It is the president’s signature achievement, arguably his only one. It’s going to roll out at a time when the GOP is bruised and looking for a counterattack. It is going to be a big mess; brutal press coverage will follow. It will provide confirmation for the GOP that Republicans were right all along about the president’s treasured program. And you, the secretary responsible for the program, don’t tell the White House?! In any other administration this would be inconceivable, but in the current one Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius might be telling the truth when she says the president — you guessed it — learned about the Obamacare debacle from the media.
Consider how, if true, this deprived the president, the Democrats and the country of critical information that might, for example, have avoided the shutdown. Perhaps the president would have found an excuse to delay the rollout and gotten something for it from the Republicans. Maybe he wouldn’t have played hardball. It’s unclear whether knowing the Obamacare fiasco was coming would have changed the course of events, but the president was not allowed to make the decision because he lacked the requisite information; the shutdown followed and now the debacle comes as a big surprise. I can’t imagine why any president would keep a secretary around who botched his most important initiative and then kept it from him.
This follows the explanation given about the Internal Revenue Service scandal in which the president claimed to be in the dark and the White House counsel said it was her job to keep things like that from the president. You ask what CEO says, “Don’t tell me — let me be blindsided by the media!”?
Well, this president apparently operates that way. He and his close-knit advisers insist on a bad-news-ban around the Oval Office. Obama operates in a world without critical information — and that is his defense to two debacles. Critics understate the reluctance and inability of this president to lead and to govern. Primarily in the foreign policy context, his style has been characterized as dithering if not incoherent. But something more endemic and more worrisome is going on than simply “reluctant commander in chief” (although he certainly is that, too).
This is a president who set up a system in which he imagines he is relieved of responsibility. Someone else’s job. Not his problem. Didn’t know. Doesn’t matter why. He ‘s “madder” than anyone he keeps telling us, but not mad enough to make certain senior advisers tell him what is going on. He wants to be the victim (I’m mad!) and not the boss (Why didn’t I know this? Anyone who acts that way is fired!). This is intentional ignorance, inexcusable in a president.
Obama likes worlds of his own creation. That is what a memoir is and to a large extent that is what a campaign is — a narrative about your presidency. He is always infallible in his own yarns. The other side is evil and the facts are on his side. That, however, is a make-believe world. Here in this world, he is not a problem-solver, does not engage with opponents and wrestle with conflicting goals, and has no interest in getting his hands dirty. He’s too big for the presidency, apparently. He’s the inspirer, the slayer of the Republicans.
Unfortunately, we need a president who does his assigned job — that would be executing the laws. (In England they divide head of state and head of government, but Obama doesn’t have the luxury of a powerless monarchy.) If he’s not willing to do what is required, he should empower someone else (Vice President Joe Biden?), and then he can speechify and vilify opponents to his heart’s content. For now, however, as on Benghazi, Libya, the IRS and now Obamacare, he is AWOL when the going gets tough.
Maybe then we should thank Sebelius for this insight into the absentee presidency.