Somehow, I don’t think the White House will be grateful for former Obama chief of staff Bill Daley’s analogy on CBS News this morning. Asked by Norah O’Donnell whether HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius should get fired for the ObamaCare fiasco, Daley replied that canning her now wouldn’t accomplish much. It would be akin to firing the captain of the Titanic — which gives us all yet another excellent sinking-ship comparison (via The Corner):
Responding to a question about whether the administration should demand the resignation of Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Daley said, ”To me, that’s kind of like firing Captain Smith on the Titanic after it hit the iceberg,” Daley said on CBS on Thursday morning. “It’s not going to do much right now.”
Nonetheless, Daley called the launch of the exchanges, which Sebelius oversaw, “a big embarrassment” for the Obama administration, and suggested that HHS may need a change in leadership after it gets the websites “straightened out.”
Actually, firing Sebelius would accomplish two things. First, it would at least demonstrate some accountability for screwing up on the Titanic scale, which so far we haven’t seen, especially if Sebelius was telling the truth about keeping the bad news from Barack Obama until he was blind-sided by it. Second, removing the management that screwed up the $400 million project would seem to be a big prerequisite to getting it fixed now — especially since, as Daley says, HHS will need a change of leadership later anyway.
The ObamaCare rollout was not just some little project for HHS, after all. It was the signature legislation of the Obama administration, and also the premiere proof that government could run large markets better than the private sector. In my column for The Fiscal Times, I argue that the fiasco has far-reaching implications for the progressive agenda, and that the performance of Obama and Sebelius come right out of the comic pages:
When I first started reading comic strips more than 40 years ago, one of the most popular was Bil Keane’s Family Circus, a lighthearted look at childhood and family dynamics. One running gag had to do with the typical child’s response to accountability for errors and mischief.
Keane would draw a ghostlike figure running through a scene, behaving badly with a manic sort of glee while the mother demanded to know who had broken the lamp, created a mess in the living room, or let the dog out. Keane gave the ghost character the name of the inevitable response from the children – Ida Know. …
When the media demanded to know what happened, the White House responded with a battalion of Ida Knows. How many people had succeeded in actually purchasing insurance through the federal exchange? Ida Know, White House sources told the Associated Press this past weekend when trying to brag about having 476,000 user accounts set up in the portal. Did insurers actually get their data and have them enrolled? Ida Know. When will the system actually work? Ida Know, OMB Director Sylvia Burwell told Bloomberg News. …
Sebelius followed this up with a series of claims that strained credulity – even among Obama’s allies. Sebelius told CNN’s Sanjay Gupta that Obama didn’t know of any problems with the web portal prior to its launch – even though Obama was fighting a bruising battle with Republicans over the program and the potential delay of the individual mandate. She further implied that she had no idea of the disaster to come, either. However, the Washington Post reported on Monday that the system failed a light-load test days before the website launch, and Reuters reported in August that the system testing was inadequate.
As Ron Fournier wrote in disgust at National Journal, Sebelius’ claim of ignorance is “either a lie … or it reveals an unfathomable lack of oversight.” Even former Obama administration press secretary Robert Gibbs couldn’t swallow that spin, telling Willie Geist on MSNBC’s Morning Joe that “the reason it defies belief, Willie, is that it’s unbelievable.”
It’s not just ObamaCare that’s sinking. It’s the entire belief system that government has more competence than the stakeholders in a market to manage and direct it, and that’s sinking in an ocean of Ida Knows. Don’t miss the conclusion of my essay, in which I point out the irony of begging the private sector for a lifevest, too.