Thank You: The Obamacare Defenders Give Us Rationalizations #36 and #37


With so many excuses, euphemisms, desperate justifications and outright denials flying around in print, online and over the airwaves in these fevered days of the Affordable Care Act debacle, it was inevitable that the Ethics Alarms rationalizations list would benefit. Sure enough, the Obama faithful and the Obamacare hopeful have alerted me to not one but two serviceable and popular rationalizations that I had missed.

Your refusal to be honest to the public and yourself is sad and wrong, guys, but at least you’re enriching the ethics resources on the blog.

The first of the new additions, #36, comes from a recent Obamacare column by Eugene Robinson. I was curious how Robinson, who would probably not abandon his support of the President if Mr. Obama was caught torturing kittens, would spin the current mess, and he didn’t disappoint. After somehow managing to describe relatively accurately what has transpired to date without either being critical of the President or explicitly exonerating him,  Robinson wrote:

“Transforming the health-care system was never going to be easy.”


“Nobody said this would be easy” can be an appropriate morale booster when a difficult challenge is proving more challenging than expected, and when unexpected obstacles cause new and daunting problems. Following the carnage of a totally botched task, however, where there is no new problem, just the realization that those tackling it are incompetent beyond belief, and have failed in minimally meeting their duties of diligence, care, and process for a mission that they and everyone else knew was risky and hard, “Nobody said this would be easy” is just a cynical deflection of responsibility and accountability, and a dishonest one.

The issue isn’t how difficult solving the health care problem is. The issue is how lousy the plan was that was sold as a solution to this difficult problem, how it was falsely represented, and how it has been ineptly, carelessly, and unforgivably managed. Robinson’s ploy is changing the subject at its most blatant. A surgeon who is supposed to cut out a cancerous tumor but who amputates the patient’s healthy leg instead dare not comfort the patient by saying, “Now, we both knew that battling this cancer wouldn’t be easy.” Yes, but the patient certainly was justified in assuming that the doctor wouldn’t make the battle harder by being a careless nincompoop. Thus the new entry…

36. The Maladroit’s Diversion, or “Nobody said it would be easy!” 

This rationalization is used to cleverly shift the responsibility for failure away from the individual or team that mishandled a task, obligation, promise or mission. By emphasizing that the goal was difficult, a fact that indeed was known to all and should have figured into the planning and the execution of the operation to accomplish it, The Maladroit’s Diversion focuses attention and criticism away from those responsible for a disaster—those whose incompetence, lack of diligence, and poor judgment were the real reason an important task was not accomplished, not the fact that it wasn’t “easy.” The rationalization strives to avoid accountability, and conveniently prepares for an ultimate failure to succeed by planting the thought: “This objective is so difficult, who can blame him/her/them for failing to do it?”

A letter writer in the Washington Post innocently flagged the next addition. Her name isn’t Pollyanna (it is Joanne Clark), but might as well be. She protested that everyone was being negative about the abysmal numbers of citizens who has succeeded in setting up accounts for new insurance programs. After all, she wrote,

“…With all the problems has had, tens of thousands of people still signed up, and that doesn’t include people who have been able to get reasonable insurance policies on the cooperating state exchanges. If we add in those hundreds of thousands who are benefiting from the expansion of Medicaid, I would have to say that things are looking pretty darn good…Can we please give the President a break?”

“Give him a break!” How did I miss that one for so long? Thanks, Joanne! Here’s the entry:

37. The Miscreant’s Mulligan or “Give him/her/them/me a break!”

The Miscreant’s Mulligan is in a large cluster of rationalizations that aim to avoid the consequences of wrongful conduct by making others feel guilty about placing responsibility squarely where it belongs, by arguing that the miscreant isn’t so bad, isn’t different from anyone else, or that he meant well. Among the rationalizations it hangs out with are 1. The Golden Rationalization, or “Everybody does it;” 6. The Biblical Rationalizations “Judge not, lest ye not be judged,” and “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” 10. The King’s Pass (of course); 12. The Saint’s Excuse, or “It’s for a good cause; ”18. The Perfection Diversion: “Everybody makes mistakes!” and last, right where it belongs, 21. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.” Essentially what “the break” translates into is an unearned opportunity to commit the same unethical act again…or worse, without accountability or contrition in the interim. Individuals who knowingly and intentionally engage in wrongful and unethical conduct or who breach ethical duties should always experience the appropriate consequences, be it criticism or something more tangible. Unless “Give him a break!” is accompanied by a compelling reason not found on this list, the proper answer to the plea is simple, “No.”


Sources: Washington Post

11 thoughts on “Thank You: The Obamacare Defenders Give Us Rationalizations #36 and #37

  1. It has been reported that doctors nearing the age of retirement are simply retiring even earlier and that young people who would have aspired to become doctors will reconsider entering “private practice” because they really didn’t want a “government job”. Substandard care for all of us is a possibility at this political juncture because if attracting new doctors to the system comes with a messy tangle of bureaucratic red tape, then we the people will suffer the consequences equally and indiscriminately, just like good socialists should. Except for our politicians and their close friends who most graciously excluded themselves from the Affordable Care Act. So our high and mighty politicians want us, the rank and file to drink the Kool Aid but they’ll have the champagne. Why don’t we all just – “Give Ourselves a Break”, and loudly and collectively send this message to our sanctimonious benefactors, “No Thank You. We’ll have what the Federal Government is having”.

    • Sadly, my daughter’s health care providers have shared this exact information with me for more than two years now, as well as the knowledge that the attrition among the lower castes of hospital workers is already starting to prove devastating. Schedules are filling faster, office hours are harder to get… and I’ve lost ‘friends’ in my ‘blind partisamship;’ for pointing this out.

  2. Didn’t the Founders actually envision a Congress and Administration populated by the folks Tom Brokaw termed “Citizen Soldiers,” wherein people from various walks of life would “do their duty” for a period of time in Congress and then go back to being responsible, active “civilians?” Our current system, and the laziness and ignorance of our general populace, has created a cadre of professional politicians (and worse, their aides), who aside from perhaps attending law school (no need to comment on this), have done NOTHING of substance in everyday life, in building a business or community, much less the nation, or in educating the public on issues of current concern. Lifetime politicians and their ilk have totally devastated our “system” as originally conceived. And our willingness to let them do it is totally our own fault.

    Neither did the Founders envision PACs, political fund raising taking precedence over doing one’s duty, or the electronic age (can’t blame them for any of those!), which only assists the lying narcissists who now populate our Congress and Presidential Administration. And we don’t have to go back to the 18th century to find those who creed and interpretation of the Constitution meant something… look at Lincoln, who instead of surrounding himself with sycophants actually chose advisors who disagreed with him — the better to have a sounding board and the opportunity to argue issues, rather than have a bunch of yes-men support him willy-nilly. And even Lyndon Johnson (I hate to bring him up, because history is not done with him yet), who despite the Viet Nam War debacle he didn’t begin, was able to take some of JFK’s weak support of important objectives, and through working with the Congress, pass the Civil Rights and Voting Acts, to the good of all forever. Several years ago NPR ran tapes of LBJ’s conversations about the Viet Nam war, complete with his abhorrence of it, his grief about loss of American soliders, and his internal debate about how to win a war he didn’t start and couldn’t finish. Find them and listen to them. Only two examples, a century apart, where — whether you liked them or not — we had independent thinkers in the White House.

    Our Constitutional “system” isn’t broken; those running it are.

  3. For every justification removing the blame from those responsible the justifier should be forced to then explain who should get the blame and the attendant consequences and why.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.