Jonah Goldberg

"All we've been hearing the last three years is if you like your policy you can keep it. ... I'm infuriated because I was lied to," one woman told the Los Angeles Times, as part of a story on how some middle-class Californians have been stunned to learn the real costs of Obamacare.

And that lie looks like the biggest lie about domestic policy ever uttered by a U.S. president.

The most famous presidential lies have to do with misconduct (Richard Nixon's "I am not a crook" or Bill Clinton's "I did not have sexual relations") or war. Woodrow Wilson campaigned on the slogan "He kept us out of war" and then plunged us into a calamitous war. Franklin D. Roosevelt made a similar vow: "I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars."

Roosevelt knew he was making false promises. He explained to an aide: "If someone attacks us, it isn't a foreign war, is it?" When his own son questioned his honesty, FDR replied: "If I don't say I hate war, then people are going to think I don't hate war. ... If I don't say I won't send our sons to fight on foreign battlefields, then people will think I want to send them. ... So you play the game the way it has been played over the years, and you play to win."

The burning question about Barack Obama is whether he was simply "playing to win" and therefore lying on purpose, or whether his statements about Obamacare were just another example of, as Obama once put it, "I actually believe my own" spin, though he used another word.

"No matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people," he told the American Medical Association in 2009. "If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health-care plan, you'll be able to keep your health-care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what."

No matter how you slice it, that was a lie. As many as 16 million Americans on the individual health-insurance market may lose their insurance policies. Just in the last month, hundreds of thousands have been notified by their insurers that their policies will be canceled. In fact, it appears that more Americans may have lost coverage than gotten it since Healthcare.gov went "live" (a term one must use advisedly). And when the business mandate finally kicks in, tens of millions more probably will lose their plans.

Ah, but they'll get better ones!


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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