In a web video out today, the Obama campaign continues their strategy of spinning President Obama’s lousy debate performance by saying Mitt Romney lied throughout the debate:
They focus on three comments made by Romney: one, “I’m not in favor of a $5 trillion tax cut. That’s not my plan;” two, “In fact, I do have a plan that deals with people with pre-existing conditions. That’s part of my health care plan;” and three, “What I support is no change for current retirees and near-retirees to Medicare and the president supports taking $716 billion out of that program.”
The pre-existing condition coverage issue is complicated: Romney’s plan would “prevent discrimination against individuals with pre-existing conditions who maintain continuous coverage,” but doesn’t deal with those who have a pre-existing condition and haven’t maintained continuous coverage.
On the $5 trillion tax cut issue, the Obama campaign shows a clip of MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell citing the study by the “non-partisan Tax Policy Center” that says Romney’s tax plan would lead to a cut of $4.8 trillion. (Left unmentioned is that one of the authors of that study used to work in the Obama administration.) But on CNN last night, Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter admitted that it wasn’t definite that the Romney tax plan would lead to $5 trillion in cuts:
CNN’s Erin Burnett: “Stephanie, let me ask you about that. Because here at CNN, we fact checked that, that $5 trillion in tax cuts and we’ve come and said that’s not true. Mitt Romney has not promised that. Because he’s also going to be closing loopholes and deductions, so his tax cut wouldn’t be anywhere near that size.”
Cutter: “So you’re disputing the size of the tax cut? Or are you disputing also how he’s going to pay for it?
Burnett: “We’re disputing the size.”
Cutter: “Erin, he has campaigned on lowering tax rates by 20% for everybody, including those in the top 1%. That was one of the main selling points in the Republican primary.”
Burnett: “Right. So you’re saying if you lower them by 20% you get a $5 trillion tab, right?”
Cutter: “It’s a $5 trillion tab.”
Burnett: “But then when you close deductions it’s not going to be anywhere near $5 trillion. That’s our analysis.”
Cutter: “Well, okay, stipulated, it won’t be near $5 trillion, but it’s also not going to be the sum of $5 trillion in the loopholes that he’s going to close.
On point three, the Obama video again turns to Andrea Mitchell, who says, “In fact, under the President’s health-care reform law, that $716 billion comes from trimming planned future increases over the next decade, not from cutting funding. The trims limit payments to health care providers and insurers , but do not cost seniors more.”
First, obviously, if seniors’ costs don’t go up, but the number of doctors who will accept them as patients decreases, that’s a change in Medicare. And second, it’s hardly unusual in D.C.-speak (unfortunately) to call something a “cut” if it changes how much a program will be funded in the future. As a July Congressional Budget Office letter to John Boehner put it, “spending for Medicare would increase by an estimated $716 billion over that 2013–2022 period” if Obamacare wasn’t in place.
Yesterday, David Axelrod argued that Romney was so misleading in the debate that journalists and voters should question Romney’s “character.” But if this web video is any indication, it may be the Obama campaign that’s more guilty of misleading.