As a matter of public policy and fiscal health, this is a mixed bag. It’s good that poor sick people without insurance coverage are getting something. On the other side of the scale, we have the fact that the country is racing toward entitlement-fueled bankruptcy. So if you can overlook that, yippee!
But as a political and ideological matter, this is beyond fantastic. For years we’ve been told that Democrats were more “reality-based,” that “facts have a liberal bias,” in the words of Paul Krugman, and that if they could just have their way, they could fix all of our problems. No one represented this arrogant promise more than Barack Obama himself. But, with an irony so rich it would be made of Corinthian leather if it was a car seat, the only way he could get his signature legislation passed was to baldly and brazenly lie about it, over and over and over again. He created a rhetorical cloud castle where no one would lose his insurance, every family would save thousands of dollars, and millions of the uninsured would suddenly get coverage. Anyone who doubted this was called a fool or a liar, or even a racist. It was, in the parlance of liberalism, a “false choice” to assert that Obamacare couldn’t be a floor wax and a dessert topping.
And all of this — every bit of it — is their own fault. The bedraggled cadres of Obama’s defenders are valiantly trying to blame it all on Republican sabotage: The Obama administration had to keep the whole thing secret for fear of “feeding the opposition,” in the words of a Washington Post reconstruction of the debacle. But when you read the stories, if you replace phrases like “keep the Republicans from finding out” with the more accurate “keep the public from finding out,” you’ll get a better sense of things. The Obama White House, by which I mean the Obama campaign, was desperate to keep voters from grasping the scope of its misinformation campaign until after the election. And then, after the election, it was afraid to let the public know what they’d been misinformed about.
The argument against gloating holds that conservatives should want Obamacare to succeed even though we said all along it couldn’t. It’s such an odd argument, particularly since the Democrats’ lies were of the first order, in that Obama’s aides actually debated and discussed them, no doubt presenting them to focus groups like a jar of “new Shimmer, now an erectile-dysfunction treatment and paint thinner all in one!”
When a product is brought to market and the market discovers — as it eventually has to — that the advertising wasn’t merely a tissue of lies but a geological stratum of lies, the utterly fair and justified response from the critics is “I told you so!” — not “Let’s make this thing bipartisan now.” That’s particularly true when the president continues to lie. On September 26 he said, “If you already have health care, you don’t have to do anything” to keep your plan. On November 3 he said, “What we said was you could keep [your plan] if it hasn’t been changed.” Who knew that dozens of flat declarative statements — “You can keep your plan. Period” — were trailed by a cloud of asterisks like so many invisible fireflies?
If Obamacare had been a shining success from Day One, do you think the Democrats would be in the mood to share the credit? Then why should Republicans be in more of a mood to share the blame?
Feel free to cross your fingers that reality will bend to the gravitational pull of Obama’s stellar ego, his invincible hubris. As for me, I’ll be sitting on the sidelines cheering on Nemesis, with joy in my heart.
— Jonah Goldberg is the author of The Tyranny of Clichés, now on sale in paperback. This piece is adapted from an essay in the November 25 issue of National Review. You can write to him by e-mail at [email protected], or via Twitter @JonahNRO.