FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
ObamaCare’s “branding” problem
Yesterday morning, a peevish White House adviser, Dan Pfeiffer, snapped under the burden of explaining why President Obama was blowing off the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. At first he claimed the snub was due to an unavoidable scheduling conflict, but the merest glance at the President’s daily agenda (which his political team sometimes seems to forget is available to the public) showed that was not true. Pushed beyond his breaking point, Pfeiffer growled on Twitter, “Oh, I don’t know, there’s this whole website thing that someone suggested might destroy the Dem Party.”
It’s tough being a flack for this all-lies, all-the-time White House, because that wasn’t true either. Obama still claims ignorance of everything that happens with his “signature achievement” until he sees a news report on TV. He didn’t spend Tuesday banging out computer code on his high-powered software design system, or supervising the people who have been trying to fix the $500 million disaster his “B-team” of programmers created, during the years when the Empty Chair claims he never once bothered to inquire about the status of the project.
No, Obama spent Tuesday doing the only things he really knows how to do: give a speech, and foist blame on other people. ABC News brings us some highlights of his address to the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council:
“What was already going to be hard was operating within a very difficult political environment and we should have anticipated that that would create a rockier rollout than if Democrats and Republicans were both invested in success,” Obama said.
“One of the problems we’ve had is one side of Capitol Hill is invested in failure and that makes, I think, the kind of iterative process of fixing glitches as they come up and fine-tuning the law more challenging,” he added.
Once the problems with the website are resolved, the president said “we’re going to have to, obviously, remarket and rebrand, and that will be challenging in this political environment.”
The president reiterated that HealthCare.gov will be “functioning for the majority of people who are using it” by the end of the month and predicted that consumers will have time to catch up before the enrollment deadline.
Reflecting on the botched rollout, the president admitted, “we probably underestimated the complexities of building out a website that needed to work the way it should.”
It’s all the mean old Republicans’ fault for failing to dive in and fix the failed government program none of them voted for! I hope it takes Democrats a while to figure out how bad that talking point makes them look. We might see a veto-proof GOP majority in the Senate yet.
Not only did Obama repeat his almost equally embarrassing lament that health insurance is so much more gosh-darn complicated than he and his arrogant socialist think tank bargained for, but he took another stab at blaming the disastrous rollout on the inherent weaknesses of the all-encompassing super-State he commands us to worship. “The way the federal government does procurement and does IT is just generally not very efficient,” history’s biggest-spending statist mused before a doubtless horrified gaggle of private-sector CEOs. “In fact, there’s probably no bigger gap between the private sector and the public sector than IT.”
Oh, I don’t know about that, Mr. President. The ability to sell health insurance at reasonable prices appears to be another place where there’s a pretty freaking huge gap between the superior private sector and bumbling Big Government. You’ve blown over a trillion dollars of our money teaching us that lesson. It is repeated in every 400 percent premium increase discovered by every dismayed American who thought you were telling the truth when you swore nobody would ever take their old health insurance plans away, period.
The most remarkable line from Obama’s Gettmetouttathis Address came when he talked about the need to “remarket and rebrand” his failed program. That’s a direct insult to every single American suffering under this boondoggle, and the tens of millions more who will shortly join them, when the employer mandate kicks in. The absolute very last thing anyone responsible for this fiasco should be thinking about is “rebranding.” The problem with ObamaCare is what it does, not what it’s called, or how it’s advertised. Changing its name is like renaming Mordor into “HappyFunLand” to encourage tourism.
Besides, ObamaCare has already enjoyed a marketing push that involved diverting taxpayer millions into slush funds, laundering the money to left-wing activist groups, and drafting pop stars as spokespeople. All of that effort amounted to less than a handful of dust once the winds of failure rose to hurricane force on October 1. Another big-bucks Hollywood-powered ad campaign is not going to overwhelm the negative pressure from daily news headlines.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has been roaming the land holding HealthCare.gov “demonstrations” and signup parties… during which HealthCare.gov almost invariably crashes. It happened again today in Miami. “Uh-oh,” the most powerful bureaucrat on Earth muttered helplessly. “That happens every day,” an observer remarked. You can’t conceal that level of failure beneath a slick advertising campaign. At this point, Obama should be thanking his lucky stars that Sebelius isn’t blasted across the room by an electric shock when she tries to show a crowd how quick and easy buying insurance with ObamaCare can be.
Those private-sector CEOs Obama was speaking to could have told him that marketing doesn’t help much when your product is massively inferior, and everyone knows it. There is no way to silence word-of-mouth, although ObamaCare dead-enders are eager to give it a try. Dana Milbank at the Washington Post invested much effort in accusing Republicans of causing ObamaCare’s failure by scaring off the young, healthy revenue targets the system must consume in order to survive. It’s cute that Milbank thinks millennials know what John Boehner or Eric Cantor have been saying about the ObamaCare train wreck. But there’s nothing cute about his argument if it’s taken seriously, because he’s saying that socialism is fundamentally incompatible with free speech and political dissent. Everyone has to shut up – especially including the people who accurately predicted the current crisis, and strove mightily to save us from it – because the system cannot survive criticism. The silence of the lambs is mandatory.
The “brand” liberals should be worried about is liberalism. The arguments Obama has deployed to shield himself from accountability are devastating indictments of liberal philosophy. The government can’t handle information technology. Everything is so much more complicated than the central planners assumed it would be. None of the lavishly complicated officials in this titanic government is responsible for anything; they spend most of their time hiding bad news from their superiors until the truth is gnawing on the ankles of the American public. The system is impenetrably opaque, and utterly resistant to change. You have no choice but to submit to the “settled law of the land,” even though you’d run like the wind from any private corporation that treated you this way, and probably return with cops and lawyers.
Obama’s growing reputation for dishonesty and irresponsibility is also doing damage to the Democrat brand. They’re dreaming if they think they can run against their own President in 2014, and the more toxic he becomes, the more difficult it will be to separate themselves from him. Not only is the Big Lie of keeping your insurance plan a monumental outrage that cannot be spun away, but some of the lies Obama has been telling to protect his reputation are going to come back to haunt him, too.
Reuters has a story today with more evidence that contrary to his professions of deer-in-the-headlights innocence, President Obama was indeed briefed about the serious problems with HealthCare.gov during development. That sort of thing rubs people the wrong way, including the young voters he has so heavily relied upon for his political success, and whose money he so desperately needs for ObamaCare. They were taught to view Obama as a historic, messianic figure, but now they’re seeing the worst characteristics of spoiled youth reflected in his behavior. They see him pointing fingers of blame and mumbling excuses like a little kid caught next to a broken lamp. It’s not attractive, and it certainly doesn’t make voters receptive to the idea that Obama can fix everything if they give him even more power, money, and trust.
“Here we are, we’re supposed to be selling this to people, and it’s all screwed up,” a Democrat chief of staff told The Hill. “This either gets fixed, or this could be the demise of the Democratic Party.” He’s got the right idea about which “brand” is really at stake here. To use the sort of corporate comparison that Barack Obama used to be fond of making, a million years ago, if your new iPhone blows up in your face, you probably won’t be eager to give any other Apple products a shot.
The really bad news for that Democrat aide is that there is no way to “fix” ObamaCare. It’s not “broken,” it’s fundamentally flawed. The resolution of its website problems – which won’t be happening on the promised date of December 1 – will only further expose the greater problems that lie beneath. Contrary to the fairy tales dejected lefties are telling each other, ObamaCare is not collapsing because Republicans criticize it, or beam negative thoughts at it. What’s actually happening is more important than what anyone is saying about it.
And while President Obama and his team have been casually dismissing warnings about security vulnerabilities, the first big story about hacking and data theft will deal a blow that no amount of “rebranding” can help it recover from. Do we really have to keep this farce rolling along until that happens?