By Nancy Thorner and Ed Ingold -
Jay Carney held a press conference in advance of the President’s address on Tuesday, December 3rd, which was billed as the start of a three-week push to redirect the conversation about HealthCare.gov and the health care reform law.
As on so many other occasions, the Press Secretary chooses words very carefully, seeming to say one thing but often meaning quite another. This goes beyond misleading, and the technique is used by this administration more than any others in recent history. You have to listen very carefully, and be prepared to consider what is not being said as much as the words themselves. Ask yourself, “Do I hear words being parsed?”
Although President Obama is no stranger to parsing words, and excels at it, if you listen carefully you can hear Press Secretary Jay Carney likewise exhibit proficiency in parsing his words when speaking in front of a press gaggle.
Perhaps the most egregious example occurred during the second Presidential debate in 2012. When challenged by Governor Romney over his misstatements regarding the Benghazi attack, the President interrupted with the declaration, “I recognized it as terrorism the very next day at a press conference in the Rose Garden.” He produced a document which moderator Candy Crowley quickly confirmed.
In fact, the President described Benghazi as “… an act of terrorism.” This is not the same as saying “an act of terrorists,” leaving him free to describe the event as “a spontaneous attack, instigated by an offensive video.” The President and his staff continued to mislead the public with this narrative for over two weeks.
Perhaps reporters don't listen carefully enough either? Then too, reporters are apt to take words at face value if the words spoken don't deviate from their held perception of the individual or situation.
Good reporters don’t insert their own opinions directly, rather use only words uttered by the speaker. (Opinions come from the selection of those words.) Despite some push back by the press media, much of the press gaggle is still enamored with Obama's agenda.
Following are some gems from Carney's press conference of December 3, and several examples of Obama's parsing of words. Each statement is followed by what Carney or Obama didn't say, but which could be construed from their parsed words. Statements credited to Carney and Obama are paraphrased:
1. Carney: Millions of people started receiving benefits of the Affordable Care Act in 2014, like coverage for pre-existing conditions and no lifetime benefit limits. Moreover, they don’t have to pay any more for these benefits.
Translation: They don’t have to pay more than everyone else, since the mandates apply to everyone, whether you need them or not. These two mandates alone roughly double the cost of providing health insurance. The added cost is offset by doubling or tripling the deductible amount from the benefits. Since about 62% of Americans will receive discounts on their premiums, 38% of the population must make up the difference. There’s no free lunch.
2. Carney: People using healthcare.gov aren’t getting error messages any more (in response to a reporter’s question).
Translation: Error messages have been replaced with a message advising you to wait in a queue, or try again when the system is not so busy. (Amazon routinely handles twenty times the number of simultaneous users as healthcare.gov.) Once you are in a “queue”, you never get out unless you hang up and try all over again. Error messages aren’t automatic, they’re programmed into the system. They say what the programmer makes them say. (If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.
3. Obama (to Barbara Walters): People still trust me. That’s why they elected me in 2012.
Translation: They elected me, in part, because they believed my false promises about keeping their plans and doctors, while accusing my opponent of wanting to deny them health care.
4. Obama: Romney lost because he falsely accused 47% of the country of voting for me because of the promise of a free stuff that only the rich people would pay for.
Translation: The number is actually over 60%.
5. Obama: If it weren’t for the Affordable Care Act, 30 million people would be without health insurance.
Translation: According to White House emails, by the time Obamacare is fully implemented in 2017, there will remain 30 million people without health insurance. Due to mandates of Obamacare, this number is closer to 40 million in 2014.
It is any wonder why both President Obama and Jay Carney become testy at times. There is power in the spoken words but their is also power behind the unspoken word. In time it becomes more and more difficult to parse words as public distrust and disbelief set in (and understanding).
Like Humpty Dumpty, who secure on the wall was shattered in a great fall and couldn't be put back together again, will Obama, once secure and adored as president parse words one too many time, only to have his administration and his dreams come tumbling down around him?