President Barack Obama repeatedly acknowledged Thursday that the problematic rollout of his signature health care law has damaged his credibility with the American public.
“I think it's legitimate for them to expect me to have to win back some credibility on this health care law in particular and on a whole range of these issues in general,” Obama said during a lengthy press conference characterized by a series of unusually candid mea culpas. “And, you know, that's on me.”
Obama conceded that the law’s mediocre debut could imperil his key second-term agenda items and that his own party is facing political pressure as public faith in him plummets. A Quinnipiac poll this week showed a record majority of voters – 52 percent – said Obama is “not honest and trustworthy,” as opposed to 44 percent who say the opposite.
Detailing the well-publicized failures of the HealthCare.gov website and the cancellation of existing plans under new Affordable Care Act, Obama distinguished between times that his administration has been unfairly targeted for partisan reasons and the current health care mess.
“There have been times where I thought we got, you know, slapped around a little bit unjustly,” he said. “This one's deserved, all right? It's on us.”
Congressional Democrats have privately fumed that the administration’s disastrous October has reversed the party’s fortunes after the government shutdown, when the GOP was on the losing end of public polling and pundits were predicting blowback against Republicans at the polls next November.
Obama tried to give those Democrats some political breathing room on Thursday, baldly acknowledging that they are facing the wrath of voters and saying that he is “responsible” for public pressure caused by the law’s problems.
“There is no doubt that our failure to roll out the ACA smoothly has put a burden on Democrats, whether they're running or not, because they stood up and supported this effort through thick and thin,” Obama said. “l feel deeply responsible for making it harder for them rather than easier for them to continue to promote the core values that I think led them to support this thing in the first place.”
And he explicitly urged Americans not to blame their elected officials on the Hill for repeating the White House’s flawed promise that those who like their current insurance plans would be able to keep them.
“I think it's very important for me to note that there are a whole bunch of folks up in Congress and others who made this statement, and they were entirely sincere about it,” he said, adding that “they were making representations based on what I told them and what this White House and our administrative staff told them, and so it's not on them, it's on us.”
Asked if the flaws in the health care bill could hurt his other policy pushes, including the stalled effort to pass comprehensive immigration reform, Obama said opponents may be seeking an “excuse” not to complete the job but insisted he will keep pushing for the legislation.
“Am I going to have to do some work to rebuild confidence around some of our initiatives?” he added. “Yes.”
The president’s repeated admission of credibility problems came as Republicans hammered the administration as untrustworthy.
“It’s clear that the American people simply can’t trust this White House,” House Speaker John Boehner told reporters shortly before Obama took the podium.
First published November 14 2013, 11:43 AM