For the not-so-geeky, the basic idea is that the authors of some long-running storyline change previously established facts within the narrative. Often the idea is to facilitate new storylines, or, less generously, to help struggling serial writers work themselves out of some difficult plot corner they’ve written themselves into.
Fans sometimes complain about the way the practice can upend complex stories that have been developing for years. But in general, they’re expected to just go along and accept that the old story is gone, and the new story is what really happened.
I wonder if President Obama is a comic book fan. Because with the updated version of his oft-repeated promise that individuals who like their health plans can keep them, he’s essentially retconned himself.
Here’s how Obama described his promise yesterday: “Now, if you had one of these plans before the Affordable Care Act came into law and you really liked that plan, what we said was you can keep it if it hasn’t changed since the law passed.”
This isn’t just an update. It’s a backwards revision. Obama is not just changing his claim going forward—he’s attempting to alter what he said in the past as well.
Let’s look through some back issues for a moment. Here’s what Obama used to say about the circumstances under which you can keep your health plan, via New York Magazine.
Got that? If you’re happy with your plan, nobody’s changing it. If you like your plan, you can keep it. You will keep it. Nobody's changing it.
There are no exceptions here, no qualifications or caveats. It's a promise, as Obama has said, period. No matter what.
This is what Obama actually said. But now he’s saying it’s not. He’s covering for his old lie with a new one—an insistence that he never misled in the first place. And he’s hoping that everyone just goes along. The most ardent fanboys might buy it. But most people, I suspect, will see it for the artless and desperate revisionism that it is.