Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org
Although the New York Times says that President Donald Trump lies vastly more than did President Barack Obama, the definite liar in that comparison — based on the factual record, to be presented here — is the New York Times itself. It lies in alleging this, which isn’t to say that either President lies more frequently than the other, but instead, that the Times’s calculation fails to count, at all, but instead altogether ignores, some of President Obama’s very worst lies — ones that were real whoppers. These were lies that were essential to his maintaining support among Democrats (such as the owners of this corporation, the NYT, are), and that would keep Democrats’ support only if they judged him by his words and not by his deeds: failed to judge him by his actual decisions and actions (such as the NYT’s owners do — or else they secretly know the truth on this, but prevent this truth from being published by their employees). Even to the present day, Obama is evaluated by Democrats on the basis of his lies instead of on the basis of his actions. He’s admired for his stated intentions and promises, which were often the opposite of what his consistent actual decisions and actions turned out to be on those very same matters, on which he had, in retrospect, quite clearly lied (though this was covered-up at the time — and still is).
For example, among the list of lies that the NYT counts from Obama, is excluded Obama’s having asserted on 20 May 2009, at the signing into law of both the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act and the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act: “This bill nearly doubles the FBI’s mortgage and financial fraud program, allowing it to better target fraud in hard-hit areas. That’s why it provides the resources necessary for other law enforcement and federal agencies, from the Department of Justice to the SEC to the Secret Service, to pursue these criminals, bring them to justice, and protect hardworking Americans affected most by these crimes. It’s also why it expands DOJ’s authority to prosecute fraud that takes place in many of the private institutions not covered under current federal bank fraud criminal statutes — institutions where more than half of all subprime mortgages came from as recently as four years ago.”
Also not counted, but excluded, by the NYT, as having been an Obama lie, was his 24 January 2012 State of the Union Address assertion: “Tonight, I’m asking my Attorney General to create a special unit of federal prosecutors and leading state attorneys general to expand our investigations into the abusive lending and packaging of risky mortgages that led to the housing crisis. (Applause.) This new unit will hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners, and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans. Now, a return to the American values of fair play and shared responsibility will help protect our people and our economy.”
But both statements were lies. The Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice issued on 13 March 2014 its “Audit of the Department of Justice’s Efforts to Address Mortgage Fraud,” and reported that Obama’s promises to prosecute turned out to be just lies. DOJ didn’t even try; and they lied even about their efforts. The IG found: “DOJ did not uniformly ensure that mortgage fraud was prioritized at a level commensurate with its public statements. For example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Criminal Investigative Division ranked mortgage fraud as the lowest criminal threat in its lowest crime category. Additionally, we found mortgage fraud to be a low priority, or not [even] listed as a priority, for the FBI Field Offices we visited.” Not just that, but, “Many Assistant United States Attorneys (AUSA) informed us about underreporting and misclassification of mortgage fraud cases.” This was important because, “Capturing such information would allow DOJ to … better evaluate its performance in targeting high-profile offenders.”
Privately, Obama, early in his Administration, had told Wall Street executives that he would protect them. That statement, made in private to the leaders of Wall Street, turned out to have been honest. Though he lied often to the public, he never (so far as the available public record has shown) did so in private (except that he lied in private to Vladimir Putin, but neoconservatives such as the NYT’s owners and executives and editors don’t mind that at all — but they also don’t count it, at all).
On 27 March 2009, Obama assembled the top executives of the bailed-out financial firms in a secret meeting at the White House, and he assured them that he would cover their backs; he promised them “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks”. It was never on the White House website; it was leaked out, which is one of the reasons Obama hates leakers (such as Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, and Julian Assange). What the DOJ’s IG indicated was, in effect, that Obama had kept his secret promise to them.
Here is the context in which he had said that (from page 234 of Ron Suskind’s 2011 book, Confidence Men, with boldfacings by me):
“My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.”
It was an attention grabber, no doubt, especially that carefully chosen last word.
But then Obama’s flat tone turned to one of support, even sympathy. “You guys have an acute public relations problem that’s turning into a political problem,” he said. “And I want to help. But you need to show that you get that this is a crisis and that everyone has to make some sacrifices.” According to one of the participants, he then said, “I’m not out there to go after you. I’m protecting you. But if I’m going to shield you from public and congressional anger, you have to give me something to work with on these issues of compensation.”
No suggestions were forthcoming from the bankers on what they might offer, and the president didn’t seem to be championing any specific proposals. He had none: neither Geithner nor Summers believed compensation controls had any merit.
After a moment, the tension in the room seemed to lift: the bankers realized he was talking about voluntary limits on compensation until the storm of public anger passed. It would be for show.
Obama said “Everyone has to make sacrifices,” but he was talking to people who simply refused to be included in that “everyone.” As the mega-crooks who had been profiting from the crimes that had brought about the global economic collapse, those “sacrifices” should have been life-imprisonments. Only by means of such accountability, would their successors not try anything of the sort that these banksters had done. But such was not to be the case. So, the crimes continued.
Obama kept his word to them. The banksters got off scot-free, and kept their personal hundreds of millions of dollars ‘earned’.
He had been lying to the public, all along. Not only would he not prosecute the banksters, but he would treat them as if all they had was “an acute public relations problem that’s turning into a political problem.” And he thought that the people who wanted them prosecuted were like the KKK who had chased Blacks with pitchforks before lynching. According to the DOJ, their Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) was “established by President Barack Obama in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes.” But, according to the Department’s IG, it was all a fraud: a fraud that, according to the DOJ, itself had been going on since at least November 2009.
The IG’s report continued by pointing out the Obama-appointed Attorney General’s lies, noting that on 9 October 2012, “the FFETF held a press conference to publicize the results of the initiative,” and:
“The Attorney General announced that the initiative resulted in 530 criminal defendants being charged, including 172 executives, in 285 criminal indictments or informations filed in federal courts throughout the United States during the previous 12 months. The Attorney General also announced that 110 federal civil cases were filed against over 150 defendants for losses totaling at least $37 million, and involving more than 15,000 victims. According to statements made at the press conference, these cases involved more than 73,000 homeowner victims and total losses estimated at more than $1 billion.
“Shortly after this press conference, we requested documentation that supported the statistics presented. … Over the following months, we repeatedly asked the Department about its efforts to correct the statistics. … Specifically, the number of criminal defendants charged as part of the initiative was 107, not 530 as originally reported; and the total estimated losses associated with true Distressed Homeowners cases were $95 million, 91 percent less than the $1 billion reported at the October 2012 press conference. …
“Despite being aware of the serious flaws in these statistics since at least November 2012, we found that the Department continued to cite them in mortgage fraud press releases. … According to DOJ officials, the data collected and publicly announced for an earlier FFETF mortgage fraud initiative – Operation Stolen Dreams – also may have contained similar errors.”
Basically, the IG’s report said that the Obama Administration had failed to enforce the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009. This bill had been passed overwhelmingly, 92-4 in the Senate, and 338-52 in the House. All of the votes against it came from Republicans. (Perhaps Obama was secretly a Republican.) The law sent $165 million to the DOJ to catch the executive fraudsters who had brought down the U.S. economy, and it set up the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, and had been introduced and written by the liberal Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy. President Obama signed it on 20 May 2009. At that early stage in his Presidency, he couldn’t afford to display publicly that he was far to the right of every congressional Democrat, so he signed it.
Already on 15 November 2011, Syracuse University’s TRAC Reports had headlined “Criminal Prosecutions for Financial Institution Fraud Continue to Fall,” and provided a chart showing that whereas such prosecutions had been running at a fairly steady rate until George W. Bush came into office in 2001, they immediately plunged during his Presidency and were continuing that decline under Obama, even after the biggest boom in alleged financial fraud cases since right before the Great Depression. And, then, on 24 September 2013, TRAC Reports bannered “Slump in FBI White Collar Crime Prosecutions,” and said that “prosecutions of white collar criminals recommended by the FBI are substantially down during the first ten months of Fiscal Year 2013.” This was especially so in the Wall Street area: “In the last year, the judicial District Court recording the largest projected drop in the rate of white collar crime prosecutions — 27.8 percent — was the Southern District of New York (Manhattan).” On 29 July 2015, Syracuse University’s TRAC Reports headlined “Federal White Collar Prosecutions At 20-Year Low,” and linked to their full study, which showed that, whereas in fiscal year 2004-2005, under George W. Bush, “Bank Fraud” had been the #1 most-prosecuted of all ”white collar crime matters,” it was, in the latest fiscal year, 2014-2015, only #3.
These were extremely serious crimes: they crashed the world’s economy in 2008. But there was no White House interest in pursuing them. Instead, the Obama Administration blocked any such prosecutions, or even investigations into specific cases. An example: In January 2011, there was “The Financial Crisis Inquiry Report” from the Commission (FCIC, or Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission) that was appointed by the President and the leaders of both political Parties in Congress. It was rigged. An instance of this rigging appeared even in the NYT. On 21 September 2013, a non-NYT reporter, William D. Cohan, formerly of Wall Street but now an independent investigative journalist, managed to headline there, “Was This Whistle-Blower Muzzled?” and he described how Richard M. Bowen III, who had testified to the FCIC, was muzzled by them. Bowen’s attorney told him that Bradley J. Bondi, the FCIC’s deputy general counsel, demanded changes in his testimony, and personally threatened that he “thinks that the way it’s written now, Citi will declare war on both you and the F.C.I.C., and it will primarily consist of an effort to discredit you.” Bowen was advised by his attorney, “Remove the names of people at Citi,” as the way to prevent further retaliation. It was done.
However, when a bilked federal agency sued the banksters, quashing the crimes wasn’t quite so easy. Shahien Nasiripour, at huffingtonpost, bannered, on 16 May 2011, “Confidential Federal Audits Accuse Five Biggest Mortgage Firms Of Defrauding Taxpayers,” and he reported that the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development had carried out audits of Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and Ally Financial, and found, in each case, that they had swindled the Federal Government. “The internal watchdog office at HUD referred its findings to the Department of Justice, which had to decide whether to file charges” under “the False Claims Act, a Civil War-era law crafted as a weapon against firms that swindle the government.” All of “the audits conclude that the banks effectively cheated taxpayers by presenting the Federal Housing Administration with false claims: They filed for federal reimbursement on foreclosed homes … using defective and faulty documents.” Obama’s ‘Justice’ Department refused even to prosecute, much less to pursue, any of these mega-crooks, who had cheated the U.S. Government — ultimately U.S. taxpayers.
At lower levels of the Federal Government, there was a desire to prosecute banksters. The official “2010 Mortgage Fraud Report” by the FBI analyzed “the breadth and depth of mortgage fraud crimes perpetrated against the United States and its citizens during 2010,” and found that, “Mortgage fraud continued at elevated levels in 2010, consistent with levels seen in 2009.” However, the FBI is only an investigative arm of the U.S. Government, not actually a prosecutorial agency. Only the Executive is that: the President, via his chosen U.S. Attorney General, refused to prosecute banksters.
So: if these sorts of lies weren’t outright frauds against the American public, then what could possibly be?
But that’s not all of what belongs in the “whopper” or “Big Lie” category from Obama: he lied constantly about Ukraine, and about Syria, and about Russia and about his intentions toward Russia, and about his proposed international-trade treaties: TPP. TTIP, and TISA.
None of these whoppers was included in the listing that the NYT presented in their 14 December 2017 article “Trump’s Lies vs. Obama’s”.
In addition, Obama lied massively regarding his foreign-policy intentions and actions, and the NYT (like other U.S. ‘news’media) hid and hide the truth and asserted, and they continue to assert, his lies on those matters, even though they were often blatantly false; so that the NYT’s ‘news’-reports on those key matters of U.S. foreign relations — not only on the U.S. Government’s actions, but even on its intentions — constitute egregiously false ‘history’ on those key matters of Obama’s foreign policies, and no historian (but only, at best, a ‘historian’) can unquestioningly trust that newspaper regarding those matters. Especially, a citation of the NYT as presenting truth regarding either Syria or Ukraine should elicit strong suspicion from a reader, not trust. This is not to say that other American newspapers are any better, nor that highly respected American journalists who are employed by other U.S. media deserve to be trusted, but only that the NYT isn’t, and doesn’t. No intelligent person can trust it. The record of its deceitfulness is clear, especially on important political matters.
I am nonpartisan toward persons and toward political parties, and consider all of America’s Presidents since 1981 (if not since 1968, but with the exception of Carter) to be and have been loathsome people (not even well-intentioned), but ‘news’media such as the New York Times aren’t any more trustworthy (nor more honest) than these Presidents have been, and the pontifications from such ‘news’media (in both their ’news’-reporting and opinion-pieces) are just propaganda, mixtures of truths with lies — and more and more of the public are coming to recognize this disgusting fact, so these media’s pretenses to honesty and trustworthiness are having fewer and fewer believers. But these media claim that fake ‘news’ comes only from their non-mainstream competitors (some of which are actually far more honest than they). Preserving their cartel is crucial to them. And it’s crucial to the people who benefit from this cartel.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.