Yogi Berra famously said, “Predictions are hard, especially about the future.” But this simple truth hasn’t stopped President Obama’s Republican critics from making all kinds of bold predictions about the consequences of the White House agenda.
At an event at the City Club of Cleveland late last week, President Obama seemed to think it’d be a good idea to revisit some of those predictions.
“It’s important to note that at every step that we’ve taken over the past six years we were told our goals were misguided; they were too ambitious; that my administration’s policies would crush jobs and explode deficits, and destroy the economy forever. Remember that? Because sometimes we don’t do the instant replay, we don’t run the tape back, and then we end up having the same argument going forward.”
I don’t know the president personally, but watching him go point by point, fact-checking Republican arguments, assumptions, and predictions, I got the feeling Obama was enjoying himself quite a bit.
Indeed, take a look at this video from our friends at The Last Word:
Note, Obama wasn’t taking on a straw man in his remarks – he referenced actual claims from GOP lawmakers and candidates. One said the president’s economic agenda would “diminish stock prices,” which turned out to be backwards. Another said the nation faced “trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see,” which was also turned out to be the opposite of reality. Another predicted that Republican policies might get unemployment down to 6% by 2016 – and it’s 5.5% now, well ahead of schedule.
Republican predictions about the Affordable Care Act were wrong. Republican predictions about the rescue of the auto industry were wrong. Republican predictions about the Recovery Act were wrong.
“This progress is no accident,” Obama told his Cleveland audience. “First and foremost, it’s the direct result of you, the drive and determination of the American people.” The president added with a bit of a smile, “But I’m going to take a little credit.”
And for political purposes, the debate over credit very likely matters to those in the arena. But I’m actually interested in something else: credibility.
Everyone makes predictions that turn out to be wrong once in a while, but in this case, Republicans told Americans what to expect about a governing agenda based on ideological and philosophical assumptions. GOP officials insisted they knew what would happen as a result of Obama’s policies because their political vision deserved to be trusted.
And now we know, of course, that this vision was deeply flawed and their assumptions were wrong.
The president’s victory lap is understandable, but it’s less important than what this tells us about the Republicans’ judgment going forward. In fact, the same GOP voices who were wrong about practically everything continue to say they were right, and just as important, they also continue to urge voters to trust them, despite the fact that their predictions were wrong.
Pointing fingers and chuckling at those who made false predictions has its place, but accountability and responsibility matter more. The fact that Republicans were wrong is important, but it’s their intention to parlay this track record into future failures that’s even more important.