Commentary Magazine


Not What It Seems

The president’s press conference was a tour de force of misdirection.

On healthcare, remember the guarantee that we were all going to keep our existing coverage? Obama won’t admit he misled us but Jake Tapper spots the new lingo:

It seems he wasn’t saying “no one” will take away any American’s health insurance – he was saying the government wouldn’t.

Which is not to say that the government wouldn’t create a situation where such a thing would happen.

ABC News asked how the president could make such a guarantee if the public run plan were cheaper, thus possibly enticing employers to enroll employees in that plan.

“When I say if you have your plan and you like it,…or you have a doctor and you like your doctor, that you don’t have to change plans, what I’m saying is the government is not going to make you change plans under health reform,” the President said.

Translation: no, you won’t get to keep your insurance because a public option will herd everyone into the government plan. As the independent Lewin Group explained:

Premiums under the public plan would be up to 30 percent less than private insurance plans if Medicare payment levels are used. Due to this substantial cost advantage, we estimate that up to 119.1 million of the 171.6 million people who now have private employer or non-group coverage would move to the public plan (70 percent).

A real whopper came on cap-and-trade. The president said that climate change would be “paid for by the polluters.” Well, if you consider every business that emits greenhouse gases and every consumer to be a “polluter,” that would be accurate. But when you have over $800B in taxes that will be passed on to consumers, isn’t it downright misleading to say some phantom “polluters” are going to pay for all this?

Even worse was his denial of what everyone knows: the president’s language on Iran has toughened in response (one supposes) to critics inside and outside the administration who found his initial statements inexcusably weak:

So we’ve been entirely consistent, Major, in terms of how we’ve approached this. My role has been to say the United States is not going to be a foil for the Iranian government to try to blame what’s happening on the streets of Tehran on the CIA or on the White House, that this is an issue that is led by and given voice to the frustrations of the Iranian people.

Does he even believe this? We went from “no meddling” and no real difference between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi to “appalled” and “condemn.” You judge. And why does the president lie? Is he, like George Bush, loath to admit error?

But the real travesty was the faked exchange between the Huffington Post‘s Nico Pitney and the president. Michael Calderone explains:

“Nico, I know you and all across the Internet, we’ve been seeing a lot of reports coming out of Iran,” Obama said, addressing Pitney.  “I know there may actually be questions from people in Iran who are communicating through the Internet. Do you have a question?”

Surprise, Surprise — Pitney did! Calderone reports on the White House’s response to raised suspicions:

Deputy press secretary Bill Burton responds: “We did reach out to him prior to press conference to tell him that we had been paying attention to what he had been doing on Iran and there was a chance that he’d be called on. And, he ended up asking the toughest question that the President took on Iran. In the absence of an Iranian press corps in Washington, it was an innovative way to get a question directly from an Iranian.”

Innovative or fraudulent? If the Huffington Post pretends to be a real news organization, it might want to avoid staging interchanges with officials. What is amazing, of course, is that the president couldn’t manage handling the usual softball questions or work in the information he wanted without faking a Q and A with a willing flunky.

It is hard to know what is worse — the fake policies or the fake presentation. In any event, it seems the “most transparent” administration in history is one of the least.