White House under fire for adding Obama policy plugs to past presidents' bios
Published May 16, 2012
The Obama White House is drawing ridicule for appending the official online biographies of nearly every president over the last century in order to link President Obama's accomplishments to the former commanders in chief.
The Obama team went into the pages of U.S. presidents dating back to Calvin Coolidge to add friendly looking "Did you know?" fact boxes to the end of their bios. Those additions were used to plug a host of Obama administration initiatives, ranging from the health care overhaul to the so-called "Buffett Rule" to his green-energy policies.
For instance, the following line was added to the official bio of the late President Ronald Reagan: "In a June 28, 1985, speech, Reagan called for a fairer tax code, one where a multimillionaire did not have a lower tax rate than his secretary. Today, President Obama is calling for the same with the Buffett Rule."
The White House is coming under heavy criticism from conservatives for the changes, and not just to Reagan's page.
Late Tuesday, the White House defended itself, claiming the staff was merely adding links to other pages.
"No biographies have been altered," a White House official told Fox News. "We simply added links at the bottom of each page to related whitehouse.gov content, which is a commonly used best practice to encourage people to browse more pages on a site."
The additions do include links, but they're more than that. Each one finds a way to tout an Obama administration policy or practice in the process.
There's this at the bottom of the Franklin D. Roosevelt biography, for instance:
"On August 14, 1935, President Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act. Today the Obama administration continues to protect seniors and ensure Social Security will be there for future generations."
And this, at the end of President Lyndon Johnson's, drawing a link between his signing of Medicare and Obama's signing of the health care overhaul:
"President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare into law in 1965 -- providing millions of elderly health care stability. President Obama's historic health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act, strengthens Medicare, offers eligible seniors a range of preventive services with no cost-sharing, and provides discounts on drugs when in the coverage gap known as the 'donut hole.'"
The changes also link Harry Truman's call for civil rights to the Obama administration's push to repeal "don't ask, don't tell." And they link Jimmy Carter's creation of the Department of Energy to Obama's push for an "all of the above" energy approach today.
The Obama accomplishments cited range from the significant to the mundane.
On the bio of John F. Kennedy, the Obama staff cited the current president's decision to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps with a "presidential proclamation," as a way to link the current administration to Kennedy's -- which launched the Peace Corps.
The only post-Coolidge president whose page is so far untouched is that of Gerald Ford.
Conservative blogs and publications ripped the White House Tuesday for the move, even starting a Twitter hashtag #ObamaInHistory to mock him. The Republican National Committee launched a tumblr page called: "Obama in History -- World Changing Events You Didn't Know Obama Played A Part In."
The page goes on to show pictures of Obama standing with historical figures ranging from Einstein to Elvis to The Beatles. It also shows Obama at the Berlin Wall and Stonehenge.