Fool Us Once Shame on You, Fool Us Twice. . .

Karl Rove makes an interesting argument: we should learn from Obama’s disingenuousness on the stimulus plan when we consider health care. Rove reminds us the stimulus was rushed through on the argument that it was urgently needed to keep unemployment below 8%:

Mr. Obama outsourced writing the stimulus to House appropriators who stuffed it with every bad spending idea they weren’t previously able to push through Congress. Little of it aimed to quickly revive the economy. More stimulus money will be spent in fiscal years 2011 through 2019 than will be spent this fiscal year, which ends in September.

Aside from a round of I-told-you-so’s, conservatives, Rove suggests, would do well to utilize the evidence before them and encourage some much-needed skepticism about the president’s next far-fetched scheme: a government take-over of health care. Part of Obama’s modus operandi is to avoid ever spelling out what the administration’s own plan is. That’s what he did on the stimulus and he’s at is again on health care.

But here the public, media, and Congress have every reason to slow down the train and ask some hard questions. What will it cost? Who is going to pay for it? Why do we need the government to “keep costs” down when there are private insurance companies competing to do the same? When we cut hundreds of millions from Medicare, won’t that impact care and result in shifting the cost to private insurers? The list is long but Obama is painfully short on specifics.

And the media is slowly catching on to the “deep dissension on several fronts within Democratic ranks and possible defections among key constituencies,” which exists largely because everyone has been fudging fundamental differences between interests (e.g. hospitals and doctors resist having fees slashed) and ignoring the big questions.

Moreover, the liberal vision of “reform” conflicts with political realities. Nancy Pelosi may favor a government-centric health-care system but her members have their doubts. As The Hill notes: “centrist Blue Dog members remain skeptical of a proposal to create a government-run public insurance plan, and vulnerable members facing reelection in conservative districts next year don’t like the idea of voting for a tax increase to pay for it.”

And this brings us back to the lesson of the stimulus plan. Joe Biden says the administration “misread” the economy when devising the stimulus plan. If true, we have reason to question why we should trust them to “read” health care more accurately. If not — and the administration suffers from an honesty deficit — there is even more reason to be wary of what comes out of the White House spin machine. As Rove notes:

Mr. Obama has already created a river of red ink. His health-care plans will only force that river over its banks. We are at the cusp of a crucial political debate, and Mr. Obama’s words on fiscal matters are untrustworthy. His promised savings are a mirage. His proposals to reshape the economy are alarming. And his unwillingness to be forthright with his numbers reveals that he knows his plans would terrify many Americans.

Put differently: if the stimulus plan is the administration’s model of perfection (“There’s nothing that we would have done differently”) then there is good reason to keep health care (something far more complicated and critical to the lives of ordinary Americans than a wasteful Keynesian boondoggle) far from their clutches.