Bloomberg reported this week on a curious phenomenon coming from the White House that reminds me of Soviet practices back in the day.
Obama, it seems, often gets facts and figures incorrect when on the stump or when on a conference call. But in the official transcripts, the White House corrects for the mistake without acknowledging who made it.
When the president hopped on a hastily planned conference call intended to push the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, he got a key statistic wrong. But that would be corrected for him hours later.
President Obama mistakenly said that women earn 70 cents for every dollar that men make. The correct statistic is 77 cents on the dollar.
Three hours after the noon call, the White House circulated by e-mail a revised transcript crossing out the “70? and replacing it with “77? with a note at the top: “Please see below for a correction (marked with an asterisk*).”
The problem, says Bloomberg’s Kate Andersen Brower, is that if you weren’t on the conference call you wouldn’t know if the mistake was the president’s or the transcriber’s.
“On May 11 in Reno, Nevada,” says Brower, “the White House issued a similar correction when the president incorrectly said his mortgage refinancing proposal would save families $3,000 ‘a month’ when he should have said $3,000 ‘a year.’”
Again, it was one of those you-had-to-be-there moments where the White House did not- or perhaps more accurately, could not- acknowledge that Obama made a mistake
But hey, to a millionaire community organizer who the heads up the One Percent of the One Percent who never really earned their millions, there is no difference between $3,000 a month and $3,000 a year.
On the one hand this explains why the Obama has so carefully guarded his college transcripts. Official college transcripts don’t come with asterisks, revising C averages to A’s just because a guy happens to be president of the United States.
On the other hand, it reminds me of the type of evasions that the Soviet Union used to resort to in order to preserve the myth of infallibility of the Marxist state and the Marxist leader.
Robert Conquest, in his definitive biography of Joe Stalin, Stalin: Breaker of Nations, writes that in 1939 at a Party Congress, Stalin mispronounced the last name of the People’s Commissariat of Agriculture. Everyone who followed Stalin on stage, says Molotov, all repeated Stalin’s pronunciation mistake, “otherwise Stalin would have taken offense.”
Similarly, I remember a professor at the University of Maryland telling me back in the early 1980s that when the Soviets periodically re-wrote history to take into account intervening reality that they would send the owners of encyclopedias and history books- and yes they knew who owned these books- little, paper cutouts that contained the revised text. Owners would then be expected to paste over the old, obsolete version of history and replace it with the new-and-improved reality.
It’s becoming clearer to more people that the idea that liberals pushed upon us of Obama the rare genius, the Gandhi-like man of peace and healing, needs a great deal of editing and pasting to account for intervening reality.
Poor results in the highest office in the land have a way of exposing the flaws in anyone. And despite journalistic malpractice by news outlets regarding Obama, his background and his fitness for the White House, the number of corrections coming from the White House, with or without an asterisk, should be alarming to anyone, especially progressives.
Hailing from a point-of-view that is generally out-of-sympathy with the rest of the country, progressives need extraordinarily smart, innovative and clever leaders in order to make their point of view successful.
A leader who continually needs cutting and pasting, as Obama has, to keep pace with reality just won’t work for them.
When railroad workers struck over wage controls in 1946, turning a labor dispute into “a strike against the Government of the United States itself,” Harry Truman warned the strikers that he would draft them into the Army in order to keep the railroads open. You don’t need an imagination to know that Obama would have relished the chance to do nothing in the face of a similar crisis.
In contrast, when Obama was faced with decisions on how to manage the financial crisis in March of 2009- whether they’d shut down the banks and start over or bail them out- he left for a hair cut and dinner with his family, telling Tim Geithner and Larry Summers, “When I come back, I want this issue resolved.”
Despite much copying and pasting, much rewriting of history and tons of paper writing and rewriting financial legislation, we are still waiting for Obama, the “amateur genius” to come back and resolve the issue.
Our financial system is still the fundamental flaw of our economy. But its problems are political, not economic. No reading of history will be complete without acknowledging that Obama did nothing to fix the country’s financial system and very much to harm it.
If Truman proved that “anyone” can be president of the United States, then Obama has proved to be the exception to that, not the rule.
To be president of the United States you have to be more than clever; you have to have character too.
Character isn’t something you can cut and paste.And history has a way of finding that out.