No President in memory has been so immune to the consequences of being caught blatantly lying to the American people as President Barack Obama. There have been uses for this fact, of course, for those willing to use it. It has provided a valuable tool for those interested in knowing what politicians, pundits and journalists have at least fumes of integrity and trustworthiness in their professional character, a useful litmus test, as when Susan Rice dutifully went on five Sunday morning talking-head TV shows and spread a version of the CIA’s talking points on the Benghazi attack that was intentionally misleading. That incident exposed the untrustworthy character of Rice, now National Security advisor; White House spokesman Dan Pfeiffer, virtually the entire crew at MSNBC (naturally), official White House liar Jay Carney, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the President himself, among others. Meanwhile, some unlikely figures, like old-lib CBS “Fave the Nation” host Bob Schieffer, shined by refusing to abet the cover-up.
The unfolding IRS scandal—yes, it is still unfolding— has similarly been an excellent test, as those we should never trust again have adopted the administration’s official lie—a contradiction of its own statements and testimony—that there is in fact no scandal, and that a few inept and rogue agents screwed up, though the evidence of systemic corruption, illegal political use of IRS power and an ongoing cover-up is persuasive and becoming more so.
Neither of these sagas, however, as well as others like the NSA spying scandal and the various excesses and incompetencies of Eric Holder’s disgraceful Justice Department, have managed to permeate the awareness of the average members of the public, especially those who have been supporters of the President or his party. Benghazi is still obscure to most of the public, and is too far away; the fact that the I.R.S. targeted tea party groups doesn’t alarm those who aren’t Republicans or ethicists as much as it should; and the news media, which is almost entirely run by members of the political left, has continued to soft-pedal facts and revelations that would have had all of them imitating Woodward and Bernstein were a President of another party, or shamefully, another race, involved. Such integrity tests are not helpful to observers who don’t want to use them, who don’t know enough about the subjects involved to know they exist, who don’t mind being lied to, or are happy to be led by those who lie, as long as they do it with style and inspiring speeches.
I wonder if the now undeniable lie about the Affordable Care Act will be different.
The most likely outcome is that it won’t be, but there is hope. For example, at least some of the news media is reporting this one without the soft-pedal. From NBC News, sister of MSNBC and of the major news networks the most shameless and loyal Obama protector, comes yesterday’s report by reporter Lisa Myers and Hannah Rappleye:
President Obama repeatedly assured Americans that after the Affordable Care Act became law, people who liked their health insurance would be able to keep it. But millions of Americans are getting or are about to get cancellation letters for their health insurance under Obamacare, say experts, and the Obama administration has known that for at least three years. Four sources deeply involved in the Affordable Care Act tell NBC NEWS that 50 to 75 percent of the 14 million consumers who buy their insurance individually can expect to receive a “cancellation” letter or the equivalent over the next year because their existing policies don’t meet the standards mandated by the new health care law. One expert predicts that number could reach as high as 80 percent. And all say that many of those forced to buy pricier new policies will experience “sticker shock.”
None of this should come as a shock to the Obama administration. The law states that policies in effect as of March 23, 2010 will be “grandfathered,” meaning consumers can keep those policies even though they don’t meet requirements of the new health care law. But the Department of Health and Human Services then wrote regulations that narrowed that provision, by saying that if any part of a policy was significantly changed since that date — the deductible, co-pay, or benefits, for example — the policy would not be grandfathered.
Buried in Obamacare regulations from July 2010 is an estimate that because of normal turnover in the individual insurance market, “40 to 67 percent” of customers will not be able to keep their policy. And because many policies will have been changed since the key date, “the percentage of individual market policies losing grandfather status in a given year exceeds the 40 to 67 percent range.”
That means the administration knew that more than 40 to 67 percent of those in the individual market would not be able to keep their plans, even if they liked them. Yet President Obama, who had promised in 2009, “if you like your health plan, you will be able to keep your health plan,” was still saying in 2012, “If [you] already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance.”
“This says that when they made the promise, they knew half the people in this market outright couldn’t keep what they had and then they wrote the rules so that others couldn’t make it either,” said Robert Laszewski, of Health Policy and Strategy Associates, a consultant who works for health industry firms. Laszewski estimates that 80 percent of those in the individual market will not be able to keep their current policies and will have to buy insurance that meets requirements of the new law, which generally requires a richer package of benefits than most policies today….
To nobody’s surprise, the usual White House acolytes are attempting to deny the undeniable, which is that when the American public’s support of the efforts to pass the Affordable Care Act hinged on whether it would adversely affect the choices and health care insurance options of those who already had affordable insurance, the President of the United States looked them in the eye, insisted that it would only affect those who couldn’t afford insurance, and said, in essence, “Trust me, and trust us.”
Jay Carney, to take the most predictable example, is in full tap-dance mode: “What the president said and what everybody said all along is that there are going to be changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act to create minimum standards of coverage, minimum services that every insurance plan has to provide,” Carney said, when asked to reconcile the oft-repeated promise by Obama with the now dawning reality. “So it’s true that there are existing healthcare plans on the individual market that don’t meet those minimum standards and therefore do not qualify for the Affordable Care Act.”
No, Jay, what the President said for more than three years was that nothing in the Affordable Care Act would interfere with a citizen’s ability to keep their current plan if they liked it. “Period.” After the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate provision, for example, he said this in his official post-decision remarks (recall that his re-election was heating up, and Mitt Romney was among those saying that the ACA would result in many Americans losing their health care insurance plans):
“If you’re one of the more than 250 million Americans who already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance. This law will only make it more secure and more affordable.”
This is stated in unequivocal terms, and, as NBC reports, well after Obama and the administration knew it couldn’t possibly be true. Buy hey, there was an electorate to fool…*
Now that the cancellation notices are arriving in the hundreds of thousands and sticker shock is beginning to look like it will be epidemic, some loyalists still think they can spin the whole fiasco and relieve the President of accountability, which has been the unofficial theme of the Obama years. Liberal columnist Clarence Page, for example, admitted that the President 1) lied and 2) knew he was lying, but brushed it off as just forgivable hype: “But that’s one of those political lies, you know.” Oh. Then it’s OK: “Everybody does it,” right, Clarence? Page failed to add the unofficial left-biased media coda, “… but when Republicans do it, it’s a scandal.”
Similarly, Fox News’ resident house liberal Juan Williams still holds tight to his loyal African-American card whenever criticism of President Obama is involved, so he too has joined the spin brigade, even less honorably than Page, by arguing that since “they’re going to get better coverage at potentially lower cost,” the fact that people would be forced out of the plan they were satisfied with is not a problem, and thus criticism of the President is unfair. He was ridiculous, and Brit Hume and Chris Wallace were not shy in pointing this out. “These hundreds of thousands of people evidently like the policies they had, because they kept paying for it,” said Hume. “They’re now being told they can’t have those policies any more…that they must have policies that involve coverage for things they may feel they don’t need.” Wallace added that “we had, a couple of weeks ago, a letter that a 62-year-old couple who have their own business in Oregon — under the ObamaCare, they were losing their policy, the new policy, the cheapest policy they were being offered, the deductible was going to double to 5,000 a person. Visits to specialists, if one of them had to see a specialist, were going up from $35 a visit to $100 a visit, and their premium was going up. So, the idea that they are going to get more for less. You know what — there is no free lunch.”
The Affordable Care Act was sold as a free lunch from the start. Now the bill is being revealed. We can expect Williams’ tactic to become more widespread, since it has been surprisingly effective with the I.R.S.. scandal: just deny everything. With Americans all over the country being confronted with higher costs and cancelled plans, however, this does not seem to be a promising approach. Nonetheless, Democrats have already begun to try it.
Euphemisms sometimes work too, at least for the true believers and the ethically shameless. Thus the Bush Administration and conservatives were nauseatingly successful with many Americans when they denied that water-boarding was torture, and insisted that it was something entirely different called “enhanced interrogation.” This was the Orwellian tactic adopted by Florida Blue CEO Patrick Geraghty on “Meet the Press” this past Sunday, who flatly denied that his company was throwing customers off the plans they wanted to keep. “We’re not cutting people” he said “We’re actually transitioning people. What we’ve been doing is informing folks that their plan doesn’t meet the test of the essential health benefits, therefore they have a choice of many options that we make available through the exchange. This really is a transition.”
No, this is really being forced off the plan the customers were satisfied with, and losing the choice they were assured by the President of the United States that they would have, “period,” under Obamacare.
Isn’t “transitioning” a wonderfully sinister cover-word for being forced out of a situation you chose and wanted to maintain, for different situation someone else chose and is forcing you to accept?
“No, you aren’t being evicted! You’re just transitioning into a new living arrangement.”
“Why, you aren’t losing your scholarship! You’re just transitioning into a different educational environment.”
“Heavens no, I’m not divorcing you and running off with my secretary! You’re transitioning into a different relationship.”
And, naturally, because this has been the default defense used to deflect any Presidential criticism no matter how well-justified and legitimate, many of the President’s defenders will cry racism. That, however, has been an integrity test from the beginning.
Admitting the President’s lie and what it tells us about the character of this President and the trustworthiness of his allies will be very difficult for those who have invested so much of their passion, time, and credibility in supporting him. The worst part for die-hard partisans will be accepting that opponents of the bill, many of whom screamed to the heavens that the President’s promise that American could keep their current plans was a calculated deception, were right. Juan Williams betrayed this reaction, a symptom of cognitive dissonance interfering with the acceptance of a harsh reality, when he told colleagues Wallace and Hume, “You know, I get this sense, that people — on the Republican side are enjoying this moment.” In this he was echoing the futile protest of Larry Vaughn, the Mayor of Amity in “Jaws” and master of denial, whose response to ocean biologist Matt Hooper’s assertion that a huge shark is eating vacationers is a mocking, “Love to prove that, wouldn’t ya? Get your name into the National Geographic?”
Yes, in a sense, maybe the President’s critics are enjoying this moment, but that does not and will not excuse his indefensible lie of long standing, or those who resist holding him accountable for it.
Let’s see who we can trust, now that we know, sadly, who we can’t.
* Incredibly, the White House website STILL makes this false claim!