White House Propagandists Slam Obamacare 'Misinformation' While Gleefully Spreading Their Own
Wanna get the ol' blood pressure rising? Go to whitehouse.gov and do a search on "misinformation" and "health care." There you will find a sneering, self-satisfied series of claims that supporters of the Affordable Care Act are fighting with the truth on their side, unlike those lying liars of the Grand Old (Lying) Party.
For instance here's a post on The White House Blog by Macon Phillips, entitled "Facts Are Stubborn Things." Opening line:
Opponents of health insurance reform may find the truth a little inconvenient, but as our second president famously said, "facts are stubborn things."
So smack us with the truth, Macon Phillips!
For the record, the President has consistently said that if you like your insurance plan, your doctor, or both, you will be able to keep them.
Or here's President Barack Obama in May:
The same folks who fought tooth and nail four years ago and tried to make political hay out of Obamacare, they're still telling tall tales about its impact….[W]henever insurance premiums go up, you're being told it's because of Obamacare—even though there's no evidence that that's the case. So right now there are a whole bunch of folks out there, their insurance company decided to jack up rates, and they're automatically assuming, well, somehow the law had something to do with it. No, that had to do with a decision the insurance company made. In some cases, employers may be shifting more costs onto employees because they think that will help their bottom line. It's convenient to somehow say, well, it must be the new law. It's not the case.
Bolding mine, to indicate the president's stubborn absolutism. So let's pick a non-right-wing newspaper at random…how about the L.A. Times:
[M]iddle-class consumers are staring at hefty increases on their insurance bills as the overhaul remakes the healthcare market. Their rates are rising in large part to help offset the higher costs of covering sicker, poorer people who have been shut out of the system for years. […]
[E]xperts say sharp price increases for individual policies have the greatest potential to erode public support for President Obama's signature legislation.
"This is when the actual sticker shock comes into play for people," said Gerald Kominski, director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. "There are winners and losers under the Affordable Care Act."
Gee, that certainly sounds like "evidence" that insurance premiums are going up because of Obamacare, and yet the president of the United States has not only been insisting the opposite, he's done it while cloaking himself in the holy mantle of Truth, wearily countering a deluge of politically opportunistic nonfactuals. Here he is again in that May 10 speech:
[P]recisely because there're been so much misinformation, sometimes people may not have a sense of what the law actually does. […]
And we're going to need everybody out there to make sure—get the right information. Don't just read a blog—or some commentary from some pundit that has a political agenda. Make sure you know what the actual facts are, because you stand to benefit if you're not already benefiting from this thing. Don't let people confuse you. Don't let them run the okiedoke on you. Don't be bamboozled.
Do you know who else has "political agendas," at least sometimes? Politicians! And the people who work for them….
For example, here's Obama BFF Valerie Jarrett just this week, attempting to simultaneously move the goalposts and seize the higher factual ground:
FACT: Nothing in #Obamacare forces people out of their health plans. No change is required unless insurance companies change existing plans.
— Valerie Jarrett (@vj44) October 29, 2013
Once you recognize the tic, you can't stop seeing it. Since the president began selling the Affordable Care Act, he has brazenly coupled his lies and false predictions with the repeated notion that it's the other side who is congenitally dishonest in this debate. And for most of his tenure, the press has eaten it up. It got to the point during 2012 that many journalists claimed the presidential election was a referendum on truth itself, which is why that liar-face Mitt Romney must be defeated.
Take Washington Post "Plum Line" blogger Greg Sargent. On Nov. 5, 2012, Sargent opined that "we may find out whether a 'post truth' candidate can be elected president." He was not talking about Barack Obama:
If there is one constant to this campaign, it's that Romney has startled many observers by operating from the basic premise that there is literally no set of boundaries he needs to follow when it comes to the veracity of his assertions[.]
Sounds like Greg Sargent holds truth-telling to be at or near the highest political value. A totally defensible stance, IMO. So let's see how Sargent is dealing with an Obamacare rollout that has proven so many of Obama's promises to be fantasy:
Critics of the law are right to ask whether it is having an adverse impact on these millions of Americans. And the White House could have been clearer in laying the groundwork for this political argument: It wasn't sufficient to say people who like their plans will be able to keep it, which is narrowly untrue.
Then Sargent changes the subject to the real culprits here, who are not the people who passed the law using (at the least) "narrowly untrue" arguments, it's those who opposed it:
But the GOP outrage about Americans supposedly "losing" coverage is largely just more of the same old misdirection. It's a subset of a larger Republican refusal to have an actual debate about the law's tradeoffs — one in which the law's benefits for millions of Americans are also reckoned with in a serious way.
This is a gut-check moment for the mostly left-of-center journalists who have made such a show these past few years of dropping false equivalence and calling out political bullshit at the source. You can subject the policy and politics of Obamacare to truth-scans, or you can carry water for the president. You cannot do both, at least without a laugh track.
Over at The Weekly Standard, Mark Hemingway has a useful rundown of the lopsided role that PolitiFact and other fact-checking organizations have played in arbitrating Obamacare-related factual disputes. And at the beginning of this year I wrote "The 'Truth' Hurts: How the fact-checking press gives the president a pass." Meanwhile, Peter Suderman, who has forgotten more about Obamacare than I will ever know, has two great posts up on the topic just below.