A presidential campaign can hire whomever it wants without taking account of procurement rules or any other bureaucratic impediment. It is a private entity subject to the laws of competition. It exists more in the world of Travelocity than that of HealthCare.gov.
The launch of HealthCare.gov should cast a shadow over the stirring passage in the president’s second inaugural address where he spoke of how “we must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government.” Government doesn’t excel at new ideas and technology, which is why the landscape is littered with failed government IT projects. The president now ruefully cites irrational procurement rules as a cause of HealthCare.gov troubles, as if these rules are news to him.
At the end of the day, the president has been a dazzling frontman for what is, in essence, the Department of Motor Vehicles. He has created a glittering image of hope and change that has little to do with a rumbling, ramshackle federal government that is still largely built along mid-20th-century lines. Instead of imbuing government with his sense of cool, he has been left apologizing for a government failure that profoundly runs against the zeitgeist.