Sure, we can point to criticism from Barack Obama media cheerleaders like Jon Stewart to argue that the White House spin on the ObamaCare fiasco has utterly failed. But why do that when we can have one of the Obama administration’s former spinmeisters make the argument explicitly? Former Obama adviser and press secretary Robert Gibbs scoffed at the idea that no one in the administration knew of the issues at Healthcare.gov before the rollout on October 1st, which was the argument Kathleen Sebelius attempted to float yesterday. “The reason it defies belief, Willie,” Gibbs said on Morning Joe today, “is that it’s unbelievable.”
Mary Katharine posted the interview last night, but let’s take one more look at the spin. CNN’s Sanjay Gupta asked Sebelius about what the President knew and when he knew it, but also why Sebelius hadn’t acted earlier:
A team of high-tech experts from within the government and from Silicon Valley is going to tackle the issues, Sebelius said. Jeff Zients, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, will lead the team.
So why weren’t they brought in before the website launched October 1?
“We (had) hoped that they had their ‘A-Team’ on the table” from the start, Sebelius said of the contractors and agencies responsible for the project.
But now, she said, “we want new eyes and ears. We want to make sure that we get all the questions on the table, that we get all the answers and accelerate the fix as quickly as possible.”
Sebelius is implicitly claiming to have been blindsided as well, but that’s ridiculous. A low-intensity test of the website failed a few days before the launch, as the Washington Post reported yesterday. We also know that the Inspector General for HHS had raised red flags about the lack of proper testing in early August. Are we to believe that Sebelius didn’t bother to read an IG report on her agency’s biggest priority? And furthermore, are we to believe that Sebelius didn’t keep Obama informed about the progress of his biggest legislative achievement?
If either of those are true, then Obama should have canned Sebelius on October 2nd. If neither of those are true, then Sebelius and the White House are engaged in a serial deception intended to parry highly accurate attacks on their competence and integrity — and Sebelius should be canned for being incompetent at that. If Robert Gibbs isn’t buying Team Obama spin, then his former colleagues have well and truly jumped the shark on credibility.
Update: Ron Fournier also believes it comes down to those two choices:
When did the president realize his site was a joke?
In “the first couple of days” after the site went live Oct. 1, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told CNN.
“But not before that?” CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta asked.
“No, sir,” she replied.
That is either a lie, which would be unforgivable. Or it reveals an unfathomable lack of oversight. For a breakdown of this magnitude to go undetected by Sebelius and her boss, there must be severe gaps in the management systems of the Obama administration that any first-year MBA student could ferret out. Even Democrats are asking, how could they let this happen?
There really is no third option. And either one should have Sebelius getting booted from her job.