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January 20, 2009
The first untruth
It's an omen for our time, a harbinger, a clue as to what we might expect for the next four years: Barack Obama was not President of the United States for five minutes before he spoke his first untruth to the American people.
In the first sentence of the second paragraph of his inaugural address, Obama stated that "Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath." This is just not true. And if Barack Obama is as smart as the mainstream media has proclaimed, he ought to have known better.
The fact is that only forty-three Americans have taken the Presidential oath of office. Some have taken it more than once, like Dubya and Bubba before him-just like Grover Cleveland, the 22nd and 24th President of the United States.
Though Cleveland, unlike any other American, had the distinction of being the only President to serve two non-consecutive terms, he remains only one person-one American-not two. That's why only forty-three Americans have taken the Presidential oath of office, not forty-four.
I suspect that anyone who runs for President must have some interest in the men who have held that office throughout our history. While I, unlike presidential historian and unabashed Obamaphile Michael Beschloss, do not subscribe to the view that Barack Obama is the most intelligent person ever to rise to the office, I do suspect that Obama's smart enough to know that Grover Cleveland is only one person.
Perhaps this represents the first crack in Obama's impervious armor, the first clue that he's really not as smart or as knowledgeable as so many would like to believe. If that's the case, that's fine. It just proves the he, like the rest of us mere mortals, is prone to making mistakes. It also tells us that he's not a very good fact checker, that he may not be sufficiently detail-oriented-something we should all be at least a little concerned about.
We should also be a bit concerned about the people with whom Obama has surrounded himself. After all, it would only make sense that someone on his staff would have vetted his speech, would have read it over to make sure all its statements were accurate. It's very telling that no one had informed the President-elect that he had made a simple mathematical error. Then again, perhaps his advisors are equally as ignorant as their boss.
Then again, it's entirely possible that Obama and his staff were well aware of the Cleveland anomaly. If that's the case, then Obama and his team made the intentional decision to leave the incorrect number in the speech. Perhaps they were afraid that, if Obama had stated the truth, that only forty-three Americans had taken the oath, the political right might have criticized him - same as they had when Obama had proclaimed, during the campaign, that he had visited 57 states.
Of course, had the press dared to criticize Obama for having made such an error-an error, in that case, which wasn't an error at all-Obama could have pointed out the Cleveland anomaly, and the record would have been made straight. But had Obama done so, the press might have then criticized him for being a know-it-all, a smart aleck, for one-upping the press-not a wise move for a political celebrity so dependent on the press' adulation.
In any event, Obama either made a mistake out of ignorance, which tells a lot about him; or Obama intentionally decided to misrepresent the truth, which also tells us a lot about him. I would agree that this misstatement-forty-four rather than forty-three-is too trivial to be classified as a lie. Still, if this statement were not made out of sheer ignorance, such an intentional decision to misrepresent the truth, no matter how trivial, would definitely qualify as a deceit.
So Barack Obama was President less than five minutes when he either demonstrated to the world his ignorance or demonstrated his willingness to disregard the truth for the sake of convenience. In my view, neither action is fitting.
In either case, I've learned quite a bit about my new President. I expect that, this day forward, he'll either continue to prove himself as ignorant as George W Bush or as deceitful as William Jefferson Clinton. Either way, that's not change I can believe in.
God Bless America - please!