OTR Interviews

President Obama's apology over ObamaCare: Is it enough or tone-deaf?

Former Reagan advisor sizes up Pres. Obama's apology for ObamaCare, the latest revelations about HealthCare.gov's dysfunction before launch, the White House's handling of the troubled ObamaCare rollout, plus TIME's controversial Chris Christie cover


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," November 7, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARTHA MACCALLUM, FOX NEWS HOST: Hello, everybody. I'm Martha MacCallum, in tonight for Greta Van Susteren.

More on the breaking news of the president's apology tonight. That comes up in just a minute.

But, also tonight, now even Hollywood celebrities are starting to go after ObamaCare. The rollout drama is now the target of comedy. Watch.




JAY LENO, HOST, THE TONIGHT SHOW: How does that make Obama feel? Better off smoking crack than passing ObamaCare.



NARRATOR: SpongeBob and Patrick visit the ObamaCare website.


JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE: Maybe SpongeBob is a Republican.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Obama and ObamaCare have become a joke.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The government believes that the fewer options you have in picking doctors and networks, the cheaper insurance will be. I frankly think it's the other way around.

LIMBAUGH: They don't care for us. They want to control us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are narrowing your choices. And as a result, many will be forced to find new doctors, new hospitals, new health care providers.

LIMBAUGH: Nobody cares as much about you as Obama and his fellow Democrats. And to prove it, they are going to coerce you into living in a way they can control you.


MACCALLUM: The House Oversight Committee releasing documents of so-called "stress tests" done on the site, the ObamaCare site, showing it could only handle some 1100 users to date before it launched.


REP. DARRELL ISSA, R-CALIF.: This was a failure to launch that they knew about on September 30th and went ahead anyway.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If sometimes it isn't, that means sometimes it is. And during those times, individuals are able to get information.

UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSMAN: When you promise, carry out your promises.

UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSMAN: When people make a promise they know they can't keep, that's a lot harder to forgive, the.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN, R-TEXAS: The consequences of not telling the truth to the American people, I think, are eventually the political accountability we are going to see in 2014. That's what scares the Democrats.


MACCALLUM: All right. So now we have this FOX News alert. President Obama tonight, just moments ago, saying that he is sorry. He apologized to Americans who have lost the insurance plans that he promised they could keep.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, first of all, I meant what I said. And we worked hard to try to make sure that we implemented it properly. But, obviously we didn't do good enough job and I regret that.

TODD: Do you feel like you owe these folks an apology for misleading them even if you didn't intentionally do it. At this point, they feel mislead and you see the anger that's out there.

OBAMA: I regret very much that what we intended to do, which is to make sure that everybody is moving into better plans because they want them as opposed because they are forced into it, that, you know, we weren't as clear as we needed to be in terms of the changes that were taking place. And I want to do everything we can to make sure that people are finding themselves in a good position, a better position than they were before this law happened.

And I am sorry that they, you know, are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me. We have got to work hard to make sure that they know we hear them and that we are going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this.


MACCALLUM: Very interesting. He said I'm sorry that they didn't get what they thought they were going to get based on assurances from me. A clear reference to the promise that was made, "if you like your health care, you can keep it, period, end of story."

Joined now by former senior advisor to President Reagan, Pat Buchanan.

Pat, welcome. Good to have you here tonight.


MACCALLUM: This is hot off the presses, so to speak. What's your reaction? What did you make of that apology?

BUCHANAN: I think it's unsatisfactory entirely. For this reason. He is apologizing to the individuals who may have lost their policies. He is not apologizing to the nation, which was systematically and deliberately mislead, given assurances that he could not give and that he and his White House had to know were false in order to enact ObamaCare. I don't think ObamaCare would have been enacted if he had not, again and again and again, said you all can keep the policies you have got and like. You can keep the doctors you have got and like. This is the whole American people that were misled, not simply those folks who, unfortunately, are taking the consequence of this by losing their health insurance.

MACCALLUM: You know, I think that the ripple effect of this is potentially not to be underestimated. And you are right. The president has sort of compartmentalized the apology and said, for those on the individual plans, he seems to sincerely believe, I think, that eventually they are going to like their plan better. But, it doesn't acknowledge the ripple effect, the small businesses that we learned about today, the big businesses, potentially in the future, who are making different decisions based on this law. And it's changing everybody's understanding and everybody's reality of what they have got in their plan.

BUCHANAN: Well, you know, you not only have an estimated millions of individuals who are going to lose their policies and have to find new ones, more expensive one, in many cases, but we don't know the effect right now of what happens when the employer mandate takes effect. How many of those programs have been changed and altered? And how many are going to have to be canceled? I think this is going to go on and on and on into the new year. And I think it's already beating the president badly. He is down 40 percent and dropping. His credibility, I think, has been damaged irretrievably by this. And I don't know where it stops.

MACCALLUM: I'm curious what you think about the political side of this. Because, no doubt, there have been some heated discussions in the Oval Office over whether or not the president needed to do what he did tonight. And obviously, they made the decision, OK, we are going to go up there. They called Chuck Todd for the interview. We are going to go up there and apologize tonight. Do you think -- the American people have a very good meter for truth. What do you think the response is going to be? Did the apology itself feel sincere? Like he meant it? Like he is concerned that he is worried about what has gone wrong and wants to fix it?

BUCHANAN: No. I will tell you what it looks like to me. And I have been a communications director in the White House. It looks like they got in the Oval Office and said we have got to do something. We have got to move our position. We have got to explain what happened to a degree here. And he went out and said, you know, I really regret all these folks that are losing their policies. I'm sorry about that.

But this is, with due respect, to use an ancient term, this was a modified limited hangout. What the president of the United States and his people did, and I believe they know they did it, is they went out and systematically, deliberately reassured everybody. Said don't worry about your policy. If you like it, don't worry about your doctor. We're just going to work over here and try to help some people that need some particular help and got real problems. And most Americans, I think, relaxed and said, well, you know, we will go along with helping some folk. We can't overdo the money, et cetera. So we were deliberately misled. What they have gotten is moved the ball a few yards up the field and they haven't really told the full and whole truth about what it was that they did.

MACCALLUM: Pat, do you think they have been surprised by the reaction, surprised that so many people on -- really from all spectrums are so outraged about how the website worked? How could this happen? How do you mess it up so badly? 1100 people can get on at a time. It's nothing compared to what people are used to on the Internet. Do you think they are surprised by the reaction?

BUCHANAN: I think with regard to the website, look, that is a debacle. It's -- things happen. And that is a major debacle in this program. But the folks who said, look, they will get it up and running in two months and it should have been tested and heads should roll, but we will get it up and the program will be fine, that's one thing. That is a mistake. That is a major mistake. And they ought to be held accountable.

But that is of a different order, of a different character, of a different magnitude than the revelation that everything we have been told about keeping your own policy is null and void, inoperative.

MACCALLUM: I think you're so right about that. You know, one thing is the website, but it is -- the tip of the iceberg, I think, for a lot of people who thought, as you say, that they were going to keep what they had, as the president assured them, and are not able to ultimately. We did learn from these documents that revealed on HealthCare.gov that they were equipped to only handle 1100 users a day, as I said.


And the Obama administration knew that the day before the launch. Which politically, Pat, I just wonder, what was going through their minds? And this goes back to my question about, did they not think that people were going to notice? Did they not think that they were going to be angry? Did they not think that the press would be sort of all over them as they are from all corners now?

BUCHANAN: What gets me is, why -- look, they knew that was coming. They had to know that was coming. Even though they had, what, two or three years or one and a half years to get it done. They had to know. Hey, fellows, it's going to be a mess when we start off. When you know that, why don't you just admit it? Say, look, this is not up and running the way we wanted it. We regret it. We are not going to start it. We're going to move the individual mandate off for a year. We apologize for it. Go ahead, do it and get it behind you. But I think they just sat there and said, uh-oh, this thing is coming. Sort of hold your ears and wait.


BUCHANAN: And then they went ahead with it.

MACCALLUM: What would have happened in the Reagan White House if there had been a misstep of this order? Would people be fired? Would heads be rolling? What do you think?

BUCHANAN: Well, what Reagan did is he delegated authority to people like Ed Meese and Cap Weinberger, who knew exactly what he wanted. They would come to the president and say, Mr. President, we need your help, you have got to go to Congress and get this through. But I think something like that, they would be gone, that's all there was to it.

In the Nixon White House, I remember Wally Mikhail (ph) -- they have got a big documentary about him. He sent the president a letter saying, you are all wrong, you should talk to the kids about what you are doing in the war. But he leaked it to the "Washington Star." Somebody did. And then we were in the Oval Office, he is gone in November. That's it. He is gone.

And I think that, I mean, that's what needed to be done. But the idea that they rolled it out, knowing it would be a debacle, that is --



BUCHANAN: That is something I don't understand.

MACCALLUM: Yeah. You know, there's another controversy we want to talk to you about tonight in terms of GOP politics, and it has to with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who was just reelected in a landslide in New Jersey, as everybody well knows by now. 68 percent of the vote went to him. This is the cover that "Time" magazine has come up with. "The Elephant in the Room," is what it says. And that has people wondering if it's a reference to the GOP mascot, the elephant, or reference to his weight. He is smaller than he used to be. He is a large guy and he would be the first to admit that. What's your reaction to that cover?

BUCHANAN: I think it's all of the above.


But I think this. The reaction is going to be this. I think -- and it is not good for Chris Christie. He is too far out front. We are 26 months before the Iowa caucuses and they are talking about the nomination now. And you read about how the establishment and the money people and the Chamber of Commerce, they are all going to get together and tear this party away from the Tea Party. You know, the Tea Party and those folks, the traditionalists, the social conservatives, the Libertarians, they are not going quietly. And, frankly, what I see is a Civil War emerging in the Republican Party. And if I were Chris Christie I would take a far lower profile than I'm taking now. Get out from under this. Go be chairman of the governors. Go out and help everyone governor. Because he has got a reputation that sort of takes care of number one first. I don't think he is helped by this cover at all.

MACCALLUM: Interesting. All right. Pat, thanks. A pleasure to talk to you tonight. Thanks for being here.

BUCHANAN: Good talking to you.