[T]he distortions and lack of credibility of the Obama administration have matched and now trumped those of its predecessors. The public may have long ago forgotten that Obama did not close down Guantanamo as promised, or cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term, or stop the revolving door of lobbyists coming in and out of the executive branch.
The public may even have forgiven the president when the stimulus bill never lowered unemployment as promised, or when his misleading boasts about vast increases in oil and gas production came to fruition despite, not because, of his efforts.
But the distortions and broken promises have now become so frequent that many at home and abroad are finally tuning out the president. Almost nothing promised about the Affordable Care Act is proving true. Contrary to presidential assurances, Obamacare has not lowered premiums or deductibles. It will not reduce the deficit or improve business competitiveness. It really will alter existing health plans and in some cases lead to their cancellation. Signing up is certainly not as easy as buying something online on Amazon.
Two considerations often turn presidential ethical lapses into political disasters. Unfortunately, both apply to the present administration.
First, the economy must be robust to offset the deception. Voters rejected the first George Bush for deceiving them, largely because the economy tanked in 1992. Yet the public did not turn on an impeached Bill Clinton, since the economy was quite robust in 1998. Watergate’s lies came at a time of oil embargos and stagnation. In contrast, Reagan survived Iran–Contra because of the boom years.
Second, we expect presidential mendacity to be sporadic rather than serial. By 1968, even when LBJ told the truth, no one listened. In 1973, no one believed anything that the Nixon administration asserted.
Unfortunately, Barack Obama has presided over five years of continued economic sluggishness that have not diverted attention from his administration’s disingenuousness.