During the State of the Union, President Obama repeated his campaign trail promise that White House policy on appointing lobbyists or former lobbyists would be to exclude them. His statement stretches the outer limits of what can be charitably called insincerity, and for all purposes it’s a calculated lie:
We face a deficit of trust — deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years. To close that credibility gap we must take action on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue to end the outsized influence of lobbyists; to do our work openly; and to give our people the government they deserve.
That’s what I came to Washington to do. That’s why — for the first time in history — my Administration posts our White House visitors online. And that’s why we’ve excluded lobbyists from policy-making jobs or seats on federal boards and commissions.
But regarding the last line, which I’ve bolded, Tim Carney reports:
More than 40 former lobbyists work in senior positions in the Obama administration, including three Cabinet secretaries and the CIA director.
I asked the White House if he chose his words poorly, but the media affairs office defended the president’s statement: “As the President said,” a spokeswoman wrote in an e-mail, “we have turned away lobbyists for many, many positions.”
The statement “we’ve excluded lobbyists from policy-making jobs or seats on federal boards and commissions” usually is intended to mean “our policy is to exclude such people and we have done so in every case.” In context, that would be a false statement.
Granted, Obama’s phrase could also mean “we have, on at least one occasion, excluded a lobbyist.” That’s apparently the sense in which Obama and his speechwriters meant the statement.