Operation Damage Control Swings into Action

By on October 30, 2013

RomneyThe President goes today to Faneuil Hall in Boston to defend his signature accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act. We are told he has chosen this venue because it was where the Massachusetts state reform program that was the model for Obamacare was signed into law by then-Governor Romney with Senator Edward Kennedy looking on. No doubt the purpose is to connect what is happening nationwide to the successes achieved in the Bay State. Massachusetts has the lowest rate of uninsured in the nation, and residents there clearly like their state plan. No doubt the bi-partisan support it enjoyed during implementation contributed to this success. The President has not been so lucky. Yesterday Republicans in Washington again took every opportunity to savage the Obama plan. Their constant complaining has deafened the ear of most listeners, like the little boy that cried wolf. If they truly have a viable comprehensive alternative, they should have promoted it years ago.


Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius heads to the Capitol today to be picked apart and mangled over the rocky launch of the national website and trouble over higher insurance premiums and unexpected sticker shock. One observer has already pronounced this the beginning of a death watch for her tenure in office. Under ordinary circumstances he would be right, but this is different. The president knows what an ordeal getting another HHS secretary ratified would be in the current climate, so he is likely to hang on to her and let her continue to take the heat, which is likely deserved. She needs to start sharpening her elbows.

Communication around this enormous change has been deficient, and, many are claiming, over-simplified.  Candor is always good policy although it is certain that the hysterical opposition would have trumpeted every rough spot and used any flaw it could find to derail the bill and bludgeon its supporters. Now that ACA survival is assured, we don’t need over-simplfied explanations and distortions of reality. We need honest stewardship. Implementation was always going to be difficult. There was no easy solution to our health care crisis or it would have happened years ago. At the end of the day, government needs to address costs and regulate the insurance side of the industry as thoroughly as it has the delivery systems. Pharma will also need some attention. Greater central planning also seems inevitable if resources are to be spread around so that the country can make the most efficient uses of them. Beverly Hills does not need as many MRIs as the state of Michigan. At a million dollars a pop, these are precious resources.

woody+BarryMuch is being made of President Obama‘s coolness and aloofness during this crisis. Yes, he is out there giving speeches and pumping up support, but giving another speech is not always the best solution to every problem facing the country. There are times to talk and times to roll up one’s sleeves and jump in and get rumpled. By now, we know Obama’s style differs from game changers like Reagan or Franklin Roosevelt or Truman or Lyndon Johnson, whose star shines more brightly now in the public mind than it has since he left office. No, Obama’s style puts some historians most  in mind of President Woodrow Wilson, another academic and former President of Princeton University. Like Obama, he did not like to mix it up with politicians. He was an armchair manager who relied on rhetoric. His relationship with Senator Leader Henry Cabot Lodge was absolutely toxic and cost him the ratification of the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations. Wilson was sure that if he could just get his points across, superior minds would come to agree with him and rally behind his initiatives. It didn’t happen. He left office an embittered man. He did not live long enough to see that his concept of a world forum for nations would be adopted and proved valuable. Let’s hope Barak Obama does not suffer the same fate.


Tom Godfrey





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