At best, most second-term presidents have two years to get something accomplished. After that, the political spotlight falls on who will replace the current president.
Barack Obama may not even get his two-year grace period. If other considerations weren’t enough, the rollout of the Affordable Care Act could doom even the most modest of Obama’s ambitions for the rest of his four-year term.
Already this president had a vast array of barriers in front of his administration. Republicans have formed a nearly solid brick wall of opposition. “If Obama’s for it, we’re against it,” has become a Republican chant.
The nation hasn’t seen this sort of nullification since the days of John C. Calhoun, the 19th century South Carolina senator whose states’ rights saber-rattling led to the Civil War.
On Obamacare, Republicans opposed the bill in Congress, made a federal case of it that landed in the U.S. Supreme Court, turned the 2012 presidential election into a referendum on it and led more than 40 votes in the U.S. House to repeal it. In each round Republicans lost, yet they persisted. They remain unwilling to (a.) accept the law as valid and (b.) set about to act in good faith to make the adjustments all such big policies require.
As this page has noted, any law that has survived all the slings and arrows heaved its way deserves competent administrators. Sadly, thus far competent administrators are in short supply at the White House.
Now the president is sinking in the polls because of self-inflicted wounds — an Obamacare website incapable of serving Americans who need it and a broken promise that people happy with their coverage could keep it.
Obama held forth Thursday on the many failings of Obamacare.
“I completely get how upsetting this can be for a lot of Americans, particularly after assurances they heard from me that if they had a plan that they liked they could keep it,” he said during an almost hourlong news conference from the White House. “And to those Americans, I hear you loud and clear. I said that I would do everything we can to fix this problem. And today I’m offering an idea that will help do it.”
That idea is to let Americans who have received cancellation notices keep those policies for one more year. Insurers will likely feel the same pressure that’s currently building under the White House. The options for insurers: 1. Rescind the cancellation notices and undo a lot of hard work accomplished ahead of a 2014 deadline. 2. Refuse to renew the policies and feel the wrath of consumers. Call it the White House’s scapegoat strategy.
Americans watching the president’s remarks Thursday found themselves swimming in a sea of words from the president, including brutally honest admissions of culpability. However, all the words in the world can’t take the place of competence.