The disastrous rollout of [President Obama's] health care law not only threatens the rest of his agenda but also raises questions about his competence in the same way that the Bush administration’s botched response to Hurricane Katrina undermined any semblance of Republican efficiency.Whereas if the rollout had gone smoothly, House Republicans would be passing comprehensive immigration reform right this minute. But about that Katrina comparison. Let's review two key differences:
- Obamacare's rollout does not involve an American city underwater. There are no bodies in the streets. Rather, a website is not working well and a set of mostly crappy insurance plans are being canceled, with insurance companies taking the Affordable Care Act as their excuse for canceling some decent policies, after years of canceling decent policies without that excuse.
- The Affordable Care Act is an attempt to fix a big problem—tens of millions of Americans without health insurance and many more paying more than they can afford or finding out that what they've been paying for won't cover them if they really need it. Parts of its rollout have been botched, but, with six weeks left before the insurance plans go into effect and with months before the end of the open enrollment period, 106,000 people have signed up for insurance and 396,000 people have become eligible for Medicaid. So what we're looking at is a law designed to help people not helping them as much as hoped, not a failure to respond with urgency, competence, or compassion to a massive natural disaster.
Of course Republicans want to compare Obamacare to Katrina. After first denying that Katrina was a political disaster for them, they switched gears to trying to use it for political advantage against Democrats, and have been looking for something they can stick with the name "Obama's Katrina" for years. Previous "Obama's Katrina" attempts have included the Haiti earthquake, Benghazi and the IRS, Hurricane Sandy, the BP oil spill, and at least half a dozen other things. It's a knee-jerk reaction by now—for Republicans. New York Times reporters shouldn't participate in it. It's not like there aren't ways to say "the Obama administration screwed up" without invoking a generation-shaping disaster, after all.