Bob Franken

AARP to President Obama: What You’re Saying Isn’t So


Just as President Obama complains about the “misinformation” about health care proposals spewing from his opponents, one of his allies has caught him in some misinformation of his own.

At his lovefest town-hall session in New Hampshire on Tuesday, the president denied charges he intends to cut Medicare benefits. “We are not,” he said, “AARP would not be endorsing a bill if it was undermining Medicare. Okay?”

It was not okay. AARP Chief Operating Officer Tom Nelson quickly churned out a statement:

“While the President was correct that AARP will not endorse a health care reform bill that would reduce Medicare benefits, indications that we have endorsed any of the major health care reform bills currently under consideration in Congress are inaccurate.”

Inaccurate??!! Is that the same as “misinformation”? It may be a matter of degree. AARP (which doesn’t like to be called by its old name, the American Association of Retired Persons) continued that while it “supports specific measures that would help older Americans and their families,” Obama was exaggerating its position.

There was no suggestion that the president’s stretch of the truth goes nearly as far as claims from partisan hacks (you know who you are) that his plan would set up “death panels” and euthanasia or a government takeover of our medical system. Those are just wild fantasies dreamed up by opportunists exploiting the worst fears of people already frightened by the direction our country is heading.

By comparison, Obama’s AARP comment is a mild fantasy, but it makes an important point nonetheless. AARP does want reform, but it hasn’t signed on to a particular program. For starters, the big question is what particular program. There are proposals all over the map — none envisioning death panels, mind you — but contradictory ones.

Some envision a so-called public option, some do not. Some have an alternative idea. Some raise taxes in one way, some in another. It’s downright confusing, and fertile ground for those who benefit from sabotaging the entire effort. The administration’s strategists decided it was time to dispatch the president to try to clear the fog.

For starters, he needs to make sure that he doesn’t add to it. There are people ready to jump on his every misstatement, great or itty-bitty. As AARP makes clear, even his supporters in this endeavor want to make sure they aren’t dragged down by inaccuracies from anybody, particularly a president who says he wants to correct the other side’s huge distortions.

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