The White House communications team had three weeks to find 10-15 people who’ve actually enrolled in O-Care via Healthcare.gov to serve as human props for an Obama press conference on this subject. Three weeks. And yet, according to the WH’s own mini-biographies of the people invited to the Rose Garden today, just … three have successfully registered so far. Last week, Bob Laszewski estimated that no more than 20,000 people had managed to enroll in the site’s first 14 days or so online. If the White House had this much trouble finding a dozen or so for one of O’s biggest photo ops this year, I’ve got to wonder if the real number’s significantly less than that.

Byron York has reproduced the full White House release on today’s attendees. Among the lucky 13 is someone who’s “looking forward to enrolling for health coverage this fall,” someone who “recently began researching her options” on California’s state exchange, someone who “plans to comparison shop” on Healthcare.gov, and someone who’s “exploring what new coverage options will be available,” as well as a few people who are happy they can stay on their parents’ insurance under the new rules about age. All of which, ironically, is true to the spirit of today’s presser: In theory, this was going to be a “mea culpa” moment for O in which he explained in some detail what’s gone wrong with the site and set a timetable for when it would be running smoothly. Instead it was an infomercial for ObamaCare with a few perfunctory references to the “kinks” crippling Healthcare.gov. “There’s no sugarcoating it,” O said at one point about the site meltdown — except that the whole point of the presser was to sugarcoat it, right down to inviting people onstage who haven’t managed to actually register yet thanks to HHS’s Geocities-caliber tech. Says Peter Suderman:

Just a few weeks ago, Obama was telling people that the exchanges would be as simple to use as Amazon, or an online travel reservation site like Kayak.com. Now he’s telling people they must rely on a phone and paper process that is, at best, extremely slow.

Obama’s speech, in other words, was designed to tell people how Obamacare could work without the online exchanges. Which strongly suggests that he and the rest of the administration believe that, at least for the time being, that’s the only way it’s going to.

Exactly. Today was all about buying time for website repairs and trying to combat ominous polls like this, which show the public’s perceptions of Healthcare.gov bleeding over into their perceptions of the ObamaCare program generally. Which it should: After all, the website’s problems are a direct function of the premium hikes mandated by the law itself.

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Turns out even the call-center experience touted by Barack “Popeil” Obama today as a fallback option is confusing and frustrating. As icing on the cake, here’s a new spot from the propaganda ministers at HHS, who found the one guy in America who thinks it’s “pretty easy” to comparison shop on Healthcare.gov. Why wasn’t he onstage with O today?