For weeks I’ve been outraged over the chattering class comparing the glitch in the ACA website to Katrina and Iraq. Today, Chuck Todd tried to explain that they are comparing political fallout from each:
Folks. Political analysts are not comparing Katrina to health care, we are comparing the political fallout from each. Just clarifying
— Chuck Todd (@chucktodd) December 11, 2013
That’s Chuck saying, hey, liberals, chill out – this is intellectual, not personal. This isn’t anything like when Fox News said the ACA was “worse than the Iraq War”. But even on an intellectual level, this comparison is a big fail. It’s a big fail on a political science basis, a big fail on a human psychology basis but most of all, it’s offensively callous.
On an intellectual level, Todd is suggesting that the political fallout for Obama is the same as Bush’s fallout from Katrina. That might work if this were years down the road, and people had died, and Obama had ignored the problem. But Todd and the media made this comparison in month 1 or 2 of a website glitch for a new program, knowing that every other program rollouts had glitches that did not ruin a presidency. In fact, no one remembers the glitches.
And why is that? Because human nature remembers the things that are relevant, that burn, that hurt, that create an impact. As annoying as it is when I go to try to use a glitchy website, I don’t remember it a year later like I remember the death of a loved one. And so it is that the 47 million Americans without access to affordable health insurance pre-ObamaCare will not remember a glitch. This is pretty easy to sort out.
It may be that if you’ve always had insurance you can’t grasp just how huge this is, but it’s huge. Finally getting access to affordable care and knowing that you can’t be tossed off of it if you get sick is huge to those who aren’t on huge media platforms and thus are more likely to be messed with by the powers that run corporate insurance.
If this comparison were really about political fallout, then this would be a year down the road and there would be actual fallout – people who died, people displaced, people who lost loved ones, first responders with PTSD, etc. But it is only month 2 and the glitch is fixed. Fallout because the polls dropped after the media hyped the glitches for the last two months? That’s not real. Healthcare is going to win this. It’s just basic psychology and history backs this up.
So no one is going to remember the glitch. There will be no fallout from the glitch. People will remember Obama as the president who finally made the very liberal dream of affordable healthcare for everyone a possibility. They will not care that it wasn’t perfect, because by then the glitches will have been worked out just like they were worked out with social security and Medicare Part D.
So we are left with a media that compared 47 million people getting health insurance to Katrina and Iraq, both of which killed people.
The media is now trying to explain that callous and stupid comparison away as a political exercise. But unless they are on par with Sarah Palin, who compared the national debt to slavery, no. No. Just no.
The truth is that the comparison works only on one level. The media was just as irresponsible with Iraq as they have been with ObamaCare, and both times their “error” in judgment hurt the people and helped industry.
People died in Katrina. They were — and some are still — displaced from their homes. It was a horror beyond imagination. It’s not suitable as a comparison to an attempt to get healthcare for 47 million Americans. If you can’t see that, if you don’t know that, something is wrong.
And as for Iraq, where we lost thousands of our troops, I challenge the media to go walk down Warriors’ Walk before they ever make that comparison again. No, a healthcare website’s glitch is not like Iraq. Not at all like Iraq. And if you think that you can make the argument that the political fallout is the same, then you don’t understand the fallout from Iraq.
And no, the media can’t accurately make the argument that Obama “misspeaking” about keeping your plan is the same as Bush lying to the country about WMD. The only people making that argument are partisan hacks and single cell get-alongs who haven’t any hope of having an original idea.
On an emotional level, a President who heard the plea of 47 million desperate Americans who needed affordable healthcare is not the same as the optics of a President who ignored the pleas of the trapped and dying. This, while perhaps not relevant in purely intellectual arguments, is relevant in terms of the psychology of what sticks to a politician.
It’s not hard to get. In one scenario, a President heard the pleas of the people and he ran to them, trying to save them. He tripped as he ran to them. He even fell a few times. But he ran TO THEM. In the other scenario, a President heard the pleas of the people from his plane window and he ran away. That is the stuff that makes a legacy – emotional memories, like it or not.
Respectable journalists are joining Todd in this argument. It’s still morally repugnant, tone deaf, and inaccurate to boot. It’s offensive and maybe that would be okay if it made sense, but it doesn’t even make sense. It’s illogical and desperate.
Time will tell this story and when it does, no one will be comparing the “fallout” from a glitch they don’t even remember to a storm that killed at least 1,800 people and ruined thousands more lives.
Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah has won two Telly Awards and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.