Commentary

Phony Lines From Barack Obama's Speech

By Tim Graham | August 21, 2020 | 10:28am EDT
Former U.S. President Barack Obama is seen on television screens as he speaks during the third day of the Democratic National Convention, being held virtually amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, at The Abbey bar and restaurant in West Hollywood, Calif. (Photo credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)
Former U.S. President Barack Obama is seen on television screens as he speaks during the third day of the Democratic National Convention, being held virtually amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, at The Abbey bar and restaurant in West Hollywood, Calif. (Photo credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

Ryan Lizza, chief Washington correspondent of Politico, is the kind of character assassin who likes to go to the White House briefing and throw beanball questions about how many coronavirus deaths President Donald Trump thinks are acceptable.

If that sounds darkly partisan, you could also see the sunny side of Lizza on Twitter, who almost levitated over former President Barack Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention.

"Barack Obama just delivered the finest convention speech in modern history (again)," he tweeted. "Spell-binding, chilling, optimistic, beautifully written, and expertly delivered. Incredible moment."

Conservative Twitter informally awarded him the Chris Matthews Thrill Up My Leg Prize for most infatuated reaction. But it was still second to the emotions of the average "objective" journalist.

So let's focus on how Obama's speech could be evaluated more critically. Some lines were mean-spirited, phony, or laughable.

1. Obama said: "Donald Trump hasn't grown into the job because he can't. And the consequences of that failure are severe: 170,000 Americans dead, millions of jobs gone, while those at the top take in more than ever."

If we were to have a President Hillary Clinton, would Obama (or his many media allies) consider it fair game to blame tens of thousands of American COVID-19 deaths on her? Do they honestly believe that, under Democrats, the death toll would have been 170? That would ignore the fact that the worst coronavirus death tolls are largely in states with Democratic governors.

2. Obama touted Joe Biden's character: "Joe's a man who learned early on to treat every person he meets with respect and dignity...that empathy, that decency, the belief that everybody counts — that's who Joe is."

That's a Pants on Fire lie. Just weeks ago, Biden sneered that any black voter who doesn't support him isn't really black. In 2012, Biden smeared Wall Street when speaking before an audience with many African Americans, saying "they're gonna put y'all back in chains." Examples abound.

3. This Obama spin about Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris really makes opponents laugh: "They believe that no one — including the president — is above the law, and that no public official — including the president — should use their office to enrich themselves or their supporters."

Does that include presidents who massively enrich themselves immediately after leaving office? I don't recall Biden denouncing Obama's mega deals with Penguin Random House and Netflix.

4. This routine about Biden and Harris and their beliefs continued.

"They understand that in this democracy, the commander-in-chief doesn't use the men and women of our military, who are willing to risk everything to protect our nation, as political props to deploy against peaceful protesters on our own soil," Obama said.

If Obama were ever surrounded by skeptical journalists, they might ask which protesters in cities like Portland and Seattle are "peaceful," because it certainly wasn't the hooligans throwing bricks and trying to set federal buildings on fire. Obama is right that Democrats love to blur the peaceful and violent protesters into a heroic whole. Harris called them a "coalition of conscience" taking to the streets.

5. Finally, Obama said of the Biden-Harris ticket: "They understand that political opponents aren't 'un-American' just because they disagree with you, that a free press isn't the 'enemy' but the way we hold officials accountable."

False. In April, Biden said Trump's differing opinion on mail-in voting was "un-American." And most conservatives thought it was rich for Obama to uphold the press, when even Obama-supporting journalists admitted he was the harshest president in history in prosecuting journalists during leak investigations.

Donald Trump isn't wrong to think of the media elite as an enemy, even as Obama arrogantly poses as the defender of hardened observers such as ABC's Terry Moran, who oozed in 2009 that Obama was "taking a step down into the Oval Office."

Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org.

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