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Obama's Questionnaire Responses at Odds with Health Care Claim

By James D. Agresti

August 5, 2009

 

In a speech before the American Medical Association on June 15, 2009, President Obama lashed out at those claiming he is pursuing a stealth agenda to socialize the U.S. healthcare system.

 

Declaring that his health care plan is not "a Trojan horse for a single-payer system," Obama vowed, "So, when you hear the naysayers claim that I'm trying to bring about government-run health care, know this – they are not telling the truth." [1]

 

However, Obama's responses to a 1996 questionnaire reveal an agenda at odds with his claim and in near-perfect accord with critics' assertions regarding his healthcare plan.[2]

 

Asked if he supported "a single payer health plan for Illinois," Obama answered, "Yes" but then went even further, stating that "such a program would probably have to be instituted at the federal level; the long-term objective would be a universal care system that does not differentiate between the unemployed, the disabled, and so on." [3]

 

One day later, Obama filed an amended response to the same questionnaire, calling for Medicaid recipients and "all workers" in Illinois to be enrolled in a "single, graduated system." [4]

 

A Pattern of Denials

 

Obama's replies to this questionnaire were uncovered in 2007 and 2008 by Politico,[5] fueling a debate over gun control based on Obama's answer of "Yes" to the question, "Do you support state legislation to ban the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns?" [6] After this information was made public, the Obama team launched a round of verbal arrows in an effort to puncture the written record.

 

The Obama campaign declared he did not and does not favor a ban on handguns,[7] and Obama himself later insisted he has "always believed that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to bear arms." [8] Yet, four months after taking office, Obama announced his first nomination to the Supreme Court – Judge Sonya Sotomayor,[9] who had recently ruled that the Constitutional "right of the people to keep and bear Arms" [10] can be disregarded by state governments and "applies only to limitations the federal government seeks to impose on this right." [11]


When the questionnaire first emerged revealing Obama's stances on gun control and other controversial issues such as parental consent for minors undergoing abortions,[12] the Obama campaign denied he provided the answers and claimed a staffer filled out the form without Obama's knowledge.[13]

 

However, all known verifiable evidence points to the contrary. For example, both forms contain answers written in the first-person voice, with phrases such as, "I support," "I oppose," and "I believe." [14]

 

Additionally, the first response includes a cover sheet specifying a "Date of Interview" and "Place of Interview," [15] and the second response contains a note in what appears to be Obama's handwriting.[16]

 

After Obama's first response to the questionnaire was published, Carol Harwell, a former Obama campaign manager, claimed she filled out the form. But, after her assertion was undermined by the discovery of the second reply with Obama's handwriting and contradicted by an Obama supporter whose home was listed as the "Place of Interview" on the first response, Harwell failed to return calls seeking comment.[17]

 

The White House recently produced a video to counter revelations of Obama's support for "single-payer healthcare," an expression that studiously avoids the word "government," which is the unnamed "single-payer."

 

The narrator of the video, who is a former ABC news reporter and the communications director for the White House Office of Health Reform, proclaims "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." [18]

 

Nevertheless, an uncut video from 2003 shows Obama speaking before a union conference, calling for a "single-payer universal health care program" and affirming, "everybody in, nobody out." [19]

 

Sources

 

[1] Transcript: "Obama Addresses Physicians at AMA Meeting." American Medial Association, June 15, 2009. http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/about-ama/our-people/house-delegates/2009-annual-meeting/speeches/president-obama-speech.shtml

 

Now, I know there's some concern about a public option. In particular, I understand that you are concerned that today's Medicare rates will be applied broadly in a way that means our cost savings are coming off your backs. These are legitimate concerns, but ones, I believe, that can be overcome. …

 

What are not legitimate concerns are those being put forward claiming a public option is somehow a Trojan horse for a single-payer system. I'll be honest. There are countries where a single-payer system may be working. But I believe – and I've even taken some flak from members of my own party for this belief – that it is important for us to build on our traditions here in the United States. So, when you hear the naysayers claim that I'm trying to bring about government-run health care, know this – they are not telling the truth.

 

[2] Blog: "The Truth of Obama's Trojan Horse." By Conn Carroll. The Heritage Foundation, July 9, 2009. http://blog.heritage.org/2009/07/09/the-truth-of-obamas-trojan-horse/

 

"[T]he public option is a Trojan Horse for single-payer health care. We are very familiar with Hacker's stealth plan for single-payer and are well aware that President Obama has adopted it."

 

[3] "Illinois General Assembly Questionnaire." Independent Voters of Illinois – Independent Precinct Organization, 1996. Filled out on September 9, 2009. Part 2: http://www.politico.com/static/PPM41_obamaquestionaire2.html

 

[Question] 22. Will you support a single payer health plan for Illinois? How would Medicaid be incorporated into the program you support?

 

Yes in principal, although such a program would probably have to be instituted at the federal level; the long-term objective would be a universal care system that does not differentiate between the unemployed, the disabled, and so on. The state can move more aggressively to expand coverage to the currently uninsured, perhaps through a managed care system with a sliding scale of premiums and copayments.

 

[4] "Illinois General Assembly Questionnaire." Independent Voters of Illinois – Independent Precinct Organization, 1996. Fax transmittal date/time stamp: "Sep-10-96 TUE 05:26". http://www.politico.com/static/PPM43_080328_obama_iviquestionaire_091096.html

 

"[Question] 22. Will you support a single payer health plan for Illinois? Yes, with Medicaid incorporated into a single, graduated system of services covering all workers, so as not to create disincentives to work."

 

[5] Article: "Liberal views could haunt Obama." By Mike Allen and Ben Smith. Politico, December 12, 2007. http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1207/7312.html

 

Article: "Obama had greater role on liberal survey." By Kenneth P. Vogel. Politico, March 31, 2008. http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0308/9269.html

 

[6] Question 35a (both questionnaires).

 

[7] Article: "Chicago activists doubt Obama's explanation on questionnaire." By Ben Smith. Politico, December 19, 2007. http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/1207/Chicago_activists_doubt_Obamas_answers_on_questionnaire.html

 

"Barack wasn't in favor of a ban on handguns in '96 and he isn't today -- and that's supported by his 11-year legislative record. Even conservative columnists have said they'd scoured Obama's record for inconsistencies and found there were "virtually none," [Obama spokesman Bill] Burton said.

 

[8] Article: "Obama's Supreme Move to the Center. By Massimo Calabresi. Time, June 26, 2008. http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1818334,00.html

 

Then Thursday, after Justice Scalia released his majority opinion knocking down the city of Washington's ban on handguns, Obama said in a statement, "I have always believed that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to bear arms, but I also identify with the need for crime-ravaged communities to save their children from the violence that plagues our streets through common-sense, effective safety measures. The Supreme Court has now endorsed that view."

 

[9] Article: "Obama nominates Sonia Sotomayor to Supreme Court." CNN, May 26, 2009. http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/05/26/supreme.court/index.html

 

"President Obama on Tuesday nominated federal appellate Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court."

 

[10] http://justfacts.com/constitution.asp#Amendment2

 

[11] Ruling: "Maloney v. Cuomo." U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, January 28, 2009. Docket No. 07-0581-cv. Unanimous decision of three-judge panel comprised of Pooler, Sotomayor, and Katzmann. http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/casesummary/index.html

 

Pages 3-4:

 

The Second Amendment provides: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." U.S. Const. amend. II. The Supreme Court recently held that this confers an individual right on citizens to keep and bear arms. See District of Columbia v. Heller, 128 S. Ct. 2783, 2799 (2008). It is settled law, however, that the Second Amendment applies only to limitations the federal government seeks to impose on this right. See, e.g., Presser v. Illinois, 116 U.S. 252, 265 (1886) (stating that the Second Amendment "is a limitation only upon the power of congress and the national government, and not upon that of the state"); Bach v. Pataki, 408 F.3d 75, 84, 86 (2d Cir. 2005) (holding "that the Second Amendment's 'right to keep and bear arms' imposes a limitation on only federal, not state, legislative efforts" and noting that this outcome was compelled by Presser), cert. denied, 546 U.S. 1174 (2006).

 

[12] http://justfacts.com/abortion.asp#ParentalPolitics

 

[13] Article: "Obama had greater role on liberal survey." By Kenneth P. Vogel. Politico, March 31, 2008. http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0308/9269.html

 

"Sen. Obama didn't fill out these state Senate questionnaires — a staffer did — and there are several answers that didn't reflect his views then or now," Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for Obama's campaign, said in an e-mailed statement.

 

[14] "Illinois General Assembly Questionnaire." Independent Voters of Illinois – Independent Precinct Organization, 1996. Filled out on September 9, 2009. Part 2: http://www.politico.com/static/PPM41_obamaquestionaire2.html

 

[Question] 11. Do you favor adding sexual orientation to the Human Rights Act? Do you favor domestic partnership legislation?

 

I favor both proposals. …

 

14. Do you support mandatory drug testing for public or private sector employees? Under what circumstances?

 

I oppose such legislation except for those narrowly-defined occupational categories, such as railways engineers, where drug use on the job might endanger public safety. …

 

21a: What is your position on raising the minimum wage?

 

I support raising the minimum wage to assure that any employee working full-time enjoys a livable wage.

 

"Illinois General Assembly Questionnaire." Independent Voters of Illinois – Independent Precinct Organization, 1996. Fax transmittal date/time stamp: "Sep-10-96 TUE 05:26". http://www.politico.com/static/PPM43_080328_obama_iviquestionaire_091096.html

 

[Question] 21a: What is You [sic] Position on raising the minimum wage? "I support it."

 

28. Do you support the retail rate law? I didn't support it, and am pleased it was repealed.

 

30. On balancing environmental protection and economic development: I believe he two are compatible….

 

[15] "Illinois General Assembly Questionnaire." Independent Voters of Illinois – Independent Precinct Organization, 1996. Part1: http://www.politico.com/static/PPM41_obamaquestionaire1newest.html

 

Candidate Report Sheet for Interviews

 

Candidate Name      Barack Obama [In handwriting] …

 

Date of Interview    9/9/96 [In handwriting] …

 

Place of Interview   5623 S. Drexel - House of Alan and Lois Dobry [In handwriting]

 

[16] Article: "Obama had greater role on liberal survey." By Kenneth P. Vogel. Politico, March 31, 2008. http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0308/9269.html

 

[Politico] found that Obama — the day after sitting for the interview — filed an amended version of the questionnaire, which appears to contain Obama's own handwritten notes added to one answer. …

 

Through an aide, Obama … did not dispute that the handwriting was his.

 

"Illinois General Assembly Questionnaire." Independent Voters of Illinois – Independent Precinct Organization, 1996. Fax transmittal date/time stamp: "Sep-10-96 TUE 05:26". http://www.politico.com/static/PPM43_080328_obama_iviquestionaire_091096.html

[17] Article: "Obama had greater role on liberal survey." By Kenneth P. Vogel. Politico, March 31, 2008. http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0308/9269.html

 

But a Politico examination determined that Obama was actually interviewed about the issues on the questionnaire by the liberal Chicago nonprofit group that issued it. …

 

… Lois Dobry, who voted to endorse Obama last year and hosted the 1996 interview session at her home. …

 

[Carol] Harwell, … , last year told Politico she filled out the first questionnaire.

 

But she did not return several telephone messages asking about the second questionnaire and the handwritten notes on it.

 

[18] Article: "Obama vs. Drudge." By Mike Allen. Politico, August 4, 2009. http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0809/25779.html

 

[19] Video: "Obama on single payer health insurance." Accessed August 5, 2009 at http://www.breitbart.tv/obama-in-03-id-like-to-see-a-single-payer-health-care-plan/

 

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