Presidents as car salesmen

When you sit across from a car salesman, you come to expect that he or she will try to pull a fast one on you before you drive the car off the lot. I’m guessing that’s how many Americans are feeling today about their health care. But it’s not just this: For the last 13 years, we’ve experienced far too much car salesman, far too little candor.

From claims of weapons of mass destruction to justify a war to now, President Obama saying “sorry” for repeatedly assuring Americans they wouldn’t lose their health plan under Obamacare, it seems that presidents don’t think they can trust Americans with the truth. That instead they have to mislead to get what they want.

Americans are not naïve. They can handle the truth. And they also know that politicians spin and stretch the truth to achieve their aims. But to this level?

President Bush pushed a reluctant America into a war with Iraq based on a false premise: that Saddam Hussein had WMDs that he was prepared to use. It was a lie conceived by pushing the CIA so hard they came up with flimsy evidence.

It turned out to be untrue and no WMDs were ever found. Thousands of deaths and $2 trillion later and America still hasn’t reconciled the fact a war was fought on a lie.

But we did, and the next president promised to do better. Which brings us to today. President Obama repeatedly - before, during and after the vote on Obamacare – assured Americans that they would be able to keep their health coverage and retain their doctor. That assured millions of Americans that Obamacare wouldn’t inconvenience them if they already had insurance.

Now, we learn, it was a lie. As early as 2010 the White House knew that millions of Americans would lose their health care coverage because their plans were considered substandard. Team Obama can spin it all they want – and they are, and will - but has any president ever repeated a falsehood so often? And how convenient that this all comes out after he won re-election a year ago.

Of course, we haven’t really gotten to the biggest lie yet: that Obamacare is designed to fail and force America into a single-payer system. That’s the surprise for Americans in three-to-five years when it turns out many remain uninsured.

In each instance, the president got what he wanted. Bush got his war; Obama got his health-care reform. But the cost is immeasurable: our allies no longer trust our word and we embarrassed those who blindly followed us into war. And now Americans once again have good reason to question the veracity of their leadership and have real worries whether government is with them, or against them.

I have young kids. They see unpopular wars, a government that they think spies on everyone and now, a president who sold millions of Americans a bill of goods. The day Obama was sworn in in 2009, I let my kids stay home so they could witness such a historic and important moment. Many of us had such high hopes. He promised change, to run government transparently and be a different kind of leader. Shame on me, I believed him. Turns out he’s just another car salesman.

Galvin is a former investigative reporter with the New York Daily News. He is now CEO of the consulting firm 463 Communications.