Obama’s Soaring Rhetoric: A Bright, Shining Lie

The President has walked away from the ideals that launched his career.

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Illustration by Hieronymus for TIME

Barack Obama’s star-turn speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston sounds just as good now as it did eight years ago. It was hours before that performance that Obama told a reporter, “I’m LeBron, baby!” The boast is considered sheer hubris by his detractors, but it wasn’t such a bad self-assessment. The background noise of Obama’s 2004 speech is the low rumble of a political rocket about to slip the surly bonds of earth.

In the C-SPAN footage, Jesse Jackson stands and applauds, not realizing how thoroughly he would be eclipsed by the young African-American politician from Illinois. Hillary Clinton brims with joy, having no idea that she would be beaten by the newcomer for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. “OH-BAH-MAH!” chants fill the arena — the first time most of the nation hears the name that will soon enough become iconic.

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“Political genius,” Otto von Bismarck once said, “consists of hearing the distant hoofbeat of the horse of history and then leaping to catch the passing horseman by the coattails.” Obama’s speech in Boston was the first sign that he was about to grab hold for a hell of a ride.

But 2004 was a beautiful mirage. Very little that was distinctive or stirring from the convention speech survived first contact with the reality of Barack Obama. Back then, he lambasted “the negative-ad peddlers who embrace the politics of ‘anything goes.’” Now his campaign is a demolition machine with no regard for the truth. Then, he said, “There is not a black America and a white America and a Latino America.” Now he wants to squeeze as many votes as possible out of a few key demographic groups. Then, he lamented how pundits “like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue states.” Now he presides over an electorate that is profoundly polarized by him.

Upon his election, Obama acted as any ideologue would. He pushed as much through as often as possible when he had maximal power, without seriously compromising on anything until the Democrats lost control of the House, after which he cut a deal to extend the Bush tax cuts. Otherwise, after that electoral rebuke in 2010, he didn’t make an opportunistic jag to the center but doubled down on left-wing populism.

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Confronting a Congress of the opposing party, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton cut big deals. Reagan raised the retirement age for Social Security and reformed taxes with Democrats. Clinton reformed welfare and balanced the budget with Republicans. Obama blew up his debt-deal negotiations with Republican House Speaker John Boehner because he didn’t want to be caught settling for less in tax revenue than what congressional Democrats wanted.

The same politician who spoke in 2004 of how “this country will reclaim its promise, and out of this long political darkness a brighter day will come” is not running for re-election this year with a transformative vision or really much of an agenda at all. He wants to roll back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, for about $70 billion a year, when the annual deficit is running at over $1 trillion. On most everything else, he simply hopes something will turn up with the same congressional Republicans he scorns.

Obama is trying to win a second term with a remorseless assault against Mitt Romney. From the beginning, his aides have been frank about the need to destroy the Republican challenger. Insider accounts of the Obama campaign reveal no evidence of the President’s feeling the slightest prick of conscience over it. In fact, his team seems suffused with a grim pride over its willingness to do whatever it takes to win. In 2004, Obama was a bipartisan uniter; in 2012, he’s Al Davis.

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Not that he was really ever anything different. For all the alluring mood music in the 2004 speech, he didn’t break any philosophical ground. He wasn’t Bill Clinton challenging party orthodoxy. He rebaptized Democratic Party orthodoxy in a warm bath of pious uplift. He wasn’t interested in compromise; he wanted unity entirely on his own terms.

Obama has never been a moderate, not in the Illinois legislature, not in the U.S. Senate and not in his 2008 primary campaign against Hillary Clinton. What he was until he assumed the presidency was essentially an unknown. Well, now we know.

The President can always return to the tropes of his 2004 speech, but there’s no real going back. He might survive. But he won’t inspire. On that memorable night in Boston eight years ago, he launched his national career on a bright, shining lie.

Lowry is the editor of National Review
PHOTOS: The Art of Political Stagecraft
MORE: TIME/CNN Poll: Obama Leads Romney in Florida

185 comments
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elotrolado8
elotrolado8 like.author.displayName 1 Like

This opinion piece is long on description and twisted perception, full of lies, and very short on facts.  He poo poos 70 billion a year in revenue, never even mentioning the fairness issue that lies at the heart of outrage over the wealthiest Americans paying the lowest in taxes perhaps ever.   Obama a divider?  From the moment his Presidency began he reached out to Republicans, first by appointing 3 of them to his Cabinet, then twice by capitulating on healthcare reform via single payer and the public option. The debt deal was reached but then blew up because Boehner could not deliver and reign in his crazy Tea Partiers.  And finally, the electorate is polarized in large part by Republicans and their wealthy propagandists who have been unleashed on our democracy by a Republican Supreme Court via Citizens United.  Republicans say "no" to anything Obama is for, even if they were for it before he announced he was.  

By publishing this piece, Time gives voice to lies.  It's time the media stop doing this in the interest of appearing fair.  Lies are lies and need to be rooted out in a real democracy.

ChowT
ChowT

Lets give Obama an even bigger mandate.

Out Gopers, Out !

holdeninpdx
holdeninpdx

By publishing this piece, Time throws conservative thought a small...and rare...bone.  The media couldn't appear "fair" if it didn't publish one more pro-Obama piece until the election.

As for the ''fairness'' Obama preaches, it is class-warfare and, as Lowry points out, wouldn't do a thing to to effect the MASSIVE Deficits Obama has wrung up.  Let's say Lowry is wrong by half and Obama's ''tax the rich" plan happened.  That would be $140 Billion, which wouldn't even cover the most recent action by the Fed for FOUR STINKIN' MONTHS!!

Obama has no energy policy and when he had the chance to put a LOT of people to work with the Keystone pipeline and caved to his environmentalist wackos, who make the Tea Party look moderate by comparison.  The 2010 election results were a reaction to Obamacare, which few in Congress even admitted to having READ!  Pelosi and Reid ran roughshod for two years...remember this:  "We have to pass this Bill so we can find out what is in it?"

Now, Obama is running for reelection, as Lowry points out, not on his record but on a scorched earth campaign run by the likes of Stephanie Cutter, Jim Messina, Joe Axelrod, Chris Matthews, and Rachel Maddow.  Matthews and Maddow may not be on the payroll, but that hasn't stopped them from preaching to their small, but dedicated choir.

For every "liar" you feel there is in the media, there are eight or nine working full-time on the Obama campaign.  Example:  FOX News has 3 Million viewers.  ABC, CBS and NBC have 20 million viewers for their nightly news shows.  Toss in CNN, MSNBC, PBS, Bloomberg, BTV...even MTV and VH-1, and FOX is a drop in the ocean...and you complain about pieces that are exceptions to the big, liberal rule.  Fairness...pffft!

ChowT
ChowT

The royal couple Lady Ann and Lord Romney are liars.

So is the prince Paul Ryan.

'You people' please curtsey to the Royal couple.

Peasants, shove it and eat cake.

factsmatter3
factsmatter3

Mr. Lowry, when was the last time your comments were based on reality?  You are always right (wing), rarely correct.  The facts show that Obama and the Democrats have bent over backwards to compromise:  Obama came to an agreement with Republican leadership on raising the debt ceiling that included a 10 to 1 ratio of spending cuts to tax increases that was not passed because of the tea party bloc that runs the House of Representatives.     The Republicans have redefined compromise to simply doing what we want or we will do our best to sabotage whatever it is you want to do, regardless of the consequences.

holdeninpdx
holdeninpdx

 Coming to an agreement on raising the debt limit...yeah, a real landmark compromise...even when democrats compromise, which under this President has been a rare occurrence, it ends up increasing the National Debt.  We can't afford another four years of Obama's bad "investments."  He is out of his depth.

Even his Nobel Peace Prize is a joke...he'll go down in history as the "Drone Master," who shot to kill, damn the collateral damage.  If he were a ship, it's name would be USS FAILURE...

ChowT
ChowT

We vowed to obstruct in any way possible ...................... to prevent the reelection of Obama............................even at the expense of the American people.

GOP said that from Day 1.

KevinJM1280
KevinJM1280

Obama didn't compromise?  Well, I guess you're right - when you compromise you give something and get something in return.  So yeah, you're right, Obama didn't compromise during this first term; he gave in under the guise of compromise while the Republicans  stood fast on their refusal to allow any progress as part of their plan to make Obama a one term President, with no regard for the effects their behavior would have on the country at large.

There is plenty to be disappointed about regarding Obama and the Democrats in general - the degree of spinelessness they have demonstrated over the last four years suggests that worse than just being political cowards they have likely sold out to the same interests as the Republicans did decades ago.  That being said, it is the Republicans who are actively working to make this country ungovernable.

holdeninpdx
holdeninpdx

 Every President has faced adversity...Clinton faced it for eight years and triangulated after losing full control of Congress.  "Bush-bashing" was an art form, yet, there was GW and Ted Kennedy, side by side, passing major legislation after Bush lost control.

Political opposition is nothing new.  Presidents throughout our history have come to understand that "elections have consequences."  This one, alas, believes he really DOES sport a halo and, hence, the rules don't apply to him!

Lee Donowitz
Lee Donowitz

Rich, I really agreed with most of your article but take true exception to you comparing Barack Obama to Al Davis. Al Davis's "Just Win, Baby" was an ode to the rugged individualism of the American West, not a command to win by any means necessary. Al's Raider teams often included players that the more uptight, buttoned-up teams in the league thought were "strange" or "different" but who ultimately got their jobs done on the field. Mr. Davis would have had no use for Obama's demands for conformity (think Julia) nor would he have any patience for this President  not getting the job down. Al Davis knew it didn't matter if his players had a mustache or drove a motorcycle as long as they came, practiced and helped their teams win on Sundays- all without the kind of selfish, immature antics we see regularly with today's athletes. Even as a NY Jet fan, and no lover of the Raiders, I must point this gross injustice out to you. 

Twister51
Twister51

27 qualifications by Romney to win the White House and lead America back to greatness.  I absolutely encourage everyone to verify each statement from multiple, independent sources for themselves.

ROMNEY:

 

- Graduated with “University Honors” from BYU (also known as “Highest Honors”, their most prestigious from of recognition, somewhat equivalent to valedictorian) with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English; he’s not just a numbers guy

 

- Master’s degree in Business (Harvard, a Baker's scholar: top 5% of business students)

 

- Master’s degree in Law (Harvard, graduated Cum Laude / with Honors, top 1/3)

 

- Earned both master’s degrees (business AND law) at Harvard University simultaneously (Could you do that?  I couldn’t.)

 

- Enormously successful in private business and now worth between $200 and $250 million (compare this to Obama and many of Obama's closest advisers who have never had to turn a profit or go hungry, and, no, don't whine about workers Romney let go when taking over a company while at Bain Capital because you'd be forgetting to look at: A) the fact that Bain was INVITED by the companies to have Bain invest in them; there were no “hostile takeovers” by Bain Capital and B) the workers' jobs Romney saved by saving a dying company and C) the jobs he created after those struggling companies were turned around and started to grow again)

 

- Gave away his inheritance in 1998 to start / help fund the “George W. Romney Institute of Public Management” at BYU (his father, George Romney, died in 1995)

 

- As head of the 2002 Winter Olympics (Salt Lake City) turned a potential loss (-$379M shortfall) into one of the few profit-earning Olympic games (+$100M profit)

 

- Donated his entire Olympics salary and severance package ($1.4M) to charity

 

- Put aside partisanship prejudices/trash-talk by successfully campaigning/winning the governor's seat (2003 – 2007) as a Republican in a heavily Democrat-controlled state LONG before Scott Brown

 

- While governor of Massachusetts, at HIS request, served the people of MA at the salary of $1/year (that’s right, ONE DOLLAR)

 

- Previous executive leadership experience as a state governor, including Massachusetts' Commander In Chief of state military forces (Yes, a state governor is legally the Commander In Chief of that state's National Guard forces unless those troops are called to active-duty by the President)

 

- Turned Massachusetts' budget from red to black while governor (- $3.0B to +$2.16B; that’s “billion” with a “B”)

 

- Cut taxes 19 times as Massachusetts governor (that’s not a typo, NINETEEN)

 

- As MA governor, developed a plan that would make deadbeats pay for their own health care (you may not like the MA health care law but that's what it's sole purpose was. Still don't like it because of the mandate? Don't move to MA.) (BTW, how would YOU have solved the MA healthcare free-loader problem and how would you have done it with an overwhelmingly Democrat-controlled state legislature like Romney had to work with?)

 

- “Service over self”.  Romney endorsed McCain only 2 days after ‘Super Tuesday’ in 2008 when it became obvious McCain was the clear front-runner; America is more important to him than his ego

 

- Volunteer service to community as a church head pastor for 13 years all with ZERO pay (that's right, none); 5 years as a “bishop” and 8 years as a “stake president”

 

- Would give ALL his Presidential salary ($1.6 million total) back to the American taxpayers if elected (yes, he's on record as committing to this)

 

- Voluntarily turned down enrolling in Medicare when he turned 65 on March 12, 2012

(in other words, he’s NOT sucking up our precious tax dollars because he knows he can, and  therefore should, take care of himself)

 

- He also chose to NOT receive any Social Security payments upon turning 65 because, again, he knows he can take care of himself and therefore should not rely on our tax dollars to help fund his daily living

 

- Looks, talks and acts "Presidential"

 

- Understands commitment (never divorced, in a loving 43 year marriage)

 

- Understands morality (never had an affair)

 

- Understands family (5 kids, all successful adults)

 

- Willing to let all of America see his birth certificate without a fight

 

- Released his most recent filed tax records (2010) proving he’s not a tax cheat (the IRS has no problem with his filed taxes), with more tax records (2011) promised to be released before the election

 

- He’s pledged (repeatedly) that he’ll repeal Obamacare. 

 

- And finally…..he’s N-O-T Obama

 

P.S. - If all one can say about a candidate is that they are a member of "X" church and ignore the talents and character of the person, that person does not deserve the privilege of voting.

JohnYuEsq
JohnYuEsq

TaxCheatRomney = Financial Meltdown, WWIII, and NUCLEAR HOLOCAUST

Andrea
Andrea

What we have witnessed is the "gap" between an inexperienced but highly rhetorically skilled politician and the ability to deliver results.

One word separates Romney and Obama:  results.

Democrats may prefer a well-intentioned but essentially impotent politician, but that doesn't mean everyone else does.

ChowT
ChowT

Andrea, oh I can see that Romney has a lot of results from Bain sacking thousands of workers.

holdeninpdx
holdeninpdx

 Chow,

When Obama took over GM, not only were about 250,000 jobs lost but 1,100 DEALERSHIPS and over a DOZEN PLANTS were closed.  How come it's OK for Obama to take over a company, liquidate plants, a quarter of it's dealer network, putting HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF WORKERS out of work, and that's OK?

ChowT
ChowT

Obama saved GM.

skizzrrr
skizzrrr

"He pushed as much through as often as possible when he had maximal

power, without seriously compromising on anything until the Democrats

lost control of the House, after which he cut a deal to extend the Bush

tax cuts" ...never mind the ACA?

fmondana
fmondana

If Obama announced that cancer was cured, Iran stopped its nuke program and became a democratic state, the deficit fixed, and Social Security fully funded and paid for for the next 300 years, the GOP would downplay it or say "NO!" to it all.

Yes, Obama was way too optimistic about the economy in '08. He has every right top blame Bush for leaving him a pile of crap and no shovel. Just how was anyone going to fix the economy in less than 4 years?

Let me put it this way. Have you ever been laid off or became so sick you couldn't work for a few months or a year? Once back to work, just how long did it take to get back on your feet? Once you clear out savings and max out cards to pay the bills it takes months, sometimes years, to fix your own economy. The country was in the same position when Obama took office. So he didn't fix everything in 4 years. It sure didn't get worse like it could have. Now the GOP wants to do exactly what Bush did, which created the mess in the first place, but think the outcome will be different. Isn't that a definition of insanity? It also brings to mind "those who forget history are doomed to repeat it". The GOP sure has a short memory and they are trying to make people forget Bush!

 Yet everyone is blaming Obama for not fixing the economy by now. The GOP was hollering about the job the President was doing 2 months into his term.

holdeninpdx
holdeninpdx

 Obama MIGHT have an argument had he done ANYTHING closely RESEMBLING what you mentioned.  Alas, the only "change" he as affected is change for the worse.  Do you remember President Bush continually blaming President Clinton for the recession he inherited?  NEVER!  The dot-com boom carried Clinton's economy, and the dot-com bust killed it in it's tracks.

Obama hasn't paid off and credit cards, nor has he stabilized spending.  What's worse, the single facet of his campaign that isn't focused on destroying his opponent talks of doubling down on "investments" in this and that, which is code for increased SPENDING.  ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!!!

ChowT
ChowT

The economic disaster left by George Bush was monumental and economist have said it will take a generation to Heal.

johnnydavis1
johnnydavis1

The question is "have you ever been screwed?"  And Obama has given an affirmative answer now to virtually all of America.

VincenteSanchez
VincenteSanchez

@johnnydavis1 still better than Bush. I'm sorry but no one can convince me Obama is worse than Bush. If Bush were still president we would be underwater here in New York, wallowing in feces and Goldman Sachs would be receiving 80% of all the federal aid money to recover its losses.

z
z

The only liar in this piece is Lowery.  Like Romney, Ryan, and the rest of the Republican/Tparty it is big and bold faced.

Mark Robison
Mark Robison

The author of this article lies as much as Romney and the marathon runner Ryan. Obama will win. People want to care about each other and not live in ‘survival of the fittest”) ideology of Republicans. What sorrows me are the people that a re ‘just regular folks" that believe  the Republican agenda. Only the wealthy will benefit Republican policies

holdeninpdx
holdeninpdx

 Yeah Mark, Obama is all about peace and love...his election was supposed to bring peace to the middle east by appeasing the muslims...that's worked out well, hasn't it?  As for his "spreading the wealth," other than the growing entitlement society and his MANY campaign bundlers, the "regular folks" aren't doing so well, are they?

Traditionally, Colorado has some of the lowest gas prices in the Country.  Well, I filled up, today...regular unleaded gas was $3.85/gallon.  Compared to what Obama and his lackey, Stephen Chu, would LIKE gasoline prices to be, that's not so bad.  My $73 fill-up stings and I can't afford a $40,000 Volt that doesn't get any better mileage than Nissan's new Altima...which I can't afford, either.

Obama cares about being reelected, raising taxes and spending, spending and spending some more.  Maybe Governor Romney isn't the answer but I'm willing to give him a shot at it.  Four more years of Obama would result in a $20-25 TRILLION National Debt and a very expensive bridge...to a third world economy...

ChowT
ChowT

But Gopers believe in trickle down, well it is more like being pee at, the last few drops from the rich.

WonBall
WonBall

 All will benefit from Republican policies, Mark.  Releasing regulations, maintaining the current already too high tax rates without a 10% increase on 1/1/13, reducing government spending will benefit you as much as anyone else.  And it will benefit the  least well-off most of all.

z
z

Hoover, Regan, Bush did it and every time things got worse.  Doing the same thing over and over again is a sure sign of lunacy.  Don't you ever learn anything?

EddieD_Boston
EddieD_Boston

Actually brainsurgeon, Reagan was very successful. During most of the Bush presidency unemployment was below 5%.

What day is it in your little world?

Mark Robison
Mark Robison

Sorry I disagree. We will see at the polls

MNJAM
MNJAM

Shorter Lowry:  We can dish it out.  But we can't take it.

LenTr
LenTr

Snooze.... I flipped past this in the print copy as well. 

holdeninpdx
holdeninpdx

Ignorance, contrary to what you've heard, isn't bliss.  There is a lot of name-calling and cries for "fairness."  I've not seen any comments, here, that refute lowry's numbers.  The spending has to STOP!

MNJAM
MNJAM

Rank hypocrisy from a Republican lumpen-hack.

Charles B.
Charles B.

Strange article.  The author claims there was a lie, but doesn't quote the man. 

Did he lie about a marathon time, or a plant shutdown, like Ryan did?

Where is the lie? 

holdeninpdx
holdeninpdx

How many GM plants did Obama close?  Over a DOZEN.  How many dealerships did Obama close?  Over 1,000.  How many workers did Obama fire?  Over 200,000.  Where is your outrage about THAT??

johnnydavis1
johnnydavis1

Maybe you need a remedial reading education?

Joshua Bennett
Joshua Bennett

Clearly the author of this piece, and most of those commenting, live in a universe parallel to mine.

 In the universe I live in, Obama reneged on his stated. principles by sacrificing his policy objectives in a vain attempt to reach a bi-partisan compromise with an opposition whose primary desire was to see him fail, regardless of the cost to America. The problem is not that Obama led from too far to the left, but that he started negotiations from too close to the center, and allowed Republican intransigence to pull him further to the right.

If the Obama from the author's universe had been elected here, and truly "pushed as much through as often as possible when he had maximal power", we'd have had a much larger and more effective stimulus, single-payer health care, and a closed Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

I wish I could vote for *that* Obama. 

holdeninpdx
holdeninpdx

Josh...you're in the same universe...but not the same solar system!  Politics has been a dirty business for a long time.  I found this site in a minute's searching time:

http://www.azcentral.com/offbe...

Here are a couple of quotes from it:

"Thomas Jefferson was attacked by ministers who accused him of being an

"infidel" and an "unbeliever." A Federalist cartoon depicted him as a

drunken anarchist, and the president of Yale warned that if Jefferson

came to power, "we may see our wives and daughters the victims of legal

prostitution." A Connecticut newspaper warned that his election would

mean "murder, robbery, rape, adultery and incest will openly be taught

and practiced" - though the paper (now the Hartford Courant) did apologize some years later."

and

"John Adams, the sitting president in 1800, also got hit with his share

of slung mud. James Callender, a journalist in league with Jefferson,

told the country that Adams was a rageful, lying, warmongering fellow, a

"repulsive pedant" and "gross hypocrite" who behaved neither like a man

nor like a woman but instead possessed a "hideous hermaphroditical

character." There was also a nasty rumor that Adams had sent his veep to

Europe to bring back four mistresses, two for each of them.and"In the 1828 election, Jamieson writes, Andrew Jackson's supporters

distributed handbills portraying John Quincy Adams as driving away a

"crippled old soldier" who asked for charity, with a horsewhip, no less.

Adams's supporters put out handbills decrying Jackson's reputation as a

military hero by painting the general's execution of six deserting

soldiers as a bloodthirsty act, invoking the image of gallant young men

"welter(ing) in their gore!!" Jackson's supporters replied with

handbills suggesting that Jackson had not executed the soldiers but

"swallowed them whole, coffins and all, without the slightest attempt at

mastication!!!!!!"The point is, Obama is supposed to be the master politician, yet all democrats do is whine that the Republicans want him to be a one-term President...DUH!!!  What, would you expect them to do...just GIVE him an uncontested second term?!?  Take off those rose-colored glasses and GET REAL!!

mrvicchio
mrvicchio

You LIVE in an alternate reality.   Can you cite a single example of Obama sacrificing his policy objectives for "bi-partisan" support?

Also, Single payer is evil, immoral, too expensive oh and yes... deadly.  You may want "the government" to take care of you from cradle to grave, move to Europe would ya?   Freedom, Liberty, these things are too difficult for the likes of you.

life5678
life5678

Just watched Michelle Obama at DNC - disingenuous and contrite. Almost seemed like she was trying to imitate Ann Romney, but without the sincerity or believability. 

z
z

What drugs are you doing.  It is testement to the pathological lying of Romney, Ryan, and the rest of the Republican/Tparty that they can't even acknowledge the obviouse: Michelle's speech was among the greatest speechs in content, delivery, and the way it compeltely eviserated Romney without even mentioning his name as any given in modern times.  When it comes to comparing speeches Romney, Ryan, and Ms. Romney are embarrasement. 

holdeninpdx
holdeninpdx

The Obamas are PROOF there is more to being President of the United States than giving speeches, aren't they?