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the national interest

White House Sets November Obamacare Deadline [Updated]

MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 08: A message is seen on the computer indicating that there are too many visitors on the Affordable Care Act site to continue, as navigator Nini Hadwen helps people shop for health insurance during a navigation session put on by the Epilepsy Foundation Florida to help people sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act on October 8, 2013 in Miami, Florida. The United States government continues to be partially shut down as Republicans hold out hope to cut funding for the Affordable Care Act.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

In a conference call with reporters today, Jeffrey Zients, the Obama administration's new person in charge of its health-care website, promised the site would be generally operational by the end of November. That's also the rough time frame necessary for people who have to have insurance beginning January 1. (If you want coverage by the start of January, when the new law begins, you need to sign up by December 15, though open enrollment lasts through March.)

The administration is obviously putting its neck on the line here. If it fails to hit the deadline, all political hell will break loose. (There is a little wiggle room, as the promise applies to "the vast majority of users.") Therefore, presumably, the administration is extremely confident it can hit this deadline. On the other hand, it was also extremely confident it could have the site working reasonably well by October 1. So Obama apparently believes not only that his administration can fix the technical problem, but also that it has already fixed the managerial problem that caused it to underestimate its technical problem.

There's also the third possibility: The administration has learned that a large meteor will destroy the world on or before November 30, and wants to live out its remaining time on the planet in relative peace, rather than dodging "are we there yet?" questions about the website every day. So basically the possibilities are:

1) They know what they're doing.

2) They have fooled themselves into thinking they know what they're doing, but don't.

3) Meteor.

Update: When asked via email if the meteor scenario is correct, a senior Obama administration official replied, "No!!!"

Of course, this is exactly what they would say if they were in fact expecting a meteor, and hoping to distract Americans from demanding spaces on the escape rockets they were secretly constructing with the money they told us was being used to fix the website.

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Photo: Joe Raedle/2013 Getty Images