- - Thursday, July 11, 2013

Wounded by the lukewarm reception the administration got from the National Football League and Major League Baseball when it asked them to help sell the public on all things wonderful about “Obamacare,” President Obama has announced that America’s librarians will step into the void.

Let me add, they will do so enthusiastically.

On June 26, I flew to Chicago for the annual American Library Association conference, a seemingly innocent gathering of thousands of library professionals.

As a veteran of many rousing political conferences, I expected a relatively quiet four days, showcasing Independent Institute books, such as John C. Goodman’s recently published “Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis.” I was unprepared for the floundering health care law to become central to the agenda.

On the third day of conference, however, it was announced that the American Library Association planned to partner with the White House to tout the benefits of Obamacare. As Fox News reported on July 1, “Up to 17,000 U.S. libraries will be part of the effort to spread the word about the health care law, while giving the public access to their computers. The government-librarian team-up is one of a number of partnerships — some more controversial than others — that the administration is trying to build in order to promote the law ahead of an Oct. 1 kick-off.”

The library association announcement came as a surprise to many of the conference attendees, but for many if not most, it must have been a pleasant surprise.

For example, several panel discussions included intense, uninformed diatribes against the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Heritage Foundation, and libraries’ responsibility to counter their influence. One of the conference’s keynote speakers angrily called on libraries to lead the charge against the NRA’s evil agenda. The following day, a group of librarians from both public and private institutions brainstormed about how library computers could be rigged to censor or possibly omit information. As one librarian irritably recounted, she was directed by Google to a “horrendous” Heritage Foundation study challenging global warming theory. “We know [such studies] to be complete junk and need to figure out how to keep people from reading such despicable material,” she resolved.

These statements, not surprisingly, came after the same group spent the first half of the session lamenting that Ward Churchill — the former University of Colorado ethnic-studies professor who claimed that the United States deserved the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 because of “ongoing genocidal American imperialism” — was not asked to return to the classroom. It seems the principle of academic freedom is only laudable when everyone agrees that the left is right. Now, the left is right on Obamacare and America’s librarians are in lockstep with the mission to resuscitate public support for the limping legislation.

Indeed, Obamacare has become increasingly unpopular across the country, even causing some within Mr. Obama’s own ranks to suggest that Obamacare is plagued with problems.

Senior Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, who, as Senate Finance Committee chairman helped the president craft the health care law, said that the reforms are “a huge train wreck coming down.”

Several recent polls, including a new Rasmussen Reports national survey — which found that just 41 percent of likely voters favor their governor supporting implementation of the law — have shown clearly that Obamacare is just as unpopular today as it was when it was passed. The president and his allies understand that they need to turn public opinion around or they could suffer the consequences in the 2014 midterm elections. That’s why they recently took evasive action on the health care law’s employer mandate, giving companies with 50 or more employees until 2015 rather than 2014 to provide insurance to their employees.

With both Mr. Obama and Obamacare slipping in public opinion, the White House is looking for help. They found it at the American Library Association.

Librarians seem to be “all in” with the White House agenda: a dangerous marriage.

If librarians are advocates, what assurance do we have that they won’t block access to information — such as another “despicable” study from the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute or my own institution — critical of the health care act?

Lindsay M. Boyd is director of communications at the Independent Institute.