The biggest test for Sunday’s HealthCare.gov deadline isn’t the number of people who can use the site or how quickly the pages load for them. It’s whether Democrats start to calm down.
The White House says the site will be much better but not “perfect.” But it’s got to be better enough to fundamentally change the political narrative that it’s broken. If it isn’t, nervous Democrats will get more nervous, and they’ll start searching for more serious ways to distance themselves from the law they passed.
Vulnerable Senate Democrats have already flocked toward bills allowing people to stay on their existing health insurance plans, and the White House has tried to take some of the steam out of that push with a “fix” of its own. And Hill Democrats have signaled they’re ready to beef up their oversight and criticism of the implementation effort if the site falls short even after Sunday’s deadline.
But their tone once Congress comes back to town will be the best gauge of whether the White House has dodged a bullet — at least for the time being.
“There’s a window here; I’m not quite sure how long it is. The Democratic leaders have given the White House some space to try to work out these kinks,” says Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist and former spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
The health care website is critical to Obama himself, beyond the tensions with congressional Democrats. His public-approval ratings have tumbled to new lows in a slew of recent polls, and though HealthCare.gov is by no means the only factor, the poor management of Obama’s signature initiative is clearly hurting him. In a Washington Post poll earlier this month, 56 percent rated Obama a poor manager.
In many ways, the Democrats are in a bind of their own making. They all but gave up the daily messaging war over Obamacare years ago, waving off the barrage of Republican attacks and saying that all that mattered was the law working in the end.
And then it did — and didn’t.
Unpopular plan cancellations went out exactly as planned, but the uproar should have been muted because it should have been easy for people to shop for new coverage on HealthCare.gov. But with all of the website glitches, there were hardly any success stories to cancel out the press coverage of people who couldn’t find a new plan, or whose premiums were about to spike.
Public approval of the health care law — upside-down since it passed — has only gotten worse amid the botched website rollout. That has vulnerable Democrats scrambling for ways to show their constituents they’re trying to fix the law.
“You need to explain what you’re trying to fix, and you’d better be trying to fix something. If there’s nothing you want to fix, there’s something wrong with you,” Democratic pollster Mark Mellman told National Journal.
But there aren’t a lot of fixes the White House can tolerate. Undoing the cancellation notices, for example, would strike right at the heart of the law and essentially make the other parts unworkable.
That’s what the White House has to avoid. And that’s why a better-functioning website is critical.
“It all depends on whether the glitches are worked out and the program gets up and running like it should,” Manley said when asked about Democratic leaders’ ability to keep holding off measures to change the health care law. “If not, add this to the list of problems.”
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”