(Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press) President Obama (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)

When backed into a corner, liberal elites, who fancy themselves very clever, resort to reinterpreting plain English to explain their untruths. President Bill Clinton quibbled over “sexual relations” and even the meaning of “is.” In fact, he had lied to the American people about Monica Lewinsky.

Now, on “you can keep your plan,” President Obama has a tougher problem than Clinton ever did. For one thing, Clinton had the argument that “Everyone lies about sex.” For Obama, misrepresenting his signature legislative accomplishment — which got rammed through on a party-line vote — is not easily brushed off by those not employed by or intoxicated with this White House. Moreover, Clinton did not offer up his Lewinsky fabrications over and over again during a period of three years. Obama did — in an era in which everything and anything a president says is preserved and rerun perpetually. It’s “bad optics” for the president, as the political class likes to say.

The broken promise is not simply a matter of discrediting the president (although it is surely that). It is, like “Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva job” or “Mission Accomplished,” shorthand for the media, the president’s critics, late-night comedians and the public at large. It encapsulates the incompetence, misrepresentations and dysfunction of the entire Obamacare ordeal. Whatever he meant he didn’t mean. Whatever people thought isn’t the reality. And anyway, you get what you get and should appreciate it.

The last, by the way, is the essence of liberal critics’ defense, namely that you should have the sort of insurance the government decides you should have and you’ll be fined if you don’t get with the program. It is an astounding bit of liberal hubris to demand you not only buy insurance, but that you buy the insurance the government, not you, decides is best. There is a difference between offering access and demanding compliance. As the Wall Street Journal editors put it, “None of this is an accident. It is the deliberate result of the liberal demand that everyone have essentially the same coverage and that government must dictate what that coverage is and how much it costs. Such political control is the central nervous system of the Affordable Care Act, and it is why so many people can’t keep the insurance they like.”

The president could have explained it, but then the public might have revolted earlier, maybe even before the 2012 election. To say he didn’t provide “sufficient detail” or didn’t include “caveats” is to call a falsehood an “uncaveated truth.” It’s actually the kind of blatant falsehood liberals would decry if uttered by the right. My colleague Glenn Kessler delivers four well-deserved Pinocchios for the president’s misdirection. (“The president’s statements were sweeping and unequivocal — and made both before and after the bill became law. The White House now cites technicalities to avoid admitting that he went too far in his repeated pledge, which, after all, is one of the most famous statements of his presidency.”)

Forget for a moment what the president said (again and again). Obamacare does not seem capable of doing what it was supposed to do. It is not adding millions to the list of insured Americans and it’s not affordable or even desirable for a whole bunch of people. There is no way to blame all that on the GOP, which fought this mess every step of the way since it was passed.

James Capretta of the Ethics and Public Policy Center explains:

[The Congressional Budget Office] expects 9 million new enrollees in Medicaid in 2014, 7 million enrollees in plans offered on the exchanges, and a 2 million reduction in enrollees in individual insurance outside of the exchanges. So the net increase in insurance coverage for 2014 was estimated at 14 million people.

The administration’s recent announcement that the Healthcare.gov website will be functional by the end of November very likely means little to no enrollment over the coming month. From a dead start of very low enrollment as of December 1, the administration would need to have some 14 million new people come under coverage over a four-month period. Skepticism is clearly warranted. . . .

In 2010, we were told that Obamacare would go a long way toward solving the problem of uninsured Americans, even in its first year of implementation. The latest estimates from CBO indicate that the law is supposed to produce a net increase in the insured population of 14 million people in 2014.

That’s a tall order, especially given the millions of Americans who are being pushed out of their existing individual-market plans. At this point, given the disastrous launch of Obamacare, it is not out of the question that the law would increase the uninsured rate rather than decrease it. Reaching the benchmark of 14 million newly insured would take a miraculous turnaround.

So the left can knock itself out defending the “You can keep your plan” business. Whatever. What the left and the president ultimately will be unable to defend is failure and public fury. And right now it looks like this is only the beginning of both.