Posted on March 14, 2010
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., provided a plot point in the increasingly obvious narrative about President Barack Obama at the Feb. 25 health care summit. In his opening statement for the Republican side, Alexander said of Obama's health care plan, "It means that for millions of Americans, premiums will go up, because when people pay those new taxes, premiums will go up, and they will also go up because of the government mandates."
Obama, who was 17 when Alexander was inaugurated governor of Tennessee, listened with a look of impatience - or was it impertinence? - as he mentally filed Alexander's comments. Later in the all-day affair, Obama said, "It is estimated by the Congressional Budget Office that the plan we put forward would lower the cost in the individual market…by 14 to 20 percent."
"So, Lamar, when you mentioned earlier, when you said costs go up, that's just not the case according to the Congressional Budget Office," Obama said. Alexander, calling Obama "Mr. President," asked for a chance to respond. Obama listened, then said "Lamar" was not factually accurate.
But he was. On Page 4 of a Nov. 30, 2009 analysis, the CBO wrote, "The largest effects would be seen in the nongroup (individual) market, which would grow in size under the proposal but would still account for only 17 percent of the overall insurance market in 2016." The CBO said that "the average premium per person covered (including dependents) for new nongroup policies would be about 10 percent to 13 percent higher in 2016 than the average premium for nongroup coverage in that same year under current law."
And so it goes. Often wrong, never uncertain, Obama makes a fabulously false statement and defends it by dismissing those who disagree.
Even left-leaning Washington Post pundit Dana Milbank commented on Obama's arrogance at the health care summit. "Though advertised as a consensus-building opportunity, the summit served more as a moment for the president to tell Republicans, with the cameras rolling, why they're wrong and he's right," Milbank wrote. "The forum matched his lawyerly skills - and, less flatteringly, his tendency to act like the smartest guy in the room."
Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan noted Obama's behavior as well. "(Obama) was keen to establish that it was his meeting - he decides who speaks next and who should wrap up, he decides what is and is not 'a legitimate point,'" Noonan wrote. "He was Mr. President, they were John and Lamar. He wielded a shiny pen like an anchorman eager to show depth and ease. He even said, 'There was an imbalance in the opening statements because - I'm the president.'"
"Grace shows strength, accommodation shows security. This showed - well, not strength," Noonan wrote. "The president has entered a boorish phase."
The arrogance of Obama might be palatable if his pontifications were accurate. But, as Matt Welch at Reason.com noted, Obama often displays a distance from truth. Welch observes that Obama's health care bill will collect 10 years of taxes to pay for six years of benefits, but Obama calls it budget neutral. Obama's bill also doesn't include the multi-billion dollar "doc fix" required to keep Medicare payments to doctors from declining, again to preserve budget neutrality.
Welch wrote that Obama blames "special interests" for resisting health care reform even though "the administration and Congress negotiated with those interests every step of the way." Welch wrote, "Pro-reform lobbyists outspent anti-reform lobbyists on advertising by a factor of 5 to 1. There's a three-letter word for blaming the defeat of his bill on health care lobbyists, and it rhymes with [beg ital] pie [end ital]."
Obama may jam health care reform down America's collective throat. But his boorishness and untruthfulness will make his agenda - and his presidency - increasingly hard for Americans to swallow.
Greg Johnson's columns appear on Wednesdays, Fridays and the second Sunday of each month. Read more on his blog at http://blogs.knoxnews.com/johnson/. E-mail him at email@example.com.