Obama ‘Madder’ Than Anyone, Now What?

Photograph by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks about the error-plagued launch of the Affordable Care Act’s online enrollment website in the Rose Garden of the White House on October 21, 2013 in Washington, DC.

“Nobody’s madder than me about the fact that the Web-site isn’t working as well as it should, which means it’s going to get fixed.”

— President Barack Obama on the troubled start-up of HealthCare.gov, the online portal to the new insurance exchanges in his signature “Obama-care.”

Suddenly, he’s talking like someone who runs the place: When people mess with something, it better not be the boss’s something.

That confidence — dare we call it swagger? — stems from the smack-down the president put on the Republicans who partially shut down the government.

Republicans were, after all, threatening the very program of the federal government that has come to bear the president’s own name — first deployed as a derisive term by opponents of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and later Obama himself, proud of a law offering health insurance for millions of Americans lacking it. The fallacy of the shutdown strategy from the start, as the party’s more seasoned leaders acknowledged, was that Sen. Ted Cruz and company weren’t going to get the guy who signed the law to defund or delay it.

Still, the suggestion that something will get done in Washington because the president is “madder” than anyone else about it marks a potential new turn.

The president was as angry as anyone, save the parents themselves, about the killings of 20 first-graders at a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school on Dec. 14. Ninety percent of Americans surveyed supported stricter background checks for gun-buyers. Yet he couldn’t get anything done about it in Congress.

The president is unhappy about the pollution believed to be raising the global temperature and ultimately its sea level along vulnerable coastlines. Yet he hasn’t been able to convince Congress about a response to climate change.

The president drew a “red line” against the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and then they used them, killing hundreds of children and also adults. He could not convince Congress to take action — rather an off-handed remark by his secretary of state offered an opening for a Russia-brokered solution.

Time will tell how upset the president is about an estimated 11 million people living in fear of the government because they arrived in the U.S. without documents or remained here after their visas expired. He came out of the shutdown saga calling on the House to act. Given the resistance to immigration “reform” in the House, he may not be able to do anything about that either.

The confidence that American presidents can fix things that are broken has been eroded in modern times by events sometimes beyond their control.

These guys once saved the Union. These guys ended slavery and a century later delivered civil rights for the oppressed. These guys built our way out of the Great Depression, with the help of another World War. These guys built an atom bomb. These guys built the interstate highways. These guys put an American on the moon. And in the latest great exception to other modern failures, the two outgoing and incoming presidents, with the help of the Federal Reserve, probably averted another depression after the financial crisis of 2008.

But fix global warming? Fix gun violence? Fix immigration?

By comparison, fixing a Web-site ought to be easy — as simple as the kind arm the president lent to Karmel Allison, pregnant and diabetic, starting to pass out behind him in the Rose Garden as he spoke today, four times, about his assurances that HealthCare.Gov will be fixed. “This happens when I talk too long,” the president joked, holding her steady until someone else can could lead her away. “You’ll be OK.”

The second-term president, prevailing in a government-shutting congressional fight over the signature achievement of his first term, has just a few years to prove what it means when he gets mad about something broken.


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