Last week’s delay of the Affordable Care Act’s insurance mandate has observers declaring that President Obama’s Hurricane Katrina has made landfall. Or so declare pundits in the national papers and on the TV talk shows. But ObamaCare is no Katrina. It is much worse, at least for the presidency and the constitution.
Katrina ruined President George W. Bush’s second term. The images of desperate families trapped in the New Orleans Superdome, coupled with the Iraq insurgency, displayed impotence in the executive. A massive Republican defeat in Congress soon followed.
Mr. Obama’s incompetence in implementing his own health care scheme may seem like another presidential failure in the making.
His administration had already delayed requirements for employer-provided insurance, in violation of his own law’s deadlines. It could not roll out a functional marketplace for insurance policies, even though it had three years to prepare.
His waiver of his own law’s regulation notwithstanding, Mr. Obama has now broken his promise to voters that “if you like your policy, you can keep it.” His ratings are diving to record lows and his congressional allies are jumping ship. Almost 40 House Democrats voted for a Republican bill to temporarily waive ObamaCare requirements for all health policies.
These ObamaCare setbacks, however, represent failure of a wholly different dimension. Bush had to respond to unpredictable events: an act of mother nature in New Orleans and an act of war in Iraq.
For the Framers of our Constitution, such unforeseen challenges justified the very creation of a strong president. They concentrated the nation’s executive power in a single person who could act with “decision, activity, secrecy, and dispatch,” Alexander Hamilton explained in “Federalist 70.”
Diffusing executive power among multiple parties would sow confusion and destroy accountability and frustrate the nation’s ability to respond to “the most critical emergencies of the state.”
Bush’s second term ran aground because he failed to use the president’s powers effectively in the very setting for which they were created. He eventually recovered with the surge in Iraq, a brave decision that showed the presidency at its best.
Obama is hitting the shoals for the exact opposite reason. ObamaCare’s collapse does not result from an act of nature or the attacks of a foreign enemy. Instead, it is a perversely self-inflicted, man-made disaster that replaced the efficiency of the private markets with the tangle, confusion, and ideological bias of government bureaucracy.
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