Thursday, March 26, 2009

Salter calls President 'Artfully Dishonest'

At his press conference Tuesday, President Obama was his usual assured and nimble self. He is one of the most graceful and appealing political communicators to appear on the national stage in my lifetime. He is, also, one of the more artfully dishonest ones.

He used a question about the uncertain prospects for a resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to emphasize his persistence. According to the President, he professes a “whole philosophy of persistence,” and he cited several of his initiatives in which he calmly adhered to that philosophy while impatient critics carped about their lack of immediate success. Among the examples, this:

“When it comes to Iran . . . we did a video, sending a message to the Iranian people and the leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran. And some people said, well, they did not immediately say that they we’re eliminating nuclear weapons and stop funding terrorism.”

Now, there are certainly critics of the President’s approach to Iran who worry it is based more on wishful thinking than the hard headed realism he promised to restore to America’s foreign policy. And some of those might have seen his videotaped Nowruz greetings to Iran as evidence of his naiveté. But to the best of my knowledge not even his most outspoken and implacable detractors insisted it produce Iran’s immediate disarmament and a cessation of its support for terrorists.

Nor has anyone criticized the President because he has not “immediately eliminated the influence of lobbyists in Washington.” No one of adult judgment would believe such a Utopian achievement were possible in the near or long term without first suspending the First Amendment. The President was criticized for promising repeatedly that his administration would not permit officials who previously were lobbyists to work on issues they once lobbied on, and then immediately proceeded to allow several former lobbyists to do so. Nor has he been criticized because he has “not immediately eliminated wasteful pork projects.” He has been criticized because he accepted without resistance an omnibus spending bill that was loaded with earmarks.

We had an indication of how the President favors this kind of straw man during debate over the stimulus bill, when he denounced Republicans who balked at the price tag or felt it wasn’t sufficiently stimulative as advocates of doing nothing in the midst of a global recession. Yet, Republicans opposed to the bill offered an alternative that was different in size and kind, but was, arguably, more stimulative and responsible than the bill the President supported.

He also likes to dismiss his opposition as biters of the hand of bipartisanship he has generously offered them. Yet, he declined to pursue genuine bipartisan compromise on the stimulus bill because it was needed so urgently he couldn’t spare the time to negotiate seriously. He ignored Republican concerns about earmarks in the omnibus bill because it was last year’s unfinished business. And he threatens to circumvent the traditional supermajority needed to pass major legislation in the Senate, and the bipartisan negotiations it requires, by putting the most sweeping, expensive and controversial policies proposed in his budget submission into budget reconciliation, which requires a simple majority of 51 votes to pass. His excuse: Republicans had similarly abused the process to pass the Bush tax cuts.

Perhaps, the President is a persistent man because, when it comes to this kind of disingenuousness at least, persistence pays off. Few in the press have been stirred to point out the many obvious discrepancies between the President’s declarations of his intentions and the reality of his actions anymore than they were inclined to do so during the campaign. He gets away with it. And it runs counter to the deepest instinct of most politicians to cease prevaricating when there is no penalty for continuing to do so.

When Ed Henry of CNN asked the President why he waited two days to express his outrage over the AIG bonuses, the President dismissively responded, “because I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak.” I doubt there was a single reporter in the East Room that night who believed the President’s explanation for his delayed reaction. They knew the administration had been surprised by the fierceness of the public’s reaction, and belatedly raced to catch up to it.

But there was nary a hint of skepticism offered. They all laughed in appreciation of the surefooted artfulness of the President’s putdown, no doubt offering him further assurance that when it comes to employing straw men and red herrings and other deceptions to promote policies that might very well bankrupt the United States, he would be smart to remain a persistent man.


Larry said...

How long will President Obama receive these passes from the media? I fear that it will be too late once the MSNBCs and the CNNs of the world (& subsequently their viewers that make up a LARGE contingent of Obama supporters) open their eyes and see this Administration's deliberate "back-turn" on its campaign promises. Such “dishonesty” during these uncertain times may very well lead us even further down the rocky and treacherous path we’re currently navigating. As far as I am concerned, the 2010 elections cannot come fast enough!

Terry said...

Another piece of flat-out dishonesty from that press conference: He claimed "blue-chip forecasters" agreed with the economic assumptions underlying his budget. They strenuously disagree.

Anonymous said...

What's really dishonest is the programmed talking point of the Democrats any time they are asked about spending or deficits. "Perhaps Republicans have a short memory given they handed huge deficits to us." Mr. President, first, that's hardly a rationale for exponentially expanding that debt. And, second, there's a reason why Bush and the Republicans are no longer in power.

Cognac said...

What's really dishonest are these "fireside evening chats" taking up our 8pm prime time tv slots merely to try to sell the American people a bill of goods. If the budget & these ideas of Obama are so good, the bandwagon would jump by itself, not need an hour in prime time to sell it. IN addition, NOTHING FUNDAMENTAL HAS CHANGED IN THE COMPANIES LISTED ON THE NYSE IN TERMS OF EARNINGS OR PRODUCTION OR SALES, SO THIS WHOLE LITTLE MARKET BOOST IS ONCE AGAIN NOT BASED ON FUNDAMENTALS SO DON'T GET SUCKED IN MY HIS SCHPIEL.

ScreaminArmenian said...

Obama keeps using the word "invest" when referring to bloating budgets for entitlements and infrastructure. Where exactly where the return on investment be if these expensive new programs are not sustained? And when they are discontinued, I'm sure the resistance will be based the argument that Republicans are cutting jobs.

Julianne said...

Very well said, Mr. Salter. Thank you for binging to light the Administration's dishonesty.

Anonymous said...

A little off topic, but to echo Screamin's note of language... Why is it that elected officials insist on calling taxes "revenue?" I like to think of revenue as something that I earned. Taxes aren't earned, they're taken.

Anonymous said...

I think he needs more media attention. Just dont seem to get enough of that POTUS. NOT!!
Nice job Mr. Salter.

John Kalitka said...

Some in the media seem to have begun challenging the President on certain inconsistencies between his campaign rhetoric and performance of official duties. But until the media dispenses with its near-uniform idolatry of President Obama and his empty “hope and change” speech-making, Mr. Salter’s point about the payoff is exactly right.

Nonetheless, “[n]o man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be true.” So wrote author and Democrat Nathaniel Hawthorne in the nineteenth century. There’s a certain truth to this sentiment, and I’m certain our President’s practiced prevarications will catch up to him someday. We should all hope that day comes very soon.

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