At the White House daily briefing on Monday, I asked press secretary Robert Gibbs a simple question: are Republican leaders liars? I prefaced my query by noting that last week numerous GOPers claimed that the stimulus bill has created no new jobs, yet over the weekend Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger noted that the stimulus has led to creating or saving 150,000 jobs in his state of California, and on Monday at the White House, Republican Governor Charlie Crist, responding to a question from me, declared that the stimulus had done the same regarding 87,000 jobs in Florida, including 20,000 positions for teachers and educators. So, I put it to Gibbs, do you think those Republicans dissing the stimulus are "purposefully lying."
There was a slight pause, perhaps as he calibrated. Then Gibbs replied, "I don't believe they believe their own statements." That was a polite way of saying, yes. He pointed out that House Republican whip Eric Cantor had isssued a statement asserting that Obama's stimulus had yielded no job creation, yet Cantor had also tried to obtain stimulus funds for a high-speed rail project in Virginia, contending that this particular project would create jobs. How can Cantor reconcile those two remarks? Gibbs asked.
I followed up: if the congressional Republicans say stuff they don't believe, how can the White House work with them on health care reform? With Thursday's health care summit in mind, Gibbs answered, "because the president will be in the room"—meaning that should the Republicans fiddle with the facts at this gathering, Obama will be ready to call them out. By the way, the summit will be open to live television coverage.
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