“Reagan had Iran-Contra, Clinton had impeachment, and Bush had Katrina and Iraq,” said Dana Milbank in The Washington Post. Every two-term president in recent memory has had his second term blighted by a major scandal or failure, and it now looks as if the disastrous rollout of the Affordable Care Act will be Obama’s fatal mistake. The parallels with Hurricane Katrina are particularly compelling, said Jonathan Tobin in CommentaryMagazine.com. The Iraq War had already created simmering national discontent with President George W. Bush, and the impression that he failed to respond properly to New Orleans’s suffering “metastasized into a general impression of dysfunction and failure.” Bush’s job approval ratings never recovered. A new CBS poll found Obama’s approval ratings diving to 37 percent, an all-time low for him. For years, the country’s first African-American president has been shielded from previous failures by a special aura. But in “Hurricane Obamacare,” we have clearly “arrived at the point when the Obama magic has disappeared.”
“There’s no question that HealthCare.gov has been a fiasco,” said Jamelle Bouie in TheDailyBeast.com, but the comparison to Hurricane Katrina “is ludicrous.” The vacationing Bush ignored several days of warnings about Katrina, and amid a disorganized, half-hearted federal emergency response, more than 1,800 Americans actually died. The website for the federal health-care exchange, for all of its glitches, has yet to produce flooded streets full of dead bodies. Besides, said Jonathan Chait in NYMag.com, Obamacare’s sluggish website is a problem that can be “fixed over time.” We’re just six weeks into the launch, and the website “has already reached a point of functionality.” In coming months, enrollment in the insurance exchanges will only improve. As millions of Americans get affordable health insurance through the program and see its many other benefits, impressions may change. Despite the glee of Obama’s “hyperventilating” critics, reports of the death of his presidency are premature.
The website may get fixed, said Matthew Continetti in NationalReview.com, but “what can’t be repaired is the 37 times Obama said Americans could keep their health insurance if they liked it.” The revelation that the president flatly lied to the American people has taken a toll on his “likability and credibility” that no website technician can repair. If Obamacare continues to bestow unhappy surprises on the public, said Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post, Obama’s “transformational liberalism” will also become a casualty. By revealing himself as both arrogant and incompetent, he’s destroying his vision of an “ever-expansive central government providing cradle-to-grave care.”
“Don’t believe the hype,” said Brendan Nyhan in CJR.org. The media is doing what it always does: taking a current trend—in this case the troubled rollout and Obama’s slumping poll numbers—and “extrapolating wildly” toward an “implausible extreme.” Remember when Obama performed miserably in the first debate with Mitt Romney and pundits pronounced it a turning point in the election? Obamacare’s success or failure will certainly determine how this president is remembered, said Paul Waldman in Prospect.org, “but you can’t call the Affordable Care Act a failure until it takes effect and does or does not achieve its goals.” The sign-up deadline doesn’t arrive until March 31, and it may take a year after that for the law’s impact to become clear. Before writing Obama’s political obituary, we should “remember that things will change. They always do.”