The Corner

White House Knew in 2009 ‘Keep Insurance’ Promise Untrue

There’s been a lot of debate lately about whether President Obama was merely misinformed or knowingly lying when he repeatedly promised that if you like your insurance plan, you can keep it. This June 19, 2009 Associated Press article makes it clear that the White House knew, shortly after Obama began to make his promise, that it simply wasn’t true. Washington Post “fact-checker,” Glenn Kessler links the article today in his analysis of the issue, but Kessler doesn’t seem to notice that the AP quotes White House officials trying to walk back Obama’s promise in mid-2009.

Here’s the key passage: “White House officials suggest the president’s rhetoric shouldn’t be taken literally: What Obama really means is that government isn’t about to barge in and force people to change insurance.”

This early White House backtrack on Obama’s “keep your insurance” pledge did not go unnoticed. Several critics of the president’s health-care reform proposals highlighted the White House’s admission. The Heritage Foundation cited it here. The Volokh Conspiracy picked it up here. Michelle Malkin noted it here.

Kessler says that Obama might have been excused for making an “aspirational pledge” as the health-care bill was being drafted, but faults him for continuing to make his false promise even after the bill was signed into law, well after its impact should have been clear.

The AP story shows that it’s worse than that. The White House clearly knew from shortly after Obama began to make his promise that you can keep your insurance if you like it, that the claim was untrue.

In 2009, conservative critics took the White House admission in the AP story as the beginning of a walk-back, and therefore as the end of Obama’s false promise. In fact, although the White House clearly knew from the start that this was a promise that could never be fulfilled, the president repeated it for years.

Is it conceivable that the White House aides who began to walk back Obama’s promise to the AP would not have raised this issue with the president himself? Is it conceivable that President Obama did not knowingly decide to repeat his false promise, even though his aides had publicly acknowledged its falsity?

Stanley Kurtz — Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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