The Next Best Thing to Being There

This is a follow-up on my post from last week about the Debt Concern Theater performance of then Senator Barack Obama on March 16, 2006.   As you may recall, while indignantly voting against increasing the debt ceiling back then (when it was a measly $8.6 trillion), he said such things as:

The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure.

If Washington were serious about honest tax relief in this country, we would see an effort to reduce our national debt by returning to responsible fiscal policies.

Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grand children. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better. I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.

As Obama now admits, he didn’t mean a single word of it.

It’s in the top 10 most egregious broken political promises in American history.  Hoping to hammer home the point to an oblivious America by grabbing the video/audio of this auspicious moment, I turned to that national treasure, the C-SPAN video library. Indeed, they have the full 13 hours of the Senate floor session from that date available for your viewing pleasure. But, mysteriously, there is no record of a Barack Obama appearance that day in the C-SPAN transcript. 

Understanding that this was probably the modern equivalent of the Nixon Tapes’ missing 18 minutes, and sensing that announcement of my Pulitzer Prize was now a mere formality, I got into Woodward and Bernstein mode and made inquiries with C-SPAN. 

Before I had time to even come to a decision on who should play me in the movie version of my investigative story (it was between James Franco and Chiwetel Ejifor), I got word from the wise and political war weary C-SPAN video archivist:

Mr. Ward

I get this question at least once every time raising the debt ceiling has come up during the Obama administration. These speeches were not actually made on the Senate floor but rather entered into the congressional record. Thank you for your interest in C-SPAN.

OK, it’s going to be more of a video short than a feature film. Maybe F. Murray Abraham is available for my role?

Turns out, Barack Obama’s BS artistry was never actually spoken, but only added to the record as a calculated afterthought. Kind of fitting, I suppose. 

It’s true that others do the same thing all the time. Senators Coburn and Grassley also make appearance in the Congressional record for that day, but not in the CSPAN transcript. Yet Obama is, as usual, special in this regard. His entirely theoretical floor flourish includes this intro that the others do not:

Mr. President, I rise today to talk about America’s debt problem.

It’s almost like he was actually there!  Unfortunately, I get the sense that Republicans attempting to negotiate with him now are feeling the same way.

  1. Chris Campion
    James Lileks: So the one time he didn’t vote “present,” he wasn’t. Present.  · 4 hours ago

    When you’re right all the time about everything, does it matter if you’re there?

  2. Mark Reilly

    He not only wrote about “composite” characters. He is one.

  3. Benjamin Glaser

    Brian Ward’s avatar looks like a crazed Rob Long. 

  4. Sandy

    This is a wonderful story, the contemplation of which is one of the rare satisfactions conservatives are likely to experience these days, but I’ll take what I can get.  

  5. Annefy

    John Stossel talked about this practice in one of his recent books. Even when a member does speak, their written comments – rather than their spoken words – are what’s entered in the record.

  6. Olive

    Well done. 

  7. James Lileks
    C

    So the one time he didn’t vote “present,” he wasn’t. Present. 

  8. James Lileks
    C
    Benjamin Glaser: Brian Ward’s avatar looks like a crazed Rob Long.  · 3 hours ago

    Here’s the context:

    14.jpg

  9. Clare Day

    Maybe Eastwood’s chair could play him in the ‘actual reinactment’.

  10. Brian Ward
    C

    For the record, I use this avatar because it looks IDENTICAL to the real me.   Don’t even need the “crazed” qualifier that Rob Long gets.  

    Maybe this means I can start earning some money as a Rob Long impersonator.  Anyone need an affordable ”Rob Long” to appear at their birthday, bahrmitvah, or corporate function?    Contact me!

  11. Chris Campion

    Only if you show up on a large man’s lap in tails, top hat, and Han Solo-esque blaster.

    Brian Ward: For the record, I use this avatar because it looks IDENTICAL to the real me.   Don’t even need the “crazed” qualifier that Rob Long gets.  

    Maybe this means I can start earning some money as a Rob Long impersonator.  Anyone need an affordable ”Rob Long” to appear at their birthday, bahrmitvah, or corporate function?    Contact me! · 19 hours ago

    That cover is classic.

  12. Benjamin Glaser

    Excellent. :) 

  13. Brian Ward
    C

    I’m just hoping this image doesn’t start appearing in Democrat issue ads.   The recklessly violent, plutocratic, white, male ventriloquist dummy (sitting on the lap of a Koch brother) sounds like the product of a  Obama for America brainstorming session on who their enemies truly are.  

    James Lileks

    Benjamin Glaser: Brian Ward’s avatar looks like a crazed Rob Long.  · 3 hours ago

    Here’s the context: · 22 hours ago

  14. Olive
    Brian Ward: I’m just hoping this image doesn’t start appearing in Democrat issue ads.   The recklessly violent, plutocratic, white, male ventriloquist dummy (sitting on the lap of a Koch brother) sounds like the product of a  Obama for America brainstorming session on who their enemies truly are.  

    ROFLAO