For Obama, it seems buck doesn’t stop at Oval Of­fice

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY DAVE BOYER

In the Obama White House th­ese days, the buck stops some­where — any­where — be­low the pres­i­dent.

White House aides in­sisted Wed­nes­day that Pres­i­dent Obama wasn’t told about ma­jor prob­lems with the Oba­macare web­site be­fore its failed launch, adding to the grow­ing list of blun­ders in which his ad­vis­ers al­legedly have kept him in the dark.

As the pres­i­dent sum­moned a dozen top health insurance ex­ec­u­tives to the White House for a meet­ing on sal­vaging his sig­na­ture ini­tia­tive, ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials said no­body in Mr. Obama’s in­ner cir­cle had any inkling of how bad the fed­eral web­site for Health­Care.gov would be un­til it went live Oct. 1.

“We ex­pected hic­cups and glitches,” said White House press sec­re­tary Jay Car­ney. “We did not ex­pect or an­tic­i­pate the scale of the prob­lems that has oc­curred.”

Yet project de­vel­op­ers for the health care web­site have said they raised doubts whether it could be ready in time. Con­gres­sional investigators have con­cluded that the gov­ern­ment’s Cen­ters for Medi­care and Med­i­caid Ser­vices tested the ex­change’s com­puter sys­tems dur­ing the fi­nal weeks, a task usu­ally han­dled by soft­ware com­pa­nies to make sure it’s ready for con­sumers.

Crit­ics see a fa­mil­iar pat­tern in the pres­i­dent’s “plau­si­ble de­ni­a­bil­ity” of the web­site’s prob­lems, along with the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice’s sus­pected tar­get­ing of con­ser­va­tive groups, the Fast and Fu­ri­ous gun-run­ning scan­dal in the Jus­tice Depart­ment, and the unan­swered ques­tions about his han­dling of the lethal ter­ror­ist at­tack at the U.S. diplo­matic post in Beng­hazi, Libya, in Septem­ber 2012. What­ever the scan­dal, the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ex­pla­na­tion is that Mr. Obama was out of the loop, de­lib­er­ately or oth­er­wise.

Skep­tics also said the idea that Mr. Obama failed to keep tabs on the roll­out of what is con­sid­ered his sig­na­ture leg­isla­tive achieve­ment also is im­plau­si­ble.

Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Kath­leen Se­be­lius has said Mr. Obama be­came aware “in the first cou­ple of days” af­ter the web­site launch that there were se­ri­ous prob­lems with its op­er­a­tion. She said they dis­cussed test­ing the sys­tem “go­ing for­ward,” but not be­fore Oct. 1.

Mrs. Se­be­lius said that, even though insurance com­pa­nies com­plained about the web­site and it crashed dur­ing a test, no­body told Mr. Obama about the prob­lems.

Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials have re­fused to say how many peo­ple have man­aged to en­roll for insurance dur­ing the three weeks since the mar­ket­places be­came avail­able. Mr. Car­ney said Wed­nes­day that the num­ber is “in the thou­sands.” The Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice es­ti­mates that 7 mil­lion peo­ple would gain cov­er­age dur­ing the ex­changes’ first year.

The as­ser­tion by top ad­min­is­tra­tion aides that Mr. Obama was shielded from bad news about the Oba­macare web­site is rem­i­nis­cent of the IRS scan­dal that erupted this spring.

When White House coun­sel Kathryn Ruemm­ler heard April 24 about an up­com­ing in­spec­tor gen­eral’s re­port on the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice’s im­proper tar­get­ing of con­ser­va­tive groups, she and White House Chief of Staff De­nis McDonough and other se­nior White House aides agreed not to share it with Mr. Obama un­til the au­dit was com­pleted and made pub­lic. They said they acted to pro­tect the pres­i­dent from any ap­pear­ance of try­ing to in­flu­ence the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

When word spread at the high­est lev­els of gov­ern­ment about CIA Di­rec­tor David H. Pe­traeus hav­ing an ex­tra­mar­i­tal af­fair, top-level Jus­tice Depart­ment of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric H. Holder Jr., learned of the scan­dal — with the po­ten­tial for black­mail of the na­tion’s top spy — in mid­sum­mer of 2012. But Mr. Obama wasn’t told about it un­til Nov. 8, two days af­ter his re-elec­tion.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Kath­leen Se­be­lius has said Pres­i­dent Obama be­came aware “in the first cou­ple of days” af­ter the Af­ford­able Care Act web­site launch that there were se­ri­ous prob­lems with its op­er­a­tion.

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