Lies rule Washington. Politicians promise us the world and come back with nothing, great banquets and return with scraps. If they fall short, others are at fault; mistakes were made, but they did not make them. This mindset has infected our entire political system, and is no where more prevalent than 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
President Obama has a very hard time sticking to his word. Clearly, promises don’t mean much to our Chief Executive; just ask inmates at Guantanamo Bay or voters who remember his pledge to cut the deficit in half after 4 years. All of these lies hurt, but the latest are particularly painful.
During both campaigns, candidate Obama made a number of promises, many of which he never kept. In the wake of the disaster that is Healthcare.gov, two lies stand out as especially repugnant.
First, Obama promised that no one would lose their health-care plan if they liked it: “That means that no matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. 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.”
Second, he claimed his plan would lower premiums by up to $2,500 for a typical family: “I will sign a universal health care bill into law by the end of my first term as president that will cover every American and cut the cost of a typical family’s premium by up to $2,500 a year.”
Mr. Obama wooed thousands with these gold-plated pledges. The promise was this: nothing will change unless you want it to and most families will pay significantly lower premiums. Who wouldn’t vote for that?
Republicans warned us: “If it looks too good to be true, it is.” America didn’t listen. As a result, millions have lost their insurance plans and seen their premiums skyrocket. The President’s response, not surprisingly, has been to blame insurance companies. To be clear, mistakes were made, but he didn’t make them.
Obama’s refusal to take responsibility infuriates me. In the private sector, when a company struggles, the CEO is expected to take the fall, regardless of his direct culpability. The public sector operates differently.
In the government, executives throw their employees under the bus when the going gets tough. Kathleen Sebelius, who claimed she didn’t know Healthcare.gov contractors wanted to delay the rollout (in other words, someone didn’t tell her so she isn’t at fault), spent the week getting torn apart by Congress, albeit deservedly, while her employer watched safely from the Oval Office. Real leaders don’t allow their subordinates to take the flak; they take it for them.
Lies are bad enough; refusing to take responsibility for what you’ve done is far worse. You make a promise, you keep it. If you don’t keep it, you take responsibility for falling short. Obama did neither of these. I can respect someone who admits they didn’t live up to the expectations they set. I can’t respect someone who sets expectations, doesn’t meet them, and lets others take the fall. I want my President to take responsibility for his lies. Is that too much to ask? Yes, my friends, yes it is.
Update (November 5th, 2013) — Yesterday, Obama tried to clarify his promise. Evidently, he didn’t say, “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.” Instead, he said, “You can keep [your plan] if it hasn’t changed since the law passed.” Glad we got that one cleared up.