The tale of what Bachmann says she heard Obama mutter

If Bachmann is right about Obama’s secret intentions, the president would be moving in her and Paul Ryan’s direction.
REUTERS/Sean Gardner
If Bachmann is right about Obama’s secret intentions, the president would be moving in her and Paul Ryan’s direction.

In my week-ago post, headlined “Bachmann is on fire,” I confessed that after hearing Michele Bachmann at the June 18 RightOnline conference, and seeing the audience’s reaction, I could imagine, for the first time, that Bachmann could become the Republican nominee. I don’t predict that outcome; but, for the first time, I could imagine it occurring. I don’t take that back, at least not all the way back. But an important brick in the edifice of my logic (that’s intended as self-mockery) may have crumbled before my eyes without my noticing it at the time. Hence this post.

I wrote last Monday that Bachmann seems to have figured out how to fire up the base without saying things that are wildly inaccurate or strike the mainstream as crazy. I guess I was wrong, and I kick myself because I heard this myself and didn’t think about it seriously enough at the time.

But, yes, Bachmann did say something fairly new that seems to combine some elements of both inaccurate and crazy and I just didn’t focus on it until others called attention to it. (Actually she had said the same thing to the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans the day before she said it in Minneapolis.)

OK, what is this crazy/inaccurate thing:

Bachmann said that President Obama has a secret plan to end Medicare as we know it and slide citizens into the Obamacare program, where their health care can be rationed by unelected bureaucrats.

When the Washington Post called the Bachmann campaign for backup on this allegation, they got no response. The Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler and others who have thought about Bachmann’s claim (like Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly) have noted the irony that if senior citizens were, in fact, slid into the mainstream health-care system as influenced by the big Obama health-care bill, they would be treated substantially the way they would be treated if Paul Ryan’s Medicare were adopted – and Bachmann voted for the Ryan plan. So if Bachmann is right about Obama’s secret intentions, the president would be moving in her and Ryan’s direction.

That’s if Bachmann is right about Obama’s plan. After getting no backup from Bachmann, Kessler gave Bachmann’s statement four Pinocchios, the lowest rating on the Post scale. But since I was present for a different presentation of Bachmann’s claim about Obma’s secret Medicare plan, I can help with at least some of the backup that Bachmann offered for the claim.

At RightOnline, Bachmann told the audience that her belief about Obama’s secret intentions was based on something that she says she heard Obama mumble at a private meeting. According to Bachmann, when Obama was pressed for his long-range solution to the projected shortfall in Medicare, he muttered: “But we have Obamacare.”

Bachmann was quite explicit with the RightOnline audience about her source for the belief that Obama wanted to end Medicare, and it was from that mutterance.

Not to be overly skeptical of Bachmann’s account, but it does seem unlikely that Obama would have mumbled that particular phrase, since he does not refer to the Affordable Care Act as “Obamacare.” It also seems unlikely that Bachmann would have sole knowledge of such a mutterance, which presumably would have occurred at a group meeting with others — including other Repub members of Congress — present.

Text of Bachmann remarks
Below, based on my own tape of Bachmann’s RightOnline speech, is the whole tale of the Obama mutterance in full context.

Bachmann: “The issue of Obamacare … You cannot talk about this issue enough. Because Obamacare,  the government takeover of health care, the American version of socialized medicine — and I am proud to say it because that’s exactly what it is.

“Obamacare is the symbol of the difference between constitutional conservatives and the liberal left. Whether you’re talking about spending or debt or jobs or government overreach, Obamacare says it all.

“And the liberals have been very busy … scaring senior citizens over the issue of Medicare. They’re itching to get back to that fight.

“There’s a story that I want all of you to go out and tell, because just like [righty blogger] Andrew Breitbart told you last night: Get off your heels, stop being on defense, be on offense, because on Medicare, we’ve got the story that we need to tell. And this is it.

“Two weeks ago, I was in a closed-door private meeting at the White House with Barack Obama.

In that meeting, the president was asked, not once, not twice but three times: ‘Mr President: What is your plan on Medicare? Because the statistics in Washington, D.C., tell us that Medicare is going to be flat broke in 13 years. Flat broke.’ ”

[Me: That’s nonsense, of course, if “flat broke’ means to you what it means to me, namely “out of money.” But it is true, of course, that projections show Medicare in 2024 will be paying out more than it takes in. And this is no small thing. Just not “flat broke.” Now back to Bachmann, where she is describing what Obama was asked at the private meeting:]

“ ‘Then what do senior citizens in this country do Mr President? What is your plan?’

“Of course he was dancing around the question. He didn’t want to give an answer even though the media weren’t present in the room, he didn’t want to give an answer, because the answer was no, he doesn’t have a plan. But something was very revealing in the comments that the president said. He mumbled: ‘But we have Obamacare.’

“And this is something that’s very serious and hasn’t come out yet. Because President Obama and his liberal compatriots want you to think that Medicare is going to continue to go on as it currently is for senior citizens if Barack Obama stays in power.

“Here’s the dirty little secret that I hope all of you and tell the world …

“I believe that President Obama’s plan is that Medicare obviously won’t be able to continue, and so senior citizens won’t have Medicare.

“They’ll be rolled into Obamacare. That’s the future for senior citizens in this country.

“And nobody has told this story.”

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Comments (30)

  1. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/27/2011 - 08:35 am.

    She lives in a bubble, she came from a bubble, she works in a bubble. She can’t help it. Whereas Pawlenty is playing to the Tea Party, Bachmann IS is the Tea Party. The Tea Party is wrenching the Republican Party apart, and it couldn’t happen to a nicer group of people.

  2. Submitted by John N. Finn on 06/27/2011 - 08:36 am.

    I don’t see how this would lessen her chances of getting the Republican nomination.

  3. Submitted by Jeff Wilfahrt on 06/27/2011 - 08:39 am.

    “And nobody has told this story.”

    If taken literally the woman has just called herself a nobody by my use of the language.

    Is she speaking English?

    Jeff Wilfahrt, Rosemount, MN

  4. Submitted by Tim Walker on 06/27/2011 - 08:41 am.

    One might want to examine the President’s schedule two or so weeks ago and see if he did indeed have “a closed-door private meeting at the White House” with Michele Bachmann (and presumably a few other pols).

    I wouldn’t put it past Bachmann to lie even about a meeting actually taking place.

  5. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 06/27/2011 - 08:44 am.

    Instead of taking a firm stand, I’ve vacillated between thinking Michele Bachmann is dumb as a post on the one hand, knowing almost nothing and proudly displaying that intellectual vacuum to the general populace, or is merely another ignorant theocrat on the other hand, substituting delusion for reason while managing, nonetheless, to emulate the calculating media cleverness of Sarah Palin.

    I’m still stuck in that same place, and this story does nothing to help me make up my mind.

    “…health care can be rationed by unelected bureaucrats” sounds to me very much like placing senior citizens – I am one – in the hands of insurance companies. Anyone who has, or has had, health coverage through a private insurance company knows full well that rationing by unelected bureaucrats is, in fact, a finely-tuned specialty of private health insurance. Some anonymous clerk in an office in a distant city decides that the fine print on page 23, paragraph 2, lines 5 and 6, won’t allow the company to cover your expenses for whatever condition or treatment it is that you thought was covered, and for which you’ve been paying sizable premiums over the past ‘x number’ of years.

    Eric seems right on the mark – if Bachmann is correct, Obama is “secretly” intending to move me and other seniors into the Ryan health care “plan.” If that’s the case, there’s no reason AT ALL for Bachmann to oppose “Obamacare,” since its secret intent is to move all of us old people into fiscal and health care purgatory via the Ryan “plan.” Thus her continued criticism of “Obamacare” is… um… contrary to her own stated interests and beliefs.

    I’d say that qualifies as, if not crazy, then certainly dysfunctional.

    I’m inclined to view Bachmann’s expected announcement that she’s running for the GOP nomination for president as a sign of the apocalypse. That she has any credibility at all represents both a massive failure on the part of local and national media and a testament to the ignorance – factual, political, scientific, et al – of far too many members of the party of Abraham Lincoln, who must be rolling in his grave.

  6. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/27/2011 - 08:46 am.

    Just a good old fashioned demagogue.

  7. Submitted by Nate Pete on 06/27/2011 - 08:54 am.

    10 to 1, there was no meeting two weeks ago.

  8. Submitted by Matthew Levitt on 06/27/2011 - 09:02 am.

    5 to 1 it changes nothing (and matters not to her supporters nor detractors).

  9. Submitted by Diane Clare on 06/27/2011 - 09:12 am.

    There are some that say, you can read it in the healthcare bill, if you are inclined to read it.
    I’m not going to bother reading it, but will believe it until someone who has, shows me that it really doesn’t say it.

  10. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/27/2011 - 09:44 am.

    It’s a matter of public record that the plan was/is to take $500 billion from Medicare to help pay for Medicare. (The democrats say, “no, no, that $500 billion isn’t a cut, it’s anticipated “savings.”)

    Now, what do you think is going to happen to a government program that has $500 billion taken away from it at a time when more people then ever will be enrolled?

  11. Submitted by myles spicer on 06/27/2011 - 09:58 am.

    In the past few days, Bachmann has toned down her rhetoric in a desparate attempt to now appear rational. This is a classic case of “putting lipstick on a pig” (no, I am not calling her a “pig”, just using a common phrase well used by Sarah Palin).

    The history of her misstatements and bizarre utterances is simply too loong for her to run from, and as they emerge I predict she will be spending most of her time defending them rather than on the offensive. Would love to see her as the GOP candidate in 2012.

  12. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 06/27/2011 - 09:59 am.

    I’m not sure if #9 is meant as sarcasm?

    But it accurately (if humorously?) reflects the dysfonic worldview that so many of our “conservative” friend’s psychological dysfunctions require them to wrap around themselves.

    To wit: someone who agrees with me has told me something I desperately want to believe, therefore I trust that person and am reinforced in my belief that what I want to believe MUST be true. I trust this person (because they agree with me) so, therefore, no fact checking or research is required on my part.

    Anyone who questions the honesty, veracity or knowledge of the person who’s telling me what I want and need to hear can easily be discredited and dismissed as a member of the “liberal elites.”

    Therefore, I will only “know” what I am told by those I trust to tell me what I want to hear, and will automatically reject any information provided by someone who’s telling me something that doesn’t fit my dysfonic worldview. In fact, it’s likely I won’t even be able to comprehend what they’re saying as soon as I realize that it’s not what I want to hear.

    Even God is rejected if God tries to make a path into such a self-referential bubble, such folks worshiping, in the place of the God of Jesus and the prophets a “god” invented by themselves in the image of their own dysfunctions.

  13. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 06/27/2011 - 10:04 am.

    Ditto for #10.

    Of course if a Republican were proposing such cuts, it would simply be to “eliminate waste, fraud and abuse,”…

    but when a Democratic-sponsored program is seeking to save money by spreading carefully-designed, “best practices” such as those used routinely at the Mayo Clinic,…

    It must surely translate into “death panels,” mustn’t it?

  14. Submitted by Lora Jones on 06/27/2011 - 10:22 am.

    #10 The “cuts” to Medicare are not cuts to Medicare, per se, but involve stopping the failed experiment called “medicare advantage,” whereby insurance companies step in as intermediaries and rake in profits with increased administrative costs.

  15. Submitted by Lora Jones on 06/27/2011 - 10:26 am.

    #10 Medicare advantage was one of the Repugs boondoggles, attempting to prove that for-profit businesses are more cost effective than government. Big NOT. for a minimal number of “increased services” (read chiropracty, acupuncture, etc. nice to have but not the essential and critical health care the program was designed to provide to seniors), our private sector buddies have been raking in our tax dollars and padding their execs salaries. Will some seniors be upset because their no longer getting extras for free? You betcha! Does it make the change any less fiscally responsible and cost effective? not a chance.

  16. Submitted by Steve Sundberg on 06/27/2011 - 10:28 am.

    ::: sigh :::

    Bachmann, admittedly, hears voices. That IMHO is the only way she would ever hear Pres. Obama use “Obamacare” in a sentence re: Medicare shortfall.

  17. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 06/27/2011 - 10:36 am.

    Every time I hear a Bachmann supporter, they like her because she sounds like “the average person”. When I choose a doctor, a lawyer, a plumber, an auto mechanic, etc. I don’t want “the average person”, I want someone with special education and abilities to solve my problems. Why….WHY…would I want an “average person” to run my country?

  18. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 06/27/2011 - 10:40 am.

    …Now, what do you think is going to happen to a government program that has $500 billion taken away from it at a time when more people then ever will be enrolled?…

    Mr. Tester, why don’t you use your prognosticating power and tell us what will happen when Medicare is totally turned over to the private insurers, as it would be under the Ryan plan?

  19. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 06/27/2011 - 10:42 am.

    So Obama, in a private meeting with Bachmann (and others), is reduced to mumbling under his breath about “Obamacare”?

    Does that even sound credible?


  20. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 06/27/2011 - 10:49 am.

    I honestly wish that the media would do it’s job and outright point out that someone’s lying–not stretching the truth, not give them a rating of 4 pinoccio’s, just simply start the story out with “Michele Bachmann is lying through her teeth.” Now, in this case, Eric doesn’t know for a fact that she is. But, if there was no “closed door meeting,” you can probably bet that she is. And, I’m reasonably sure that any such “closed door meeting” would NOT include Ms. Bachmann as the ONLY Republican pol, and if SHE heard it (I doubt she was sitting so close that no one else could), someone else would have. I highly doubt that any of those pols could keep their mouth shut.

    Lie or not, she’s not only accusing the President of saying such a thing, but she’s accusing her fellow Republicans from being cowards for not tattling, and the media for being imbeciles for not reporting (nevermind that it was a “closed door meeting.”)

  21. Submitted by will lynott on 06/27/2011 - 12:33 pm.

    #20, you know she likes to drape herself around a president’s neck. Maybe that’s how she heard it and no one else did.

  22. Submitted by Brian Simon on 06/27/2011 - 12:42 pm.

    If we accept that Rep Bachmann might have been paraphrasing the President, rather than quoting him, her version of the story has a grain of plausibility.

    The Affordable Care Act has provisions that are designed to ‘bend the cost curve,’ (the President’s phrasing). i.e. if Congress does its job, the cost of Medicare will be lower than projected (i.e. the growth rate will slow) and the date of going into the red is pushed out. I could imagine the President making some comment to that effect & Rep Bachmann reporting it as ‘he muttered ‘but we have obamacare”.

    And in offering that explanation, I am giving Rep Bachmann far more leeway than she deserves.

  23. Submitted by Josh Lease on 06/27/2011 - 01:08 pm.

    Look, there might have been a closed door meeting. Bachmann may have even been invited to attend, and she may well have gone. But 1) no way does President Obama ever call his health care reform plan “Obamacare”, and 2) Bachmann mouthing off about what may or may not have been said behind those closed doors guarantees she won’t be invited back.

    Elected officials have those kinds of closed door meeting in order to get a little candor and be able to say things without spin. As much as I like openness in government, sometimes you have to shut the doors and let people work. Because Michele is looking to score some political points while running for Congress, she’ll casually violate a trust by speaking in the first place and lie about what was said in the second place. Talk about untrustworthy!

    Who would ever want to negotiate with her? What world leader would trust her? What Congressional leader would trust her? In her quest to take control of the country, she’s proving she’d be incapable of getting anything done or being an effective leader.

  24. Submitted by Mark Stromseth on 06/27/2011 - 02:43 pm.

    @Diane Clare

    “I’m not going to bother reading it, but will believe it until someone who has, shows me that it really doesn’t say it.”

    That sums it up for willful ignorance, just like all Repubs and Tea Party crazies.

    @Dennis Tester

    “Now, what do you think is going to happen to a government program that has $500 billion taken away from it at a time when more people then ever will be enrolled? ”

    Nothing will happen, because $500 billion isn’t being taken away. The amount is $500 million in savings, from disbursements to private insurance companies.

    Apparently, math was not your strongest subject in school.

    @Steve Sundberg

    “Bachmann, admittedly, hears voices. That IMHO is the only way she would ever hear Pres. Obama use “Obamacare” in a sentence re: Medicare shortfall.”

    It’s all explained by this:

    They say I suffer from delusions
    I’m so confident I’m sane
    It can’t be an optical illusion
    So how can you explain
    Shadows in the rain

  25. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/27/2011 - 04:21 pm.

    It’s easy enough to check. “Two weeks before” Rep. Bachmann’s statement was a Saturday, and the President’s schedule listed no meetings with members of Congress on that date, or the next day, or the day before (he was in Toledo), for that matter.

    Why would Rep. Bachmann be invited to a closed-door meeting at the White House? She is neither part of the official House leadership nor a committee chair. Heads of play groups like the Tea Party Caucus (a.k.a. Get Rid Of Slimy liberalS) aren’t included. Let’s just say it: she’s lying, and the people who believe her are fools.

  26. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 06/27/2011 - 06:58 pm.

    The Congressional Budget Office notes that, while the Affordable Care Act, insurance for a 65-year-old Medicare patient would run $14,770 per year, of which the senior would pay $6,150.

    The Ryan “free market principles” plan, on the other hand, shows that having to purchase private insurance (with the help of an $8,000 voucher from the government) toward insurance costing $20,510 per year would still cost the senior $12,510.

    (The Ryan plan is a “premium support” plan like the one Minnesota Republicans envision to replace MinnesotaCAre, which would price 100,000 to 140,000 or more low-income workers out of the insurance market altogether. B – a – d plans.)

    The Affordable Care Act is not perfect by any means. It will not lower insurance premium costs or health care costs and will still leave about 30 million Americans without insurance. Compared to what the Tea Party would have in store for us, however, it is a gem.

  27. Submitted by will lynott on 06/27/2011 - 07:02 pm.

    I can’t believe it–Bachmann lying? Oh my, another illusion gone…

    And people are seriously thinking of voting for her for president??

  28. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/27/2011 - 07:12 pm.

    For more of the wisdom of Michele Bachmann, see

  29. Submitted by Hal Davis on 06/27/2011 - 07:51 pm.

    ==Why….WHY…would I want an “average person” to run my country? ==

    Because it’s the Roman Hruska way.

    After Nixon nominated G. Harrold Carswell for the Supreme Court, the GOP senator from Nebraska responded to criticism that Carswell had been a mediocre judge:

    “Even if he were mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren’t they, and a little chance? We can’t have all Brandeises, Frankfurters and Cardozos and stuff like that there.”

  30. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/28/2011 - 10:37 am.

    My link at #28 got truncated: here it is:,0,3201930.story?track=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+latimes%2Fnews+%28L.A.+Times+-+Top+News%29

    Still haven’t seen this in the (supposedly) left-leaning STrib.

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