As Healthcare.gov Bugs Are Fixed, the ‘Obama’s Katrina’ Script Continues To Be Shredded

It’s been 11 days since The National Journal‘s Ron Fournier wrote that Obamacare is President Obama’s Katrina. Oh, and it’s also his Iraq, Fournier wrote. Obama’s Katrina and Iraq. Both.

Since then, however, the Healthcare.gov website has been vastly improved and many of the bugs initially reported have been fixed, according to the administration late Sunday.

Back on November 20, Fournier made sure to provide himself with an escape hatch, though, noting that Healthcare.gov isn’t the same in terms of the actual events during and after Katrina, or throughout the Iraq War. Instead, Fournier wrote, the similarities had more to do with incompetence in the execution of a major policy initiative.

Yeah, so incompetence that lasted literally for years in both Iraq and New Orleans, leading to massive body counts on both fronts, is the same as a glitchy website launch. Okeedokee. Roger that. In reality, yes, both administrations made mistakes, but those mistakes were vastly different in terms of magnitude — not to mention that the Bush administration’s response to its mistakes was to, well, make even more mistakes. Again, for years.

On the other hand, the Obama administration realized there were problems with the website and rushed to address those errors. Within two months most of those problems have been resolved, and, bonus, no one died.

Now, you might respond by noting that fixing a war and a botched reaction to a hurricane are each phenomenally different from responding to a website that crashes a lot. War and hurricanes are, you know, hard to fix. A website isn’t.

Exactly. Another reason why there’s no similarity between Katrina/Iraq and Healthcare.gov.

The only thing that binds these events is the traditional news media’s obvious loyalty to The Script. It’s a systemic deception that rivals any other news media fraud, and it goes like this: presidential administrations, as well as political events in general, will always follow the same pattern, as if read from a script or playbook. It’s a cheap way for writers like Ron Fournier or Dana Milbank or Bob Woodward to seem more omniscient than they really are. And it’s a big lie.

Here’s what many players in the news media think: George W. Bush and Bill Clinton both had scandals in their second terms, so it must go with President Obama, regardless of whether his second term scandals match those previous scandals. The Script calls for a “Second Term Curse.” Therefore, we must have one, and if there’s not one, we will artificially inflate an Obama scandal to the severity of previous second term scandals, and then force feed it into the zeitgeist until it becomes conventional wisdom. Repeat.

(As an aside, I would argue that the Scooter Libby scandal was closer to a typical second term scandal not unlike like Clinton’s impeachment, Reagan’s Iran-Contra or Nixon’s Watergate, but the press has anointed Katrina/Iraq to that level, so that’s what we’ll go with.)

There’s only a “Second Term Curse” because the news media says there’s one. Fact is, there are plenty of first term scandals and failures, too — Read My Lips, Mogadishu, Hillarycare, Mission Accomplished, etc. But The Script says second term curse! So there it is.

And so we get “Obama’s Katrina/Iraq” on endless loop until news-consumers believe it and subsequently spread it all around like the Ebola virus; never realizing that every website and every gadget, from the iPhone to the Xbox One to The Daily Banter site redesign, suffers from bugs. It doesn’t matter who screwed up or how much/little money was spent on development. Technology is imperfect. Hell, it seems like there’s not a day that goes by when iTunes pesters to me to install an update to resolve bug fixes, and it’s been around for years.

Yesterday, the following headline appeared on Politico regarding the Healthcare.gov bug fixes:

Obama’s goal: Avoid ‘Mission Accomplished’ moment

The Iraq metaphor again, this time in the form of trapping the administration. If the president dares to suggest that the tweaks are resolved, he’s just like President Bush landing a fighter jet on the U.S.S. Lincoln, then strutting out in a crotch-bulgy flight suit to announce the Iraq War was over — nearly a decade before it actually ended.

Indeed there’s nothing wrong with reporting about problems with the roll-out of the ACA. But crowbarring it into The Script’s square peg won’t make it the same as Katrina or Iraq. Not on any level. Not in a million years.

The news media needs this. They need The Script to play out as planned because most of the major voices in the traditional press have argued that this is how it works. The second term curse. But in reality the only curse here is The Script. Lying to readers by telling them that the response to a temporarily glitchy website is the same as the response to a deadly hurricane or an even deadlier war, when there’s absolutely no relationship between the three events is journalistically unethical and, yes, incompetent.

The incompetence is only amplified now that the problems with the ACA are being rapidly and competently resolved, contrary to the dictates of The Script. And I suspect The Script will continue to be shredded in the months to come. But I don’t expect that the Ron Fourniers of the world will acknowledge it or admit they were dead wrong.

  • Christopher Foxx

    not to mention that the Bush administration’s response to its mistakes was to…

    Deny any mistakes had been made.

    Another stark contrast to Obama’s “Yeah, it’s not working right. We need to fix this.” response.

    • http://www.twitter.com/bobcesca_go Bob Cesca

      Great point.

  • Arcnor

    A good question to keep in mind when dealing with anyone is: “what is this individual’s actual job?” Not what it says on their business cards. Not what they answer when asked. What actual tasks does this individual have to perform on a daily basis to continue being employed and/or getting paid?

    In the case of the “news” media, their actual job, for the most part, doesn’t have a thing to do with disseminating information or imparting truth, or even offering relevant opinions. Their job is to protect and extend what Matt Taibbi refers to as “The Narrative.” I’m sure you’ve seen this hymnal before: free markets are always good, government interference is always bad, government money is always misused, taxes are theft, defence spending is sacred, the best solution to a diplomatic problem involves high explosives, both U.S. political parties are equally to blame for everything (and one certainly isn’t furniture-chewing insane!), “entitlements” (and again, say it with me, Medicare and Social Security are NOT “entitlements,” they are DEFERRED COMPENSATION) are bankrupting America, the Tea Party is a genuine grassroots movement and not an ginned-up astroturf initiative involving dressing the Republican base in funny hats, hippies wrecked everything, people who protest Wall Street excesses are seditious and probably Commies, and on, and on, and on.

    The job of most of the mainstream media is keep things the same — to protect the Narrative. Just watch what happens when something comes along to challenge that — the term “dog pile” is not an inaccurate description of the media’s response. It’s why Senators McCain and Graham (not to mention Newton Leroy Gingrich) ALWAYS have a place on the Sunday Showz, but good luck getting time for Senators Sanders and Warren, because they challenge the Narrative (successfully, for the most part).

    Viewed in that light, I’d say our media are doing their job very well. It’s just not the job we WANT them to do.

  • Steven Skelton

    The website is the least of Obamacare’s problems. (as an aside, I am in the individual market and my family is profoundly effected by all of this….so anyone who thinks I want it to fail can fuck off.)

    Unless the president can figure out a way to get the young and healthy into the exchanges, this thing is going straight down the shitter. It will either require a massive influx of public funds (something the president promised wouldn’t happen) or the rates will be so astronomically high that it will collapse the exchanges.

    The good news, I guess, is that the president is a fucking liar.

    • judi

      Go spread your fucking garbage on FOX.

    • D_C_Wilson

      Well, then there’s more good news, at least in California:

      http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/11/21/246618223/mix-of-young-and-old-signing-up-for-health-care-in-california

      Peter Lee, who directs California’s insurance marketplace, says he is pleased at the number of young people who are already enrolling because it bodes well for the cost of California insurance premiums in 2015.

    • Churchlady320

      Across the country a lot of younger, healthier people ARE enrolling. Probably not in Red states that are heavily invested in defying government at all costs (do read about the rise in filings of phony liens against officials by the Sovereign Citizens) but in many states that are more or less indifferent to sectoral issues and where people are deeply needing health care coverage.

      The Red State failures will remain the Red States’ problems because uncompensated care is a STATE reimbursement issue. They will not drain the federal coffers but will bankrupt those states where already ERs are closing under the burden. “But hey – that’ll show ‘em. We will DIE for our cause!” Of course even those WITH insurance need ERs and trauma centers, but hey…they’re closed on PRINCIPLE, y’know. But no – they will NOT affect the feds, only their own damned selves.

      As with the Confederacy, there seems to be more devotion to losing in glory than living in stability. You just cannot fix stupid.

      • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

        Unfortunately, the innocent will suffer. In my Red state, increased costs and more closures would be a disaster for everyone–conservative, independent and liberal. The problem is they don’t care. If they actually cared about people outside their own immediate family, there never would have been any debate over healthcare reform. Conservatives can take their PRINCIPLE and put it where the sun don’t shine.

    • Vipsanius

      You will provide documented proof that PBO is a liar.
      With sworn depositions.

      • Steven Skelton

        There is no way to respond to something that inane.

        • Vipsanius

          You can prove nothing.
          You are busted.

          • Steven Skelton

            You caught me. I’m a paid Republican blogger. I’m a plant and an agent of Zerg.

    • neoconstantine

      Is it possible, dear boy, that you have just now, just in these last few months, discovered that the young and healthy need to sign up in order that insurance, as a concept, can work? And do you really feel that the ignorant masses need the unique brilliance of this startling insight of yours in order to make us see the fucking light? Are you a total fucking moron?.

      That’s a rhetorical question. No need to answer.

  • Draxiar

    I find the comparisons to Iraq even more egregious because President Obama has had numerous foreign policy successes under his administration that didn’t involve an off-the-books war.

    • feloniousgrammar

      The fact that before the ACA, the death toll for the uninsured was much higher every year than the death toll for soldiers in any U.S. war should be obvious. That they are doing their best to slander a program that will keep tens of thousands of citizens alive and in better health is evil. They’re being evil— our corporate news is a sociopath, and I just wish most Americans would turn it off.

  • missliberties

    Just remember that ‘The Script’ was sure the polls needed to be unskewed in 2012, because Romney was a shoe in.

    • Vipsanius

      He was no shoe in.
      No GOP candidate was going to win in either 2008 or 2012.

      • D_C_Wilson

        But that doesn’t get the ratings, so of course they had to turn it into a horse.

        Probably the biggest fallacy was that Romneybot’s “47%” remarks are what lost him the election. He was already behind in the polls at that point. Those remarks probably only added one or two percentage points to Obama’s win.

      • Churchlady320

        But that’s NOT what the MSM kept saying. They said the polls were not reflecting ‘reality’ that McCain then Romney was the definite winner.

        • Vipsanius

          The MSM saying so does not necessarily make it so.

  • GrafZeppelin127

    Let’s remember something else here. The last U.S. President to lose a re-election bid was a Republican. The last (and only) U.S. President to resign from office in disgrace before completing his term was a Republican. The last two Republican presidents left the country in substantially, significantly worse shape than they found it. The GOP will not rest until it can pin all three of those scarlet letters on the Democrat Party.

    Let’s remember also that the Right’s support and admiration for George W. Bush during his presidency was so mellifluous and over-the-top that it almost resembled the exhortations to Egyptian pharaohs inscribed in hieroglyphs on their temples and tombs. The grotesque, unmitigated disaster that the Bush presidency turned out to be is something they simply cannot own, and cannot take responsibility for; all they can do is dismiss it out of hand, pretend they never really supported it (or him) and that it doesn’t matter anymore anyway, label themselves “independents” and complain about how the rest of us “blame Bush” and accusing the current POTUS of doing the same even though he never has publicly stated that anything was the fault of the previous administration.

    The Bush presidency is a stain that will take generations to wash off of the GOP, its fans, and the country as a whole. The difference between the parties and their respective fans now is that one is actually trying to wash it off, while the other just pretends it doesn’t exist.

    • Vipsanius

      Take note that the GOP was silent on Nixon; and, is silent on GWB.

      • Draxiar

        A sort of “move along…nothing to see here”.

      • GrafZeppelin127

        Kind of amazing that GOP fans have no Republican icons besides their imaginary Reagan that they can openly worship. They can’t worship Eisenhower because of his massive investments in public infrastructure, they can’t worship Teddy Roosevelt because of his trust busting, and while they love to point out that Lincoln was a Republican they’re rather lukewarm about his actual historic achievements. Liberals have JFK, FDR, Harry Truman, even Bill Clinton; who do conservatives have? Calvin Coolidge?

    • Arcnor

      I think you underestimate the average Republican’s ability to forget what happened more than five seconds ago. In order for the stain of the presidency of Bush the Younger to take decades to wash away, Republicans (or the “Independents” who just happen to NEVER, EVER vote for anyone BUT a Republican) would have to first both remember said presidency and admit there were problems — namely, themselves, for supporting that incompetent cabal long after if was obvious to the rest of the planet that they were utterly inept and corrupt.

      About the only good thing that DID come out of the Bush II Presidency is the fact that it’s very difficult for people to be taken seriously in public if they admit to being Republicans now, hence the rash of “Independents” who are anything but and pundits like Andrew Sullivan and David Frum who left the GOP, denouncing the party they’d spent their whole lives supporting… right after they were thrown out and the money dried up, of course. But I’m sure all that will be forgotten as well, just as soon as they find some nice, slimy scandal to smear on President Obama. They’re sure trying their best.

  • Vipsanius

    Good reporting and good logical analysis are just too difficult..
    Those people prefer to take the line of least resistance and put out what everyone else is putting out.

  • Edward Himsel

    They like The Script because it’s easy-listening news. Just like The Script is easy-listening music.

  • D_C_Wilson

    I’m convinced that the biggest problem facing our political life isn’t the teabaggers or the relentless propaganda of fake news outlets like Fox, It’s the general laziness of our media in general. They’re like the baseball announcers who proclaim that because no team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in the playoffs, no one ever will. Until one did. They believe these proclamations because it’s easier that digging through the stats and injury reports to give a real in depth analysis.

    Likewise, our political pundit class loves The Script because it gives them something to talk about without having to do any work. Katrina and Iraq are the easy metaphors because everyone remembers them. In reality, the glitches in healthcare.gov are more akin to the problems with the rollout Medicare Part D, but no one remembers that any more, so using it as a comparison won’t get you the website hits.

    The biggest disappointment today is Bob Woodward. He demonstrated that he could do real investigative reporting forty years ago and he’s been coasting on that one triumph ever since.

    • Vipsanius

      Got it in one.
      Those people are lazy. And, you are right about Woodward.

      • missliberties

        They also over estimate their own importance.

        The way the sniffed tea party butt in 2009, and now completely ignore the rank obstruction is criminal.

        • Vipsanius

          Lazy and stupid.
          Good words for the fatuous ‘news’ media.