• With: Joe Rago, Dan Henninger, Kim Strassel, Matt Kaminski, Bret Stephens, Mary Kissel

    This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," November 16, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

    PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," with his poll numbers sinking and fellow Democrats panicking, President Obama scrambles to stem the fallout from millions of insurance policy cancellations. Does his fix go far enough?

    Plus, France saves the West from what it calls a sucker's deal with Tehran. As nuclear negotiations continue, can Congress keep the administration from a bad bargain?

    And the left floats an alternative to Hillary Clinton in 2016. Could Elizabeth Warren derail the Clinton train?


    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: My expectation was that, for 98 percent of the American people, either it genuinely wouldn't change at all or they'd be pleasantly surprised with the options in the marketplace, and that the grandfather clause would cover the rest. That proved not to be the case, and that's on me.


    GIGOT: Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.

    Feeling the heat as his poll numbers plummet and his fellow Democrats voice alarm, President Obama Thursday moved to stem the political fallout from millions of canceled health care policies, announcing that insurance companies can continue to offer those plans for an additional year. But does this fix, really fix anything?

    Let's ask Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; Washington columnist, Kim Strassel; and editorial board member, Joe Rago.

    All things health care, Joe, substance, does this fix anything really?

    JOE RAGO, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: It might fix a little bit but the president is basically a guy who has caused the apocalypse and then comes around and says I'm going to rebuild civilization for the survivors.

    GIGOT: He's blown up the individual market, deliberately so, because he wanted to put people in the exchanges. Those policies, the cancellations have now proven to be very unpopular. He's trying to say, OK, you can save it, but only for a year. But what sense does that make, if you can keep your policy for a year but you have to give it up next year?

    RAGO: Right. He's saying only people who were covered in 2013 can take advantage of this option. There's no -- he's not trying to create a viable individual insurance market outside of the exchanges. He's trying to calm down a political furor.

    GIGOT: I see.

    OK, Dan?

    DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: The same day he gave the press conference, the head of the White House Economic Council, Gene Sperling, was appearing at an event in Washington. He said, all of this is, in his word, transitional. What people have to --

    GIGOT: Ah.

    HENNINGER: Yeah. What people have to understand is ObamaCare is not going away. It's not stepping back. This is a holding pattern so they can eventually get these people back into the ObamaCare system. They have to do that. It's an insurance pool. The economics collapse if too many people use this interim period to personally withdraw from ObamaCare. They cannot allow that to happen.

    GIGOT: The insurers are really up in arms about this, Joe. They basically said this is going to cause prices to rise. And they've been working for three years in good faith with the administration to accommodate their previous rules. Now that those rules are waved for a little while, are they going to be able to make this work?

    RAGO: They're going to decide that probably by Monday. But they were not told about this rule change until the morning of the announcement. So they were completely blindsided. And they know how the business works and practice. It takes a long time to develop these contracts, to set rates, to set benefits, get them approved by state regulators. If the president really wanted to ensure there's a transition, he would have announced this change 10 months ago when it would have actually mattered.

    GIGOT: But this does seem to have exploded politically in the short term, Kim, to the extent it has stopped Democrats from demanding even greater change. Is that a fair summary?

    KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST: That was entirely why it was done, Paul, which was to stop --


    The president wanted to stop what looked as though it might have been an enormous rebuke of him from his own party as Democrats contemplated moving with Republicans on votes to go even further than what the president had proposed and allow people to keep their plans, for instance, in perpetuity or allow them insurers to offer them to anybody who wanted them. Those are some of the ideas in Congress.

    GIGOT: Right.

    STRASSEL: So he's trying to stop that and trying to give Democrats some political cover.

    The problem is, can they actually get any cover, Paul? Because, as Dan said, as Joe said, if you want this law to work as it was designed to work, all this bad stuff has to happen. And it will continue to happen. That's the biggest problem Democrats face.

    HENNINGER: Well, I think the tension now is between the Obama -- for the Democrats, it's between Obama's legacy and the future of the Democratic Party, which is going to be decided in those elections in November 2014. It was so telling that Senator Dianne Feinstein, of California, who is in an absolutely safe seat, or Jeff Merkley, the liberal Senator from Oregon --

    GIGOT: Right.

    HENNINGER: -- said they were thinking of signing on to this interim fix. And they are afraid that if they lose control of the Senate, they will be in the minority. Dianne Feinstein will lose her chairmanship.

    GIGOT: But if Sperling is right, this is just a transition, we just have to muscle it through, take the heat -- that's what they're telling Democrats, as I understand it, Joe. They're basically saying, look, this is going to be a rough period but you got to break a few eggs to make an omelet and this is going to be all fine by Election Day. But why is that wrong?

    RAGO: Well, where's the omelet?


    GIGOT: Well, it's out there.


    It's on the next stove. It's coming.


    GIGOT: If you look at the enrollment numbers that they released this week, only about 100,000 enrollments nationwide, 27,000 through the 36 federal exchanges. So I think this program is a lot more troubled than even people realized by what's been made public. So these problems are going to ramify over time.