Three dismal years are spun into 17 minutes of fact-challenged campaign film.
March 21, 2012, 6:48 p.m. ET
By KARL ROVE
This month, Barack Obama's re-election campaign released a 17-minute film, "The Road We've Traveled," that previews the Democratic general election narrative. Directed by Academy Award winner Davis Guggenheim and narrated by actor Tom Hanks, the film explores Mr. Obama's most important decisions.
Viewers are told Mr. Obama deserves re-election for restoring America to prosperity after a recession "as deep as anything . . . since the Great Depression." He accomplished this in part, so the film says, by bailing out the auto companies—deciding not to just "give the car companies" or "the UAW the money" but to force them to "work together" and "modernize the automobile industry." The president, we're told, also confronted "one of the most worrisome problems facing America . . . the cost of health care."
Abroad, Mr. Obama ended the Iraq war and, in the "ultimate test of leadership," Osama bin Laden was killed on his watch. The film heralds Mr. Obama as a leader committed to "tough decisions" and as someone who "would not dwell in blame" in the Oval Office.
Where to begin? Perhaps with the last statement: Mr. Obama has spent three years wallowing in blame. His culprits have ranged from his predecessor, to tsunamis and earthquakes, to ATMs, to Fox News, to yours truly. If you Google "Obama, Blame, Bush" and "Obama, Inherited," you'll get tens of millions of hits.
As for inheriting the worst economy since the Great Depression: Perhaps Mr. Obama has forgotten the Carter presidency, which featured double-digit inflation, double-digit interest rates, and high unemployment.
The film is riddled with other inaccuracies and misleading claims. For example, the United Auto Workers may not have gotten "money" in the bailout, but as an unsecured creditor, the union received a 17.5% ownership interest in General Motors and 55% of Chrysler, while the companies' bondholders got hosed.
The film asserts that the auto companies "repaid their loans." But they still owe taxpayers $26.5 billion, and the Treasury Department's latest report to Congress noted that nearly $24 billion of the bailout money is gone forever.
The film includes Mr. Obama's 2008 claim that the death of his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, from cancer "could have been prevented" if only she "had good, consistent insurance." But earlier this year, a biography of Dunham by Janny Scott, "A Singular Woman," revealed that she had health insurance that covered most all her medical bills, leaving only a few hundred dollars a month in deductibles and uncovered costs. For misleading viewers, the Washington Post fact checker awarded this segment of the film "Three Pinocchios."
The film also offers up numerous straw men. For example, opponents of Mr. Obama's auto industry bailout, we're told, just wanted to "let it go," as if an orderly bankruptcy of GM and Chrysler in the courts rather than by presidential fiat was never an option. It was.
Almost as important as what the film says is what it doesn't. There's not a word about the failure of the president's stimulus to produce the jobs he pledged—according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, fewer Americans are working today (132.7 million) than when Mr. Obama was sworn in (133.6 million).
There's nothing about his promise to cut the deficit in half by the end of his term—according to Treasury's Bureau of Public Debt, the administration has piled up more debt in three years and two months ($4.93 trillion) than his predecessor did in eight years ($4.8 trillion).
Nothing is said about the centerpieces of last year's State of the Union—green energy jobs (Solyndra anyone?) and high-speed rail (fizzled). Nada on the president's promises about how ObamaCare would lower premiums and lower the deficit while allowing people to keep their existing coverage (all untrue).
There's nothing about the crumbling situation in Afghanistan, strained relations with allies like Israel, Mr. Obama's unpopularity in the Islamic World, the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, multiple missteps with Iran (from failing to protest the stolen Iranian elections in 2009 to the mullahs' unchecked pursuit of nuclear weapons), and Mr. Obama's flip flops on closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and providing civilian trials for terrorists.
As for the killing of Osama bin Laden, Mr. Obama did what virtually any commander in chief would have done in the same situation. Even President Bill Clinton says in the film "I hope that's the call I would have made." For this to be portrayed as the epic achievement of the first term tells you how bare the White House cupboards are.
Mr. Rove, the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush, is the author of "Courage and Consequence" (Threshold Editions, 2010).
Editor's note: An earlier version of this column included an incomplete quote from Bill Clinton in the last paragraph.