The criticism directed at President Barack Obama over the disastrous launch to HealthCare.gov — the federal website where consumers purchase insurance — is starting to mirror the low point of Obama’s re-election campaign last year.
That came on Oct. 3, 2012 — when the cruising Obama campaign was thrown off course after a disastrous first debate against Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in Denver, Colo.
A little more than halfway through the debate, Romney was so on point and Obama in such a lull that every news organisation paraded around a Romney victory.
This time, it’s taken about three weeks for the media to declare the federal health-care website a calamity. It has pundits worried that, if the website issues remain, it could lead to an “insurance death spiral” — wherein only the very sick will end up buying insurance, causing premiums to rise further.
The day after last year’s debate debacle, Obama joked about his loss. He then segued into familiar campaign attacks on Romney.
“Now, the reason I was in Denver, obviously, is to see all of you, and it’s always pretty,” Obama told a crowd in Boulder.
“But we also had our first debate last night. And when I got onto the stage, I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney. But it couldn’t have been Mitt Romney — because the real Mitt Romney has been running around the country for the last year promising $US5 trillion in tax cuts that favour the wealthy. The fellow on stage last night said he didn’t know anything about that.”
And so on.
He did the same thing in his remarks on the Affordable Care Act Monday — he acknowledged the mistakes, pledged to fix them and, for good measure, slapped down his Republican opponents who he said were trying to dismantle the law.
“Of course, you’ve probably heard that HealthCare.gov — the new website where people can apply for health insurance, and browse and buy affordable plans in most states — hasn’t worked as smoothly as it was supposed to work,” Obama said. “And the number of people who have visited the site has been overwhelming, which has aggravated some of these underlying problems.”
“I recognise that the Republican Party has made blocking the Affordable Care Act its signature policy idea,” he continued. “Sometimes it seems to be the one thing that unifies the party these days.”
Criticism from both the left and right flanks poured in after Obama’s speech Monday, just like they did after the debate last year. It was most striking on the left, where The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein said the speech was almost identical to one Obama could have given if the launch’s rollout had gone smoothly.
“I have to say I found his remarks far less contrite than they should have been. Where is the unqualified apology? Where is the commitment to basic accountability for this clusterf — ? Instead, we have all these positive rationalizations and excuses in a confusing technical lecture. […]
“Obama needs to get ahead of this, and stop being as defensive as he was this morning. He does not have the credibility to sell us on the ACA when he does not cop more aggressively to his own failure to stay on top of this most important domestic initiative. Sebelius is the person most obviously responsible for the managerial — not technical — problems that have plagued this new program’s rollout.”
What’s next? After Denver, it was a spectacular plunge in the polls for Obama. This time, while the Affordable Care Act’s popularity remains steady, 56% think that the website’s troubles are signs of a broader problem with the law, according to a new Washington Post/ABC poll.
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