Commentary Magazine


Once Is a Mistake, Three Times Is a Habit

President Obama seems to believe there is no downside to playing fast and loose with the facts. On the campaign trail candidates can say all sorts of things, in ads and on the stump, which stretch the truth or abandon it entirely. But the president seems unaware that now every word he utters matters and, if not accurate, can come back to haunt him. Three examples make this clear.

First, Jake Tapper tells us:

President Obama today repeated the claim we asked about yesterday at the press briefing that Jim Owens, the CEO of Caterpillar, Inc., “said that if Congress passes our plan, this company will be able to rehire some of the folks who were just laid off.”

Caterpillar announced 22,000 layoffs last month.

But after the president left the event, Owens said the exact opposite.

Asked if the stimulus package would be able to stop the 22,000 layoffs or not, Owens said, “I think realistically no. The truth is we’re going to have more layoffs before we start hiring again.”

Whoops. It was a small lie in the grand scheme of things, but an unnecessary one nevertheless. He’s going to get his stimulus plan, but his credibility took a hit.

Second, at his Monday presser he told the media that Tim Geithner would provide all the details on the bank bailout the next day. Geithner didn’t have any details on Tuesday or on Wednesday when he went to the Hill. The president’s overpromising, some would say fibbing, that Geithner had it all figured out only raised expectations and contributed to Geithner’s horrible reception. Again, the president seemed to lack an appreciation for how carefully citizens — and markets — hang on his every word.

Third, the president again and again overpromises and underdelivers on bipartisanship. He had no intention of entertaining GOP ideas in the stimulus. Senator Judd Gregg could come into the cabinet, but apparently the Obama team wasn’t much interested in actually hearing any of his conservative viewpoints or letting him exercise authority over important issues. The president talks a good game of civility but belittles and denigrates his opponents, while distorting their position on the stimulus (e..g refusing to recognize that the Republicans favor a stimulus, just not his). Even the MSM has figured this ploy out.

Presidents usually enjoy a honeymoon and, beyond that, the benefit of the doubt from most Americans. But that fundamental trust is eroded when the president either intentionally or intentionally misleads or shaves the truth. Once the credibility is lost, it is impossible to regain. This president would be advised to stick to the truth. Rather than quitting smoking, he should quitting fudging the facts.