A lot has changed for Obamacare since October. From 100,000 enrollees to more than 7 million. From record-low public support to record-high in at least one poll. From President Barack Obama being publicly humbled for a botched rollout to his admonishing the GOP on Tuesday for their obsession with repeal.
But one thing hasn’t changed: In their own reality, conservative politicians and their allies at Fox News are convinced, all evidence to the contrary, that the law is an unmitigated disaster.
Seven million enrollees isn’t a guarantee of Obamacare’s eventual success anymore than HealthCare.gov’s disastrous launch was a sure sign of its failure. But, as both parties struggle to steer the narrative about the law going forward, let’s revisit how conservatives portrayed the latter — and examine how little their tune has change even as the facts on the ground have.
“A setback for the entitlement state”
“When the other guy is committing suicide, get out of the way. I’ve always thought that the reality of Obamacare, which you saw coming, I saw coming, that the whole conservative movement saw coming … it’s all coming true,” Charles Krauthammer said Oct. 28 on Sean Hannity’s show, according to transcripts pulled from Nexis by TPM. “Let the disaster unfold. This could be a setback for the entitlement state … that could set (liberals) back for a decade. And they know it, which is why they are terrified.”
“President Obama will not recover”
Bill O’Reilly, never one to shy away from a bold prediction, was already meditating on the 2016 implications during his Oct. 29 show.
“‘Talking Points’ believes President Obama will not recover from the healthcare debacle and that it will weigh Hillary Clinton down as well as she gets ready for her presidential run,” he said. “Watch how she distances herself from Mr. Obama because over the next few months the Obamacare situation is going to get worse.”
“The law never should have been passed. Nobody really understood it, few read it and the Supreme Court upheld the law on faulty reasoning. That is the truth and now all of us are paying the price.”
Clinton, you might recall, said last month that “it would be a great tragedy, in my opinion, to take away what has now been provided.”
“Total, absolute disaster”
Much of Fox News’s coverage in late October focused on canceled health policies, a controversy that forced Obama to eat crow after public outcry from both sides of the aisles.
“The president promised us we could keep our insurance — wrong — and this is just the beginning,” former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said on Oct. 31. “This is just the beginning of something that is going to become total, absolute disaster if it actually starts to get implemented.”
It should be noted that a new analysis released Monday concluded that less than 1 million people were now uninsured after their old plan was canceled and they had not signed up for a new policy under Obamacare.
“It could really implode”
Sen. John Thune (R-SD) warned on Oct. 29 that Obamacare would “implode” if too few people signed up for coverage. The 7 million figure that the White House announced Tuesday was significant because that was the original enrollment projection from the Congressional Budget Office.
“It could really implode. If they don’t get people subscribed in the exchanges,” Thune said. “They don’t get people to pay the individual mandate. It’s all built on this foundation.”
“This is not going to be solved”
The conventional wisdom that Obamacare would be an electoral boom for Republicans and an incontrovertible liability for Democrats was already baked in when the Weekly Standard’s Steve Hayes spoke with Bret Baier on Oct. 25.
“This is not going to be solved in the next couple months or in six or eight months. These problems are going to continue,” Hayes said. “It’s conceivable that Obamacare could collapse in on itself. And you are seeing the politics play out in real time. You’re seeing Democrats fleeing as fast as they can.”
Senior administration officials noted to reporters Tuesday that no congressional Democrat had publicly flipped on Obamacare.
THAT WAS THEN. THIS IS NOW.
But a quick scan of Fox News coverage in the last few days shows that the doomsaying has hardly ceased, even as the number of people enrolled under Obamacare has increased sevenfold. Hannity even conjured the HealthCare.gov launch as evidence of the law’s inevitable failure — even after millions of people had managed to sign up.
“While the White House was trying to take a victory lap today, what we really need to be asking ourselves is this. After what we have seen over the past six months, how can you and your family trust this administration with your all-important health care?” he said Tuesday. “After all, these big bureaucrats and government bureaucrats — they couldn’t even get a Web site to work!”
And though it would now mean millions of people losing health coverage, rather than a few thousand as in October, the dream of Obamacare repeal lives on.
“It is abundantly clear this thing isn’t working,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said Tuesday morning. “At this point, you can’t fiddle around the edges. I think it is the essence of pragmatism to recognize this thing isn’t working. Let’s start over.”
“Let’s repeal every word of it.”