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.”