Well, not really. But the poor performance of HealthCare.gov, the website that is supposed to help the uninsured get health-care coverage in 36 states, is frustrating some of the strongest supporters of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). It’s also giving some pundits the chance to make fun of President Barack Obama after spending weeks going after the Republican Party for its role in the shutdown of the federal government.
The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart, who has long ridiculed Tea Party Republicans, seems relieved to have a new target. Political Wire links to one of Daily Show’s reports on the kludgy website, which Stewart sardonically introduces with: “All that stands in the way of Democratic electoral success is a mildly competent implementation of the health care policy they battled so hard to keep.”
That is nowhere near true. Voters whose opinions of Obamacare have been changed by its implementation problems must be harder to find than … yes, OK, people who got insurance through HealthCare.gov on their first try. If you didn’t buy the Republican arguments against universal health insurance before now (death panels, IRS thugs, etc.), you’re not likely to change your mind because of bad website design. (Even if it uses a binary code with 4’s and 5’s, as suggested in a Daily Showfollow-up report with John Oliver that’s a must for Tron fans.)
But that’s what Obamacare opponents are left to work with. So the conservative Weekly Standard is a temporary fan of The Daily Show (“Liberal Comedian Jon Stewart Assails Obamacare Implementation”), and Slate’s David Weigel reports that Republicans have been touting Stewart’s interview skills:
It was really [Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen] Sebelius’s interview withThe Daily Show on Oct. 7 that made them see the roadkill bleeding out on the interstate. Jon Stewart started the segment by opening a Macbook and offering Sebelius a “dare”: “I’m gonna try and download every movie ever made, and you’re gonna try to sign up for Obamacare, and we’ll see which happens first.” By the end, Sebelius was struggling to convince Stewart—who wanted the law to work!—why it didn’t make sense to delay the mandate until the exchange site was at least as functional as a Geocities page.
Slowly, methodically, as the site errors persisted, Republicans lit into Sebelius. On Oct. 11, Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts called on Sebelius to “resign for gross incompetence” after “even Jon Stewart” saw through the failure of Obamacare. Five days later, at a congressional forum sponsored by the Heritage Foundation, multiple House Republicans told reporters to watch the Jon Stewart interview to 1) learn how journalism was done and 2) see how sensible the one-year delay truly was.
Jon Stewart is not the only subject of the “Even x hates it” formula. The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein, usually an irritant to conservatives, has mixed feelings about his new cross-over appeal:
Since I’ve been harshly critical of the law’s rollout, I’ve gained a lot of new fans among the law’s opponents. But because my criticisms are oriented toward fixing a law these folks want to repeal, there’s been a certain looseness in the way my arguments have been described. Here’s Sen. Ted Cruz on Mark Levin’s radio show:
There is so much widespread agreement that this thing is a train wreck. You’ve got Wolf Blitzer on CNN saying the president should delay this for a year. You’ve got Ezra Klein coming out in The Washington Post saying the president should delay it for a year.
I never said that. I think delaying the law for a year would be a disaster. But my view of what should be done — which mostly amounts to: fix the Web site, and quick — isn’t worth much to Cruz. If the Web site was running smoothly, that would be much worse for him.
No one really expects people like Stewart and Klein to suddenly turn against the very idea of Obamacare. Lots of liberal Democrats use public transit and send angry tweets about poor service; that doesn’t mean they want to defund subways.
Republican strategist Patrick Ruffini tweeted on Monday: “It’s so cute when the left realizes that the government isn’t competent enough to implement all their grand designs.” Matt Yglesias took the bait and replied:
[..] the existence of great websites is sort of incidental to the operation of a social insurance system. Social Security and Medicare, for example, both have good websites in 2013. But both programs functioned fine for decades without any kind of website at all. Universal health care systems were built all around the world before the Internet existed.
Indeed, one big difference between Social Security and Obamacare is that the former is a single-payer system, while Obamacare has the difficult task of matching the uninsured with private companies. (One of the biggest website problems is been that HealthCare.gov has been transmitting redundant and contradictory customer data to the for-profit insurance companies offering plans through the government-run exchange.) If government is simply incapable of running a large program, one would expect constant problems with Social Security and Medicare. Where are the stories on those train wrecks?