There have been several pithy reactions to President Obama’s “apology” for having misled the American people on the basic promises of ObamaCare. But the one that gets closest, I think, to the public mood is Dennis Miller’s take: “Mr. President, if you liked your apology you can keep it.” In the wake of the disastrous ObamaCare rollout and the confirmation that Obama made false promises in order to pass legislation that would negatively impact millions, some liberals tried to argue that the promises don’t matter: the policy’s legacy will rest on whether it works. That’s true enough in the long term, though it’s worth pointing out that the policy “working” is actually quite harmful to a broad swath of the country, so defining its success won’t be so simple for the administration’s defenders.
In the near term, this defense misses the impact on Obama’s approval numbers and those of his party’s congressional delegation, and thus on his and their political capital. Americans have no good reason to trust what Obama says anymore, and I think that has some practical implications. But it’s true that in the long run the popularity of the policy will depend less on the arguments employed to enact it. And that is where Miller’s response comes in. The American people are due far more than an apology (though, as apologies go, this one was lawyered into the ground). They deserve a change in the policy. Will they get it? Perhaps we can look for clues as to whether the president intends on righting this wrong in his “apology” statement, in response to a question from NBC’s Chuck Todd:
You know– I regret very much that– what we intended to do, which is to make sure that everybody is moving into better plans because they want ’em, as opposed to because they’re forced into it. That, you know, we weren’t as clear as we needed to be– in terms of the changes that were taking place. And I want to do everything we can to make sure that people are finding themselves in a good position– a better position than they were before this law happened.
Keep in mind that most of the folks who are going to– who got these c– cancellation letters, they’ll be able to get better care at the same cost or cheaper in these new marketplaces. Because they’ll have more choice. They’ll have more competition. They’re part of a bigger pool. Insurance companies are going to be hungry for their business.
So– the majority of folks will end up being better off, of course, because the website’s not working right. They don’t necessarily know it right. But it– even though it’s a small percentage of folks who may be disadvantaged, you know, it means a lot to them. And it’s scary to them. And I am sorry that they– you know, are finding themselves in this situation, based on assurances they got from me. We’ve got to work hard to make sure that– they know– we hear ‘em and that we’re going to do everything we can– to deal with folks who find themselves– in a tough position as a consequence of this.
That’s not going to be very reassuring. Part of the problem with ObamaCare is that it’s quite difficult for the president to be truthful about any part of it, because he sold the (shoddy) reform on false premises. So Todd asks Obama if the people deserve an apology from him, and his response begins immediately with another baldly false claim. The intention, he says, was for people to be shifted onto different plans–an acknowledgement that he intended for people to lose their insurance from the beginning–by their own choice, not “because they’re forced into it.” This is, as we know, completely untrue. Between all the mandates and the new requirements, the entire structure of ObamaCare is built on coercion. You are “forced” by law to buy a policy whether you want to or not, and you are “forced” by law to abandon your old plan if Obama doesn’t like it.
But words can mean whatever Obama wants them to mean in the brave new world of the liberal welfare state. So it may seem like people are being “forced” into the uncharted waters of the health-insurance exchanges, but that’s because they don’t see it the way the president does. Obama says they’ll have more choice once they do what the government forces them to do against their will. True choice, to the statist, begins once the government has control.
And in the last part, just before his “apology,” the president dishonestly downplays the number of people who will be affected by this and then explains that the people who are upset–and he’s sorry they’re in this situation, which he painstakingly planned–just don’t know how much better off they’ll be when (if?) the website ever starts working. So we’re back to the argument that, according to Obama, it’s for their own good. It’s unclear whether, at this point, even the president believes that, but it’s doubtful ObamaCare’s victims do.