The White House's decision last week to delay part of its health-care overhaul illustrates six truths about the law that its supporters can't easily acknowledge.
* First, important parts of it are badly designed.
President Barack Obama's administration has pulled back on the employer mandate - the part of the law that fines large businesses that don't offer health insurance - because, among other things, it threatened to depress full-time employment before the next congressional elections.
The mandate is not an incidental feature of the law. It's there because without it, some of those large employers would drop coverage and leave their employees to get heavily subsidized policies on the insurance exchanges the law creates.
More people on the exchanges would mean higher federal spending - and more disruption to people's existing coverage - than supporters of the law promised when they were trying to pass it.
* Second, the Affordable Care Act is a standing affront to the rule of law.
Unlike past expansions of government assistance - think of Social Security or Medicare - much of the health care law consists of granting discretionary power to the executive branch. That's how the administration was able to impose the rule that almost all employers have to cover the morning-after pill, for example, though the law doesn't explicitly include that rule.
Yet even this vast discretion hasn't been enough for the administration, which has had to act on the outer limits of its authority - and beyond those limits - to rescue the legislation from its flaws.
The latest decision was an example. It isn't clear that the administration really has the authority to delay the employer fines.
Similarly, Obama's Internal Revenue Service plans to offer tax credits and impose penalties in states that haven't set up exchanges, another thing the law doesn't provide for.
* Third, the law is struggling politically.
During the debate before Obamacare was enacted, supporters said it would become popular once it passed, or once its early benefits started flowing.
Yet the Kaiser Health Tracking Poll shows that only 35 percent of the public has a favorable view of it. That's why the administration is so nervous about implementing the law.
* Fourth, the administration is not following previous norms about how to build public support for a new program.