Whether a “glitch” or a dismissible offense, as former Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs let slip, the rocky website rollout will not in itself doom Obamacare, which has actually risen slightly in popularity over the past few weeks as Americans have come to realize it is less damaging to the economy than those who oppose it with so much venom they shut down the government in protest. The President and his aides point to the example of Massachusetts, the only other state that has attempted a program similar to Obamacare. Many of the sign-ups there happened just before the penalties kicked in. For Obamacare, that won’t happen until next spring.
But the problem Obama now faces is one familiar to many Presidents before him: a need to demonstrate basic competency. One of the oldest polling questions in American politics is, “How much of the time do you trust the government in Washington?” Right now, according to Pew, just 19% of Americans say “just about always” or “most of the time,” which is not far from the historic low. As a President who continues to pin his policy prescription around a bigger government hand in economic development, Obama does not have the option of simply allowing his website to muddle along. His legacy will not hold up if his signature accomplishment fails to attract the uninsured. This is why he needs to stop apologizing for the failure, make some changes and show that he can get the job done. Look for him to start today, just before noon.