John Stewart

Best medicine: Stewart is not pulling his punch lines on the Obamacare rollout.(Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

All Powers

When you’ve lost Jon Stewart … you know the Obamacare rollout was a disaster.

Major Garrett
By Major Garrett
October 22, 2013

The Obamacare rollout is dying the death of a thousand zeitgeists.

The jokes are too easy. But President Obama has never been this juicy a target or the comic barrage this pitiless.

In his Rose Garden defense of Obamacare, the president said “the product is good” and that it was a “good deal” four times each. He said it was “really good,” “the prices are good,” the “health insurance is good,” and the quality was “really good” one time each. The only thing he didn’t say was, “Message: I care.”

Every politician lives with a secondary metaphoric shadow of huckster. But Ginsu knives and George Foreman? Can Ron Popeil and Chop-O-Matic comparisons be far away? Oh, wait.

Oh wait. See Jon Stewart at 5:55 of this clip. Stewart also lampooned Obama for borrowing George W. Bush’s save-Iraq-at-the-last-minute argot of a “surge” (see same clip at 7:28), while Daily Show correspondent John Oliver (at 7:47) dodged Pac-Man inside the antiquated and crappily coded world of HealthCare.gov (where 4’s and 5’s exist instead of 0’s and 1’s).

To paraphrase Lyndon Johnson about the Vietnam War: When you’ve lost Jon Stewart …

Obama’s team has a legitimate story about the problems with the site. But its stubborn refusal to admit structural flaws with the site design, inadequate beta testing, and the now hysterical prelaunch hype about the ease of the website use—as easy as buying “a plane ticket on Kayak”—have buried that story under an avalanche of obfuscation.

The story goes like this. Obama’s direction and emphasis were on creating an insurance product in all 50 states that would create genuine competition, meet the minimum care standards that Obamacare set, and provide a range of options above basic care—the bronze, silver, gold, and platinum plans. Obama’s biggest fear was not that the federal website wouldn’t work but that it wouldn’t have a product to sell in the first place. Legal challenges at the state and federal level slowed the formation of insurance marketplaces. Various waivers and exemptions also muddied the process. Nothing was launched fully until after the Supreme Court upheld his health reform act. In briefings on the law’s implementation, Obama sought and received regular updates on the insurance products and the level of cooperation at the state level on insurance options and Medicaid availability—not the development of the federal website. These are plausible, though not entirely foolproof, explanations for the website’s woes. They could help the White House navigate the currently choppy website waters.

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