November 3, 2013

Incomplete WSJ Report Notes That ‘Policy Advisers’ Were Overruled by ‘Political Aides’ on Obama’s ‘Keep Your Plan’ Promise

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 4:03 pm

On Saturday morning, three Wall Street Journal reporters told readers that as President Obama was promoting Obamacare, there was internal debate between “policy advisers” and “political aides” as to whether the President’s obviously unqualified and unconditional “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan” statement, made roughly 20 times between his inauguration and the law’s March 2010 passage, “was a promise they could keep.”

“Policy advisers” didn’t like it, but “political aides” prevailed, concluding that Obama’s promise should remain dishonestly unconditional because “salability” and “simplification” were more “practical” and important than the truth. One particularly weak paragraph in the Journal report ends up reading like Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First?” riff (bolds are mine throughout this post):

One former senior administration official said that as the law was being crafted by the White House and lawmakers, some White House policy advisers objected to the breadth of Mr. Obama’s “keep your plan” promise. They were overruled by political aides, the former official said. The White House said it was unaware of the objections.


“Policy advisers” made the objections. “Political aides” knew of the objections, and rejected them. Both groups were either among the “White House” officials “crafting the law” or were aware of what those “crafting the law” were doing — and almost certainly vice-versa.

So everybody who was anybody, regardless of their position on the issue, was clearly aware of the objections to Obama’s core “You can keep your plan” promise.


So who or what is this “White House” (note: not a White House official of any kind, just “the White House,” as if a building can talk) the Journal’s reporters claim “was unaware of the objections”?

Is it only Barack Obama, blissfully ignorant of a debate over a promise he made roughly two dozen times to the American people (including several times after the law’s passage) — including one where he even said that people could keep their supposedly substandard “Acme Insurance” plans in the individual market?

The Journal’s reporters are deliberately and negligently obfuscating.

Memo to reporters Colleen Nelson McCain, Peter Nicholas, and Carol E. Lee: You owe us names of those who were “unaware of the objections,” and the name of the person who gave you that information. Otherwise, having just identified everybody who was anybody who was involved in the discussions, your contention that “The White House … was unaware of the objections” has no credibility.

Other article excerpts (numbered tags are mine):

Aides Debated Obama Health-Care Coverage Promise
Behind the Scenes, White House Officials Worried About Insurance Pledge

“You try to talk about health care in broad, intelligible points that cut through, and you inevitably lose some accuracy when you do that,” the former official (an unnamed “White House aide” mentioned earlier — Ed.) said.

The former official added that in the midst of a hard-fought political debate “if you like your plan, you can probably keep it” isn’t a salable point. [1]

… At the time the law was being written, Mr. Obama was trying to make the case for the health-care overhaul in understandable terms, and in an environment in which Republicans were casting it as a “big government” takeover of the health system. Mr. Obama’s aides were focused on telling people that disruption would be minimal and benefits from the law substantial.

Aides said that because insurers could continue offering plans, even those deemed to be substandard, if they were in existence at the time the law passed, Mr. Obama’s statement that “you can keep your plan” was solid. [2]

“We thought we could fulfill the promise with this grandfathering clause,” said Ezekiel Emanuel, vice provost at the University of Pennsylvania and a former White House health-care adviser. [3]

… Jon Favreau, who served as Mr. Obama’s top speech writer, said that as they tried to promote the overhaul plan and explain it to the public, the aim was to make it as simple as possible “while still being true.”

“Simplification and ease of explanation were a premium, and that was true throughout the process,” he said. [4]

Richard Kirsch, the former national campaign manager of Health Care for America Now, which pushed for the 2010 health law, said the words were reassuring—and true—for the vast majority of the people, and so his group never raised concerns about that claim. Adding an asterisk to note that people who had “shoddy insurance” might need to change plans was not practical, he said. [5]


[1] — Translation: “Since the truth wasn’t ‘salable,’ we lied.”

[2] — No it wasn’t “solid,” because the clear intent was to figure out how to remove these plans, secure in the knowledge that the passage of time, marketplace developments, and the inability to make even minor changes to them would doom them.

[3] — If “Zeke the Bleak” Emanuel really thought that “grandfathering” would solve the problem and enable Obama to keep his promise, he should have raised a public stink about Kathleen Sebelius’s restrictive regulations on what it would take to remain grandfathered — regulations which basically doomed all but a tiny percentage of individual plans (and which have also doomed an undetermined number of small employer group plans. I don’t recall that he did, and I sincerely doubt that he did. Today on Fox News Sunday, Emanuel stridently defended the termination of what he considered substandard plans, and blamed insurance companies for the plan cancellations.

[4] — Translation: “A ‘simple’ lie was preferable to the truth.”

[5] — Translation: “Telling the truth was not practical, because it might jeopardize the law’s prospects of passage.”

The most important point, though, is that the three Wall Street Journal reporters in this story have let their readers down by failing to identify who in “The White House” was unaware of the internal debate over the propriety of President Obama’s “You can keep your plan” claim, and who relayed that claim to them.

Cross-posted at


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