Obama and the Limits of Schadenfreude

The word of the week seems to be “Schadenfreude.”  We have Obamacare, or, rather, what appears to be the unravelling of Obamacare to thank for that.

“Schadenfreude”: “hurt,” “damage,” “detriment” plus “joy.”  Is there any more perfect German word?  Taking malicious glee in the misfortunes of others. It is not an attractive emotion, though it is (to allude to a German philosopher who knows all about these things) a human, all-too-human one. I’m not sure what aspect of the mess is producing the most glee. The display of technical incompetence on the part of those who spent some $650 million of taxpayer (i.e., your and my)  money creating a web site that doesn’t work. That was pretty nice. The fact that construction of the site was given to a former  classmate of Michelle Obama in a no-bid contract is a nice touch.

And who hasn’t enjoyed the spectacle of the site crashing whenever Kathleen Sebelius holds a media event to demonstrate how easy healthcare.gov is to navigate. Nice!  Then there is the sideshow of Democratic lawmakers having apoplexy as they begin to realize the extent of this debacle — the millions (yes, millions) of folks who have found a letter notifying them that their insurance has been cancelled because of Obamacare, the thousands of doctors who have been dropped from various insurance plans. Ouch and double ouch.  Then there is the central drama revolving around President Obama. “If you like your insurance plan, you can keep your insurance plan. Period.” He said that, or variations of that, over and over again. This video complication capture 36 separate occasions when the president publicly made that promise—a promise, we now know, he knew he could never keep, had not intention of keeping, didn't want to keep anyway, since the two-fold goal of Obamacare is to destroy private insurance and bring all us plebs under the wing of an all-encompassing “single-payer,” i.e., the federal government.

The revelation of Obama’s lies, his obvious confusion and the hunted-look he has exhibited at press conferences while his approval rating is in a death spiral (it dropped to 37%, the lowest of his presidency, in a CBS poll released this morning). All of this is, for the opponents of ObamaCare, ample ground for malicious glee, and I at least can deeply empathize with the blogger who wrote that “if schadenfreude had calories, I'd weigh 300 pounds.

There is, of course, a dark side to this story, which Jonah Goldberg neatly captures at NRO with a column called “Obamacare Schadenfreudarama.” He begins by paraphrasing Oscar Wilde: “You’d have to have a heart of stone not to laugh at the unraveling of Obamacare.” Except, as Jonah goes on to note, “tt is no laughing matter that millions of Americans’ lives have been thrown into anxious chaos as they lose their health insurance, their doctors, their money, or all three. Nor is it particularly amusing to think of the incredible waste of time and tax dollars that has gone into Obamacare’s construction.”

Jonah is right that the unrolling, and subsequent unravelling, of Obamacare has provided hours of entertainment for the politically mature. “If you can’t take some joy,” he writes, “some modicum of relief and mirth, in the unprecedentedly spectacular beclowning of the president, his administration, its enablers, and, to no small degree, liberalism itself, then you need to ask yourself why you’re following politics in the first place.” Too true, too true. Consider:

 The hubris of our ocean-commanding commander-in-chief surely isn’t news to readers of this website. He’s said that he’s smarter and better than everyone who works for him. His wife informed us that he has “brought us out of the dark and into the light” and that he would fix our broken souls. The man defined sin itself as “being out of alignment with my values.” We may be the ones we’ve been waiting for, but at the same time, everyone has been waiting for him. Or as he put it in 2007, “Every place is Barack Obama country once Barack Obama’s been there.”

A little Schadenfreude is certainly in order. The news today that Obama was briefed last spring about possible widespread failures when the web site went live may seem to deepen the glee even as it deepens the malice. After all, the president has all along acted surprised by the technical failures bedeviling the roll-out of  healthcare.gov. But now it turns out that the surprise, like so much else about the president, was feigned.It was part of his campaign of mendacity, i.e., lies.