The excuse of the day is that President Obama was only informed relatively recently about Healthcare.gov’s problems:
(CNN) — President Barack Obama didn’t know of problems with the Affordable Care Act’s website — despite insurance companies’ complaints and the site’s crashing during a test run — until after its now well-documented abysmal launch, the nation’s health chief told CNN on Tuesday.
In an exclusive interview with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta asked when the President first learned about the considerable issues with the Obamacare website. Sebelius responded that it was in “the first couple of days” after the site went live October 1.
“But not before that?” Gupta followed up.
To which Sebelius replied, “No, sir.”
I’m having a bit of trouble following the thread. The Administration has defended the PPACA tooth and nails, routinely giving the explanation that it was the signature legislation of the Obama presidency. The president has not been kept informed about the progress of a matter of such vital importance to his legacy? I can only think of a handful of explanations for that:
- Plausible deniability.
- The president is interested in the details, expects to kept in the loop by his subordinates, but is very poorly served them (a point I’ve made here frequently).
- The president really isn’t particularly interested in the PPACA but it does make a handy club with which to beat the Republicans.
- The president prefers to sketch out the big picture ideas, leave the details to his subordinates, and his subordinates dropped the ball.
#4 is largely what I meant when I described the job that Barack Obama really wanted as “consultant-in-chief”. Mickey Kaus describes something along the same lines:
But perhaps we elected a President who isn’t interested in how the nuts and bolts of government work–as long as he worries about the big legislation, what goes on in the bureaucratic boxes is a second order problem, right? If that’s what Obama thinks, his health care rollout is, as they say, a teachable moment.
It’s possible to have a “big picture” president and for it work out just fine. Cf. Eisenhower. However, for that to be the case a) the president’s subordinates must take responsibility and b) they must feel empowered to make decisions without the president’s guidance on the details. Every account I’ve ever read of the Obama presidency suggests that neither of those is the case.
As I wrote above, I’m having trouble following the thread.