Truth, Obamacare and November
Presidents have long been guilty of bluster and puffing. We, The People, learn to live with it. We groaningly tolerate political ignorance, ill-informed opinions and tomfoolery. That is how our civil society shows respect for Free Speech. Today, something else has gotten loose in the public square, and it is worth examining more closely. And remembering in November.
The Obama White House, while chilling and threatening free speech by prominent reporters, successful conservative moviemakers, governors and others who question, has now ushered in a new practice: Unapologetic, intentional misrepresentation of facts known to be false when spoken. This innovation represents a step beyond. Its systematic deployment is both arresting and worrisome. Boldly misrepresenting reality on a regular basis is either a calculated deception, or a peculiar strain of self-deception.
President Obama has set a new low-water mark in the annals of American democracy, upending the notion that truth matters. The blitz to remake facts appears aimed at confusing, misleading and ultimately manipulating the public into a state of indifference and dependence. From vilifying woodstoves and backyard ponds to claims of compliance by Iran and Syria with international accords; from the evils of a fossil fuel pipeline to asserting a presidential prerogative to choose laws to enforce; from dissembling on the Benghazi attacks and gun-dumping in Mexico to misuse of the Internal Revenue Service -- truth is a casualty. In a headlong rush for federal control over all aspects of life, this White House spares no contortion. Assembled in one place, the factual misstatements of this president would produce a best-seller, or perhaps elevate a federal prosecutor to new heights.
But focus just on Obamacare, the Unaffordable Health Care Act. As penalties bite, recall that no one was allowed to read this law before voting, that not a single Republican voted for it, and that President Obama said it would (1) allow you to keep your doctor, (2) your current insurance plan, (3) deductible, (4) cost levels, and (5) benefit levels. Those five promises -- to a one -- have all proven false. Insiders confide they were false when made.
Take a deep breath. Does this extraordinary breach matter? Yes. Because truth is the underpinning of law -- without it, our laws have no legitimacy. What is the seminal principle of law here? The law is this: “When financial information is misstated by any scheme, artifice, or device with the intent to mislead investors, this is a form of financial fraud.” Obamacare is a giant financial fraud. After all, what are we but unwilling and deceived investors -- now facing added insult in penalties if we try to escape -- in a fraudulent scheme, to which the president has generously given his name? Where is the legitimacy in a law procured by fraud? Where is accountability?
Political actors do not like to hear the word “lie,” because it smacks of intentional misrepresentation, lack of integrity, deception, even malice. But what should we call this preplanned, force-fed, misleading financial trap and deprivation of quality health care? Was it not a knowing misrepresentation of material facts, that is, a falsehood conceived and forced on the public, then blithely defended as “too big to fail?”
The size of this deception -- and it continues to grow -- is surreal. Honest Americans are at a loss as to how they can stop its continuing infringement; it is like a nuclear reaction gone wrong, one deprivation cascading into another, until exemptions barely catch up with the next link in the chain reaction, all exemptions temporary. Yet, the campaign to support this mutation continues apace -- and with your tax dollars.
The factual misrepresentations are unabated. In Michigan this month, the President mocked those who questioned his failing plan, belittled their intelligence, accused them of not wanting Americans to have insurance, and then lowered himself to name-calling, saying the Republican alternative was a “stinkburger.” Really, Mr. President? This is intelligent discourse, a reasoned defense of your failing plan? Does America not deserve better? If the aim is to swallow our resolve, create maximum confusion, and accelerate federal dependence -- do not count on it. This departure from truth -- like the others -- should stir every American. By reference to history, burying truth in a headlong grab for social control is dangerous, even if rooted in utopian socialism. That is not what any of us -- or what most of us -- are about.
Against this backdrop, an honest White House would stop talking about glitches and never-ending rollouts, and confess a policy failure. An honest White House would eat some humble pie -- a big piece. Then, it would try to begin again with some semblance of bipartisanship. From there, truth would include facts. For example, six of the seven million Americans cajoled into signing up for this ill-conceived policy were stripped of coverage by the White House; they are not newly insured. Few have yet paid, and fewer probably will. The demographics make the plan unsustainable, and only compulsory penalties will pay for what Americans do not want. The plan is a disaster.
But this president is tripling down -- and with your money. He appears to be stuck on go, mocking the truth, browbeating the nation with his exhausting machinations. What can we do? We can remember fidelity to truth, and this president’s startling departure from it. We can remember Winston Churchill’s famous quote: “The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.” One last thing -- we can turn those out of power in November who voted for it in Congress. We still have that right, the right to vote. We should use it. And that’s the truth!
Robert B. Charles was an Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former US Court of Appeals Clerk for Judge Robert Beezer, taught at the Harvard University Extension School, and currently leads a consulting group in Washington DC.