In his column yesterday, Daniel Henninger–in writing about President Obama’s summer trips and series of speeches on the economy–asks, “Is anyone listening to these speeches? Do they matter?”
The answer to both questions is, I think, no. And it raises a deeper issue: Has any previous president devalued his words quite so much, in quite so many ways? Perhaps, but I rather doubt it.
In order to support my claim, it’s worth taking a stroll down memory lane, to compare what Mr. Obama has said with what he has done. The sheer bandwidth of his broken promises and empty claims is quite extraordinary.
For example, there was his promise not to allow lobbyists to work in his administration. (They have.) His commitment to slash earmarks. (He didn’t.) To be the most transparent presidency in history. (It’s not.) To put an end to “phony accounting.” (It started almost on day one and continues.) And to restore trust in government. (Trust in government is at near-historic lows.) Think, too, about his pledge to seek public financing in the general election. (He didn’t.) And to treat super-PACs as a “threat to democracy.” (He embraced them.)
Then there was his administration’s pledge to keep unemployment from rising above 8 percent. (It remained above 8 percent for the longest stretch since the Great Depression.) To create five million new energy jobs alone. (The total number of jobs created in Obama’s first term was roughly one-tenth that figure.) To identify all those “shovel-ready” jobs. (Mr. Obama later chuckled that his much-hyped “shovel-ready projects” were “not as shovel-ready as we expected.”) And to lift two million Americans from poverty. (A record 46 million Americans are living in poverty during the Obama era.)