By Dave Andrusko
NBC News’s Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd is hardly one of us nor is he a reporter looking for opportunities to hammer President Obama. In fact, most of the time, Todd excels at making up excuses for Mr. Obama, no matter how far-fetched.
But the fiasco which is the rollout of ObamaCare’s health insurance exchanges—the near impossibility of getting on the website and the truth that millions of people are going to lose the insurance they want—has even Todd in a cranky mood.
Nowhere was that better illustrated than when he appeared on a MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program panel and tried to get an honest response from Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, former White House advisor for Health Policy. Emanuel told such a series of breathtaking, bald-faced lies that Joe Scarborough, the host, said more than once, “This is so beneath you” (to which Emanuel responded, “No, it isn’t”). After Todd offered a devastating rebuttal and Emanuel robotically stuck to the same talking point, Todd rolled his eyes and smiled in utter frustration.
Part of that may explain why President Obama sat down with Todd for an “exclusive” interview. The conventional line was (to quote the headline in the Washington Post) “President Obama apologizes to Americans who are losing their health insurance.”
And it IS true that the President expressed regret: “I am sorry that [people who’ve lost their health insurance] are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me.” That presumably is a reference to his oft-spoken, now-thoroughly discredited promise that (as he told the AMA in June 2009), “If you like your health-care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health-care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.”
What can be said?
For starters, early in the interview, Todd deferentially asked –with an excuse built into the question– “Feel like you owe these folks an apology for misleading them, even if you didn’t intentional do it?” That is giving the President a HUGE benefit of the doubt.
Also Obama keeps insisting “it’s a small percentage of folks who may be disadvantaged.” (A) It’s not small, it’s in the millions; (B) The same problem will crop up as ObamaCare sinks into the economy in the years to come, this time affecting many times more millions of Americans.
Here are some other responses to Mr. Obama’s “apology.” The first is from Ron Fournier of the National Journal who wrote
“I’m sorry that when Americans recognized the deception you tried to reinvent history: ‘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 you guys said.
“I’m sorry you didn’t trust Americans with the truth.”
There is no reporter anywhere on the planet more sympathetic to Obama than Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times, who has followed his career for years. With respect to those millions who will lose their health insurance and (to be polite) insincere answers Obama and his administration have offered, she wrote:
“The Obama team has been relying on legalistic technicalities in keeping the misleading language in his remarks.”
Sweet also hit on something those of us who’ve watched Obama closely from 2007 on knew almost instantly. As Sweet notes, Obama’s no Bill Clinton who famously claimed to “feel your pain.” Instead
“A remarkable feature of Todd’s interview with Obama — whose hair is noticeably grayer — is the president’s inability to sincerely express empathy. I know he tried, but is that the best he’s got? Given that people are freaking out when they get a notice their policies are being dropped — a horrible, frustrating life experience.”
Actually, that probably IS the best he has.
One other comment. From the Washington Post story, written by Juliet Eilperin, there is this backhanded admission that truth was the first casualty:
“Over the past two weeks, the president and his aides have emphasized that the cancellations stemmed largely from decisions by insurers, rather than from the law.
“In a speech in Boston on Wednesday, Obama said that letting people keep their plans “was part of the promise we made” but that part of the law’s purpose is to help consumers upgrade their plans. On Monday night, he suggested that the promise really applied only to people who bought their plans before the health-care overhaul was enacted.
“Several insurance officials, who asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the issue, said in interviews that the way the regulations were written after the law’s passage gave them little choice but to issue the cancellations. They said that the old policy could continue in effect only if very few changes were made and the price remained about the same.”
In other words, they smeared the insurance industry for making changes ObamaCare made it impossible for them to avoid.
The interview resulted in a number of reporters/columnists mentioning that Obama doesn’t do apologies well, which ranks right up there with the most obvious statements of the new millennium. He no more feels responsible for this disaster than he does for every other mess that has occurred on his watch.
That’s just who he is.