November 18, 2013


This was eyepopping. Obamacare is the single most important initiative of his presidency. The website rollout was, as the President himself has repeatedly stated, the most important element of the law’s debut. Domestically speaking there was no higher priority for the President and his staff than getting this right. And the President is telling the world that a week before the disaster he had no idea how that website was doing.

Reflect on that for a moment. The President of the United States is sitting in the Oval Office day after day. The West Wing is stuffed with high power aides. His political appointees sit atop federal bureaucracies, monitoring the work of the career staff around them. The President has told his core team, over and over, that the health care law and the website rollout are his number one domestic priorities.

And with all this, neither he nor, apparently, anyone in his close circle of aides and advisors knew that the website was a disaster. Vapid, blind, idly flapping their lips; they pushed paper, attended meetings and edited memos as the roof came crashing down. It is one thing to fail; it is much, much worse not to see failure coming. There is no way to construe this as anything but a world class flop.

And just one of many from this administration. Like I said, Clint was spot on. And much as I love Walter Russell Mead, I note that he voted for this guy, and blandly assumed that an Ivy League pedigree was some sort of assurance of competence. Not so much. And it’s not as if the signs weren’t there, for those able to see them.


As more people reflect on the President’s extraordinary press conference, the public sense that the President and his team just aren’t up to the job will inevitably grow. It was a jaw dropping moment of naked self revelation, and the more one reflects on it the more striking it becomes. The President of the United States didn’t know that his major domestic priority wasn’t ready for prime time—and he thinks that sharing this news with us will somehow make it better. It is moments of this kind that give epithets like “Carteresque” their sting.

That’s unfair to Jimmy Carter, whose style ran more toward micromanagement than to obliviousness.

UPDATE: More competence.

ANOTHER UPDATE: National Journal: President Obama and His Gang That (Still) Isn’t Shooting Straight: Incompetence, deception and lack of accountability still hound White House and health reform. “Incompetence, deception and lack of accountability doomed the Obamacare rollout. That’s old news. What’s new? The nagging durability of the White House’s incompetence, deception and lack of accountability.”

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