By Tom Ehrich
It seems so simple in retrospect.
Knowing that all software implementations get squirrelly, and that government rollouts are worst of all because of low-bidder contract requirements, don't promise the moon.
Pick a beta group of, say, 50,000 people, and roll it out to them. Test every element of the web interface, the insurance industry interface, the comprehension gap that is inevitable with non-tech users, customer service, and managers' ability to handle troubleshooting.
Learn from that experience, and roll it out to 200,000 on extended beta. Test the system's ability to handle large numbers.
Keep going that way, until the Affordable Health Care exchange has reached everyone and is working well.
Then -- and only then -- stare down the anti-Obamacare partisans who have done everything possible to undermine the program.
I don't expect the President to know much about software rollouts. But surely someone could have told him this would be a mess -- software implementations always are -- and recommended keeping the mess small and manageable. Instead they seem to have fed him success talking points, which promptly backfired.
There's no point in saying Republicans should have behaved better. They are clearly out of control and quite willing to hurt American citizens, American self-confidence and a legal government program if it serves their obstructionist agenda.
There is a strong point, however, in asking why a President either didn't hire tech-savvy folks who could guide him and this program better, or why he didn't listen to them. Part of leadership is expectations management.
What I see isn't an unfixable health insurance mess. I see in President Obama a tragic kind of non-competence. Being smart but not savvy. Having a vision but not bringing in the right people to execute that vision.
Being cut off, or seeming cut off, as if he were a bystander in his own government. Wanting the benefits of politics but not being willing to engage in politics, like a teenage boy who wants the joy of being in love but is afraid to talk to a girl.
Being arrogant without enough of the accomplishment or capability that might justify strong self-regard, making him appear smug and uninterested.
And where is his own party? Where is Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson to sit him down and shape him up? Where are the pit bulls who dare stand up to Republicans? Where are the wise men and wise women who support their leader out front and twist arms out back?
As I say, tragic. In the purest sense of that word. And it leaves the American public vulnerable to an opposition party that has nothing but contempt for most Americans.