“It’s clearly a budget. It’s got a lot of numbers in it.”–
Who knew that this week was Make Excuses for The President Week (should someone tell Hallmark)? First we had David Brooks telling us what kind of talk the President would talk if the President could talk talk, then Bill O’Reilly is saddened that the Administration lied to us…but it’s probably Tenet’s fault and George is simply not to blame.
Now we have Ramesh Ponnuru about some of those funny numbers that Bush seemed to recall during his Sunday meltdown:
On Meet the Press the other day, the president said, “If you look at the appropriations bills that were passed under my watch, in the last year of President Clinton, discretionary spending was up 15 percent, and ours have steadily declined.” I was wondering where he got those numbers, so I asked budget maven Tad DeHaven. He directed me to the bottom of Table S-4 on this page. As you will see if you click on it, the table shows the growth of discretionary spending excluding defense and homeland security. For the last Clinton year, that number was indeed 15. Under Bush, it goes to 6, then 5, then 4, then 1. Making an allowance for looseness in the president’s speech, the numbers appear to be in line with what he said.
But the numbers are misleading. First, he’s talking about budget authority rather than actual spending. Second, he’s excluded half the budget (entitlement spending, which he has expanded), then half the remainder (defense), then a chunk of the fraction that’s left (homeland security). Third, he is excluding supplemental spending bills, too. So the numbers we are left with don’t mean very much. Whether the president is aware of any of this is anyone’s guess.
So you see, War Time President Bush is just repeating what some people tell him and he doesn’t have time to take off his helmet and put on his green eyeshade, roll up his sleeves, and become Economist President Bush.
Why doesn’t he just start prefacing all of his comments with, “Well, my friend told me about this guy who knows this guy whose sister once dated this guy….” or better yet, “I got this email about this $250 cookie recipe….”, then we can all sleep better.
Or at least keep from rolling our eyes every time he opens his mouth.