Obamateurism of the Day

You knew I was going to come back to this moment with Barack Obama and George Stephanopoulos, only because this one minute is practically an Obamateurism gold mine. How many goofs does Obama make in a single minute? I count four:


OBAMA: No. That’s not true, George. The — for us to say that you’ve got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase. What it’s saying is, is that we’re not going to have other people carrying your burdens for you anymore than the fact that right now everybody in America, just about, has to get auto insurance. Nobody considers that a tax increase.

People say to themselves, that is a fair way to make sure that if you hit my car, that I’m not covering all the costs.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But it may be fair, it may be good public policy…

OBAMA: No, but — but, George, you — you can’t just make up that language and decide that that’s called a tax increase. Any…


OBAMA: What — what — if I — if I say that right now your premiums are going to be going up by 5 or 8 or 10 percent next year and you say well, that’s not a tax increase; but, on the other hand, if I say that I don’t want to have to pay for you not carrying coverage even after I give you tax credits that make it affordable, then…

STEPHANOPOULOS: I — I don’t think I’m making it up. Merriam Webster’s Dictionary: Tax — “a charge, usually of money, imposed by authority on persons or property for public purposes.”

OBAMA: George, the fact that you looked up Merriam’s Dictionary, the definition of tax increase, indicates to me that you’re stretching a little bit right now. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have gone to the dictionary to check on the definition.


Here are the goofs:

  • Auto insurance is not required for anyone who doesn’t want to access publicly-owned roads by driving a car.  Furthermore, no one is required to insure themselves.  Technically speaking, they’re only required to buy liability insurance, which covers damage to the other driver(s).
  • Stephanopoulos didn’t just “make up the language”.  In the Baucus bill, the fine for failing to comply with the individual mandate is called — wait for it — an “excise tax”.  It’s on page 29, Subtitle D, Shared Responsibility.
  • If premiums go up by 10%, it’s still not a tax, because the money doesn’t go to the government, and people can choose to buy cheaper policies or none at all.  Or at least they can at the moment ..
  • Given all of the above, accusing Stephanopoulos of “stretching” by reading a dictionary definition of “tax” is a stretch of its own.  And given Obama’s attempts to redefine the term, Stephanopoulos could have been considered a public service.

Did I miss any?

Got an Obamateurism of the Day? If you see a foul-up by Barack Obama, e-mail it to me at [email protected] with the quote and the link to the Obamateurism. I’ll post the best Obamateurisms on a daily basis, depending on how many I receive. Include a link to your blog, and I’ll give some link love as well. And unlike Slate, I promise to end the feature when Barack Obama leaves office.


Illustrations by Chris Muir of Day by Day. Be sure to read the adventures of Sam, Zed, Damon, and Jan every day!

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