Commentary’s ‘Press Man’ probes mainstream media’s culpability in the Obamacare debacle

Andrew Ferguson takes his fellow scribes to task in the latest edition of his “Press Man” column for Commentary magazine. Ferguson remembers most journalists’ unwillingness to question the Obama administration’s lies about the likely impact of the so-called Affordable Care Act.

The president’s pithy pledge provided a hook that made the story simpler to report than the usual convolutions of policy wonkery. Even so, it took a while for ObamaCare’s initial collapse to attract the attention of the Washington press corps. At an October press conference, more than a week after the debut of the website, the president answered questions for more than an hour without once having to address the welling chaos. Instead, he was questioned sympathetically, and he talked incessantly about the government shutdown.

Not until the end of the month did the cancellations story take hold, when NBC reported that the administration had known all along that “millions could not keep their health insurance.” The story breathlessly attributed this revelation to “four sources deeply involved in the Affordable Care Act” and quoted internal memos affirming it. Now here was something to pique a reporter’s interest: leaked emails, official documents, government secrets, backroom chicanery, a cover-up!

Presented this way, the story of ObamaCare’s Hindenburg-like launch had a glaring omission: the role the press played in it, or rather refused to play. There had been no cover-up, because there had been no need for one. The administration didn’t have to hide from Americans what the press wasn’t interested in telling them. …

… “Until now, it was very difficult to say definitively that the president [was] not correct,” the Washington Post’s “fact checker” told Politico’s media reporter in November, when the cancellations rose to a flood tide. Factchecker.org, for its part, said the president had been “overpromising,” a verbal nerf ball suggesting that the big galoot’s heart was just too darn big for his own good. But this isn’t true. As [Charles] Grassley, [Eric] Cantor, and a large group of conservative policy experts tried to explain for more than two years, the cancellations were a key feature of the law, not an unintended consequence. Obama’s reform was designed to outlaw any health-insurance policy that fell short of new federal standards. If you had such a policy, it was going to be taken away. Even if you wanted to keep it. The president insists it’s for your own good.

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