Fred Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard.
President Obama is breaking new ground in his campaign for re-election. He is going where incumbent presidents have never gone before. He is doing things for which President George W. Bush would have been pilloried. And Obama is doing all this in plain view.
Yet the media have rarely found the new ploys and gambits of Obama's campaign worth mentioning, much less spotlighting. For instance, in his address at the National Prayer Breakfast in February, Obama treated his agenda and Jesus Christ's as one and the same. Since the media didn't raise any flags, one might have concluded a comment such as Obama's was normal for that event. It wasn't.
Obama offered his own version of the WWJD question — what would Jesus do? — on the issue of raising taxes on the rich. Obama wants to, arguing that seniors, young people, and the middle class shouldn't be forced to "shoulder the burden alone."
Instead, "I think to myself, if I'm willing to give something up as somebody who's been extraordinarily blessed, and give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy, I actually think that's going to make economic sense," he said. "But for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus' teaching that 'for unto whom much is given, much shall be required.' "
Linking his tax plan to Jesus was anything but routine. Presidents have been speaking to the prayer breakfast, a Christian-sponsored event, since the 1950s. Their talks have tended to be mildly Christian, not at all political, and never exploited as a vehicle to claim Christ's endorsement of their policies.
Obama, however, got off without so much as a slap on the wrist from the press. There's a double standard here. Had Bush linked his tax policy to Christ, the media would have not only reported it, but no doubt assailed him for breaching the wall between church and state.
Obama, by the way, also said his plan to tax the rich "mirrors the Islamic belief that those who've been blessed have an obligation to use those blessings to help others, or the Jewish doctrine of moderation and consideration for others."
In April, speaking to newspaper editors in Washington, D.C., the president took a unique approach to the 2013 budget passed by the House. "I want to actually go through what it would mean for our country if these [spending] cuts were to be spread out evenly," he said. "So bear with me."
The editors and the media covering the speech did just that. From all appearances, they accepted the spread-the-cuts-evenly tactic as perfectly legitimate. It wasn't. It was neither honest nor fair.
The GOP budget, which would increase the national debt by $3 trillion over 10 years, distributed cuts quite unevenly. That's the way budgets are put together: Some programs are cut, others have their spending increased. In both cases, changes are imposed from a higher spending base, reflecting inflation and expected growth in programs.
That didn't stop Obama. He insisted college students would lose $1,000 in aid, 1,600 medical grants to research Alzheimer's, cancer, and AIDS would disappear, and two million mothers and babies would be dropped from a program that "gives them access to healthy food."
That's not all. Weather forecasts would be less accurate because fewer satellites would be launched. There would be flight cancellations, plus shutdowns of air traffic control systems at some airports.
"This is math," Obama said. Only it wasn't. It was make-believe. "This is not conjecture," he said. "I am not exaggerating. These are facts." In truth, they were facts based on a false premise. Which means they were fiction.
Another departure by Obama began last September when he summoned a joint session of Congress to unveil his new "jobs bill." This has two twists. It was crafted to be rejected by Republicans in hopes of creating the impression of a "do-nothing Congress." To make sure Republicans wouldn't seek a compromise, Obama said he wouldn't negotiate. It was take it or leave it. The media barely blinked.
The president devoted weeks to traveling the country and demanding that Congress "pass this bill." Indeed, Majority Leader Harry Reid could have brought it to the Senate floor for a vote. And if Obama had wanted him to, he would have. But Obama's urgent-sounding plea was a sham. There was no vote, though several individual parts of the bill were passed later.
Obama has used similar fakery again and again. He's relentless in touting the Buffett Rule, despite zero chance of its passage. It would require those making more than a million dollars to pay at least 30 percent of their annual earnings in federal income taxes. He's threatened to veto a Republican bill to prevent a doubling of the interest rate on college loans on trumped-up grounds, hoping to tag them as opposed to the popular aid program.
And last month, the White House spread the word about its need for executive action to govern, as the New York Times put it, "in the face of Congressional obstructionism." This is a straw man. Obama is eager to create the illusion he's been forced to rely on executive orders because Republicans are blocking his agenda.
But it's the Senate, controlled by Democrats, that has become the graveyard of legislation. It has refused to pass a budget for the third straight year, and Reid has said he'll call as few votes as possible this year. Rather than a do-nothing Congress — in other words, Republicans — there's a do-nothing Senate, led by Democrats.
In running for re-election, Obama has already set records. As of March 6, he's held more fundraising events (104) than the previous five presidents combined (94). And I suspect Obama has set the record for blaming his predecessor for his own troubles. If he hasn't, there's still time. The election is six months away.