This strategy of spectacle and grandeur could be premature, or even unlucky, in the fickle political arena: President Obama will journey to Boston on Wednesday with plans to talk about the Affordable Care Act in none other than Faneuil Hall — the same historic spot where then-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney signed his state’s health care law in 2006.
Oh, it was a dramatic moment, all right. Mr. Romney sat at an ancient wooden desk below a 30-foot wide painting of Colonial heroes; he used 14 ceremonial pens to sign the legislation and was surrounded by a crew of powerful Democrats that included Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who Mr. Romney called “my collaborator and friend.”
Fancy bunting sported the motto “Making History in Health Care” in old-fashioned typeface. Everybody smiled. Everybody clapped. Cameras rolled. Mr. Romney got good press for a while, his bill hailed as “landmark.”
Now it appears Mr. Obama hopes for the same bipartisan good feeling. Indeed, White House adviser David Simas recently told The Boston Globe that the town’s old hall was the “perfect setting” for Mr. Obama to show that Republicans and Democrats could work together and be productive.
But a perfect setting at this juncture? The errant sign-up site, fee increases and disappearing insurance coverage for a growing number of Americans is definitely not playing well in the press. Even Democrats are grumbling. A speech at a humble neighborhood clinic might have been a better choice.
“Maybe the president is trying to share the blame, not the glory of bipartisanship here,” a Republican source says. “Lining up with Republicans on a stage is a good way to do just that.”
MIA: THE FACE OF OBAMACARE
Hundreds — literally hundreds — of news accounts have pored over the mysterious disappearance of the unidentified but nonetheless friendly female face that once greeted visitors at the Obamacare website. Alas, the image is missing in action, interpreted by the press as an allegory for the woes of the site itself.
Such marketing is a tricky business. When the operations are fixed next month, the creative team should take a page out of the General Mills playbook. And it is a very old page. The manufacturing giant was tasked with producing an image of Betty Crocker, the original domestic goddess and symbol of their brand. Here is what they did:
“In 1936 Betty Crocker got a face. Artist Neysa McMein brought together all the women in the company’s Home Service Department and ‘blended their features into an official likeness.’ The widely circulated portrait reinforced the popular belief that Betty Crocker was a real woman. One public opinion poll rated her as the second most famous woman in America after Eleanor Roosevelt,” notes a historical account from George Mason University.
Betty was also versatile.
“Over the next seventy-five years, her face has changed seven times: she became younger in 1955; she became a ‘professional’ woman in 1980; and in 1996 she became multicultural, acquiring a slightly darker and more ‘ethnic’ look,” the account notes.
QUESTIONS FOR SEBELIUS
There will be much health care hubbub in the U.S. House in the next 48 hours. The House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday morning on the current status of Obamacare’s faulty implementation. The really big show, however, is Wednesday morning when the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing to hear (drum roll please) from the one, the only Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Ever hopeful, and possibly gleeful, House Speaker John A. Boehner points out to all gloomy consumers that the agency official is there to address “the train wreck of Obamacare.” And he adds, “What would you ask her?”