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.