Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I Thought Obama Was Against Torture?

Despite his absolute inability to fluidly form a sentence extemporaneously without interjecting a myriad of stall words such as "uh", "and" (pronounced "aaaaand"), or "that" (pronounced "thaaaaaat"), President Obama is quite adept at ("aaaaaat")...reading words - prepared by others - off of a screen.
When it came time for the question and answer session, however, last night's press conference became downright painful to watch. In halting, pensive fashion did the president respond to reporters' questions and on more than one occasion I found myself yelling at the tv, "Spit it out, already"! It's quite possible that water boarding would have been preferable to what I experienced last night.

His opening remarks were at least delivered smoothly, with but a few moments of hesitation, perhaps when the rolling words on the screen didn't keep up, but they were confounding, nonetheless. Right out of the gate Obama claimed that his fledgling leadership has "already saved jobs". How does one begin to measure such a thing? It is a claim that can neither be proved nor disproved, so it's a safe one.

He then said that the stimulus provided cash to banks which in turn were able to help 40% of homeowners to refinance, which he actually equated to a "tax cut". That may have been a preemptive response to Jake Tapper's question, "Will you sign a budget bill with no middle class tax cut and no cap & trade"? Part of Obama's response to the Tapper question was, “Now, we never expected, when we printed out our budget, that [Congress] would simply Xerox it and vote on it….The bottom line is—is that I want to see health care, energy, education and serious efforts to reduce our budget deficit.”

What? He says he wants to reduce our budget deficit, but the CBO is forecasting a 9.3 trillion dollar deficit in ten years. Exactly when does the president expect to get to work on reducing it? Further, if the ability to refinance one's mortgage is equivalent to a tax cut, why doesn't the administration consider forcing energy and utility companies to raise rates to consumers as a punitive tax increase?

Chip Reid with CBS News also mentioned the spectre of energy and education spending inflating the deficit to 9.3 trillion dollars. After Obama indirectly accused Reid of using a republican talking point, and once again defending himself by crying about this problem being "inherited", the president actually made the absurd declaration that his budget would "drive down the deficit in first 5 years. Not quite satisfied to leave that whopper hanging in the air, he followed up by saying that Medicare is wasteful spending while his budget eliminates waste. Whoa! No earmarks, eh Mr. President?

Next, calling on Kevin Baron of Stars and Stripes Magazine, the president was asked how he would cut military spending. Obama responded that he would seek to change military procurement practices in order to save millions, while claiming that he wanted to provide better health care to our veterans. This, after he recently tried to save a paltry $550 million by making them pay for their health care.

Perhaps the most bizarre exchange came when Ebony Magazine's Kevin Chappell parroted an erroneous report from National Center on Family Homelessness, which said that approximately 1.5 million children are homeless, or 1 in 50. Not only did the president fail to point out that the report grossly misrepresented the actual number, he further embellished by using the phrase "roof over their heads".

But according to Fox News on March 13th, there are not nearly that many children sleeping in doorways or on park benches:

But rather than using the definition of homelessness established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Massachusetts-based organization used a standard adopted by the Department of Education that includes children who are "doubled up," or children who share housing with other persons due to economic hardship or similar reason.

The difference? About 1,170,000 children.

An estimated 330,000 sheltered and unsheltered homeless children were identified in HUD's July 2007 report to Congress as those who are "literally homeless," or those living in homeless facilities or in places not meant for human habitation, according to the report.

The remaining 1.17 million — those who are precariously housed or who may be doubled up with friends and relatives or paying extremely high proportions of their resources for rent — are not included in HUD's report.

I doubt the president was even aware of this, but decided to pull at the heart strings of an equally ill-informed television audience. After all, that's how he's gotten this far anyway.

I'll not soon forget the tortuous event I witnessed last night, and I'd be willing to wager that Human Rights Watch is working industriously right now preparing a petition to prevent Obama from visiting and speaking at Guantanamo Bay, ever.

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