I have written before of president Obama’s skillful use of words to convince people that he represents their interests even when he doesn’t. I saw this statement by president Obama today on the controversy over the recent leaks that provides another excellent example.
After saying that these revelations were no big deal because no one was listening to the actual calls, and it was all legal anyway (ignoring the fact that the bar of legality for government actions has now become so low as to be almost meaningless), Obama said this:
Now, having said all that, you’ll remember when I made that speech a couple of weeks ago about the need for us to shift out of a perpetual war mindset. I specifically said that one of the things that we’re going to have to discuss and debate is how were we striking this balance between the need to keep the American people safe and our concerns about privacy, because there are some trade-offs involved.
And I welcome this debate. And I think it’s healthy for our democracy. I think it’s a sign of maturity, because probably five years ago, six years ago, we might not have been having this debate. And I think it’s interesting that there are some folks on the left, but also some folks on the right who are now worried about it who weren’t very worried about it when it was a Republican president. I think that’s good that we’re having this discussion. [My italics-MS]
The dishonesty is just breathtaking. If he welcomes this debate so much and thinks this is such a great thing, why didn’t he release this information early on? Why did he allow his head of intelligence to seemingly lie to Congress about it? Maybe, as Ezra Klein facetiously suggests, Obama himself is the leaker, because that was the only way he could have the discussion he claims to desire so much as part of a healthy democracy.
Notice that he also makes the claim that some people complaining now did not do so when George W. Bush was president. This is a dog whistle appeal for partisan support by implying that some of his critics are Republicans or are against him personally. And you can be sure that many of his supporters will hear the call and come rushing to his defense, carefully parsing things to try and exonerate him.
Another thing we will be hearing a lot about are reports from those close to Obama about his ‘anguish’ at being ‘forced’ to do things that he himself personally opposes, the same way we heard about his ‘anguish’ at murdering people with drones and his ‘anguish’ about the state of prisoners at Guantanamo.
You have to give him credit, though, for being very good at this kind of double talk. He is a consummate politician.