Among the many rules I grew up with, two stand out. The first was to never call someone a liar, which was considered the worst possible character indictment one could issue. The other was a dictum: “If you’ll lie by omission, you’ll lie by commission.”
“The big lie,” as the president’s broken Affordable Care Act promise is now known, was that everyone could keep his doctor and insurance policy under the ACA. No one, Americans were justified in inferring, would be remotely inconvenienced by Obamacare. Instead, the reality is well-known: Millions are expected to lose their insurance policies, while others will see their premiums skyrocket.
It is still jarring to my adult psyche to impugn another, especially the president of the United States, as a liar, so I won’t. But it is not possible to pretend that the American people have been told the truth.
Nor is it possible to pretend that Barack Obama has been completely honest.
The question is, how much dishonesty from a president is tolerable? How can a dishonest president lead a nation?
Now the White House tells us that Obama always meant you could keep the insurance policy you like if it met the standards of the ACA. Apparently, plenty of people involved with the law have known for at least three years that between 40 and 67 percent of those in the individual market would lose their policies.
Press secretary Jay Carney explained: “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 that create minimum standards of coverage, minimum services that every insurance plan has to provide.… So it’s true that there are existing health care plans on the individual market that don’t meet those minimum standards and therefore do not qualify for the Affordable Care Act.”
Well, as the guardian of the Emerald City gates said to Dorothy: “Bust my buttons! Why didn’t you say that in the first place?!”
We know why. This sin of omission wasn’t an accidental oversight. It was a feint because many Americans wouldn’t have followed the wizard had they known the truth.
There’s a reason the ACA implemented the popular aspects of the bill first – allowing parents to cover their children until age 26 and eliminating their children’s pre-existing condition barrier to insurance coverage – before the 2012 election and postponed the nasty news until enough people were hooked on Obamacare’s sugar. And, of course, after the president was re-elected.
Former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau tried to explain otherwise. The president kept repeating the promise – some 23 times – because the White House was trying to keep things simple so as not to confuse people with too many details, he said. This is not only insulting on its face but is also not precisely true. Some might have been alarmed by the details, but they wouldn’t have been confused.
Either the White House doesn’t have faith in the people or it doesn’t have faith in its own plan.
The American people were duped; the administration did not misspeak. The administration knowingly misled with a false promise and a deliberate omission. Worse, it did so for your own good because you might be confused by the truth. Call it what you will.