During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Israel’s Prime Minister, Golda Meir, pulled the plug on a speech to the nation by Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan, on the advice of journalists who had interviewed him earlier in the day. Dayan’s confidence was so shattered by the surprise attack by Israel’s neighbors that if he addressed the nation, journalists thought, he might well encourage it to surrender instead of to fight back and win.
On Monday evening, in a bizarre parallel to the misfortunes of the federal Obamacare website, participants in President Barack Obama’s pep talk to the activists of Organizing for Action on Monday evening struggled to log on to the conference call. Those who did heard a lethargic speech from a defeated-sounding president, who urged activists to keep working hard to sign people up for health insurance by mail and by telephone.
Repeating his lament that buying insurance turns out to be “complicated,” President Obama also repeated his omission that even applications processed by mail and by telephone have to go through the same computer system that is causing healthcare.gov its many problems.
He also failed to explain that signing up for Obamacare is different than enrolling in an actual insurance plan, which requires premium payment by Dec. 15.
The speech was likely one of the least effective speeches of Obama’s career, a long fall from the rousing message he provided OfA volunteers after the State of the Union address early in the year.
It had the same feeling as a pep talk by the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, explaining to his team that because they could not pitch to David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox, they were going to have to find another way to get outs.
Though Obama’s weak address provided fodder for his critics, it also provided ample reason for concern that the president may struggle to lead the country on other matters. If he had addressed the nation about something more pressing than a failed website–a new terror attack (God forbid) or an economic crisis–Americans might have panicked.
It is time for another “post-first-debate” intervention. But from whom?