied: "Yeah. But we are making progress" and are coming out of "the deep, deep hole."
O’Malley’s remarks lit up the web and the blogosphere. But the next day, he gave a different answer during a CNN panel discussion when moderator Soledad O’Brien referenced his earlier response on "Face the Nation."
Again, here is a transcript of the pertinent exchange:
O’Malley: Here’s the reality of our situation as a country. We are clearly better off as a country because we are now creating jobs rather than losing them.
O’Brien: But you said no …
O’Malley: But Soledad, we have not recovered all that we lost in the Bush recession. That’s why we need to continue to move forward. Is there anybody on this panel that thinks we’ve recovered all that we lost in the Bush recession? I don’t think anybody could say that. But clearly, we’re moving forward. We’re creating jobs. Unemployment is down. Job creation is up. And those positive movements would not have happened without the president’s leadership.
A few days later, on Friday, Sept. 7, O’Malley appeared on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" and said he didn’t mean to say that Americans were not better off when he made his earlier remarks.
O’Malley said he had been "word-spliced" on "Face the Nation" and that Americans are indeed doing better.
"Yes, of course we’re doing better when America is creating jobs, and we are creating jobs," he said.
He again said the United States has not recovered all of the jobs lost during the recession and insisted that is what he was talking about on "Face the Nation."
In fairness to Devaney, O’Malley’s appearance on "Morning Joe" happened three days after Devaney had posted his comments on the GOP web site. But O’Malley’s CNN appearance, in which he backed off of his earlier statement, came the day before Devaney had posted his comments.
During his "Face the Nation" appearance, O’Malley did, in fact, say Americans are not better off than they were four years ago, but he made clear he felt this was the fault of the Bush administration, not Obama’s. He further clarified his beliefs in a CNN interview the next day and in another television interview three days later. In those follow-up interviews, O’Malley said that while not all jobs lost during the recession have been recovered, Americans are still better off because the country is creating jobs instead of losing them.
Chairman Devaney correctly cited O’Malley’s original remarks but failed to mention that the governor had said the opposite in subsequent interviews. We understand that, especially in the hyper-partisan atmosphere surrounding a presidential election, politicos are going to cherry-pick comments that make their side look good and the other guy look bad. Still, we rate Devaney’s claim as Half True.
Chris Devaney, posting on Tennessee Republican Party web site, TNGOP Monthly Review, Sept. 4, 2012
Adam Nickas, email to PolitiFact, Sept. 19, 2012
"Face the Nation," clipfrom Martin O’Malley appearance on Sept. 2, 2012
"Face the Nation," transcript from broadcast on Sept. 2, 2012
CNN, video of Martin O’Malley appearance during panel discussion on Sept. 3, 2012
The Associated Press, Md. Gov. O’Malley says Americans are better off, Sept. 7, 2012
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