Jack Welch Is Being Dishonest: Opinion

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Jack Welch's response to the criticism leveled at him for accusing President Obama of manipulating federal employment data for political gain is simply ridiculous.

Sorry to revisit an issue I raised here last week, but Welch's response to the criticism he wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed demands further scrutiny because he is trying to avoid the real issue here.

My criticism of Welch is not that he questioned the accuracy of the latest round of federal employment data. After all, there is always a torrent of analysis that spills forth after the politically consequential federal employment data is released, dissecting the numbers and questioning their validity every month -- and that's great. Government data deserves critical scrutiny, obviously -- just as the financial statements issued by companies like, say, General Electric ( GE) deserve scrutiny.

But Welch wasn't just questioning the accuracy of the data. Let's recall what he wrote in his tweet: "Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can't debate so change the numbers."

The clear suggestion that the former GE CEO is making here is that President Obama and his team are a bunch of Chicago gangsters -- like Al Capone, I guess -- who resorted to somehow manipulating the federal employment data in an attempt to make up for the political damage they suffered after Obama's weak performance in the first presidential debate.

So, rather than shed light on the underlying realities of the employment crisis that is plaguing the nation or add to the policy debates that are raging in this political season, this former leader of one of the country's leading companies takes a cheap swipe at one of the greatest cities in the U.S. and seeks to delegitimize Obama by suggesting corruption and fraud.

I think that's a pathetic and childish thing for someone who is supposed to be a leader in our country to be doing -- especially at a time like this. It demonstrates a lack of character and class that is becoming all too common among the people in our society, like Welch, who are supposed to be setting an example that people can look up to and admire.

But the criticism that came from me and others, in the eyes of Jack Welch, is tyranny: "Imagine a country where challenging the ruling authorities -- questioning, say, a piece of data released by central headquarters -- would result in mobs of administration sympathizers claiming you should feel 'embarrassed' and labeling you a fool, or worse. Soviet Russia perhaps? Communist China?"

Cue the violins.

Let's get real for a minute here: Jack Welch is not a victim. He is an extremely well-connected, widely-admired guy who not long ago made a large fortune running one of the most powerful institutions in the U.S. and even the world.

The fact that he is so quick to play the victim card and pretend that his freedoms are somehow being curtailed in any way because many people happen to think that he said a very stupid thing in a very public forum is absolutely ludicrous.

Welch goes on to make a case in his op-ed that the federal government's employment data are flawed, a well-known truth that few people would dispute and that happens to be completely irrelevant to the criticism that is being leveled at him.

Finally, he admits that his tweet was "incendiary" (indeed, it was), but he doesn't say anything about why (a topic that he would clearly like to avoid). He goes on to add that if he could tweet it all over again, he would add some question marks after it, because that would "make it clear I was raising a question."

Wow, that's real big of you, Jack. Thanks for clarifying.

But wait, this great American business hero isn't done. He saved his smoking gun for last: Austan Goolsbee, the former chairman of the Obama administration's Council of Economic Advisors, once questioned the accuracy of the government employment data during the Bush presidency and he was not subjected to any widespread criticism. No fair! That's a double standard!

Or is it? Goolsbee's piece -- partisan hackery though it may well be--examined the methodology behind the data and argued that the unemployment rate was being understated. Commentary like that is literally all over the place all the time, and it's completely unremarkable -- much of it is probably accurate. Goolsbee, however, never made any claim that President Bush and his Texas political team were manipulating the data for political gain, which is specifically what Welch did in his tweet in no uncertain terms.

Maybe someday he'll defend what he actually wrote.

At the time of publication the author had a position in GE.

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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