Story of Jobs: Administration Faces Credibility Gap, as Talk Grows of New Stimulus

By Gorman Gorman

Nov 18, 2009 8:29am

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: Any chance that creating job creation can count as a created job?

The stimulus package, that early presidential victory that’s cost so much, has provided President Obama with its own set of headaches at every step along the way.

There was the way it was enacted. Then the speed with which it’s been implemented. Later came the projects that were never going to really fit comfortably under the stimulus umbrella.

The problem again this week is salesmanship — and how the administration can get the public to trust its numbers when some of them are so laughably, horribly wrong.

It’s not just an exercise in spin: This debate rages while talk starts on Capitol Hill of another stimulus measure — except it can’t be called a “stimulus” this time. (If you have to ask why, you aren’t paying attention.)

The administration asked for this — dare we say, literally asked for this — with promises of actual job totals and new accountability and oversight mechanisms, all with Sheriff Joe Biden at the helm.

They’re growing anxious on Capitol Hill. Attorney General Eric Holder is in for a tough day of questioning Wednesday, on Gitmo and 9/11 trials. The Recovery Board’s Earl Devaney gets his day Thursday. Plans for Fort Hood hearings should come into focus soon.

In the meantime, there’s the Afghanistan policy that still isn’t — plus the Senate health care bill that isn’t yet, either — and new debt numbers to tower over all of it.

(Not bad for Sarah Palin week — though there’s plenty of her around, too. She bringing a taste of Jeremiah Wright, plus a tea party flavor, back with her, as her book tour starts Wednesday in that roguishly vogue locale of Grand Rapids, Mich. More on that, from the latest piece of Barbara Walters’ interview, below.)

On inconsistencies in job numbers, the sheriff speaks. Vice President Joe Biden, on “The Daily Show” Tuesday: “Look, the bottom line is that we do check [data sent to the federal government]. But what happens is the initial report comes in cold. We don’t — of the 130,000 reports that come in as to what they did with the money, we’re now going through it.”

“We have now, of that Recovery Act, we’ve been in business seven, eight months. The one thing you haven’t seen is that old thing about the dog that hasn’t barked. You haven’t seen these big, wasteful projects. No one’s come up with anything where we’ve gone out there and spent $2 million on something that didn’t exist,” Biden said, per ABC’s Steven Portnoy.

For now, congressional districts that don’t exist — there are more of them cited at Recovery.gov than the genuine article — will suffice.

The Recovery Board says it can’t and won’t certify the numbers posted at Recovery.gov — and can’t even tell lawmakers who’s failed to report jobs data, since there’s no “master list” yet. “No, I am not able to make this certification,” Earl Devaney, the chairman of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, writes in a letter to Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., provided to The Note.

Issa, in a Washington Examiner op-ed: “Apparently, somebody is messing with Joe. Or even worse, Joe seems to be messing with us. … The manifest inaccuracies in the data the Obama administration uses to justify its economic policies constitutes the promulgation of inaccurate and misleading information by the federal government.”

A vow to fix: “The first time out, we knew there were going to be problems,” Edward DeSeve, special advisor to the president on the stimulus bill, told ABC’s Jonathan Karl. “We don’t think there are a lot of them. There are less than 1 percent in terms of the recent concern about congressional districts of the overall reports. And we’ve got a good commitment from the recovery board to work with us to fix them.”

Karl reports: “Officials tell ABC News, so far, they have found 700 mistakenly credited congressional districts out of more than 130,000 stimulus grants.”

For the record, there are 435 real congressional districts: “Researchers at the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity found 440 ‘phantom districts’ listed on Recovery.gov, consuming $6.4 billion and creating or saving nearly 30,000 jobs,” the Washington Times’ Amanda Carpenter writes.

Should they have counted on this? “It is worth asking whether the administration’s problem stems primarily from its decision to provide the numbers in the first place,” Alec MacGillis reports in The Washington Post. “As it is, the administration has left itself open to near-daily assaults on the credibility of the jobs numbers. Finding flaws in the data is as easy as shooting fish in a barrel, and reporters have been all too happy to fire away — first reporting the numbers with fanfare when they are announced, despite all their obvious shortcomings, and then, days or weeks later, reporting that they are not entirely sound.”

The noise is bipartisan: “Less than two weeks after calling for a second financial boost to stimulate job creation, Rep. Dave Obey chided the Obama administration for reporting errors on the first economic recovery package,” Gannett’s Larry Bivins reports. Obey tells Jonathan Karl: “Fix the problem, the blessed problem, so that we’re getting accurate information. I don’t care what people’s bureaucratic niceties are, or how hard it is to do it.”

The context for what’s next: “In the absence of details, fiscally conservative Democrats are torn between adding to long-term debt and more proactive efforts to stem unemployment, which hit 10.2 percent last month,” Roll Call’s Jennifer Bendery and Steven T. Dennis report. “Blue Dog Co-Chairman Baron Hill (D-Ind.) said he would ‘probably not’ support any stimulus bill unless it was paid for with funds earmarked for the $787 billion stimulus package in February.”

Warning signs, in the new Quinnipiac University poll: “President Barack Obama’s job approval rating is 48 – 42 percent, the first time he has slipped below the 50 percent threshold nationally, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.  Support for the war in Afghanistan and approval of President Obama’s handling of the war also is down in the last month, and Republican support for the war is more than twice as strong as Democratic support.”

“Increasingly, the President finds himself with two different coalitions, one that backs him on domestic matters and a completely different one that backs him on Afghanistan.  That could create a challenge to his considerable political skills,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

New numbers from the ABC News/Washington Post poll: “Support for the war in Afghanistan has ebbed to a new low in ABC News/Washington Post polls, with concerns over strategy and broad doubts about the reliability of the Afghan government leaving Americans sharply divided on where to go from here,” ABC’s Gary Langer reports. “Just 44 percent now say the war in Afghanistan has been worth fighting, the fewest in a question dating to early 2007.”

Plugging the leaks: “President Barack Obama says he is angry about leaks from his deliberations on more troops for Afghanistan, and said he considers such disclosures a firing offense,” per Politico’s Mike Allen and Josh Gerstein. “Obama, during a round of four network interviews before he left China for South Korea, told Chip Reid of CBS News: ‘[W]e have these deliberations in the Situation Room for a reason – because we are making decisions that are life-and-death, that affect how our troops will be able to operate in a theater of war.’ ”

“Firing offense?” Reid asks. “Absolutely,” says the president.

Obama, to CNN’s Ed Henry, on Afghanistan: “My preference would be not to hand off anything to the next president.”

More from Sarah Palin: “Good Morning America” Wednesday had the latest piece of her interview with Barbara Walters.

On why she thinks the campaign should have gone after Obama over his association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright: “I think it’s unfortunate that too many people in politics right now want to be so politically correct, that they dare not question a person’s associations, because they would fear that they would be called a racist? That’s that political correctness that’s going to do our country in, and I — I don’t subscribe to that.”

She added: “And we did go with the strategy. And we lost. And that’s fine.”

On learning lessons after supporting the first bank bailout, in fall 2008: “Now we have learned, too, it didn’t fulfill the promises that were made by Congress, and by the White House, that bailing out these businesses that were ‘too big to fail.’  That did not put our economy back on the right track. So we learn from our mistakes.”

The rallying cry: “The tea party movement, beautiful. More power to these people who are showing up there and at town hall meetings. Tea party movement is that movement that is the voice, the platform, for those principles.” 

And whether the president should include women in his hoops games: “I have looked in those photo ops for a couple of women, haven’t seen ‘em yet.  Yes I do, yes. … He would smoke me if we were on opposite teams.”

Palin also addresses the critique that she hasn’t done her homework, when in comes to conservative thinking: “She said she has read some of the foundational stuff, but she sees no need to focus on the old writings,” RedState.com’s Erick Erickson reports, after his interview with Palin. “She likes ‘the modern stuff too.’ Her preference is policy and application, focusing on writers who are not just following up on foundational conservative ideas, but applying those ideas too.”

(Obama responds, to CBS’ Chip Reid: “It’s probably not the person I look to do see how our administration is doing.”)

The president has wrapped up the China portion of his trip, and flies from Beijing to Seoul, Korea — the last stop in his four country tour of Asia, per ABC’s Sunlen Miller.

“It gives you a perspective on a lot of day to day things that don’t amount to much,” the president said at the Great Wall of China, ABC’s Jake Tapper reports.

Plus: “Before President Obama met with Chinese President and Paramount Leader Hu Jintao after arriving in Beijing, he squeezed in a brief family reunion of sorts with his half brother, Mark Okoth Obama Ndesandjo,” ABC’s Jake Tapper, Sunlen Miller and Karen Travers report. “Ndesandjo shares a father with the president– the late Barack Obama Sr. who separated from the president’s mother when Obama was two, and married Ndesandjo’s mother, American Ruth Nidesand, who runs a kindergarten in Nairobi, Kenya.”

“I’m just thinking of seeing my big brother, and it was a good feeling — a great feeling,” Ndesandjo told Tapper, on “GMA” Wednesday.

Enough get done? “President Barack Obama was set to leave China on Wednesday after an awkward summit with some achievements but a long list of unfinished business — a result that suggests challenges ahead for the U.S. as it struggles to come to terms with Asia’s increasingly assertive superpower,” Jonathan Weisman and Ian Johnson report for The Wall Street Journal.

“On topics like Iran (Mr. Hu did not publicly discuss the possibility of sanctions), China’s currency (he made no nod toward changing its value) and human rights (a joint statement bluntly acknowledged that the two countries ‘have differences’), China held firm against most American demands,” Helene Cooper reports in The New York Times. “With China’s micro-management of Mr. Obama’s appearances in the country, the trip did more to showcase China’s ability to push back against outside pressure than it did to advance the main issues on Mr. Obama’s agenda.”

Attorney General Eric Holder’s interesting Wednesday: “Today, his job gets even more difficult,” per USA Today’s Kevin Johnson. “In an appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Holder most likely will face difficult questions not only about his decision in the Mohammed case but also about whether federal investigators mishandled information about the Fort Hood shooting suspect’s contacts with a radical cleric months before the Nov. 5 massacre.”

Setting a tone for the day — Michael Gerson, in his Washington Post column: “In exchange for a marginal public relations advantage, America will be subjected to the airing of intelligence sources and methods, to the posturing of mass murderers fully aware of their terrorist star power, to the possibility of mistrial and procedural acquittal, and to an increased threat of revenge attacks against New York.”

More fodder: “President Obama directly acknowledged for the first time on Wednesday that the prison facility at Guantanamo Bay will not close by the January deadline he set, but he said he hoped to still achieve that goal sometime next year. Obama refused, however, to set a new deadline,” Anne E. Kornblut reports, in The Washington Post. “In an interview with Fox News’ Major Garrett in the Chinese capital, Obama claimed he was ‘not disappointed’ that the Guantanamo deadline had slipped, saying he ‘knew this was going to be hard.’ ”

On health care — if and when there’s actually a bill: “Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, says he is not sure he is ready to help a Democratic health care proposal clear even the most preliminary hurdle: gaining the 60 votes his party’s leaders need to open debate on the measure later this week,” The New York Times’ Carl Hulse reports. “Two of his fellow Democrats, Senators Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, are proving tough sells as well, raising the prospect that one or perhaps all three of them could scuttle the bill before the fight over it even begins on the Senate floor.”

“As soon as we get the bill, we’ll share it with everyone,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., still hopeful for an initial vote this week, per ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf.

Bloomberg’s Laura Litvan and Kristin Jensen: “A Senate aide familiar with Reid’s final bill said one proposal the legislation is likely to include would be the creation of a federally run long-term care insurance plan dubbed the ‘Class Act’ by its original sponsors, the late Senator Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, and former Senator Michael DeWine, an Ohio Republican.”

An the abortion issue — it’s Stupak vs. DeGette, in the race to count votes: “I think he won’t have the votes when people explain to … those members exactly what the Stupak amendment does,” Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., said on ABCNews.com’s “Top Line” Tuesday.

Turkey Day comes early to the East Front of the Capitol Wednesday morning. From the release: “Patients First, a project of Americans for Prosperity, will be on Capitol Hill tomorrow alongside a six foot talking turkey to demonstrate against the government takeover of America’s health care system…. The Giant Turkey, known as Butterball, is also helping to demonstrate that Americans nationwide are encouraged to contact their legislators and talk turkey on Wednesday, November 18, from noon until 3pm to voice their sheer lack of support for government-run healthcare and that the current legislation makes for a very bad healthcare bill.”

On the other side — Americans United for Change is going up with a new ad defending 13 House members targeted by the 60 Plus Association. From the ad: “Insurance companies know the reform bill would stop them from raising premiums and stop them from denying coverage when you’re sick.”

To the surprise of just about no one: “Senate Democratic leaders said Tuesday they would put off debate on a big climate-change bill until spring, in a sign of weakening political will to tackle a long-term environmental issue at a time of high unemployment and economic uncertainty,” Ian Talley writes in The Wall Street Journal. “Legislation on health care, overhauling financial markets and job creation will be considered before the Senate takes up a measure to cap emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases linked to climate change, Senate Democratic leaders said Tuesday.”

In Connecticut — call this a smackdown. “Superstar” Billy Graham takes on Senate candidate Linda McMahon, R-Conn.: “She may look like a Sunday school teacher,” Graham tells the Hartford Courant’s Christopher Keating. “Linda McMahon’s hands are as bloody as her husband’s because she is aware of every move in the ring.”

In New York — not a candidate yet, but he may have a running mate (in Bill Thompson?): “Quietly plotting his campaign for governor, Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo and his advisers have been discussing potential candidates to run alongside him, to present the most appealing Democratic ticket to the electorate,” Danny Hakim reports for The New York Times.

Intriguing study, reported in USA Today: “Lt. Gen. Gary McKissock … is one of at least 158 retired admirals and generals the Pentagon has hired to offer advice under an unusual arrangement. Most of the retired officers, one to four stars in rank, have been paid hundreds of dollars an hour by the military even as they worked for companies seeking Defense Department contracts, a USA TODAY investigation found. That’s in addition to pensions of $100,000 to $200,000 a year for officers with 30 or more years of service.”

And David Plouffe’s claim about John Edwards seeking to cut a deal with either Obama or Hillary Clinton, to team up and beat the other candidate? True, Greg Sargent reports. “Plouffe’s account is accurate,” an Edwards adviser tells Sargent. “We had conversations about the possibility of combining the campaigns into a ticket. The way he wrote it is right. His description is entirely accurate.”

The Kicker:

“I’m not gonna sit down and shut. That’s why I resigned.” — Sarah Palin, to Erick Erickson.

“He would smoke me if we were on opposite teams.” — Palin, to Barbara Walters, on the prospect of playing basketball with President Obama.

For up-to-the-minute political updates check out The Note’s blog . . . all day every day:

http://blogs.abcnews.com/thenote/

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