If those in charge of its implementation are not careful, the principal achievement of our long Obamacare saga will be to have reinforced conservative claims about government. As the law has gone from one disaster to another, Obama has flailed a little. He’s said “sorry” — sort of — and he’s allowed that things aren’t optimal, but he hasn’t been prepared to concede that there might be anything wrong with his management style or that this mess is ultimately owned by him. It seems that our progressive president is prepared to defend the many virtues of government right up to the point at which doing so requires admitting that he’s not very good at running things.
In his Chris Matthew interview yesterday, Obama pushed back against the idea that this was his fault. Per Politico:
“The challenge, I think, that we have going forward is not so much my personal management style or particular issues around White House organization,” Obama said. “It actually has to do with what I referred to earlier, which is we have these big agencies, some of which are outdated, some of which are not designed properly.”
So, it’s the government’s fault, not Obama’s. It’s the design of the agencies, not Obama. Okay, fair enough. But then why isn’t he moving to reform those agencies? He’d certainly have Republican support for that, and, as we all know, he just wants to do “what works” and he’ll “work with anyone” who agrees with him.
This approach is eerily reminiscent of David Axelrod’s. “How could the head of the executive branch know about the IRS scandal?” Axelrod effectively asked:
“Part of being president is there’s so much underneath you because the government is so vast. You go through these [controversies] all because of this stuff that is impossible to know if you’re the president or working in the White House, and yet you’re responsible for it and it’s a difficult situation.”
It is difficult, yes. The federal government has become vast and unwieldy. Which makes it all the more peculiar that the reaction of the administration to every problem is to grow the system that they simultaneously say is too big to manage.
As it happens, the president appears to know full well that the public sector doesn’t do things very well. He told Chuck Todd in November:
You know, one of the lessons — learned from this whole process on the website — is that probably the biggest gap between the private sector and the federal government is when it comes to I.T. ..
Well, the reason is is that when it comes to my campaign, I’m not constrained by a bunch of federal procurement rules, right?
So, again, why design your central achievement around a website and boast about how amazing it is going to be?
Perhaps my favorite excuse for Obamacare, however, is that none of this would have happened if the much more efficient states hadn’t forced the obviously incompetent federal government to get involved. Too much more of this sort of talk and Obama will be receiving invitations to address the Federalist Society.