One way of reinventing reality is to warp the meaning of words. No president in memory has waged such a war on the English language as has Barack Obama -- changing the meaning of vocabulary to hide what he fears might otherwise be unpopular.
Take executive orders. He brags that he does not issue them as commonly as his predecessors, but that is only true because Obama has now renamed some of his executive orders presidential “memoranda.” Add up both categories, and no president in the last half-century has so frequently bypassed Congress to unilaterally make new or ignore existing laws.
If Obama suddenly does not get his legislative way after losing the Congress, and boasts in defiance about his plans to act unilaterally (“I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone”), then why the need to hide that brag with linguistic gymnastics?
When Obama faced reelections, he pointed to increased deportations. But that claim hinged on changing the meaning of deportee. All of a sudden, illegal aliens who were stopped and turned away right at the border count as deportees. By changing the meaning of words, Obama believed that he could reinvent the reality of open borders into tough border enforcement.
But then again, when he found it useful to brag of open borders, suddenly he pointed to lower deportations, as the vocabulary once again readjusted its meaning.
On another front, Obama simply makes up names that imply the opposite of reality. The Affordable Care Act was hardly affordable. Obama knew that he could not save the American family the promised $2,500 in premiums, or reduce deductibles, or lower the deficit through health care reform. Instead, insurance policy premiums have gone up, plans and doctors have been dropped, and deductibles have soared. According to Jonathan Gruber, these known downsides of Obamacare had to be disguised from the supposedly “stupid” American people.
In the world of the Obama administration, Bowe Bergdahl, the deserter who was exchanged for four terrorists held at Guantanamo, did not, as National Security Advisor Susan Rice insisted, serve “with honor and distinction.” Instead, he abandoned his fellow soldiers at the front, and walked over to find the enemy Taliban. Traitor, like the word jihadist, has been excised from the Obama vocabulary.
There seems to be no global Islamic terrorist culpability behind the murdering of innocents worldwide. If the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban blow up school children in Pakistan, if the Tsarnaev brothers claim an Islamic inspiration to kill and maim Americans during the Boston Marathon, if Major Nidal Hasan screams "Allahu Akbar" as he shoots American soldiers, the Obama administration will either ignore the role of radical Islam or construct a circumlocution to mask the fact of Islamic terrorism.
In the latest Sony Corporation debacle, Obama warns us about the dangers of letting foreign nationals like the North Korean hackers censor free expression on American soil. Yet he did not invoke such ethical concern when he blasted -- and later had jailed -- Nakoula Nakoula. The latter was a U.S. resident filmmaker who caricatured Islam in a video and then was falsely blamed by the Obama administration as the culprit for the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi.
Indeed, Obama in that case played the role of North Korea by ensuring that Nakoula’s videos ceased, that radical Islamists were satiated, and that Obama could win multicultural reelection points against supposed illiberal film makers.
We also live in an age of little collective memory that prevents us from identifying reality. Guantanamo was promised to be closed, and so it is -- sort of. Obama reiterates before critical elections that he has no powers to grant blanket amnesties; to do so without congressional action would be the work of a dictator or emperor, he warns his supporters. But then he does just that when there are no more elections, and suddenly he is neither a dictator nor emperor. Our only guide to his mendacity is the occasional emphatic, like “no kidding,” “in truth,” “make no mistake about,” “let me be perfectly clear,” which serves as an unconscious verbal tic of the untruth to follow.
We are supposed to believe that Obama’s opposition to fracking, horizontal drilling, and the Keystone pipeline has somehow led to lower gas prices. Do we forget that he is on record that he favored higher electricity rates, while his former energy secretary dreamed of European-style gas prices? How strange is the Obama principle: "I will brag about the results of how my failed efforts did not stop something I opposed.” Or perhaps, “All fracking and horizontal drilling are bad, except when they revive my moribund economy.”
The list of Obama-era fantasies is endless. Turkey is a special partner that offers a democratic Islamic alternative to the usual Middle East mess. Sanctions should be considered against Israel, but withdrawn from Cuba and Iran. Reset with Russia tamed Putin, who worked with us to corral the Assad government in Syria. ISIS is a jayvee organization. Iran is seriously discussing quitting the nuclear acquisition business. China is now a fellow advocate of reducing global warming. Young black men are in mortal danger from the police, as opposed to other young black men. There is not a smidgeon of corruption at the IRS. We live in a world in which Obamacare is an affordable act and terrorist murder on a military base is workplace violence. If rape does not take place at the University of Virginia fraternity, it could have; and if Michael Brown was not shot with his hands up, screaming, “don’t shoot,” in theory he certainly might have been.
The use of language to distort reality, the fables, and the contorted logic all result from a central fact: the way in which Obama and his cohort wish to fundamentally transform America is not where the majority of Americans wish to end up. Given that fact, Obama must find fantasies to mask reality -- and do so by any means necessary.