This afternoon President Obama gave a brief statement on the government shutdown, said nothing new, and received a warm collective embrace from the press, who made sure not to ask him about the disastrous ObamaCare rollout. And yet, perhaps out of exhaustion or a case of the second-term blues, Obama managed to accidentally say something worth quoting at the tail end of the Q and A.
The president was asked if he had any regrets about his 2011 budget deal with House Speaker John Boehner, and how the present political dynamics would have to change going forward. In his response, Obama actually touched on a popular critique Republicans have deployed recently, which is Obama’s hypocrisy for his past opposition to raising the debt ceiling, a tactic he and his allies now consider arson and hostage-taking when used by Republicans.
After first saying that he learned from the 2011 standoff that the country cannot come that close to “default” again, the president said this:
And by the way, you know, I often hear people say, well, in the past it’s been dealt with all the time. The truth of the matter is, if you look at the history, people posture about the debt ceiling frequently, but the way the debt ceiling often got passed was, you’d stick the debt ceiling onto a budget negotiation once it was completed because people figured, well, I don’t want to take a bunch of tough votes to cut programs or raise taxes and then also have to take a debt ceiling vote; let me do it all at once.
But it wasn’t a situation in which, you know what, if I don’t get what I want, then I’m going to let us default. That’s what’s changed. And that’s what we learned in 2011.
When Obama opposed raising the debt ceiling, he was just posturing the way people do “frequently.” In other words, when Obama makes a speech on policy he doesn’t actually believe what he’s saying; he just thinks enough of the voters will like his message. Obama is not, Obama says, to be taken literally. They are just words.
Which dovetails perfectly with Victor Davis Hanson’s latest column at PJM on “Obama as Chaos:”
Amid all the charges and countercharges in Washington over the government shutdown, there is at least one common theme: Barack Obama’s various charges always lead to a dead end. They are chaos, and chaos is hard to understand, much less refute.
By that I mean when the president takes up a line of argument against his opponents, it cannot really be taken seriously — not just because it is usually not factual, but also because it always contradicts positions that Obama himself has taken earlier or things he has previously asserted. Whom to believe — Obama 1.0, Obama 2.0, or Obama 3.0?
When the president derides the idea of shutting down the government over the debt ceiling, we almost automatically assume that he himself tried to do just that when as a senator he voted against the Bush administration request in 2006, when the debt was about $6 trillion less than it is now.
When the president blasts the Republicans for trying to subvert the “settled law” of Obamacare, we trust that Obama himself had earlier done precisely that when he unilaterally subverted his own legislation — by quite illegally discarding the employer mandate provision of Obamacare. At least the Republicans tried to revise elements of Obamacare through existing legislative protocols; the president preferred executive fiat to nullify a settled law.
When the president deplores the lack of bipartisanship and the lockstep Republican effort to defund Obamacare, we remember that the president steamrolled the legislation through the Congress without a single Republican vote.
When the president laments the loss of civility and reminds the public that he uses “calm” rhetoric during the impasse, we know he has accused his opponents of being on an “ideological crusade” and of being hostage takers and blackmailers who have “a gun held to the head of the American people,” while his top media adviser Dan Pfeiffer has said that they had “a bomb strapped to their chest.”
When the president insists that the Republican effort to hold up the budget is unprecedented, we automatically deduce that, in fact, the action has many precedents, and on frequent prior occasions was a favored ploy of Democrats to gain leverage over Republican administrations.
In short, whenever the president prefaces a sweeping statement with one of his many emphatics — “make no mistake about it,” “I’m not making this up,” “in point of fact,” “let me be perfectly clear” — we know that the reverse is always true. For Obama, how something is said matters far more than what is said. If he stumbles, as is his wont, through an un-teleprompted remark that on rare occasions can be mostly accurate, that is a serious lapse; if, more frequently, he mellifluously asserts a teleprompted falsehood, there is little worry. The result is not so much untruth, lies, or distortions, as virtual chaos. Is what he says untrue, contradictory of what he said or did earlier, or just nonsensical?
And speaking of the Obama administration stumbling despite friendly press, “Jon Stewart accuses Kathleen Sebelius of lying to him about Obamacare,” in what should have been yet another softball interview for an administration spokeswoman with the self-admitted socialist faux-anchor:
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius likely thought her interview with Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show” Monday night would be an easy setting to pitch the Obamacare exchanges to young people. Instead, she ended up getting accused of being a liar by the popular comedy host.
During his interview with Sebelius, Stewart repeatedly sought an answer from the secretary on why big businesses got a delay in their Obamacare mandate to provide affordable health insurance to their employees, while individuals did not get a delay in their Obamacare mandate making them purchase health care or face a penalty.
In a rare monologue at the end of the show, Stewart said he remained confused and that he suspected that the secretary may have been lying to him.
“I still don’t understand why individuals have to sign up and businesses don’t, because if the businesses — if she’s saying, ‘well, they get a delay because that doesn’t matter anyway because they already give health care,’ then you think to yourself, ‘fuck it, then why do they have to sign up at all,’” he said. “And then I think to myself, ‘well, maybe she’s just lying to me.’”
Hey Rube! “Yes Jon, very good. She lied to you. She’s been lying to you this whole time. They all have. About all of it. You’ve been had,” Jim Treacher writes. “How does that feel?”
We were bummed out for a minute there, Kathleen, until we remembered that 2 + 2 = 5.
Just a week ago, Jon Stewart was shrieking that we should all shut up about Obamacare because it’s the law. And yet last night, Sebelius looked him in the eye and lied about it, and he called her out.
Yes, Jon, very good. She lied to you. She’s been lying to you this whole time. They all have. About all of it. You’ve been had.
How does that feel?
Update: Feels like cognitive dissonance, apparently.
Tonight! How will Obamacare destroy America if they can’t even get the website to work? #ComeOnLetsMakeThisHappenPeople
— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) October 8, 2013
Oh, and speaking of which, is anyone surprised that Obamacare “Personal Data Can Be Used For ‘Law Enforcement and Audit Activities?’” Anyone who supported it, I mean. Or as the ad for the Libertarian Party posited last year:
If you’re going to be “All Socialists Now,” as Newsweek promised at the beginning of 2009, back when it was still controlled by the Washington Post, you might as well go the full Stasi.