Only a few years ago, liberals were upset that Dan Rather was pilloried for using questionable documents to prove that George Bush had been AWOL from the Texas Air National Guard.  At the time, the fact that the future President of the United States had engaged in really sketchy activity while wrapping himself in the flag seemed much, much more important.

Things have changed. Liberals now are far more concerned with the conspiracy of journalists trying to link Barack Obama to triggers, and their shady practice of using anonymous sources is of much more concern than the potential health care costs to millions of Americans.  The fact that the White House is offering up those blind quotes?  Well, those are probably all made up too.

February 2009 — Sam Stein of the Huffington Post:  “[A] source close to the administration, who has been in contact with the White House on health care matters, said that Emanuel has been “floating” the trigger compromise since January.”

June 2 — Obama, Senate Dems Consider Public Health Care Option With A Trigger:   “Multiple Democratic sources tell the Huffington Post that the White House and key members of the Finance and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committees are in the process of hammering out key principles on health care reform — with a meeting scheduled at the West Wing this afternoon. One of the components will be music to progressive ears: that any bill includes an option publicly run health insurance coverage. But it also comes with a caveat that could engender opposition from that very same constituency [a trigger].”

July 7 — Wall Street Journal:  “On Monday, Mr. Emanuel said the trigger mechanism would also accomplish the White House’s goals. Under this scenario, a public plan would kick in under certain circumstances when competition was judged to be lacking.”

September 2 — Marc Ambinder:  “The White House hopes that, having voted for a public option, House Dems would accept a “trigger” as part of a conference committee compromise rather than putting the kibosh on the entire health care reform project.  In some ways, this strategy is old, and in some ways it’s new.  For months, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel has been pushing the idea of a “trigger” internally, and he and Snowe regularly trade legislative and political intelligence.”

September 9 — The President himself, in his speech before the joint session of Congress:  “[S]ome have suggested that the public option go into effect only in those markets where insurance companies are not providing affordable policies [ed -- "Snowe" trigger plan].  Others propose a co-op or another non-profit entity to administer the plan.  These are all constructive ideas worth exploring.”

September 22 — Bloomberg:  White House Budget Director Peter Orszag “signaled the administration doesn’t consider a government-run insurance program essential to the legislation. He suggested it would be sufficient to either create nonprofit insurance-purchasing cooperatives or set “triggers” to activate a public option if needed to cut costs.

September 23 — Mike Lux, Open Left:  “Some senior White House staffers are now beginning to try to sell this trigger to progressive groups as the compromise version of a public option, saying the White House doesn’t want to have a floor fight in the Senate, and that they can always fix it in conference committee.”

September 30 — Karen Tumulty, Time Magazine:  “[T]he Obama White House has made no secret of its belief that the trigger could be the compromise on the public option that the President has been looking for.”

October 13 — Rahm Emanuel on PBS NewsHour:  “[The President] believes strongly because of what it achieves in the sense of keeping the competition that insurance companies need, so the prices don’t continue to jump and out of control, that, if there are other ways to achieve that goal, as you know, Senator Snowe has the idea of a trigger, that, in case that price isn’t achieved or that competition isn’t achieved, there be a trigger that then the option, a public option, would come available.”

October 14 — NYT reports that “two senior administration officials” say the White House “looked favorably” on Olympia Snowe’s plan for a trigger.  “[I]n private conversations with Ms. Snowe, Mr. Obama has brought up her idea for a trigger that would create a government-run plan in states where at least 5 percent of residents lacked access to affordable care. One senior White House official called the idea ‘very reasonable.’”

October 15:  Bloomberg:  “The Obama administration signaled a willingness to compromise on a proposed government-run health- insurance company by praising Senator Olympia Snowe’s plan to start the entity only if private insurers don’t meet targets … A senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that while President Barack Obama prefers the public option, Snowe’s trigger was a potentially good compromise if the Senate decides to pursue it.”

October 23 — Brian Beutler, TPM:  “High level White House officials have floated the trigger trial balloon a number of times in the press, and it seems they continue to do so, even at this crucial stage of the health care reform process, when their involvement is greatest. That has senators who support the public option concerned.”

October 23 — CNN:  “In recent days, two administration officials have told CNN that the prevailing White House opinion is for the Senate health care bill to include a so-called “trigger” mechanism proposed by Snowe that would bring a public option in the future if thresholds for expanding coverage and lowering costs go unmet in coming years.”

October 24 — Sam Stein and Ryan Grim, Huffington Post:  “President Barack Obama is actively discouraging Senate Democrats in their effort to include a public insurance option with a state opt-out clause as part of health care reform. In its place, say multiple Democratic sources, Obama has indicated a preference for an alternative policy, favored by the insurance industry, which would see a public plan ‘triggered’ into effect in the future by a failure of the industry to meet certain benchmarks.”

The fact that the White House worked hand in hand with the Finance Committee to craft a bill, which doesn’t have a public option?  Meaningless.  Reports that they would have put a trigger in that bill but didn’t have the votes to get it through?  More lies. When  Mike Allen says “Administration officials have been telling POLITICO for weeks now that [a “trigger” option] is the most likely compromise?”  Made it up out of thin air.  The complete absence of any reporting saying that Obama has called a single Senator or Representative to urge them to vote for a public option?  Well, that’s because he’s cleverly waiting until the last minute to fix it in conference.  And anything else can be chalked up to Rahm, who obviously doesn’t work for the President.

If there were cynics in the White House, they might conclude that they were free to do pretty much anything they want.  As long as the President says one thing, it doesn’t matter what reporters report — they’re all scurrilous and disreputable anyway.