Obama’s Crow-Eating Presser

After watching a long and very painful presidential press conference, with long ruminations by the president on the Affordable Care Act’s problems interrupted by a couple of non-health-care questions and by Obama’s own brief announcement of the “fix” described in my last post, I’m almost as exhausted as the president must be.

Obama ate an extraordinarily large platter of crow for the website problems, for his “pledge” about the ability to continue policies, for the IT ineptitude of the federal government, and even for the political pain currently being experienced by congressional Democrats. For those of us who have been marinated in health care policy minutiae for much of the last four year, he occasionally made very good sense, but not with the sort of crisp or vivid language that would break through to regular folks who keep hearing Obamacare is a “mess.” The best tweet I read during the presser was from MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin:

Obama kind of sounds like he’s recapping the last month of @ezraklein posts after chugging a bottle of Nyquil

As a “rebooting” of administration policy rather than as a public relations exercise, however, Obama did what he needed to do. He chose what was probably the least damaging of the “fixes” available for the individual policy-holders facing cancellations. He didn’t over-promise website improvements. And he tried, repeatedly, to refocus attention to the big picture of health care reform, and the fatal flaws in the status quo ante that dwarf the problems being experienced right now. What’s unclear is whether the chattering classes (much less the conservatives who are trying to take down the entire health reform enterprise) and the public that relies on them for information are going to be capable of making the leap back from the anecdote-driven snail’s eye view of how the Affordable Care Act is being implemented. It won’t be easy, even among those operating in the good will that’s in very short supply.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.