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Strange claims predicated on ignorance

Everyone looks forward to Fridays, but there's one thing about the day I'm especially fond of. Every Friday, I know Peggy Noonan will write a column I disagree
Strange claims predicated on ignorance
Strange claims predicated on ignorance

Everyone looks forward to Fridays, but there's one thing about the day I'm especially fond of. Every Friday, I know Peggy Noonan will write a column I disagree with in the Wall Street Journal, and some friends of mine will write very amusing responses to it so I don't have to.

But today's Noonan column, by way of Dan Amira, is a little too remarkable to pass up. She begins by reflecting on her recent experience at a hotel in Pittsburgh.

Things are getting pretty bare-bones in America. Doormen, security, bellmen, people working the floor -- that's maybe a dozen jobs that should have been filled, at one little hotel on one day in one town. Everyone's keeping costs down, not hiring.

A few hours after this column reached WSJ readers, we learned American businesses added 246,000 jobs in February, and 2.33 million jobs over the last year. It's unfortunate that Noonan received poor service at a hotel, her attempt to extrapolate from that experience misses the mark.

[T]he president is stuck in his games and his history. He should have seen unemployment entering a crisis stage four years ago, and he did not. At that time I was certain he'd go for public-works projects, which could give training to the young and jobs to the experienced underemployed, would create jobs in the private sector and, in the end, yield up something needed -- a bridge, a strengthened power grid. He instead gave his first term to health care.

I'll never know why Noonan's editors didn't send her a quick note, saying, "Um, Peggy? Are you sure you want to publish this?"

In our reality, President Obama saw unemployment entering a crisis stage four years ago, and long before launching a health care initiative, he championed the Recovery Act. What was in the Recovery Act? Well, as anyone with access to the Internet can easily find out, it included over $100 billion in "public-works projects," which "created jobs in the private sector," and focused on infrastructure, including bridges and the power grid.

Even if the Republican columnist had forgotten this, shouldn't she have looked it up first?

Conservative media should stop taunting the president because he spent the past month warning of catastrophe if the sequester kicks in, and the catastrophe hasn't happened. It hasn't happened yet. He can make it happen. He runs the federal agencies. He can decide on a steady drip of catastrophe -- food inspectors furloughed on the 15th, long lines at the airport on the 18th, sobbing children missing Head Start on the 20th, civilian contractors pointing to a rusting USS Truman on the 25th.He can let them happen one after another, like little spring shoots of doom. And it probably won't look planned and coordinated, it will look spontaneous and inevitable.And you have to assume that's the plan, because that's kind of how he rolls.

I haven't the foggiest idea what this means. For one thing, the executive branch doesn't have power of the purse, so the fact that the president "runs the federal agencies" isn't relevant -- the GOP plan to give the White House authority over sequestration cuts failed. For another, "kind of how he rolls"? Noonan thinks Obama, out of habit, is too eager to cut spending across federal agencies?

He was the candidate of hope and change, of "Yes, we can," but the mood of his governance has been dire, full of warnings, threats, cliffs and ceilings, full of words like suffering and punishment and sacrifice.

Noonan does realize the warnings, threats, cliffs, and ceilings didn't start until 2011, when her own party started a campaign of extortion politics, right?

Mr. Obama is making the same mistake he made four years ago. We are in a jobs crisis and he does not see it. He thinks he's in a wrestling match about taxing and spending, he thinks he's in a game with those dread Republicans. But the real question is whether the American people will be able to have jobs.

Those of us who cover politics for a living probably watched the State of the Union address, and noticed the president urging Congress to pass his American Jobs Act. It's because, unlike congressional Republicans, Obama doesn't want "a wrestling match about taxing and spending"; he wants to lower unemployment.

The real oddity of inaccurate columns like Noonan's is the underlying point: she agrees with Obama and sees real value in his policy agenda, but since she doesn't fully understand what the president has proposed, Noonan is criticizing policies she supports.

What's worse, it seems this keeps coming up. It's happening with other Republican columnists and it happens with Republican lawmakers -- criticism of the president over his failure to do things he's actually done.

If Obama is as awful as his detractors insist, shouldn't critics be able to focus on his real missteps, instead of strange claims predicated on ignorance?