Yes, really. As you read this morning, I was expecting a some perfunctory contrition and token acceptance of responsibility from President Bystander during his Obamacare remarks in the Rose Garden today. I was wrong. The appearance was more of a pep rally, replete with upbeat promises and applauding supporters. Aides might as well have hung a large "mission accomplished" banner over Obama's head. The fact that the Obamacare websites -- a core element of the law functioning -- are in total shambles and won't be fixed for many weeks or even months were all but shrugged off as an afterthought. Be sure to stick with this clip through the very end, when one of Obama's human props actually faints right behind him. There's a metaphor in there somewhere. In short, I thought I had gotten past being shocked by this president's arrogance and dishonesty. Wrong again. Truly surreal:
Not to worry, Obama told consumers, the law is "working well," and in some cases, even better than expected. He spent much of the speech insisting that the product itself is just fantastic. Rates are lower. Costs are down. Coverage is better. The system is "smoother" than ever. He used isolated anecdotes to "prove" these points, ignoring buckets of empirical evidence to the contrary. For good measure, he also blamed Republicans and the recent government shutdown for some of the glitches -- totally false red herrings. He emphasized that if you're one of the few (!) people who've had trouble signing up online, you're free to simply dial a 1-800 number for assistance. Thus, the President of the United States was reduced to acting as a ShamWow pitch man. Except ShamWow's phone system, um, isn't broken:
RT @AnnieLowrey: For the record, just called 1-800-318-2596, got a busy signal.— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) October 21, 2013
And then, the dark punchline:
Can't make this up. Got through 800-number, followed prompts, and got referred to http://t.co/42WSNzdKsg.— Philip Klein (@philipaklein) October 21, 2013
Twitter was abuzz throughout the speech, with observers on the Right and Left unified in their astonishment at the tone and tenor of Obama's comments. A handful of relevant, memorable and insightful offerings:
Two things POTUS just said: 20 million visits to the #Obamacare website; "thousands" signed up.— Stew (@StewSays) October 21, 2013
Hard to claim that web traffic is evidence of huge demand when gov't MANDATES compliance by purchasing thru ACA system.— Ed Morrissey (@EdMorrissey) October 21, 2013
This speech would work if Obamacare really was just a bit glitchy. But it's not. Signing up, for most people, is basically impossible.— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) October 21, 2013
So little to no detail on A) What's wrong with site. B) What's being done to fix. C) Timetable to fix. Hoping to get more answers later.— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) October 21, 2013
Jake Tapper: "but he [Obama] doesn't talk about the individuals who are going to have to pay more for health insurance."— Amanda Carpenter (@amandacarpenter) October 21, 2013
National Journal's Ron Fournier notes that building a website and getting (read: forcing) people to sign up should have been the easy part. Fournier writes that Obama should be "freaked out" by his law's failures because they reflect poorly on him, cast a dark shadow on government in general, and threaten to harm millions of Americans. Today's rah-rah, brave-face spectacle represents a breathtaking double-down by the president. "Things are generally going really well, and any small inconveniences will be ironed out soon" was the basic message of his speech. Techies and insurance industry experts, however, are in a state of panic; wonky centrists and even some liberals have already floated the possibility of a long delay of the law. President Obama is either living in fantasy world, or he made a conscious decision to grossly mislead the American public about his signature law. Again. Door number two sounds about right. What we're left with is a president being sucked into a credibility death spiral over a law that is on an alarming path toward a health insurance death spiral. I'll leave you with Morning Joe's MSNBC panel slamming the law, calling its implementation "outrageous," and accusing the administration of "outright lying about what's going on." Also, the lack of adequate testing was "almost criminal." I repeat, all these assessments came prior to Obama's comments today:
The Obamacare exchanges' so-called "front end" issues are just the tip of the iceberg. These problems were needlessly created by the administration because they were afraid of allowing people to browse pre-subsidized coverage rates, which would lead to widespread sticker shock. The deeper malfunctions have infected the guts of the system, such that even "enrolled" people may not actually be signed up for the coverage they think they have. And we have no idea when those flaws will be resolved.
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