Note to Slate: He’s both, and then some.
An IT problem has never escalated faster than the president’s Rose Garden speech Monday addressing the problems with Healthcare.gov. He could no longer outsource responding to user complaints. At first, the White House had said the headaches signing people up for health care coverage were just technical glitches, but now the sheer number of those glitches defies that explanation. Reporting about deeper systemic problems suggest that fixes will not come quickly. As my colleague Matthew Yglesias explains, adding more bodies to the problem adds more complexity, which may exacerbate the problem. It’s hard to untangle Christmas lights by committee.
Barack Obama doesn’t like to play the action-hero president where the application of his overwhelming will is supposed to directly correlate with a snappy solution. There are too many constraints on the presidency—Congress, a fickle public, world leaders, a $17 trillion economy, and the vagaries of time and space. But with the botched Obamacare rollout, the president was applying all the rhetorical torque he could muster. “Nobody’s madder than me about the fact that the website isn’t working as well as it should,” Obama said on Monday, “which means it’s going to get fixed.” […]
he stories keep shifting. Administration officials said the site had been tested as thoroughly as the IRS computer systems that handle electronic tax returns. Now Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius admits the system wasn’t tested enough. In the first several days, administration officials spoke of “glitches,” and Secretary Sebelius asked that people give the government the same amount of slack Apple gets when it launches a new product. But the administration dropped that analogy because, unlike Apple’s quick admission that Apple Maps was a mess, the government can’t just let users install Google Maps (and there have been no quick firings for the mess, as there were at Apple). The president and his team then said the website snafus were the result of huge traffic, but that explanation doesn’t explain the considerable technical problems now being reported. Reports of the extraordinary number of people who have accessed the site are themselves full of fuzzy claims that seek to oversell the success.
There’s a dangerous spiral that can take hold in these situations, as spin intended to distract from the current mess becomes its own problem. That is especially true when the facts demonstrate that the story the administration was selling is too optimistic: Either the White House knew how bad things were and wasn’t playing it straight or it didn’t know how bad things were and is just inept. Which one the public chooses—or whether they forgive the launch pad mishaps when everything is repaired—depends on the administration’s operational, rather than its political, skill. The customer support ticket has reached the highest level; now the country must wait.
- Issa widens probe of Obamacare tech glitches (capitolhillblue.com)
- Why does Sebelius still have a job if “nobody’s madder than” Obama over Healthcare.gov debacle? (hotair.com)
- Kathleen Sebelius expected to leave HHS after Obamacare rollout snafu: Sneed (suntimes.com)
- Sebelius Dodges Questions on Obamacare Glitches (swampland.time.com)
- Sebelius: President didn’t know of Obamacare website’s woes in advance (cnn.com)