On Bill Maher's HBO show Friday night, Democratic National Committe Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz insisted that President Obama's promise to the American people made over 20 times during a span of over two years, namely "If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan," was not a lie.
Maher, appeared to warm to the idea that it was a lie, but at crunch time decided that it was something, like Bush 41's "no new taxes" pledge, that "did not hold up to the realities of governing," representing "a moral complexity I'm okay with 'cause I'm not twelve." Far-far lefty Rob Reiner also felt it necessary to criticize Republicans "who are refusing to make this better." Maher, though he didn't seem to like it, finally concluded that Obama, who in his mind previously had an "almost sterling reputation for honesty," now faces the reality that "to a certain extent that ship (of his credibility) has sailed." Video and a partial transcript are after the jump (HTs to The Blaze and Mediaite, which in my view falsely portrayed Maher's degree of disagreement; bolds are mine):
Relevant transcript (beginning at the 0:12 mark):
BILL MAHER: It looks like he told a lie. I think he kinda did. My question, two questions. Is a lie justified if it's for something good? And if he hadn't told that lie, could Obamacare have been passed? If he had come out said, "Yeah, you know, some of you are gonna lose your plan, and you're gonna have to pay more. Do you think that law that squeaked through by that much would have passed?
DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: It was not a lie. Let’s just be very clear, so let me knock that down right away. When the president and myself and every other Democrat that talked about that if you like your health care you can keep it, that was referring to the overwhelming majority of Americans who had health care — 85% of Americans had health care coverage to begin with — and in fact, what the reality of Obamacare is, is that not only are they able to keep their health care, but it is very likely going to cost less and have better benefits.
MAHER: Some people can’t. Come on. Let’s be honest. Obamacare says basically if you have a really crappy plan, you can’t keep it. That’s the truth. Now I would say to some people, "Why do you want a crappy plan?" But some people want crap. What can I say? And because of Obamacare they are not able to keep it. To me, that is a lie.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: At the end of the day, (we're) making sure we all aren't paying for the underinsured ... we aren't all paying at the end of the day for everybody's health care.
MAHER: What do you guys think. Lie or no lie?"
ROB REINER: To me that's not the issue, lie or no lie. To me the issue is, you've got a huge piece of legislation, a very complicated piece of legislation, that's going to do something that hasn't been - that's been talked about since 1948. And anytime, and the Congresswoman will bear this out, whenever you pass a think like that you need adjunct legislation to make it work. You have Republicans that are refusing to make this better, Republican governors who are refusing to accept expansion of Medicaid —
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: They shut the government down in order to try to ... (unintelligible).
REINER: To me that's not about — By the way, months and months and months from now we won't be talking about this, because Obamacare will work.
Maher then left is to, of all people, Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist from the American Museum of Natural History, to opine on the "lie or no lie question":
... NEIL deGRASSE: But I think we forget how many people does that apply to? Right? It's very small percent.
MAHER: Five percent. But still —
deGRASSE: Five percent. Since when did any legislation in this country ever care about 5 percent?
MAHER: Okay but why can't we just say, I mean I've heard people say it's like his Katrina. I think it's more like George Bush the father's "Read my lips, no new taxes." A campaign pledge which did not hold up to the realities of governing. And that's a moral complexity I'm okay with 'cause I'm not twelve.
Translation: You rubes out there who are hammering Obama over this don't get it. Sometimes you have to lie for the cause. Lies for the cause are okay. Lies which don't help the cause are awful things. So our side gets to fib and essentially get away with it, and your side doesn't.
That's enough. Readers who can stand it can go on to see Maher "cutely" accuse Obama's opposition of being a collection of racists ("I think it's that he's skinny"), and Wasserman-Schultz claim that the 2012 presidential election was the final referendum on Obamacare's legitimacy.
As to the excerpt above, deGrasse's arrogance and ignorance about legislation involvement fewer than 5 percent of Americans is especially hard to handle, on two levels.
First, after one considers the as yet untallied number of members of small employer group plans which have been terminated (a related form letter from Anthem California is here), the number will almost certainly come in higher than 5 percent. Second, a year from now, if not sooner, a substantial percentage of employer plans will flunk the same grandfathering provisions which caused individual plans terminations this year.
The administration acknowledged this reality back in 2010. The fear of related political fallout is a relatively unreported factor in why employer mandates were delayed until January 1, 2015 earlier this year.
The administration's mid-range estimate at the time was that 51% of employer-sponsored plans will get canceled. Many employer plans which flunk the grandfathering provisions and are cancelled will not be replaced, adding a likely multiple of 5 percent of additional Americans who will be subject to the not at all tender mercies of the Obamacare exchanges.
Second, there are countless examples of enacted federal legislation which impacts far fewer than 5 percent of all Americans — starting with laws that cleverly identify individual persons and/or companies getting special breaks without specifically naming them.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.