Thursday, April 26, 2012

Did She Really Say That?

I am not sure what can be said about the character of a person who willfully misquotes another person in order to mislead an audience. Is he at heart simply dishonest? A liar? A politician? But I repeat myself. I refer to President Obama paraphrasing the statements of Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) at a speech before college students in Colorado.

He said, “I want to read a quote. This is from a Republican congresswoman. I didn’t really understand this. 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.’”

Did Rep. Virginia Foxx actually say that? The president said he was quoting her, actually said he was reading a quote. Did he think that no one would check out the facts?  Here is what she really said with the words the president chose to edit out or rearrange in italics:

“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 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.”

So, what she really said was that she has little tolerance for people who accrue outrageous amounts of school loan debt. Now, I had some school loan debts when I received my bachelor’s degree in 1973, but most of my college was paid for, not by student loans, but by hard work and sacrifice. It took me a little longer to finish, but I made it. I had no school debt in 1980, when I finished my M.Ed. My daughters had more debt when they graduated than I did. Since graduation, they have almost paid off their loans by hard work and sacrifice. Evenso, none of our student loan debts were anywhere near what Rep. Foxx was talking about, and the president neglected to enumerate in his “quote.”*

Jean Rostand said, “A lie may be less false than a carefully chosen truth.” The only truth in the president’s rendering of Rep. Foxx’s statement is that she said something about student debt; the rest is a lie. The real tragedy here is that most of the college students who cheered the president and booed Rep. Foxx will accept his words as Gospel truth.

*Just a note from National Review Online:
“According to a recent study by the New York Fed, 94 percent of student-loan debtors owe $75,000 or less. (Forty-three percent owe $10,000 or less.) So, Foxx was talking about a very small percentage — 6 percent! — of the student-loan debtor population, not all students. But by omitting that crucial phrase — and Obama did not acknowledge he had omitted any of the quote — the president made Foxx appear to be lambasting all students who graduate with debt, not the small percentage who graduate with $80,000 or more.”     Katrina Trinko

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