Obamacare

Live C-SPAN Coverage vs. Pass Now, Explain Later

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Among the broken promises President Obama promises to fix tonight is the one about televising health care negotiations on C-SPAN, which he made at least eight times. In an interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer on Monday, Obama laughed when she asked him, "Going forward, should all the [health care] conversations, all the meetings be on C-SPAN?" Then he said this:

You know, I think your question points to a legitimate mistake that I made during the course of the year, and that is that we had to make so many decisions quickly in a very difficult set of circumstances that after a while, we started worrying more about getting the policy right than getting the process right. But I had campaigned on process. Part of what I had campaigned on was changing how Washington works, opening up transparency, and …I think the health care debate as it unfolded legitimately raised concerns not just among my opponents but also amongst supporters that we just don't know what's going on. And it's an ugly process and it looks like there are a bunch of back room deals.

Now I think it's my responsibility, and I'll be speaking to this at the State of the Union, to own up to the fact that the process didn't run the way I ideally would like it to and that we have to move forward in a way that recaptures that sense of opening things up more.

This is pretty candid acknowledgment that he didn't deliver on his promise, but I'm not sure what choice Obama had. Pretend that the negotiations really were televised, but everyone somehow missed them? Also, note how he tries to partially redeem himself by saying he forgot about transparency because he was so focused on "getting the policy right." Well, surely we can forgive him for not calling C-SPAN to arrange coverage when he was so hard at work "Standing Up to the Special Interests on Behalf of the American People." Except that we don't really know he was standing up to them if we don't know what happened behind the scenes, and the support of special interests such as insurance companies, hospital chains, and pharmaceutical manufacturers for his plan suggests he was, at best, crouching.

When Sawyer asked Obama about "these deals with Nebraska, with Florida," he sought to deflect responsibility a bit more:

I didn't make a bunch of deals. There is a legislative process that is taking place in Congress, and I am happy to own up to the fact that I have not changed Congress and how it operates the way I would have liked.

In other words, he ran on an unrealistic promise to "change the way business is done in Washington," a promise that would have required him to control the way members of Congress behave. Who actually expected him to do that? (As Tman notes in the comments, at the end of last month C-SPAN CEO Brian Lamb asked to cover the negotiations aimed at resolving differences between the House and Senate health care bills; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, apparently feeling unbound by Obama's promise, turned Lamb down.)

The point is not that we all missed out on the scintillating C-SPAN coverage of unions demanding an exemption from the proposed excise tax on "Cadillac" health benefits, of Ben Nelson demanding Medicaid concessions for Nebraska, or of Bart Stupak demanding a ban on abortion funding. Those particular compromises were covered by the press anyway (partly because the people issuing the demands felt fully justified and bragged about their victories). The real questions have to do with the deals that aren't publicized, because they're buried in the arcane language of 2,000-page bills that even the people voting for them can't be bothered to read, or because they're added at the last minute by a conference committee. Although Obama promised to shine a light on that sort of thing, the true attitude of his administration is reflected in presidential adviser David Axelrod's recent comment that "people will never know what's in that bill until we pass it"—i.e., first we have to get this thing passed, the sooner the better; then we can show the American people why it's good for them.

More on the "pass now, explain later" approach here and here.

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  1. Do any of you recall how people were down on GWB becaus he never owned up to mistakes? This guy does nothing but.

    1. You know, Bush was smart about one thing. He ran on that Compassionate Conservatism bullshit, which meant pretty much nothing. So it was harder to call him out on out-and-out campaign lies. Personally, I thought that slogan meant he’d be quasi-socialistic, but I tend to expect that from most candidates.

      Obama’s list of mistakes, missteps, lies, and inartful politicking is really starting to reach epic proportions. I wonder if he killed his father and slept with his mother?

      1. Since he did not put out his eyes with a broach, probably not.

        1. Well, Diane–I mean NutraSweet, he tried, but special interests didn’t let him. For insurance reasons.

        2. Still time.

      2. Well, he did fuck over his grandmother on “typical white person” thing.

    2. Do any of you recall how people were down on GWB becaus he never owned up to mistakes? This guy does nothing but.

      I don’t see Obama owning up to mistakes. I see him evading, deflecting, and making excuses, and/or saying, bizarrely, that it was mistake to expect him to open up the process, but he’s going to open up the process this year, honest.

      1. His “owning up to mistakes” consists of saying things like “I was just too smart and tried to hard and didn’t spend enough time explaining things”.

  2. How about saying, “I made up a lot of bullshit to get elected? What are you people, stupid? Yeah, I lied a lot more than many, but not as much as some.”

    1. “but not as much as some”

      [citation needed]

      1. Hey, it’s puffery.

  3. “move forward in a way that recaptures that sense of opening things up more.”

    ah yes, the halcyon time of 12:01 on january 20th, 2009, when obama had just opened the door to the white house shortly before slamming it on our noses.

  4. “we had to make so many decisions quickly in a very difficult set of circumstances that after a while, we started worrying more about getting the policy right than getting the process right. But I had campaigned on process.”

    you say president, i say worker at subway

  5. we started worrying more about getting the policy right than getting the process right.

    *outright, prolonged laughter*

  6. ……and it looks like there are a bunch of back room deals.

    Let’s see…a back room, no c-span, a couple of Dems…a deal emerges….”we have 60 votes”

    Let me be clear: Looks..fucking looks!

  7. In an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer on Monday, Obama laughed when she asked him, “Going forward, should all the [health care] conversations, all the meetings be on C-SPAN?” Then he said this…

    I wonder how many takes they had to do before Obama made the scripted response sound like an off-the-cuff answer to an unexpected question.

  8. Except that we don’t really know he was standing up to them if we don’t know what happened behind the scenes, and the support of special interests such as insurance companies, hospital chains, and pharmaceutical manufacturers for his plan suggests he was, at best, crouching on his knees.

    FIFY

    1. Except that we don’t really know he was standing up to them if we don’t know what happened behind the scenes, and the support of special interests such as insurance companies, hospital chains, and pharmaceutical manufacturers for his plan suggests he was, at best, crouching on his knees.

      And now, FIFM

  9. “Opening up transparency, Captain.”
    “Bunch bunch.”

  10. It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man who knows what the… law is today can guess what it will be to-morrow.–Federalist No. 62

    1. I’m a federalist too. I want to federalize the whole economy!

  11. This is pretty candid acknowledgment that he didn’t deliver on his promise, but I’m not sure what choice Obama had. Pretend that the negotiations really were televised, but everyone somehow missed them?

    No, he could have acknowledged his campaign promise, and that he failed on it, and then said that the process is what matters, and the concerns of the Little People are slowing things down.

  12. Anyone have a definitive, i.e. libertarian-friendly, drinking game for tonight’s SOTU address? I thought reason usually posted one.

    1. Rent ‘V’ and drink youself into a coma.

    2. Don’t drink every time he lies or you’ll be dead with 15 minutes. Unless you’re Irish, in which case go for it.

  13. This idiot is an empty suit. Teleprompter for a speech in a 6th grade class? I don’t need any more owning up or apologizing. I need him to shut the fuck up.
    And Congress to take a looooong vacation.

  14. I love the “we so concerned about policy” line. How exactly was being concerned about policy prevent you from being open and honest about the negotiations. The guy is on TV more than the sham wow dude. But he makes it sound like he has been locked in a windowless room with Pelosi, Reid and Bachus for the last year.

    It is one thing to say stupid things I disagree with. It is quite another just to get up there and bold face lie. His entire response to Sawyer sounds like an SNL skit. Yet, he is so arrogant that he actually thinks such unmitigated comical bullshit will fly. He is just unbelievable.

    1. I know, more evasions.

      On the one hand, he’s so concerned about policy, but at the same time its all, hey, Congress did all this, not me.

      Which is it, buddy? Were you driving the policy train, or was Congress?

  15. As bad of a President as he is, imagine how awful and ex-President he is going to be. There is no way The Obama of the United States is going to go quietly back to Chicago and disapear the way Bush went back to Texas or Reagan went back to California. No longer restrained by politics, the post office Obama is going to be quite a train wreck.

    1. I’d still be happy to see that trainwreck start in three years instead of seven.

    2. He’s taking over The Tonight Show in January 2013.

  16. I don’t see where he admitted that he lied about anything. He says that “the process didn’t run the way I ideally would like it to” not “I could have televised the process and instead I made sure C-Span was nowhere to be found.

    Seriously, even when he tries to admit failure he still blames someone else. C-Span sent him a goddamn letter asking if they could set up cameras to televise the “process”.

    They were denied IN FULL.

    He doesn’t answer this, instead he uses weasel words to explain that “things didn’t go the way I would have liked”. YOU ARE THE FUCKING PRESIDENT. IF YOU WEREN’T A LYING TOOL YOU COULD HAVE TOLD NANCY AND HARRY TO GET SOME MAKEUP BECAUSE THE CAMERAS WERE COMING.

    The gall of this guy is just unbelievable.

  17. “In other words, he ran on an unrealistic promise to “change the way business is done in Washington,” a promise that would have required him to control the way members of Congress behave. Who actually expected him to do that? ”

    If Obama meant what he said: OBAMA DID. That would make him ridiculously foolish and naive, but the other alternative is that he was lying through his teeth from the beginning. Both options have awful implications.

    1. Never promise more than you have the authority to enforce.

      A politician who can do that is tempermentally a small government sort, ones that cannot will succumb to the temptations of power if they are already in their thrall.

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