Obama lays off the truth

ABC’s Jake Tapper concisely summarizes the give-and-take between President Obama and Caterpillar chief executive officer Jim Owens:

President Obama today repeated the claim we asked about yesterday at the press briefing that Jim Owens, the CEO of Caterpillar, Inc., “said that if Congress passes our plan, this company will be able to rehire some of the folks who were just laid off.”

Caterpillar announced 22,000 layoffs last month.

But after the president left the event, Owens said the exact opposite.

Asked if the stimulus package would be able to stop the 22,000 layoffs or not, Owens said, “I think realistically no. The truth is we’re going to have more layoffs before we start hiring again”

“It is going to take some time before that stimulus bill” means re-hiring, he said.

What’s going on here? Owens brutally stepped on the toes of his White House dance partner yesterday. It can’t have been comfortable for him to do so. As the chief executive officer of a publicly held company, however, he has less freedom and inclination to fudge the facts for political purposes than does the chief executive officer of the United States. Whatever accounts for the botched two-step, Obama and Owens present a striking contrast that tends to belie the current climate of opinion on the relative virtues of politics and business.

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