Obama: Most Threatened President Ever?

Former RNC chair Michael Steele ends up agreeing with Ben Affleck on Maher that this is a result of racism (like Obama, Steele is black). Stuff like this (political professional has avoidable political debate with actor, loses badly) cost Steele his position with the RNC. His general incompetence also played a role.

Anyway, the topic question? The answer surely is yes, but not for racism.

Obama gets more threats than any previous president did because it’s never been easier to (1) anonymously threaten the president, and (2) identify and catalog threats made against the president.

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We, Obama

The NYT has Obama lecturing his aides like so:

We created this problem we didn’t need to create,” Mr. Obama said, according to one adviser who, like several interviewed, insisted on anonymity to share details of the private session. “And it’s of our own doing, and it’s our most important initiative.”

Is he speaking in the royal We here? I have an easier time believing this than that he is voluntarily sharing responsibility.

But I’m not sure. It’s possible the source paraphrased a less magnanimous construction in the original.

How to Report on the Exchanges

As I mentioned in the last post, the White House has decided to continue its deception by conflating the people who have “selected” a health plan (that is, placed a single plan in their shopping cart) with the people who have purchased a health plan (a term that requires no quotes or explanation).

Articles I have read on this subject typically make no mention of the obfuscation or bury it in the text after introducing the topic with “x number of people have selected health plans.” Since this is obviously a metric of no meaning, a reasonable person is likely to assume it means these people have purchased plans, which is untrue.

Deception of this sort presumably carries some sort of political risk even for this administration, so it seems unlikely that they would bother with it unless it increased their numbers by quite a lot. An order of magnitude is not out of the question, considering that apparently 6 people were able to purchase a plan the first day and it is now claimed that something like 26,000 have “selected” plans.

Any responsible news article on the subject should begin with a boldface DISCLAIMER.

More Fraud from the White House

The WSJ’s James Taranto, who has described Obama’s lies in terms similar to those I employed, adds this:

the Obama administration isn’t limiting its count of enrollees to people who have actually enrolled in a health-insurance plan. Instead, “it will use a more expansive definition.” Get ready for it: “It will count people who have purchased a plan as well as those who have a plan sitting in their online shopping cart but have not yet paid.” [emphasis added]

Taranto points out the obvious (and obviously unasked) question: “What if Amazon.com counted its revenues that way in reports to investors? One suspects the Securities and Exchange Commission would not approve.”

As a matter of contract law, it is in fact completely legitimate to define terms in ways that are inconsistent with their everyday meaning. But it is a truism that courts will not suffer themselves to be used as instruments of injustice, so you will have some amount of difficulty obtaining a judgment in your favor on a contract obviously intended to defraud. And in the securities context, behavior of this sort is even more problematic because of the many rules requiring the use of “plain English” in important documents.

In any event, it is obviously that (1) the White House does not want its target audience to know the it has redefined this key term; and (2) no legitimate purpose underlies this intentional deception. They went ahead and told a reporter that they were redefining the term so that they will have political cover when they are inevitably called out later on.

Agency in the Oval Office

Reporting on Obama seems to me characterized by the lack of agency portrayed.

This is quite a contrast to the Bush years, which were all about agency: “Bush lied, people died.” Cheney as the Lord of Evil. Etc.

One rarely reads about such actors in the Obama reporting. Instead, it’s always a “highly placed aide,” or a “policy/political aide” describing in vague terms forces prevailing to one extent or another in consequences, but rarely actions.

When Bush was in office, most of the press considered him an idiot, but never the puppet Obama presents as. Did Obama lie? Well, political aides are said to have vetoed suggestions by policy aides that some of his speeches be differently phrased.

Passive constructions are not always improper, but here they just conceal. They’re used either to shield Obama from responsibility in an obviously deceptive manner (and, even he he is as oblivious as it seems, it’s an extraordinary failure of leadership), or Obama is just a cartoon mouthpiece for shadowy puppet-masters.

Incidentally, ethnic studies types often complain about portrayals of minorities without agency.

Obama and 10b-5

The press somehow finds another way to shock me with its execrable “Obama had to lie about keeping your insurance because a more nuanced [read: true] phrasing wasn’t ‘saleable'” blitz.

So, a proposition:

Let’s say you’re in the business of prospecting for oil, and you’re sure you’ve located a major deposit. You don’t have the cash to drill, so you secure funding by selling limited partnership interests.

The well doesn’t play out, and the investors all lose their money. Turns out, you knew this was a possibility, but because you didn’t think you could sell the interests if you acknowledged this in your PPM, you instead instead expressly described the venture as risk-free. Indeed, despite understanding the risks, you sincerely believed the well would succeed.

Now you are a defendant. You have been sued by the investors, the SEC, and a state blue-sky agency. You are under criminal indictment for both state and federal securities-fraud.

Do you have an affirmative defense to any of the above actions?