Did Obama “hijack” tech summit over NSA snooping to pitch ObamaCare?

posted at 2:41 pm on December 18, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

After months of increasing criticism over the NSA’s activities in on-line surveillance and the impact it has had on American Internet service providers, the White House arranged to have a summit meeting with executives to air out their issues. Once in the room with Obama, though, some participants complained to the Daily Mail’s David Martosko that the President “hijacked” the meeting to make a pitch for ObamaCare:

During a White House meeting called to brief America’s largest tech companies today about government overreach in electronic surveillance, President Barack Obama changed the subject – angering some meeting participants by shifting gears to address the failed launch of healthcare.gov.

‘That wasn’t what we came for,’ a vice-president of a company whose CEO attended told MailOnline. ‘We really didn’t care for a PR pitch about how the administration is trying to salvage its internal health care tech nightmare.’

One executive said that meeting participants were dead-set against straying from the principal focus of the meeting – the uncomfortable and legally untenable position they are in when the National Security Agency demands access to their digital records. …

‘He basically hijacked the meeting,’ the executive said. ‘We all told the White House that we were only there to talk about what the NSA was up to and how it affects us.’

Hijacked isn’t exactly the correct term here, in part because — as Martosko notes — the White House had informed the group that the Healthcare.gov website would be on the agenda.  In fact, the Guardian reported that the executives planned to “push back” against Obama’s attempts to change the subject even before the meeting began:

Senior executives from the companies whose bosses were present at the meeting said they were determined to keep the discussion focused on the NSA, despite the White House declaring in advance that it would focus on ways of improving the functionality of the troubled health insurance website, healthcare.gov, among other matters.

“That is not going to happen,” said an executive at one of the major tech companies represented at the meeting. “We are there to talk about the NSA,” said the executive, who was briefed on the company’s agenda before the event.

An executive at another company present at the White House on Tuesday described any other issues as “peripheral”. The executive, who also declined to be named in order to discuss his company’s strategy, said: “There’s only one subject that people really want to discuss right now.”

The ObamaCare plea was basically the sponsorship of the meeting — an ad that gave the execs top-level access to demand that the NSA curtail its activities.  That’s a rather small price to pay, although the exact amount of that price is a little ambiguous.  According to Martosko, Obama repeatedly returned to the subject of the disaster at HHS, but Valerie Jarrett told Politico today that 99% of the meeting was focused on surveillance issues:

White House adviser Valerie Jarrett denied a report that President Obama “hijacked” his meeting with technology executives Tuesday to discuss ObamaCare, saying that the president and technology executive spent “99 percent” of the meeting discussing concerns about government surveillance programs.

The Daily Mailreported that some participants at the meeting were upset that the president used the meeting to discuss issues surrounding the botched rollout of his signature healthcare law.

“That wasn’t what we came for,” said the vice-president of a company whose CEO attended to the paper. “We really didn’t care for a PR pitch about how the administration is trying to salvage its internal healthcare tech nightmare.”

But Jarrett insisted that President Obama initiated the conversation about the National Security Agency surveillance programs, which mine databases from technology companies like Google, Facebook and Yahoo.

“I don’t think there was a disconnect at all,” she said at a Politico breakfast.

I suspect that the time spent on ObamaCare PR probably exceeded 1% by a substantial amount.  However, it’s curious that Obama brought it up at all, except as an utterly futile attempt at a change of subject. By the time the meeting took place, Obama had already hired Microsoft’s Kurt DelBene to take charge of the debacle at HHS. Why, then, did he feel the need to hit up the executives for more discussion of the problems plaguing the central “accomplishment” of the Obama presidency? That sounds as though Obama is as confident in a solution with DelBene at the helm as the rest of us were with Jeffrey Zients declaring that he would make the portal “fully functional” by December 1st.

At any rate, that’s hardly a hijacking. It’s more a cry for help.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Captain Queeg.

Mason on December 18, 2013 at 2:44 PM

That sounds as though Obama is as confident in a solution with DelBene at the helm as the rest of us were with Jeffrey Zients declaring that he would make the portal “fully functional” by December 1st.

I think it goes to optics. The White House took pictures of him sitting around with execs from high-tech companies discussing the Obamacare website. As if they were drawing up solutions on the back of a napkin or something.

At least that is what the White House provided caption for the images will suggest.

Happy Nomad on December 18, 2013 at 2:48 PM

He did.

Plus, who represented the taxpayers…the ones who pay for the WH, in there?

…while they divvied up who owns you…this from the “most transparent” thug in history.

Schadenfreude on December 18, 2013 at 2:48 PM

They all deserve each other.

“”when you lie down with dogs a communist you wake up with fleas.”

aquaviva on December 18, 2013 at 2:49 PM

lol, watch out, Ed. verbaloon will be along shortly to express outrage over your use of the word “hijack” to describe O’bama’s actions.

Del Dolemonte on December 18, 2013 at 2:51 PM

Senior executives from the companies whose bosses were present at the meeting said they were determined to keep the discussion focused on the NSA, despite the White House declaring in advance that it would focus on ways of improving the functionality of the troubled health insurance website, healthcare.gov, among other matters.

It was an “all of the above” summit.

Bitter Clinger on December 18, 2013 at 2:53 PM

White House adviser Valerie Jarrett denied a report

 
I’m told that holds exactly the same weight as a blogger or radio host saying it.

rogerb on December 18, 2013 at 2:54 PM

So he was high and he jacked up another meeting. “That’s pretty much par for the course,” said King Putt.

Flange on December 18, 2013 at 2:55 PM

yep, photo op was the motive, perhaps also a set-up to the “I didn’t know anything about this NSA stuff until this morning’s meeting” gambit.

DanMan on December 18, 2013 at 2:55 PM

Hey, cut Obama some slack. Probably no one told him that Kathleen Sibelius hired DelBene.

natasha333 on December 18, 2013 at 2:55 PM

This summit brought to you by …

The Letter O.

Ward Cleaver on December 18, 2013 at 2:56 PM

Was he hinting that he wanted some free assistance in refloating his Titanic?

Ward Cleaver on December 18, 2013 at 2:58 PM

I feel no sympathy for the execs. These guys are classic enablers. I’m certain they were giddy to be invited to bask in the glory of the Emperor. If they had a problem with the direction of the mtg, they should have said so during the mtg, not afterward.

kpguru on December 18, 2013 at 2:58 PM

Had Zero hired someone from Apple I’d be worried…Microsoft…not so much…

PatriotRider on December 18, 2013 at 2:58 PM

Captain Queeg.

Mason on December 18, 2013 at 2:44 PM

Ahh, but the strawberries that’s… that’s where I had them. They laughed at me and made jokes but I proved beyond the shadow of a doubt and with… geometric logic… that a duplicate key to the wardroom icebox DID exist, and I’d have produced that key if they hadn’t of pulled the Caine out of action. I, I, I know now they were only trying to protect some fellow officers…

I instantly thought of this when I read your post, classic.

D-fusit on December 18, 2013 at 2:59 PM

At any rate, that’s hardly a hijacking. It’s more a cry for help.

.
Your frame of reference is showing its weakness, Ed.

When it has taken 6 months for you to bring THIS level of players together to discuss a common topic that is causing significant business problems for them …

… any topic NOT related to the problem is, at best, a distraction or in the case of the Obama Ship of Fools – an attempt to spin the meeting as Obama “getting buy-in from tech leaders!”

The public already distrusts your company for its role in the surveillance state … how would YOU see any discussion that might end up with you/your company being seen as having the Obamacare Albatross tied to you as a lovely parting gift?

PolAgnostic on December 18, 2013 at 2:59 PM

You mean the tech honchos don’t like flying across the country to be used as stage props by his Royal Obamaness?

tommyboy on December 18, 2013 at 3:01 PM

“”when you lie down with dogs a communist you wake up with fleas other peoples money to spend.”

aquaviva on December 18, 2013 at 2:49 PM

Fixed…

PatriotRider on December 18, 2013 at 3:02 PM

Why is Obama even bothering with discussing a website that these CEOs won’t even use?

Did these execs already lose their employer provided coverage?

blammm on December 18, 2013 at 3:07 PM

DelBene’s wretched wife is my rep. She is a apparatchik. This effort by her feckless husband has fail written all over it.

Mr. Arrogant on December 18, 2013 at 3:07 PM

What exactly would Obama talk with these execs about regarding healthcare.gov?

Is Tim Cook going to open is Macbook Pro and start hacking on the backend code?

IT ventures this complex are very difficult to pull off and successful management of them cannot be addressed in 5 minute platitudes about how to fix or implement them.

Just another example of Obama being out of his depth as a manager of anything.

gwelf on December 18, 2013 at 3:08 PM

You mean the tech honchos don’t like flying across the country to be used as stage props by his Royal Obamaness?

Well that play sure worked for GM and Chrysler didn’t it? Fly in, get shamed, Tarp repayments waived.

DanMan on December 18, 2013 at 3:11 PM

One for obama – they have one for every traitor.

Schadenfreude on December 18, 2013 at 3:17 PM

I wish I hadn’t failed him so badly.

Murphy9 on December 18, 2013 at 3:17 PM

Was he clutching a cup of hot chocolate and wearing footie pajamas?

AllahsNippleHair on December 18, 2013 at 3:21 PM

So Obama brought his famous “Fecal Touch” to yet another meeting.

jukin3 on December 18, 2013 at 3:22 PM

Just another example of Obama being out of his depth as a manager of anything.

gwelf on December 18, 2013 at 3:08 PM

He did “manage” to get over half the electorare to vote for him. Twice.

Other than that, though, he wants you to believe he stayed in a Holiday Inn Express.

Bitter Clinger on December 18, 2013 at 3:23 PM

It must suck to be Ed Morrissey and wake up every morning knowing you’d lose in a slap-fight with Debbie Wasserman Slutz.

What a worthless gender-neutral waste of space.

sartana on December 18, 2013 at 3:27 PM

Trying a hail Mary quid pro quo for them to help OboobiCare in return for getting the NSA off their backs.

AH_C on December 18, 2013 at 3:39 PM

…Obama is just a figurehead!

KOOLAID2 on December 18, 2013 at 3:40 PM

Hey you people voted for him, you own it now.

jake49 on December 18, 2013 at 5:36 PM

“I want to start off the meeting by saying a couple of words about the NSA issue…I won……now, lets talk about my takeover of the healthcare industry…..”

BobMbx on December 18, 2013 at 5:54 PM

This summit brought to you by …

The Letter O.

Ward Cleaver on December 18, 2013 at 2:56 PM

Ok….I laughed.

BobMbx on December 18, 2013 at 5:57 PM

Why, then, did he feel the need to hit up the executives for more discussion of the problems plaguing the central “accomplishment” of the Obama presidency?

Hijack the meeting, change the photo op.

“The President met with Tech Industry leaders to discuss 0Care and NSA issues”

budfox on December 18, 2013 at 6:05 PM

These guys deserve everything they get from Obama. They helped him cause these unnecessary national problems. They didn’t realize he cares less about their issues than polishing his emblematic healthcare legacy.

The subtext of this is that if they don’t help him with his priority, don’t expect any support on NSA privacy invasion or on immigration goodies for them. We can always talk about that later.

virgo on December 19, 2013 at 12:16 AM