Sec­ond-term blun­ders give Obama his ‘Ka­t­rina’

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - 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 Health­Care.gov 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.”

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