First Thoughts: Obama’s mea culpa

Obama’s mea culpa on health care -- and the purpose was to stop the bleeding… Obama on the website: “I’m confident that it will be even better by Nov. 30, and that the majority of people are going to be able to get on there”… Obama also fired up on changing procurement rules when it comes to IT… Obama defends Biden, saying selecting him as VP is one the best decisions he’s ever made… Obama also talks Iran… October job numbers post-shutdown: Economy adds 204,000 jobs and unemployment rate increases to 7.3%... First Read’s 2016 week in review… And Christie to appear on “Meet the Press” and the other Sunday shows.

*** Obama’s mea culpa: President Obama has had more than a website to fix when it comes to the implementation of his health-care law -- he also has had to fix his previous vow that “If you like your insurance, you’ll be able to keep it.” The reason: We’ve learned that vow isn’t true for all Americans (those who purchase their health insurance in the private marketplace), and his credibility was on the line. So in an interview with one of us yesterday, Obama tried to fix that problem. While he argued that his vow is still true for the vast majority of Americans and said many in the private-insurance will ultimately be better off under the law, the president acknowledged that there “a small percentage of folks who may be disadvantaged… It means a lot to them. And it's scary to them. And I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation, based on assurances they got from me.” But remember: A “small percentage” still equals millions of Americans.

Obama tells Chuck Todd he's sorry' for lost healthcare 3:36

*** Trying to stop the bleeding: Obama went on to say in the interview, “We've got to work hard to make sure that we hear them and that we're going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this.” (The White House later told us that they are working on administrative, not legislative, fix.) Perhaps the best way to look at Obama’s mea culpa was to stop the bleeding on questions surrounding his previous “you can keep it” vow -- so the White House can return to the other problem they need to fix: the website.

*** Obama on the website: Speaking of the website and its troubled rollout, Obama said he’s “confident” that a “majority” of Americans will be able to successfully use the Obamacare site by the end of the month. “I'm confident that it will be even better by Nov. 30, and that the majority of people are going to be able to get on there. They're going to be able to enroll. They're going to be able to apply. And they're going to get a good deal.” So the race is on -- Nov. 30 is three weeks away. And do note that Obama said a “majority” -- not a vast majority or overwhelming majority. The president also admitted that he himself has become slightly more skeptical about guarantees when it comes to the website, noting he had been “burned before.” So perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that the president didn’t 100% shut the door to an enrollment delay, but his words suggested that his team is trying to do everything they can to avoid such a delay.

*** On changing procurement rules and acknowledging the problems that come with big reforms: Two other things struck us in the interview when it came to the health-care law. One, the president was fired out about changing federal procurement rules when it comes to IT issues; in fact, it was an interesting “tell” from the president -- meaning if there is one place he’s truly laying blame for the website problems, it’s on this issue. “One of the lessons learned from this whole process on the website is that probably the biggest gap between the private sector and the federal government is when it comes to IT... So part of what I'm going to be looking at is how do we across the board, across the federal government, leap into the 21st century.” And two, Obama said that all the problems, glitches, and other issues are the norm when you try to do big things. “I think what most people I hope also recognize is that when you try to do something big like make our health care system better that there're going to be problems along the way, even if ultimately what you're doing is going to make a whole lot of people better off. And I hope that people will look at the end product.”

*** Obama on Biden: “One of the best decisions that I’ve ever made was selecting him as VP”: Also in the interview, Obama rejected the thought -- and some of the polling -- of replacing Joe Biden with Hillary Clinton in 2012. “If they had asked me, I would have said there is no way that I'm not running again with Joe Biden, because I genuinely believe that he has been one of the best vice presidents in our history,” the president said. “He also happens to be a friend. He also happens to be one of my most important advisors on domestic foreign policy. I like him. When my back's up against the wall, he has my back.” Obama went on to say, “He is a personal friend and adviser. It's one of the best decisions that I've ever made was selecting him as vice president. I couldn't be prouder of the job that he's done.”

*** And Obama on Iran: Finally, Obama touched on the issue of Iran -- just as there’s talk about a possible deal on the country’s nuclear program. But the message Obama gave is that the burden is on Iran to show to everyone that they’re not building nuclear weapons. “We don't have to trust them. What we have to do is to make sure that there is a good deal in place from the perspective of us verifying what they're doing.”

*** October jobs numbers: 204,000 jobs added, unemployment rate rises to 7.3%: Turning away from yesterday’s Obama interview to today’s economic news, here are the first post-shutdown jobs numbers, and they’re a lot better than expected: “U.S. employers added 204,000 jobs in October, an unexpected burst of hiring during a month in which the federal government was partially shut down for 16 days. The Labor Department says the unemployment rate rose to 7.3 percent from 7.2 percent in September, likely because furloughed federal workers were counted as unemployed.” And the jobs numbers were revised up for August and September, meaning we added some 300,000 jobs overall.

*** The 2016 week in review: On Tuesday, Chris Christie cruised to re-election in New Jersey, 60%-38%... The day after, potential 2016 rivals took some not-so-subtle digs at the New Jersey governor… The Democratic group American Bridge released a memo highlighting the “Hillary Effect” in Terry McAuliffe’s gubernatorial win in Virginia…. Texas Gov. Rick Perry hit Iowa on Thursday… And Perry will be on “Daily Rundown” this morning.

*** Christie to appear on “Meet”: Oh, and there’s one more 2016 note: This weekend, Christie is appearing on all the Sunday shows, including NBC’s “Meet the Press.” As we said yesterday, Christie certainly isn’t shying away from grabbing the GOP establishment front-runner status.

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