The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

November 16, 2013

White House faces credibility problem

By Jeff Mullin, columnist
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — I was once named People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive.”

I have climbed Mount Everest, run with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, and won a Pulitzer Prize.

I am 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds of pure muscle.

I am, of course, lying.

Bearing false witness is perhaps the easiest of the Ten Commandments to break. Telling untruths is not one of the Seven Deadly Sins, but it probably should be.

Why do we lie? To build ourselves up, to make ourselves sound grander than we really are. We inflate our experience, our education, our accomplishments. Resume-padding has become endemic. The practice cost former Yahoo chief executive officer Scott Thompson his job in 2012 when it was discovered he lied about details of his college degree.

The same thing happened in 2002 to Kenneth Lonchar, chief financial officer at Veritas Software. In 2008, celebrity chef Robert Irvine lost his Food Network TV show after the network found out he lied about work he had done for Britain’s royal family and the White House.

George O’Leary was canned in 2001 after just five days on the job as Notre Dame’s head football coach after he was caught lying about having a master’s degree and having won three varsity letters at the University of New Hampshire.

We lie to save our own bacon. Me, no, I didn’t break that lamp, mom, it must have been Joey.

We lie to avoid hurting someone else’s feelings. Yeah, that mustache makes you look sexy. We lie to ourselves. Just one more doughnut won’t hurt.

We know why we lie. Recent research conducted by Harvard University now pinpoints when we lie. As the day wears on, the researchers found, we are more likely to cheat and lie. In one test, subjects were 44 percent more likely to fib in the afternoon; in another test, the number was 22 percent.

Politicians lie. We have come to accept this as a fact of life. We don’t like it, but we know it to be true.

But when a president tells an untruth, we are somehow shocked, as if he, of all people, should be above such a thing.

In the run-up to implementation of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama said repeatedly that if someone had health coverage and liked it, they could keep it. That turned out not to be true. Thousands of people faced cancellation of their private health insurance. Now, whether the president was lying or was simply was misinformed is debatable, but the White House reportedly knew that 67 percent of customers with individual insurance plans would have their policies canceled because they don’t meet the ACA’s minimum standards.

Many of these people will automatically be shifted to other plans that meet the minimum requirement, but many will have to pay higher premiums for their improved coverage.

On Thursday, the president fell on his sword, saying problems with the rollout of his health care plan were “on me” and announcing changes to the law that would allow insurance companies the option to keep offering consumers plans that would otherwise be canceled, at least for one year. Keep in mind the companies have the option — they are under no obligation to offer customers the same plan they had before the ACA.

Last week, the president acknowledged the problem and apologized to those whose policies were being canceled.

“I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me," he said in an interview with NBC News.

On Thursday, he apologized to Congressional Democrats for putting them in jeopardy as the 2014 mid-term elections approach.

The rollout of the ACA has been a general disaster. On Wednesday, the administration revealed, that because of the balky ACA website, fewer than 27,000 people signed up for private health insurance since the law went into effect.

The concept of the ACA is generally a good one — trying to insure the uninsured, allowing people to be covered regardless of pre-existing conditions, allowing parents to keep their children on their health plans longer — but the execution has been sadly flawed.

The administration should have made sure all the holes were plugged before they launched this leaky ship, but they failed to do so. Now all they can do is bail.

The president, and his party, have a larger problem, however — rebuilding their shattered credibility.

“Am I going to have to do some work to rebuild confidence around some of our initiatives?” the president asked. “Yes.”

No lie.

Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at