“Leading from behind” has taken on a new meaning, thanks to Barack Obama’s stubborn refusal to enroll in the health-care scheme that bears his name. (Granted, he and his apologists have occasionally objected to calling it “ObamaCare,” especially when the headlines are looking especially apocalyptic.) Even as the last few days before enrollment flutter off the calendar, the President still hasn’t signed up, and his spokesman Jay Carney still refuses to explain why, merely insisting that Obama will get around to it eventually.
After the most recent Carney punt, Gretchen Carlson of Fox News discussed the matter with liberal-but-one-smart-remark-away-from-her-IRS-audit guest Kirsten Powers, who said “it seems nothing can go right with ObamaCare.”
[Powers] faulted the White House for letting this become a story by repeatedly promising that the president was soon going to log on to Healthcare.gov and enroll.
The White House points out that the deadline to sign up is March 31 so there is no hurry for the president to do it now.
Gretchen noted that the White House is usually very concerned with “PR and imagery” and would seemingly want to show people that “this program is so great even [Obama] signed up for it.”
Powers disputed whether this really matters since Obama wouldn’t actually use the health plan, arguing it is more of a political issue now that the president said he would sign up.
“If you’re gonna come out and say you’re gonna sign up for it, then sign up for it,” she said.
That’s the problem in a nutshell: of course it’s an entirely symbolic gesture… so why won’t he do it? Why didn’t he do it right away? Barack Obama and his family will never stand before a death panel, as you and I will. Their “quality of life” will never be judged inadequate to authorize any desired treatment. Obama has instant access to the best medical care in the world as long as he’s President, and he’ll retire from office as a multi-millionaire with a lifetime of lucrative speaking and writing engagements ahead of him, plus dreamy benefits. Unlike the rest of America, he will have no doubts about whether his coverage is valid if he summons a doctor in January.
This is equally true of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who has also declined to participate in the system she administers. She actually said it would be illegal for her to sign up through the ObamaCare exchanges, which is not true.
It’s simply amazing that Obama didn’t take the tiny ceremonial step of becoming the first Affordable Care Act enrollee. The idea apparently never occurred to him, because it could have been easily stage-managed to get around the now-legendary difficulties of the almost completely non-functional system he launched on October 1. He could have set up a Potemkin iPad with special access to the system, just to make it appear that he was going through the motions. It wouldn’t exactly have been a huge and complicated conspiracy for him to keep under wraps. If the operation was exposed, he could have said special arrangements were inevitably necessary to put him first in line at midnight on the dot. Of course his media pals would have accepted that, and mocked anyone who didn’t.
But here we are, closing in on the end of the year, and it’s far too late for a staged enrollment procedure. It’s newsworthy that the President has refused for so long to join the program he insists is best for the rest of us. If he tries to do it now, he’ll be obliged to do it live, and he’s doubtless still worried about all the bugs, freezes, and glitches he keeps insisting have been ironed out. He knows what frequently happens to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius when she tries to demonstrate the system live. It would be a P.R. disaster of unimaginable proportions if Obama’s live on-camera enrollment didn’t go smoothly, and he’ll be mocked from coast to coast if his spokesman bounces into the press room one day and says, “Hey, guess what, the President signed up last night, everything went great. We’ll have a couple of staged photos from the court photographer for you to run in your papers later today. Try to use the one that makes it look like there’s a halo around the President’s head! Just kidding – they all look like that.”
There’s also the little problem of ObamaCare’s security flaws. I wonder if the Secret Service, or intelligence officials, would step forward to warn the President away from using a website routinely described by Internet security professionals as an untested, insecure hacker’s paradise.
And at this point, if the President enrolled before the last possible moment – the end of March – he’d worry that it could be seen as knuckling under to pressure from his critics. Enrollment has always been a political, symbolic gesture… but so is refusing to enroll, even as the White House fields persistent questions about it. People naturally expect a leader to dive head-first into the system he imposes on the rest of us, even if we all know it doesn’t really matter in his case. Perhaps the absence of such symbolic gestures is especially notable when they’re essentially cost-free, and the leader in question spends a great deal of effort posturing as Tribune of the Common Man. President Obama owes his re-election largely to scoring better in the all-important “cares about me and understands how I live” polling metric… but he refuses to make even the smallest gesture towards living under the same rules he requires everyone else to obey.
It’s true that it would make no practical difference to Obama’s life if he formally enrolled in his health-care program. But it matters, at least a little, that he doesn’t.