President Obama, like all politicians, typically misleads in his speeches. Two of his worst offenses against the truth have come in his State of the Union addresses.
In fact, they came in the 2010 State of the Union.
Famously, Obama evoked a shake of the head and the words “not true” from Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito in 2010 by misrepresenting what the Citizens United rule did. Obama said:
Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests – including foreign corporations – to spend without limit in our elections. Well I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities.
This was wrong in a few ways. First, the “century of law” claim is false. If Obama was referring to anything, it was the 1907 Tillman Act, which banned corporate contributions to political campaigns. Citizens United did not touch corporate contributions to campaigns — those are still illegal — but instead the ruling struck down rules about corporations exercising political speech separate from a campaign.
And no, foreign corporations are not allowed now to contribute to campaigns nor to make independent expenditures, so that part was false, too — as Justice Alito quietly noted.
‘We have excluded lobbyists’
In the context of addressing the “deficit of trust,” Obama told an outright falsehood: “we’ve excluded lobbyists from policy-making jobs.”
This was not true in any sense.
Obama by that point had hired at least 50 lobbyists to policymaking jobs, including four cabinet members. He even hired a Goldman Sachs lobbyist as Treasury chief of staff.
When I asked the White House how Obama could make that claim, they responded:
“As the President said, we have turned away lobbyists for many, many positions.”
So, yeah, they had excluded some lobbyists.