Well, at Least the State of the Union Address Was Televised on C-SPAN

Yesterday I noted that President Obama, in an interview with ABC news anchor Diane Sawyer, had acknowledged his failure to deliver on his oft-repeated promise to televise health care negotiations on C-SPAN. "It's my responsibility," he said, "and I'll be speaking to this at the State of the Union, to own up to the fact that the process didn't run the way I ideally would like it to and that we have to move forward in a way that recaptures that sense of opening things up more." So how did he address the transparency issue in last night's speech? There was this, referring to the health care debate:

This is a complex issue, and the longer it was debated, the more skeptical people became. I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people. And I know that with all the lobbying and horse trading, the process left most Americans wondering, "What's in it for me?"

Obama did not acknowledge that the public's suspicion may have been magnified by his failure to do what he promised to do: make the process fully transparent, so that everyone knew what was going on before Congress voted on the final legislation. Instead, as usual, there was a sense that our elected representatives were deciding our fates behind closed doors, the better to facilitate all that "lobbying and horse trading." The C-SPAN coverage that did not happen (that was in fact blocked by the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate, with nary a protest from the president) was symbolic of this failure. Last night Obama was even less forthright in accepting responsibility for the lack of transparency than he was in the interview with Sawyer, saying only that he should have explained things more clearly, as if the problem could have been solved with a really good Powerpoint presentation.

Later in the speech he bemoaned "a deficit of trust—deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years." He blamed this deficit mainly on "the outsized influence of lobbyists" and condemned the Supreme Court for making them more powerful by overturning restrictions on political speech by corporations. He urged Congress to "pass a bill that helps to correct some of these problems"—a pointless exercise if by that he meant reinstating the sort of speech restrictions that the Court said cannot be reconciled with the First Amendment. In addition to lobbyists, Obama blamed CEOs who earn higher salaries than he thinks they should, reckless bankers, TV pundits who "reduce serious debates to silly arguments," and politicians who "tear each other down instead of lifting this country up."

Hmmm. Is anyone missing from this list? How about a president who during his first year in office broke a series of conspicuous promises, including not just the one about televising health care negotiations but also the one about changing the way business is done in Washington by reducing the influence of lobbyists, the one about "fiscal responsibility," the one about not raising taxes on households earning less than $250,000 a year, the one about taking a more modest view of executive power and the "state secrets" privilege, the one about closing Guantanamo by this month, the one about ending raids on medical marijuana providers, the one about allowing five days of public review before signing bills, the one about cutting earmarks to 1994 levels, and even the one about recognizing the Armenian genocide. PolitiFact.com counts 15 broken promises so far, and its standards are conservative. In addition to the clearly broken promises, there are the positions (not quite promises) from which Obama has retreated, such as his opposition to an individual health insurance mandate and the Defense of Marriage Act.

I hope that Obama will not think I am simply trying to tear him down (instead of lifting this country up), or that I am reducing serious debates to silly arguments, when I suggest that a president who breaks so many big and small promises, who generally does not own up to doing so, who persistently misportrays the arguments of his opponents, and who misrepresents his own policies may bear at least a little of the blame for the "deficit of trust."

More on Obama's broken promises here.

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  • Buzz Saw||

    Obama’s Secret Edu-Judges
    Fifty-eight unknown reviewers will handle state applications for Race to the Top funds.

    Late last week, word leaked out that the Obama administration has selected the 58 reviewers for state applications to its $4.35 billion Race to the Top (RTT) fund — and has no intention of revealing their names. It appears that the “disinterested superstars” that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan promised last September will remain hidden until after the RTT winners are announced in April. This despite the president’s commitment to “unprecedented transparency” and RTT chief Joanne Weiss’s pledge that the program would feature an “unprecedented level of transparency.”

    Showing off chops he might have learned in the Clinton White House, Democratic education heavyweight Andy Rotherham has tried to square this circle with the novel argument that “‘transparent’ is not synonymous with ‘contemporaneous.’ In other words, a process can be transparent while it is going on, or it can be transparent after the fact.” This is the old “it depends what the meaning of ‘is’ is” defense.

    http://article.nationalreview......ick-m-hess

  • ||

    Nothing is ever Obama's fault. No one ever has a sincere disagreement with him. Anyone who doesn't fall at his feet is just being petty and negative and engaging in game playing. What an awful horrible little man he is.

  • ||

    Also, racist.

  • IceTrey||

    This guy is literally all talk.

  • ||

    Great piece. Now I will demean it by limply linking to it on Facebook.

    Only soapbox I've got.

  • Dan||

    I am simply agog at how feverishly supportive certain media personalities are of Obama, even when he contravenes every single one of their principles. I'm not interested in beating up on Andrew Sullivan, but try reading his posts -- they are positively evangelical and borderline ridiculous. And such tolerance for broken promises in Obama, something which is not extended to his opponents. I find it alarming, really.

  • ||

    He is all they have. If they admitted that he was a fraud, they would have to admit they were dupes for supporting him. It is like the people who never admitted the Rosenbergs were guilty. They invested so much of their personal identity, self esteem and credibilty in the idea that the Rosenbergs were framed, that they could never bring themselves to admit they were wrong no matter how bizzare their defenses became. The same kind of thing is occurring here.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    They invested so much of their personal identity, self esteem and credibilty in the idea that the Rosenbergs were framed, that they could never bring themselves to admit they were wrong no matter how bizzare their defenses became.


    It is possible that the Rosenbergs were framed even though they are guilty.

  • ||

    Sorry, but when the KGB files were opened up after the fall of communism in the USSR, it turns out that, yes, the Rosenbergs really were soviet spies.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    Think No Way Out.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093640/

  • ||

    That's a thought - got to the right answer, but the wrong methods were used. So the people who thought they were framed were right, but so were the people who thought they were guilty!

  • Jeff Perren||

    It's deeper than that. He's a Progressive, they're Progressives. The lifelong lust to control the choices of others trumps every other consideration for such people and, as you indicate, he is their best bet, finally come to power.

  • Billy!||

    He was the same with Bush for a while, between 9/11 and a few months into Iraq. It ain't nothing new.

  • Johnny Longtorso||

    Sullivan is just setting himself for epic disappointment. It will be soooo much fun to watch the meltdown.

  • ||

    No, no, y'all have it wrong. When Obama said he was going to be "transparent" he meant it in this sense: "Computers. (of a process or software) operating in such a way as to not be perceived by users."

  • Rich||

    +1

    Obamaese ...

  • ||

    OBAMAL: Obfuscating Bullshit-Adapting MArkup Language.

  • ||

    RETARDED: That acronym is retarded.

  • ||

    Seems pretty good to me. Shall we caucus the commentertariat?

  • ||

    You certainly have my agreement on your acronym; but I'm sure we can up with something for "abysmal", as apt as it is to this administration.

  • ||

    OBSYML?

  • ||

    Sorry, OBYSML?

  • ||

    the one about not raising taxes on households earning less than $250,000 a year,

    Did you notice in the speech he made a big point that he hasn't raised income taxes on people making less than $250K?

    As if that meant he had met his promise, or something.

  • Rich||

    Yeah, I'm surprised that one didn't get more reaction from the audience, which *did* pick up on "we've excluded lobbyists from policymaking jobs, or seats on federal boards and commissions".

  • Old Mexican||

    [...]and condemned the Supreme Court for making them more powerful by overturning restrictions on political speech by corporations. He urged Congress to "pass a bill that helps to correct some of these problems" — a pointless exercise if by that he meant reinstating the sort of speech restrictions that the Court said cannot be reconciled with the First Amendment.

    But he's supposed to be this great Constitutional genius - he would not have missed that little detail! Right?

  • ¢||

    I am simply agog at how feverishly supportive certain media personalities are of Obama, even when he contravenes every single one of their principles.

    Their only principle is "He's one of us, not one of you people." It doesn't matter what he does, so long as he maintains an exchange of signals of trust—verbal class markers, mostly.

    Obama wrote about their ("white people's") side of that exchange with him surprisingly insightfully, back when he was nobody. He doesn't know what he's doing, though. His speech writers don't, either. They're just talking to themselves (including the media) through his mouth.

    It's creepy.

  • Tman||

    I think what's the most disingenuous aspect of Obama's reaction to public disapproval of health care reform (among others) is that he believes that we just simply haven't heard what he means.

    But he's even lying about that. He knows that we've heard what he has to say about it. He's been on the damn TV almost every day for the last two years. No one could have possibly made more speeches or tried to explain his point -"Let me be clear"- more often than he has.

    What he's lying is about is that he knows that we've heard him. And he knows that the majority of us aren't interested in buying what he's selling. He just thinks that if he says it enough times we'll agree with him.

    I'm not sure how long he can keep this up before people just stop listening altogether.

  • Buzz Saw||

    "I think what's the most disingenuous aspect of Obama's reaction to public disapproval of health care reform (among others) is that he believes that we just simply haven't heard what he means."

    I was married to a bitch like that. If my opinion differed from hers, it simply meant that I didn't understand the truth yet.

  • ||

    You, too ?

  • Hank||

    Nightmare.

  • Hank||

    Embarrassment.

  • ed||

    Mr. Obama, to this point, hasn't soiled his dainty hands with the vile sausage-making. He's above all that. This haughty distance insulates him from blame. He has his list of scapegoats, and it's always someone else's fault when his grand schemes get bungled and abused by the lesser humans. We ingrates don't deserve him.

  • Sit boy sit||

    It meant that she had not successfully trained you enough to listen to the truth.

  • Rich||

    But if anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors, and stop insurance company abuses, let me know. (Applause.) Let me know. Let me know. (Applause.) I'm eager to see it.

    However, if you're not a republicrat -- meh.

    PARTYIST!!

  • ||

    If there is a deficit of trust, it is because there is a deficit of trustworthiness.

  • Matt Welch||

    That's a good line; I think I'll steal it in my next radio interview.

  • ||

    Beautiful snark, Mr. Sullum.

  • ||

    ...a mouthed "not true" is not nearly as dramatic as "you lie". One misses the spontaneous street theatre, so to speak. After all, the Congress used to be far more bumptious and aggressively posturing - and that was before Al Gore's father bought his election to the Senate!

  • ||

    In more innocent times, Chuck Schumer would have beaten Alito senseless with his rainbow whistle after that impudent head-shaking.

  • ||

    a really good Powerpoint presentation.

    You'll find a chartreuse unicorn before you find one of those.

  • ||

    "John|1.28.10 @ 1:26PM|#
    Nothing is ever Obama's fault. No one ever has a sincere disagreement with him. Anyone who doesn't fall at his feet is just being petty and negative and engaging in game playing."

    Right. But this is the near definition of a delusional narcissist. He is perfect by design, never responsible for or to anything. His own failures are someone else's. His mere presence is sufficient to cure all ills, to wow all observers. Folks, you put a psychologically impaired man into the most powerful job in the world. And he IS deluded, self-important, arrogant, and dangerous. Nice job. Guess worshipping a pop star is your bellweather for all things.....

  • Jeff Perren||

    Obama decided this time around to skip the SOTU Address and give instead the STFU Address

    "He told the American people in essence to stfu, that everything he's been doing the past year is the right thing, and then some, and that anybody who disagrees is an obstructionist, opposed to what's best for Americans."

  • ||

    My Strange SOTU Dream:

    My Fellow Americans--
    I fucked up.
    I was elected by a broad coalition of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents based on hopes which I dashed. Some members of my party uncorrectly interpreted my election as a ‘turn to left’ when in reality it was more a repudiation of my predecessor.
    I promised to bring change to Washington. Instead, I have basically continued the policies of my predecessor whether it be the wars, the economy, Guantanamo, openness in government, bipartisanship, or individual freedom.
    I was given immense political capital, much of which I squandered on a useless stimulus package leaving me without enough to pass a fatally flawed health-care bill.
    Instead of being the leader I was during the campaign, I abdicated my leadership to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid with disastorous results for our country. I allowed them to attempt to demonize the Republicans instead of coercing them to work together for the betterment of the country.
    I encouraged bailing out businesses that were ‘too big to fail’ instead of allowing the market to work as it was designed. I did not hold Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae accountable for their roles in the recent economic decline. I have meddled too much in the business or banks and automobile manufacturers.
    My administration and I have often blamed the previous administration for the difficulties that our country faces. While it is true that I inherited quite a mess, everyone in my administration volunteered to take the jobs they now have and was responsible to know what they were getting into when they volunteered. With that in mind, we will no longer blame previous administrators for our current problems and will encourage other members of our party to follow our example.
    I could go on enumerating the errors my administration and I have made during the first year but it is time for you to go to work...

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