Slate’s Dickerson: Obama deceptions might be a deliberate attention-diverting strategy
posted at 2:01 pm on April 17, 2014 by Ed Morrissey
Earlier today, I wrote about the Fox News poll showing the erosion of Barack Obama’s standing on honesty, an unsurprising consequence of the implosion of his promises on ObamaCare, among other things. More than sixty percent of Americans now think Obama lies on important matters some or most of the time, which hardly bodes well for his latest campaign effort — which features a whopper of a lie about pay differentials between men and women. Even his normal allies accuse Obama of “revolting demagoguery,” and the claim revealed some interesting pay disparities propagated by the very incumbents Obama wanted to boost with this new “war on women” attack.
Does the White House regret these fibs? John Dickerson at Slate doubts it — and argues that even baldfaced lies promote Obama’s agenda through trollery:
How do I get you to pay attention to this story? I could type out a balanced tale about an incremental change in White House spin and message control, relying on your discernment, patience, and kindness toward all the creatures of the Earth. Or, I could say that Barack Obama is a cynical and manipulative liar. The first approach would get a modest number of thoughtful readers, but they probably wouldn’t stay on the page very long. The second would excite the emotions. Conservatives would approve. Liberals would denounce it and point out the exaggerations. My editor would smile because the controversy would attract more readers.
This is trolling. I’ve decided against it, but the White House has not. CBS’s Major Garrett writes in National Journal about a new version of the “stray voltage” theory of communication in which the president purposefully overstates his case knowing that it will create controversy. Garrett describes it this way: “Controversy sparks attention, attention provokes conversation, and conversation embeds previously unknown or marginalized ideas in the public consciousness.” …
“Stray voltage,” the term Obama strategist David Plouffe used to describe this approach, is also a great buzzword that makes it look like you’ve got a theory for what might otherwise look like chaos. But this twist is a new, higher order of deception: creating the controversy for the purposes of milking it.
The White House denies that this is their strategy:
@mckaycoppins FWIW this theory is wrong
— Dan Pfeiffer (@pfeiffer44) April 17, 2014
@mckaycoppins theory ascribed to us is not ours (or Plouffe's) and wasn't applied to this debate.
— Dan Pfeiffer (@pfeiffer44) April 17, 2014
It’s a little difficult to believe this, though. The 77-cent myth has been so thoroughly debunked as a metric for “equal pay for equal work” that nearly everyone blew the whistle on it. Even after having it repeatedly debunked both now and when Obama included it in his State of the Union speech, the White House keeps using it as part of their argument, arguing that it’s “shameful” — which it is, but not for the reason they claim. If it’s not deliberate, then the only other possibility is that the entire Obama administration and the President himself are too dense to comprehend the explanation, offered a multitude of times across the political spectrum.
Similarly, the administration kept insisting for years that ObamaCare would not disrupt existing coverage — “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan” — even while overwhelming evidence showed otherwise. When millions of people had their plans canceled in the individual markets, Obama and the White House feigned surprise, and then tried to blame insurers who were forced to end their policies as a direct result of the law. It later came out that HHS had predicted this outcome a few weeks after ObamaCare’s passage, but Obama, Kathleen Sebelius, and the administration kept pushing the lie until it was too obviously false to deny any longer.
If deception isn’t a deliberate strategy, well, it would be difficult for it to be worse if it was. Either way, it’s not playing in Peoria the way it does in the Beltway, as Salena Zito reported last weekend:
She gave a dramatic eye-roll in reaction to all of the fuss that Democrats and the president attempted to create over equal pay for women last week.
A Democrat herself, she said she has carved out a decent, comfortable life for her family over the years as a waitress at a local restaurant.
“I am in many ways my own boss,” she explained. “It is up to me to get the order right, treat people well, and use my personal skills to increase my wages.”
And she is “sick and tired of my party treating me like a victim. This is not 1970, and it’s insulting.”
I spoke with Salena about this on Tuesday’s TEMS.