December 3, 2013

LOW-INFORMATION PRESIDENT: National Journal: A White House shake-up can’t stop with a sacrificial lamb. Obama needs to change the people around him to change how he governs.

The Affordable Care Act fiasco underscores the need for a significant overhaul. Despite three years to prepare, the HealthCare.gov website didn’t work upon launch, and the president misled millions of Americans by promising during his reelection campaign that they could keep their insurance plans and their doctors. As The New York Times reported Sunday, the story of how Obama’s team responded to the failures “reveals an insular White House that did not initially appreciate the magnitude of its self-inflicted wounds, and sought help from trusted insiders as it scrambled to protect Mr. Obama’s image.”

That description is a damning indictment that could be applied broadly to the Obama years. For all his strengths, Obama is a private, almost cloistered, politician surrounded by fawning aides who don’t understand why anybody would object to his policies; thus they are often caught flat-footed by critics. They often put political tactics ahead of governing, protecting the president’s image with narrow-minded zeal.

Obama himself has no patience for the nitty-gritty of politics and governance, which means he’s both loath to build bipartisan relationships outside the White House and unlikely to directly manage a project, even one as important as Obamacare.

“I think it’s terribly mismanaged,” former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said of the health care law. A Democrat who supports Obama, Rendell said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe that had he been president, the website would have been tested repeatedly before launching “and the tests would have been done in front of me.”

That’s not Obama’s style. So he needs to hire people who will help him empathize with his critics, build significant relationships, and oversee a sprawling bureaucracy that is critical to the future of the Democratic Party. He needs a ruthless management team that will force him to be engaged.

Elected twice, and he needs someone ruthless to force him to be engaged? If that’s the case, he should resign.