Boy, you gotta' hand it to that crack Washington press corps. It's really on the ball with this whole Obamacare thing.
"More than 6 million people have signed up for Obamacare, a symbolic victory after the program's difficult rollout," CNN said in a breathless bulletin last week. Just days later, the floundering network sent out another news alert: "Senior official: Obamacare is on track to hit White House goal of 7M people signing up." Well, that's good enough for me. A White House official insisting on anonymity says the program has hit the goal? I'm convinced, no need for proof.
All across the D.C. spectrum, "news" agencies and political websites lauded the Affordable Care Act — on April Fool's Day, no less. The Politico website said the enrollment period "ends with massive surge." Of course, the site offered no independent verification of the White House's new miraculous number, instead standing on this: "The Associated Press cited two sources." Print it!
Three paragraphs from the bottom, the story said: "it will be some time before it is known precisely how many of these people will finalize their enrollment by paying their premiums, how many were previously uninsured." But hey, just go with it for now.
An even less-read website, Roll Call, said, objectively, "Obama, Democrats Have 7 Million Reasons for a Victory Lap." The site didn't bother citing anyone, anonymously or otherwise, but said simply, "news of 7 million exchange sign-ups came as vindication."
The hard-left Washington Post was again a rolling comedy. At first, the paper's website said just "The debate over repealing this law is over." Well, that's pretty clear, so, again, no need for any corroboration. Later, the site changed the headline to: "More than 7 million have enrolled under Affordable Care Act, White House says." But that sort of responsible journalism didn't make into the print edition, which went with the headline: "7.1 million sign up for health plan by deadline."
Where did the paper of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein get all its "facts"? From "a person familiar with the details of the last-minute surge," of course.
The even-farther-left National Public Radio applauded the "7 million threshold that once was seen as unattainable, even as the number still could climb."
"Enrollment picked up and March became a blockbuster month for the new health care exchanges," NPR said. But it at least added a caveat: "It is not clear how many of those 7.04 million have paid for coverage."
NBC News got all wee-weed up, saying the 7 million Obamacare sign-ups announced by the White House was "a number that exceeded all hopes." As breitbart.com reported, the network "gave a scant 22 seconds to reporting its problems."
What's fascinating is how the White House's Jay "Circus" Carney went from Sgt. Shultz ("I know nothing!") to the Amazing Kreskin.
"At the beginning of all of this when the website was having so much trouble you were saying then, 'I'm not going to cherry pick the numbers,'" Ed Henry of Fox News said to Carney at the daily briefing. "How can you turn around these numbers within 24 hours and tell us with accuracy "
"Because our systems have gotten a lot better," the flack interrupted.
Well, there you go.
But he added "we're obviously offering initial data that's going to be refined as we get more information," so look for the story to change as time goes on. Like Benghazi.
Still, the bottom line won't change: As few as 27 percent of the supposed 7 million that signed up were previously uninsured, according to one study. That means Obamacare has ultimately insured just 1.9 million of the supposed 46 million Americans without health coverage. President Obama and Democratic lawmakers overhauled the entire health care system in America to help 1.9 million people? Hmm.
What's more, a Rand Corporation study suggest that as few as 858,000 previously uninsured Americans "have paid for new policies and joined the ranks of the insured," the Daily Mail reported.
Mr. Carney, though, did say make one absolutely true statement during the administration's victory lap: "Six out of 10 people without insurance can get insurance for $100 a day or less." A day. Now that I believe.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @josephcurl.