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Was Last-Minute Obama Edit In Deference To U.S. Dead In Afghanistan?

Aug 8, 2011

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Frank James

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Ari Shapiro, one of our NPR White House correspondents, got to see something interesting Monday, a White House aide toning down President Obama's response to Standard & Poor's downgrade of U.S. debt, prior to the president delivering it, seemingly to make it less divisive.

As Ari told Michele Norris, an All Things Considered co-host:

Just before the president began speaking today, I was able to see the printed text of his comments on the teleprompter. And I watched a last-minute edit that may give some insight. One passage of the speech referred to asking for sacrifice from those who could most afford to pay their fair share. And I was looking at the teleprompter, the phrase "wealthy Americans and corporations" was highlighted and deleted from the text.

Why would the president do this? For weeks he and his aides have accused Republicans of protecting the wealthy and corporations, including private jet owners and oil companies, from contributing their fair share to reduce the nation's deficits.

A possible reason could be found in the back end of the president's statement. Before completing his State Dining Room statement, the president spoke of the deaths over the weekend of 30 U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan when their helicopter was shot down by the Taliban, the biggest one day loss in the ten-year war.

Despite their differences, the president said, those Americans who died in doing their duty worked for a common cause:

But no matter what differences they might have as individuals, they serve this nation as a team. They meet their responsibilities together. And some of them — like the 30 Americans who were lost this weekend — give their lives for their country. Our responsibility is to ensure that their legacy is an America that reflects their courage, their commitment, and their sense of common purpose.

Resorting to the familiar Democratic talking points about the wealthy and corporations needing to pay higher taxes might have sounded too political and divisive at the same moment he was extolling the cooperation of those fallen U.S. military members as an example for Washington policymakers.

Better to leave the wealthy and corporations for another day.

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