It’s time once again for the unveiling of the “Lie of the Year” by the fact-checkers at PolitiFact. This year the dis-honoree is President Barack Obama for his promotional assurance that under the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.”
Pretty much everybody, including Obama, now concedes that making such a blanket statement was unwise and unsustainable. There were signs early on that some plans would be terminated because they fell so far below the standards for acceptable coverage that they were effectively useless. Obama could have made small modifications to the statement that would have been easier to defend, such as: “if you like your health care plan, what the fuck are you thinking?” However, I’m pretty sure that comment wouldn’t have made it past the first draft.
The whole concept of liking one’s health care plan is rather comical to begin with. How often have you ever heard someone bring up in casual conversation how much they liked their health insurance provider? Insurance companies are rarely the object of much affection. Especially for those who get their coverage from the private market rather than from an employer. And that small subset of the population (about 5%) is all that is affected by this.
Whether or not the President’s statement deserved to be the “Lie of the Year” is subject to debate, just as every year’s selection is. But it is notable that PolitiFact’s explanation for their choice began by saying that…
“It was a catchy political pitch and a chance to calm nerves about his dramatic and complicated plan to bring historic change to America’s health insurance system.
‘If you like your health care plan, you can keep it,’ President Barack Obama said — many times — of his landmark new law.
“But the promise was impossible to keep.”
A promise, of course, is completely different than a lie. If it was the President’s intention to deliver on the promise, but in the course of legislative compromises and flawed implementation it failed to materialize as expected, than it was not actually a lie at all. But it is obvious that PolitiFact’s analysis is aimed at the distance of the intention from the outcome, not the veracity of the statement itself. And that’s fine since most people apply the same reasoning with regard to the truthiness of a public figure. Also, Obama didn’t help himself by initially trying to defend or rewrite his original comment. Although he does get credit for eventually owning up, apologizing, and taking steps to correct the matter.
The selection of this statement by the President is certain get a lot of attention from the press, particularly the conservative media that eats it up whenever they can shine a spotlight on presidential missteps. Therefore, it’s no surprise that Fox News has leaped to the front of the line to hype PolitiFact’s findings. Ironically, it was Fox Nation that was first out of the gate with a simple headline at the top of their page saying “Politifact: Lie of the Year!”
Coming from a website that has been documented to be riddled with lies (see Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Community’s Assault On Truth) obliterates any moral authority they have to disparage the honesty of others. What’s more, the impact of their reporting might have been greater had they not posted this headline just last week: “Never Trust Politifact Again.”
To recap: On November 5, Fox admonishes its audience to never trust PolitiFact, and on November 13, one week later, they feature a PolitiFact ruling at the top of their website. This really says more about Fox than it does about PolitiFact, or even Obama.
For the record, while PolitiFact selected Obama’s comment as their “Lie of the Year,” they also posted the runners-up. It is not unreasonable to expect the winner to get the majority of the attention from the media, however, there is a notable trend amongst the year’s other lies that ought not to be dismissed. Most conspicuously that out of the remaining nine lies in the top ten, eight of them are from republicans or conservatives.
- Ann Coulter: No doctors who went to an American medical school will be accepting Obamacare.
- Betsy McCaughey: Obamacare will question your sex life.
- Bloggers: Obamacare provision will allow “forced home inspections” by government agents.
- Ted Cruz: Says “President Obama just granted all of Congress an exception” to Obamacare.
- Chain email: A United Nations working group has “adopted a proposed agenda” to enable member nations to “disarm civilians within their borders.”
- Barack Obama: The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court “is transparent.”
- Saxby Chambliss: The United States has never stood by and seen innocent people slaughtered to the extent that’s happening in Syria.
- Chain email: Says the word “Dhimmitude” is on page 107 of the health care law and means “Muslims are specifically exempted from the government mandate to purchase insurance.”
- Michele Bachmann: The IRS is going to be “in charge” of “a huge national database” on health care that will include Americans’ “personal, intimate, most close-to-the-vest-secrets.”
So while Obama may have captured the big trophy for the year, conservative liars were far more prolific in fabricating and disseminating disinformation in pursuit of an agenda that they obviously don’t believe merits honest discourse. It illustrates a pattern of behavior that marks the right-wing as incorrigibly deceitful and wholly untrustworthy. At least President Obama apologized, a gesture that is foreign to the unprincipled cretins on the right.