President Obama Knows Perfectly Well How Bad ACA’s Problems Are


I’m reading a lot of commentary about President Obama’s press conference today that goes something like this:

  • It’s nice that Obama finally acknowledged problems with the healthcare website.
  • But then there was all this happy talk about how things will be fine eventually because lots of people are working hard to fix the bugs. That’s unacceptable! This has been a disaster! He needs to fire some people and make it clear that he knows just how bad things are.

Come on. Obama probably knows perfectly well how bad things are. But presidents never fully acknowledge an unfolding disaster on their watch. Their whole schtick is to be grave and serious, but never to make people feel gloomy and depressed. When FDR said the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, he was obviously bullshitting. We had a helluva lot more to fear than that. But he said it anyway, because it was uplifting and comforting, and it made people feel better about ultimately recovering from the Great Depression. Obama is doing the same thing. He doesn’t want people to give up on ACA, he wants them to feel confident that we’re ultimately going to recover from its problems.

Maybe eventually heads will roll over this. I don’t know. But when you’re in the middle of a battle, you don’t usually start firing people, and you don’t tell the troops that we’re surrounded on all sides and we’re probably doomed. You tell them that things are tough, but the cavalry is on the way and everything will be OK if we just keep our heads together. You give them a pep talk. What Obama did today isn’t a sign that he’s out of touch. It was what every president in history has always done.

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