The Campaign Spot

White House: Don’t Blame Obama, He Was Oblivious!

The first Morning Jolt of the week features new security worries about Healthcare.gov, a possible silver lining to the GOP’s troubles in Virginia, and then this glaring implication of the latest bit of White House spin:

White House: Don’t Blame Obama, He Was Oblivious to the Problems!

You can say this sort of thing to protect the president, but the failure to fire Kathleen Sebelius afterwards looks even more inexplicable.

President Obama was assured that the healthcare insurance website was ready to launch on Oct. 1, even as private contractors and some administration officials knew the site had failed in early testing, a senior White House advisor said Sunday.

Obama aide Dan Pfeiffer said the president repeatedly asked about the healthcare.gov website, a key piece of his 2010 healthcare overhaul legislation, and was told it would meet his expectations.

Along with the president, Pfeiffer hyped the website in the weeks before the troubled launch, promising it would “be a consumer experience unmatched by anything in government, but also in the private sector.”

“We did believe that,” Pfeiffer said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Based on all the cover-my-butt memos and warnings from contractors, we know that this was not an innocent mistake. Officials within the Department of Health and Human Services knew about the problems and launched anyway. The testing was minimal, and when it was tested, the site mostly failed.

Here’s our old friend Bruce Webster on the importance of testing:

You can’t inspect a software program the same way you can inspect a house or a car. You can’t touch it, you can’t walk around it, you can’t open the hood or the bedroom door to see what’s inside, you can’t take it out for spin. There are very few tangible or visible clues to the completeness and reliability of a software system — and so we have to rely on [quality assurance] activities to tell us how well built the system is.

Furthermore, almost any software system developed nowadays for production is vastly more complex than a house or car — it’s more on the same order of complexity of a large petrochemical processing and storage facility, with thousands of possible interconnections, states, and processes. We would be (rightly) terrified if, say, Exxon build such a sprawling oil refining complex near our neighborhood and then started up production having only done a bare minimum of inspection, testing, and trial operations before, during and after construction, offering the explanation that they would wait until after the plant went into production and then handle problems as they crop up. Yet too often that’s just how large software development projects are run, even though the system in development may well be more complex (in terms of connections, processes, and possible states) than such a petrochemical factory. And while most inadequately tested software systems won’t spew pollutants, poison the neighborhood, catch fire, or explode, they can cripple corporate operations, lose vast sums of money, spark shareholder lawsuits, and open the corporation’s directors and officers to civil and even criminal liability (particularly with the advent of Sarbanes-Oxley).

Keep in mind, after Obama’s pep rally at the White House on October 21, where he seemed so dismissive of the glaring failures of the site, it was fair to wonder if he was being accurately and fully briefed on the problems with the site, or whether he was walking around in a bubble of happy talk, wondering why that usually agreeable press had been so cranky about the site so far. Now White House officials are telling us that the president was oblivious to the problems until the launch date.

He didn’t know the real situation then. Why are we to believe he knows the real situation now?

For how much of his presidency has Obama known what was really going on?

In USA Today, Tom Rogan argues Obama’s been living in a “Matrix” of his own making:

Obama’s Matrix is a dream world divorced from courage and facts.

Promises mean little in this world because when they’re broken, Obama just redefines the promise. Take Obama’s “red lines” in Syria. The principle was an explicit clarification that punitive military action would follow Syrian President Bashar Assad’s use of WMDs. What followed was a Russian swindle that broadcast American impotence. Except, in the Obama Matrix, Obama had really won; it was the critics who were mistaken, we who lacked the intellectual sufficiency to grasp the brilliance of Obama’s brain.

But now the White House has a problem. Now, finally, the American people have had enough. Now, reality has encircled the White House.

In the political storm that the health care debacle has reaped, the president and his staff are realizing that at a basic level, the “buck” has objective form. Slowly, they’re recognizing that the shrine of plausible deniability eventually becomes implausible. Whether in business or government, leadership is about more than positive intentions . . . 

Obama’s schedule for this week indicates how he’s going to deal with this problem: By ignoring it. There is nothing on the scheduled explicitly dealing with the continuing problems with the Obamacare rollout. Sure, he’ll probably mention it in passing before Organizing for Action or at the event on the economy, but the tone will probably echo George W. Bush’s “stay the course” Iraq War comments. “Give the tech surge time to work.”

On Monday, the President will welcome the five-time Stanley Cup Champions the Chicago Blackhawks to the White House to honor the team and their 2013 Stanley Cup victory. Following the visit, the President will deliver remarks at an Organizing for Action event.

On Tuesday, the President will travel to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and visit with Wounded Warriors who are being treated at the hospital and their families. The President will also visit the Fisher House, a program that supports military families by welcoming them to stay at the House while their loved one receives specialized medical care.

On Wednesday, the President will travel to Dallas, Texas to participate in DSCC events.

Reminder: The DSCC “event” is a high-dollar fundraiser.

On Thursday, the President will attend meetings at the White House.

On Friday, the President will travel to the New Orleans area for an event on the economy. Later, he will travel to Miami, Florida to participate in DNC and DSCC events.

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