"All we've been hearing the last three years is if you like your policy you can keep it. ... I'm infuriated because I was lied to," one woman told the Los Angeles Times, as part of a story on how some middle-class Californians have been stunned to learn the real costs of Obamacare.
And that lie looks like the biggest lie about domestic policy ever uttered by a U.S. President.
The most famous presidential lies have to do with misconduct (Richard Nixon's "I am not a crook" or Bill Clinton's "I did not have sexual relations") or war. Woodrow Wilson campaigned on the slogan "He kept us out of war" and then plunged us into a calamitous war. Franklin D. Roosevelt made a similar vow: "I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars."
Roosevelt knew he was making false promises. He explained to an aide: "If someone attacks us, it isn't a foreign war, is it?" When his own son questioned his honesty, FDR replied: "If I don't say I hate war, then people are going to think I don't hate war. ... If I don't say I won't send our sons to fight on foreign battlefields, then people will think I want to send them. ... So you play the game the way it has been played over the years, and you play to win."
The burning question about Barack Obama is whether he was simply "playing to win" and therefore lying on purpose, or whether his statements about Obamacare were just another example of, as Obama once put it, "I actually believe my own" spin, though he used another word.
"No matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people," he told the American Medical Association in 2009. "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."
No matter how you slice it, that was a lie. As many as 16 million Americans on the individual health-insurance market may lose their insurance policies. Just in the last month, hundreds of thousands have been notified by their insurers that their policies will be canceled. In fact, it appears that more Americans may have lost coverage than gotten it since Healthcare.gov went "live" (a term one must use advisedly). And when the business mandate finally kicks in, tens of millions more probably will lose their plans.
Ah, but they'll get better ones!
That appears to be the new rationalization for Obama's bait-and-switch. "Right now all that insurance companies are saying is, 'We don't meet the requirements under Obamacare, but we're going to offer you a better deal!'" explained Juan Williams on "Fox News Sunday."
A better deal according to whom? Say I like my current car. The government says under some new policy I will be able to keep it and maybe even lower my car payments. But once the policy is imposed, I'm told my car now isn't street-legal. Worse, I will have to buy a much more expensive car or be fined by the IRS. But, hey, it'll be a much better car! Why, even though you live in Death Valley, your new car will have great snow tires and heated seats.
This is what the government is saying to millions of Americans who don't want or need certain coverage, including, for instance, older women — and men — who are being forced to pay for maternity care. Such overcharging is necessary to pay for the poor and the sick signing up for Obamacare or for the newly expanded Medicaid.
At least Darth Vader was honest about his bait-and-switch: "I am altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further." Obama won't even admit he lied.
At the 2008 Democratic National Convention, Obama talked at great length about the middle class and not once about the poor. His critics on the right said he was lying, that he was really more interested in income distribution. Such charges were dismissed as paranoid and even racist. But the critics were right. Obama was either lying to himself or to the rest of us — because he was playing the game to win.
Jonah Goldberg is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and editor-at-large of National Review Online. You can write to him by email at email@example.com, or via Twitter @JonahNRO.