Obamacare Debate an Ugly Process Lacking in Transparency Says…President Obama

Obamacare Debate an Ugly Process Lacking in Transparency Says…President Obama

Thursday the White House pushed back on the claim that the passage of Obamacare lacked transparency. But President Obama has already admitted that was the case in a major interview with ABC News broadcast in January 2010.

Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber was caught on video at an event last year saying a “lack of transparency” was a big “political advantage” in the process of passing the bill into law. This clip and several more like it have been leading the non-network news cycle for most of the week.

Yesterday White House spokesman Josh Earnest was asked about Gruber’s claim. Earnest denied it was accurate saying, “The fact of the matter is, the process associated with the writing and
passing and implementing of the Affordable Care Act has been
extraordinarily transparent.” He added that President Obama, “is proud of the transparent process that was undertaken to pass that bill into law.”

Actually, President Obama was not at all proud of the process that led to the law’s passage. In a January 2010 interview with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer, Obama described it as an “ugly process” and added, “it looks like there are a bunch of back room deals.” The President admitted the lack of transparency had raised legitimate concerns even among his own supporters. “Part of what I had campaigned on was changing how Washington
works, opening up transparency and I think it is — I think the health
care debate as it unfolded legitimately raised concerns not just among
my opponents, but also amongst supporters…” he told Sawyer.

At the time, President Obama seemed to take some responsibility for the lack of transparency in the process saying, “we started worrying more about getting
the policy right than getting the process right.” He promised to “own up to the fact” that the process hadn’t lived up to his ideals.

During the 2008 campaign, President Obama repeatedly promised that negotiations for a health reform bill would be put on C-Span so everyone could witness the process. While C-Span did cover votes and other congressional action on the bill, the all important negotiations remained private. Politifact rated it a broken campaign promise.

Ironically, by the end of 2010 then Deputy White House spokesman Josh Earnest had threatened and the cut off C-Span over a spat about a mildly embarrassing interview of the President. C-Span confirmed to the Washington Post that they have not had any interviews with a major White House figure in the four years since.

Here is the exchange between Diane Sawyer and President Obama. When the interview aired (clip below courtesy of TPM) the last part of the President’s answer was edited out.

SAWYER: Health care — going forward, should all the conversations, all
the meetings be on C-SPAN?

OBAMA: You know, I think your question points out to a legitimate
mistake that I made during the course of the year, and that is that we
had to make so many decisions quickly in a very difficult set of
circumstances that after awhile, we started worrying more about getting
the policy right than getting the process right. But I had campaigned on
process. Part of what I had campaigned on was changing how Washington
works, opening up transparency and I think it is — I think the health
care debate as it unfolded legitimately raised concerns not just among
my opponents, but also amongst supporters that we just don’t know what’s
going on. And it’s an ugly process and it looks like there are a bunch
of back room deals.

Now I think it’s my responsibility and I’ll be speaking to this at the
State of the Union, to own up to the fact that the process didn’t run
the way I ideally would like it to and that we have to move forward in a
way that recaptures that sense of opening things up more.


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