WASHINGTON -- "Facts are stubborn things," John Adams argued in defense of the British soldiers who were acquitted in the Boston Massacre trial in 1770. But in the hands of President Obama they are malleable things to be made up and used for political purposes, either in defense of his wildly exaggerated claims about the effectiveness of his agenda or in his deeply partisan attacks on the Republicans in the midst of his party's losing campaign in the midterm elections.
Take, for example, the president's unsubstantiated charge that the Republicans' Pledge to America campaign agenda would cut 1/5 of the nation's education funds to provide tax cuts to the wealthy.
Obama made the wild and politically explosive accusation at the White House Summit on Community Colleges on Tuesday, warning educators that those mean old Republicans were out to gut federal assistance programs that help support what he called "the unsung heroes of America's education system."
"Think about it: China isn't slashing education by 20 percent right now," he said, adding that the GOP proposal was the equivalent of "unilaterally disarming our troops right as they head to the front lines."
You can almost feel the intense political angst and anger coursing through the Obama speechwriter as he or she punched out those words on the computer.
But it isn't true. If you search through every word in the GOP's Pledge to America, you will not find a single proposal to cut funding for community colleges.
The Pledge would roll back overall non-security discretionary spending to 2008 levels, but it does not call for or require spending cuts in specific programs. The vast congressional appropriations process deals with a multitude of programs and spending priorities -- some are increased, others are decreased.
The Pledge seeks to reset total spending at a much lower level by halting the administration's "reckless spending spree," GOP Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, who chaired the Pledge initiative, said in a statement responding to the president's charge.
But misleading and untrue statements have become a bad habit for this president. "A president's most valuable asset -- with voters, Congress, allies and enemies -- is credibility," Stanford University economist Michael Boskin wrote not too long ago in a Wall Street Journal op-ed titled "Obama's Economic Fish Stories." "So it is unfortunate when extreme exaggeration emanates from the White House." For example, Obama has said repeatedly in his speeches, press conferences and interviews that "every economist who's looked at it says that the (economic stimulus) has done its job" and turned the economy around.