When House Speaker John Boehner walked out of the negotiations last week, he said the president had “moved the goalposts,” by insisting on raising taxes more than they had originally agreed. The president denied this–but can anyone doubt that it was Boehner who was telling the truth? It’s not that Boehner—or any politician—is going to win a prize for perfect honesty, but President Obama is at another level of word-to-action disconnection altogether. He seems to feel it completely within his right to say anything—absolutely anything at all—and then go on with his plans with no regard whatsoever for what he said.
During Hillary Clinton’s losing nomination fight against Obama, the Clinton camp famously charged that while Obama’s speeches were impressive, his record was virtually non-existent. “When all is said and done, words aren’t action. They are just words,” the Clintonistas said.
Barack Obama responded with a rousing speech in which he cited some of the great, inspiring phrases of American history: “All men are created equal,” “I have a dream,” and so on. After each phrase he then asked, “Just words?” That speech, plagiarized shamelessly from Masschusetts Governor Deval Patrick, was even more shameless in what it left out: the men who spoke and wrote all those inspiring phrases of the past actually lived out their meanings at the risk of their careers, their honor and sometimes their lives.
Mr. Obama doesn’t seem to care what his words mean, only how they sound, only what they get him. The answer, then, is yes, when this president speaks, it really is just words.
UPDATE: Obama Debt Talk – First Thoughts