November 3, 2013
They knew! Obama aides debated 'you can keep your plan' lie
In a bombshell report, the Wall Street Journal has gotten Obama advisers -- some on the record, others anonymous -- talking about the internal debate over the president's false guarantee that Americans could keep their insurance plan if they liked it, under Obamacare. In the end, politics trumped the truth.
...behind the scenes, White House officials discussed whether that was a promise they could keep.
When the question arose, Mr. Obama's advisers decided that the assertion was fair, interviews with more than a dozen people involved in crafting and explaining the president's health-care plan show.
But at times, there was second-guessing. At one point, aides discussed whether Mr. Obama might use more in-depth discussions, such as media interviews, to explain the nuances of the succinct line in his stump speeches, a former aide said. Officials worried, though, that delving into details such as the small number of people who might lose insurance could be confusing and would clutter the president's message.
The famous wisecrack, "Don't confuse me with the facts!" comes to mind.
One official who remains anonymous:
"You try to talk about health care in broad, intelligible points that cut through, and you inevitably lose some accuracy when you do that," the former official said.
The former official added that in the midst of a hard-fought political debate "if you like your plan, you can probably keep it" isn't a salable point.
In the end, politics dominated accuracy:
One former senior administration official said that as the law was being crafted by the White House and lawmakers, some White House policy advisers objected to the breadth of Mr. Obama's "keep your plan" promise. They were overruled by political aides, the former official said. The White House said it was unaware of the objections.
A couple of formers -- aides who no longer work for the president -- actually went on the record:
Jon Favreau, who served as Mr. Obama's top speech writer, said that as they tried to promote the overhaul plan and explain it to the public, the aim was to make it as simple as possible "while still being true."
"Simplification and ease of explanation were a premium, and that was true throughout the process," he said.
Richard Kirsch, the former national campaign manager of Health Care for America Now, which pushed for the 2010 health law, said the words were reassuring-and true-for the vast majority of the people, and so his group never raised concerns about that claim. Adding an asterisk to note that people who had "shoddy insurance" might need to change plans was not practical, he said.
"The actual, accurate statement is if you have good insurance, and you like it, you can keep it," said Mr. Kirsch, now a senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, a liberal policy organization.
"Not practical" seems to mean poltiically deadly here.
Throughout the discussion as reported by the Journal, aides relied on the notion that the only people who would potentially lose their health plans were those who bought them as individuals - about 15 million in number. (Note, this is half the number of claimed uninsured who were potentially to benefit. That number initially given was 30 million.) But of course, there were internal reports that 93 million Americans could lose their health insurance plans, as reported by Avik Roy in Forbes.
Now we know that for political reasons, the president's advisers told him to go out and lie. The excuses they offer for the lie are those of a con man. They sound like a bunch of used car salesmen who neglected to mention that the vehicle was involved in a serious accident and has an oil leak, because that would confuse the buyer dazzled by the chrome on the grille.
They knew that if the president told the truth, there would be Democrat senators and representatives who would vote against it. Those members of Congress who voted for Obamacare and now face the wrath of voters in 2014 have a stark choice to make. Either they turn on the president for lying to them, or they support the president. If they turn on him, they will retaliation, no doubt. Turning on the president could include supporting legislation to modify or repeal the ACA legislation.
Then there is the i-word. Is lying to the American public about a president's signature transformative legislation a high crime and misdemeanor?