We haven't even yet reached the summer before the general election and already the cowpie is hitting the fan.
Actually, it was President Obama who on Thursday rhetorically hit Mitt Romney, the all-but-official Republican presidential nominee. Obama went all barnyard on Romney, accusing the former Massachusetts governor of not only lying about his presidential record but Romney's as well. It was, according to those following the president's re-election campaign, his toughest attack yet on Romney.
Obama was at a campaign event at the Iowa state fair grounds in Des Moines. As NPR's Don Gonyea reported on Morning Edition Friday:
DON: "President Obama seemed to enjoy being back out on the stump and needling his opponent."
Here's what Obama told the crowd of supporters:
OBAMA: "I know Gov. Romney came to Des Moines last week. Warned about a prairie fire of debt. That's what he said, prairie fire. But he left out some facts. His speech was like a cowpie of distortion. I don't know whose record he twisted the most, mine or his.
"Now listen, it is true the debt and deficit are serious problems and the depth of the recession added to the debt. A lot more folks were looking for unemployment insurance. A lot fewer folks were paying taxes because they weren't making money. So that added to the debt. Our efforts to prevent it from becoming a Depression, helping the auto industry, making sure that not as many teachers were laid off, all those things added to the debt.
"But what my opponent didn't tell you is that federal spending since I took office, has risen at the slowest pace of any president in almost 60 years. By the way, that generally happens. What happens is the Republicans run up the tab and then, we're sitting there, and they've left the restaurant, then they point and say 'Why'd you order all those steaks and martinis? ' "
The president appeared to be inspired by a widely read MarketWatch column by journalist Rex Nutting this week that made the claim about federal spending on Obama's watch. That column has been criticized for alleged deficiencies by journalistic fact checker Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post. All of this falls under the category of "fun with numbers."
For the purpose of this post, it's enough to note that the dispute over whether the available data support the charge that president Obama has been on a spending binge is now fully engaged.
In her Friday morning email to reporters, Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for the Romney campaign, responded to the president cowpie charge thus:
"Yesterday, in a desperate and transparent attempt to try to distract from his record of failure, President Obama launched even more negative attacks. This time he attacked Gov. Romney for – of all things – having 'the nerve to go around saying that they're somehow going to bring down the deficit.'
"Clearly, President Obama is suffering from a reality deficit on this issue – it's as if he's forgotten that he's been president for nearly four years and has a record to defend.
"A president who broke his promise to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term has no standing when it comes to fiscal responsibility. By the end of this year, President Obama will have presided over a record-shattering four consecutive trillion-dollar deficits and added an historic amount to our national debt. Our children will be footing the bill for his failed policies years from now."