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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Obama's unprecedented use of 'unprecedented'

The Obama White House is addicted to the “unprecedented.”
Perhaps it was a sign when President Barack Obama sat down in January to record his first weekly address and announced: “We begin this year and this administration in the midst of an unprecedented crisis that calls for unprecedented action."
What has followed is declaration after declaration of “unprecedented” milestones. Some of them are legitimate firsts, like the president’s online town hall at the White House in May.
But others the president wins merely on a technicality, and several clearly already have precedent.

The White House’s announcement of its unprecedented – “a first by an American president visiting China” – town hall meeting with students in Beijing, for instance, drew a collective eye-roll in certain circles back home, namely among former aides to President George W. Bush who had already been grumbling about Obama’s carefree application of “unprecedented.”
“I think I attended a town hall with President Bush in China,” former Bush adviser Karen Hughes quipped with a laugh, recalling a 2002 Bush speech in Beijing where he took questions from the audience. “I thought: Were they asleep? Or were they dreaming? I remember standing and watching President Bush engage in a town hall that I believe was televised.”

President Bill Clinton also took questions from Chinese students at an event during a trip to the country in 1998, then did a radio call-in show in Shanghai the next day.
The White House’s characterization of Obama’s Beijing town hall mirrored the description staff gave Obama’s address to students on the first day of school, which the Education Department called “historic.” Yet President George H.W. Bush delivered an address to students, as did President Ronald Reagan. Maybe it was the streaming online video of President Obama’s speech to students that was unprecedented?
Either way, for a president whose approach to exaggerated critiques of his administration is to “call ‘em out” and who has made an issue of forcing corporate America to expose the fine print, it’s a wonder if his use of “unprecedented” would pass his own litmus test. (continues here at Yahoo)

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