Yuval Levin, writing for National Review Online:
The most important thing about the policy move announced by President Obama on Thursday is not its practical significance—which is frankly very hard to predict—but rather what it tells us about the mindset of the president and his top lieutenants. In that respect, I think the past few days have marked a significant change, and signaled a new and unprecedented level of panic and chaos.
The immediate purpose of the step the administration announced was, ironically, pretty much the same one that moved the president to falsely claim for three years that anyone who liked his insurance plan would be able to keep it: to calm down congressional Democrats and keep them unified. The president moved to permit insurers to renew plans that do not comply with Obamacare’s requirements because it looked like legislative proposals to do that were going to win the votes of large numbers of Democrats in both houses, and so effectively fracture the gritted-teeth Democratic unity that has been the only thing sustaining the cause of Obamacare in our politics since before the law was enacted.
If many dozens of House Democrats broke with the leadership and the president to vote for the Upton bill (which would allow insurers to keep selling any 2013 plans they wanted to all comers next year), they might well never come back to the Obamacare fold, and the inevitable fights to come would be all the more painful for the president. If the Senate Democrats championing the Landrieu bill (which would impose a guaranteed-renewability requirement on all 2013 plans, overriding Obamacare’s qualified-coverage mandates) got their way, they would expose deep divisions in the Democratic caucus that Harry Reid has worked for years to hide (mostly by avoiding difficult votes) and put the president in the position of seeming to be reprimanded by his own party. If both bills passed, the result of a conference committee between them could well be unbearable for the president in both political and policy terms. Obama evidently decided he should do whatever it took to avoid those immediate undesirable consequences, regardless of the longer-term cost. This was the same sort of thinking that led him to repeatedly promise people they could keep any plan they liked in order to keep the extremely precarious Obamacare coalition of Democrats together in 2010 and after. The idea is to get past the immediate political problem and worry about the bigger problems you create later.
Whole thing here.