In Paul Ryan Interview, Lauer Denies Reality of ObamaCare ‘Collapsing’

During a live interview with House Speaker Paul Ryan on Tuesday’s NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer refused to accept the fact that ObamaCare was in a state of collapse. After Ryan listed the numerous problems with the health care law, Lauer responded with liberal talking points: “I just want to say that a lot of people disagree with that terminology that ObamaCare is collapsing under its own weight.”

One can forgive Lauer for not realizing just how fundamentally unstable ObamaCare has become given that network news systematically ignored the law’s growing failures throughout the 2016 campaign. A Media Research Center study released just days before the November election found that the network evening newscasts spent a mere 10 minutes 21 seconds of combined air time on ObamaCare’s problems that year.

Talking to Ryan, Lauer recalled:

Last time we sat down in your office was January 12th, 2016....I said to you then, why is it that Republicans have been trashing ObamaCare for six years at that point, seven years now, and not presented a viable replacement? You said, “Matt, by the end of this year, we will have that plan for you.” That deadline came and went.

Ryan interjected: “We ran on a plan last year.” Lauer dismissed him: “But you didn't give us a plan that can be voted on now.” He pressed: “So do the American people have a right to say, ‘We’ve heard the criticism for year after year, and yet, we still don't have something that can be put on the President's desk’?”

<<< Please support MRC's NewsBusters team with a tax-deductible contribution today. >>>

During that hostile January 2016 interview, Lauer demanded Ryan respond to an attack from President Obama: “I talked to the President yesterday, and I talked to him about that veto, and he said, ‘You know what, it's very easy for the Republicans to come up with bill after bill to repeal something, but when are they going to come up with a plan that is better?’”

On Tuesday, Lauer seized on former House Speaker John Boehner discussing the issue:

Your predecessor made your job a little tougher last week....He said all this talk about repeal and replace, it's not going to happen. He says it's happy talk. “What they're going to do is they're going to fix some bad parts of ObamaCare and wrap it in a conservative box.” That is not repeal and replace.

Ryan clarified: “That is not what we are doing.” He then gave a point-by-point takedown of ObamaCare:

Let me just say it this way, ObamaCare is collapsing. ObamaCare had – I think the Democrats got too far ahead on their ideology and they gave us a system where the government runs health care. They gave us a system where costs went up, not down. They gave us a system where choices went away. They gave us a system where people lost the health care plans that they liked that they chose, that violated all the promises that were made that were given when ObamaCare was sold to the American people. Those promises were violated. And now we have a collapsing marketplace. We really believe we’re in a rescue mission here to step in and prevent this collapse from occurring further.

It was then that Lauer protested: “I just want to say that a lot of people disagree with that terminology that ObamaCare is collapsing under its own weight.” Ryan pushed back by citing one of the nation’s largest health insurers: “Well, I’ll just quote AETNA, they said that it’s in a death spiral.”

Near the end of the exchange, Lauer grilled Ryan on whether a special prosecutor should be assigned to investigate the Trump administration: “I spoke to former President Bush yesterday on the subject of possible Russian ties to the Trump – to Trump's associates during the campaign. He says the American people need answers. Is there anything you could hear that would you decide we need a special prosecutor to look into that?”

Ryan explained: “We think we need to do an investigation here with our intelligence committees.” Lauer fretted: “However, an Intelligence Committee with a majority of Republicans and people want an independent investigation.”

Here is a transcript of Lauer’s questions to Ryan during the February 28 segment:

7:07 AM ET

MATT LAUER: I'm joined now by the House Speaker Paul Ryan, he’s giving us an exclusive interview. Mr. Speaker, it’s always nice to see you, thank you very much.

PAUL RYAN: Welcome to the Capitol, good time to have you.

LAUER: It’s a busy time, you spent time with the President at the White House yesterday going over the agenda. One of the things we learned yesterday was a little more about the outline for his budget. He is planning massive spending increases in the areas of the military, intelligence, national security. And to offset that, massive cuts in other domestic programs. And he says he will not touch Social Security and Medicare. Does this work?

(...)

LAUER: But are there – are there enough cuts to be made in discretionary spending, and if you don't touch entitlements like Social Security and Medicare – and I don't have to remind you, you’ve been talking about this for a very long time. It's not popular, but you’ve said, “We've got to make tough choices on those entitlements.” Can he balance this budget out without touching them?

(...)

RYAN: We're not saying we're going to change benefits for anybody in or near retirement. No one has ever proposed that. What people like me have been saying is for those of us in the younger generations, those of us who are X-gen on down, these programs will be bankrupt by the time we get there. We have to reform them for the next generation. That’s the point –

LAUER: But does the President agree with that? Because The New York Times, for example, puts out a headline –

RYAN: I believe he does. I believe he does. On Social Security – on Social Security, that problem is not as acute as our health care problem. Doing ObamaCare reform, you know, replacing ObamaCare, is entitlement reform, and that helps us with health care.

(...)

LAUER: You just mentioned health care, let's go there. Last time we sat down in your office was January 12th, 2016. And I talked to you, I said how come –

RYAN: We’ve cleaned the place up a little bit since then.

LAUER: You have, you’ve done a good job around here. I said to you then, why is it that Republicans have been trashing ObamaCare for six years at that point, seven years now, and not presented a viable replacement? You said, “Matt, by the end of this year, we will have that plan for you. That deadline came and went.

RYAN: We ran on a plan last year.

LAUER: But you didn't give us a plan that can be voted on now. And you know that Republicans within their own party have deep disagreements over how to replace ObamaCare. So do the American people have a right to say, “We’ve heard the criticism for year after year, and yet, we still don't have something that can be put on the President's desk”?

(...)

LAUER: Your predecessor made your job a little tougher last week, John Boehner came out and said –

RYAN: Yeah, I saw that.

LAUER: He said all this talk about repeal and replace, it's not going to happen. He says it's happy talk. “What they're going to do is they're going to fix some bad parts of ObamaCare and wrap it in a conservative box.” That is not repeal and replace.

RYAN: That is not what we are doing. Let me just say it this way, ObamaCare is collapsing. ObamaCare had – I think the Democrats got too far ahead on their ideology and they gave us a system where the government runs health care. They gave us a system where costs went up, not down. They gave us a system where choices went away. They gave us a system where people lost the health care plans that they liked that they chose, that violated all the promises that were made that were given when ObamaCare was sold to the American people. Those promises were violated. And now we have a collapsing marketplace. We really believe we’re in a rescue mission here to step in and prevent this collapse from occurring further.

LAUER: I just want to say that a lot of people disagree with that terminology that ObamaCare is collapsing under its own weight.

RYAN: Well, I’ll just quote AETNA, they said that it’s in a death spiral.

LAUER: Let me read you something the President said just yesterday. Again, this is a guy who ran – one of the things he ran on was, “I'm going to repeal and replace ObamaCare.” And yesterday, speaking to some governors about health care, he said this, and I’m quoting, “I have to tell you, it's an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” As a details guy –

RYAN: I’ve been working on health care for a couple of decades.

LAUER: As a policy wonk, doesn't that take your breath away, when the President of the United States says nobody knew it could be so complicated?

RYAN: No, he came – he’s a business guy who came to office not as some policy wonk, you know, working in Congress on health care.

LAUER: But how do you run on repealing and replacing ObamaCare if you didn't know it's a complicated procedure?

RYAN: Well, he knew it was a complicated procedure. He ran on repealing and replacing Obama because ObamaCare broke all its promises and is breaking the health care system.

(...)

LAUER: Back to the bigger picture, though. Doesn't it seem often, Mr. Speaker, that President Trump talks about big ideas without diving into the details of how to accomplish his promises? Like, “I'm going to defeat ISIS” or “I'm going to repeal and replace ObamaCare” or “I'm going to build that wall and the Mexicans are going to pay for it.” As a guy who dives into details, and you do, doesn't that frustrate you sometimes?

RYAN: Not really. I see him as more of a chairman as a president, much like many successful presidents have been. Where he gets people around him who are detail people who can execute those plans.

(...)

LAUER: Delegate the details.

RYAN: And delegate the details to good people who know what they're doing, who know – who have experience in these matters, and you make sure that the objectives are met.

(...)

LAUER: A couple of really quick things. I spoke to former President Bush yesterday on the subject of possible Russian ties to the Trump – to Trump's associates during the campaign. He says the American people need answers. Is there anything you could hear that would you decide we need a special prosecutor to look into that?

RYAN: Well, we – that's the executive branch.

LAUER: I understand.

RYAN: We think we need to do an investigation here with our intelligence committees.

(...)

LAUER: However, an Intelligence Committee with a majority of Republicans and people want an independent investigation.

(...)

LAUER: We’re going to spend a little more time with you this morning, take a little bit of a tour outside your office. I really appreciate your time.

RYAN: We fixed the place up.

LAUER: You did, and I appreciate you joining us this morning.

RYAN: You bet.

LAUER: Mr. Speaker, thank you so much.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is the Senior News Analyst for MRC