Happy Hour Roundup

April 1

* President Obama came out to the Rose Garden today to crow a little about the fact that the Affordable Care Act hit its target of signing up seven million people for private insurance. But most interesting was this:

“I don’t get it. Why are folks working so hard for people not to have health insurance? Why are they so mad about the idea of folks having health insurance? Many of the tall tales that have been told about this law have been debunked. There are still no death panels. Armageddon has not arrived. Instead, this law is helping millions of Americans, and in the coming years it will help millions more.”

This is a slight change from the rhetoric we’ve been hearing, in which Democrats say the law is working and Republicans say it isn’t. We’ll have to see whether Democratic candidates start demanding that their opponents explain why they have a problem with people getting covered. “In the end,” Obama said, “history is not kind to those who would deny Americans their basic economic security.”

* Paul Krugman says we should acknowledge just how big a deal clearing the seven million hurdle really is. The risk of the Affordable Care Act was always “that it would be too Rube Goldbergy — that it would be too hard to get the system up and running, that people wouldn’t hear about their options or be able to navigate their way through the choices available. And for a while, with the botched website, it looked as if this worst-case scenario was coming true.” But now? Not so much.

* Jonathan Cohn goes Full Wonk on the reasons to feel optimistic about the ACA:

The Affordable Care Act has unleashed a great many changes—some good, some bad, some in between. And it’s going to be a long time before there’s enough evidence to assess them carefully. But the available data points offer hints about what is happening. And while they don’t add up to a clear, definitive vindication of the law, they are enough to justify some real optimism—the kind that hasn’t been possible since October 1, the day healthcare.gov launched, crashed, and nearly took the whole liberal cause into cyberhell with it.

* Conservative columnist Ramesh Ponnuru tells conservatives to accept their defeat. The ACA is not going to implode, collapse, or unravel. “Many congressional Republicans wanted to believe the idea, though, especially because they viewed it as one more reason they could avoid coming up with their own health-care agenda.”

* Chuck Todd and the rest of the NBC News “First Read” team ask what happens if the negative health care headlines go away.  “The GOP needs the daily momentum of negative headlines on health care to last until the fall to truly build a wave; what if that daily momentum on health care is gone?” We agree.

* Paul Ryan has released his latest budget. Draconian cuts to Medicaid and food stamps? Check. Increases in military spending? Check. Absurd projections of economic growth that make the whole thing balance the budget? Check and check.

* Dems tear into the new Ryan budget, with Nancy Pelosi deriding it as a “vision for a less prosperous America,” and you can expect this to figure very heavily into Dem messaging against Republicans all over the map. — gs

* However, Republicans appear confident that they can again attack Dems over those Medicare Advantage cuts that figured in so many attack ads over the last couple cycles — and vulnerable Dems seem to agree. Noteworthy:

Privately, Republicans said polling shows voters often juxtapose Medicare Advantage with Medicare — which  means the attacks resonate with seniors who are not even enrolled in Medicare Advantage.

Clever! — gs

* The administration is considering releasing Jonathan Pollard, convicted of spying for Israel in 1987, as part of a Middle East peace deal. But some people in Congress, including the chair and ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, are adamantly opposed to the idea. John McCain is already on record supporting Pollard’s release, so he could only get mad at the release being part of such a deal. “It’s disgusting,” he said.

* Elizabeth Warren has been working overtime helping embattled Democrats raise money. Never hurts to have lots of people owe you a favor.

* 60 Minutes, which has been having a bad run of late, has apologized for showing video of the quiet Tesla Model S accompanied by sounds of an internal-combustion car. And while we’re on the subject, you may not want to know that TV networks routinely dub in fake sounds over sporting events. The drumming of hooves you hear when you’re watching a horse race? It’s an old audio clip of a buffalo stampede slowed down a bit. Seriously.

* Rick Santorum is probably going to run for president in 2016, but in the meantime he’s running a movie company that produces films based on traditional values. “It’s like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ meets ‘A Christmas Carol,’ set in Victorian England,” he says of one project in development. So he’s mastered the Hollywood art of making sure nothing is original.

* And finally, in honor of a visit by the Boston Red Sox and April Fools Day, the White House announced the creation of the President’s Council on Beards. It’s just a laugh a minute down there on Pennsylvania Avenue.

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Greg Sargent | April 1