WaPo factchecks Obama on ObamaCare, election message in post-midterm presser

This hasn’t exactly been a banner week for Democrats, but especially so for Barack Obama. The Washington Post corrected him twice this week on claims made by the President’s denial of reality in his post-election press conference, the first time in a formal fact-check from Glenn Kessler. Obama tried arguing that the election results didn’t really reflect on ObamaCare despite the success of Republicans in defeating Democrats who supported it — or even those who refused to answer the question — because ObamaCare has reduced the costs of health care in every year since its passage. That assumes facts not in evidence in terms of causal relationship, Kessler notes, and isn’t true on the facts anyway:

In fact, despite the president’s claim of a decrease of every year, the White House’s own chart shows that the 2013 estimate represents a slight uptick from 2012, when adjusted for inflation and population. As the White House report puts it, “the three years since 2010 will have recorded the three slowest health-care spending growth rates since record keeping began in 1960.” That is impressive, but it is not the same as health costs going down “every single year” since the law was passed in 2010. …

There is no dispute that health care spending is growing at its lowest level since the 1960s, but the impact of the Affordable Care Act is still uncertain. The White House has issued reports making its case, which have beendisputed by others. There are certainly some cost-controls contained in the law, but it remains unclear whether those measures have really had that much impact, especially because the Great Recession clearly had affected health-care inflation even before the law was implemented. Just as growth in health-care costs have slowed because the 2009 economic crisis, so has economic growth and general price inflation overall.

When making a claim like this, the president needs to get his statistics right. He is trying to say that Obamacare is responsible for the slowdown in health-care costs, without directly saying so. But he should acknowledge that although the overall trend is positive, the impact of his health-care law remains unclear. Uttering this claim without any caveats is going too far, even when making allowances for the fact he is speaking extemporaneously. The president earns Three Pinocchios.

It’s not the first Pinocchios Obama has earned from ObamaCare. He got saddled with the Lie of the Year in 2013 from Politifact, after the rollout of the program demonstrated that millions of people could not in fact keep their plans if they liked them. Kessler has handed them out repeatedly to Obama and Democrats on this issue. These are just since the rollout last October:

  • April 2014: Two Pinocchios for claiming that opponents spent “billions” fighting ObamaCare
  • February 2014: Four Pinocchios for claiming that 7 million people got covered because of the Medicaid expansion
  • Also February 2014: Dick Durbin gets four for asserting that 10 million people got coverage
  • January 2014: Both Obama and Kessler himself got three Pinocchios for similar claims on Medicaid expansion
  • November 2013: Three for blaming insurance companies for plan cancellations rather than the plan standards forced on them by ObamaCare
  • October 2013: Four for “you can keep your plan,” once it became clear millions couldn’t

These were just the Kessler fact-checks that we’ve noted, and it comes to 23 Pinocchios in 13 months. Obama doesn’t exactly have a track record of honesty when it comes to the central policy of his administration, in other words. That had something to do with the results of the midterms, where voters sent Democrats packing on every level of government they could. Obama tried denying this, but Chris Cillizza says come on, man:

“There’s no doubt that the Republicans had a good night,” he conceded, before pivoting to note that the message voters were sending had nothing to do with him but, rather, was about wanting politicians to get things done.

Except that Obama had said repeatedly during the runup to the vote that his policies were very much part of the election. “Make no mistake: These policies are on the ballot,” he said at Northwestern University in early October. “Every single one of them.”

You don’t get to have it both ways — taking the credit if your side wins and shirking the blame if it loses. Obama said Wednesday that he wouldn’t “read the tea leaves” of the 2014 elections. Of course, he was more than willing to read those same leaves after his 2012 reelection.

Losing elections is one thing. It happens to almost all politicians if they stay in the game long enough. Refusing to shoulder any of the blame for that loss is something else entirely.

President Obama, for forgetting that you are the head of your party, in good times and bad, you had the worst week in Washington.

Cillizza is wrong about one thing. In terms of Obama’s honesty, this attempt to have it both ways isn’t “something else entirely” — it’s exactly what we’ve come to expect from Obama.