The Obama Watch

Barack Zelig-Gump

A presidential chameleon re-writes White House history: Obama and LBJ's credibility gap.

By 5.17.12

Send to Kindle

Ahhhh, the remarkable life of Barack Obama.

As told by -- Barack Obama.

Who can forget the moment when he first ate a dog? His startling confession that he had pushed a girl? Or his confession of how he would get through the day: "Pot had helped, and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it…"

America's first drug-abusing president. What a memory. One would think that dipping back some 50 years ago to Mitt Romney's alleged and unproven behavior in …yes, high school…would now seem to be less than a stellar idea to Team Obama and their supporters in the media.

Now there is the artful admission of a "composite" girlfriend. A girlfriend who never actually existed but was written about anyway.

But perhaps nothing is as revealing of Obama World as the re-constituted official White House biographies of presidential predecessors -- inserting the 44th president into the historical narrative of every president from 30th president Calvin Coolidge on forward, with the inexplicable exception of number 38, Gerald Ford.

There they were.

Barack Obama and Calvin Coolidge -- compatriots in communication. Coolidge, you see, first established the Federal Radio Commission (now the FCC). While his pal Barack "became the first president to hold virtual gatherings and town halls using Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, etc."

Who can forget the memorable duo that was Herbert Hoover and Barack and their work on behalf of the nation's veterans? As the official White House biography of Hoover notes: 

President Herbert Hoover signed the bill founding the Department of Veterans Affairs July 21, 1930. President Obama is committed to making sure that the VA, the second-largest cabinet department, serves the needs of all veterans and provides a seamless transition from active duty to civilian life, and has directed his Administration to modernize the way health care is delivered and benefits are administered for our nation's veterans.

Then there are those incomparable moments with Dwight D. Eisenhower and Michelle Obama. Ike, you see, "established the President's Council on Youth Fitness on July 16, 1956" and "Today the Council is still going strong -- with Olympians and professional athletes on board -- working in conjunction with the First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move initiative to help promote healthier lifestyles." One can only imagine the conversation between friends Michelle and Ike over Ike's dietary problems resulting from his heart attack and stroke, not to mention Ike and Barack commiserating over their smoking habits. Ike was telling Barack about chain smoking up a storm planning D-Day and the invasion of Europe. Barack countered by explaining to Ike how his smoking helped him cope with the stress of community organizing.

And on and on this Obama stream of consciousness goes. His relationship with Jack and Lyndon, Harry and Franklin and even Dick Nixon -- the latter having set up the President's Export Council. Obama is so pleased that his friend Dick approves heartily of "President Obama's goal of doubling the nation's exports by 2014's end."

Let's cut to the chase, shall we?

Did you ever see Woody Allen's 1983 film Zelig? The story of a man named Leonard Zelig who was known as the "human chameleon"?

Allen plays Zelig, a character who has what we might now call an uncannily Obama-esque ability -- in Zelig's case an ability to materialize a connection with just about anybody famous and unknown in the 1920s and 1930s. Through the wonders of Hollywood, there is Woody/Zelig in a photo with Obama's buddies Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover. There is Zelig as an Indian. In this clip from the film there is Zelig at the beginning being hailed in a New York ticker tape parade -- identical to the one given Charles Lindbergh. A bit later in the clip there is Zelig in a Yankee uniform waiting to follow Babe Ruth -- at bat.

Over there Zelig looks Chinese when he's with some Chinese., black when playing with a jazz band, white when sitting with 1920s gangsters. Not to mention morphing into a fat man -- when standing next to a fat man. And who can forget that famous shot of Zelig with his friend the playwright Eugene O'Neill?

Or perhaps you are familiar with a more recent 1994 film, this one based on a 1986 novel by Winston Groom. The film starred Tom Hanks in the role of the title character: Forrest Gump.

Forrest was a simple, uncomplicated man with below average intelligence whose mantra came from his beloved mother: "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." In spite of his lack of smarts, Forrest manages to accidentally impress legendary University of Alabama football coach Bear Bryant with his running ability -- after Bryant spots him running away from bullies. It wins Forrest a star spot on the famous Crimson Tide team.

While attending Alabama he is in the crowd that witnesses Democratic Alabama Governor George Wallace's infamous stand-in-the-schoolhouse-door episode, in which the progressive governor tried to block the admission of black students to the university. And on Forrest rolls through life, meeting JFK in the White House, as a member of the All-American football team, running away in Vietnam -- straight into a firefight in which he performs so heroically he is back at the White House, this time being awarded the Medal of Honor by President Lyndon Johnson. 

A few years later he is invited back to meet President Nixon, who is so impressed he arranges for Forrest to stay overnight in the Watergate Hotel. Where, you guessed it, responding to what he thought was a hotel power outage Forrest winds up exposing the Watergate burglaries and accidentally exploding the Watergate scandal -- which results in Nixon's resignation.

Does any of this now sound familiar in terms of Barack Obama?

More to the point, who was the president in the late 20th century for whom making up stories about everything from his own biography to his policies became such a severe liability with the public that it wound up ending his presidency?

Yes indeed. That would be Barack Obama's old presidential pal Lyndon B. Johnson. Of whom the Obama White House says by way of connecting the two in Zelig-Gump fashion:

President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare into law in 1965 -- providing millions of elderly healthcare stability. President Obama's historic health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act, strengthens Medicare, offers eligible seniors a range of preventive services with no cost-sharing, and provides discounts on drugs when in the coverage gap known as the "donut hole."

What happened to LBJ?

The idea that the man who had succeeded John F. Kennedy in the middle of the horrific national trauma that was JFK's assassination might in fact have a habitual trouble with telling the truth took a while to permeate the nation's shocked consciousness.

In the words of Theodore H. White, author of the famous Making of the President series: "The distrust of the President was slow in growing."

But once that distrust took root, once Americans began to see a pattern of willfully not telling the truth in matters small and very large, there was no stopping it.

Just like Obama, LBJ lied about his economic program. Johnson insisted he couldn't produce a budget that was less than $102 billion. (The cost of running the government in LBJ's first days, believe it or not, was only billions.) Suddenly LBJ dramatically announces a magic solution that he has produced a budget that is $98 billion -- keeping the budget under a symbolic $100 billion! Eventually it became clear to Americans that LBJ knew right from the beginning that his budget was going to be under $100 billion -- the whole public show just that. A show. By the time LBJ's economic policies of massive government spending had turned sour in 1966 -- a mere two years after his thunderous election in 1964 -- fewer and fewer Americans believed anything he had to say.

Just like Obama, LBJ lied about his foreign policy. While Obama swore up and down he was going to close Guantanamo -- and didn't -- Johnson swore up and down that he had "no intention" of removing General William Westmoreland, his commander in Vietnam. Then, of course, he did just that -- and it was discovered LBJ had already decided to remove Westmoreland when he was repeatedly insisting he had no intention of doing so.

On and on it went with Johnson, as it goes on now with Obama.

By 1965 the media of the day was increasingly talking about LBJ's "credibility gap." GI's in Vietnam were said to be wearing buttons that read "Ambushed at Credibility Gap." But White notes that the term "credibility gap" finally "approached a mythic quality when, addressing America troops in Korea, LBJ said 'my great-great-grandfather died at the Alamo.'

An enterprising reporter (they had those back then) checked and found that the first Johnsons didn't arrive in Texas until 1846 -- ten years after the famous 1836 battle.

In the Ed Klein-Jeremiah Wright tapes Sean Hannity played yesterday on his radio show, Wright quotes Obama as saying as a politician, for Obama "the truth is what we [meaning politicians like himself] say it is."

This was, of course, precisely LBJ's view of the world. Indeed, LBJ biographer Robert Caro writes in his latest volume, titled The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power, that Johnson would repeatedly tell stories "that never happened." That Johnson "tried to conceal" much of his past. And Obama (whose college records to this day are concealed from public view) -- in a real and deadly serious symmetry with LBJ that will never make the Obama White House revised presidential histories -- is almost eerily following LBJ's path of telling untruths. Following it inevitably straight to Obama's own "credibility gap."

A tour through President Obama's two books Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope -- not to mention his now actual record as president -- Obama fibs repeatedly. Just as Jeremiah Wright says, Obama really does seem to believe that the truth is what he says it is.

Examples?

The Disappearance of Jeremiah Wright: In Dreams of My Father, first published in the way back of 1995 when Barack Obama was both young and not yet elected to anything, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright plays a prominent role in this Obama book. Obama details his wonderful relationship with Reverend Wright -- as he discusses a whole host of other Chicago figures. Obama remembers lovingly a Wright sermon called the "Audacity of Hope." Then -- wonder of wonders -- out comes a 2006 book by now-U.S. Senator Barack Obama titled: The Audacity of Hope. Still there in this second book of a U.S. Senator now on the verge of a run for the White House are mentions of Chicago political figures. Just as in his first book, there is Chicago's first black mayor, Harold Washington. There are mentions of the two Mayor Daleys, father and son. There is former Senator Carol Moseley Braun. There is the man who beat him for a seat in the U.S. House, Congressman Bobby Rush.

Who is missing? That's right. Missing from the book whose very title was taken from a Jeremiah Wright sermon, The Audacity of Hope, is any reference whatsoever to -- Jeremiah Wright. As if sensing that his close connection with Wright was already too close for comfort, Wright disappears entirely from this second book -- not even making the acknowledgements. Just another biographical detail of Obama's life now "disappeared." Who is Jeremiah Wright? Barack Obama would have you now believe of the man he once said was like an "uncle" to him that he has absolutely no idea who he is.

The Bill Ayers relationship: This was a real whopper. Obama's political career began in Ayers' living room, not to mention that Obama and Ayers served on the board of the Woods Foundation together. Yet when this surfaced in the 2008 campaign, with Hannity relentlessly pounding away at the significance of the connection between the presidential candidate and the decidedly unrepentant Weatherman terrorist -- Obama simply dismissed Ayers as just another guy in the neighborhood. Once gain, the truth was what Obama said it was -- not what it really was.

Reagan and the Buffett Rule: Astoundingly, Obama went public with the idea that Ronald Reagan shared his beliefs on taxes. Says the rewritten Reagan bio on the White House site: "In a June 28, 1985 speech Reagan called for a fairer tax code, one where a multi-millionaire did not have a lower tax rate than his secretary. Today, President Obama is calling for the same with the Buffett Rule."

This is, politely put, BS. Even the Washington Post gave this hooter "two Pinocchios."

The Daniel Webster tall tale: In The Audacity of Hope Obama writes of his thoughts on the Senate chamber. The truth problem is in bold print. Says then-Senator Obama: 

And in gentle steps, one hundred mahogany desks rise from the well of the Senate in four horseshoe-shaped rows. Some of these desks date back to 1819, and atop each desk is a tidy receptacle for inkwells and quills. Open the drawer of any desk, and you will find within the names of the senators who once used it -- Taft and Long, Stennis, Kennedy -- scratched or penned in the senator's own hand. Sometimes, standing there in the chamber, I can imagine Paul Douglas or Hubert Humphrey at one of these desks, urging yet again the adoption of civil rights legislation; or Joe McCarthy, a few desks over, thumbing through lists, preparing to name names; or LBJ prowling the aisles, grabbing lapels and gathering votes. Sometimes I will wander over to the desk where Daniel Webster sat and imagine him before the packed gallery and his colleagues, his eyes blazing as he thunderously defends the Union against the forces of secession.

What's wrong here? Notice all the other senators Obama mentions served in the 20th century. They did in fact serve in this Senate chamber. It is also true that Daniel Webster's desk is in the current Senate chamber. What is not true? The idea that Daniel Webster sat at that desk in the current U.S. Senate chamber to stand "before the packed gallery and his colleagues, his eyes blazing as he thunderously defends the Union against the forces of secession."

Daniel Webster, you see, died in 1852. The chamber in which then-Senator Obama and every other 20th century senator served wasn't built and opened for business until -- 1859. Seven years after Webster's death. 

Just like LBJ and the made-up story of his great-great grandfather dying at the Alamo, Obama makes up a small point of history -- that is 100% false.

The Shovel Ready Jobs: Much was made by Obama during the passage of the so-called stimulus bill of thousands of "shovel ready" jobs that would instantly kick in and stimulate the economy. By June of 2011, just over two years later, Obama was joking -- joking that well, chuckle chuckle, "shovel ready was not as shovel ready as we expected." Just as LBJ played games with budget figures, Obama was essentially admitting that well, OK, so he knew "shovel ready" didn't really mean "shovel ready."

And so on -- and on. And on.

Now come reports that the Obama promise in selling Obamacare -- the promise that if you want to keep your doctor you can -- is turning out to be decidedly untrue. Now comes word that all the denials of "death panels" are, in fact, not true. The panels are quite real -- they are just camouflaged with a bureaucratic moniker called Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) -- a panel with the power to ration the care you will get -- or not get.

So in fact, Presidents Obama and Johnson do in fact have something eerily in common.

They both believed, as Jeremiah Wright says of Obama, that "the truth is what we say it is."

And in believing this, in following Lyndon Johnson's path to precisely the same credibility gap when it comes to the truth, Barack Obama is well on his way to making of the Obama White House precisely what such conduct made of the Johnson White House:

The Alamo. 

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article
About the Author
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com.