Conservatives have been batting around the "Obamacare is Obama's Iraq War" metaphor since at least earlier this year, and now the Obama administration has unexpectedly endorsed it. The Department of Health and Human Services announced in a blog post on Sunday that it's bringing in the "best and the brightest" tech experts to fix Obamacare's flawed insurance exchange website. HHS called it a "tech surge." This language apparently wasn't a mistake: "We're kind of thinking of it as a tech 'surge,'" an anonymous HHS official tells Politico.
It's strange that the Obama administration would embrace this metaphor, as Obama's public opposition to the War was how he got elected to the Senate in the first place ("I'm opposed to dumb wars.") And George W. Bush's troop surge in 2007 was meant to bring an end to a very unpopular war. While Obamacare certainly has its critics, a new CNN poll shows that 53 percent of Americans support the law or think it's not liberal enough. Associating Obamacare with one of the biggest foreign policy failures in our history does not seem like a good move for President Obama (which is exactly why conservatives are doing it).
The Iraq War metaphor first got some play on conservative blogs when the the administration announced in April that it would be spending more money to market Obamacare to consumers. Shihka Dalmia at Reason wrote,
The Iraq War cost $1 trillion and produced a quagmire abroad. Obamacare will cost $1 trillion and will create a quagmire at home. Americans need an exit strategy.
After Obama made his remarks on Monday, kicking off his Healthcare.gov glitches apology tour, conservatives took the opportunity to compare Obamacare to the Iraq War again. Liberals quickly responded by pointing out that it might not be the best metaphor:
That anyone would compare a poorly functioning insurance purchase interface to the Iraq war is deeply deeply revealing.— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) October 21, 2013
The Guardian's Ana Marie Cox said that she didn't see a "Mission Accomplished" banner at Obama's speech. And The New Republic's Alec MacGillis noted a distinct difference in body count:
And comedian Rob Delaney (who is an ardent supporter of the health care law) thinks the whole idea is silly.
Is a tomato a bag of old wigs? RT @j_strong: is Obamacare President Obama's Iraq War?— rob delaney (@robdelaney) October 21, 2013
But it the administration isn't shying away from using W-like language. Right-wing bloggers have started to pick up on this:
So the comparison could continue to wedge its way into health care discussions, whether or not the "tech surge" works. What anti-Obamacare pundits probably didn't expect is that the president would adopt their language.