If there is to be a tidal wave of defenders of President Barack Obama's "it if it hasn't changed" revision to his original guarantee — "If you like your health insurance plan, you can keep your health insurance plan" — Ron Fournier (NewsBusters history here), who toiled at the Associated Press for 20 years and joined the National Journal several years ago, will not be among them.
In 2008, Fournier advocated "accountability journalism." When he took over as AP Washington bureau chief, he pushed for what was described as "a more hard-charging, opinion oriented style of writing" as a "new direction AP should take." Both were, in my view, thinly veiled attempts to inject more left-leaning bias into what news consumers to this day still mostly believe are "objective" wire service reports. With that demonstrated pedigree, perhaps it's a surprise that Fournier would be so vocal about Obama's attempt to "reinvent history" (HT Instapundit; bolds are mine):
Lying About Lies: Why Credibility Matters to Obama
The president is trying to reinvent the history of his you-can-keep-it promise on health care.
It might not seem possible that President Obama could do more harm to his credibility and the public's faith in government than misleading Americans about health insurance reform. But he can. The president is now misleading the public about his deception.
In a speech last night to his political team, Obama said: "Now, if you have or had one of these plans before the Affordable Care Act came into law and you really liked that plan, what we said was you can keep it if it hasn't changed since the law passed."
No, no, no, no, no -- that's not what the Obama administration said.
Fournier then proceeded to quote Obama's "you can keep it" statements to the American Medical Association in June 2009 and to a group in Portland, Oregon in April 2010 — one from before the Affordable Care Act became law and one after.
He then went on:
... What Obama told supporters Monday is what he should have told the public all along. "So we wrote into the Affordable Care Act, you're grandfathered in on that plan. But if the insurance company changes it, then what we're saying is they've got to change it to a higher standard. They've got to make it better, they've got to improve the quality of the plan they are selling," Obama said at an Organizing for Action event. "That's part of the promise that we made too. That's why we went out of our way to make sure that the law allowed for grandfathering."
"If we had allowed these old plans to be downgraded, or sold to new enrollees once the law had already passed, then we would have broken an even more important promise -- making sure Americans gain access to health care that doesn't leave them one illness away from financial ruin," Obama said Monday. "The bottom line is that we are making the insurance market better for everybody and that's the right thing to do."
Watch the video of Obama reinventing history with the "what-we-said-was" construction. Notice how he is looking at notes. Remarkably, this was not an off-the-cuff remark; it was written, reviewed and approved by senior White House officials, then recited by the president. An orchestrated deceit.
Why didn't Obama add their caveats during his re-election campaign? His aides debated it. Some argued that the president had to shoot straight with the public. Others feared that he public wouldn't understand the nuance and GOP rival Mitt Romney would use it to his advantage.
The cynics won. The truth was buried. And the man who promised to run the most transparent administration in history participated in a lie.
On history's scale of deception, this one leaves a light footprint. Worse lies have been told by worse presidents, leading to more severe consequences, and you could argue that withholding a caveat is more a sin of omission. But this president is toying with a fragile commodity: his credibility. Once Americans stop believing in Obama, they will stop listening to him. They won't trust government to manage health care. And they will wonder what happened to reform-minded leader who promised never to lie to them.
I disagree with Fournier on his "light footprint" characterization and his "sin of omission" contention. Additionally, by focusing on the individual market and ignoring known but not well quantified impacts on the small group employer and part-time employee markets, he understates the scope of how many people will learn that Obama guarantee meant nothing.
Perhaps there are bigger lies relating to wartime actions (by the way, "There were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq" is NOT on of those lies; Bush's contention is objectively and irrefutably correct). If there's a bigger economic deceit (we're talking one-sixth of the economy) concentrated into a relatively short period of time, I can't think of it. It's hard to imagine that Obamacare would have passed without Obama's clearly unconditional and serial guarantees. By contrast, "Social Security is sound" took several decades to become factually as opposed to potentially false.
Fournier's own narrative nukes his "sin of omission" contention. The administration's internal deliberations clearly show that it knew it was lying, but chose to go with the lie because the truth wasn't "salable."
It will be interesting see where other establishment press pundits end up on this. I still think they're most going to engage in excruciatingly deceptive mental gymnastics to defend the President. We'll see. But, perhaps, Barack Obama has finally hit his limit.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.