'Facts Are Stubborn Things,' Says White House, Taking On 'Disinformation'

In a blog titled "Facts Are Stubborn Things," White House director of new media Macon Phillips writes that "Opponents of health insurance reform may find the truth a little inconvenient, but as our second president famously said, 'facts are stubborn things.'"

Phillips was referring to John Adams' representation of the eight British soldiers who killed five civilians in the Boston Massacre. Defending the soldiers , Adams said that "at certain critical seasons, even in the mildest government, the people are liable to run into riots and tumults," arguing that the possibility of such events "is in direct proportion to the despotism of the government ," he said. "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."

Adams succeed in getting six of the eight soldiers acquitted of manslaughter while Adams got the sentences of the other two, convicted of murder, reduced on a legal technicality extended to those who could read and write.

But I digress.

Continued Phillips: "Scary chain emails and videos are starting to percolate on the internet, breathlessly claiming, for example, to 'uncover' the truth about the President’s health insurance reform positions."

To counter these scary chain emails and videos, the White House released this video, as first reported this morning by Politico's Mike Allen :

“Hi. I’m Linda Douglass," says the former ABC News correspondent turned Obama spokeswoman. "I’m the communications director for the White House Office of Health Reform, and one of my jobs is to keep track of all the disinformation that’s out there about health-insurance reform."

Douglass says "there are a lot of very deceiving headlines out there right now, such as this one, take a look at this one. This one says, ‘Uncovered Video: Obama Explains How His Health Care Plan Will Eliminate Private Insurance.’ Well, nothing can be farther from the truth. You know, the people who always try to scare people whenever you try to bring them health-insurance reform are at it again. And they’re taking sentences and phrases out of context, and cobbling them together to leave a very false impression."

Continues Douglass: "The truth is that the president has been talking to the American people a lot about health-insurance reform and what is at stake for them. So what happens is that because he’s talking to the American people so much, there are people out there with a computer and a lot of free time, and they take a phrase here and there -- they simply cherry-pick and put it together -- and make it sound like he’s saying something that he didn’t really say."

The clip in question is then-Sen. Obama saying, "I don't think we're going to be able to eliminate employer coverage immediately…There's going to be potentially some transition process. I can envision a decade out or 15 years out or 20 years out…"

That's combined with a clip of then-state Sen. Obama in 2003 saying he supports a single payer system, spliced with recent sound bites from liberal Democrats in Congress saying they hope the government run health insurance plan the President supports will lead to single payer health care.

The video in question comes from a March 2007 candidates' forum in which then-Sen. Obama said, in full:

"I think that we're going to have to have some system where people can buy into a larger pool. Right now their pool typically is the employer, but there are other ways of doing it. ... I would hope that we could set up a system that allows those who can go through their employer to access a federal system or a state pool of some sort. But I don't think we're going to be able to eliminate employer coverage immediately. There's going to be potentially some transition process. I can envision a decade out or 15 years out or 20 years out where we've got a much more portable system. Employers still have the option of providing coverage, but many people may find that they get better coverage, or at least coverage that gives them more for health care dollars than they spend outside of their employer. And I think we've got to facilitate that and let individuals make that choice to transition out of employer coverage."

The president in recent days has been expressing concern about the "scare tactics" being used by opponents of his health care reform proposal.

"Nobody is talking about some government takeover of health care; I'm tired of hearing that," he said at a Raleigh, NC, town meeting . "Under the reform I've proposed, if you like your doctor, you keep your doctor. If you like your health care plan, you keep your health care plan. These folks need to stop scaring everybody. Nobody is talking about you forcing -- to have to change your plans."

At the AARP town hall meeting last week , a woman named Mary told the president that "I have been told there is a clause in there that everyone that's Medicare age will be visited and told to decide how they wish to die. This bothers me greatly and I'd like for you to promise me that this is not in this bill."

"You know, I guarantee you, first of all, we just don't have enough government workers to send to talk to everybody, to find out how they want to die," the president said. "I think that the only thing that may have been proposed in some of the bills -- and I actually think this is a good thing -- is that it makes it easier for people to fill out a living will."

After explaining what a living will is, and that he and his wife each have one, the president said, "I think the idea there is to simply make sure that a living will process is easier for people -- it doesn't require you to hire a lawyer or to take up a lot of time. But everything is going to be up to you. And if you don't want to fill out a living will, you don't have to...But, Mary, I just want to be clear: Nobody is going to be knocking on your door; nobody is going to be telling you you've got to fill one out. And certainly nobody is going to be forcing you to make a set of decisions on end-of-life care based on some bureaucratic law in Washington."

In Bristol, VA, a woman named Charlotte Norman said, "rumor has it that if we get this new health-care system in, that we won't get the health care, our doctors and all, that we have now; that, virtually, people -- older American citizens would just be put out to pasture. Please tell me that isn't so."

"It isn't so," said the president. "Nothing burns me up more than hearing some of these scare tactics directed at seniors, you know, because seniors, they're vulnerable and they get worried about some of this stuff. And they get some, you know, crazy flier in the mail and, you know, they get scared that they might lose their -- their care."

Continued the president, "So let me just be absolutely clear: Medicare is in place, and as long as I'm there, and even long after I'm gone, Medicare will continue to be in place. We're not going to mess with Medicare."

The president details some ways he hoped to make Medicare more efficient, but told Norman, "tell your mom nobody's messing with her doctor. Nobody's messing with her Medicare. And people should not believe all this stuff they hear."

-- jpt

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