A controversial new book about President Barack Obama appears to lift a key quote from the president's former physician from a nearly three-year-old article, in which that physician raises issues with his former patient's proposed health care reform law.
Edward Klein's "The Amateur" is filled with anecdotes that paint Obama as an in-over-his-head charlatan occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It leads with a scene in which former President Bill Clinton, banging his fist for emphasis, declares Obama unfit for the office of the presidency and urges his wife to run for election in 2012. Later, an unnamed Obama associate offers the fiery reverend Jeremiah Wright $150,000 in exchange for keeping quiet during the 2008 presidential campaign.
And then there is a chapter on the president's health care law, which leads with an interview with Dr. David Scheiner, Obama's one-time personal physician.
Among those who followed the crafting of the Affordable Care Act, Scheiner's ambivalence, if not outright hostility, toward the legislation is well known. He's an advocate for a single-payer system. And when it became clear that the president wasn't interested in a government-run option for insurance coverage, he spoke out. Some of his first public criticism came in an interview with The Huffington Post in August 2009.
"I look at his program and I can't see how it's going to work," Scheiner told the Huffington Post. "He has no cost control. There would be no effective cost control in his program. The [Congressional Budget Office] said it's going be incredibly expensive ... and the thing that I really am worried about is, if it is the failure that I think it would be, then health reform will be set back a long, long time."
Klein interviews Scheiner in his book. But the lead quote from that interview is identical to the one Scheiner gave HuffPost almost three years ago.
"I look at this healthcare program and I can't see how it's going to work," Scheiner said. "He has no cost control. There would be no effective cost control. The [Congressional Budget Office] said it’s going to be incredibly expensive … and the thing that I’m incredibly worried about is, if it is a failure that I think it would be, then health reform will be set back a long, long time."
Reached by phone, Scheiner confirmed that he had sat down for an interview with Klein. But while he still has the same concerns about the Affordable Care Act almost three years later, he doesn't believe he offered up the same criticism verbatim during the interview.
"I think he may have gotten that from your article," he said. "I'm just not that consistent."
Scheiner took umbrage with other aspects of his portrayal in Klein's book, saying that he was never overtly critical about the president on a personal level and that he only took issue with his policies. (At one point, he is quoted as calling Obama "a great speaker and a lousy communicator," and Klein writes that Scheiner expressed "hurt" that he wasn't invited to Obama's inauguration.)
"I didn't say anything about competence or about character," said Scheiner. "In fact, I repeated how much I admired him personally. I said my whole disagreement is with how he handled the Affordable Care Act."
Access to Klein's notes or tape recorder would clearly be necessary to prove whether or not Scheiner was legitimately misquoted. But Marji Ross, president and publisher of Regnery Publishing, which is releasing "The Amateur," strongly disputed the notion that Klein had lifted the quote from the HuffPost article.
“Ed Klein conducted almost 200 interviews for 'The Amateur,' including a 45-minute interview with Dr. Scheiner for which he took copious notes. Included in his transcription of his notes is this passage: 'I look at his health care program and I can’t see how it can work. He has no cost control. There would be no effective cost control in his program. The C.B.O. said it’s going to be incredibly expensive. The thing I really am worried about is, if it is the failure that I think it would be, then health care reform will be set back for a long time.'"
"Dr. Scheiner has been interviewed numerous times about President Obama’s health care plan and apparently he has expressed his dissatisfaction to anyone who is willing to listen. It’s puzzling that the media continues to ignore this fact and instead targets Mr. Klein’s work," Ross added.
If those were indeed the notes that Klein took during his interview, they do not explain the placement of an ellipsis after the phrase "incredibly expensive," which mirrors its placement in the earlier article, or the fact that the term "Congressional Budget Office" is bracketed in both instances. What's more, the quote Ross says came from Klein's notes contains elements of the HuffPost interview that don't even appear in the book excerpt -- most notably, the inclusion of the words "in his program" in the third sentence.
In "The Amateur," a copy of which The Huffington Post purchased over Kindle, Klein does not mention or credit any other outlet. He writes: "Given Dr. Scheiner's leftist leanings, I expected him to be a champion of his former patient. To my surprise, however, he turned out to be one of Obama's most severe and unforgiving critics."
From there, he offers the disputed quote. He continues with material from Scheiner that did not appear in The Huffington Post back in August 2009. But the later portion of the quote is followed by the phrase, "Scheiner continued," implying that the earlier portion was exclusive to Klein.