President Obama acknowledges that he was wrong when he said Americans could keep their existing health plans under the Affordable Care Act. He’s apologized, and he’s told insurance companies they should let people keep those plans for a year.
But has that mollified Republicans eager to kill Obamacare, either outright or by draining it of all meaning? No way. If anything, this perceived weakness has them sharpening their political rhetoric.
On Saturday, their designated attacker as much as said Obama lied when he repeatedly assured the public, “If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your health-care plan, you will be able to keep your health-care plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what.”
Among the phrases used by Sen. Ron Johnson (R) of Wisconsin in the weekly GOP radio and Internet address: “phony…fraudulent…grand deception…false promises.”
“President Obama's so-called apology was as phony as his fraudulent marketing of Obamacare,” Sen. Johnson said.
“Those assurances weren't slight exaggerations or innocent shadings of the truth. They were statements that were fully vetted, coldly calculated, and carefully crafted to deceptively sell your health care plan to a trusting public,” Johnson charged. “It was a political fraud echoed relentlessly by House and Senate Democrats who should be held accountable for the disastrous consequences of their grand deception.”
“Consumer fraud this massive in the private sector could – and should – bear serious legal ramifications,” he said. “For President Obama, however, it helped secure enough votes to pass Obamacare, and win reelection.”
Whether or not Obama knew early on that some people would be kicked off their health insurance policies may never be known. There’s no smoking gun – no secret Oval Office tape – so far.
But large numbers of Americans – already fed up with the HealthCare.gov debacle – are not inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Asked whether Obama “knowingly deceived the public when he said that if people liked their health insurance plans they would be able to keep them under the 2010 health care law,” 46 percent of respondents in the latest Quinnipiac University National Poll say “yes,” including 17 percent of Democrats and 51 percent of independents. (Forty-seven percent say “no.”)
A new Fox News poll came up with similar results: half of those surveyed believe the president knowingly lied when he made the notorious “you can keep it” pledge, nearly 60 percent believe the administration knew ahead of time that people would have their health insurance policies canceled because of the law, and 55 percent think the White House has “tried to deceive” people about it.
With midterm elections around the corner, Republicans are stalking political prey – especially any Democratic incumbents who voted for Obamacare. And they’re using Obama’s “grand deception,” as Sen. Johnson put it Saturday, in politically predatory fashion.
"There's nothing more damaging than when your word is devalued and people think they were misled," Rep. Greg Walden, (R) of Oregon, who heads the National Republican Congressional Committee, the House GOP's campaign arm, told the Associated Press. "And especially damaging is when it actually affects you and your family. So in terms of degree of impact, this is off the Richter scale."
For his part, Obama might have been expected to talk about the Affordable Care Act in his radio and Internet address Saturday.
But at this point, it’s actions instead of words that will be judged. And to dwell on it in this venue – apologizing some more, promising that things will get better with HealthCare.gov – would look like he’s trapped in one issue.
In his address, Obama talked about energy policy.
“Just this week, we learned that for the first time in nearly two decades, the United States of America now produces more of our own oil here at home than we buy from other countries,” he said. “That’s a big deal. That’s a tremendous step towards American energy independence.”