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Barnes: Obama Denies the Obvious

3:20 PM, Jun 23, 2009 • By FRED BARNES
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1) Obama's made the least out of his strong opening statement on Iran. Having used the word "condemn" -- for the first time -- and "appalling" as well, the president followed up mostly with mush. He ducked the question on whether Iranian diplomats are still invited to July 4 celebrations at American embassies and consulates around the world. This means they are. And it was clear that, at the moment, Obama has no plans to impose any conseqences on the Ahmandinejad/Khamenei regime. His engagement policy, unsuccessful so far, endures.

2) As Brit Hume noted on Fox News, the press conference may signal the beginning of the end of Obama's honeymoon with the press corps. But it may not. The toughest questions came from two reporters who could be expected to ask tough questions: Major Garrett of Fox and Jake Tapper of ABC News. Let's see if they are called on at the next Obama session with the media. In any case, Obama was put on the defensive for the first time at a press conference, this one his fourth as president. Then again, the press gang yucked it up with Obama when he parried a question on whether his words on Iran had been influenced by John McCain's. "What do you think?" Obama responded. If he'd been truthful, he simply would have said, "yes."

3) The president may be trying to give up smoking, but he doesn't appear to be making a serious effort to stop using the crudest rhetorical device of all: the straw man. This time it was all those folks who want to do nothing to reform the health care system. There may be some of those folks around but they aren't players in the health care debate now. It's Republicans and a significant number of Democrats who oppose his health care plans, not a do-nothing brigade.

4) While we're on health care, Obama seemed proud of himself as he defended the "logic" of the Washington-run insurance plan, the so-called public plan. He shouldn't have been. He left out the three of the most important aspects: the public plan will be subsidized by the taxpayers and will have lower fees than private insurance. These private insurance companies won't be able to match and still make a profit.

5) One of the worst things a politician can do is deny the obvious. This is not smart and usually unneccesary. Obama could have given an honest answer and said his comments about the Iranian regime got tougher as he learned more about what was going in Iran and it became clear that violence was being used against the democratic protesters. Instead, he said he'd been consistent in his remarks. Even the most egregious toady in the White House press corps knew that wasn't true.