Why We Cannot Trust the White House on Ebola
On Thursday morning, I received my first well-produced Facebook message mocking those deluded souls, presumably on the right, who are worried about the spread of Ebola. The only thing that surprised me about the message was that I had not seen one sooner.
The same people who gave us homophobia and Islamophobia (not to mention racism, sexism, classism, xenophobia, nativism, and climate denial) are about to give us Ebolaphobia. As former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel notoriously said (while plagiarizing Winston Churchill), "You never let a serious crisis go to waste.”
The Obama White House will exploit this crisis, if it becomes one, in ways that alarmists do not anticipate. Obama will not declare martial law or shut down the polls in November – I hope – but he and his cronies will begin immediately to stigmatize the opposition as xenophobes and racists. They have done this before on other issues, and there is no time better to do it again than a month before national elections.
Obama and his allies will do this because they can get away with it. The media have enabled Obama’s mean-spirited mendacity from his breakout appearance at the 2004 Democratic Convention to today, and they show no sign of mending their ways. In the process, they have helped Obama create what Marc Thiessen charitably described in the Washington Post as “a fundamentally dishonest presidency.”
In my newest book, You Lie!, I set out to chronicle President Obama’s many divergences from the truth. What I ended up doing was writing a history of the presidency. He and his enablers have proven themselves capable of lying on every subject of significance, and on none more boldly than those involving race and illegal immigration, like the issue of Ebola.
Obama’s distinctive upbringing had much to do with making him the fabulator he became. Too many of those who have studied the president have gone awry by trusting Obama’s own accounts of that upbringing in his memoir Dreams from My Father. In fact, the parent who shaped him was not his father, but his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham.
As a mixed-race child in a world with monolithic expectations, Dunham could have infused her son with the most powerful and compelling of all identities – that of an “American.” She did the opposite. In one of the more believable passages in Dreams, Obama told one revealing story about his mother’s allegiances.
During their Indonesian years together, Dunham’s then husband, Lolo Soetoro, asked Dunham to meet some of “her own people” at the American oil company where he worked. She shouted at him, “They are not my people.” Obama absorbed the attitude. Even as a boy, he saw his fellow citizens abroad as “caricatures of the ugly American,” and they would not grow prettier over time.
When he returned to Hawaii as a ten-year-old, Obama struggled to define who he was. Given what he knew about Americans, he could have hardly wanted to be one. As to being an African-American, all he knew was what he saw on TV. And so he told his new schoolmates that his father was a prince and his grandfather a chief of a great African tribe.
The story worked on his classmates and almost on himself. “But another part of me knew that what I was telling them was a lie,” he writes, “something I’d constructed from the scraps of information I’d picked up from my mother.” For the next forty years, Obama would continue constructing identities for himself: high school stoner, college Marxist, New York intellectual, Chicago Alinskyite, Harvard cosmopolitan, African-American ward heeler, all-American presidential candidate.
By the time of Dreams, Obama had picked up enough postmodern patois to rationalize these identity shifts and the lies needed to ease the transitions. Even a supportive Obama biographer like David Remnick called Dreams a "mixture of verifiable fact, recollection, recreation, invention, and artful shaping."
Equally friendly biographer David Maraniss agreed. “The character creations and rearrangements of the book are not merely a matter of style, devices of compression, but are also substantive,” wrote Maraniss. "We didn't understand why his politically calculating chameleon nature was never discussed," an aide to Hillary Clinton told Remnick. "We were said to be the chameleons, but he changed his life depending on who he was talking to."
Obama’s early influences like his Communist mentor in Hawaii, Frank Marshall Davis, and his Marxist professors and friends at Occidental College did not encourage truth-telling. Although leftists are not uniquely guilty of lying, they are uniquely guilty of lying as a conscious strategy. “If there is no God,” concluded Jean-Paul Sartre in his famous paraphrase of Dostoevsky’s Ivan Karamazov, “everything is permitted.”
Given this grounding, the less scrupulous among progressive activists have judged sentiments not by their veracity, but by their utility. As Nikolai Lenin once coldly noted, “a lie told often enough becomes the truth.” Although Obama did not drink deeply at this well, he drank deeply enough to be dangerous.
Obama’s appearance mattered at least as much as his influences. He had the good fortune of growing up thinking and acting much as white liberals had, but in the body of a black man. He believed what they believed and spoke as they spoke. They noticed, they approved, they marveled.
“I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American presidential candidate who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” said Joe Biden of Obama in early 2007. In still another unwittingly honest revelation, Senate majority leader Harry Reid found comfort in Obama’s having “no Negro dialect.”
By the time Obama emerged as a national candidate, every major newsroom in America – save one – was chock-a-block with people who thought like Biden and Reid or Maraniss and Remnick. All serious surveys of media political preferences have shown a leftward skew – one that has been only getting deeper over time.
It is harder to calculate newsroom attitudes toward race, but the collective media indulgence of well-spoken black liberals – black conservatives get no such pass – is impossible to deny. As the beau ideal of progressive wish dream, Obama would enjoy an unprecedented immunity from major media criticism. This did not encourage truth-telling, either by him or by the media.
Most critically, perhaps, Obama lied about the kind of administration he would run. On his first day in office, he told his assembled staff, “Let me say it as simply as I can. Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”
This two-headed promise has been violated more wantonly than a goat at a Taliban bachelor party. “Barack Obama,” said liberal constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley, “is really the president Richard Nixon always wanted to be.”
South Carolina congressman Joe Wilson nailed the phenomenon early on. He famously interrupted President Obama’s speech to Congress on health care in 2009 by shouting out, “You lie.” As history records, Wilson could have safely shouted out “That’s a lie” on at least five occasions during that same speech. He did not. Instead, he made the existential declaration, “You lie.” So saying, Wilson spoke to what he saw as the very essence of the man: Sinatra sings, Astaire dances, Obama lies.
If there is a serious Ebola outbreak in America, the one thing that citizens will demand is the truth. At this stage, even if Obama is inclined to tell it, no one, alas, will be able to recognize it.
Jack Cashill’s newest book, You Lie! The Evasions, Ommissions, Frabrications, Frauds and Outright Faleshoods of Barack Obama will be available October 7.