Legend has it that when an executive's wife unpacked herhusband's suitcase after a long business trip, she discovered a pair of frillyunmentionables hidden securely under his shirts that were decidedly not hers.

When she angrily confronted him about obviousextracurricular activities that occurred during his excursion, he replied thatduring the security check at the airport, the personnel must have planted itthere as a joke.

Unconvinced, she demanded more of an explanation, towhich the husband replied with perfect deadpan, "That's my story and I'msticking to it."

I harkened back to this anecdote during last week's TVinterview blitz by President Obama, in which on Sunday he seemingly was on morestations than infomercials for the Ab-Roller or Sham-Wow.

He was on the interview circuit to promote health carereform, but on a more basic level, raised a number of eyebrows (including mine)on what he does and does not consider a tax increase.

On one stop during his Sabbath whistle-stop tour,specifically ABC's "This Week," the president was asked by hostGeorge Stephanopoulos about the "individual mandate" contained in thereform bill recently offered up by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., a truncatedversion of the House Bill, and one that Obama has indicated that he supports.

Under that mandate, which requires that folks purchasehealth insurance, or face a fine approaching $4,000 a year (at press time there were pending revisions to ratchet that down to $1,900 annually), Stephanopoulos,never one known to throw sledgehammer questions at Democrats, asked how forcingsomeone to spend money is not a tax by any other name.

The president embarked on a circuitous dodge claimingthat uncompensated care translates into higher premiums in case someone eschewscoverage and gets slammed by a cross-town bus. (In fact, according tostatistics uncompensated care accounts for just over 2 percent of total healthcare spending, but I digress.)

WhenStephanopoulos stood firm and correctly pointed out that it was still a tax,the president said the "levy" for taking responsibility was "foryour own good." And that it was "absolutely not a tax increase."

The semantic debate actually turned comical withStephanopoulos looking up "tax" in the dictionary and reciting itsdefinition to the commander in chief.Whenlater confronted withthe fact that his critics claim the Baucus mandate is indeed a tax increase,his reply was, "my critics think everything is a tax increase."

On a more rational train of thought, the CongressionalBudget Office has estimated that the mandate will generate $20 billion inrevenues over the next decade.

Apparently, it's not a tax by his definition.

That's his story and he's apparently sticking to it.

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