It Depends On What the Meaning of "Excluded" Is


Who needs a nap?

In last week's State of the Union address, President Obama declared that his administration has "excluded policymakers* lobbyists from policymaking jobs."

Which is true! Well, it's true except for the 40-plus lobbyists that Washington Examiner columnist Timothy Carney has documented as holding jobs in the administration.

The White House, however, is standing by its claim. Here's Carney:

Did Obama speak falsely?

Well, it depends on what the definition of "excluded lobbyists" is.

I asked the White House if he chose his words poorly, but the media affairs office defended the president's statement: "As the President said," a spokeswoman wrote in an e-mail, "we have turned away lobbyists for many, many positions."

So, the country may have heard, "we haven't hired lobbyists to policymaking jobs," but the White House tells us Obama meant, "we only hired some of the lobbyists who applied for policymaking jobs." In other words, they've excluded some lobbyists.

As Carney notes, "Using Obama's grammar, we can say George W. Bush avoided wars in the Mideast (he didn't invade Iran), and Bush's father refused to raise taxes (repeatedly, for months)."

Not that this should come as much of a surprise. Obama's administration has been a boon to energy lobbyists and the health care industry's Washington advocates. Politifact noted way back in March of 2009—almost immediately after Obama took office—that the president had broken his promise not to hire lobbyists to work on policy. Indeed, at this point, Obama hasn't just broken that promise, he's thrown it to the ground, stomped on it, strapped it with M-80s, and chucked it into a bonfire. But why admit any of this when you have misleading grammatical technicalities at your disposal?

*Correction: I meant to type "lobbyists," but typed "policymakers" instead.