The obvious question, then, is … why continue? Both Kirsten Powers and Ron Fournier have spent the last day offering cris des coeurs over the incompetence of the White House, as the National Journal columnist did yesterday and Powers did last night on Fox News Special Report (via RCP and Truth Revolt):
KIRSTEN POWERS: Well, I think his explanation is probably the true explanation, that they need to do this, but at the same time, it’s now gotten to the point where it seems like there’s an exemption made for pretty much everybody except for individuals. A lot of people who have really been screwed over by the law, you know, who are left without insurance or with extremely expensive insurance. So, I think that Ron Fournier of The National Journal wrote something that ran today about —
BRET BAIER: This was after he expressed himself last night on the panel.
POWERS: The headline is why I’m getting tired of defending Obamacare. And I’m going to say amen, brother, because it’s exactly how I feel. People who have supported the law, who support universal health care, are constantly put in the position of having to defend this president, who has really incompetently put this together, rolled it out, and that’s why he has to do this. It’s why he has to keep doing this, because it’s not working.
The objection from both assumes that this project had a hope of succeeding in the first place. Let’s not forget that ObamaCare passed nearly four years ago, and HHS had 42 months of lead time until its rollout date. Four months after that, the White House keeps shifting deadlines, plainly to avoid the political consequences of its utter failure and ineptitude. How long is long enough to climb off the bandwagon?
Fournier’s argument on that question rests on a supposed lack of alternatives:
I want the ACA to work because the GOP has not offered a serious alternative that can pass Congress.
That, however, is a circular argument — because a Congress controlled by Democrats in one chamber will not pass any kind of replacement for ObamaCare, no matter how “serious” or workable it might be. Harry Reid wouldn’t even bring it onto the agenda, let alone schedule a floor vote, and Democrats would close ranks with the White House even if he did. Fournier’s argument boils down to the acceptance that Democrats won’t change their minds, so we may as well keep cheering on the failure, and hope that the incompetents that produced it over four years can fix it in six months. That’s absurd, but it’s the final fig leaf for less-partisan supporters of ObamaCare.
Fournier’s colleague Sam Baker argues that Obama’s doing most of the damage to his law now, not Republicans:
Republicans have done everything they can think of to strike down Obamacare, but they’ve still only managed to come in second place. For all the House votes to repeal, defund, or weaken Obamacare, some of the most significant setbacks for the law have come from the administration itself.
Monday’s delay in the law’s employer mandate was just the latest in a series of self-inflicted wounds, just like the HealthCare.gov launch and delays in several programs that simply weren’t ready for prime time.
To be clear, the self-inflicted wounds haven’t been fatal. Obamacare is moving forward—and the doomsayers’ prophecies have fallen flat: People are signing up, premiums are lower than expected, and the law’s basic survival is assured. It gets stronger every month as more people pour into new insurance marketplaces in each state.
But the law does have a specific vision of the future of health insurance. And to hit that vision, it relies on a delicate balance of popular carrots—think coverage for those with preexisting conditions—and unpopular sticks, such as the ever-controversial individual mandate. And the administration keeps chipping away at unpopular parts—sometimes directly, and sometimes by handing Republicans a political weapon.
By the way, who’s going to fix the website, which defenders have mostly cited as the main obstacle on the path to Nirvana? The names have changed, but the faces look awfully familiar:
After denigrating the work of CGI and replacing it as the largest contractor on the federal health care website, the Obama administration is negotiating with the company to extend its work on the project for a few months.
And the new prime contractor, Accenture, is trying to recruit and hire CGI employees to work under its supervision.
I’m sure that will work out well…