February 1st, 2010

Obama: promises about keeping your health insurance, and those sneaky little provisions

You remember Obama’s solemn pledge.

No, not the one about televising the health care debates on C-SPAN. The one about how, if you like your health insurance, you would get to keep it under the Democrats’ health care reforms.

Tom Bevan of RealClearPolitics points out an admission embedded in one of Obama’s answers to questions following his recent address to House Republicans. Obama’s statement received little notice at the time, but it seems significant for a number of reasons [emphasis mine]:

If you look at the package that we’ve presented — and there’s some stray cats and dogs that got in there that we were eliminating, we were in the process of eliminating. For example, we said from the start that it was going to be important for us to be consistent in saying to people if you can have your — if you want to keep the health insurance you got, you can keep it, that you’re not going to have anybody getting in between you and your doctor in your decision making. And I think that some of the provisions that got snuck in might have violated that pledge.

This paragraph highlights some of the most disagreeable, manipulative, and duplicitous aspects of Obama’s personality: his refusal to admit that he was mistaken and/or lying, his failure to take any responsibility or offer leadership, and the sophistry he uses to conceal these facts.

Obams’s erroneous (or duplicitous?) assertion about Americans being able to keep their health insurance was not only made repeatedly, it was actually the centerpiece of his argument to the people about what health care reform would do and mean for them. And it was stated not once, but almost every time he spoke on the issue of his plans for health care reform.

Many have remarked that Obama stood back from offering guidance to Congress on the details of the bills, and yet he described his own plan and made promises about it as though the two would be in sync. There has been much speculation about why he chose to do it this way, but I believe that one very important reason was that he wanted to retain plausible deniability when the provisions in the final bill violated his promises.

But Obama must not have had much objection to the breaking of his promises in these bills. If he had wanted to make sure his promises were kept, Obama could (and should) have provided far more leadership, giving Congress details to describe the bill he would have considered optimal. What’s more, he could also have threatened to veto any health care reform bill in which Congress put anything that would undermine people’s ability to continue subscribing to their present private health insurance plans.

We know that he did not provide that kind of guidance. His failure to do so was an abdication of leadership, if nothing else. But don’t sit on a hot stove until he admits it.

Now that time has passed and the American people have learned more about the bills and the effects they would have been likely to have had on their private health insurance, Obama has been forced to admit that his promises weren’t kept. But he is not forced to admit that any of it is his fault.

However, in his remarks quoted above, Obama goes a step further in abdication of responsibility. In characteristic fashion, he manages to absolve himself. But note his language; even the Democrats in Congress (who, after all, designed the bills and voted for them) are not to blame, although he simultaneously seems to admit that something went wrong.

But that “something” had no human locus of action; it just happened. It seems that provisions in bills have minds, motivations, and behaviors of their own. They are autonomous little gremlins that creep into bills of their own volition.

Obama indicates this twice: first characterizing them as animistic “stray cats and dogs” that “got in there” somehow against the will of Obama and his fellow Democrats, who are now bent on eliminating them (perhaps by rounding them up and placing them in the pound?). Secondly, there’s this sentence, “I think that some of the provisions that got snuck in might have violated that pledge.” Note the two careful qualifiers: “I think” and “might have,” as well as the reiteration of the metaphor suggesting that the provisions had no human agents we can identify, but somehow acted with autonomous power, catting around and stealthily getting into places they didn’t belong.

This language is easy to miss unless you’re looking for it and studying it. But for many people who hear them, Obama’s words exert exactly the subtly exculpatory effect he intends. This is one of the reasons Obama retains a surprising amount of support from the public, despite all the broken promises and weasel wrigglings.

Weasel—that’s another animal metaphor, isn’t it? And to complete the image, here we have a few of those stray cat and dog provisions, rounded up and stuck in captivity. Will they manage to sneak out again to wreak their damage? They look so harmless right now.

And then there’s this:

29 Responses to “Obama: promises about keeping your health insurance, and those sneaky little provisions”

  1. Thomas Says:

    The whole concept of the healthcare exchange (which was central to the bill) was just an elaborate trick to get you out of your existing healthcare.

    You get to keep ‘private’ insurance but it had to conform to the government standards… i.e., it had a private name but would be what they wanted you to have vs. what you did have… and we’d have our forced equality the left wants to force on us.

  2. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    Wait, you mean there’s some suspicion that Obama may not be fully honest? What a divisive thing to say! And here this nice man was trying to meet you Republicans halfway – okay, well, a quarter way…10%…some nonzero number – and this is the thanks he gets? For shame.

  3. betsybounds Says:

    Well see, that’s what happens. Stray cats and dogs get in there, and they were eliminating them, in the process of eliminating them, taking them to the pound maybe or putting them to sleep, but then everyone got all wee-wee’d up. You can’t get good things done when people are running around all wee-wee’d up.

  4. huxley Says:

    This paragraph highlights some of the most disagreeable, manipulative, and duplicitous aspects of Obama’s personality: his refusal to admit that he was mistaken and/or lying, his failure to take any responsibility or offer leadership, and the sophistry he uses to conceal these facts.

    That’s what bothered me about the GOP Retreat. It’s easy to be lulled by Obama in the moment as he wafts on folksily about stray cats and dogs sneaking in. It’s in the close reading of a transcript that one can spot the holes and fallacies.

    Have we had a President in memory so dishonest? All politicians spin, mislead and manipulate, but Obama seems to case unto himself. I can’t believe he doesn’t know what he is doing.

  5. Gringo Says:

    Obama’s use of the passive voice, which is an attempt to deny responsibility for the lie, reminds me of another time the passive voice was used to deny responsibility. Louise Steinman, in The Souvenir: A Daughter Discusses her Father’s War discusses her visit to Hiroshima Peace Memorial museum.

    There was little introspection here on the larger context of why Hiroshima was
    incinerated, of what else was happening in the world on August 6, 1945

    The wording on the Pearl Harbor display was a troubling example: “On December 7,
    1941, a bomb was dropped on Pearl Harbor and Japan was hurled into the war.Was dropped. Was hurled. In this “victims’ history,” as one scholar called it, “the war appears as a
    natural catastrophe which ‘happened’ to Japan, as if without the intervention of human agency.”

    In both cases, there is an attempt to deny responsibility. It might have happened, it might have been snuck in. Was hurled. Was dropped on Pearl Harbor. Those who deny responsibility lose respect.

  6. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    Is there a death panel for those stray cats and dogs the President wants to eliminate?

  7. West Says:

    “Many have remarked that Obama stood back from offering guidance to Congress on the details of the bills, and yet he described his own plan and made promises about it as though the two would be in sync. There has been much speculation about why he chose to do it this way,”

    The pattern I see here is not that Obama had a machiavellian plan to avoid responsibility. It’s that he is following the same game plan that has worked for him in the past – let others do the heavy lifting, and then fly in at the last minute and take credit for it.

    His Illinois political career was rife with him getting credit at the last minute for bills that others worked on for years, he took credit for bills he hardly worked on in the US Senate, he let Copenhagen go on until it was all but complete, and then flew in at the last minute to ‘cinch the deal” (Didn’t work), the same with the Olympics, the list goes on and on. The guy really does not know how to accomplish anything that actually takes an application of will and consistent effort.

    But damn, he is good at taking the credit – except now, on the world stage, it’s a little harder to sweep the times the tactic doesn’t work under the rug.

    Don’t give the guy credit for subtlety that he has not demonstrated. That goes double for his ‘intellectualism’ – I have seen no evidence of that, either, despite every leftie on the planet placing the attribute on him in an orgy of wishful-thinking projection.

  8. Tom Says:

    It’s all in his roots–Jeremiah Wright and community organizing in particular. In Ohio recently he told the audience that he wuz gonna start fighting for the Middle Class. Starting Right Now. Fighting whom? Shadow boxing?

    And check out the budget submitted today. If early reports are correct, revenues from healthcarereform and from capandtrade are shown. Without them, the deficit will exceed 2 TRILLION dollars. But we gotta stop spending?!

    Obama=Chavez

  9. betsybounds Says:

    Of course Obama knows what he’s doing–well, that’s what I think today, anyway. 🙂 Today I think that, while Clinton believed every lie he ever told while he was telling it, Obama knows he’s lying. I would like to have seen one of the Retreating Republicans ask him about that statement of his that he’s not an ideologue or some kind of Bolshevik. I wish some congressional Republican would have the cods to actually put the name to what he is. Such, such is the damage we’ve allowed ol’ Tail-gunner Joe to do to our public discourse–we acquiesced to McCarthy derision so much that we’ve allowed everyone to forget or deny totally that McCarthy was, as my dad once said, “a little bit right”. The Venona Transcripts revealed that there really were active communists in our government and working for the Soviets, and Alger Hiss really was one of them. So now, people honest enough to actually put such a case are hooted off the stage, and Truth has been removed from our armory because we allowed it to be.

    There I go again, getting all wee-wee’d up.

  10. strcpy Says:

    “It’s that he is following the same game plan that has worked for him in the past – let others do the heavy lifting, and then fly in at the last minute and take credit for it.”

    ding ding ding – we have a winner. Not only that but if it fails miserably he never was for it to begin with which is what he was saying here.

    Note also that he pretty much never tells us what that Bad Stuff is either, just that he knows it is in there, feels for us, and is angry – angry I say it made it in there. We can then all project whatever we want into there as the “Bad Stuff” and Obama agrees with us against those nasty politicians (who are also unnamed – so take your pick and he will agree!).

    Here is where his comfort zone is, it is when he is actually having to *do* something that he flails around. Blame or be a blank slate and he is great at it. Which, once more, only works when people believe you. As the mask gets worn off this type of talk doesn’t work – after all at the end of the day he is still ramming the bill through. Further what actions and specifics he *does* do shows us that his evil people and agendas are Tea Party type things.

  11. Bob from Virginia Says:

    Huxley, you wrote “I can’t believe he doesn’t know what he is doing.”
    Are you sure you want to stand by that statement?

    I suspect he was winging the whole Presidential thing from Day One. Otherwise we are confronted with someone who wants to appear stupid, traitorous and dishonest.
    A clever knave would deliver the poison in small doses with lots of sugar, but Obama is a T-Rex in a China shop with nuclear land mines balanced on the heads of needles. He is an insult to underhanded duplicitous politicians everywhere.
    The most likely explanation is that he wants to be an underhanded duplicitous politician but is just lousy at it.

  12. Thomas Says:

    Gringo Says

    I wonder how they described the bombs dropped on Japan in return. If it was the same passive voice, I’d be ok with the whole thing.

    If not…

  13. neo-neocon Says:

    huxley: forget “recent memory.” I don’t think we’ve ever had a president so dishonest—and I mean dishonestly dishonest. Sometimes he comes out and lies in a way that’s obvious, like the broken C-SPAN promise. But much more often it’s something like the process I analyzed in this post, where it is easy to miss what he’s doing. He does this sort of thing almost incessantly. It’s possible (but tiresome) to go through his speeches and find instance after instance. And the thing that makes it hard is that the MSM won’t call him on it, and that lets him know he can get away with it, and emboldens him further. Other politicians might be afraid that the media would rake them over the coals for similar shenanigans, but he is protected for the most part, and he knows it.

  14. huxley Says:

    Huxley, you wrote “I can’t believe he doesn’t know what he is doing.”
    Are you sure you want to stand by that statement?

    Bob: Sure. I was specifically referring to Obama’s duplicity in speaking, such as neo documents in the paragraph she quoted.

    I don’t consider Obama some mega-brainiac by any means, but he is smart enough to know when he is misleading people and outright lying.

    I agree that Obama is not that savvy a politician either. If he had been less impatient and less greedy, and had gone about moving the country to the left a small piece at a time rather than the Big Bang approach of everything in the first year, he might have made good on Carville’s grand boast of a 40 year Reich for the Democrats.

  15. huxley Says:

    huxley: forget “recent memory.” I don’t think we’ve ever had a president so dishonest—and I mean dishonestly dishonest.

    neo: Well, I’m kind of fuzzy on many of the presidents in the 1800s and I try to stick with what I’m sure about.

    I remember Nixon lying about Watergate and Clinton lying about Lewinsky. I remember presidents expressing opinions that I strongly disagreed with. But I don’t remember any president lying as a matter of course about almost anything all the time as I find with Obama.

    And yeah, the MSM could make it much harder for Obama to get away with this but they don’t.

  16. gcotharn Says:

    Having skimmed video of Barack at Repub retreat, two things struck me:

    Barack is a lie a minute man. In basketball, they used to have the concept of a “point-a-minute” player, i.e. a player who averaged one point for every minute he played. Pres. Obama has adjusted this concept to politics.

    Second, the quote you use here: the can’t keep your insurance and death panels quote. You’ve covered the insurance aspect. I noticed the death panels part. Barack, of course, did not say death panels, and would argue he did not mean death panels. But, to me: close enough for government work. Barack’s admission:

    “… we said … you’re not going to have anybody getting in between you and your doctor in your decision making. …. some … provisions … might have violated that pledge.”

    Let’s cut through the b/s: Death Panels.

    I wonder if the insurance admission, especially, might come back to bite Barack? Barack had, through his protestations, i.e. “You can keep your insurance!”, made a fundamental pact with Americans. Now, a reasonable person can see Barack was going to sell out American citizens if he needed to. He broke a foundational pact with American citizens.

    Maybe he’ll skate by again. He seems to follow this formula:

    1. Lie to em. They’ll believe me.
    2. Admit the lie (in carefully parsed and semi deniable political language). They’ll either forgive, or be in denial.
    3. Lie to em again. They’ll believe me again.

    So far, his formula has worked.

  17. Nolanimrod Says:

    There are two really obvious tells about Obama’s er, prevaricating.

    One is when he wants to be perfectly clear and the other is when he gets folksy.

    If he gets folksy AND earnest at the same time?

    Run!

  18. Occam's Beard Says:

    Why is this a surprise?

    Gibbs is Obama’s press secretary.

    Obama is Soros’s.

  19. ahem Says:

    I’m beginning to believe Obama is a sociopath.

  20. Bob From Virginia Says:

    OK Hux, let’s compromise. Obama is trying to be clever by doing one stupid thing after another and lying about it, considering his increasing approval rantings he seems to be on to something.
    Actually I see the point, he assumes his natural superiority and treats in a condescending matter us mere mortals. As Sowell wrote, he is self-anointed, Plato’s man of gold, the shepherd guiding the flock for its own good; lying is Ok because our weak reptilian minds can’t handle he truth. A truth that is bestowed upon him but not upon us.
    I wonder why he puts up with us.

  21. Gray Says:

    And I think that some of the provisions that got snuck in might have violated that pledge.

    WoW! Talk about pissing on my back and telling me it’s raining!”

    Japan? Somehow, it got all blowed up. Twice.

  22. camojack Says:

    ahem Says:
    I’m beginning to believe Obama is a sociopath.

    Beginning to think?! 🙁

  23. will Says:

    Calling Obama dishonest is tantamount to racism, and not that Harry Reid kind of racist either, the other kind, you know…

    Never could make heads or tails of the health care thing. Just figured that we’d be stuck somewhere in the middle, not poor enough to qualify for help, not wealthy enough to afford to buy it.

    Hope & Change…yawn

  24. Artfldgr Says:

    Dictators are never wrong…
    Their consideration of action and follow through usually depends only on the amount of actual power they have to weild. FDR was only different from other socialist despots in that his power had some limit which stepped into it.

    each bill has the chess moves in it that together add up to the desire.

  25. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    Toes, care to elaborate rather than just sneering with a wave of the hand?

    I mean, that approach works okay against liberals -who respond socially rather than intellectually – but conservatives have at least some immunity against it. We prefer to discuss on the basis of propositions and evidence. Just a little idiosyncracy of ours.

    So I am wondering…your evidence for envy is, uh, …?

  26. neo-neocon Says:

    AVI: “Toes” was old Canadian troll “stevie.” ‘Nuff said.

  27. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    Toes came by my site as “Jeff” and says he’s not Stevie. So I answered him. Thanks for the red flag.

  28. neo-neocon Says:

    AVI: “stevie” has many pseudonyms, including “stevie.”

  29. Nice: Obama's Selling Judgeships to Pass ObamaCare | The Lonely Conservative Says:

    […] down costs? Check! Lying about deficit reduction? Check! Lying about keeping your health insurance? Check! Urging the Senate to violate the Constitution, tradition and Senate rules to ram it through? […]

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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