November 14, 2013

President Obama’s just-completed press conference was arguably worse than the Obamacare rollout. Alternately confessing, apologizing and blame shifting, he inadvertently made the case against his own executive skills, Obamacare and big government in general.

His announced fix is aimed at remedying the mass cancellation of individually-purchased insurance plans by letting insurance companies re-offer non-compliant policies. This makes clear that contrary to the statements from Jay Carney and Valerie Jarrett, Obamacare and not the insurers were the cause of the cancellations. Obama let slip that this is one big blame-shifting exercise when he announced that no one would be able to say Obamacare caused them to lose insurance. It is of course false because it is unlikely all the canceled policies can be restored.

The fix undermines the essential premise of Obamacare, namely that young, healthy people need to be herded into the  exchanges. Not only will this explicitly encourage many people to stay out but also will communicate that the entire program is in flux. Don’t sign up now — the deal may improve as the president gets more desperate!

But it really was the series of unbelievable lines for which this press conference will be remembered:

“We fumbled the rollout on this health-care law.”

“I completely get how upsetting this can be for a lot of Americans.”

“It is a complex process.”

“I was not informed directly [How about indirectly?!] that the Web site would not be working. . . . I don’t think I’m stupid enough to go around saying this is going to be like shopping on Amazon or Travelocity, a week before the Web site opens, if I thought that it wasn’t going to work.”

“With respect to the pledge I made that if you like your plan you can keep it. . . that there is no doubt that the way I put that forward unequivocally ended up not being accurate.”

“The Affordable Care Act is not going to be the reason why insurers have to cancel your plans.”

“The federal government does a lot of things really well. One of those things it does not do well is information technology procurement.”

“In terms of what happens on Nov. 30th or Dec. 1st, I think it’s fair to say that the improvement will be marked and noticeable.”

“What we are also discovering is insurance is complicated to buy.”

“There is no doubt that our failure to roll out the ACA smoothly has put a burden on Democrats, whether they’re running or not.”

“There have been times where I thought we were … slapped around a little bit unjustly. This one’s deserved, all right?”

“These are two fumbles on something that — on a big game which — but the game’s not over.”

Obama’s answers were long, rambling and at times hard to understand. What is clear is there is no arguing Obamacare can’t be touched or that this administration knows what it is doing. It was a remarkable confession about his own and the federal government’s ineptness, a virtual ad against big government — especially ones dependent on IT procurement. In admitting this was about shifting blame to insurers, he made crystal clear that his conduct is and has been about damage control, not permanently fixing an unworkable bill. He certainly gave satisfaction to Republicans who have been making many of these arguments all along. And it will no doubt convince Democrats to run as fast and as far as they can from this hapless president.

Having rolled back his promise that the Web site will be running 100 percent by the end of the month and conveying that the law is likely to change some more, he has given people a disincentive to sign up on the exchanges, which may depress the already meager sign-up numbers.

This is a president adrift, confused and entirely over his head. He has, in essence, confirmed what his harshest critics have long been arguing: he is incompetent and unknowledgable about how the world operates.  And we have three more years left of this.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.