The WSJ reported on Saturday that, even as the president was blithely and incessantly repeating various refrains of his now infamous “If you like your insurance plan, you can keep it” assurance, there was indeed plenty of debate going on behind the scenes about whether or not that was really the wisest proclamation with which he should be plowing forward:
But at times, there was second-guessing. At one point, aides discussed whether Mr. Obama might use more in-depth discussions, such as media interviews, to explain the nuances of the succinct line in his stump speeches, a former aide said. Officials worried, though, that delving into details such as the small number of people who might lose insurance could be confusing and would clutter the president’s message. …
“With 20/20 hindsight, maybe this should have been parsed more carefully,” said Jim Margolis, a media adviser to Mr. Obama’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012, said of Mr. Obama’s broad promise. But, he added, “The president’s statement seems fair.”
Ah, yes: Hindsight. That was the same excuse used by yet another of President Obama’s advisers at the time, David Axelrod, on Meet the Press on Sunday — and Axe was completely alone on the defensive line on that one.
GREGORY: OK, but hold on, but David, this is about political practice and leadership. If you believe all those things, and you want to get the very best health care, you were in the White House. You were advising the president on the kinds of things he should say. Why did not you, or somebody else, say to him, ‘Mr. President, don’t say no matter what you’re going to keep your health care plan.’ Was that bad practice? … But that’s why you’re there!
AXELROD: Well, hindsight is 20/20. … There is a small group of people David, the vast majority of Americans, that statement will hold true for. For this small group of Americans, it hasn’t. But, the calamitous thing here is that the website wasn’t up because many of those people who have to transition are going to get better insurance for less money but they just can’t tell that now because they can’t get on the website.
WOODWARD: But David, this could be rectified, I remember early in the Obama presidency when you were there and there was some dispute about a cabinet nomination and the president came out and said, ‘I screwed up.’ Why not just be straightforward. Bill’s right, he said, period, this is absolutely, everyone’s going to keep their insurance. Why not correct it?
AXELROD: I don’t think there’s any shame in saying, we didn’t anticipate this one glitch, we grandfathered a lot of policies, we didn’t anticipate this one glitch, but many of those people are going to get better health care for less money when this website is up and running and they can select it.
KAY: Beyond the actual language that was used, why wasn’t there a better education effort to get out in front of this and go to Americans whose policies were going to change and explain why? I mean, there’s a fairly good case to be made about minimum standards and the kind of things that can hit you if you have a substandard policy, but, never was that education effort carried through by the White House.