First, hosannas to Barack Obama began appearing in the presidential biographies of his predecessors on the official White House website. Now, Heritage Foundation’s Amy Payne has discovered that the State Department has begun inserting hosannas to the boss in their new “Fact Sheets” of countries around the world. Is the Obama administration attempting to build a cult of personality, or just create the jobs necessary to clean up official government websites of his electioneering after January?
Inserting himself into the biographies of past presidents on the White House website apparently wasn’t enough for President Obama. His State Department is now editing its descriptions of foreign countries into yet another taxpayer-subsidized campaign commercial for the Obama Administration.
The State Department has recently ended its long-running series of Background Notes, which were analytical, objective histories of other countries. In their place, new “Fact Sheets” now tout Obama’s policies and actions toward each nation. No more historical context, no recounting of complex and long-standing issues in the country. Just cut to the chase—that is, the time when the current Administration came to power.
Heritage’s Jim Roberts, one of the editors of Heritage’s Index of Economic Freedom, was struck by the disproportionate change in emphasis while doing some research recently. Roberts, who worked at the State Department from 1982 to 2007 and used to write these country profiles, said he had never seen edits like these under either previous Republican or Democratic Administrations.
The Dear Leader approach is bad enough — but State also seems to be using the spin sheets to punish nations that don’t agree with Obama’s policies:
Roberts noted that “They seem to be not ‘fact sheets’ but brag sheets,” adding that the edits appear to treat countries more favorably when the Obama Administration agrees with their leaders.
Isn’t this something we’d expect to see from Pyongyang rather than Washington DC?
Roberts analyzes the changes for Brazil between the Bush-era Background Notes and the new Obama-centric Fact Sheets:
Compare the nearly 1,200-word “Fact Sheet” published this week by the U.S. embassy in Brazil with the last Background Note on Brazil written during the George W. Bush Administration.
The 4,100-word Bush document, chock full of facts and figures helpful in analyzing the country and its importance to the U.S., never once mentions the name of any U.S. President. The 300-word section on U.S.–Brazil relations takes up about 7 percent of the document.
Conversely, fully 70 percent (830 words) of the Brazil Fact Sheet, which is focused exclusively on U.S. relations with Brazil, discusses President Obama either directly by name (twice!) or in the context of the plethora of programs his Administration has launched with Brazil, including a shared “commitment to combat discrimination based on race, gender, ethnicity, or lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) status; to advance gender equality; a bilateral instrument that targets racism; support for HIV/AIDS prevention, promotion of clean energy technologies in Brazil, and mitigation of climate change.”
American officeholders are supposed to take great pains to separate their campaigns from their official duties. Using taxpayer resources to blatantly promote the president’s positions on foreign policy—and even editing the historical record—is an egregious abuse of power.
Absolutely true — and it’s also a measure of the insecurity of the President and his staff. They’re busy trying to manipulate government records to secure his legacy, when it’s the manipulation that will speak loudest to historians of the era.