President Obama, like Congressional Democrats, who called on Stephen Colbert, appears to favor using comics to help hold onto the reins of power. Austan Goolsbee, a stand-up comic and university professor, was chosen to pitch a rosy, but false picture of economic recovery.
We know that politics is a dirty game and we have all seen politicians and political operatives of all stripes twist the truth to bolster their view of the world, to encourage people to vote their way.
Another thing most of us know is that there are “lies, damned lies and statistics.” Statistics can be presented in many ways, and they are often presented in such a way as to paint a desired picture. You can use statistics to tell a story that is a complete lie, yet you can present it with a straight face, if you choose your words carefully.
When two white house staffers wearing blue striped shirts came up with a plan to use statistics to paint a rosy picture of the economy under President Obama’s stewardship, they realized they needed a credible patsy to present it.
The President obviously couldn’t present it, because the lie would be scrutinized immediately and the President would have egg on his face. So Austan Goolsbee was chosen, or perhaps he volunteered. Professor Goolsbee should have been smart enough to realize he was on shaky ground, but perhaps the bright lights and the thrill of being in the White House, serving the President made him throw caution to the wind.
And throw caution to the wind he did, using flawed statistics to allow him to tell outright lies, with a straight – and sometimes stern – face, making the presentation completely plausible.
Surely nobody would doubt such an earnest presentation? It certainly fooled me!
Enter another political operative, this one with red stripes on his shirt, Keith Hennessey.
Keith Hennessey is a former economic advisor to President GW Bush. Hennessey uses the Goolsbee White House video as the basis for his own video and proceeds to demolish Goolsbee’s arguments. He points out the fatal flaws that Goolsbee should have known, if he had done the research himself, rather than allowing two political operatives to provide him with the conclusions.
The White House video attributes all of the economic crash to President GW Bush and republicans and all of the economic recovery to President Obama and the democrats. Unfortunately the chart used in the presentation shows rate of change, rather than actual gains and losses, and it uses red stripes and blue stripes to associate the apparent bad parts with republicans and the apparent good parts with democrats.
Googlsbee hasn’t done himself any favors with this video, having painted himself with a political brush. It may come back to bite him at a later time. Of course, Hennessey is no saint. He uses the charts to his own advantage, but they appear more plausible.
In the battle for the votes, timing is everything and it remains to be seen whether there is any fallout from this.
For Austan Goolsbee’s sake, I hope he will be more circumspect the next time he uses prepared statistics to present a case. I do hope he hasn’t gone over to the dark side of politics, willing to use lies to support a position, rather than serve the people and tell the truth, no matter what the outcome. I expected better of Austan Goolsbee.