The Obama Watch

Obama’s Smoking Gun

Jeremiah Wright was right: The president lies.

By 5.1.14

President Lyndon Johnson addressing the nation, March 31, 1968
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The president lies. So insisted the Reverend Jeremiah Wright in a taped interview with author Ed Klein for Klein’s book on Obama titled The Amateur: Barack Obama in the White House. As the latest revelation of a White House e-mail surfaces — which some are calling a smoking gun from the Benghazi scandal — the picture of a White House that flatly lies no matter the subject continues to sink Mr. Obama in the polls.

It is worth going back to the Reverend Wright to have a better understanding of what’s going on here. Klein was granted an interview with Obama’s longtime mentor, and as part of that interview Wright tells the story of the blow-up that occurred when videotaped sermons from Obama’s Trinity United Church of Christ finally exploded into conservative media view. Obama, now in mid-campaign, took a secret break to confront the reverend in Wright’s Chicago living room. The conversation did not go well, with Obama asking Wright in essence to disappear from public view. Wright says this of the moment when Wright refused the suggestion:

Barack said, "I’m sorry you don’t see it the way I do. Do you know what your problem is?" And I said, "No, what’s my problem?" And he said, "You have to tell the truth." I said, "That’s a good problem to have. That’s a good problem for all preachers to have. That’s why I could never be a politician."

So here we are, five and a half years later, and the country has learned of these deliberate lies:

Health Care: The president told Americans repeatedly that they could keep their doctor and keep their health insurance if they liked them.

Benghazi: Yes, in fact, contrary to repeated denials, the White House did in fact prep then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice to go out on those five Sunday news shows and blame the Benghazi attacks on an Internet video.

The IRS: No, the IRS targeting of conservative groups was not the work of “rogue agents” in Cincinnati. In fact, the scandal was operating at the very top of the IRS itself with Lois Lerner, who in turn had been conniving with the Department of Justice.

The other day, the president showed up at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In doing so, Obama brought the spotlight back to the disturbing truth of the Johnson White House years. Lyndon Johnson was elected president in a 1964 landslide over Barry Goldwater. The country was still in the throes of the emotional tidal wave that had followed the assassination of LBJ’s predecessor, John F. Kennedy. Riding that wave, Johnson was one hugely popular president that November, and for some time after. But there was a problem. A small problem at first. A small problem that turned from a minor amusement in Washington and slowly but inevitably became a political death sentence for the Johnson White House.

Lyndon Baines Johnson was a serial liar. About matters small, matters medium, and matters large. There were chuckles when he talked about his ancestor dying at the Alamo, when it wasn’t true. Oh that ol’ Lyndon, was the response in Washington. But pretty soon no one was laughing. Writes biographer Robert Dallek, “the President’s own deceitfulness…stood at the center of the distrust that congressman and senators, journalists, and ultimately people all over the country felt toward him.”

Johnson lied not simply about great-granddaddy fighting at the Alamo. He lied about Vietnam. He exaggerated the menace of the Dominican Republic. Set to launch a massive campaign swing for Democrats in 1966, he canceled the trip — than publicly denied he had ever planned a swing in the first place.

The jokes began to circulate. Jokes like this: “How do you know when Lyndon Johnson is telling the truth?” Answer: “When he pulls his ear lobe or scratches his chin, he’s telling the truth. When he begins to move his lips, you know he’s lying.” Time magazine’s White House correspondent Hugh Sidey remarked that to LBJ “the shortest distance between two points was a tunnel.” Dallek writes that there was a fear that LBJ’s “personal eccentricities were now affecting policy,” with Johnson railing in private that the press called him “that lying SOB.”

As the discord over the President’s truthfulness slowly mushroomed, his problem acquired a name, a nickname that finally began to grace the covers of the then-influential newsmagazines and make its way into the evening TV newscasts. LBJ, they said, had a “credibility gap.”

And as this image of a “deceitful” president in the White House took hold, LBJ’s popularity went down…down…and down again. By early 1968, this man who had once united the country in its grief at JFK’s assassination and then bestrode the political world as a landslide winner over Goldwater was so unpopular he was reduced to making appearances on the safe turf that were American military bases. He was essentially a prisoner in the White House, his political future now under assault inside his own party by Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy and New York Senator Robert Kennedy. Finally, it became all too much to bear. On March 31, LBJ took to the television networks for a speech on Vietnam — and announced at the end of the speech that he would not be a candidate for re-election. It was over.

Once again America has a president who has, slowly at first, now more and more rapidly — begun to acquire a "credibility gap," to reuse that term. Clearly a presidential press secretary can do real damage to a president already inclined to lie, as Bill Moyers did to LBJ. And yesterday’s press conference with Obama’s Jay Carney in Moyers’ old shoes illustrates the point. Judicial Watch, in a feat of considerable proportions, accomplished that which various congressional committees have been unable to accomplish. Reports the Washington Times of Carney’s latest:

The White House said Wednesday it withheld an email from Congress and the media regarding Susan Rice’s infamous “talking points” about the terrorist attack in Benghazi because the memo did not deal directly with the attack.

“This document was explicitly not about Benghazi, but about the general dynamic in the Muslim world at the time,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney.

A government watchdog group obtained an email this week that reveals direct White House involvement in steering the administration’s message about the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks in Benghazi, Libya, toward that of a spontaneous anti-U.S. protest that never occurred in that city. Four Americans were killed in the attack, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.

The internal email on Sept. 14, 2012, was to White House press officials from Ben Rhodes, President Obama’s assistant and deputy national security adviser. In the email, Mr. Rhodes listed as a “goal” the White House desire “To underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure or policy.”

Which is to say: Mr. Carney is lying. Looking right straight into the eyes of the American people and deliberately — say again deliberately — not telling a truth that could not be more obvious. And the results of all this deceit are finally being reflected in the Obama poll numbers, even if his media buddies struggle to report the facts. The president, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC survey, is down to a 41 percent approval. A mere three points from the frigid thirties that began the fatal frost of the Bush presidency.

Added to all of this is this very interesting story uncovered over at NewsBusters. The site’s Tom Blumer reports on a tweet from Politico’s Blake Hounshell in which Hounshell asks: “Can you point me to a credible, authoritative story saying the WH knowingly pushed a false narrative?" To which Blumer responds: Yes. He points to Sharyl Attkisson, who, as the world knows, recently left CBS complaining that liberal bias there had blocked her stories. Attkisson on her own site quotes Senator Lindsey Graham as saying this email from Obama adviser Ben Rhodes is indeed the “smoking gun” of the Benghazi affair.

A reminder is in order here. The late Noel Sheppard of NewsBusters ran this story back last year, in which the commingled relationships of Obama NSC officials and their family ties to CBS, ABC, and CNN — none of the networks into serious Benghazi reporting — were discussed. Sheppard quoted this TV appearance of Richard Grenell, the ex-UN spokesman:

RICHARD GRENELL: I think the media's becoming the story, let’s face it. CBS News President David Rhodes and ABC News President Ben Sherwood, both of them have siblings that not only work at the White House, that not only work for President Obama, but they work at the NSC on foreign policy issues directly related to Benghazi. Let’s call a spade a spade.

Let’s also show you why CNN did not go very far in covering these hearings because the CNN deputy bureau chief, Virginia Moseley, is married to Hillary Clinton’s deputy, Tom Nides. It is time for the media to start asking questions why are they not covering this. It’s a family matter for some of them.

JON SCOTT, HOST: So they don't want to bring embarrassment upon folks who, who they’re close to?

GRENELL: Who directly are related to this story. Absolutely. They're covering for them. There’s no question about it.

In a snapshot, this is exactly the kind of shadowy behind-the-scenes machination that has kept Obama in that protective media cocoon that prevented him from an even earlier slide into an LBJ-style credibility gap. Ms. Attkisson, once gone from CBS, sat down with Bill O’Reilly and revealed that she was called a “troublemaker” at CBS for wanting to investigate Benghazi. When her ultimate boss at CBS News, David Rhodes, has a brother in the White House who wrote what Judicial Watch has now pried loose, is it any wonder Attkisson was being stonewalled?

It would seem Grenell’s point, made a year ago, is now especially relevant. The question now? Will CBS News President David Rhodes explain, or apologize, or resign? Will his brother Ben? And along the same line? It’s time for Speaker Boehner to finally support a Select Committee on Benghazi to get into the all the weeds here. The persistence of Tom Fitton’s Judicial Watch in doing the dreary, careful legal work has turned up something that is now a Big Deal.

If you want to keep your doctor, you can keep him. It was rogue agents in Cincinnati. The White House never spun the public on Benghazi.

Those kinds of lies are capable of digging a canyon-sized credibility gap. This time for Barack Obama. He will spend his final few years in office facing tough questions — and the Democrats’ electoral prospects are sinking as fast as the president's credibility.

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