Trying to curry favor among debt-riddled students during a speech on Tuesday April 24 at the Coors Events Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder, President Obama (shown above at the event) told the campus crowd that a “Republican congesswoman” said she had “very little tolerance for people who tell me they graduate with debt.” In his build-up to the statement, President Obama explicitly said, “I’m quoting her.” After hearing the totally expected “boos” raining down on his report of her words, he challenged the wired group to “Google her or what have you.”
Well, that challenge really isn’t such a good idea. Such an act of Googling (which was made a little tougher because the president neglected to give the name of the congresswoman) reveals that he OMITTED SOME KEY WORDS in his “quoting” of her.
Here’s the exchange, according to a transcript from the Denver Post:
THE PRESIDENT: I want to read a quote. This is from a Republican congresswoman. I didn’t really understand this. (Laughter.) I’m quoting her. She said that she has “very little tolerance for people who tell me they graduate with debt… because there’s no reason for that.” She said, students who rack up student loan debt are just sitting on their butts, having opportunity “dumped in your lap.”
AUDIENCE: Booo —
THE PRESIDENT: You guys can Google her or what have you, but — (laughter) —
The great site factcheck.org points out the misrepresentation of Rep. Virginia Foxx (Republican, North Carolina), who was speaking on the G. Gordon Liddy radio show on April 12. That site gives the quote. It might be better to listen to the recording on YouTube:
This gives a little more context for her statement. Before getting to the statement that the president muddied, she refers to her own college-debt experience. Noting that she and her husband were totally on their own at the time, she says “he” borrowed $1,500 for college, and it took them quite a while to pay it back. Clearly, from the context of her own life and the context of the quote, SOME debt is nearly unavoidable. (And, back when she was in college, $1,500 was a pretty big number.) Removing a couple of “uh’s”, here’s what she said, according to the YouTube clip:
I have very little tolerance for people who tell me that they graduate with $200,000 of debt or even $80,000 of debt because there’s no reason for that. We all, again, we live in an opportunity society and people are forgetting that. I remind folks all the time that the Declaration of Independence says ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ You don’t sit on your butt and have it dumped in your lap.
Now, with that as background, here’s how the president carved it up, with the words he deleted crossed out. He said Foxx said she has:
“very little tolerance for people who tell me that they graduate with
$200,000 of debt or even $80,000 ofdebt because there’s no reason for that.”
Look what he left out. He cut out the very important qualifying words that show Foxx is talking about the students who graduate with INCREDIBLY HIGH debt loads. Many graduate with debt levels far less than $80,000 or $200,000. He then replaced the next 39 words with a paraphrase and stuck on a four-word snippet from the end of her comment. His paraphrase is here:
She said, students who rack up student loan debt are just sitting on their butts, having opportunity “dumped in your lap.”
We grade this an F, but we will not charge any tuition for the lesson.