Sec­ond-term blun­ders give Obama his own ‘Ka­t­rina’

Democrats bris­tle at com­par­i­son to Bush

The Washington Times Daily - - Front Page - BY DAVE BOYER

A per­fect storm of blun­ders, bro­ken prom­ises and re­bel­lion in his own party over Oba­macare is rais­ing doubts about whether Pres­i­dent Obama can re­cover from the month­long de­ba­cle to gov­ern ef­fec­tively in his sec­ond term.

The in­ept roll­out of the en­ti­tle­ment pro­gram and in­creas­ing skep­ti­cism that it will ever work as promised have prompted Demo­cratic strate­gist Garry South to la­bel the af­fair “Obama’s Ka­t­rina,” a ref­er­ence to the bun­gled hur­ri­cane relief ef­fort that per­ma­nently un­der­mined the cred­i­bil­ity of Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush in his sec­ond term.

Not quite a year into his sec­ond term, Mr. Obama’s job ap­proval rat­ing has fallen to its low­est point ever. On Fri­day, one in five House Democrats voted against the pres­i­dent and in fa­vor of a Repub­li­can bill that would make good on Mr. Obama’s bro­ken pledge that Amer­i­cans could keep their health insurance plans if they like them.

“I don’t think they’re ever go­ing to re­cover from this,” James Capretta, a pub­lic pol­icy an­a­lyst at the

con­ser­va­tive Amer­i­can En­ter­prise In­sti­tute, said of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. “Ka­t­rina was ter­ri­ble, and it took months and months for the story to re­cede from the pub­lic’s mind, but this could last even longer. This po­ten­tially could be worse for Pres­i­dent Obama.”

While some Democrats con­cede that the ad­min­is­tra­tion has botched the roll­out, they say it is mis­guided and in poor taste to com­pare the floun­der­ing pro­gram to a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter that killed more than 1,000 peo­ple and dev­as­tated en­tire com­mu­ni­ties.

“Pres­i­dent Obama may be un­der­wa­ter, but this is no Ka­t­rina mo­ment,” said Donna Brazile, vice chair­woman of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee and a na­tive of Louisiana. “Find another metaphor. This has noth­ing to do with Ka­t­rina.”

Speak­ing on ABC’s “This Week,” for­mer White House se­nior ad­viser David Plouffe re­jected the com­par­i­son, sug­gest­ing the pres­i­dent could re­cover quickly if progress is made on a bud­get or other press­ing is­sues.

“We could be in a much dif­fer­ent place three or four months from now,” he said. “The story could change.”

But since Oba­macare’s un­veil­ing Oct. 1, the ad­min­is­tra­tion has yet to turn the cor­ner on the bad news. Rev­e­la­tions about web­site mal­func­tions have given way to dis­cov­er­ies of wide­spread cancellations of insurance poli­cies and re­ports of fraud­u­lent en­roll­ment prac­tices.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion has even started to back­track on its prom­ise that the Health­ web­site will be run­ning smoothly by the end of this month, a goal that of­fi­cials view as es­sen­tial to mak­ing the pro­gram work.

With Oba­macare’s cov­er­age set to take ef­fect Jan. 1, time is run­ning out for the ad­min­is­tra­tion to fix the prob­lems, said David Co­hen, a pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal sci­ence at the Univer­sity of Akron. He said the dilemma has high­lighted short­com­ings of Mr. Obama and his in­ner cir­cle in their abil­i­ties to gov­ern.

“Clearly, the White House staff has strug­gled,” Mr. Co­hen said. “And Pres­i­dent Obama has been rather in­su­lar.”

The weekly dis­play of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s in­ep­ti­tude on Oba­macare is rais­ing ques­tions about the pres­i­dent’s abil­ity to get his agenda back on track on im­mi­gra­tion re­form, cli­mate change leg­is­la­tion, gun con­trol and other is­sues. But White House press sec­re­tary Jay Car­ney said com­pli­ca­tions with the health care law’s im­ple­men­ta­tion have not dis­tracted the pres­i­dent from his sec­ond-term goals.

“I think he’s go­ing to do it by wak­ing up ev­ery day and fo­cus­ing on ad­dress­ing the con­cerns that the Amer­i­can peo­ple have, that they want their elected lead­ers here in Wash­ing­ton to fo­cus on,” Mr. Car­ney said. “And that means in this case mak­ing the Af­ford­able Care Act de­liver on its prom­ise, de­liver the ben­e­fits that it will pro­vide, when im­ple­mented, to mil­lions and mil­lions of Amer­i­cans.”

Mr. Co­hen said the pres­i­dent could re­verse the down­ward tra­jec­tory of his sec­ond term by scor­ing a big ac­com­plish­ment in for­eign pol­icy, such as the un­fin­ished talks on Iran’s sus­pected nu­clear weapons pro­gram.

But even on the for­eign pol­icy front, de­vel­op­ments this year have in­cluded set­backs, in­clud­ing the cease­less in­ter­na­tional uproar over Ed­ward Snow­den’s spy­ing rev­e­la­tions and the ris­ing ten­sions in the Mid­dle East, from Syria to Egypt.

Mr. Capretta, a for­mer Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial who fo­cuses on health care pol­icy, said there are likely more prob­lems to come with Oba­macare be­cause rel­a­tively healthy peo­ple will be re­luc­tant to en­roll for cov­er­age they don’t need. He also said Mr. Obama’s pro­posed “fix” for peo­ple whose poli­cies were can­celed — call­ing on in­sur­ers and state of­fi­cials to re­store sub­stan­dard plans for one year — isn’t a work­able so­lu­tion.

“I thought it was com­pletely law­less,” Mr. Capretta said. “They’re just mak­ing it up as they go. They’re just say­ing essen­tially, ‘Th­ese plans are still il­le­gal un­der our law, but we’ll let them hap­pen any­way.’ It’s not re­ally a way to run a coun­try. They re­ally should be work­ing with the Congress to do a leg­isla­tive fix.”

Ms. Brazile said the pol­i­tics of the sit­u­a­tion won’t change “un­til the pol­icy is fully un­der­stood and im­ple­mented with­out malfea­sance by those sim­ply op­posed.”

“Once the web­site is prop­erly work­ing and folks who need ac­cess feel more com­fort­able ac­cess­ing, the pres­i­dent will have to demon­strate how this new fed­eral pro­gram will help those who need it as well as those who might not want it,” she said. “Can the insurance com­pa­nies do the same? Can Repub­li­cans ex­plain why they want peo­ple with­out [insurance] to keep show­ing up at the emer­gency room when they get sick?”

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