Rove pushes "extreme" distortion of Obama health care remark

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

In his Wall Street Journal column, Karl Rove distorted a statement by President Obama to falsely suggest Obama is now considering "a universal health care system like the European countries."

In his April 30 Wall Street Journal column, Fox News contributor Karl Rove wrote that, in 2008, the Obama campaign "ran ads attacking 'government-run health care' as 'extreme.' Now Mr. Obama is asking, as he did at a townhall meeting last month, 'Why not do a universal health care system like the European countries?' Maybe because he was elected by intimating that would be 'extreme'?" In fact, in the town hall remarks Rove quoted, President Obama was paraphrasing the question he had just been asked -- "Why can we not have a universal health care system, like many European countries, where people are treated based on needs rather than financial resources?" -- before explaining why he opposed such a system.

As Media Matters for America documented, during the April 24 edition of Fox News' Special Report, White House correspondent Wendell Goler similarly reversed the meaning of Obama's remarks at the town hall to falsely suggest Obama supports creating a health-care system "like the European countries."

From the transcript of Obama's March 26 "Open for Questions" town hall meeting:

DR. BERNSTEIN: After the last recession ended in 2001, the unemployment rate went up for another 19 months before it started coming back down.

This next question -- an area close to your heart -- health care reform. From Richard in California: "Why can we not have a universal health care system, like many European countries, where people are treated based on needs rather than financial resources?"

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I was in this room last month in what we called a health care forum. And we brought all the members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats who were interested in this issue; we brought together various constituency groups, insurance companies, drug companies, you name it. And my message to them was: Now is the time to reform the health care system -- not four years from now, not eight years from now, not 20 years from now. Now.

And the reason -- (laughter) -- the reason that I think it is so important is that the high costs of health care are a huge drag on our economy. It's a drag on our families. I can't tell you how many personal stories that I hear about people who are working, maybe have two parents working and yet still don't have health care. And the decisions that they have to make -- excruciating decisions about whether or not somebody goes to a doctor -- it makes them less productive, it makes them less mobile in terms of being able to take new jobs or start a new business because they're worried about hanging on to their health care. So it's a drag on families.

[...]

Now, the question is, if you're going to fix it, why not do a universal health care system like the European countries? I actually want a universal health care system; that is our goal. I think we should be able to provide health insurance to every American that they can afford and that provides them high quality.

So I think we can accomplish it. Now, whether we do it exactly the way European countries do or Canada does is a different question, because there are a variety of ways to get to universal health care coverage.

A lot of people think that in order to get universal health care, it means that you have to have what's called a single-payer system of some sort. And so Canada is the classic example: Basically, everybody pays a lot of taxes into the health care system, but if you're a Canadian, you're automatically covered. And so you go in -- England has a similar -- a variation on this same type of system. You go in and you just say, "I'm sick," and somebody treats you, and that's it.

The problem is, is that we have what's called a legacy, a set of institutions that aren't that easily transformed. Let me just see a show of hands: How many people here have health insurance through your employer? Okay, so the majority of Americans, sort of -- partly for historical accident. I won't go into -- FDR had imposed wage controls during war time in World War II. People were -- companies were trying to figure out how to attract workers. And they said, well, maybe we'll provide health care as a benefit.

And so what evolved in America was an employer-based system. It may not be the best system if we were designing it from scratch. But that's what everybody is accustomed to. That's what everybody is used to. It works for a lot of Americans. And so I don't think the best way to fix our health care system is to suddenly completely scrap what everybody is accustomed to and the vast majority of people already have. Rather, what I think we should do is to build on the system that we have and fill some of these gaps.

From Rove's April 30 Wall Street Journal column:

One is the gap between what Mr. Obama said he would do and what he is doing. His administration is emphasizing in its official 100 days talking points steps he has taken to "deliver on the change he promised." During the campaign, Mr. Obama denounced the $2.3 trillion added to the national debt on Mr. Bush's watch as "deficits as far as the eye can see." But Mr. Obama's budget adds $9.3 trillion to the debt over the next 10 years. What happened to Obama the deficit hawk?

From Mr. Obama's Denver acceptance speech through the campaign, Mr. Obama did not publicly utter the phrase "universal health care." Instead, his campaign ran ads attacking "government-run health care" as "extreme." Now Mr. Obama is asking, as he did at a townhall meeting last month, "Why not do a universal health care system like the European countries?" Maybe because he was elected by intimating that would be "extreme"?

Another emphasis in the Obama 100 days talking points is that the president is a decisive leader. However, Mr. Obama is enormously deferential to Democrats in Congress and has outsourced formulation of key policies to them. He appears largely ambivalent about the contents of important legislation, satisfied to simply sign someone else's bill.

Posted In
Health Care
Network/Outlet
Wall Street Journal
Person
Karl Rove
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