The President Who Cried ‘Unprecedented’

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Obama has done an unprecedented number of burger-joint photo ops.
Photo: Getty Images

Maybe you've noticed that President Obama has a habit of referring to things he does as "unprecedented." With less than a year as president under his belt, he's used "the word at least 129 times in everything from major addresses to small speeches, statements, memorandums and proclamations." Compare that to George W. Bush, who used it only 262 times over eight years. (Then again, it is a five-syllable word, so.) But an in-depth investigation by Politico has revealed that, sometimes, the things Obama refers to as "unprecedented" are actually quite precedented.

Perhaps, as his critics claim, Obama truly believes everything he does is unprecedented, or maybe he just thinks it makes ordinary actions and events sound more impressive. Either way, the hidden danger here, according to Carol Lee, is that "by applying the 'unprecedented' label to a [sic] so many scenarios in government — from transparency to efforts to reduce the environmental impact of mountaintop coal mining — the Obama administration risks outsized expectations and overhype." Hmmm. Something tells us that outsize expectations aren't much of an issue at this point. More dangerous is when something that's actually unprecedented requires America's attention — like when Obama announces that an unprecedentedly large asteroid is hurtling toward the planet, and nobody bats an eye.

The White House's unprecedented use of 'unprecedented' [Politico]