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November 21, 2013 10:52 AM Shooting the Wounded

By Ed Kilgore

In a piece at WaPo’s The Fix blog, Juliet Eilperin and Scott Wilson write with some sympathy about the president’s multifaceted challenges right now, which include heading off congressional preemption of negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. But they make one claim that is both dubious and annoying:

Obama’s problem with messaging is not the only consequence of a schedule crowded with ceremonial events and the delicate politics of Iran’s nuclear program. He also faces a problem with consistency.
Last week, Obama offered a self-critical view of the disastrous health-care rollout, saying several times that the poor result is “on me.”
His appearance before the media followed an apology to Americans who are receiving health-insurance policy cancellation notices, something he had repeatedly assured the public would not happen. His trustworthiness, a quality Obama had always rated high on with the public, has plummeted in a series of recent polls.
But on Tuesday, Obama emphasized to a group of Wall Street chief executives that he alone was not to blame. He shifted some of the responsibility to Washington’s political dysfunction — another problem he pledged as a candidate to resolve — and to the Republican Party. In his remarks, Obama described what he called the Republicans’ “ideological resistance to the idea of dealing with the uninsured and people with preexisting conditions” in any health-care reform. He suggested that he underestimated the depth and enduring nature of that sentiment, more than three years after the law’s passage.

Is Obama really being “inconsistent” here? He’s taking responsibility for HealthCare.gov’s problems, but it is simply an indisputable fact that those problems would be far less daunting if Republicans at the state level had cooperated by creating their own exchanges and expanding Medicaid, and if congressional Republicans had provided adequate funds for implementation and remained open to small “fixes.” And now, when “fixes” have become necessary, congressional Republicans are openly espousing measures aimed at disabling the legislation entirely.

So is Obama supposed to ignore those facts in order to take blame more dramatically himself? I don’t think so.

Even if you overlook the many provisions of the Affordable Care Act that had to be designed in a convoluted way to overcome Republican obstruction, and the inability to secure the kind of small legislative “fixes” customary with all major legislation, and regard all the problems as self-inflicted wounds by the administration, the GOP is now clearly trying to shoot the wounded and blow up the whole hospital. If the president refused to talk about that in discussing the path ahead, he really would be telling lies.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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