Baskin: The tale of two presidents

The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity," wrote André Gide, the 1947 Nobel Prize-winning French writer.

Whether referring to the economic stimulus, health care reform or the 2010 election season, President Barack Obama has had a difficult time reconciling the truth. It is as though the president has two universes; one in which he manipulates the facts to serve his purpose and another where his "facts" don't match with reality.

Almost two years ago, Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, boldly declaring that the plan would create or save 3.5 million jobs and keep unemployment at under 8 percent.

At the time the bill was passed, the unemployment rate was 8.1 percent. In the two years since, unemployment has reached a high of 10 percent and is currently stands at around 9.1 percent. Today, the count is between 700,000 to 1.7 million jobs saved or created. This is the first time I can remember counting "saved" jobs. I am left wondering how to measure jobs saved?

To be fair, passing legislation on a promise that is unintentionally forgone does not make Obama a liar – but if the results are in and he insists his promise has been kept when it clearly has been broken, it begins to leave open questions of sincerity.

During his health care speech to Congress, Obama declared, "First, if you are among the hundreds of millions of Americans who already have health insurance through your job … nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have. Let me repeat this: Nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have." Once again the "facts" are wrong. Recently, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Chamber of Commerce each released reports stating that 51 percent of American workers, mostly employees of small businesses, will be in the position of potentially losing their existing health care coverage by 2014 because the plans offered by their employers will be subject to new federal requirements. Does this sound familiar? "Read my lips: no new taxes!"

This past fall, Obama campaigned hard for his fellow Democrats: "My name may not be on the ballot, but our agenda for moving forward is on the ballot," he said in October on Rev. Al Sharpton's radio show.

After the Republicans' historic landslide victory, did Obama announce that the people overwhelmingly rejected his agenda? No. Instead, he declared that the "shellacking" was due to poor communication on his part. He told "60 Minutes," "Making an argument that people can understand … I think that we haven't always been successful at that." Wasn't he touted as the most articulate politician ever in 2008?  Has our ability to comprehend deteriorated in two short years?

This column could continue in this way for pages. We have candidate Obama's promise to accept public financing for his presidential run – he later changed his mind. We have closed hearings on health care, which he promised wouldn't happen. He promised to close Guantanamo Bay, which is still open. The list goes on.

Abraham Lincoln, a president who didn't have trouble reconciling the truth, once said, "You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time." Obama is trying his best to prove Abe wrong. Last November, though, Old Abe's words rang loud and true.