By now, media saturation has cast far and wide President Obama’s oft-repeated, now oft-maligned promise that “if you like your insurance, you can keep your insurance. Period.” As innocuous as it was then, it today ranks as a line that a President gets remembered by. Kennedy with his “Ask not what your country can do for you…,” Lincoln coined “Four score and seven years ago,” and Obama has this. Seared into America’s collective memory, it was a statement channeling his own inner Bobby Thomson, a “shot heard ’round the world”.
In the weeks and months following Obamacare’s passage, congressional Democrats picked up on the theme, promising a country leery of such rapid growth in federal government that regardless of Republican exhortations to the contrary, they had our backs. There were no “death panels,” the average families’ insurance premiums would be scaled back $2,500 a year, and most importantly, they weren’t out to boot folks from insurance plans they liked or from doctors they trusted. Surely, if they were willing to make such absolute guarantees, in public and with such repetition, they’d have the legislation to back it up.
Well, they’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do. While we don’t yet know if the Independent Payment Advisory Board will amount to a legitimate death panel a la Sarah Palin, we do know that Obamacare itself has levied the death penalty to at least 5 million individual plans so far. Evidence abounds nationwide of that people, far from seeing premiums decrease as they were assured, will instead have premiums double, or worse. And those insurance plans they paid for and were satisfied with enough to continue paying for? They sleep with the fishes.
Who knows yet what the next shoe to drop is. Since enrollment opened, it’s been an unending escalator into the depths of the bill, each floor yielding a new nugget that reveals an empty slogan here, an unfulfilled vow there. “We have to pass it to find out what’s in it,” beamed then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Passed it was, and found out we did. She just never said we would like what it contained, nor does anyone. Knowing what we know now, Your Worship, we’ll just get off at this level and take a breather for a while. We took the Obama-car for a test drive and found it to be more shine and less growl.
But the Pelosi trip through Fantasyland didn’t end there. Despite the very public boondoggle surrounding the exchange roll-out, and resultant skepticism from the country, Pelosi said that Democrats will “stand tall” in support of Obamacare. We can take her at her word, unless of course stand tall means that over a dozen Democratic senators up for re-election in 2014 didn’t form an orderly stampede into the White House following this year’s ballot to vent frustration to the President that their signature legislation endangers their own political survival. “Yea” vote on Obamacare or not, no vulnerable politician hoping to keep their name on the door will dutifully man their stations and sink to the bottom of Davy Jones without seeking some sort of life raft.
The facade is crumbling. The ‘Prompter President and his Automaton Gang is learning the lesson the hard way: The more grandiose the claim, the farther the fall when you can’t cash the check you’ve written yourself. Shovel-ready jobs weren’t “as shovel-ready as we thought”. Consequence? Much-needed jobs that Americans actually crave never materialize, and the unemployment rate lingers at historically high levels. “I’ll halve the deficit by the end of my first term”. Reality? It skyrocketed. Close Guantanamo Bay? Still open.
Those aren’t the only casualties of a rhetoric first, reason later policy. Mainstream media initially criticized use of the “Obamacare” moniker as somehow insulting to the President, until he himself told Mitt Romney “I like it”. At this point, happy to change it’s tune to prop a President its adored since laying misty eyes upon him, they made a calculation they likely wish to never have made: they put the “Obama” in Obamacare. Obama became inextricably linked to the fate of his singular legislative feat.
If it succeeded, it would be his lasting legacy and crowning achievement. If it failed, all would know he owned it. Now that, after seven weeks of open enrollment, its transformed itself from an admirable, though impossibly unwieldy reform package to what could be fittingly described as Dr. Seuss’ worst nightmare. The verdict is back. It’s not good. Instead of “Obamacare”, it’s now strictly the “Affordable Care Act”.
But the damage is done. It was the potato that proved too hot to handle. It’s all his now; an almighty albatross to suck all the air from the room. Without knowing it, his enablers in the press unwittingly filled his shoes with concrete and anxiously awaited as he said he’d walk on water.