The Sebelius subterfuge

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius appeared earlier this week on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart in connection with the rollout of Obamacare (video below). Her appearance was interesting in several respects.

Stewart demonstrated a “bad” attitude. He implicitly criticizes Obamacare from the left, but more than anything he finds the rollout is deeply uncool. Stewart mocks it. He does not await Obamacare Exchange 1.1 or 2.0 with bated breath. I don’t think the rollout puts him in mind of Apple or the iPhone. As an Obama supporter, Stewart is embarrassed by the technical issues that have bedeviled the rollout.

Moreover, as a showbiz populist, Stewart is also troubled by the disparate treatment of big companies and individuals with respect to Obamacare’s mandate. The Obama administration has granted companies a one-year waiver of compliance with the mandate. Individuals, however, remain subject to the mandate. No relief for them. Stewart asks: why the disparity?

Sebelius avoids answering the question directly. She touts Obamacare; it’s a wonderful world.

Stewart notes her indirection and asks the question again and again. Finally, Sebelius says, individuals can avoid the mandate too! They just have to pay the penalty. The penalty, however, expresses the mandate. She doesn’t have a sense of humor and she doesn’t mean to do comedy, but it’s almost funny. I’ll give her that.

Stewart also asks Sebelius how many individuals have signed up for Obamacare. Here Sebelius was prepared with the correct answer. As we learned from Treasury Secretary Jack Lew this past Sunday, the correct answer (at this point, anyway) is: I don’t know.

Translation: the number is laughably small (at this point, anyway). Sebelius wasn’t going to give Stewart any more material for comedy than absolutely necessary.

Well, the number may be small today, but it will grow. We may be laughing now, but we won’t have the last laugh.

The video is probably most interesting in the contrast it draws between Stewart and the mainstream media. The mainstream media have relieved the Obama administration of the mandate of answering hard questions about Obamacare. The media didn’t ask Obama a single question about Obamacare in his hour-long encounter with them yesterday. Unlike Stewart, they are afraid of demonstrating a bad attitude or a heterodox thought conceding that Republicans might have a point about anything.

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