After the Senate passed that $600 million Border Security Bill yesterday, President Obama issued a statement asserting that securing the southwest border has been "a top priority" since he took office.
But if you think Mr. Obama can have but a single "top priority," you'd be wrong. He's got a load of them.
In an Address to the Nation two months ago, Mr. Obama declared "our top priority is to recover and rebuild from a recession that has touched the lives of nearly every American."
More than any other issue, he has used the phrase "top priority" about digging the economy out of the recession and creating jobs. And on this issue, he drew a distinction between "a" top priority and "the" top priority.
"Creating jobs in the United States and ensuring a return to sustainable economic growth is the top priority for my Administration," he said in an Executive Order last March on his National Export Initiative.
Early in his administration, Mr. Obama also assigned the "top priority" label to his campaign promise to overhaul America's health care system. But a check of his speeches since taking office, reflect a bevy of other "top priorities:"
FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS: "...that's something that's going to be a top priority." (4/27/10)
ENERGY SECURITY: "And that's why my energy security plan has been one of the top priorities of my Administration since the day I took office." (4/28/10)
EDUCATION REFORM: "To train our workers for the jobs of tomorrow, we've made education reform a top priority in this Administration." (2/24/10)
STUDENT LOAN REFORM: "This is something that I've made a top priority." (2/1/10)
EXPORTS BY SMALL BUSINESSES: "This is going to be a top priority." (12/3/09)
HEALTH ASSISTANCE TO 9/11 FIRST RESPONDERS: "I'm not just talking the talk, we've been budgeting this as a top priority for this Administration." (2/3/10)
END HOMELESSNESS AMONG VETERANS: "I've also directed (Veterans Affairs) Secretary Shinseki to focus on a top priority: reducing homeless among veterans." (8/17/09)
HURRICANE PREPAREDNESS: "Our top priority is ensuring the public safety. That means appropriate sheltering in place or if necessary, getting as many people as possible out of harm's way prior to landfall." (5/29/09)
H1N1 FLU VACCINATIONS: "And throughout this process, my top priority has been the health and the safety of the American people." (5/1/09)
SUPPORT FOR MILITARY FAMILIES: "These military families are heroes too. And they are a top priority of Michelle and me. And they will always have our support." (5/30/09)
STRENTHENING TIES WITH CANADA AND MEXICO: "We're going to make this a top priority..." (10/16/09)
CONSUMER PROTECTION: "During these challenging times, the needs of American consumers are a top priority of my Administration." (2/11/09)
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION: "So this is going to be a top priority generally improving our environmental quality." (11/5/09)
The dictionary defines "top" as a singular entity: "the part of anything that is first or foremost."
By designating a multitude of "top priorities," Mr. Obama can be seen trying to score political points with the constituencies for all of these issues.
Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow him on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/markknoller.
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