Obama's overuse of the word 'unprecedented'
In the Year One of DO's (During Obama) reign, beginning with his inauguration on January 20, 2009--or even his election on November 4, 2008 -- the baseline of all American history was established.
Everything and anything that occurred during his era was historic--new, fresh, different from all that preceded. BO (Before Obama), the 233 years of American life beginning in 1776, or even the years leading to American independence were all insignificant meaningless time, meandering, fuzzy eras until the gods decided to free the country and bring forth Barack Obama to save the country. And the world. All history begins now; AO (After Obama), the universe will operate on precedent laid down now.
Carol E. Lee of Politico has helpfully explained, the present White House administration is rewriting history "with its unprecedented use of 'unprecedented.' "
Perhaps it was a sign when President Barack Obama sat down in January to record his first weekly address and announced: "We begin this year and this administration in the midst of an unprecedented crisis that calls for unprecedented action."
What has followed is declaration after declaration of "unprecedented" milestones. Some of them are legitimate firsts, like the president's online town hall at the White House in May.
But others the president wins merely on a technicality, and several clearly already have precedents.
Obama's unprecedenteds--a presidential town hall meeting with Chinese students, greeting American students on the beginning of the school year, terrible economic situation, plans to make government more efficient, bi/non partisan Cabinet and other governmental appointments, focus on education, health care changes and more--all have solid precedents.
So why do Obama and his acolytes babble unprecedented? Think Gypsy Rose Lee's "You gotta have a gimmick." Think advertising--branding. And remember, they're all Baby Boomers who haven't quite grown up to realize that the world didn't begin with them, doesn't revolve around them and won't end with them.
The desire to be seen as treading on an unbeaten path is a part of the Obama brand. His candidacy was built on the notion that his rise to the presidency followed no footprints. He wasn't a Clinton or a John McCain. He had a uniqueness that made him an unprecedented, if not unlikely, candidate.
That theme, which is driven by his personal narrative, has carried over into the White House. And in the context of the something-to-prove drive of a young president with scant executive experience, the Obama White House has used "unprecedented" as a rhetorical means through which he has asserted himself.
It's also a reflection of the president personally.
"It says how very unique he feels he is," said Stephen Hess, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who worked in the Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford and Carter administrations.
Abe Lincoln, George Washington, Lyndon B. Johnson, Bill Clinton and many other presidents had rough beginnings, rough lives with obstacles to overcome, mistakes made, lessons learned. So do most of us; it is called life.
Professor Hess also believes that the president thinks he should get "special credit" for thinking that his actions are unprecedented. "I think that tells us more about him than really anything else about how he runs the White House."
Chasing after the presidency and winning it naturally distorts perception. That is not unprecedented. And neither is President Barack Obama (D).