Mayor Rahm Emanuel acknowledged Wednesday that problems with the Affordable Care website are a “mess” that needs to be fixed—even as he accused the news media of tunnel vision.
“I used to tell President Clinton. When it comes to the American press, the First Amendment is highly overrated,” the mayor said, during an interview at the Bloomberg Business Summit lunch on the future of cities in the global economy.
As the audience in the Art Institute laughed, the mayor said, “I can see it now. Headline: Emanuel Questions First Amendment.”
The former White House chief-of-staff said the coverage that has skewered his former boss, President Barack Obama, has conveniently ignored three huge health care benefits to stem from ObamaCare “before anybody even turned on a computer.”
Pre-existing conditions are now covered. Children are now covered under a parent’s policy until they turn 26, instead of being cut off when they turn 18. And, for three years running, health care inflation is lower than it’s been in 50 years.
Emanuel said the frenzied coverage of the website and roll-out problems have ignored those three signature achievements.
“Washington is broken. Sometimes, so is the media coverage. And I mean that,” the mayor said.
“What happened here [with the marketing and website] is, without a doubt, a mess and they’ll fix it. They’re going to have to. But, you’ve got to take a wide-lens view—not narrow down the picture. There are three things that have already changed in the health care system today and everybody here who hasn’t even looked on the exchange is an immediate beneficiary of it. And that’s just a fact.”
Asked what he would advise the President to do now to restore trust with the American people, Emanuel initially joked that “people pay big money” for that advice and he’s not about to give it away.
Turning serious, he advised Obama to “fix the thing,” then start “laying the groundwork” for mid-term elections that, can be “risky” for two-term Presidents in Year Six.
“It’s not just about health care. Don’t lose sight about what the Republicans did on the government shutdown and where the American people are,” said Emanuel, who engineered the Democratic takeover of Congress mid-way through the second term of President George W. Bush.
“Eventually, this website will get fixed. And you need to, going into an election, start to lay the tracks for the next argument. And the truth is…the economy would be growing better and faster if it wasn’t for the fact that the United States Congress tries every strategy they can to derail it. I would start laying that track. I would start putting the job growth and economics at their doorstep.”