One of the interesting things to me about the “what did Obama know and when” subplot to the Healthcare.gov Chernobyl is how little anyone on either side seems to care whether he’s telling the truth. He’s sworn up and down, as recently as last week during his big White House presser, that he had no idea how profound the site’s troubles were, which is almost impossible to believe. Either he’s lying his ass off again, hot on the heels of his Big Lie about people keeping their plans having been exposed, or he really is so far out to lunch even on his highest domestic priorities that he was blissfully clueless about the state of the health-care Manhattan Project for more than three years. That should be a big story — “Obama: Liar or Grossly Incompetent?” — but it’s more of a curio. Why?
Now that WaPo’s revealed that the White House had reason to believe six months before launch that the site was in deep trouble, Carney’s being cagier about what the man in charge was aware of:
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Carney said, “The president received regular briefings on various aspects of implementing the [health care law], including the recommendations from this review and the steps that [agencies] had taken to address those recommendations.”
Carney did not say if the president learned the details of the [March] assessment, which included warnings that the call-in centers would not work properly if the online system was malfunctioning, and that insufficient testing would make it difficult to fix problems after the launch.
“As we have said many times now, I myself many times and others, and this has been frequently reported, flags were raised throughout the development of the Web site, as would be the case for any IT project of this size and complexity,” he said. “Those issues, including the ones from six months before the launch, were in turn taken up by the development team housed at [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid]. But nobody anticipated the size and scope of the problems we experienced once the site was launched, as we’ve discussed repeatedly.”
Why isn’t this a bigger story than it is? Lots of reasons. Mainly it’s because O-Care’s implementation is so disastrous in so many ways — the website, the “rate shock” horror stories, the “if you like your plan” fiasco, the palpable panic among Democrats on the Hill — that it can’t help but overshadow Obama’s personal culpability. Plus, there’s little “gotcha” to be had in proving that O knew all along that the launch would be catastrophic. Arguably it’s even worse if he really didn’t know; politicians lie all the time about their personal responsibility for policy failures, but the lack of oversight Obama’s been copping to is genuinely shocking on an agenda item this big. His thinking, I guess, it’s that it’s always better to be seen as well-meaning and negligent than incompetent and deceitful but I’m not sure that rule holds in a matter as momentous as remaking the health-care system. Beyond all that, though, the bloom is far enough off the Hopenchange rose that there’d be no shock value left in proving that O’s lying about the extent of his awareness of the site’s problems. Everyone knows by now that he’s willing to lie, repeatedly and without qualification, about ObamaCare; the lie about people keeping their plans was, by any measure, a bigger lie than the one he’s probably guilty of in claiming now he didn’t know how badly off the website was. Two years ago, this would have complicated his Bambi-esque image. Today, after the IRS scandal, the NSA surveillance revelations, and the “if you like your plan” debacle, it’s just not that important. After all of that, either you’ve already changed your mind about O or you never will. Proof positive that he knew Healthcare.gov was a trainwreck but approved it anyway won’t move the needle.
Via Mediaite, here’s a beleaguered Jay Carney finding comfort in mocking his new antagonists. Oh, by the way — you’ll be pleased to know that the subsidies calculator for the federal website should finally be working by … mid-January, just two short months away. God willing, as Joe Biden would say. Click the image to watch.
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