The mainstream press has a habit of calling Obamacare "the president’s signature domestic achievement," but the Affordable Care Act's supporters and detractors have proven fond of historical analogies, no matter how hyperbolic. Here are the most prominent—and absurd—comparisons I could find, roughly in reverse-chronological order. I'm still waiting for someone to compare it to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs, and the flood in the Book of Genesis.
Barack Obama: "'Health care reform in [Massachusetts] was a success.... That doesn't mean it was perfect right away. There were early problems to solve."
Medicaid Part D
The Washington Post's Ezra Klein: "Like Obamacare, Medicare Part D was a massive health-care expansion. Like Obamacare, it was administratively complex. Like Obamacare, the Web site didn't work on launch. Like Obamacare, people who were supposed to be benefitting from the law found their plans upended and the supposedly superior alternatives inaccessible. Like Obamacare, the early months were, in the words of then-Majority Leader John Boehner, 'horrendous.'"
The New York Times's Michael Shear: “The disastrous rollout of [Obama’s] health care law not only threatens the rest of his agenda but also raises questions about his competence in the same way that the Bush administration’s botched response to Hurricane Katrina undermined any semblance of Republican efficiency.”
The Iraq War
National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru: "Some liberals react angrily to any comparison of Obamacare to the Iraq War, saying that their project is not getting anyone killed. The point should be conceded to them, but not too hastily. They have maintained, with more vehemence than evidence, that Obamacare will save lives by extending health insurance to people who lack it. If their premise is right but their plan ends up reducing the number of people with insurance, then they will indeed have caused deaths. Anyway, an analogy is not an identity."
National Review's Matthew Continetti: "Of all the analogies being drawn between the calamitous rollout of Obamacare and other government muck-ups throughout history, one deserves a closer look. What’s happening to Obamacare right now isn’t this president’s Iraq war, or his Hurricane Katrina, or his Lewinsky moment. It’s his Iran-contra scandal: a complicated and controversial policy dispute that involves deception, a hostile Congress, and the bludgeoning of presidential credibility. Iran-contra marked the end of the Reagan Revolution, and it’s not hard to see how the implementation of Obamacare might mark the end of the Obama Revolution as well. A boy can dream."
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich this week compared the Affordable Care Act to the Watergate Scandal, but Kristol believes the healthcare law is far worse.
"Obamacare, honestly, will do more damage to the country than Watergate ever could've done," he said.
"Watergate was stupid, petty, partisan politics and [President Richard] Nixon did misuse the Oval Office and then did lie to the country about it, probably.
"But, here, we have a legislative takeover of a huge percentage of the economy and an area that's so important to everyone's lives. So, no, I haven't really thought of that analogy."
The American Spectator's Jeffrey Lord: "What’s already happening with Obamacare is exactly what happened to the Vietnam War. When all the protests and draft card burnings and all the rest were shut out out, the fact of the matter was that caskets—hard reality—were returning to the families of drafted sons.
"The equivalent with Obamacare are the hard realities that are already being reported. The 'caskets' of Obamacare are skyrocketing premiums, lost jobs, full-time jobs become part-time jobs, bankruptcies, the health exchange online application process that is so fouled up even Democrats have managed to be embarrassed. And inevitably, as it almost was with 10-year-old Sarah Murnaghan whose lung transplant was denied by Obama HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelieus, there is the looming reality of actual, very real caskets courtesy of ObamaCare."
Kathleen Sebelius: "The Affordable Care Act is the most powerful law for reducing health disparities since Medicare and Medicaid were created in 1965, the same year the Voting Rights Act was also enacted.
"That significance hits especially close to home. My father was a Congressman from Cincinnati who voted for each of those critical civil rights laws, and who represented a district near where the late Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth lived and preached.
"The same arguments against change, the same fear and misinformation that opponents used then are the same ones opponents are spreading now. 'This won’t work,' 'slow down,' 'let’s wait'—they say."
Social Security and Medicare
The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn: "I’m speaking, of course, about Social Security and Medicare. Each program is a form of 'social insurance' and each serves the same basic function: To protect us from financial shocks that we cannot anticipate or avoid. With Social Security, the shock is reaching retirement without enough income. With Medicare, the shock is high medical bills during old age. During our working years, we pay into these programs by handing over portions of our incomes, in the form of payroll taxes. And we don't have a choice about it, unless we want to start evading taxes.
"The Affordable Care Act is also a form of social insurance. It, too, seeks to protect us from problems that we cannot anticipate or avoid: Illness or accident before we turn 65. To get that protection, we must contribute towards its cost—by obtaining a qualified health plan on our own or, failing that, paying a fee to the government. The government then uses that fee to finance the provision of health care services for those who couldn’t pay for it on their own."
Rick Santorum: "Well, Nelson Mandela stood up against a great injustice and was willing to pay a huge price for that and that's the reason he is mourned today, because of that struggle that he performed. But you are right. What he was advocating for was not necessarily the right answer, but he was fighting against some great injustice.
"And I would make the argument that we have a great injustice going on right now in this country with an ever-increasing size of government that is taking over and controlling people's lives. And Obamacare is front-and-center in that."
The Civil War
The American Spectator's John R. Guardiano: "But the historical comparison that may be most apt isn't Social Security or Medicare, both of which were enacted into law with bipartisan majorities. This latest 'reform' initiative, by contrast, hasn't gotten a single Republican vote.
"No, the more apt historical analogy may be the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which, by allowing for the expansion of slavery into new federal territories, led to the Civil War."
The Battle of the Kasserine Pass. No, Wait—Waterloo!
Allen West: "Yesterday, I wrote of Obamacare resembling the failure of the Kasserine Pass. Well, due to recent developments over the past 24 hours, it has morphed into Waterloo for President Obama."
This post has been updated with humor.
Ryan Kearney is a story editor at The New Republic.