Political Mythbusters: There Never Was A White House Deal To Kill The Public Option, Stop Lying!

There have been many lies circulated about President Obama over the last 3 years, but the one that seems to have poisoned the water from the beginning is the lie that President Obama struck a deal to keep the public option out of the final health care bill. It has formed the basis of the “caved” meme that people on the left, most of whom never supported Obama as a candidate, have used to feed their irrational hatred for our president.

The lie has taken on epic proportions as it’s morphed over the years. Recently, I’ve had liberal friends throw it in my face when I’ve shown my support for our very accomplished president. The lying has to stop!

The birth of the “public option” lie

The original source from which the lie was created, is an article that David Kirkpatrick wrote in the New York Times about the active role that President Obama was taking in crafting the health care law. There were two mentions of the “public option” in the entire article, one was in reference to what the Democrats in the house were pushing and the other contradicts the lie completely. Rep. Henry Waxman was quoted in the article.

The president has said he wants a public option to keep everybody honest. He hasn’t said he wants a co-op as a public option.”

You really can’t get any more clear than that, can you? In the article that is the source for the public option lie, there is a quote from a respected member of the House saying that the president wants a public option. And to be fair to the author, he never even implies that the public option was part of the deal.

The New York Times article also discusses how the White House was more hands-on with the Senate Finance Committee than with other congressional committees. What is implicit in this analysis is that the White House understood that, as with every piece of legislation the administration supported, it was the Senate that posed the biggest impediment to achieving comprehensive health care reform.

There was another quote from earlier in the article that many used as the basis for the lie. It is an explanation of the deal that caps the costs for hospitals.

Hospital industry lobbyists, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of alienating the White House, say they negotiated their $155 billion in concessions with Mr. Baucus and the administration in tandem. House staff members were present, including for at least one White House meeting, but their role was peripheral, the lobbyists said.

Several hospital lobbyists involved in the White House deals said it was understood as a condition of their support that the final legislation would not include a government-run health plan paying Medicare rates — generally 80 percent of private sector rates — or controlled by the secretary of health and human services.

There is nothing in those two paragraphs that says anything about a deal on the public option, it is talking very specifically about costs to hospitals and reimbursement rates for patients on Medicare. The sentence “would not include a government-run health plan paying Medicare rates — generally 80 percent of private rates…” is poorly worded and could easily be misinterpreted, especially by people searching for a reason to hate the President.

If you read David Kirkpatrick’s words carefully, you see that the deal was on reimbursement rates and how they wouldn’t be the 80% that Medicare generally pays, which was a sore spot for hospitals.

Here is another example of that same idea, worded slightly better, but with selective placement of quotation marks. Tom Daschle wasn’t happy with the authors characterization of his words and corrected it in an update.

Daschle writes. “The other was that it would contain no public health plan,” which would have reimbursed hospitals at a lower rate than private insurers.

Once again, if you were to stop reading after the words “health plan”, you wouldn’t have gotten the entire meaning of the sentence. Experience tells me that the Obama-haters aren’t interested in the truth, only that which fits with their preconceived memes.

Tom Daschle sent a note to the author clarifying his comments and making it very clear that there was no deal on the public option.

“In describing some of the challenges to passage of the public option in the health reform bill, I did not mean to suggest in any way that the President was not committed to it. The President fought for the public option just as he did for affordable health care for all Americans. The public option was dropped only when it was no longer viable in Congress, not as a result of any deal cut by the White House. While I was disappointed that the public option was not included in the final legislation, the Affordable Care Act remains a tremendous achievement for the President and the nation.” (emphasis mine)

The lie gets bigger

The author of the original article, David Kirkpatrick, also went on The Ed Show to discuss his article. I feel obligated to remind people that Ed Schultz is a former Republican who was one of the voices telling people to stay home in 2010 and we all know how that turned out for the country.

Jonathon Bernstein’s excellent piece on the public option lie points us to the source of that lie and how Kirkpatrick’s appearance on The Ed Show helped precipitate it. I wasn’t surprised to find out that the lie was created at The Huffington Post, owned by another former Republican making money off liberals. Jonathon was inspired to write about this by yet another reference to the lie as fact by Drew Westen, a psychologist who has gone from specializing in personality disorders to being the poster boy for the Professional Left.

Westen links to what appears to be confirmation for this story, and it’s been repeated by others. However, if you follow the links the story starts to dissolve — after a couple levels of assertions that this “deal” has been proven, it turns out to be built on some very murky stuff.

When you follow the “confirmation” link above, you come to a piece at TPM about David Kirkpatrick’s interview on The Ed Show and when you read a little further into the comments, you see the full quote from an astute reader.

There really were only two deals. meaning quid pro quo, handshake, commitment on both sides deals. one with the hospitals and one with the drug industry. I think what you’re interested in is that in the background of both of these deals was the PRESUMPTION, shared on the part of lobbyists on one side and the White House on other, that the public option was not going to be part of the final product.

You might say, look, the White House was throwing in the towel on a public option. Another person might look at the same deals and the same math in the Senate and say, that’s just realism. Anybody could have counted the votes in the Senate and said you didn’t have 60 votes to pass a bill, the 60 votes you need to pass a bill in the Senate that included the public option. (emphasis mine)

What is interesting to me is the statement by David Kirkpatrick from the New York times where he says “I think what you are interested in is…”, which is basically admitting why it is that Ed Schultz wanted him on his show — to further the false meme and give Schultz and the FDL crowd some red meat. That sentence continues with “that in the background of both of these deals is the ‘presumption‘…that the public option was not going to be a part of the final deal.”

The second paragraph, which gave more context, wasn’t a part of the story that Westen linked to, how odd. That whole part about “anybody could have counted the votes in the Senate and said you didn’t have 60 votes to pass the bill”, well apparently that didn’t square with the false meme that the firebaggers were in full swing promoting.

Smartypants addresses this idea very succinctly, as she frequently does.

The second stage in the development of the “cave” myth came, as everyone knows, when the public option was dropped from inclusion in health care reform. At that point, the Democrats had 59 Senators + Lieberman (who never supported the PO). But there were also moments like the day Sen. Blanche Lincoln – one of those 59 – took to the floor of the Senate and said she would join with a Republican filibuster of the bill if it contained a public option… (emphasis mine)

Running with the lie is like running with scissors

The author of The Huffington Post piece was Miles Mogulescu, an entertainment lawyer and writer. He very boldly proclaimed in a blazing headline “Who’s Killing the Public Option? President Obama with a Rahm-Bow” and then proceeded to take David Kirkpatrick’s very carefully chosen words and reinterpret them, even inserting a few more to spice it up. I’ve highlighted his addition to the quote that has no evidence to support it and in fact was contradicted numerous times by President Obama and others in his administration. Mogulescu appears to be the primary source for the big lie and is the link that everyone points to when spreading it.

‘We have an agreement with the White House that I’m very confident will be seen all the way through conference’, one of the industry lobbyists, Chip Kahn, director of the Federation of American Hospitals, told a Capitol Hill newsletter…Industry lobbyists say they are not worried [about a public option.] ‘We trust the White House,” Mr. Kahn said.

Don’t you love how he just wedges that “about a public option” in there, forcing his baseless interpretation on the reader? In all of the articles that he writes after that, he uses that same paragraph as his proof of a deal for the public option. Using those brackets and inserting “about a public option” is very dishonest, considering the fact that there is no basis for his assertion. Let’s take a look at the rule for using brackets.

• Brackets are used to remove any confusion from the minds of the readers about the meaning of the sentence and if not used will leave the sentence incomplete.

But of course in this case, it is used to mislead the reader and fulfill an agenda that was aimed at furthering the big lie. It’s despicable.

The choir that he is preaching to, those who have an irrational hatred for our first black president, eat that shit up and suspend all critical thinking abilities in favor of furthering their anti-Obama memes.

Here is one very blatant example of how the lie has morphed. Cenk Uygur portrayed it this way in one of his Young Turks vodcasts.

So they made a deal and Obama administration agreed, we will kill the public option in every imaginable way, no matter how many times it comes up, we will spike it. As long as you agree to these $155 billion dollars in concessions. (emphasis mine)

He is referencing the New York Times article and that is how he portrays it. Does anyone take Cenk seriously anymore? Well, not MSNBC. /rimshot

There are many statements by President Obama showing his support for the public option. Here is one he made on July 9, 2009, that clearly shows his support.

“I am pleased by the progress we’re making on health care reform and still believe, as I’ve said before, that one of the best ways to bring down costs, provide more choices, and assure quality is a public option that will force the insurance companies to compete and keep them honest.  I look forward to a final product that achieves these very important goals.” (emphasis mine)

As we enter into the 2012 race, it is essential that real liberals and progressives get their facts straight. We are fighting a massive battle in the wake of the Citizens United case against the big money interests that are backing the Republican party. We can’t afford to have people who are supposedly on our side, spewing false memes and misinformation, that’s what the media is for. We need to be armed with the facts and ready to throw them in the face of anyone who is either misinformed or blatantly perpetuating the lies.

The lies on the left have to stop!

Cross-posted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles


17 thoughts on “Political Mythbusters: There Never Was A White House Deal To Kill The Public Option, Stop Lying!

  1. Thanks, you inspired me to write this along with Bernstein. And, when a couple friends tried to throw it in my face at a time when I didn’t have time to correct them. I’ll just send them the link. :)

    It would be one thing if the “progressive” left had valid criticisms, but when it is mostly based on ignorance and not accepting the reality of Washington, it makes me angry.

  2. My main complaint about the Obama administration (how much was the influence of David Axelrod and Rahm Emmanuel?) has been their ordering of priorities. At the time of the inauguration the biggest problem facing the nation was the economy and jobs which seemed to take a back seat to healthcare. Pushing “Obamacare” for a year-and-a-half helped to fire up and grow the strength of the Tea Party which led to a GOP landslide in 2010 (helped by the pouting firebaggers staying at home). Sure, legacies are important but Kennedy got few of his priorities realized other than plans for NASA and the Peace Corps. It took JFK’s martyrdom and then LBJ to get most of his programs enacted later. Kudos to Obama for his national security successes, but in the current climate the economy trumps all other concerns of most voters. When only 1% are fighting our battles overseas, the majority have to be reminded we have soldiers in “harm’s way” by flyovers at NASCAR races and occasional stories in the media playing the patriotism card (especially around 9/11 and Memorial/Veterans Days).

    There are priorities needed to be pushed in the first term of a presidency and some that should be relegated to a second term. I fear Obama’s “legacy” of “Obamacare” may be only a footnote in the history books under the first sentence that Obama was a “one term President”! The most controversial programs should be brought up after a RE-election when they will be owned by that particular president and in the case of the Democratic candidate in 2016, not necessarily be tied to the new person (unless that person is someone like Joe Biden who could be tied to the present White House).

    As somebody “out of the closet” four years BEFORE Stonewall, I have seen a sea change in attitudes towards the GLBT community, so many advances. In the early 1960’s even the word HOMOSEXUAL could not be uttered in movies and television. The underlying topic of homosexuality was written out of Tennessee Williams’s plays when converted to screenplays for Hollywood (Rock Hudson was HETEROsexual!). Sure it has been 42 years but many BABY STEPS have been taken. Since gay issues can and will be used as WEDGE issues, I was content waiting only a couple more years until Obama’s second term. But people like Rachel Maddow and Dan Choi wanted it ALL and wanted it RIGHT NOW! They are too young to really know how much life is better now than in 1969 for us older folks in the GLBT community. A big fault of many people, especially the younger generations, is not having patience to achieve goals. Equal rights for women and minorities still has not been totally accomplished but over a century things have become much better (once again baby steps). Electing a black president was one more advance in our national enlightenment! Beware of revolutions that throw the baby out with the bath water.

    I left the Republican party in the late 1960’s when Nixon and company began coddling racists and when getting Southern States’ electoral votes became more important than human rights. I have voted straight Democratic ever since George McGovern. However, I’ve never understood why too many liberals take the attitude of “my way or the highway” and smugly sit at home on election day. Republicans may act most divided right now, but IF Romney is their candidate, even the evangelicals who hate Mormons will still get off their asses and VOTE for him. Republicans “circle the wagons” while Democrats form “circular firing squads”!

  3. David Ackerman was on MSNBC today promoting his Third Party “Americans Elect” agenda. His dad David Ackerman has put $5 million into the cause so far to give Americans a “choice”. The group says since they are not an official political party they don’t have to disclose anything!!!

    Although money [Daniel] Winslow may have given to Americans Elect is not public, his donations to candidates are disclosed in Federal Election Commission records. Winslow donated $1,500 to Romney’s presidential campaign last month.

    Other members of the board of advisers have given to a variety of other candidates, including Obama. One adviser, Boston investor Gerald Blakeley, donated to President George W. Bush and, like many Bush donors, gave to Green Party candidate Ralph Nader. Nader helped Bush win the presidency by shaving votes from Bush’s Democratic opponents.


    Some folks commenting on Democratic Underground feel this “non-political” group is a ploy to wrestle liberals from Obama like Ralph Nader has been able to do. Chris Matthews noted that one either chooses a candidate or in the case of a third party, VOID a candidate like Ross Perot did in 1992 or as Nader did in 2000.

  4. I think that a valid critique of the PBO WH and the 111th Congress was that the economy did not seem to be the number 1 priority. That may be perception as a stimulus was passed. I do not think that the stimulus that passed was strong enough.
    The WH did not make a deal to kill the public option. The public option never had the votes.

  5. REALITY!!

    ( http://my.firedoglake.com/iflizwerequeen/2011/05/16/how-about-a-little-truth-about-what-the-majority-want-for-health-care/ )

    ( Gov. Peter Shumlin: Real Healthcare reform — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yFUbkVCsZ4 )

    ( Health Care Budget Deficit Calculator — http://www.cepr.net/calculators/hc/hc-calculator.html )

    ( Briefing: Dean Baker on Boosting the Economy by Saving Healthcare http://t.co/fmVz8nM )


    As you all know. Had congress passed a single-payer or government-run robust Public Option CHOICE! available to everyone on day one, our economy and jobs would have taken off like a rocket. And still will. Single-payer would be best. But a government-run robust Public Option CHOICE! that can lead to a single-payer system is the least you can accept. It’s not about competing with for-profit healthcare and for-profit health insurance. It’s about replacing it with Universal Healthcare Assurance. Everyone knows this now.

    The message from the midterm elections was clear. The American people want real healthcare reform. They want that individual mandate requiring them to buy private health insurance abolished. And they want a government-run robust public option CHOICE! available to everyone on day one. And they want it now.

    They want Drug re-importation, and abolishment, or strong restrictions on patents for biologic and prescription drugs. And government controlled and negotiated drug and medical cost. They want back control of their healthcare system from the Medical Industrial Complex. And they want it NOW!


    For-profit health insurance is extremely unethical, and morally repugnant. It’s as morally repugnant as slavery was. And few if any decent Americans are going to allow them-self to be compelled to support such an unethical and immoral crime against humanity.

    This is a matter of National and Global security. There can be NO MORE EXCUSES.

    Further, we want that corrupt, undemocratic filibuster abolished. Whats the point of an election if one corrupt member of congress can block the will of the people, and any legislation the majority wants. And do it in secret. Give me a break people.

    Also, unemployment healthcare benefits are critically needed. But they should be provided through the Medicare program at cost, less the 65% government premium subsidy provided now to private for profit health insurance.

    Congress should stop wasting hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money on private for profit health insurance subsidies. Subsidies that cost the taxpayer 10x as much or more than Medicare does. Private for profit health insurance plans cost more. But provide dangerous and poorer quality patient care.



    This is what the American people are shouting at you. Both parties have just enough power now to do what the American people want. GET! IT! DONE! NOW!

    If congress does not abolish the individual mandate. And establish a government-run public option CHOICE! before the end of 2011. EVERY! member of congress up for reelection in 2012 will face strong progressive pro public option, and anti-individual mandate replacement candidates.

    Strong progressive pro “PUBLIC OPTION” CHOICE! and anti-individual mandate volunteer candidates should begin now. And start the process of replacing any and all members of congress that obstruct, or fail to add a government-run robust PUBLIC OPTION CHOICE! before the end of 2011.

    We need two or three very strong progressive volunteer candidates for every member of congress that will be up for reelection in 2012. You should be fully prepared to politically EVISCERATE EVERY INCUMBENT that fails or obstructs “THE PUBLIC OPTION”. And you should be willing to step aside and support the strongest pro “PUBLIC OPTION” candidate if the need arises.

    ASSUME CONGRESS WILL FAIL and SELLOUT again. So start preparing now to CUT THEIR POLITICAL THROATS. You can always step aside if they succeed. But only if they succeed. We didn’t have much time to prepare before these past midterm elections. So the American people had to use a political shotgun approach. But by 2012 you will have a scalpel.

    Congress could have passed a robust government-run public option during it’s lame duck session. They knew what the American people wanted. They already had several bills on record. And the house had already passed a public option. Departing members could have left with a truly great accomplishment. And the rest of you could have solidified your job before the 2012 elections.

    President Obama, you promised the American people a strong public option available to everyone. And the American people overwhelmingly supported you for it. Maybe it just wasn’t possible before. But it is now.

    Knock heads. Threaten people. Or do whatever you have to. We will support you. But get us that robust public option CHOICE! available to everyone on day one before the end of 2011. Or We The People Of The United States will make the past midterm election look like a cake walk in 2012. And it will include you.

    We still have a healthcare crisis in America. With hundreds of thousands dieing needlessly every year in America. And a for profit medical industrial complex that threatens the security and health of the entire world. They have already attacked the world with H1N1 killing thousands, and injuring millions. And more attacks are planned for profit, and to feed their greed.

    Spread the word people.

    Progressives, prepare the American peoples scalpels. It’s time to remove some politically diseased tissues.

    God Bless You my fellow human beings. I’m proud to be one of you. You did good.

    See you on the battle field.


    jacksmith – WorkingClass :-)

  6. There is no evidence – and none will be found because there is none – that PBO made a deal to ‘kill the public option’. And persons putting out that are fully aware that it is false.

  7. You have some valid concerns. I will vote for Obama again but feel that he didn’t tackle the economy in the beginning but at the same time I think he should have gotten rid of Bernanke.

  8. That is an interesting article and points to something the MSM ignores. The downward spiral started by a bill that the President in 1998 signed (can’t remember who that was but I don’t think it was GW). Congressional oversight failed in two major aspects of the late 90’s. Repeal of Glass-Steagall and forcing the banks and Fannie and Freddie to open mortgages to people who could not afford them with no documents . Yes it is the banks and investment houses that were the ultimate blame but it was the lack of oversight from Congress and the President who allowed it.

    One problem not addressed is we still have banks that are too big to fail and Fannie and Freddie should be eliminated, they are losing billions. Let the free market work as it is designed to do.

  9. Watched our President giving a speech in Osawatomie, Kansas to commemorate the site where REPUBLICAN President Theodore Roosevelt gave his famous “New Nationalism” speech a century ago. Obama’s theme today was that this economy we have now is not unique in our history. Our nation has been there before and President Obama cited the “trust busting” of Roosevelt to break up monopolies to reverse the growing chasm of wealth between the super rich and the middle class a hundred years ago. This speech gave REAL history lessons of our nation.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Nationalism (BTW, Teabaggers beware: Roosevelt looks like a “socialist”!)

    However, I switched channels back and forth to Faux News a couple of times and only got Goldline commercials and Megyn Kelly promoting the important Faux “values” such as the new Muppets movie is dangerous for our children, will mold them into ‘kiddie Karl Marxs”!

    I noticed this many times that while CNN and MSNBC carries OUR President’s speeches, Faux News will often ignore them. Bush got his speeches carried by ALL of our cablenews organizations. No wonder Fox viewers are so ill-informed about reality, scoring worse on national and world events than those who watch no TV at all. Their brainwashing would make Goebbels or Stalin smile.


  10. “Democratic” Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia is on MSNBC saying he can’t vote with most Democrats who want to extend the payroll tax cut. He is teaming with Republican Senators like Sen. Kirk of Illinois to block it. But instead of arguing for jobs and tax cuts, the Republicans at the moment are trying to block Senate for confirmation of Richard Cordray to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Republicans said they have enough votes to block the Cordray nomination. They really just want to dissolve the bureau that Elizabeth Warren helped to create. Meanwhile, all of the GOP nominees except for Jon Huntsman are livid that the State Department is saying the USA will cut off aid to nations with human rights abuse record of their GLBT citizens. Rick Santorum is livid saying this is another example of pushing the homosexual agenda by this White House.

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