What President Obama called the end of the combat mission in Iraq is a meaningless milestone, constructed almost entirely out of thin air, and his second Oval Office speech marks a rare moment of dishonesty and disingenuousness on the part of a politician who usually resorts to rare candor at important moments.
"Rare," that is, unless one counts how he handled health care, as I described it earlier:
An individual mandate to purchase health insurance? Mr. Obama spoke out against it in the campaign, criticizing Hillary Clinton for it based on what he said were philosophical differences. A tax on high-cost insurance policies? Mr. Obama spoke out against that in the campaign, too, criticizing Senator McCain for proposing it. An end-run by the majority party around the Senate filibuster rules? Mr. Obama had spoken out against it when the Republicans wanted to use the "nuclear option" for confirming judges. A sharply partisan divide on passing the legislation, which got not a single Republican vote? Mr. Obama had vowed during the campaign to unite Americans and bridge partisan and ideological divisions.
Or how he has described tax increases and the auto bailouts, as I wrote earlier:
Now Josh Gerstein, a colleague of mine at The New York Sun and The Harvard Crimson and a straight-shooting, down-the-middle, non-ideological reporter if there ever was one, has caught Mr. Obama out in two misstatements of fact. The first is Mr. Obama's claim "I haven't signed a bill that's raised taxes yet." In fact, Mr. Gerstein points out, on February 4 Mr. Obama signed a law expanding children's health insurance funded largely by a $71 billion increase in the tobacco tax over 10 years. The second is Mr. Obama's claim that taxpayers are going to be "repaid every dime they put on the line" in the auto industry bailout. In fact, Mr. Gerstein points out, $7 billion in Chrysler loans have already been written off, and it's highly unlikely that taxpayers will recover all of the $65 billion put into GM.
Then there were the distortions and false charges I documented in the post on President Obama's Demagoguery.
To qualify as "dishonesty" the president has to be intentionally misleading, and I'm not going to speculate on his motives. He could be forgetful, or careless, or genuinely deluding himself, or he could have changed his mind over time, which is sometimes a good thing. A president says a lot of words in public. Still, plenty of people who may agree with Mr. Packer's assessment of the Iraq speech will disagree with his use of the word "rare."