During his 1996 reelection campaign, President Bill Clinton famously recounted “vivid and painful memories of black churches being burned in my own state when I was a child.” It was a moving story, and it helped shore up his sagging support among minority voters. It was also a lie. As the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and a variety of other publications pointed out at the time, no such atrocities had occurred in Arkansas during Slick Willie’s formative years. Until recently, Clinton’s church-burning whopper appeared to be the most egregious modern example of crass and cynical prevarication by a presidential candidate. It has, however, now been supplanted by President Obama’s oft-repeated tale about his mother’s fictional struggle with her health insurance company while she was battling cancer.
Throughout his 2008 presidential bid, Obama attributed his passion for health care reform to painful memories of his mother’s battle with a health insurance company that allegedly tried to avoid paying her medical bills on the pretext that her disease predated her coverage. He used her image in a campaign ad as far back as September of 2007, and he often told the tale during his primary battle with Hillary Clinton. In a New Hampshire debate he phrased it thus: “When I think about health care, I think about my mother, who, when she was dying of cancer, had to read an insurance form because she had just gotten a new job and they were trying to figure out whether or not this was going to be treated as a preexisting condition and whether or not they would pay her medical bills.”
Like Bill Clinton’s anecdote about charred black churches, the story of Obama’s mother was moving. And, like Clinton’s tale, it was a work of fiction. Questions were raised about the accuracy of this tale as soon as Obama began peddling it, but the “news” media ignored them and he continued to repeat it even after he had been elected President. He included it, for example, in a 2009 speech to the AMA: “I will never forget watching my own mother… worrying about whether her insurer would claim her illness was a preexisting condition.” And, during the height of the ObamaCare debate, he told the attendees of a town hall meeting, “I will never forget my own mother, as she fought cancer in her final months, having to worry about whether her insurance would refuse to pay for her treatment.”
Now, the President’s veracity concerning his mother’s dealings with her health insurance company has once again been questioned in a new biography of Ann Dunham. Author Janny Scott writes, in A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother, that there was never any attempt by Ann Dunham’s health insurance company to deny payment for her medical bills. Scott is a former reporter for that notorious hive of wingnuts and Tea Partiers, the New York Times, and her book makes it clear that Obama’s mother had health insurance through her job and that it covered her medical treatment: “[T]he hospital billed her insurance company directly, leaving Ann to pay only the deductible and any uncovered expenses, which, she said, came to several hundred dollars a month.”
Like all truly effective lies, however, there is a tiny kernel of truth to Obama’s story. Even the best health insurance policies, such as those enjoyed by members of labor unions that supported the President during his campaign, include deductibles — a cost-sharing mechanism designed to bring down monthly premiums and prevent over-utilization of health services. In 1995, when Obama’s mother was hospitalized, this feature was typical of a well designed health insurance plan. Instead of turning to her son, who by that time had the resources to help her, Dunham apparently tried to defray her deductible as well as her living expenses by obtaining payment through a separate disability policy. That claim was indeed denied because her condition was already well-documented before that policy had gone into effect.
Twelve years after these unhappy events, Ann Dunham’s son needed a useful campaign narrative that would support his plan to impose government-run health care on an unwilling electorate. Thus, Obama deliberately rearranged the facts of his mother’s “battle” with the insurance company to make it appear that the evil minions of the health care industrial complex had foully mistreated his poor widowed mother when she was dying of cancer. This allowed him to tell audience after audience that the struggle for universal health care was, for him, an intensely “personal” crusade and to claim that he would never rest until such wrongs had been righted. Like most pathological liars, he probably began to believe the tale himself after telling it several hundred times.
Nonetheless, it was indeed a lie. Not that this matters a whit to Obama’s allies in the mainstream media. They continue to ignore or brush off this tawdry tale. The very people who accused George W. Bush of “lying us into war” because he made a poor verb choice in a United Nations speech tell us that Obama’s egregious whopper about his mother only matters to desperate conservatives trying to bring down the President. The reaction of Salon is typical: “The RedState/TownHall crowd is feasting on this Obama ‘lie.’ And why wouldn’t they? If Bill Clinton was an all-you-can-eat buffet of half-truths and scandals, Saint Barack of Chicago has been nothing but thin gruel all the way.” In reality, of course, precisely the reverse is true. The man rarely opens his mouth without telling some stretcher.
Throughout the ObamaCare debate, he consistently lied about his ultimate intentions, the cost and the contents of the legislation. And since its passage, he has told whopper after whopper about the benefits of PPACA. In fact, his predilection for prevarication has been one of the reasons it has been so difficult for the GOP to put together deals with the White House on Medicare reform, the debt limit and a variety of other serious issues. No one with any sense believes anything he says. How can one trust a man who deliberately and repeatedly lied about the death of his own mother for cheap political gain? “Saint Barack of Chicago” is so profoundly dishonest that even a grifter like Bill Clinton seems trustworthy in comparison.
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