On Thursday, the Tampa Bay Times’ PolitiFact.com gave President Obama a distinction he’s probably not going to place on his shelf next to his Nobel Peace Prize:
Boiling down the complicated health care law to a soundbite proved treacherous, even for its promoter-in-chief. Obama and his team made matters worse, suggesting they had been misunderstood all along. The stunning political uproar led to this: a rare presidential apology.
For all of these reasons, PolitiFact has named “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it,” the Lie of the Year for 2013. [PolitiFact, December 12]
Hold on a minute. ObamaCare was passed in March 2010, and the President has been repeating the “if you like it, you can keep it” claim ever since. Shouldn’t it be called the Lie of the Year for 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013? The lie didn’t happen once it was found to have been a lie; the lie happened when the President made a promise that was logically inconsistent with the law as passed. Indeed, back in March 2011, The Heritage Foundation’s Ed Feulner wrote about the unrealistic promises that had been made about ObamaCare. He wrote:
Health plans can be grandfathered in, all right, but only if they meet a variety of requirements. That’s not what Americans were promised. Plus, plans can lose their grandfathered status for making changes that aren’t deemed “reasonable” by the expanding federal bureaucracy.
The Obama administration itself has estimated that 49 percent to 80 percent of small-employer plans, 34 percent to 67 percent of large-employer plans and 40 percent to 67 percent of individual insurance coverage won’t be grandfathered in by the end of 2013. If you like your health plan, well – sorry, but the odds are not in favor of you getting to keep it. [“Grim Prognosis for a Sick Act,” by Edwin J. Feulner, The Heritage Foundation, March 21, 2011]
And that’s exactly what’s happening now. Eight paragraphs into its Lie of the Year feature, PolitiFact comes clean with what it’s up to:
Obama’s ideas on health care were first offered as general outlines then grew into specific legislation over the course of his presidency. Yet Obama never adjusted his rhetoric to give people a more accurate sense of the law’s real-world repercussions, even as fact-checkers flagged his statements as exaggerated at best.
Instead, he fought back against inaccurate attacks with his own oversimplifications, which he repeated even as it became clear his promise was too sweeping.
In other words, PolitiFact is not dinging the President for making the unrealistic promises that got him elected and then re-elected. Rather it is dinging him for failing to admit he had sold snake oil when the rest of the country realized he had sold them snake oil. Now, why in the world would a politician think he could get away with that? Doesn’t he know outfits like PolitiFact have been on the case?
That’s your cue, R. Emmett Tyrell, Jr.:
Like all other thoughtful observers of American media, [James] Taranto recognizes that they are heavily biased toward the Democratic Party and the left in general. […] Taranto believes that [this bias] has a harmful effect on left-wing politics, often causing left-wing candidates to lose at the polls.
According to the Taranto Principle, the media’s failure to hold left-wingers accountable for bad behavior merely encourages the left’s bad behavior to the point that its candidates are repellent to ordinary Americans. [The American Spectator, September 25, 2008]
The Taranto Principle is ever at work. PolitiFact, as Sean Higgins noted last month, has not been on the case: “In six separate columns addressing the Obama claim’s truthfulness between 2008 and 2012, the Tampa Bay Times’ influential fact-checking group did not once correctly label it as false.” [Washington Examiner, November 4]
And as Higgins notes this week, PolitiFact’s Lie of the Year feature actually rewrites its own fact-checking history. PolitiFact writes:
In 2009 and again in 2012, PolitiFact rated Obama’s statement Half True, which means the statement is partially correct and partially wrong. We noted that while the law took pains to leave some parts of the insurance market alone, people were not guaranteed to keep insurance through thick and thin. It was likely that some private insurers would continue to force people to switch plans, and that trend might even accelerate.
Higgins: “[R]ating something as ‘half true’ when it is flat-out false is still missing the mark by a significant margin. And it ignores that in three other columns relating to the claim 2012, PolitiFact gave ratings that failed to indicate the claim was false and served to shoot down Republican critics.” [Washington Examiner, December 12]
So if Obama thought he could get away with continuing to lie, it’s probably because outfits like PolitiFact have been so willing to perpetuate lies under the cover of fact-checking. Now PolitiFact says President Obama should have admitted sooner that he was wrong. OK. The world is still waiting for PolitiFact to admit it was wrong.