The Obama Watch

Obamacare (As Seen On TV)

Would you buy a used car from this lemon salesman?

By 10.22.13

Well, that was embarrassing.

On Tuesday morning, the President of the United States became a salesman, hawking Obamacare in an “As Seen On TV” performance that would have Billy Mays cringing.

President Obama was forced into the White House Rose Garden appearance by the deluge of news stories — a deluge that would have started two weeks earlier but for the government shutdown — about the utter failure of the Obamacare website,

Americans can’t log in, can’t set up accounts, can’t get through the security questions, can’t get basic information without giving the government personal information, and most of the time, if they get that far, can’t find a good product at a good price. Instead, the few plans that have nominally small monthly premiums come with enormous deductibles and cost-sharing.

Polls showed, as liberals will remind you giddily, that Obamacare’s popularity increased during the government shutdown. Now that the shutdown is over, the issue of the disaster that is federal government involvement in health insurance will become disconnected from the (un)popularity of the Tea Party or Ted Cruz or even President Obama. The brief moment of hope for Obamacare supporters will quickly fade.

Even the most “mainstream” of media sources are pushing headlines such as “Obama pledges quick fixes for health care site” and “Obama admits flaws in website but defends law.”

The cesspool of Obamacare is leaving a stench on a president who, despite feeling a momentary surge of post-shutdown victory, is in the midst of a yearlong decline in popularity. On Monday, Gallup reported that “President Barack Obama averaged a 44.5% job approval rating during his 19th quarter in office, a decline of more than three percentage points from his 18th quarter. That is one of the largest quarter-to-quarter declines of his presidency…”

All this forced Obama to the stage on Monday, introduced by the first person to buy health insurance through the Obamacare exchange in Delaware (one wonders if she is the only one), trying to convince Americans to buy his faulty product from a barely-functional website that was designed by an over-paid Canadian company supervised by Obama campaign staffers and bureaucrats rather than IT professionals. Even Jon Stewart is ridiculing the Obamacare website's repeated failures. A new poll says that 12 percent of Americans believe the Obamacare rollout is going well. (I wonder what percentage of them work for HHS and never watch the news.)

But it’s hard to sell a product less user-friendly than Chop Magic and less credible than the Deluxe Spin Mop.

I mean, I actually have some interest in chopping an onion quickly and without tears. And the Chop Magic doubles as a six-cup mixing and measuring container! Now that’s a benefit I can believe in. Unlike, for example, “free” birth control.

When you read some of Barack Obama’s “As Seen On TV” lines, you can’t help but think of Billy Mays selling OxiClean (“It’s Amazing!”), or Vince “the hooker bit my tongue” Shlomi pitching the ShamWow (“It sells itself!):

  • “(T)he Affordable Care Act is not just a website. It’s much more.”
  • “You may not know it, but you're already benefiting…”
  • [Y]ou can get health insurance for what may be the equivalent of your cellphone bill or your cable bill. And that's a good deal.”
  • “[U]nlike the day after Thanksgiving sales for the latest PlayStation or flat-screen TVs, the insurance plans don't run out.” (He neglected to note that you don’t have to keep paying for a PlayStation every month.)
  • “The product, the health insurance, is good. The prices are good. It is a good deal.”
  • “The phone number for [] call centers is 1-800-318-2596.”

Yes, the President of the United States gave — and then repeated — an 800-number for Americans who can’t use his program’s website to call in order to be told how many weeks of bureaucracy they’ll have to muddle through to buy an over-priced product whose primary “benefit” will be to make sure that the costs of pre-existing conditions are dumped on everybody else. After all, why should my illness be my financial problem when I can make it your financial problem?

As if this isn't bad enough, even the phone number doesn't work. The UK Daily Mail reports that "a number of tests by journalists ended with busy signals or dropped calls" and the Wall Street Journal says "we called the hotline on Monday and the automated menu redirected us to, which in turn told us to get in touch with someone at the call center." Sean Hannity reached the phone number and was told that the web site will be down for two days, and that an application can only be taken over the phone if an account is set up online first; the friendly operator noted that nobody actually likes the Obamacare exchange. (I wonder if she still has her job, given the vindictiveness of this administration.)

So even Obama's solution to the website debacle accomplishes little but wasting our time. But then what do you expect from a phone number which can also be given as 1-800-F1U-CKYO?

Barack Obama isn’t much of a salesman, in part because he has so little practice selling anything but his own ego. He sounds forced, unconvincing, coming up with sound bites that land on the eardrum with the dull thud — and easiness to forget — of a used car salesman trying to unload a lemon on a customer who can’t believe the hustler is actually being this obvious.

It’s almost insulting that the president thinks his bogus statistics and cherry-picking of sob-stories will convince us that his demonstrable failure is simply a victim of its own success. Does he really think we’re that stupid? (Please don’t answer that.)

I was just waiting for Obama to throw in, “But wait, if you order today, we’ll send you a second Obamacare policy absolutely free.”

He’s also a particularly unlikeable salesman, with a permanent scowl, a constantly condescending tone, and too much gesticulation, as if pointing fingers and waving palms turns his snake oil into actual medicine. At least most used car salesman put on an air of bonhomie. At least you probably would have enjoyed having a beer with Billy Mays. At least Vince knows how to have fun — of sorts.

The problem with all this is not just that the vast majority of Americans would rather buy OxiClean than Obamacare. It is not just that Barack Obama is a terrible salesman. And it is not even that the signature legislation of the president of the United States is in the middle of a dramatic implosion because the administration wanted to keep Republicans from learning anything about the website’s development.

Rather, the problem with our new “As Seen On TV” president is that he has taken yet one more giant step down the road of diminishing the office he holds, reducing the presidency to a glorified advertising firm, hawking products most people don’t like for prices most people won’t pay, while trying to make us believe that if we would only stop listening to skeptics, Obamacare would practically sell itself.

But of course, if it would sell itself, he wouldn’t be in the Rose Garden, repeating 800 numbers like a second-rate huckster.

I think I’ll go buy a Chillow instead.


Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article
About the Author
Ross Kaminsky is a self-employed trader and investor and is a senior fellow of the Heartland Institute. He is the host of “The Ross Kaminsky Show” on Denver's NewsRadio 850 KOA on Saturday mornings from 6 AM to 9 AM. You can reach Ross by e-mail at rossputin(at)rossputin(dot)com.