Brian Beutler sparked some controversy today when he penned a rant about the lies surrounding Obamacare. In particular, he compared Obama’s lie that”if you like your plan, you can keep it” with the many conservative falsities over the past couple of years, including death panels, an uptick in part-time workers and that Obamacare is socialized medicine. Here’s Beutler:
Noble lies have in many ways defined the debate over the Affordable Care Act, but the vast majority of them have been lies conservatives told in a failed effort to nix reform. Death panels are the most famous such lie. Another is that Obamacare is destroying the economy, creating a part-time labor pandemic and a major obstacle to recovery from the great recession. A third is that it will blow up the debt.
This raises an interesting philosophical question about the moral differences between lies told in the service of creating something, lies told in the service of trying (but failing) to prevent it, and lies told in support of alternatives that will never come to pass.
But as far as political credibility is concerned the distinction is moot. These are all just lies, even if each is rooted in the fact that people have different and contentious views of the greater good.
Lying is bad. People shouldn’t lie. But on this score, just ask yourself whose descriptions of Obamacare were closer to reality: Obama’s or the Republican Party’s? It’s not even a close call.
Ok, there’s a lot to pick apart here. Conservatives reacted angrily to this post, claiming that Beutler was offering a justification for Obama’s lie. That’s not what he’s doing. Instead, he’s placing that lie in context of other ones that conservatives have used to mobilize their base against Obamacare. There are a couple of important points here.
First, if you believe that Obama’s lie is a noble one, then you must also believe that about conservative lies as well. President Obama told Americans they could keep their health care plan if they wanted it, because he believed that the lie was necessary for the greater good. On the other hand, Republicans have lied, because they believe it was necessary to stop Obamacare, which they deem is a huge danger to the American people. You can’t argue that one is a noble lie and the other is not. Both were intended to deceive the American people for their benefit. They are on the same level.
Second, Obama’s lie has received widespread attention, because it was pivotal in getting Obamacare passed. The conservative lies have simply been talking points to rally the base. Without the president’s deceit, Obamacare doesn’t pass. That rightly makes that lie orders of magnitude more infuriating for the American people.
Third, there has to be a distinction between politicians and journalists here. As much as I would like Obama to come clean, he’s not going to. He will stick by his phrase and add an “if” to it so that he never has to admit he lied. The same is true of Sarah Palin and death panels. She isn’t backing down either. This is the nature of politicians. But we have greater expectations for reporters. No reporter should allow a congressman to say that Obamacare is socialized medicine or that it will wreck the economy. These aren’t contentious points where two reasonable people could disagree. They are clearly false. The same is true of any Democrat who tries to defend Obama’s lie. Americans cannot all keep their health care plans as the president promise. He lied and anyone who says otherwise is wrong. Journalists shouldn’t allow any of these myths to persist.
The question then, is have they? This is where Beutler’s final comment comes in. The idea that Obamacare creates death panels or is a form of socialized medicine has been a meme in conservative media for years. This lie should have been extinguished long ago. Certainly, many smart conservative writers have debunked these claims, but a large part of the media refuses to do so. A quick google search of Fox News or The Wall Street Journal comes up with numerous recent results from that perpetuate this falsehood. The same thing does not exist in the liberal media. MSNBC and The New York Times has not covered up for Obama or tried to paper over his deceit. I would like them to use stronger language, but at the very least, they both admit that Obama misled the American people.
Finally, it was only revealed recently that Obama lied, when millions of Americans received notices that their health plans had been cancelled. On the other hand, the myth that Obamacare is socialized medicine has been around for years now and continues to show up in major conservative media sources.
Whether Obama’s or the conservative lies are worse is up for debate. Undoubtedly, saying Americans can keep their health plans if they like them is a closer description of the Affordable Care Act than socialism is. But Obama’s lie was much more powerful as it was a condition to get Obamacare passed. That cannot be overlooked. Therefore, it’s impossible to evaluate which lies are worse.
What we can evaluate is the fact that the liberal media has been much better a calling out this deceit than the conservative media has. When Obama lied, liberals jumped on him immediately. Across the aisle, conservative lies have lingered in their media for years now. The fact that conservative journalists are now piling on Obama is ironic given that they have not done the same to correct the lies on their side. This is the crux of Beutler’s piece. If conservatives want to admonish Obama for lying, they should also turn to their own ideological media sources and admonish them as well. In fact, they should have done that long ago.