Obviously, President Obama lost control of the narrative. He did not seem to know until a group of Senate Democrats marched into his office the other day to tell him at he had to do something. They knew that Obamacare was an albatross; it was going to drag them to defeat in next year’s elections.
By now everyone knows that Obama’s grand promise about keeping your insurance and your doctor was a lie. It did not matter whether you liked them and wanted to keep them. What mattered was whether the government liked them and wanted you to keep them.
It was more than a nuance.
While the Obamacare website kept crashing, insurance carriers were doing their job. They canceled millions of insurance policies. And that, dare we say, was only the beginning.
Many victims of government over-regulation went to the Obamacare exchanges and discovered, to their chagrin, that they were going to have to pay more to get a product that did not serve their needs. Of course, they were also going to lose their doctors. If they could not afford to comply, they would go uninsured.
And everyone else knows that most of those who have been signing up on the exchanges have been signing up for Medicaid. They were signing up for a free program and avoiding the policies that would cost them money.
In truth, many of the canceled policies were excellent. And many of the new policies had higher premiums, higher deductibles and higher copays. The CEO of Aetna said that the average premium would rise by 20% or more.
Last night on Megyn Kelly's show a cancer patient from South Carolina explained that he could not afford a new policy that would cost him $1,500 a month with a $13,500 deductible. He had decided that he would forgo insurance and pay the penalty.
Obamacare might well cost him his life.
Obama had tried to calm the fury by saying that those who lost their policies were losing substandard insurance and that the exchanges would offer them better coverage. Again, the people did not accept that the government knew what was best for them. After all, the president had promised that they could exercise their free choice. Now they knew that they were being deprived of their freedom.
The problem was so bad that the mainstream media could not cover it up. So, President Obama decided that he needed to get out in front of the story. In the course of a hastily convened interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd Obama offered something that resembled an apology.
But was it?
Here’s is the relevant portion of the transcript:
Chuck Todd: Do you think you owe these folks an apology for misleading them, even if you didn’t intentionally do it, but at this point they feel misled, and you have seen the anger that is out there.
Barack Obama: I regret very much that what we intended to do, which was to make sure that everybody is moving into better plans because they want them as opposed to because they are forced into it, but 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, in a better position than they were in before this law happened. And I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me and we’ve got to work hard to make sure that they know we hear them 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.
Take Obama’s expression of regret: “I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation….”
In a sincere apology an individual takes full responsibility for an error that was solely of his own making.
Obama was not taking responsibility. He was expressing his sympathy for those who had lost their insurance policies. It’s completely different. Expressing sympathy for your friends loss is not the same as expressing regret for your own behavior.
Obama continued to explain that millions of people found themselves in the “situation … based on assurances they got from me….”
As a rhetorical sleight of hand, it’s exceptionally good. Let us assume that Obama is using a rhetorical ellipsis.
Clearly, the assurances did not cause individuals to lose their insurance. Obama’s dishonest assurances might have persuaded people to vote for him. Once they voted for him and for a Democratic Congress the received the Affordable Care Act as a reward.
Thus, for having been tricked or lied to or defrauded by Obama they find themselves in a difficult situation.
This is as close as the president comes to admitting that his lies helped to produce the mess.
Note that Obama closes his statement with another expression of sympathy. He feels everyone’s pain and he wants to do everything he can to help people: “who find themselves in a tough position as a result of this.”
As a result of what, exactly? Again, Obama fails to accept that his lies and his administration produced the situation.
The president does not suggest that he did anything wrong or that he made a mistake. Obviously, he was not paying attention to Lanny Davis.
Return now to the beginning of the passage I quoted above. Obama defends himself on the grounds that what happened was not what he had intended. He wanted people to want to have shiny new policies. He did not want them to feel that they were being forced into the exchanges. And yet, somehow or other, reality intruded and took away their produces. They found themselves forced to go to the exchanges. This outcome had nothing to do with his intentions.
Aside from the fact that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, the truth of your intentions lies in what happens, not in what you would have wished to see happen.
If you sell a war as something that will be a cakewalk, and it goes badly, you cannot defend yourself by saying that such was not your intention. Nor do you suggest that your commanding generals were not themselves pulling the trigger or firing the missiles.
As I have pointed out, Obama is using behavioral economics. He wanted to nudge people in the direction of something that they would have been happy to accept once they discovered that it was better than what they had. Since they had no idea of how bad their insurance plans were the only way to persuade them to give them up was by using a lie.
But, something went wrong and many citizens believe that their new policies are fool’s gold. They are much worse than what they had before. Now, that they know they were defrauded, it seems to be too late to get back what they lost and what Obama promised they could keep.
Obama lied because he believed that people would not mind being lied to once they discovered that it was for the best. And he still believes that once the techies work out the glitches and people discover that it is all for the best, they will be happy to forgive him the necessary prevarication.
Obama feels badly that the rollout of Obamacare did not go better. He sympathizes with those who are suffering. He does not express any shame for having done anything wrong.
In the end he blames it all on the invisible techies who put together the website:
I've been burned already with -- a website -- well, more importantly, the American people have been burned by – a website that has been dysfunctional.
Many commentators have remarked his Freudian slip. It shows that, rather than accept responsibility, Obama feels personally offended by the website malfunction. He sees himself as one of the Americans who have burned by the site. So much for responsibility.