The Right Opinion

Broken Promises/Broken Presidencies

By Ken Blackwell · Oct. 31, 2013

Editor's Note: This column was coauthored by Bob Morrison.

When Vice President George H.W. Bush accepted the GOP nomination for president in New Orleans in 1988, he memorably said: “Read my lips, no new taxes.” Too memorably, as things turned out. He won that election handily, carrying forty states against the hapless Michael Dukakis and 53% of the vote. It was the last comfortable victory the Republicans have seen.

By 1990, however, President Bush was in a bind. He had an army in Saudi Arabia as part of Operation Desert Shield and he had a solidly Democratic Congress determined to force him to break his tax pledge. His OMB Director, the late Dick Darman, urged him to make a deal with the Hill and get on with the business of governing. When more savvy political advisers protested, citing the “Read my Lips, no new taxes” pledge to the American people, Darman reportedly replied that those were just words some speechwriter put in front of the president.

That may be. But the president's lips pronounced those words. And his breaking of his over-the-top promise to Americans doomed the Bush presidency. Arguably, the Bush fracturing splintered Ronald Reagan's winning coalition, a solid majority that Republicans have not been able to reassemble since. Despite a stratospheric 91% approval rating following his lightning victory over Saddam Hussein's forces in the first Gulf War, Bush's standing sagged for two years. His broken promise fueled grassroots rage and the Perot challenge. Bush 41 fell to Bill Clinton in the 1992 election, gaining an abysmal 37% of the popular vote. Columnist George Will said he had made a sow's ear of the Reagan silk purse. Even Barbara Bush piled on. Commenting on his retirement sport of skydiving, she puckishly said she hadn't seen her George take such a plunge since the 92 campaign.

Today, we see millions, yes, millions of Americans, losing their health care coverage. These are the folks who were promised over and over by President Obama “if you like your doctor, you can keep him or her; if you like your health care plan, you can keep it.” Well, it turns out that millions of Americans cannot keep their doctors or their plans. They have been betrayed. They are outraged. They should be.

Many of these rejected and dejected millions are Obama voters. As The New York Times' Ross Douthat has noted, these are folks whose household incomes – in the $50-80,000 range – are too high for subsidies but are too low to easily absorb a doubling of their health care premiums. Moreover, as Douthat wisely points out, these are the folks who chose policies with high deductibles, who were in truth doing the most to keep health care costs down.

These are the folks who work hard and play by the rules. These are the new victims of ObamaCare. These are people whom any administration can ill afford to lose. They are the middle of Middle America.

Now comes news that the entire HealthCare.gov website may have to be rebuilt. Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) says “the way the system is designed, it is not secure.” For those few Americans who have succeeded in getting through the thicket of HealthCare.gov's intrusive questions and actually registered, Mike Rogers' words must be chilling. They are probably feeling like German Chancellor Angela Merkel texting her husband: “I wonder if the Obama people reading this text?”

Not to worry, we are assured. Just as Chancellor Merkel is a good friend and ally, the Obama people would never abuse the information that comes into HealthCare.gov, right? That's why they chose the simon-pure IRS to be the enforcers of ObamaCare. No one could imagine the IRS abusing its authority, right?

The catastrophic rollout of ObamaCare on October 1st has been lampooned left and right. President Obama has good cause for concern when even Jon Stewart shows his contempt for such incompetence. Legend has it Lyndon Johnson knew his Vietnam War strategy had failed when CBS Anchor Walter Cronkite came out against it. “If I've lost Walter Cronkite, I've lost Middle America,” he said glumly.

Jon Stewart holds a different status in today's fragmented media marketplace. Jon Stewart doesn't tell the nation “that's the way it is,” as Cronkite pompously pronounced each evening. Instead, Stewart is the King of what's Cool. His audience is heavily weighted toward the 18-34 demographic. These are not the folks who contribute to political campaigns, perhaps, and even their voting record is spotty. But these are very much the young bloods whom Mr. Obama needs desperately to sign up and sign on. He needs them to rush the website like shoppers at Walmart on Black Friday. He needs them to sign up for ObamaCare so he can afford to pay out the generous subsidies that his health care takeover will require. That's why the defection of Jon Stewart and the raspberries the president's signature achievement has gotten from the crew at Saturday Night Live are so important.

We don't share the view of the cynical Sage of Baltimore, H.L. Mencken. He famously said that democracy is the idea the people should get what they want – and get it good and hard. Nonetheless, the people are getting what they voted for good and hard.

But they voted for Barack Obama based on his pledged word: If you like your plan, you can keep it. As the rollout proceeds – as the November 30th “fix-it” deadline approaches menacingly – millions more will learn to their sorrow that they cannot keep their plans. And they will be bitter about being deceived.

President Obama won a Nobel Peace Prize in October, 2009, five months before passage of ObamaCare. He won it for his efforts to bring peace to Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt, and Syria and other global hotspots. President George H.W. Bush guided U.S. policy through the peaceful reunification of Germany, the mostly non-violent breakup of the Soviet Empire in Eastern Europe, and the bloodless collapse of the Soviet Union. Bush 41, of course, did not win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Unlike President Bush's breaking of his “No new taxes” pledge, President Obama never has to face the voters again. As he told Vladimir Putin, he would have “more flexibility” after he was re-elected. He will need a lot more flexibility to recover from Americans' outrage at having been deceived about keeping their health plans.

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7 Comments

Kevin from Arkansas in USA said:

"But they voted for Barack Obama based on his pledged word: ... And they will be bitter about being deceived."

They were idiots to believe him in the first place.

"Many of these rejected (losing their health care coverage) and dejected millions are Obama voters."

Good - I hope their premiums go through the roof. I have no sympathy for any obama voter who has to cough up more money or forced to change plans. I have particular contempt for a 2-time obama voters like Cindy Vinson of San Francisco:

"Of course, I want people to have health care," Cindy Vinson said. "I just didn't realize I would be the one who was going to pay for it personally."

Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 8:59 AM

Bud in The D-ivided States of America replied:

How 'bout it Kevin! Vinson and other DumbGeese do have a serious problem with rational thinking. Their colons, instead of their spines, are connected to their skulls. During peristalsis, it is not just the colon which is evacuated!

Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 12:22 PM

Randy Smith in St. Louis, Mo. replied:

Who the heck did you think was going to pay for all this mess?those who work hard and can barely keep anything pay for everything those who won't work and have everything they need handed to them on a silver platter in the name of "social justice"!!!!!!

Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 10:04 PM

Chuck Nolanl in FL said:

Who in the house and senate publicly, on the record repeated those words "you can keep your health insurance"?
Can it be used against them?

Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 9:08 AM

Dick Belmont in Fergus Falls, MN said:

You, Mr. Blackwell, like all others talking about Bush's "Read my lips" comment and subsequently raising taxes, never mention "The Rest of the Story" as the great Paul Harvey used to say. Bush raised taxes on a Dem. promise to cut spending, as Reagan was suckered in on tax increases before and also amnesty in return for the Dem. promise to secure the border. When I heard Bush say those fateful words, I knew they would get him into trouble. Imagine, A statist Dem. lying. Whudda thunk it.

Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 9:58 AM

wjm in Colorado said:

Chairman Obamao should win an all expence paid trip on a lifetime vacation at Guantanamo Bay. Hang his peace prize on the wall of his cell, right over his bust of Hitler. Harry Reid can be in a neighboring cell, and they can remenice about the good old days when they almost pulled off the biggest Communist Takeover the world had ever seen. Pelosi and Biden can get together in a padded cell and try and think about what reality means.

Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 10:18 AM

Bud in The D-ivided States of America said:

Mr. Blackwell, you remind me, ominously, of Dems & Rino's - you waffle over important issues but say nothing solid except you do not agree with the 'cynical' Mencken. I really don't know what to think about your position on anything except possibly saying what you need to say in order to garner favorable view. We herein are fairly cognizant of what has been said by these Promise Makers/Breakers. At the end of it all, I still don't know what you are saying.

Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 12:15 PM