The short version:
"Mr. President, I don't think a speech is going to fix this debacle." "What about 21 speeches?" "Yes sir, perfect."
— Rory Cooper (@rorycooper) December 3, 2013
The long version:
“To kick off the new effort, the President will hold an event at the White House to discuss the health care law’s benefits already in place for millions of Americans and make the case for why we need to move forward to make sure the law is a success.”
The first event is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, but it is just the first wave in a tsunami of information the Obama administration plans to unleash.
This will be a daily event through December 23 as the White House plans to highlight benefits of the Affordable Care Act — sometimes on its own and other times with the help of supporters of the reform package.
The offensive is a sign the White House no longer feels weighed down by the problem-plagued HealthCare.gov.
That can’t be true, even in a White House as willfully blind to the website’s problems as the one that greenlit this Chernobyl for an October 1st launch. Take a gander at our Headlines section this morning. Garbled data, phantom enrollments, massive security problems — all of it conspiring to potentially destabilize insurers, which has credit agencies worried and murmurs about the coming federal mini-bailout growing louder. Unless HHS has reason to believe the site is now more stable than anyone else knows, they’re taking two huge risks by launching a PR campaign. One is the risk of people swarming to the site to enroll and crashing it, something they feared so much as recently as last week that they encouraged liberal nonprofits not to launch any PR campaigns of their own. The other risk, paradoxically, is that the site won’t crash and insurers will be inundated with new applications that they either can’t process, because the information’s too mangled to decipher, or won’t process because there’s currently no way for applicants to pay their first month’s premium through the website. What’s changed to make the White House think that drumming up interest in enrolling in the home stretch before the December 23rd deadline is worth those risks?
Maybe nothing. Maybe this is all just a form of political disaster management:
The focus on Obamacare benefits is a political necessity for congressional Democrats, the large majority of whom will face voters in less than a year. Democrats wrote and passed the law in the face of unified Republican opposition, and if voters aren’t aware of the law’s upside — or can’t remember it amid all the problems with the rollout — Democrats will be holding onto an anchor rather than a buoy.
Democrats in the White House and on Capitol Hill say that in order to get back on offense on Obamacare, they have to draw a two-sided picture: Democrats delivering benefits on one side, and Republicans trying to deny them on the other. That, one party operative said, is what polling says will help them win. Instead, Democrats have spent the past two months blaming a president of their own party for the deficiencies of a law that they own.
If they know that the next eight weeks, at least, will be filled with more ObamaCare landmines exploding — and they will be — then they’ve got three options. They can stand around waiting for them to go off and then hem and haw their way through the wreckage when they do. They can try to change the subject to some other area of policy, like Iran, and hope somehow that the media remains fixated on it hour-by-hour until, er, February. Or they can swallow hard and try to defend the law, if only to force reporters to squeeze a little “ObamaCare has good intentions” pap into news stories about people suffering lapses in their coverage next month because they can’t get the farking website to work or can’t afford their new premiums. Stay the course, in other words. It’ll all pay off eventually! — even if “eventually” means 2017 or later. “[V]oters will grasp that one side is trying to solve our health care problems,” insists Greg Sargent, “while the other is trying to sabotage all solutions while advancing no constructive answers of their own.” Will they, though? I usually stay away from ObamaCare/Iraq analogies, but I’m thinking a big “well, what would you do about Saddam?” campaign by the GOP in 2006 wouldn’t have done much to hold back the Democratic wave in November. If you screw up so badly that the public comes to believe you’ve made an already bad situation worse with your “fix,” blaming the other party for obstruction won’t help you. Democrats are betting, I guess, that this new PR push will help convince people that O-Care hasn’t made things worse, but if you can remember another instance of an Obama publicity campaign succeeding, let me know.
As for what this means for the site’s functionality — more people logging on, more load on the site, more chaos for insurers in trying to make sense of the 834 data — I think the real significance of today’s PR push is that the White House apparently seems resigned to that happening anyway. If you can’t prevent a big technological mess from happening next month, might as well do some political triage even if it means making the mess a little bigger. The next year is going to be a ceaseless balancing act between those two priorities, fixing the law as best they can for awhile and then shifting to PR to buy a little more time with the public while the remaining technical problems compound. Gonna be a long 12 months.
Again, no matter. The crisis that these errors will create in January is January’s problem. Today’s crisis, one of internal cohesion within the Democratic Party, is more acute. The left demands that caution be abandoned in favor of a hollow display of force.
These panic-inspired offensive operations against ACA opponents are not designed to achieve any strategic objective. They are politically inspired and are aimed at achieving a political goal. Each has had the temporary effect of increasing Democratic unity, but the president cannot overcome the static conditions of the terrain on which they are fighting. The underlying problems associated with the ACA are fracturing the Democratic Party. So long as the ACA remains unreformed, the Democrats are in a losing position.