The Washington Post

President Obama takes his medicine. But will it work?

President Obama explained how Americans who wish to keep their health plans can work to do so under his signature health-care law during a speech Friday. (The Washington Post)

Chastened. Apologetic. Introspective.

Pick your adjective. They all fit President Obama's tone during a surprisingly lengthy statement-turned-press conference in which he announced an administrative fix to make good on his "if you like your plan, you can keep it" pledge regarding the Affordable Care Act and repeatedly took the blame for the problems with the rollout of the law.

He said he had "fumbled" the ball. Three times. He acknowledged he was unaware of the depth of the problems with And, perhaps most tellingly, he repeated a line from his days on the campaign trail; "I am not a perfect man and I will not be a perfect president," Obama said.

All told, Obama's demeanor -- and his rhetoric -- represented a marked change for a president who has been typically unwilling to engage in the sort of navel-gazing introspection that the Washington political press corps loves and politicians loathe. And, for a president and an administration who have come under considerable scrutiny from the White House press corps, the nearly hour-long talkathon was also a startling departure from precedent.

There's no question that this was a different Obama. But, whether Obama's willingness to take his medicine/fall on his sword/admit he fumbled the ball will help arrest the political free fall in which he (and his party) currently find themselves on Obamacare is very much up in the air.

In the immediate aftermath of Obama's speech, Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu said that while she supported the president's plan to allow insurers to continue to offer canceled plans through 2014, she would also continue to push her legislation that would make such a move permanent.

"I will be working today and throughout the weeks ahead to support legislation to keep the promise," Landrieu said in a statement. House Republicans, too, will almost certainly move forward with a planned Friday vote that would allow people to keep their plans if they liked them. (Sidebar: That is going to be a very tough vote for House Democrats in swing districts.)

And, the fact that President Obama was unwilling (or unable) to offer an unequivocal promise that will be fully functional by the administration's self-imposed Nov. 30 deadline -- he said only that the site "will be working better" than it is now -- ensures that the problems with the law's rollout will remain front and center for the foreseeable future.

Put simply: Sometimes saying sorry  just isn't enough.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.



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Chris Cillizza · November 14, 2013

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