In an interview with NBC News' Chuck Todd released Thursday, President Obama addressed the claim that he had failed to live up to his frequently-repeated pledge that, "If you like your health care plan, you can keep it."
And, while some news outlets are reporting his remarks as an "apology," Obama is only apologizing in the meekest, most useless sense of the term.
What did the president say when Todd asked him if he owed people who were losing their plans an apology? He said this:
"I regret very much that… you know, we weren't as clear as we needed to be in terms of the changes that were taking place… I am sorry that they, you know, are finding themselves in this situation, based on assurances they got from me."
Of course, we're all sorry and we all feel bad that, as a result of the Affordable Care Act, some people are losing health insurance plans that they wanted to keep. But most of us never promised that we would make sure those people could hold on to their plans, and most of us were never in a position to warn those folks that they might not be able to keep them.
But President Obama isn't like the rest of us. He knew perfectly well that his pledge wasn't going to be fulfilled, and he could easily have let people know it. He could easily have been clear "in terms of the changes that were taking place." All he needed to do was say something like this:
"Most people will be able to keep their health insurance, but for 5% of you — those in the individual market — that might not be true. We'll grandfather your plan in, but you can only keep it if it doesn't change at all. The second there are any changes in coverage, your plan will have to be scrapped for something that meets the new requirements. We believe most of these existing plans are subpar, and they'll have to be replaced with a better plan with greater coverage, though the new plan may wind up costing more."
Nothing prevented Obama from saying this all the way back in 2010 (maybe even earlier), and alerting people in the individual market to the possibility that they might lose their health insurance plans. They'd have had plenty of time to prepare for the change, to see whether the new plans really would be better, or to argue (and vote) in favor of the position that their existing plans weren't inadequate.
Saying something like this wouldn't have been complicated, everyone would have understood it, and he'd only have been stating the truth, right? But Obama didn't say it. Instead, Obama stuck with the simpler, less nuanced — that is, inaccurate, misleading, and false — pledge of, "If you like it you can keep it."
And now, instead of owning up to how he failed to correctly inform people, he's giving the typical politician's non-apology in which you appear contrite without actually taking responsibility for your actions and accepting blame for wrongdoing. Nowhere does Obama admit that he could easily have told the truth years ago in under 100 words, but chose not to. Nowhere does he say what he's going to do to make amends for misleading these people. Nowhere does he describe what he's going to do to keep from again misleading people like this in the future.
In other words, President Obama is only apologizing in the cheapest sense of the term: he's merely saying the word "sorry."
President Obama's pledge was false, he knew it, and he had plenty of opportunity to inform people of the truth. He chose not to, and now he's giving a phony apology where he says the word "sorry," but doesn't actually admit to doing anything wrong.
In other words, President Obama is being flat-out dishonest.