More on 'President Asterisk'
This morning, Instapundit dipped its cup into the growing current of stories about the lies and lawlessness that have characterized the Obama administration. One story, “Barack Obama and the Politics of Lies,” is from the Washington Examiner and it ought to give anyone, Democrat or Republican, pause. Citing the president’s recent “victory dance” over the (distinctly suspect) statistic that eight million people have signed up for Obamacare, the Examiner noted with some asperity that “a president who is viewed by most Americans as less than honest has no business crowing about a victory that remains anything but obvious.” Moreover, the Examiner continued, the president “certainly should not heap insults on people who for four years have profoundly disagreed with him on the wisdom of Obamacare":
To put this as “less than honest” is to be charitable. What Fox News found in its most recent public opinion survey was that 61 percent of Americans believe Obama “lies” about important public issues either “most of the time” or “some of the time.” No other president in living memory has conducted himself in a manner that warranted even asking if such a description was appropriate.
“No other President in living memory,” indeed. I suspect that the flapping sound that’s emanating in ever more exigent waves from the corridors of power in and around the richest spot in the country — viz Washington, D.C. — is the sound of chickens flying home to roost. The Examiner notes that the president’s defenders have gone into attack mode about that Fox News survey. But consider this:
It was the president, not Fox News, who repeatedly and knowingly misled the American people with two infamous Obamacare lies: “You can keep your health insurance if you like it. Period. You can keep your doctor. Period.” For better or worse, Obama will forever be known as the president who chose repeatedly to propagate two falsehoods. Those two lies were profoundly significant because they were designed to hide the truth about how Obamacare would affect the daily lives and health of hundreds of millions of Americans.
And that, it almost goes without saying, is the very tip of the proverbial iceberg. Barack Obama has been lying — lying, not “mis-stating,” not somehow getting it wrong because he was misinformed, ill-advised, out to lunch — no, he has been lying to the American public since 2009. Here is a little recap of 36 times he promised that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan, period.” It’s less than 3 minutes long. Watch it a couple of times. Then ask yourself — especially if you voted for Barack Obama — ask yourself, was he telling the truth?
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That’s the thing about credibility. Its loss is infectious, corrosive. Lose it here, and you find that you’ve lost it over there as well. The Examiner is quite right, “it has been increasingly difficult for many Americans to continue accepting at face value his statements on other major public issues. In both the Benghazi and IRS scandals, for example, Obama claimed to have known nothing about them until they were reported in the national media.” Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain! (Quoth Dorothy: “If you were really great and powerful, you’d keep your promises.”) Flap, flap, flap: here they come! If it it were true (don’t you love the subjunctive?), if, I say, it were true that Obama was just as ignorant as you or I about what happened in Benghazi or the IRS until the media told him then why the huge cover up? Why, as the Examiner asks, “has the president's attorney general and so many other of his most prominent appointees withheld thousands of documents subpoenaed by Congress and requested by journalists under the Freedom of Information Act? Are there passages in those withheld documents that make it clear Obama knew much more than he has admitted?” What do you think? (While were at it, why can't we see Barack Obama’s Occidental College records? Are there items there that prove he applied to the college as a foreign student, thus committing fraud? What do you think?)
Such questions bring me to the other story Instapundit scooped up this morning, “President Asterisk” in James Taranto’s indispensable “Best of the Web” column in The Wall Street Journal. Taranto begins with an obeisance to Barack Obama’s political prowess. “No one,” Taranto writes, can deny that the president is “a highly skilled politician, at least by the measure of election outcomes. . . . His 2008 presidential victory, after a fraction of a term in the U.S. Senate, was especially dazzling. It disproved those who said that Hillary Clinton was invincible, that a left-wing Democrat couldn't win, and that America wasn't ready for a black president.”
Winning is something. But is it everything? Taranto proceeds: “No one can deny that Lance Armstrong and Mark McGwire were highly skilled athletes. But their accomplishments are forever tainted by their use of banned performance-enhancing drugs. The use of the Internal Revenue Service's coercive power to suppress dissent against Obama is the political equivalent of steroids. The history books should record Obama's re-election with an asterisk to indicate that it was achieved with the help of illicit means.”
We do not yet have a full accounting of those illicit means, but Taranto quotes, via The Weekly Standard, a depressing tidbit from NBC's Lisa Myers, who reported that "the IRS deliberately chose not to reveal that it had wrongly targeted conservative groups until after the 2012 presidential election.” Ponder this:
The IRS commissioner "has known for at least a year that this was going on," said Myers, "and that this had happened. And did he share any of that information with the White House? But even more importantly, Congress is going to ask him, why did you mislead us for an entire year? Members of Congress were saying conservatives are being targeted. What's going on here? The IRS denied it. Then when--after these officials are briefed by the [inspector general] that this is going on, they don't disclose it. In fact, the commissioner sent a letter to Congress in September on this subject and did not reveal this. Imagine if we--if you can--what would have happened if this fact came out in September 2012, in the middle of a presidential election? The terrain would have looked very different."
You can say that again. Taranto comments that “one thing we have learned from the IRS scandal is that sports journalists are morally superior to political journalists. Whereas the former understand that cheating is an assault on the basic integrity of the sport, the latter all too often treat it as if it were just part of the game.” I agree. But it is perhaps worth noting the limits of the analogy between the disgraced sports figures Lance Armstrong and Mark McGwire, on the one hand, and Barack Obama, on the other. At least the illicit methods employed by the athletes really were performance enhancing, whereas Obama’s lawlessness merely got him elected but did nothing for his performance, which has been dismal.
I use to think that Jimmy Carter was the worst president in living memory. Barack Obama has long since carried off that title. It may be the only one he has one legitimately. It is not a distinction most of us would covet. But the asterisk Taranto rightly predicts will be affixed to Obama’s legacy will surely record that grisly fact.