A government shutdown may have already been in effect, but while national parks and even the open-air World War Two memorial in the capital were closed (though thanks to some determined vets the barriers that had been inexplicably put up at the place where the greatest generation is honored were thrown aside), the White House talking shop was open for business. President Obama was able to bring together the usual number of human props for a dog and pony show held this afternoon to celebrate the first day of the age of ObamaCare as well as to direct abuse at Republicans. Emboldened by favorable polls and a mainstream media that is singing from the Democrat’s hymnal when it comes to excoriating Republicans on the shutdown, the president launched into a paean to his signature health-care bill that dismissed the clear signs of economic trouble as well as shrugged off the mishaps that have characterized its rollout.
There’s little doubt that the Republican decision to make ObamaCare part of the debate about a continuing resolution to fund the government has handed Democrats a clear edge right now. That was not a smart decision and was based on some unrealistic expectations about the way the political system—where Democrats control the Senate and the White House—would work. But as out of touch with political reality as the principal architects of this strategy have been in the last couple of months, nothing they have said comes close to the fantasies spun by the president when speaking of the virtues of ObamaCare. If we are going to criticize Senators Mike Lee and Ted Cruz for ignoring the truth about what would happen in a shutdown, what then shall we say about a president whose rhetoric is not only partisan but blatantly misrepresents the truth about the health-care bill? Is the mainstream press so firmly in his pocket that they will let him get away with claiming that health-care prices are going down when they are actually going up or that his bill wasn’t killing jobs even before it was implemented?
All along, those of us who worried about the political impact of a shutdown feared that it would revive a presidency that was clearly failing on both domestic and foreign issues. But if today’s event is any indicator what it has also done is to cause the president to throw away all restraint in his utterances to the point where we are faced with a staggering credibility gap. With the GOP on the defensive, Barack Obama is now free to be himself, a rabid partisan attack dog who has no scruples about distorting the truth to make political points.
To summarize the president’s remarks in a sentence, in Obama’s world, ObamaCare is working just fine. In his view, ObamaCare is as brilliant a success as Apple computer products, which have also had a few glitches along the way. The comparison is risible, but not as outrageous as his denial about the impact of the legislation. Despite the many documented instances in which employers are being forced to drop health coverage or lay off workers, in Obama’s America, no such thing is happening. There, no one is losing the coverage they like or seeing the costs of their health care drastically rise. Unfortunately, in the America where the rest of us live, that is exactly what is going on.
While some Americans are gaining new benefits today, far more are being hurt in one way or another. But the main beneficiary of this scheme is a federal government that is gaining more power and more control of the economy as well as leverage for future encroachments on the private sector. As Mona Charen wisely notes in National Review today, the looming failure of the current version of ObamaCare will just be used by the left as a reason to go back to their dream of a single-payer system that will further erode our freedoms and destroy our health-care system.
Obama’s mendacity about ObamaCare is matched by his hypocrisy about the shutdown. However much one might question the GOP’s tactics, there is nothing illegitimate about one house of Congress—especially the one with the power of the purse—seeking to attach conditions to funding the government. What is going on now is not a question of House Republicans refusing to pay the country’s bills but the refusal of the president and Senate Democrats to even negotiate with the other body. The president said he would not be justified in holding out against government funding in order to satisfy his own demands. But that is exactly what he is doing in claiming that putting off the individual mandate on ObamaCare for a year (just as he has already done for employers) or revoking exemptions for Congress is beyond the pale. Though he claims the shutdown is the result of an ideological crusade by conservatives, the same can be said of his unwillingness to even consider compromise.
Despite the president’s vituperation directed at his foes, the true ideological crusader in Washington these days is still Barack Obama. If we are to blame the architects of the shutdown for anything, it might be that by allowing the president to seize the initiative this week, they have empowered him to revert to the sort of outrageous propaganda that he could never get away with at a time when the press and the country were focused on his conduct, rather than that of the Republicans.