Obama faces not simply a shortage of votes for his health-care plan but also a diminishing reservoir of credibility. The longer he talks, the less believable his arguments have become. After a year, dozens of speeches, hundreds of interviews, and a health-care summit, who believes of ObamaCare that: 1) you will get to keep your health-care plan; 2) it won’t add to the deficit; 3) it will cut costs; 4) it won’t adversely affect Medicare patients; and 5) it won’t affect the status quo on abortion funding? The endless discussions and Obama’s obvious discomfort in hearing informed arguments from Republicans at his summit (e.g. John Boehner on abortion and Paul Ryan on the rest) have served to undermine the president’s credibility on these points with all but the most devoted spinners.
The abortion issue is particularly revealing. Whether or not one thinks the government should subsidize abortion, Obama’s claim that his favored bill (essentially the Senate bill) doesn’t subsidize abortions simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life explains:
The president’s latest proposal mirrors legislation that has passed the Senate, which doesn’t include a Hyde Amendment [prohibiting taxpayer funding of abortions], and would inevitably establish abortion as a fundamental health-care service for the following reasons:
• It would change existing law by allowing federally subsidized health-care plans to pay for abortions and could require private health-insurance plans to cover abortion.
• It would impose a first-ever abortion tax—a separate premium payment that will be used to pay for elective abortions—on enrollees in insurance plans that covers abortions through newly created government health-care exchanges.
• And it would fail to protect the rights of health-care providers to refuse to participate in abortions.
The president’s plan goes further than the Senate bill on abortion by calling for spending $11 billion over five years on “community health centers,” which include Planned Parenthood clinics that provide abortions.
The president insists that his bill maintains the status quo on abortion funding, but those most concerned and whose votes are at stake, namely pro-life House Democrats, know better. So when Obama and Nancy Pelosi repeat their assertion that the bill contains no federal funding of abortion, they are being less than truthful.
The president’s repeated misstatements have rendered him less and less effective as a salesman for his plan, both with the public and key lawmakers. Just as his claim of the stimulus plan’s job-creating success now engenders eye-rolling and groans, his health-care talking points have also become the objects of derision. The impact may extend well beyond the health-care debate.
After all, in matters large and small, on both foreign and domestic policy, the president must be taken seriously and his word respected by the public and lawmakers if he is to sustain support for his initiatives. Obama, among his many errors, has frittered away not only a year on hugely unpopular legislation but his own credibility as well. The year is gone for good; his credibility may likewise be impossible to recover. Obama, if he were prone to self-reflection, may come to regret having been so cavalier with the truth.