“‘If you like your health plan, you can keep it’ was never a reasonable promise; health reform that addressed America’s combination of high cost, middling outcomes and spotty coverage was necessarily going to have to change a lot of people’s health plans. So yes, that statement is proving false — and it’s a good thing.”
James Taranto has catalogued several more disgraceful efforts to deny the undeniable—that President Obama’s assertion that nothing in the Affordable Care Act would cause any American to lose a plan that he liked was a calculated and intentional lie—thus adding those individuals to the growing list of people Americans should never pay heed to again on any topic, because they have proven themselves to lack integrity and are thus untrustworthy.
Among them: New York Times pundit David Firestone, James Carville (I’m shocked!), Time’s Kate Pickert, and my friend Jason Linkins over at the Huffington Post, a funny, smart man who ought to be ashamed of himself. The comments that most alarmed me, however, were those of another addition to the list, commentator Josh Barro. “The statement is proving false” is a particularly loathsome version of “mistakes were made,” which attempts to remove the human being responsible from identification and accountability. Obama’s statement isn’t changing or doing anything. Barro’s dishonest phrasing denies the fact of human agency. Obama made a promise regarding matters that he had complete control over in every way, and that promise was false when it was made. By him. The President could have guaranteed that his promise would be kept by refusing to sign a bill that didn’t make certain, through its provisions, that it would be kept. In fact, he has known all along (or has no excuse for not knowing)that millions of Americans wouldn’t be able to keep the plans they wanted to. The promise isn’t “proving false;” it was always false.
As for Barro’s airy declaration that the fact that it is “proving false” is a good thing, this is essentially an endorsement of lying as tool of public manipulation. Lying to the public is never a good thing, and a President lying to the public is a terrible thing. That so many of President Obama’s allies and supporters, like Barro, endorse lying and shamelessly so if it achieves ends that they happen to believe are beneficial should set off not merely ethics alarms, but democracy and republic alarms. Self-government cannot flourish or even survive when this kind of conduct by elected leaders becomes commonplace and accepted.
Although I have seen scant evidence of it so far, I hope that the progressives, Democrats, journalists and others who are now discarding all semblance of honesty and objective reasoning to rationalize away the President’s words in this episode recognize that their obligations to their illusions and ideologies must be secondary to their duties to the culture, fellow citizens, American values and the nation. Many of these desperate deniers are my friends, some are my family. I call on them to stop amplifying a lie and excusing betrayal. You’re disillusioned—I accept that. I’ve been in your position. It is devastating when those you have admired, believed, and tied your own credibility to show themselves to be unworthy of that trust, and abuse it. But denial makes the consequences of that conduct worse, and indeed ratifies it and guarantees that it will continue. This is cowardly and irresponsible. You are better than that; the country is better than that. This is not a culture that has embraced the concept of “the King can do no wrong,” indeed, the Constitution and the Declaration are predicated on the truth than leaders are fallible.
The President lied to everyone, and that is not “a good thing.” It is something that should never be trivialized nor allowed to pass without serious, meaningful consequences, and there can be no consequences when good and intelligent people abdicate their duty of self-government, which includes the duty of oversight, to protect the wrongdoers. All the polls say that we want our government to be trustworthy. Well, it can’t be trustworthy if we excuse its lies. For the government to be trustworthy, we have to be trustworthy too. We have to be able to trust each other not to aid the lies we are told, and to confront the liars.
It’s not too late.