President Obama is none too pleased with HealthCare.gov, we learned today:
“There’s no sugarcoating it: The Web site is too slow; people have been getting stuck in the application process,” Obama said. “And I think it is fair to say that no one is more frustrated by the problem than I am.
His immediate response? A “tech surge” of relevant experts to sort out the Obamacare-signup website’s problems (though they may want to be careful about tossing around the phrase “the best and the brightest”). When the central public-facing aspect of your most significant policy achievement has problems, your presidency has problems — which is why Obama should send Ted Cruz a thank-you note.
Imagine an alternate universe in which Republicans had NOT shut down the government or held the debt ceiling hostage over Obamacare funding. Since HealthCare.gov’s October 1 rollout, every conservative politician in range of a camera or microphone would have spent every possible day of the last three weeks saying “I told you so” and claiming that the new health care law was a disaster. Instead, THEY became the story, with the Obamacare exchange website’s problems reduced to an also-ran in the political mind. In the world we live in, Obama has a victory in his pocket, his opponents are discredited and the political chattering class is burned out from three weeks of crisis. As a result, he has some breathing room to sort out the technical mess.
By next spring, I suspect that the big Obamacare story will be the vast numbers of people who’ve signed up, despite today’s technical problems. And in that case, the program’s success WILL pull the rug out from under the Tea Party hysteria, even if the true believers never back down. If so, Ted Cruz and friends can blame themselves — and today’s uninsured will owe them a big favor.