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CBS's Dickerson: White House Risks 'Credibility Death Spiral' Over 'Total Fiasco' of ObamaCare Site

John Dickerson could not have been more blunt on Monday's CBS This Morning about the political damage HealthCare.gov's well-established technical difficulties is already causing President Obama: "It's been far worse than a glitch. It's been a total fiasco, as Senator McCain said. And the problem here is that the administration could get into, sort of, a credibility death spiral."

The liberal political director, who is usually an Obama apologist, also surprisingly acknowledged that conservatives were right in their longstanding criticisms of ObamaCare: [MP3 audio available here; video below]

JOHN DICKERSON: There has always been charges from the right that the President's health care promises didn't turn out to be true. But then, some of those charges turned out to have some merit. The President said, if you had your own health care plan and if you were satisfied with it, you'd be able to keep it. Well, that didn't quite turn out to be true.

Anchors Charlie Rose and Norah O'Donnell brought on Dickerson to discuss the President's upcoming press conference were he was expected to acknowledge the beyond problematic ObamaCare website. Rose first asked, "What is the President trying to do here?" The former Time magazine journalist answered by underlining what was at stake:

DICKERSON: [H]e's [Obama] trying to fix more than just a political black eye, because there's a point where these problems could threaten the entire enterprise...the success of the President's health care plan depends on signing up those younger Americans – so that insurance pools don't just get filled up with older, sicker Americans, which would increase the premiums. And the website's functioning was crucial to that – not just to get people signed up – but also to start the flow of positive stories through social media, which is where those younger, harder-to-reach Americans are. The idea was that people would get lured into signing up after hearing a flood of great stories about how easy it was to sign up, how the subsidies were going to lower your premiums. But that's not the story people are hearing. To the extent they're hearing anything, it's that this program is a mess.

O'Donnell followed up by noting that President Obama "initially...said this was like a glitch, and compared it to Apple rolling out its new operating system", and wondered, "Why the shift in tone?" Dickerson replied with his "total fiasco" label and "credibility death spiral" phrase, and continued with his acknowledgment that the conservative critique had "some merit". He soon added that "the problem is that it's one false promise after another, and that could be a big, big problem."

The full transcript of the John Dickerson segment from Monday's CBS This Morning:

CHARLIE ROSE: Also in Washington, CBS News political director John Dickerson. John, good morning.

JOHN DICKERSON: Good morning, Charlie.

[CBS News Graphic: "ObamaCare Damage Control: Administration Dealing With Healthcare Site Fiasco"]

ROSE: What is the President trying to do here?

DICKERSON: Well, I think – the President is – basically, he's trying to fix more than just a political black eye, because there's a point where these problems could threaten the entire enterprise. You know, the success of the President's health care plan depends on signing up those younger Americans – so that insurance pools don't just get filled up with older, sicker Americans, which would increase the premiums. And the website's functioning was crucial to that – not just to get people signed up – but also to start the flow of positive stories through social media, which is where those younger, harder-to-reach Americans are. The idea was that people would get lured into signing up after hearing a flood of great stories about how easy it was to sign up, how the subsidies were going to lower your premiums. But that's not the story people are hearing. To the extent they're hearing anything, it's that this program is a mess.

[CBS News Graphic: "New Health Care Law: Bad idea, 43%; Good idea, 38%; No opinion, 17%; Source: The Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll: Margin of Error: +/- 3.5% Pts."]

NORAH O'DONNELL: And John, initially, the President said this was like a glitch, and compared it to Apple rolling out its new operating system. Why the shift in tone?

DICKERSON: Because it's been far worse than a glitch. It's been a total fiasco, as Senator [John] McCain said. And the problem here is that the administration could get into, sort of, a credibility death spiral. There has always been charges from the – the right that the President's health care promises didn't turn out to be true. But then, some of those charges turned out to have some merit. The President said, if you had your own health care plan and if you were satisfied with it, you'd be able to keep it. Well, that didn't quite turn out to be true.

These – we were told before this was launched that it had been tested up and down, sideways and backwards – the way that the IRS electronic filings had been tested – that everything was going to be okay. Well now, [HHS] Secretary [Kathleen] Sebelius says it wasn't tested enough. Then, we were told – well, these are just tiny, little glitches. They are not tiny, little glitches. And so, the problem is that it's – that it's one false promise after another, and that could be a big, big problem.

ROSE: They also have a time problem, don't they?  I mean, you go these 15 sign-up time – and people who look at this say it's much more difficult than simply fixing the log-in. You really have some real glitches here that are going to take some time.

[CBS News Graphic: "Changes To HealthCare.Gov: -Can apply by phone & mail; -View plans without filling out application; -Improved cost calculator; Added educational content; Source: Department of Health and Human Services"]

DICKERSON: That's right, Charlie. It's not just the fact that you can't get in the front door, but even those people who are able to sign up – the trickle of information that's getting to insurers – it turns out to be wrong; there are duplicates; and the insurance companies are having to go back and – and check each one of these sign-ups, which delays the process, costs more money. And so, there's a problem that's being reported that's throughout the entire system – not just the, kind of, pretty website.

O'DONNELL: All right. John Dickerson, thank you.

— Matthew Balan is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Matthew Balan on Twitter.