Did the President “Lie” About Obamacare, or Did He Believe What He Wanted to Believe?


I’m always reluctant to accuse a politician of lying. Far too often, disagreements about facts morph into accusations of “lies” by political opponents.

Take the ludicrous but widespread notion that President George W. Bush “lied” about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction. Never mind that the intelligence agencies of major Western powers, including war opponents like Germany and France, believed Saddam had WMD.  Never mind that the Clinton administration and prominent Democrats with access to intelligence reports thought Saddam had WMD. Never mind that it is an established fact, about which there is no controversy, that Saddam actually used WMD, in the form of chemical weapons, in the Iran-Iraq war and against his own people in the Kurdistan region.  Never mind that it would make no sense for a president to lie about something momentous, knowing that the lie will be discovered.

Never mind all that — it doesn’t even rhyme.  It’s much easier for opponents of the war to put their fingers in their ears and chant, “Bush lied, thousands died.”

All of this comes to mind as various voices on the Right, including some I highly respect, are ratcheting up their accusations that President Obama “lied” when he promised, “if you like your health insurance plan, you can keep it.”

He made this promise again and again in the campaign to sell Obamacare to a skeptical public, as you can see in the video above.  My favorite bit is from the president’s September 9, 2009 speech to a joint session of Congress, starting at the 56-second mark:

Nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor that you have. Let me repeat this: Nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have.

That’s simply not true, of course.  There was never any hope that it would be true.  Obamacare sets minimum standards for coverage, and any plans that don’t meet those standards have to be changed or discontinued.  CBS News, not exactly a hotbed of anti-Obama sentiment, reports that more than 2 million Americans have had policies canceled for this reason.

The White House is on the defensive, trying to explain how, when the president repeatedly said this: “If you like your doctor or health care plan, you can keep it” — he really didn’t mean it.

It’s not just conservative pundits throwing around the L word.  The Washington Post’s left-leaning “Fact Checker” yesterday awarded the president “four Pinocchios”, the rating reserved for the biggest “whoppers.”  Lefty comedian/commentator Bill Maher told Piers Morgan “I don’t think Obama should have lied to people,” and Morgan agreed, calling it “a barefaced lie.”

I’ve always been convinced that President Bush may be guilty of believing what he wanted to believe about WMD in Iraq — but there’s no doubt that he believed it. You can agree or disagree, of course — I presented my evidence above.  I’ll be looking to see if evidence emerges that Obama somehow, against all logic, believed what he said about Obamacare.

2 thoughts on “Did the President “Lie” About Obamacare, or Did He Believe What He Wanted to Believe?

  1. Ahhh, I dispute your premise that you can compare the two, and we have discussed Bush previously.

    Obama made a mistake for sure, and I really don’t know if he knew or I care because it will be a footnote in a program I read will be as successful as SS, Medicare, Romneycare, or Medicare Part D, which all had similar implementation profiles and are all now wildly popular.

    As for Bush, he acted recklessly on an information vacuum. Saddam killed to keep his human information chain from letting out that he had gotten rid of his WMD. He successfully put out that he still had them, in order to hold off an invasion from Iran. BTW this is lawful international behavior. Cheney’s Office of Strategic Plans (Feith) hammered intelligence until Tenet gave in and said it would be a slam dunk, while the Iraq country head for WMD (Plame) generated human intelligence saying all WMD were gone. There was no solid evidence that he had WMD, especially after inspectors were finally let in, and the invasion violated International Law as we had not been attacked.

    Bush was only politically and image-interested, a a gladhander who let others determine the deeper stuff, leaving him only to decide and front the decisions.

    Hard to compare the two.

    • dano, I didn’t mean to ignore you — for some reason I didn’t get the auto-generated email saying there was a comment here.

      We see the world through different filters, my friend, and I don’t think that’s going to change. So I’ll just mention a few things about your comment:

      It’s interesting that you neither deny that Obama lied nor assert that Bush did. On Facebook I’ve noticed that some of my most reliably liberal friends are conceding that the bill was passed on false pretenses, even if they are not willing to use the L-word.

      You speak of the various entitlement programs as being both “successful” and “wildly popular,” as if those terms are synonymous. But if a program is both popular and financially unsustainable (as I believe SS and Medicare are), I don’t think they can be considered successful in the long term.

      I think it’s easy to compare the two situations — in each case, there’s a widespread argument that a president lied in a specific way about the most important issue of his presidency. Iraq seems more consequential now because of the loss of life, but I think in the long run Obamacare will have a bigger impact on the country, in a negative way.

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