Not once. Not twice. But thrice was the number of times that President Obama's senior adviser refused to answer the question as to whether this country is now better off than four years ago. Perhaps Plouffe thought he would get all softball questions from the host of ABC's This Week Week With George Stephanopoulos who normally carries the water for Obama. In any case, as you can see from the transcript and video below the fold, Stephanopoulos gives Plouffe three opportunities to answer the question which he dares not do.
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MITT ROMNEY: This president can ask us to be patient, this president can tell us it was someone else's fault, this president can tell us that the next four years he'll get it right. But this cannot tell us that you're better off today than when he took office.
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GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Is he right, can the president argue unequivocally that Americans are better off today than they were four years ago?
DAVID PLOUFFE: Listen, George, I think the American people understand that we got into a terrible economic situation, a recession, only that the Great Depression -- the only thing the country has ever seen like it. So they know we had a deep hole. It took us a long time to get into that hole, it's going to take a long time to out of it.
First of all, Governor Romney is offering the same, exactly policies that led to the recession in the first place.
One thing they didn't do last week in Tampa is explain how huge taxes for wealthy, cutting back regulations on Wall Street is going to lead to economic growth or help the middle class, because the answer is, it's not.
So what we're going to lay out this week, is we're going to explain to the American people and the middle class of this country, how we're going to continue to recover, but do more than just recover from the recession, to build an economy from the middle out. What Mitt Romney is going to offer America is top-down, trickle-down fairy dust. It didn't work then, it's not going to work now. And I don't think he advanced the ball last week, in convincing people, particularly the middle class in this country, that he would be a president that has them every day in mind as he's making decisions.
Notice what's very conspicuously missing above? A direct answer from David Plouffe as to whether we are better off now than four years ago. Undaunted, Stephanopoulos gives it another try:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes or no, are Americans better off today than they were four years ago?
PLOUFFE: Listen, George, they did a good job of reciting all the statistics that everyone is familiar with. I think everybody understands we were this close to a great depression we staved that off. We're beginning to recover. We have a lot more work to do. We need to grow jobs more quickly, we need to grow middle-class incomes more quickly.
But the question for American people, is which path are we going to take? If we take Mitt Romney's path, economists have looked at this, the recovery would slow down, we wouldn't produce jobs. He would give huge tax cuts to people like himself and send a bill to the middle class and seniors.
So, the question is we're going to be far worse off if Mitt Romney is elected president. And he gets a chance to enact the same economic policies that created the mess in the first place.
Stephanopoulos gives it one last try but, as you can see, the third time in this case is definitely not the charm:
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, it sounds like, a year ago, the president told me, I don't think Americans are better off than they were four years ago. You still can't say yes?
PLOUFFE: Well, we clearly improved from the depths of the recession. We were losing 800,000 a month, we're now gaining them. The unemployment rate was around 10, it's come down. We're beginning to see a manufacturing sector emerge, one of the great, bright spots right now is we're adding manufacturing jobs. The American automotive industry was close to extinction. Mitt Romney would have let it go away, by the way. We wouldn't have an automotive industry if he was president. President Obama secured that. We are beginning to really make advances in alternative energy in things like batteries.
So we have made a lot of progress from the depths of recession. We have a lot more work to do. And that's the question we're going to lay out for the American people is the Romney path would be the wrong path for the middle class, the wrong path for this country. We have got to continue to recover not just from the recession, but again how do we build an economy from the middle out so that we have an economy, a tax policy all centered on on how do we make the middle class more secure in this country?
It will be interesting to see if, at the debates, Obama is asked this same question. After all, he did admit a year ago to Stephanopoulos that we weren't better off than four years ago. If he now answers in the affirmative then what has changed in the past year? Or perhaps he will perform the David Plouffe tap dance in response to the question.