POLITICS

Carney: Obama's sleight-of-hand goes to convention

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Photo - President Barack Obama waves as he arrives in Kenner, La., on Monday. (AP Photo)
President Barack Obama waves as he arrives in Kenner, La., on Monday. (AP Photo)
Politics,Timothy P. Carney,Campaign 2012

Democrats need to convince America this week that President Obama has fulfilled his promises. To do this, of course, they have to mislead America – just as Obama and his campaign aides have relied on conjurer’s tricks for four years.

Obama’s pattern is this: Make a promise; break the promise; insist that you’ve kept the promise, and hope the press gives you a free pass. When called out, resort to absurd word parsing. This is how Obama campaigns, and it is how he governs.

Candidate Obama said lobbyists wouldn’t work in his administration or fund his campaign. But about 60 registered lobbyists landed senior jobs in his administration, including a Goldman Sachs lobbyist as Treasury Department chief of staff.

Still, in his 2010 State of the Union address, Obama said, “we’ve excluded lobbyists from policymaking jobs.” When I pressed the White House on this, it defended the claim, writing: “As the President said we have turned away lobbyists for many, many positions.”

This sleight of hand is not a one-off. Obama does it over and over.

 “I had a chance to meet a young man named Robert Baroz,” the President said in October 2007, speaking of a public-school teacher. “In the last few years, he’s received three pink slips….”

A reasonable person would assume (1) Obama met Baroz and (2) Baroz was fired. But Obama never met Baroz – he merely “had a chance to meet” him. Baroz also was never fired -- even though he received pink slips, he was able to hang onto his job.

Again, there’s often a true interpretation of the President’s words, but there’s no doubt that his words are chosen carefully so as to mislead.

Do you remember the first days of Obama’s Libya intervention? His administration spoke of “over 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from both U.S. and British ships and submarines.” Only later did we learn it was more than 110 U.S. missiles and 2 British missiles.

The administration misled the public constantly in those days, claiming Obama’s unauthorized intervention wasn’t “a military attack,” promising an “exit strategy … within a week,” and falsely saying, “we didn’t lead this.”

Consider the President’s pronouncements on taxes. Surely you recall his famous campaign promise “If you make less than $250,000 a year, you will not see any of your taxes increase one single dime.” Well, after creating a tobacco tax and a tanning tax, prohibiting deductions for over-the-counter medications, and imposing the individual-mandate tax – all of which apply to people earning well under $250,000 – Obama had the chutzpah to tell Bill O’Reilly, “I haven’t raised taxes once.”

Last fall, Obama called his temporary $400-dollar-a-head “Making Work Pay” tax credit “the biggest middle-class tax cut in history.” But George W. Bush’s and John F. Kennedy’s tax cuts were bigger in terms of both dollars and percentage of tax burden.

So how could Obama claim his cut was “the biggest middle-class tax cut?” Because it applied to more people – specifically, those with no income-tax liability. Again, his word “biggest” can only be taken as an attempt to mislead.

How ironic to think the George H. W. Bush lost re-election because of his read-my-lips pledge. He broke his promise, all right, but he wasn’t shrewd enough, or shameless enough, to hide behind speciously parsed words.

Obama’s campaign proxies have been fonts of fabrication. “We didn't accept one single dollar from Washington lobbyists,” campaign manager Jim Messina wrote in a typical fundraising email in 2011. But look through Obama’s donor rolls and bundler lists, and you’ll see titles like Vice Presidents for Government Affairs (including some who routinely lobby the White House), and at least one “Vice President of Federal Lobbying.” Men who own lobbying firms give to Obama’s campaign, as do the stay-at-home-wives of registered lobbyists. Registered lobbyists at the state level give to Obama. One “government relations” firm gave the maximum contribution to Obama just four months after deregistering as a lobbying firm.

All of the above donors meet the colloquial definition of “lobbyist” and federal laws restricting lobbyist gifts cover most of those donors. But they don’t match the Obama campaign’s definition of “lobbyist” because they are not currently registered as such with the federal government – a near-meaningless distinction because the Obama administration has never enforced the registration requirements.

Ironically, Obama’s campaign operatives have done a great job in the past week convincing the media to cover any spin or inaccuracies from Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, as if shading the facts in their favor is the core of the Republicans’ campaign.

Meanwhile, Obama has mostly gotten away with his false and misleading claims for four years. Let’s see if he can keep it up over the next four days.

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