Yesterday Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stated, vaguely, that the president would demand an explicit ban on abortion funding before signing a health care reform bill.
Sebelius was responding to prodding from George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week.” Stephanopoulos had asked, “Secretary Sebelius, what’s wrong with that, making it explicit in the bill that no public funding should go toward abortions?”
Sebelius answered, “Well, I think that’s what the president intends to do. There’s no intent to change the language that’s in the current Medicaid statute, which has been there for years and provides insurance to millions of Americans.”
Now, if, as President Obama asserted during his health care speech, it was a “bogus claim” that the bills under consideration in Congress provided for public funding of abortion, there was no need for this statement from Sebelius. She simply could have repeated him, saying that an explicit ban would be unnecessary for a bill which so clearly directs no taxpayer money toward coverage for abortions that anyone who claims it does is “bearing false witness.”
I think that this fits into a pattern of the administration’s behavior. On health care reform the Obama administration has either propagated statements that do not meet a minimum standard of sincerity or else is hopelessly inarticulate and unclear.
The Joe Wilson “You lie” incident is another clear example. Obama unequivocally stated as fact that illegal immigrants would not receive public health insurance. Joe Wilson wasn’t obviously correct that this was a lie, but it is at least a statement that requires further distinction. The fact that Obama failed to make the necessary distinctions to prevent someone like Joe Wilson from accusing him of lying points to two possibilities: 1) He, along with his speechwriters and policymakers, is too inarticulate for the job. 2) He is “lying” at least in the sense that his office requires a higher level of disclosure and definition of terms in public statements.
There is one very favorable reading of Obama’s various dubious statements on immigration, abortion, and other health care issues. That is that he is promising to veto any bill that contains public funding for insurance for abortion or illegal immigrants — as the bills in consideration right now do . In fact Sebelius’s statement does sort of sound like a step in that direction.
But without coming right out and saying it and conforming his actions to his words, Obama and his administration are either dishonest or inarticulate.