President Obama today took a step toward restoring the trust of the American people after his repeated false claims that everyone could keep their current insurance under Obamacare, acknowledging that his statements were wrong – while not admitting he intentionally misled anyone – and expressing regret that people were not fully informed by him.
In an interview with NBC White House Correspondent Chuck Todd, Obama offered up some contrition, even without acknowledging intent to mislead.
“Even though it’s a small percentage of folks who may be disadvantaged, you know, it means a lot to them. And it’s scary to them,” Obama said “And I am sorry that they — you know, are finding themselves in this situation, based on assurances they got from me.”
Todd handled the interview well, asking tough questions but doing it in a gentle, less pointed style than others might have. This works well with Obama, who would inevitably have gotten his back up with someone displaying a more confrontational style. The result was a president who seemed remorseful and hopeful that he would be judged the law that is his signature and not on the statements he made.
Given the way Obamacare is working out, he may come to regret it.
Obama starts off asserting that he “meant what I said” when he stated people could keep their health plans:
Todd: It’s probably the most quoted thing or requoted thing you have said in your presidency, “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.” You said it a lot during the run up. At this point, though, it’s obviously something — a promise that has not been able to be kept. Just today, the Denver Post 250,000 people in Colorado are seeing health insurance policies cancelled. Some of those people liked those policies. And they can’t keep them. What happened?
Obama: Well — first of all, I meant what I said. And we worked hard to try to make sure that we implemented it properly. But obviously, we didn’t do enough — a good enough job –and I regret that.
But then he begins to acknowledge a misstatement, saying, “we weren’t as clear as we needed to be.”
Todd: Even if you didn’t intentionally do it, but at this point, they feel misled. And you’ve seen the anger that’s out there.
Obama: You know — I regret very much that — what we intended to do, which is to make sure that everybody is moving into better plans because they want ’em, as opposed to because they’re forced into it. That, you know, we weren’t as clear as we needed to be — in terms of the changes that were takin’ place . And I want to do everything we can to make sure that people are finding themselves in a good position — a better position than they were before this law happened . . .
He expresses remorse and takes responsibility:
But it — even though it’s a small percentage of folks who may be disadvantaged, you know, it means a lot to them. And it’s scary to them. And I am sorry that they — you know, are finding themselves in this situation, based on assurances they got from me. We’ve got to work hard to make sure that — they know — we hear ’em and that we’re gonna do everything we can — to deal with folks who find themselves — in a tough position as a consequence of this . . .
And then he pointedly doesn’t deny that his credibility is shot, that he may no longer be trusted, and that in his statements he left out critical information.
Todd: Do you feel — considering how much this quote has been — it’s late night, it’s all sorts of things, that — do you understand that people are gonna be skeptical of the next promise you make, of the next — or are you concerned that people are gonna be wondering, “Jeez, what is the fine print that he’s not telling me?” Do you get that people might be a little more skeptical? Forget the partisans here in Washington , just average Americans.
Obama: You know, I — I — I’ll tell you, Chuck. I — I think that — I’ve now been in national public life for seven, eight years. I’ve been president for — almost five. And I think for the most part people know that I speak my mind and I tell folks what I think and I’ve been very clear about what I’m trying to do. And I think most people know that — even if they disagree with me on certain issues — that I’m every day workin’ hard to try to make life a little bit better for middle class families who are — and folks who are tryin’ to get in the middle class who are doin’ the right thing and bein’ responsible . . .
So ultimately, I think I’ll be judged on whether this thing is better for people overall. And in the meantime, even if it’s a small percentage of people . . . I want everybody out there to know that, you know, my entire intention here is to make sure that — people have the security of affordable health care.
Below is a video of the entire interview. The video is worth watching. It’s rare to see a president – particularly this one – let the buck stop at his desk and take some lumps.