The American Interest
Essays & Longer Thoughts
Published on November 18, 2013
The Most Shocking Obamacare Revelation

obama-top
It’s been a grim month for fans of Obamacare, and perhaps especially for the red state Democrats in Congress who voted for it. Between the ghastly failure of the website, the waves of policy cancellations, and the grim realization that the ‘wonks and experts’ knew all along that the “you can keep your policy” mantra was pure hogwash, fans of President Obama’s signature initiative have been looking a little green around the gills.
There is, it appears, worse to come. So far we are only looking at the fallout as Obamacare-mandated changes hit the relatively small individual insurance market. Coming soon to a cable news outlet near you: the tsunami of outrage when Americans in employer-sponsored programs discover that the President wasn’t telling the truth about their plans and their doctors either.
There is a case that can be made for this law, shoddily designed as it was, but even its proponents seem to have believed that if the American people really knew what was in the law, it would never have passed. Now the law’s backers face the convergence of three different centers of unhappiness: unhappiness with the bungled website rollout, unhappiness with a mix of cancellations and price increases by customers in the individual insurance market, and unhappiness on the part of millions of rubes (aka ‘voters’) that the proponents of the new health care system concealed potential deal breaking features while they were selling the law.

All this has plunged the White House into the deepest hole of the Obama presidency to date, but the biggest shock isn’t about the cruddy rollout, the kludgy law or the disingenuous sales job by which it was passed. The biggest shock and the most damning revelation came in the President’s hasty and awkward press conference when President Obama responded to a reporter’s question about his knowledge of the website’s problems:

OK. On the website, I was not informed directly that the website would not be working as — the way it was supposed to. Ha[d] I been informed, I wouldn’t be going out saying, boy, this is going to be great. You know, I’m accused of a lot of things, but I don’t think I’m stupid enough to go around saying, this is going to be like shopping on Amazon or Travelocity, a week before the website opens, if I thought that it wasn’t going to work.

This was eyepopping. Obamacare is the single most important initiative of his presidency. The website rollout was, as the President himself has repeatedly stated, the most important element of the law’s debut. Domestically speaking there was no higher priority for the President and his staff than getting this right. And the President is telling the world that a week before the disaster he had no idea how that website was doing.
Reflect on that for a moment. The President of the United States is sitting in the Oval Office day after day. The West Wing is stuffed with high power aides. His political appointees sit atop federal bureaucracies, monitoring the work of the career staff around them. The President has told his core team, over and over, that the health care law and the website rollout are his number one domestic priorities.
And with all this, neither he nor, apparently, anyone in his close circle of aides and advisors knew that the website was a disaster. Vapid, blind, idly flapping their lips; they pushed paper, attended meetings and edited memos as the roof came crashing down. It is one thing to fail; it is much, much worse not to see failure coming. There is no way to construe this as anything but a world class flop.
What is a staff for? Surely a competent staff would have set up an effective monitoring and reporting system so that accurate and timely information about website problems would reach the White House. Surely at the first signs of trouble, an effective trouble-shooting response from the White House would delve into the issues, develop some action plans, and also inform the President and senior staff about any threat to the scheduled rollout. But apparently none of this happened, and at least from what we see so far in public, the President is OK with that. No heads are rolling. No one is being taken to the White House woodshed. There are reports that the President has vented, but “no drama Obama” is apparently still turning the other cheek. The President is content to keep working with the team he’s got.
One would like to assume that a number of people, beginning with the chief of staff, have offered their resignations to the President after failing so utterly at their Job Number One. This would be normal behavior by any responsible professional when something goes so badly wrong and it would be a sad day indeed if the President’s top staff don’t understand this.
There is nothing that any president needs more than a team of competent people around him who can keep him and his key initiatives on track. President Obama is in his fifth year in office, and he isn’t getting the level of performance from his staff you’d need to be an effective principal of a middle school. At this point, that failure doesn’t just reflect badly on the staff; it reflects on the man who selected them. More and more people in the United States and beyond are asking the obvious and painful question: Why can’t the President of the United States find and keep a minimally competent staff?
Forget the merits and demerits of Obamacare. The White House now faces crises of confidence and competence and President Obama will not be able to solve one unless he addresses both. While much of the MSM is still doing its usual collusive best to avoid peering too deeply into the entrails of a liberal disaster (something already changing and likely to change more as liberal opinion continues to detach itself from a disappointing administration), some messes are too big to ignore. As more people reflect on the President’s extraordinary press conference, the public sense that the President and his team just aren’t up to the job will inevitably grow. It was a jaw dropping moment of naked self revelation, and the more one reflects on it the more striking it becomes. The President of the United States didn’t know that his major domestic priority wasn’t ready for prime time—and he thinks that sharing this news with us will somehow make it better. It is moments of this kind that give epithets like “Carteresque” their sting.
President Obama must now deal with two problems: he must defend and implement an unpopular law and he must answer questions at home and abroad about his competence. To get this done would be difficult under any circumstances and it will be impossible without a genuinely brilliant White House staff. It will be interesting to see whether President Obama thinks that the people whose serial incompetence got him into this mess are the people who can get him out.
[Photo of President Obama courtesy Getty Images.]

  • Jeff Jones

    Those of us who have spent more than two seconds generating deliverables in the private sector saw this coming a thousand miles away.

    I manage IT compliance at a Fortune 500 company, including Sarbanes-Oxley controls. And, I am 100% certain that federal bureaucracies and Obama’s team of incompetent academics could never dream of complying with the very statutes they force on us. This website and rollout are no different.

    • Goldenah

      Thank you. I wanted to say the same thing, but you’ve nailed it.

      Plus, the rest of us would be serving 20 plus years in jail for fraud for doing the same as Dear Leader and company.

    • VictorErimita

      And those of us who spent more than two seconds examining Obama’s career in 2008 or his performance between 2008 and 2012, could see this and his other failures and deceptions a thousand miles away. He has never taken responsibility for anything. He has never done anything. He isn’t curious. He doesn’t need advisors because he knows more than anyone. He says things. All he has ever done in his life is say things.

      Far too many of our educated elites identify with him. They too say things, think things. And they imagine that this is enough. Doing things can be left to lesser minds. And they often disappoint. Until the elite establishment understands that a faculty lounge BS master is not qualified to do things or even supervise others who do things, we will continue to elect incompetent blowhards like Barack Obama and

      • VictorErimita

        Hillary Clinton.

        • texan99

          Possibly more deft, but even less honest, if that’s possible.

        • jshanleyny

          Exactly. Hillary Clinton whose entire rationale for existence as an office-holder is “My husband cheated on me. Vote for me.”

    • Corlyss

      So did those of us who knew about Obama’s creds and props. The outcome was really a no-brainer for anyone as woefully inexperienced and simultaneously wired into political machines as legendary as Chicago’s.

  • tarentius

    “There is a case that can be made for this law..” Oh, really, then you make it, nobody else can.

  • lord acton

    And those of us who could see this clearly back in 2008 were ridiculed and vilified by our betters. Peggy Noonan, David Brooks and many others on the center right (WRM?) sure had blinders on when it came to this guy, huh?

    • LouAnnWatson

      white guilt blinders

    • VictorErimita

      So did Professor Mead, whose work I generally admire. The majority of voters of this country allowed themselves to ignore Obama’s complete lack of career achievement and his lifelong intimate association with the socialist movement. So did the Noonans, Meads, Kauses and Brookses. Now they pike on the criticism of the breathtaking dishonesty and incompetence of a man whose entire life demonstrated neither honesty nor competence.

      The nation needs to look in the mirror and come to understand how they were so deluded by this man. Prof. Mead could serve us all well by examining the nature of his own poor choice, as an illumination of the mass delusion of the voters át large.

      • VictorErimita

        Such an act of intellectual honesty and courage, by any of these pundits, would help the nation understand how it came to make such a catastrophic mistake and how to avoid making another one.

        • Corlyss

          They don’t have an apology in them, nor do they have a sense of shame that would produce an honest plea for forgiveness. The whole thing reminds me vaguely of Hitchens’ comments about casuists. Those who oppose Democrats on principle are called conservatives. Those who oppose Democrats until the Democrats gore them or destroy the nation should be called casuists.

      • Corlyss

        To all of those like WRM who voted for the non-entity that Obama was in 2008 because “it was time for a black president to validate the hopes of MLK” I say you got what YOU deserved, but you dragged the rest of us into this nightmare, and for that you should pay dearly.

        • ljgude

          I didn’t vote for him because I thought him completely unqualified, but I was fooled to the extent that I believed he had a vision for the future. And like many Republicans wished him well when he was elected. but I saw very quickly that all he had was the shopworn agenda of mid century liberalism, untroubled by the lessons of the Thatcher/Reagan critique of same. After all his complaints about Bush’s foreign policy he went right ahead and made the same mistake in Libya, threw away Petraeus’ gains in Iraq and then supported the founding organization of Islamism in Egypt as moderate when it has never been anything else but totalitarian. Never mind alienating the Saudis and Israel, and letting Putin inside his OODA loop on Syria. Oh and totally bungled the attempt at healthcare reform, and looks like letting iran get nukes. It’s a marvel.

          • Corlyss

            I wished him well, because he’s the president of my country, but I realized he was the hopeless ideologue as I feared he was when he announced the alleged stimulus in Feb 2009.

            We should be so lucky the guy has an OODA loop. He’s got an ideological template he applies to all situations, namely the destruction of Republicans, he learns little from what he observes, the guy can’t make a decision to save his life, and action is always tardy, half-hearted, and wrong.

          • ljgude

            Nice point about ideology and OODA loops. Thinking about it ideology pre-Orients and then filters out any Observable information that doesn’t fit the ideological template. I would disagree slightly with the idea that his ideological template is as narrow as the destruction of Republicans. His being a student of Edward Said at Columbia is far more telling in my opinion that being a parishioner of Reverend Wright, although the two are not mutually contradictory. ;-) He is a genius at being a kind of ‘dream catcher’ for all manner of left liberal projections, and maintaining the narrative of his own superiority with a lot of help form his friends. I think the true measure of his incompetence is that he believes his own…er…narrative. Otherwise how could he let let Obamcare – the lynchpin of his administration and legacy- debut drunk and naked.

          • Corlyss

            Beautiful response, LJ. You’re probably right – I didn’t think about the Said connection.

  • JeffWeimer

    “More and more people in the United States and beyond are asking the
    obvious and painful question: Why can’t the President of the United
    States find and keep a minimally competent staff?”

    I think it’s because political reliability is at least, if not more, important than competence.

    • theBuckWheat

      Liberalism and “competent” are mutually exclusive.

  • ThomasD

    Like nobody saw this coming. Like nobody tried to warn people just what an empty suit Obama is.

    What I would like to hear from the people who voted for Obama is some soul searching of their own.

    How can they claim to be right about anything when they missed something that was so plainly, and painfully obvious to others?

    • SClanding

      Well…you do know that certain “conservative” journalists loved them some Obamessiah and VOTED for him…

      You know the ones who are always the “intelligent” wing of the Republican party who nearly cried because of Obama’s “finely creased pants” and then went on the attack against the “racists” in their own party who kept pointing out Obama’s 25 year history of complete and repeated failures and stupidity. You knows the ones who launched attacks against Sarah Palin when she rightly stated that being mayor was “…like community organizing except it required work”….

      You know the ones who are so “intelligent” that they demand that the Republicans keep putting up Democrat-lites like John McCainMitt Romney so that the people who spotted Obama immediately as an incompetent boob do not get to select an actual winning candidate….nope got to go with the fools who fell in love with this ignoramus to select the Republican candidate.

    • jshanleyny

      I think they’re more concerned with pointing fingers at their favorite straw men (Fox News, Tea Party, Koch Brothers et al) than looking in the mirror and accepting responsibility for subjecting the country to this disgraceful liar and incompetent.

  • SClanding

    Raise your hand if you were one of the rubes who voted for his smuck?

    • Dexter Scott

      (Millions of imaginary voters raise their imaginary hands…)

  • S.C. Schwarz

    What this tells us, as if we needed telling, is that Obama is the kind of leader who surrounds himself with yes men (and women) who will only tell the great leader what he wants to hear. Of course there were staff down the line who saw this coming but no one had the nerve to tell the president.

    It is very hard for any subordinate to walk into the office of the leader with bad news. Building a staff that can do this is also very hard but vitally necessary. Obama clearly failed.

    • Timbo

      To extend your point…political appointees and department heads (IRS’s whatshername) who might not get direct orders seem to know what will please him, and then do so, and then proclaim their innocence.

  • WilliamK

    You Ivy types crack me up. Si Roberson has more sense than you, Mead, in his iced tea cup.

  • WilliamK

    The hardest part of an ivy education is getting in unless you are black. It is known as affirmative action and racial quotas.

  • mirt

    The signs were clear for everyone who wanted to look for something beyond his skin color already in 2008. The more you think about the sudden “I’m shocked, shocked” posts of the people who voted for O, the more suspicious they seem.
    At this moment, these posts could be explained either by a extreme naivety or as an attempt to save some remainders of reputation, and, frankly, one cannot be that naive and a political commentator simultaneously.

  • Paulbud

    Not only did my Princeton friends and neighbors vote for this obviously incompetent guy, some of them actually hung his poster in their homes! And damn, the posters are still there. Rarely have so many been so snookered by such a dunce.

    • WeirdLore

      A woman I work with has an Obama shrine in her office. I have never seen that happen with a conservative and their leaders . . .

  • wigwag

    The real irony here is that Mitt Romney, who whatever else you want to say about him is a highly skilled manager, would have done a far better job of implementing Obamacare than Obama did.

    How do we know?

    He invented Obamacare and he did a reasonably good job at implementing it in Massachusetts.

    • Palinurus

      And yet Obama’s campaign ran circles around Romney’s, after Obama’s first campaign upset those political amateurs, the Clintons. If Obama gets the managerial blame for ACA, he should be the credit for his campaigns. The biggest irony, to my mind, is that Obama gets “it” – gets managing, apparently – when it comes to campaigning, but not when it comes to governing.

      There are plenty of things you might say about this, and I don’t claim to have the answer. Different skills, and ones more suited to Obama’s strengths, are involved in campaigning as opposed to governing; implementing on a state-wide level is more practical and feasible than doing so nationwide; and well, how to put this nicely, winning a beauty contest against Mitt or Hilary is small beer indeed compared to commandeering a fifth or sixth of the nation’s economy.

      But I have a sneaking suspicion that Obama’s blunders reveal a flaw in his political beliefs and even ideology generally. Believing too much in the rightness and goodness of what one is doing, and the badness and benightedness of one’s adversaries, can inspire a sort of magical thinking. One’s intentions are so righteous and pure that the normal rules of politics and our fallen world should be, which is the same as “must be” in this way of thinking, suspended. Put differently, if you’re doing the Lord’s work, the Lord will take care of logistics; any dissent or doubt is bad faith; and one will be judged in the world that matters by one’s aims and intentions rather than their results. Think of the Children’s Crusade in the middle ages.

      • wombat

        Obama didn’t manage either of his presidential campaigns. David Plouffe managed the 2008 campaign. Jim Messina managed the 2012.

        Obama had the media wind at his back in both campaigns but especially the 2008 when he was the bright shiny new toy of the DNC (versus Hillary, a known quantity with high negatives). Oprah Winfrey, one of the most popular and trusted celebrities in America in 2008, helped launch Obama on the national stage and put her personal stamp of approval on both him and his bud for POTUS.

        The collective media wet their pants in glee. Chis Matthews: tingle! Peggy Noonan. David Brooks. Evan Thomas at Newsweek: Obama is “sort of God.” The drool from all this slobber would have irrigated the Sahara for the next 200 years.

        And then there was Hollywood. No need to recap. We all know who the clowns were and still are.

        And then there was Silicon Valley. Executives from the top 15 tech firms donated $ to Obama greater than 4:1 over Romney and nearly 7:1 over McCain.

        Silicon Valley engineers lined up to build Narwhal for the 2012 campaign — Narwhal was the data platform underpinning the GOTV effort, tracking voters and volunteers. These were not junior flunkey engineers either but senior level elites. From Facebook, Google, Twitter, Quora, Craigslist and Google. Using backdoor access to Facebook user profiles, the engineers data mapped not just likely Obaba voters but their entire network of friends. Cross-referenced this with voter rolls and Twitter streams, the latter giving real-time info on people’s enthusiasm and activity.

        And last but not least, there was the Democratic Party ground game, ie the ability to GOTV. As famously formidable as it is also notoriously sleazy.

        This is just a very basic picture of what others did for Obama in both campaigns. Let’s hear it from you what Obama brought to the table in terms of hard-core skills, strategic vision, ACTUAL management and activities that produced visible, effective results?

        We all know he can deliver a good speech when he has a teleprompter. He’s hit and miss as a debater.

        But other than TALKING, what, really, does this man do? What are his executive skills, and where were these on display during his campaigns?

        I see a lot of smoke and mirrors. I see a tremendous amount of effort and support from lots of other people (many of them with actual hard-core skills), all directed at selling BHO to the public and hauling his candidacies over the finish line.

        What I don’t see is an executive track record from Obama himself. As either a candidate or as POTUS. Methinks the two are one and the same. The only difference is the setting. As a candidate, all he has to do is deliver promises. As president, he has to deliver results. Therein is the core problem. There’s no there there. Empty suit. Empty chair.

        And nearly 70 million fools fell for the scam. Not once but twice. Actually, THAT is the core problem. People who cannot distinguish fantasy from reality who nevertheless have the power of the vote.

        • bannedforselfcensorship

          You did not even get to the IRS suppressing grass root Tea Party groups.

  • disqus_MHw7a2dXsU

    Walter,

    This is what for what you voted. You looked on O’s credentials and believed they were the same as competence. You, and people like you, are the problem.

    Maybe next time you’ll look at the man and his actual accomplishments, rather than the credentials that come after his name.

    • Wareagle82

      what credentials were there to convince someone to vote for Obama, unless being the Dem nominee is the only credential necessary?

      • catorenasci

        Well, there was the crease in his expensive suit…. Rev. Wright…. Bill Ayers…. the ghosted books….the socialist conferences, the mysterious entries into Harvard and Columbia…. Frank Marshall Davis…. you know, all of the things that make a man seem like a mainstream American.

      • disqus_MHw7a2dXsU

        Ask Mead. He’s the one who voted for O. From what I recall, Mead thought an Ivy league education counted for something back in 2008, so voted for Obama.

      • Corlyss

        Obama was never the genius. He’s a sock puppet for the monied elites like Gates and Soros and Buffet and dot.com billionaires and Wall Street and the hard-core operatives like Axelrod. All he needed to be was a smooth talker. They did the rest.

  • wombat

    Why can’t the President of the United States find and keep a minimally competent staff?

    1. No. Executive. Experience.
    2. No experience with private sector accountability standards: make it work or lose your shirt … if it’s a good product, you don’t have to FORCE people to buy it … government regulations are almost always inversely proportional to efficiency but frequently directly proportional to cost … failure can be your greatest teacher unless you are terminally arrogant or terminally stupid. Or both.
    3. Selecting staff based on ideology (they all agree with you) rather than competence — not a good idea.
    4. When as a leader you lie and shift blame, expect your staff to follow your example. Fish rots from the head down.
    5. No. Executive. Experience.

    • rpm73

      It really doesn’t get much simpler than what wombat wrote. We need an executive to run this country, to bring opposing sides together to deliver results.

      Instead we hired a community organizer to run the country. What we got is a weak man who shouts from his bully pulpit, villainizing people who don’t agree with him and his agenda. Nothing gets done. Nothing is solved. Domestic problems fester. The world moves on.

      We screwed up in 2008. We had the opportunity to fix the mistake in 2012. We didn’t capitalize. So now, as far as I’m concerned, we have the man and the laws we deserve.

      • Homple

        One man can’t “run the country”. We.need a government to leave us alone.

    • Corlyss

      Brilliantly put, Bat.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    “I was not informed directly that the website would not be working as — the way it was supposed to.”
    Oh, come on, this is just another lie, in order to deflect blame onto someone else. Why hasn’t he fired anyone, for not telling him? It’s because he knew, he was lying all along, and he has always gotten away with lying about his previous lies, so why shouldn’t it work again.
    “Fool me once shame on you, Fool me twice shame on me!”
    Shame on you Mr. Mead, this is about as believable “the dog ate my homework”.
    I didn’t know murder was illegal, someone should have told me! Otherwise I wouldn’t have killed all those people, I apologize for cutting off their heads, Oops! I guess that’s on me!

    • WeirdLore

      I agree that it is far more plausible that the president is lying than assuming that all of his subordinates (layers and layers of them) did not know what was going on.

      • Kevin

        I disagree. I think those at the top either had little inkling of the disaster coming (remember none of them were doers either) or feared to tell him. Those further down either assumed the issue was just with the one little piece they worked on and that the rest was basically ok, or that everyone already knew what a train wreck it was. This is what happens when you surround yourself with yes men.

  • juandos

    Actually what is really shocking is how many people went through so many mental contortions to tell themselves that Obama wasn’t a long standing liar

  • rheddles

    A players hire A players. B players hire C players. What this says about Obama and the American people speaks volumes about the condition of the world.

  • theBuckWheat

    The problems with the web site are nothing compared to the social and economic problems that ObamaCare will impose and have already imposed on society.

    For example, ObmaCare almost guarantees that lower skilled workers will never find full time employment. They will work multiple part-time jobs. They will be far worse off because they must spend more time and money commuting and have no benefits.

    Any political attempt to mitigate this problem will impose costs elsewhere in the economy, primarily on fewer and fewer full time workers as the labor force participation rate continues to tumble to multi-generational lows.

  • The Drill SGT

    “There is nothing that any president needs more than a team of competent people around him who can keep him and his key initiatives on track.”
    More than that, he needs a team that will tell him the truth, even if together they proceed to tell lies to others. Having a group creating a bubble of lies around you is a sure path to disaster.
    Carter is maligned as a POTUS, but his problem was over management not under management. As a veteran of the Rickover selection process, I doubt he tolerated yes men, but rather looked for technocrats.
    Similarly, folks in both parties denigrate both Romney and McCain as candidates, but both would have created a better WH staff process than these clowns…

    • f1b0nacc1

      While I am not about to defend Obama, I wouldn’t really point to either Romney or McCain as stellar examples. McCain’s epic management failures (take a look at how poorly his campaign was managed, particularly the infighting among his staff) was bad enough, but Romney actually failed to handle a software development project (Orca) central to his own campaign’s success. Given these failures, I wonder if they would have done a much better job, though likely they wouldn’t have done worse.
      More likely, however, is that Romney would have worked to kill Obamacare in its cradle, rather than try to implement it…and that itself would have been a better thing…

  • free_agent

    It seems to me that the problem is that Obama has no management experience. Most people who reach the Presidency have had a long run of political experience, often as governors; some have had serious business management experience. Obama really hasn’t had either, and doesn’t realize its necessity. He’s surprised that he tells his smart subordinates to do something, and then it doesn’t happen on schedule.

  • Brad Bettin

    There are two options:

    #1 – He knew. His response is a political calculation – if he admits it, he admits lying; if he denies it, he admits incompetence. While unattractive, the latter is preferable to the former.

    #2 – He really didn’t know. In which case he really is incompetent – he’s a stooge, a pitchman for whatever his minions are trying to do.

    Hard to choose between the two … Have we ever had a president so completely detached from governing, someone who’s mantra isn’t just “The Buck never got here,” it’s “What buck?”?

    • Boritz

      Contast your straightforward analysis with the NYT and WaPo who say something things like we KNOW the president is honest and very smart so what is happening is simply incomprehensible.

    • S.C. Schwarz

      If he really knew then it is impossible to believe he would have been saying, only a few weeks before release, that everything was going to be great. I think he’s a terrible president but even I don’t think he’s that stupid.

    • BillWStl

      Hah. Adam Carolla often boils down these types of issues to Stupid or Liar? Could not be more apt.

    • Bill_Woods

      Most likely both. I.e. he didn’t know that the website was still an alpha version, but he did know people were going to have to give up their current plans.

  • Boritz

    While these issues surrounding healthcare.gov are significant and important it isn’t fair to present this as a complete picture of the administration’s abilities in the area of healthcare policy administration. If you check the healthcare coverage and delivery system that covers the people that are being criticized in this
    article you will find that it was rolled out deftly and expertly and works well.

    • boyd2

      I think the down vote may have missed your subtle dig. Or maybe they’re just as slow as the President.

  • boyd2

    After 3 years (how’s that for a coincidence?) of organization, fund raising and design my organization finally got our application for an LPFM radio station accepted by the FCC last week. Their window was a month long and was the first in ten years. I don’t think I slept an hour a night for those last couple days. It’s simply impossible for me to fathom anyone putting in the time Obama and his staff did on the ACA sleep walking through for them what was a similar culminating event. It would be like having the people I hired to put through our application telling me they “forgot” and reacting by saying, “application, oh ya that, I’d forgot all about that. Hey no big deal. It’s only a project I have spent the last decade working towards”. I realize I’m not expressing this well but I’m just at a loss for words,

  • Wareagle82

    Why is someone shocked by this astounding display of ignorance/incompetence? This is who Obama is. It’s who he always has been. Look at the record – what accomplishment do you find?

    • avery12

      The interesting thing about Obama’s record is how he has routintely claimed credit without having done the work. Now this character flaw threatens to choke him and he doesn’t want the credit for his signature achievement and legacy anymore.

  • dude1394

    All of this rationalization is a waste of electrons. The man is a liar, pure and simple. He lied then and he is lying now.

    And because of the democrat media, I expect he will get away with it. Democrat presidents have been exceptional liars….because they could.

    • CosmotKat

      Dude,
      Nixon is always pointed to as the benchmark for Presidential lies, but anyone with intellectual honesty would have to say Watergate does not match Nixon’s lie to the lying of Obama to the entire country about something so personal as individual health care.

    • Dexter Scott

      They’re not exceptional liars. They don’t have to be, because the media never calls them on it and generally carries their water.

  • catorenasci

    The truly infuriating thing about this column, and about the actual disasters it describes, is that many, many of us saw through Obama and his myrmidons in 2008 and knew based on actually reading the publicly available – if with some effort – record about the man, his views and his associations over his life, that the probability that he would be a disaster at least as great as he has turned out to be — on every issue of policy, governance, and honesty — was pretty damned asymptotically close to unity.

    And we were all mocked, derided, made fun of and trashed. And have been repeatedly for the past five years, with the awakening only just now beginning to dawn on the like of WRM and the punditry.

    Well, I’m glad you’re seeing a little light, and welcome. But, really, don’t expect us to take your policy prescriptions very seriously for, oh, three or four generations.

    I have a certain sympathy with the “low information voters” who believed the pundit class and the Democrat politicians who lied through their teeth about Obama and his plans and programs. The level of the lies was really just enough more than they were used to it was fairly easy to believe no one could lie that completely.

    But, for you, WRM, and the ‘moderate’ punditry who saw Obama as wonderful, I have contempt. The truth was there, is there, and you could easily have known it with a little effort then, and you could really investigate him now and put it all together, but you don’t and you won’t.

    This country has probably lost at least a decade’s worth of wealth creation, and probably has seen our international relations set back 30 years. We’ve seen race relations set back perhaps 50 years. There has been no end to the ill this administration and its supporters have done.

    All of us will end up paying for it. Sadly, many of you will not feel the full weight of it the way many ordinary Americans already have and will continue to for a generation.

    So, yes, it’s great you’re finally beginning to see you bought a world-class fraud. But, shame on you, you’ve been fooled twice.

  • pashley

    In Obama’s defense (yes, it hurts) liberalism puts the government into situations and problems that are at the edge of its bureaucratic competence and resources. And then some.

    • catorenasci

      Well, that is more an argument against “liberalism” than it is a defense of Obama….

    • BillWStl

      My hand is up.

      I warned that neither of them had the leadership necessary for the presidency, but he had more common sense not to surround himself with cronies, politicians and academics. And he had more common sense on world affairs, well, and about every facet of governance.

      I HOPE those Obama voters will have enough honesty with themselves to NEVER again vote for a president that was not a governor or leading a large corporation at some point in their careers.

      • Dexter Scott

        Obama voters don’t care about leadership or governance, so long as the gimmedats keep coming.

  • aloysiusmiller

    Someone said you voted for this guy based on his Ivy League pedigree. Well so much for that brand.

  • drkennethnoisewater

    Os^Hbama’s a chucking fump.

  • Anthony

    “There is no way to construe this as anything but a world class flop” – President Obama’s credibility gap.

    “Credibility is hard for presidents. It requires either an emergency or the kind of candor presidents don’t usually feel free to express. Anything short of that isn’t likely to dispel the impressions people have formed as a result of the big event that cause them to lose their trust in a president in the first place. Given the difficult road the president’s health care plan has traveled, it seems like he is going to have an especially hard time winning back trust.” http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2013/11/barack_obama_s_broken_health_care_promises_does_the_president_have_any_credibility.html

  • Gergeleh Ganev

    Uh I suppose you may be obligated to take Obama’s words at face value. But I believe it is more likely that he knew the website would crash, considered it best to go ahead with it then plead ignorance, and deliberately planted his prognostications of glorious success in order to give himself plausible deniability later. His belabored reference to those prognostications is transparent.

  • Gary Hemminger

    I think people on this thread should stick to the thread topic. the topic is why didn’t Obama’s staff warn him of the impending problems. The answer, I believe, is that Obama believes (and has said) that he is the smartest person in the room. He is a better speechwriter than his speechwriters, and so on. Once you have this belief system, then you do not actively seek guidance from anyone. And when you do not get the guidance, it is hard to punish the staff for whom you did not seek the guidance.

  • JeffWeimer

    You voted for the guy, at least in 2008, because you assumed an Ivy League education was a stand-in for Content of Character. Those of us who truly believed in egalitarianism weren’t so fooled.

  • Rick Caird

    There really is no way to explain this whole disaster. No other CEO would still have his job in the face of this failed roll out of the most important administration initiative of the past years. No other CEO would have been caught unawares of his major policy not only failing, but falling flat on its face.

    This is less an example of incompetence, but of disinterest. Nothing of this magnitude could be allowed to fend for itself. I had to be managed at every level of the administration including the President. Instead, we got complete disinterest on the part of the executives.

    I predict this will end up as a Harvard Business Review case study of failure. Lovely, just lovely.

  • HeftyJo

    Obama is the proverbial dog that finally caught the car and now doesn’t know what to do with it. I knew he lacks serious managerial skills with the constant “blame Bush!” routine we were subjected to throughout his first term. A real leader, the moment they sit down in that big chair, takes ownership of all that is not just good but also the bad. Finger pointing and blame gaming just shows you don’t really have any solutions to move forward with. Instead his policies are like right out of the underpants gnome’s play book: 1. Spend a trillion dollars 2. ???? 3. Profit!

  • Omar

    Credentials do not equal competence. Obama is also supremely disinterested in the actual work of governance . . . Worse still, he doesn’t love his country. In fact, he doesn’t even like it very much. That, for me, is the cruelest cut of all – and the one thing I will have the hardest time forgiving when it comes to our so called media and “leadership class.”

    Talk about betrayal.

    • avery12

      At this point he has betrayed the citizens and the democrats, and of course the insurance companies. He simply doesn’t seem able to honor a deal. Who will he betray next? We will know it is getting bad when Susan or Valerie is tossed out of the sleigh.

  • mgoodfel

    The thing to remember is that this is par for the course on government IT projects. See some of the items mentioned here:

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/18/us-usa-pentagon-waste-specialreport-idUSBRE9AH0LQ20131118?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews&rpc=71&google_editors_picks=true

    So yes, Obama’s staff suppressed the bad news. But on the other hand, it was probably impossible to get this system done on time in the first place.

  • thewlyno

    And with all this, neither he nor, apparently, anyone in his close circle of aides and advisors knew that the website was a disaster.
    - Oh, they knew alright – they either just didn’t tell the President out of fear, or they told the President and he did nothing…my guess is the latter. Just keep on plugging away gang!

    What is a staff for?
    - In Obama’s world, power protection & plausible deniability (although in this case, it’s NOT remotely plausible).

    Surely a competent staff would have set up an effective monitoring and reporting system so that accurate and timely information about website problems would reach the White House.
    - Key Words…”a competent staff”…what, so far in this Presidency, encourages us to believe this is the case?

    There is nothing that any president needs more than a team of competent people around him who can keep him and his key initiatives on track.
    - see “Cronyism”…hire people for what they’ve done for you, not for what they can do for the US.

    The President of the United States didn’t know that his major domestic priority wasn’t ready for prime time—and he thinks that sharing this news with us will somehow make it better.
    - He believe it will absolve him of blame, but it only decreases our trust and confidence in his qualifications, abilities, and standing at POTUS.

    • Corlyss

      Staff is very handy to throw under the bus. It would mean more than it does now if he fired anyone. Batchelor says he can’t fire them because they’d go out and tell everything they know, and you know, destroy his lustrous image. So he keeps the incompetents.

  • vepxistqaosani

    At my father’s entrepreneurial knee, I learned the old saying “First-rate people hire first-rate people; second-rate people hire third-rate people.”

    Part of the reason Obama has no drama is that he doesn’t hire anyone who can challenge him. That is, his famous statement that he’s more skilled and more knowledgeable than his staff was not mere rodomontade: It was a job description.

  • BillWStl

    The commenters here are nailing it, things we have been saying since
    2008 about lack of leadership, lack of executive experience, lack of
    managing large projects, programs, or changes in organization. Takes
    years to be able to do that.

    Unfotunately, Walter, you are also showing your lack of experience with these things as well with your simplistic questions about why staff has not been fired or what are they all doing all day. The whole organization has been set up to operate just this way.

    You missed another key piece of the aftermath in that he said this
    program, which was so important to him, that he reminded his “team” at
    their MONTHLY meetings that getting the website right was critical. His
    “team” included Sebelius and the head of the CMS who admitted she was
    not watching things because it was one of 39 things she had to worry
    about.

    Along with HIS lack of leadership, etc. – he compounded the problem by
    only appointing career politicians, cronies, and academics to all key
    roles. No one has a clue, and that is why the real knowledge stayed
    buried so far down in the organization. Above a certain level it was
    ALL political, zero experience.

    Any Manager or leader who says they had 39 other things to do so they did not watch THE MOST IMPORTANT PROGRAM THAT THE WHOLE ADMINISTRATION IS DOING

  • FrankArden

    “I was not informed directly that the website would not be working…”

    Well, was he informed otherwise than “directly?”

  • JimTreacher

    Or, he could be lying. I can’t think of a reason for him to tell a lie that makes him look so incompetent, but it’s never stopped him before.

  • http://davidhdennis.com/ David H Dennis

    Why did things play out in such a bizarre way? Because Obama is the ultimate short term thinker. When he is faced with a situation, he does everything in his power to make sure it goes away, with no consideration for what might happen as a consequence.

    I think it’s quite likely that he knew implementation of Obamacare under the schedule he required for it was impossible, and that’s why he’s not punishing anyone. Why would he say it was going to work when it was, in fact, impossible? It was the best thing to do for that particular second of his life.

    What’s truly remarkable is how well this has worked for him. How badly it’s worked for the country itself is completely unsurprising.

    David

    • Bob

      Someone back in 2008, on Althouse’s blog I think, said that Obama will just say whatever gets him through the next ten minutes.

      Life for Barack Obama lately has been one endless avalanche of agonizing ten minute blocks of time. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

  • avery12

    I’m sure Oprah would disapprove of this analysis.

  • robin hood in reverse

    I can’t taste the difference between Wilson and Barack vegetable oil. The Federal Reserve was created on Jekyll Island and Obama is the Prince of Hyde Park. If he doesn’t clean up the mess, someone else will.

    Second place is the first place loser but a peek is worth ten free market estimators. Reverse auction bid results can be turned into a low bid equation with a variance that looks something like this:

    Low Bid = (95% – 1% times the number of bidders) times the average bid

    Companies play free market basketball on a diving board because a company can’t maximize their profits if the company hits more often than the dummy. A 5% drop in price is usually enough to jump to 15% higher overall hit rate. Government is a slam dunking monopoly that has proven to be 20% more expense than the free market. Socialism, Fascism, Marxism, Statism, etc. is four scarcity leaps backwards and corresponds with Carman’s and Kenneth’s findings.

    A Harvard Professor and previous President of IMF wrote a book called “This Time is Different” . Carman Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff studied fiscal crisis in 65 countries over 500 years. 1% GDP reduction in taxes increases private sector 3% in GDP. 1% GDP increase in Government Spending deceases private sector 1.2% GDP with a -0.2% change in GDP. Obviously a great deal of government debt can put a country at significant interest rate risk.

    If we go from a 38% tax rate to 20% tax rate with a balanced budget the private sector will grow from $11 Trillion to over $16 Trillion. Tax revenue won’t decrease 48%. Tax revenue will only decrease 24%. Half of Washington won’t have to go on a permanent vacation, only one out four. Employment will increase 25% so displaced bureaucrats will have lots of new opportunities to contribute to society.

    If we get down to a balanced 10%, $20 Trillion – more than a 60% increase in jobs if half of Washington goes on a permanent vacation, each dollar earned buys ($0.90/$0.62) 45% more, and hard America becomes a soft warm place.

    John Nash’s beautiful mind recognized the importance of interactions in which the results of one person’s choices depend not only on his own behavior but also on the choices of another person. There is a related game called Ultimatum. You and your partner split $10. Less than $3 deals disgust and anger. The dealer has a pulpit.

    The Laffer effect is no joke. Charles Adams, an international tax attorney and historian, wrote books on taxes. Once tax rates rise above the disgust and anger point, the expected extra tax revenue never shows up. A flat tax system is part of Constitution. Everyone has to pay taxes to keep as many people’s tax rate below the disgust and anger tax rate or make sure an overwhelming majority is disgusted with high taxes.

    Carman, Kenneth, John, and yours truly believes dealers can routinely get an $8 to $10 deal by getting his or her partner work for a $3 to $5 deal. With each $3 to $5 of earned success the partner becomes a dealer that turns the $3 to $5 deal into $6 to $8 of earned success. Turning $10 into $13 is a win-win systemic solution that creates good people, great outcomes, and durable trust but when it rains, rainmakers show up and turn everything to dirt.

    There will always be zero-sum losers who just accept less than $3 deals and think the key to success is being an abusive dealer. A $7-$3 deal isn’t better than a $6-$4 deal because $7-$3 deals turn into $6-$2, $5-$1, and $4-two bit deals. Rainmakers turn everything to dirt because they feel entitled to $7up and someone else has to pay for the diet $7up.

    Obama and company’s overall 30% to 40% tax and spend policies have systemically increased the public sector by 25% and eliminated 10 million private sector jobs. For the first 150 years of our existence, we were 10% tax and spend country. Present day Switzerland, Russia, and much of Eastern Europe are 15% tax and spend countries.

    A famous Central Banker said something like “If I control the money supply, I care not for your laws”. If debt is money that can only be paid off with more money …. someone ends up owning everything and everybody.

    Our founding fathers promoted the species (Gold and Silver) because a stable money supply is key to creating an innovative middle class and responsive Government. When things are set up right, the wealth disparity between rich and poor is only four fold and a society’s standard of living doubles every decade.

  • Felina Flash

    Time for the petulant children to get the h e l l out of our white house.

  • https://www.facebook.com/ritchietheriveter Ritchie The Riveter

    Dr. Mead, I respectfully disagree that there is a case to be made for the PPACA, in the form it was passed (so we could find out what was in it).

    There is only one good alternative, when you get down to it … repeal the dang thing and tell the American people the truth: it is OUR job to solve the problems of health care, as individuals and neighbors, consumers and providers … for the Federal government is structurally incapable of doing so from the top down. Its job is instead to protect the ability of, and maintain the infrastructure for, US to exercise our personal initiative to solve these problems.

    Anything other than this, perpetuates the fundamental lies that led to the Blue Social Model and its numerous failures – including the PPACA itself – that we are dealing with today.

    Had health care been approached from this viewpoint, we would have had workable solutions before now. We can still have them … IF we quit relying upon our “leaders” to solve the problems FOR us.

  • Corlyss

    “There is a case that can be made for this law, shoddily designed as it was,”

    Lies, lies, lies, and sophistry to CY horribly mistaken A.

  • RevnantDream

    What is a staff for?

    Why that’s obvious. To increase the ever expanding Bureaucracy, with its super nova Entitlements . While obstructing every decision away from Individual responsibility. To a collective pool of obscurity. That renders anyone of liability, while enabling yes men to push an agenda from a fairy tale. Never to be bares of bad news.
    No matter how odious the result, or morality behind Their Leaders plans.
    People’s lives or futures don’t matter, just the paper pushers Union, Political masters with as many perks to be grabbed from tax payers means any thing.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIo-bEsoMgA

  • johncunningham

    I can understand why the lefties and the Party backed Obama in 2008, he was a perfect empty suit. this is shown by the ease with which he deluded ivory tower fools like you, Prof Mead, David Brooks, Peggy Noonan, and other so-called Republicans into voting for him.
    How about this challenge, prof. Mead? you analyze your idiotic thinking in backing Obama and explaining what you have learned from it. how about admitting that McCain and Romney, who refused to engage Obama, were false to American principles. How about suggesting a way forward for patriots?

  • Jim

    He new what was going on. He flat out lied to the public saying he did not know. He knew, and his staff knew. It is calculated to drive more and more people dependent on the Government and not Private insurance. Just look at Benghazi a year ago. He lied for six months along with Hillary. Fox was the only station that covered it and uncovered the cover-up.
    Another way it could of happened is that everybody knew about it and Obama is just a pawn. He relies on the teleprompter as a security blanket and mis-speaks and gaffs all the time.

  • Doug Kresse

    The use of the adverb “directly” allows for ambiguity. What does it mean? It could mean a lot of things. Watch Senator Paul Sarbanes catch Josh Steiner’s use of “directly” here (at about 45.00): http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/InvestigationDay3P

  • Moneyrunner

    Walter Russell Mead is concerned and appears puzzled by the
    fact that Obama has not shaken up his staff for failing to alert him to the fact
    that the Obamacare rollout was going to be a fiasco. It was, after all, his
    signature achievement, the domestic policy on which his Presidency will be
    judged. How could he not care enough about it to keep close track of its
    development and implementation?
    I have a theory. It’s as wild as Jack Welch’s
    theory in 2012 that the unemployment
    report was being manipulated. But it makes sense if you stop analyzing Obama
    in the traditional sense: as someone who wanted to be President to do something
    or to be someone. How about viewing the Presidency as a way to get rich?

    I have always viewed Obama as an accidental
    President. At the end of Bush’s second term the “inevitable” Democrat candidate
    was Hillary Clinton. I believe that Obama initially ran to raise his visibility
    and perhaps lay down a marker for a high ranking position, or a future candidacy
    after the Hillary presidency. But in a surprise to everyone, race trumped sex
    for the media who adopted Obama as their pet. One added factor was the
    Conservative community’s hatred of the Clintons who were widely viewed as both
    immoral and corrupt. As a result, most of the hostile fire was directed at
    Hillary while Obama was largely unknown. Being so new, he had no public record.
    Thus his race, his ability to mirror people’s innermost wants and desires back
    at them, plus the financial crisis that erupted near late in 2008 led to his
    election.

    Once in office, no one in my memory has enjoyed
    the trappings of the Presidency as much as the Obamas. From “date
    night” in New York to incredibly
    lavish parties while millions lost their jobs, the Obamas live the high
    life. I’m persuaded that Obama views the Presidency in much the same way as the
    Mexican presidents view their office, as a way of getting very wealthy. The
    Mexicans do it like conventional third world dictators do: via graft while in
    office. The Clintons showed us how U.S. presidents can shamelessly use their
    former status to become incredibly wealthy. You can be sure that Obama will
    follow that path.

    So if I’m right, and time will tell, America
    has a President who likes the trappings of office, likes to play golf and is
    really not that concerned with either foreign or domestic issues. In Obama’s
    view America was there before he took office, will be there after he leaves, and
    will provide him with the lifestyle of the Presidency (minus Air Force One) for
    the rest of his life. In the meantime, “no drama Obama” will do or say anything
    to remain where he is until he achieves his goal of a super-rich retirement.
    When people say it’s all about “him” they have no idea how right they are.

  • rbeccah

    Forget “Carteresque”. That description no longer applies. From now and forevermore, the epithet to be used for a fustercluck of this magnitude will be “Obamaesque”. So much for legacy.

  • Torestin

    The zero of O has come home to roost! Surround yourself with sycophants, academics and fools and you get a fustercluck as my distinguished fellow blogger has noted… Problem is that his entire term is the same. They should all resign…..

  • ljgude

    I remember a Democratic friend asking me in a parking lot – a Wal Mart parking lot to be exact – what I thought of Obama for 2008. I said ‘No experience’. But this level of incompetence surprises me – even after 5 years. There is no wiggle room here.

    • Andrew Allison

      Did you mean Democrat? They’re more autocratic than democratic these days [grin]

      • ljgude

        Oh yeah, I’ve noticed that since ‘my party left me’. I remember hearing an interview with a Chicago academic from about that time who had written a book calling for ‘Liberal Paternalism.’ You know government forcing people to do things for their own good. Chicago…hmmm.