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Since When Did Free Stuff Need ‘Buzz’?

“Things will need to be fixed, and you need to get caught trying to fix them.”

-- Former President Bill Clinton speaking to House Democrats about problems with ObamaCare at a policy retreat in February.

As far as a product launch goes, President Obama’s new health-insurance entitlement program is looking pretty dire.

It’s like automated airline ticket kiosks: Nobody seems very happy about it, but nobody can escape it.

The latest system defect is the government’s hiring of a former lobbyist for the Obama-allied community organizing group, ACORN, to run a “viral video” contest in which young applicants document their affection for the law.

The Daily Mail reports that Deepak Bhargava will oversee the contest to generate online buzz. Bhargava ought to be well acquainted with the concept. It was viral videos of ACORN workers counseling conservative activists posing as a pimp and a prostitute that led to the dismantling of the group.

While conservatives may be outraged that a lobbyist for a Democratic electioneering group got the nod, the point here is that such a position exists at all. They didn’t need to generate “buzz” for Medicare and Medicaid. It turned out that free heath care was a sufficient draw.

When you have to spend millions of dollars and engage in such federal abasements as trolling for buzz videos to encourage people to take free stuff from the government, something is terribly wrong.

Despair is in the air.

We get a whiff also from the Obama administration’s decision to give money to abortionists to recruit ObamaCare signups. Democrats are publicly adamant that giving money to America’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, doesn’t mean funding abortion. But even Margaret Sanger herself would have seen the political dangers in that contortion.

Only anxiety could push the administration to offend the handful of pro-life Democrats, the same folks whom Obama promised over and over again that the law would never fund abortion. Bart Stupak must wonder now if the law was worth losing his seat for.

The same odor emits from the decision to cut back on training requirements for ObamaCare “navigators” by a third. The “navigators” are the sales associates for the entitlement, new federal employees tasked with recruiting the uninsured and then talking them through the signup process.

Not an encouraging sign for consumers given the concurrent concerns about their personal data in the ObamaCare “hub,” a data vortex designed to gather together the medical, financial and personal information about participants. The agency’s inspector general has been sounding the alarm for weeks about the dangers attendant to this, the Comstock Lode of hacking and federal worker mischief.

Cutting the training requirements and plowing ahead despite security risks are both the sudden sprint we’ve seen from Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and her agency to get the doors open in time for the scheduled Oct. 1 launch. The ungainly strides suggest that perhaps the administration expected the law to be struck down and wasn’t ready. Whatever the reason, this stumbling start after three years of prep time built into this law does not inspire Americans to be the first in line for ObamaCare.

After all, if getting the assembly line built is this bad, what will the product look like?

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But while Team Obama has been willing to delay parts of the law designed to control taxpayer costs, particularly the requirement that big businesses provide insurance programs that meet Sebelius’ requirements, there has been no suggestion that the entitlement itself will be delayed.

If Obama’s law had been rendered as simply as its predecessors, there likely wouldn’t need to be a delay. And if there were, it wouldn’t much matter. Again, free stuff kind of sells itself, given enough time.

But because ObamaCare is a complicated contraption, time is short. The law depends on forcing people who don’t want to buy insurance to buy insurance. The law offsets the cost of insuring people with pre-existing ailments by forcing healthy people into the risk pool. If the healthy, employed and uninsured can’t be conscripted, the premiums for everyone who already have insurance will rise even more under the law than already forecast.

But since the president’s team was trying hard to not have the mandate look like a mandate, it won’t likely do much. A $95 tax penalty isn’t likely to do much to convince a healthy 25-year-old to spend $4,000 a year on insurance. And neither is a video given a thumbs up by a former ACORN lobbyist.

The administration is today touting a USA Today survey that says Team Obama will beat its own estimate for how many people will sign up for insurance under the law – 8.5 million instead of 7 million. But how many of them are those being dumped by employers? How many actually understood what the pollsters were talking about? How many are really eligible? How many will really follow through? Pretty reedy stuff. Good for today’s Dem talking points, perhaps, but not much else.

The ObamaCare signup scramble reveals the same worry that has driven the administration to delay key provisions of the law. If Americans find their employer coverage gone or their premiums soaring astronomically, the already unpopular law will become a longer-term liability for the party.

Democrats are trying to preempt the discussion by attacking Republicans in advance for not being willing to “fix” the law. It’s a tough line to tote: This law is a great achievement of social-welfare Democrats and everyone should hop in… but it’s the Republicans’ fault that it doesn’t work.

A note to readers --

It’s been my great privilege and pleasure to write a daily column for most of the last three years. But you know what they say about all good things…

I am happy to say that we have begun a new daily political note, FOX NEWS FIRST. (Sign up here to have it delivered each weekday to your email inbox. Check out today’s edition here.) I’m proud to be at the helm, and I hope you’ll find it to be what we at Fox News have already found: It is a snappy, informative, balanced and useful way to start your day.

Please give it a try.

And because I couldn’t bear the thought of giving up these longer strolls with you through the language we love, I will continue to write columns on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I may add detail on an item from that morning’s note or, as they would say in Triadelphia, just grip it and rip it.

Thank you for indulging me for so long. Thank you, I hope, for indulging me still.

All best,
c

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C.  Additionally, he authors the daily "Fox News First” political news note and hosts “Power Play,” a feature video series, on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on the network, including "The Kelly File," "Special Report with Bret Baier," and "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.”  He also provides expert political analysis for Fox News coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.