Obama does a heck of a job ex­cus­ing his ad­min­is­tra­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY DAVE BOYER

The list of scan­dals and blun­ders in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is long, but the ros­ter of peo­ple who have been fired by Pres­i­dent Obama for screw­ing up is strik­ingly short.

From Beng­hazi to the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice to the Fast and Fu­ri­ous gun-run­ning furor in the Jus­tice Depart­ment, the pres­i­dent has been loathe to hold high-level aides ac­count­able for ma­jor bungling.

The lat­est ex­am­ple is the pres­i­dent’s back­ing of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Kath­leen Se­be­lius, whose agency mis­man­aged the cru­cial launch of the Health­Care.gov web­site for peo­ple to sign up for insurance un­der Oba­macare. In the pro­gram’s first three weeks, the ex­am­ples of con­sumers who were un­able to en­roll in the poorly de­signed sys­tem have grown ex­po­nen­tially, threat­en­ing the pro­gram’s long-term vi­a­bil­ity.

The cost to tax­pay­ers has risen along with the blun­der­ing. CGI Fed­eral, a U.S. sub­sidiary of the Cana­dian firm CGI Group, re­ceived a no-bid con­tract with a base value of $55.7 mil­lion in 2011 to de­velop the web­site. Since then, the po­ten­tial cost has risen to $292 mil­lion, al­though se­ri­ous prob­lems re­main.

Mr. Obama will hold an event at the White House on Mon­day to pro­mote the health care pro­gram. House Repub­li­cans will con­duct a hear­ing Thurs­day to in­ves­ti­gate the rea­sons for the sys­tem’s early fail­ures.

A White House of­fi­cial said Sun­day that Mr. Obama “will di­rectly ad­dress the tech­ni­cal prob­lems with Health­Care.gov — trou­bles that he and his team find un­ac­cept­able.” The of­fi­cial said the pres­i­dent will re­mind the pub­lic that “the health care law is about much more than just a web­site — it’s about fi­nally of­fer­ing mil­lions of Amer­i­cans the health care se­cu­rity they de­serve and giv­ing new ben­e­fits and rights to those who have cov­er­age to­day.”

If ever there were a gov­ern­ment job to carry out with care, it’s the roll­out of a pro­gram named in­for­mally for the pres­i­dent him­self. Yet Mr. Obama has re­sisted calls to hold Mrs. Se­be­lius — or any­one else — ac­count­able for the fail­ure.

“Even Democrats be­lieve that some­one should be taken to the wood­shed for Oba­macare’s fail­ures,” said Repub­li­can strate­gist Ron Bon­jean. “The pres­i­dent has been far too kind to those who aren’t do­ing their jobs be­cause he has not yet felt po­lit­i­cal pres­sure to take ac­tion. Now that the shut­down has passed, the pres­sure will grow for him to make sure some­one is ac­count­able.”

But in a case of seem­ing will­ful de­nial, the White House emailed its Daily Snap­shot up­date to sup­port­ers Fri­day with the good-news head­line, “Amer­i­cans are Sign­ing Up for Oba­macare.” That prompted a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Repub­li­can, to re­ply sim­ply, “LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL.”

White House press sec­re­tary Jay Car­ney was care­ful to say last week that Mr. Obama is fo­cused “right now” on mak­ing sure that HHS fixes the pro­gram, leav­ing open spec­u­la­tion that Mrs. Se­be­lius or other of­fi­cials would be re­moved from their posts.

“The ac­count­abil­ity the pres­i­dent seeks right now is the ac­count­abil­ity that comes from mak­ing the sys­tem bet­ter, im­prov­ing the process for con­sumers, fix­ing the prob­lems that have arisen, and mak­ing sure that mil­lions of Amer­i­cans for whom this pro­gram was cre­ated are get­ting the ben­e­fits that it pro­vides,” Mr. Car­ney said.

All pres­i­dents, fear­ing an ero­sion of pub­lic sup­port, dis­like ad­mit­ting mis­takes. Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush was mocked widely for prais­ing Michael D. Brown, di­rec­tor of the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency, for his agency’s re­sponse to the af­ter­math of Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina in 2005 with the in­fa­mous com­ment, “Brownie, you’re do­ing a heck of a job.” Mr. Brown re­signed a few days later.

Crit­ics see a pat­tern in Mr. Obama’s man­age­ment style of avoid­ing pun­ish­ment. The pres­i­dent’s ca­sual ap­proach can be summed up in an ob­ser­va­tion of for­mer De­fense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates, one that Mr. Obama some­times likes to quote: “One thing I can guar­an­tee you is that at this mo­ment, some­where, some­how, some­body in the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is screw­ing up.”

Even dur­ing the IRS scan­dal this year, in which the agency ac­knowl­edged tar­get­ing tea party groups for ex­tra scru­tiny, the pres­i­dent’s ex­ec­u­tive ac­tions didn’t amount to much house­clean­ing. Mr. Obama or­dered Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Jack Lew to ob­tain the res­ig­na­tion of act­ing IRS Com­mis­sioner Steven Miller, who left May 15. Mr. Miller’s last day in the post would have been June 8, and most of the prob­lems oc­curred be­fore he took the helm. Be­fore re­sign­ing, Mr. Miller in­tended to re­turn to his job as a deputy com­mis­sioner at the agency.

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