Skip to main content

Death spiral of credibility in White House

By Ed Morrissey, Special to CNN
updated 3:32 PM EDT, Thu October 24, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Edward Morrissey: Obamacare site launch has hurt administration's credibility
  • He says it spent $400 million to create working site, failed and is now obfuscating about it
  • He says even Democrats skeptical officials didn't know site not ready to be unveiled
  • Morrissey: Democrats credibility is damaged, idea of government-program interventions is, too

Editor's note: Edward Morrissey is a senior editor and correspondent for the conservative commentary website hotair.com

(CNN) -- Before the October 1 rollout of Healthcare.gov, a key concern was whether the Affordable Care Act system would create a "death spiral" for insurers. That crisis could be precipitated by an unenthusiastic response from younger, healthier Americans. These are the people whose high premiums and low demand for services are necessary for the risk pools to assume the costs of covering pre-existing conditions at community-pricing rates, as well as buffering the premiums of older and needier Americans.

Instead, the emerging "death spiral" crisis is one of the credibility for the White House and the idea that big government-program interventions work better than the private sector those interventions seek to reform.

The Department of Health and Human Services had 42 months and $400 million to create an operational Web portal that connects Americans who now are required by law to buy coverage from insurers, while connecting to the IRS to qualify people for federal subsidies in the exchanges.

Edward Morrissey
Edward Morrissey

For the last several months, HHS and the White House assured everyone that the system development was on track for an October 1 launch. Democrats fought a pitched battle against Republicans over the last month to keep the GOP from forcing a delay of the rollout.

Now, suddenly, the idea of a delay has moved from the ramblings of "anarchists," as Harry Reid described Obamacare opponents, to mainstream Democratic thought. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from deep-blue Connecticut, told a panel on MSNBC on Thursday that the mandate needs to be delayed, depending on "how soon these glitches are going to be solved." That will depend, Blumenthal said, on "leveling with the American people."

That honesty has been in short supply. More than two weeks into the crisis, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told CNN's Sanjay Gupta that President Barack Obama had no inkling of the failure until he read about it in the papers, which follows a pattern of denials at the White House. Sebelius also implied that the failure took her by surprise too, even though the ACA was her agency's highest priority over the last 42 months, and the system failed a light-load test days before the launch.

Contractor: It's not great, but it works
Congressman decries 'monkey court'
Congressman: Obamacare a 'bad product'

Sebelius must have also missed the August report from the HHS Inspector General pointing out major flaws in the system and its testing, even though Reuters managed to notice it.

Even former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs called the notion that the White House didn't know about the Healthcare.gove problems "unbelievable," while National Journal's Ron Fournier called it "either a lie ... or an unfathomable lack of oversight." It could also be both, which is the possibility that now has Democrats doing a 180 and suggesting or demanding delays in the rollout.

Constituents fear dealing with IRS penalties for failure to buy insurance through a system they can't access and HHS can't fix, or even predict when it will be fixed. Even those who have managed to buy insurance through the site now have to wonder whether their insurers have their correct data. Meanwhile, Obama and Sebelius now want to reassure Americans that they have a grip on the problem ... by bringing in the private sector to fix what the government failed to execute.

Rarely have we seen such a confluence of incompetence, irresponsibility, and prevarication all at the same time. The death spiral of White House credibility won't just damage Democrats in the short run, but it will damage the agenda of advocates of activist government for years.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Edward Morrisdey.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:26 PM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
updated 7:35 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
updated 7:26 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Jeff Yang says the tech sector's diversity numbers are embarrassing and the big players need to do more.
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
updated 4:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Ed Bark says in this Emmy year, broadcasters CBS, ABC and PBS can all say they matched or exceeded HBO. These days that's no small feat
updated 3:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
updated 11:58 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
updated 3:50 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
updated 4:52 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
updated 12:29 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider say a YouTube video apparently posted by ISIS seems to show that the group has a surveillance drone, highlighting a new reality: Terrorist groups have technology once only used by states
updated 5:04 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
updated 5:45 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
John Bare says the Ice Bucket Challenge signals a new kind of activism and peer-to-peer fund-raising.
updated 8:31 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
James Dawes says calling ISIS evil over and over again could very well make it harder to stop them.
updated 9:05 PM EDT, Sat August 23, 2014
As the inquiry into the shooting of Michael Brown continues, critics question the prosecutor's impartiality.
updated 6:47 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Newt Gingrich says it's troubling that a vicious group like ISIS can recruit so many young men from Britain.
updated 10:50 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
David Weinberger says Twitter and other social networks have been vested with a responsibility, and a trust, they did not ask for.
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
John Inazu says the slogan "We are Ferguson" is meant to express empathy and solidarity. It's not true: Not all of us live in those circumstances. But we all made them.
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says he learned that the territory ISIS wants to control is amazingly complex.
updated 3:51 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Cerue Garlo says Liberia is desperate for help amid a Ebola outbreak that has touched every aspect of life.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Eric Liu says Republicans who want to restrict voting may win now, but the party will suffer in the long term.
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Jay Parini: Jesus, Pope and now researchers agree: Wealth decreases our ability to sympathize with the poor.
updated 8:00 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Judy Melinek offers a medical examiner's perspective on what happens when police kill people like Michael Brown.
updated 6:03 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT