White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stands beside monitors showing US President Donald J. Trump delivering a statement on the economy, at the beginning of a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, January 4, 2018.
Michael Reynolds/EPA

White House takes dissembling over health care to a new level

Updated

The political debate over health care took a discouraging turn last week when Donald Trump decided it was time to simply gaslight the public. “Republicans will totally protect people with Pre-Existing Conditions,” the president wrote on Twitter. “Democrats will not!”

It was as brazen a lie as any Trump has told. He simply took reality, turned it on its head, and asked Americans to believe the opposite of reality.

All of which set the stage for a rare White House press briefing yesterday, where a reporter asked Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders a good question.

Q: The president has talked multiple times about how the Republican lawmakers are going to protect pre-existing conditions if they keep control of Congress. But the administration is supporting a lawsuit that would undercut those protections under Obamacare and taken a couple of regulatory actions to that effect as well. So how do you square those two stances? And what’s the plan – the Republican plan for protecting preexisting –

SANDERS: Look, the president’s health care plan that he’s laid out covers pre-existing conditions.

We’ve come to expect a fair amount of dissembling from the president’s press secretary, but this was bizarre.

For example, Sanders referenced “the president’s health care plan,” which Trump has “laid out.” In reality, such a plan does not exist. If you’re concerned that you missed the president’s presentation “laying out” his health care plan, don’t worry, you didn’t. There was no such presentation.

There have been some Republican plans unveiled in Congress – each of which failed in the face of bipartisan opposition – but they did significant harm to Americans with pre-existing conditions. Trump’s support for them only exacerbates the severity of the falsehood.

There is, however, a separate plan that’s quite real: it involves the White House’s support for ongoing litigation that would gut existing protections for those with pre-existing conditions. The case is pending while Trump pursues new regulatory policies that would further undermine those same Americans’ interests.

Sanders may have heard about this: the Trump administration announced the policy literally last week.

It’s understandable that the president’s press secretary finds all of this politically inconvenient. After all, the midterm elections are a week away and Team Trump finds itself pursuing a policy that repulses the American mainstream.

But to peddle an easily discredited falsehood isn’t going to help the White House’s pitch.