See? He's just as "frustrated" as you are, America. The president is going to investigate how things went sideways, though he's quite positive that neither he nor his HHS secretary should be held responsible for the mess -- beyond mouthing empty words like "we take responsibility:"
U.S. President Barack Obama is frustrated by the problems with the rollout of his signature healthcare reform and the administration intends to fix them. Fresh from the U.S. budget battles, Obama on Monday will turn his attention to convincing Americans that the healthcare program can be fixed, despite the initial problems. Speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said the administration was determined to repair the technical glitches in the online insurance exchanges that are a central part of the program known as "Obamacare," which launched on October 1. "I think that there's no one more frustrated than the president at the difficulty in the website," Lew said. He said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services "has got plans to fix this and it has to fix this. It has to be done right."
In an opposite-of-shocking twist, Obama will...deliver a speech today making clear that he's really mad about what's happening. Expect to hear the word "unacceptable" at least once or twice. Nance took the new talking point for a spin on ABC's This Week on Sunday:
Jay Carney's been laying some of the groundwork for this damage control gambit, too. The goal is to foster the public perception that President Bystander has just recently been alerted to how badly his administration has failed here, and that he's furious. He'll explain how shocked and appalled he is, then assure the public that he's kicking some ass and whipping things into shape. "No excuses," and all that. This is an absolute crock for a number of reasons (which we'll get into in a bit), but it's a significant rhetorical shift. The administration can no longer credibly pretend that everything's hunky dory, nor that the exchanges were merely overwhelmed by heavier-than-expected traffic. The truth is far uglier: Obamacare's operating system is jaw-droppingly outdated, the exchanges are broken along each link in the digital chain, and the ingrained problems are unlikely to be mended any time soon. The president's "this is unacceptable!" posture is the Obamacare equivalent of his go-to "I heard about [issue X] on the news like everyone else" excuse. It's utter nonsense.
The administration deliberately delayed issuing crucial specifications and regulations until after the 2012 election entirely for political reasons. This decision helped get the president re-elected, but it put his signature program's progress in grave peril. Multiple news outlets have reported that White House officials have known for months that this law wasn't going to be ready for primetime. They decided against seeking additional outside help because they were worried that by doing so, they'd expose themselves to public scrutiny and political criticism. And so despite numerous internal warnings from contractors and federal watchdogs, they carried on telling Americans that everything was on schedule. (They did so, preposterously, even after unilaterally delaying several major elements of the law -- from the employer mandate, to the small business exchange, to subsidy verification standards. With chaos, confusion and panic roiling the administration beneath the surface, top officials maintained a brave face while lying to the public:
Three-and-a-half years (plus hundreds of millions of dollars) after initial passage -- and three full weeks after the program's scheduled launch -- things are still a nightmare. The administration pulled down healthcare.gov yet again over the weekend, as potential consumers are still banging their heads against a virtual brick wall. The Spanish language website has been postponed indefinitely. Estimates of how many people have successfully enrolled in Obamacare vary widely. How many of these numbers are duplicates? And how many sign-ups are so corrupted that they're either totally unusable or hopelessly inaccurate? We're not sure; the administration says it won't provide any hard data for weeks. Might the exchanges' problems be rectified by December, well past experts', ahem, "deep doo-doo" date? Obama's budget director refuses to say:
These evasions seem to confirm the "months, not weeks" estimates we're hearing in the press. As I mentioned before, the White House has been aware of these realities for quite some time. But, hey, at least Obama's "frustrated," or whatever. And remember, once all of these issues are finally ironed out, millions of Americans will still be saddled with increased premiums, unaffordable out-of-pocket costs, higher national health spending, doctor scarcity, limited access, and dropped coverage -- the fundamental, lasting flaws of the law:
Health plans are sending hundreds of thousands of cancellation letters to people who buy their own coverage, frustrating some consumers who want to keep what they have and forcing others to buy more costly policies. The main reason insurers offer is that the policies fall short of what the Affordable Care Act requires starting Jan. 1. Most are ending policies sold after the law passed in March 2010. At least a few are canceling plans sold to people with pre-existing medical conditions...The cancellation notices, which began arriving in August, have shocked many consumers in light of President Barack Obama’s promise that people could keep their plans if they liked them.
"If you like your plan, you can keep it" simply isn't true for many Americans, including some with pre-existing conditions -- a cohort the new law was designed to help. As public anger mounts over these substantive broken promises (as opposed to design flaws and "glitches"), will Obama feign surprise over his program's deleterious consequences, too? The Huffington Post is right: This trainwreck poses a mortal threat to Obama's statist vision. The federal government isn't especially suited to overhaul major segments of the economy. Big government promises do not magically morph into actual solutions. Obama can pretend to be caught off guard by all this in an attempt to mitigate the damage -- but it won't work, for two reasons: (1) Professing surprise at one's own incompetence isn't exactly a confidence builder; it compounds the problem, and (2) conservatives have been predicting these precise problems in excruciating detail for years now. Even if people aren't aware of the White House's machinations and in-house red flags, they'll intuit how implausible it is that the president couldn't have seen any of this coming.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography