Legislative Lowdown: Obama’s “it depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is” moment

Brian Darling Liberty Government Affairs
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President Barack Obama may have abandoned any pretense of President Bill Clinton’s effective triangulation of politics, but he has embraced Clinton’s parsing of words. Remember Clinton’s statement at a deposition during the Monica Lewinsky scandal before a grand jury that “it depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is”? Obama is now using Clinton-speak to run away from his own words.

Obama said two striking things during his Roanoke, VA class-warfare speech on July 13, 2012:

Look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.

As outrageous as that is, he went further and made the controversial comment that government is the reason American businesses are successful:

If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.

President Obama was so rattled by the outrage inspired by his comments, he had this to say:

What I said was that we need to stand behind them as America always has by investing in education, training, roads and bridges, research and technology.

The problem is, he never said that. The words “stand behind” are not in his speech. He did say that “somebody invested in roads and bridges … you didn’t build that.” Yet again, the parser-in-chief is trying to put one over on Americans and argue that his plain words meant something other than what he said.

Over-criminalization of cold medicines

If you have had a cold in the last year, you likely made a trip to the local pharmacy to get some over-the-counter cold medicine. If some federal politicians have their way, you will have to go to the doctor to battle a cold. Yet again, Congress is overreacting to an important problem.

Congressional Quarterly reports that “drug enforcement agents urged Congress on Tuesday to pass legislation making some common cold medicines available only by prescription, saying it is a proven way to stop domestic production of methamphetamine, a deadly street drug.” The concern of the Obama administration is that pseudoephedrine, the most effective drug included in most over-the-counter cold medicines, is a central component of methamphetamines.

Heavily regulating cold medicines is a terrible idea. The drug industry has another approach to the problem. Industry representatives suggest setting up a computer database to make sure illegal drug manufacturers are not stockpiling drugs. The bottom line is that a wholesale criminalization of the over-the-counter sale of cold medicines will harm average Americans and make it difficult for sick people to find a quick and inexpensive means to alleviate cold symptoms.

The fake tax debate

Earlier this week, the Senate engaged in some theatrics on tax policy. Senate tax legislation will not make it to the president’s desk. Yet, these votes will show the taxpayers who is with and against them on keeping more of their hard-earned cash.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) scheduled a vote on S. 3412, a partial extension of 2001 and 2003 tax policy. The Reid plan hikes taxes on individuals making more than $200,000 and couples making more than $250,000. This hike would impact an estimated 28 percent of small businesses, according to Curtis Dubay of The Heritage Foundation (as quoted in The Daily Caller). The Reid tax-hike plan passed the Senate on a 51-48 vote, yet it has zero chance of even being considered by the House.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) offered an amendment to the Reid small business tax-hike bill to continue all the 2001 and 2003 tax reductions for another year. The Hatch Amendment lost on a 45-54 vote. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.) were the only Republicans to oppose the tax-cut amendment, with Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) the only Democrat to support.


Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, stated this week that leaks coming from the Obama administration are hurting national security. “The White House has to understand that some of this is coming from its ranks.” Sen. Feinstein went on to say that the Obama administration need look no further than David Sanger’s book “Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power” to find the leakers.

The administration appointed two counsels to investigate multiple leaks on Obama’s secret programs to fight the war on terror. Expect no real investigation that may negatively impact Obama’s chances to secure a second term. This is a classic cover-up.

Brian Darling is Senior Fellow for Government Studies at The Heritage Foundation (heritage.org).