It’s a shock for most people that it’s a shambles. A fellow very friendly to the administration, a longtime supporter, cornered me at a holiday party recently to ask, with true perplexity: “How could any president put his entire reputation on the line with a program and not be on the phone every day pushing people and making sure it will work? Do you know of any president who wouldn’t do that?” I couldn’t think of one, and it’s the same question I’d been asking myself. The questioner had been the manager of a great institution, a high stakes 24/7 operation with a lot of moving parts. He knew Murphy’s law—if it can go wrong, it will. Managers—presidents—have to obsess, have to put the fear of God, as Mr. Obama says, into those below them in the line of authority. They don’t have to get down in the weeds every day but they have to know there are weeds, and that things get caught in them.The it in question is Obamacare, of course. And, as his wont, the Leader of the Free World is lying about the state of play:
White House officials say that with the worst of the website problems behind them, the president will return to a familiar political argument: criticizing Republicans for opposing the "Obamacare" law without providing their own ideas for solving national health care woes.Is that so? Of course it isn't:
"They sure haven't presented an alternative," Obama said. "You've got to tell us specifically what you'd do."
But the claim that Republicans have offered no specifics about how to improve the health care system is patently untrue. To date, Republicans have introduced at least four comprehensive bills to address health care as alternatives to Obamacare.You can read about all four at the link; the sponsors of these alternatives, which have gone nowhere because they haven't been getting a hearing, include Sen. Tom Coburn, Rep. Tom Price, Rep. Paul Broun, and Rep. Phil Roe. What do all these solons have in common? They are all Republicans, all southerners and, most importantly, all doctors.
The key thing to understand isn't that this president and his administration are willing to lie to your face; rather, the key thing is that most of this president's supporters are lying to themselves. Back to Noonan, sharing her cocktail party chatter:
For four years I have been told, by those who’ve worked in the administration and those who’ve visited it as volunteers or contractors, that the Obama White House isn’t organized. It’s just full of chatter. Meetings don’t begin on time, there’s no agenda, the list of those invited seems to expand and contract at somebody’s whim. There is a tendency to speak of how a problem will look and how its appearance should be handled, as opposed to what the problem is and should be done about it. People speak airily, without point. They scroll down, see a call that has to be returned, pop out and then in again.It's what he does. The notion that this president is smart and competent has never made much sense. He's very good at running a campaign, but like most sales guys he doesn't really give a damn about what happens in the back office. The problem is that Americans are dealing with the back office now and it's not been properly staffed for a very long time.
It does not sound like a professional operation. And this is both typical of White Houses and yet on some level extreme. People have always had meetings to arrange meetings, but the lack of focus, the lack of point, the sense that they are operating within accepted levels of incoherence—this all sounds, actually, peculiar.
And when you apply this to the ObamaCare debacle, suddenly it seems to make sense. The White House is so unformed and chaotic that they probably didn’t ignore the problem, they probably held a million meetings on it. People probably said things like, “We’re experiencing some technological challenges but we’re sure we’ll be up by October,” and other people said, “Yes, it’s important we launch strong,” and others said, “The Republicans will have a field day if we’re not.” And then everyone went to their next meeting. And no one did anything. And the president went off and made speeches.