Those kinds of answers have caused the media to question the president’s positions—or lack thereof. On Tuesday, when reporters asked Gibbs about the likelihood that the Senate Finance Committee bill would lack a strong public plan, Gibbs declined to say, instead noting: “I think the broader principle is that, do we have a mechanism that provides adequate choice and competition.” Ah, those presidential principles again!

Trudy Lieberman is a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR’s healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.