As many of you may know, whenever the media sees a significant, developing story, their natural tendency is to think in terms of comparison. Their eyes have been transfixed by a new, shiny bouncing ball, and deep within the recesses of their memory, they start to remember other times in which they've been similarly entranced by other shiny bouncing balls. Endorphins are released, filters are lowered and the frenzy of mad analogizing begins!
And so it came to pass that the launch of the Healthcare.gov website was thought of as the Obama administration's "Iraq War."
Now, obviously, at first blush, this comparison seems very stupid. Like, say, something that only a complete idiot -- a real, blubbering, blithering, stupid-faced moron -- would consider, let alone put into words and enunciate in a public forum. There are real differences between Healthcare.gov and the Iraq War, after all.
For example, as Ana Marie Cox points out, the Affordable Care Act, which spawned the Healthcare.gov website, produced a "ruthless, even suicidal political opposition" among Republicans, who recently threatened to shut down the government in an effort to defund it. Democrats didn't take their opposition to the Iraq War nearly to these extremes -- heck, even when they retook the House in 2006 on the explicit promise that they would end the Iraq War, Democrats mostly dithered. As Cox goes on to point out, columnists and reporters of all ideological affiliations have been remarkably clear-eyed and deeply skeptical of the Obamacare website in the wake of its launch, whereas they basically responded to the beginning of the Iraq War with noises that sounded more like, "Rah-rah, wowee-zowee!"
Oh, and perhaps I should have specified this from the outset, but in case you haven't already figured this out, the Iraq War was a war and Healthcare.gov is a website. There's an appreciable difference between the two things, I think. Though, it should be said, one thing that wars and websites do have in common is that they are the only two things that Americans really manufacture anymore. (Though -- Healthcare.gov aside -- we are obviously having better luck with the websites.)
Unfortunately, these facts are just not enough to put to bed the idea that Healthcare.gov is President Barack Obama's Iraq War. Fairness compels me to note that there are two very obvious points of comparison where they match, if only slightly. For example, it seems that those who spurred the development of Healthcare.gov did so in an environment where naive optimism was encouraged. They maybe didn't use the word "cakewalk" to describe how easy-peasy the launch of the website was going to be, but they surely managed to convey a sense that everything was going to work very smoothly despite repeated warnings that things were amiss.
Also, the word "surge" has been used in conjunction with each thing's terrible flaws, and the efforts to repair the problem. So, that's something. That is, at the very least, a "thing."
It isn't easy to make these sorts of comparisons. As they say, the perfect analogy is like a gravel-sack cherry-flavored armchair marmalade kitten-butt. Even so, with these points of intersection, you sort of have to give a little credence to the idea that this website is kind of like a war. And from there, you sort of need to admit that on a long enough timeline, the Healthcare.gov website could -- maybe! -- become almost exactly like the Iraq War.
So, how can this objectively false equivalence achieve, over time, a little more truthiness? For Healthcare.gov to become more like the Iraq War, here are the 12 things that will have to happen as the efforts to fix Healthcare.gov proceed.
- In short order, the Healthcare.gov website will pull down a statue of "millions of Americans cannot afford basic health care coverage." It will be initially reported as something of an emotional turning point, but later it will come to light that it was all blown out of proportion.
- Sometime next week, and in spite of the fact that the hard work of fixing the website has only just begun, a "Mission Accomplished" banner will be affixed to the Department of Health and Human Services. The president will stand in front of HHS, extolling the work that hasn't been completed.
- Somehow, the ongoing work on Healthcare.gov will result in the Smithsonian being looted of hundreds of priceless antiquities.
- Referring to federal IT contractors and phone-bound customer service professionals, Kathleen Sebelius says, "As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They’re not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time."
- Approximately $12 billion, shrink-wrapped and shipped to Healthcare.gov on pallets, will just up and disappear for no good reason.
- Healthcare.gov will be referred to by President Barack Obama as a "catastrophic success."
- Photos will be released depicting, among other things, a group of naked and humiliated contractors from website creator, CGI Federal, stacked atop one another in a pyramid.
- Obama will bring an inedible turkey to Heathcare.gov for Thanksgiving.
- Eventually, the problem that precipitated the need for the Affordable Care Act in the first place -- the fact that millions of Americans cannot afford basic health care coverage -- will be discovered, hiding in a spider hole in a remote location. "Millions of Americans cannot afford basic health care coverage" will be subsequently deloused, imprisoned, tried, and eventually hanged by masked goons, who chant "Muqtada," for what I am sure is some perfectly rational reason that you probably shouldn't worry about.
- Finally, after a long, hard slog, a nominally functioning Healthcare.gov website will come online, and by all appearances work reasonably well. The one weird thing is that Healthcare.gov will be more closely tied, and sympathetic to, the Iranian regime than anyone expected.
- In a final analysis, repairing the glitches in the Healthcare.gov website will be found to have caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands.
- Eventually, the GOP presidential contender most closely associated with opposing the Affordable Care Act -- Ted Cruz, I guess -- will become the Republican nominee and get swept into office on Election Night. That's when Obama will suffer "Bush's fate." I guess that means neither the president or anyone in his administration or party will ever be held accountable for any of this, and the president himself will retire and become a wealthy celebrity who paints dogs and wants for nothing. When you think about it, that's a good reason to hope that Healthcare.gov becomes exactly like the Iraq War. I mean, I'm ready to start a dumb war or build a glitchy website in exchange for some of that la dolce vita right now!
Should all of these things happen, I feel confident that we will be on totally safe ground, comparing the Healthcare.gov website to the Iraq War. Though to be honest, we will only know for sure that the analogy is apt, when President Cruz starts a pointless, costly war and everyone in the media says that it's totally like that time somebody built a website to help people buy health insurance.
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Sorry, but Obamacare is not President Obama's 'Iraq war' [Ana Marie Cox @ the Guardian]
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This story appears in Issue 73 of our weekly iPad magazine, Huffington, available Friday, Nov. 1in the iTunes App store.
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Former President Theodore Roosevelt champions national health insurance as he unsuccessfully tries to ride his progressive Bull Moose Party back to the White House. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
President Franklin D. Roosevelt favors creating national health insurance amid the Great Depression but decides to push for Social Security first. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Roosevelt establishes wage and price controls during World War II. Businesses can't attract workers with higher pay so they compete through added benefits, including health insurance, which grows into a workplace perk. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
President Harry Truman calls on Congress to create a national insurance program for those who pay voluntary fees. The American Medical Association denounces the idea as "socialized medicine" and it goes nowhere. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
John F. Kennedy makes health care a major campaign issue but as president can't get a plan for the elderly through Congress. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
President Lyndon B. Johnson's legendary arm-twisting and a Congress dominated by his fellow Democrats lead to creation of two landmark government health programs: Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the poor. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)
President Richard Nixon wants to require employers to cover their workers and create federal subsidies to help everyone else buy private insurance. The Watergate scandal intervenes. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
President Jimmy Carter pushes a mandatory national health plan, but economic recession helps push it aside. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)
President Ronald Reagan signs COBRA, a requirement that employers let former workers stay on the company health plan for 18 months after leaving a job, with workers bearing the cost. (MIKE SARGENT/AFP/Getty Images)
Congress expands Medicare by adding a prescription drug benefit and catastrophic care coverage. It doesn't last long. Barraged by protests from older Americans upset about paying a tax to finance the additional coverage, Congress repeals the law the next year. (TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)
President Bill Clinton puts first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in charge of developing what becomes a 1,300-page plan for universal coverage. It requires businesses to cover their workers and mandates that everyone have health insurance. The plan meets Republican opposition, divides Democrats and comes under a firestorm of lobbying from businesses and the health care industry. It dies in the Senate. (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Clinton signs bipartisan legislation creating a state-federal program to provide coverage for millions of children in families of modest means whose incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid. (JAMAL A. WILSON/AFP/Getty Images)
President George W. Bush persuades Congress to add prescription drug coverage to Medicare in a major expansion of the program for older people. (STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP/Getty Images)
Hillary Rodham Clinton promotes a sweeping health care plan in her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. She loses to Obama, who has a less comprehensive plan. (PAUL RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress spend an intense year ironing out legislation to require most companies to cover their workers; mandate that everyone have coverage or pay a fine; require insurance companies to accept all comers, regardless of any pre-existing conditions; and assist people who can't afford insurance. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
With no Republican support, Congress passes the measure, designed to extend health care coverage to more than 30 million uninsured people. Republican opponents scorned the law as "Obamacare." (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
On a campaign tour in the Midwest, Obama himself embraces the term "Obamacare" and says the law shows "I do care." (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)