December 13, 2013

How big will Politifact’s “award” for the biggest lie of the year be? Given that it was the GOP’s best issue of the fall — the  “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it” — pretty big, I would say. Politifact found 37 times Obama repeated the untruth with no caveat and then socked him for compounding the misrepresentations:

epa03986816 US Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius appears before the US House House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing 'PPACA (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) Implementation Failures - What's Next?', on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, USA, 11 December 2013. The enrollment website of the Affordable Care Act's health insurance exchanges has faced strong criticism for the site's operating problems. EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDS
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (Michael Reynolds/European Pressphoto Agency)

If you like your health care plan, you can keep it,” President Barack Obama said — many times — of his landmark new law.

But the promise was impossible to keep.

So this fall, as cancellation letters were going out to approximately 4 million Americans, the public realized Obama’s breezy assurances were wrong.

Boiling down the complicated health care law to a soundbite proved treacherous, even for its promoter-in-chief.  Obama and his team made matters worse, suggesting they had been misunderstood all along. The stunning political uproar led to this: a rare presidential apology.

This will be significant in a variety of ways.

First, this acts as a sort of Velcro keeping the president stuck to the issue that finally wrecked his credibility. More coverage of the “lie” and more fencing with the White House will result.

Second, the “lie” may loom even larger come January. That is when the millions who did lose their coverage and some who thought they had signed up for coverage on the defective exchanges will find themselves uninsured, overcharged and/or unable to see their doctor or visit their hospital of choice. In other words, the real damage to real people who thought the president was telling them the truth is about to unfold. Rory Cooper, spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.), sent an e-mail out to the media that had been sent to congressional offices highlighting the last-minute scrambles to get people covered. (“Requiring insurers to accept payment through December 31, 2013 for coverage beginning January 1, 2014 . . . Urging issuers to give consumers additional time to pay their first month’s premium and still have coverage beginning January 1, 2014 . . . Strongly encouraging insurers to treat out-of-network providers as in-network to ensure continuity of care for acute episodes or if the provider was listed in their plan’s provider directory as of the date of an enrollee’s enrollment.”) Cooper blasted away, “It’s clear the administration knows Obamacare’s problems are only going to get worse, and patients will be the ones who suffer. What’s not clear is whether they understand the confusion and chaos they continue to cause.”

And finally, Republicans are wasting no time in tying Senate Democrats to the same misrepresentation. Thursday evening the conservative America Rising attack team was already up with clips of four Senate Democrats and three House Democrats repeating the “lie of the year.” Oh, and they also included Hillary Clinton saying the same line.

The real gift to the Republicans is that the president and other Democrats got caught misleading voters. The Politifact recognition is just the topping on the political sundae. Expect the Republicans to gorge on it all through 2014.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.