Gloria Borger: Obama’s “No Drama” Credo Led to the ACA Website Disaster

The president should have established a "zone of immunity" for truth-tellers who could deliver the bad news

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U.S. President Barack Obama during a ceremony on Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., on Nov. 11, 2013.

As the story of the Obamacare website fiacso unfolds, senior administration aides tell me that the president is “mad, frustrated and angry.”

Mad that his signature legislative achievement is stuck at the gate, frustrated that he’s running out of time to fix it, and angry that he’s got a second term agenda now going nowhere. He’s so furious, in fact, that he stepped out of character to vent to an assembled group of top aides. “If I had known [about the website problems] ,” the steaming president reportedly said, according to the New York Times, “We could have delayed the website.”

All of which begs the real question: how could he not have known?

It’s a real head-scratcher. Most powerful man in the free world. Most important issue. Most politically explosive, particularly coming on the heels of the government shutdown. Consider the context: Republicans had just tried to defund Obamacare, and they lost in a heap of public humiliation. So the rollout of Obamacare had to be really impressive, because the Republicans had to be proven wrong.

(MOREOne Thing Obamacare Can’t Fix: Bad Addiction Treatment)

And yet, as the dry-runs continued to produce red flags—over and over—the president remained in his steely cocoon. If this were the presidency of George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan, the obvious theories would abound: the chief executive is disengaged. Or incurious. Or worse. But since Obama is none of the above, what gives?

This much is clear, after speaking with both past and present senior administration officials: no one was really in charge, so no one knew for sure how bad the overall picture was. What’s more, and—perhaps most telling—no one wanted to even hint to the president that this techno-savvy administration possibly had a website stuck in, say, 1995. “People don’t like to tell him bad news,” says an ex-White House staffer. “Part of it is the no-drama culture.”

Oh, that. The infamous no-drama Obama credo: no panic, no drama. “No drama is attractive to people, except there are times when people actually should light their hair on fire,” says one former senior administration official. “That would have been a very good thing.”

Indeed. People who have served in top jobs at the White House seem to agree on one thing: a president who wants to get at the truth has to understand the extent of his own isolation. And then establish a zone of immunity for truth-tellers.

That, of course, presumes that the top staff inside the White House knew the full truth. And that probably wasn’t the case. Again, you ask, how can that be? Answer: the operation resembled the proverbial blind-man-and-the-elephant parable: everyone seemed to touch a part of it, but no one could really see the whole picture, or disaster coming right at them.

(MOREAnother False Start For Obamacare)

“It’s not that someone had an envelope with a note in it saying ‘here comes the second term crisis,’ ” says an ex-top White House staffer. “They were thinking there were some bugs, they would fixed, these are smart people.”

They may be smart, but it appears they had no singular leader. No rollout czar. They head health care wonks and tech wonks and political wonks and even a presidential wonk, but no put-it-all-together-and-make-sure-it-all-works wonks. Everyone, it seems, was in his own silo. And that’s where they stayed.

This is a president, says one admirer, “who likes everyone to stay in his lane.” Which begs the question: whose lane was it to say the website wasn’t working? The probability is that the information filtered to a bunch of different people in a bunch of different lanes.

(MOREOnly 106,000 Americans Signed Up for Obamacare in October

Sure, the stay-in-your-lane theory of operation is important to a well-run White House, but here’s the flipside if it’s implemented too literally: if you hear something outside your purview that is bad, you may not want to report it higher. Why? “Everyone thinks if it isn’t in my lane, and I talk about it, I’m being a tattletale,” says one ex-administration official. “That would be discouraged as bad behavior in this current White House.” (An exception, some point out, ex- chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who “encouraged people to contradict each other.” To put it mildly, Rahm was pro-drama.)

Which brings us to the president, who isn’t. And if you aren’t 100 percent sure that the website is a mess—because no one is actually in charge to tell the White House with any certainty—what is there to bring to the president? Reports of some bad tests? Bugs? Fixes that are being made?

“Nobody is trying to create drama, angst and anxiety,” says an ex-White House official. ‘And it’s hard to go in there and say, ‘well, I don’t think this is going to work.'” (Adding to the problem for the president is the self-inflicted wound of his promise that people can keep their health plans.)

So, the irony. All the effort to spare the drama created a huge theatrical mess all of its own. The reviews are lousy, and the unhappy leading man is stewing backstage.

WATCHObamacare: Where Things Stand Now

116 comments
david4021
david4021

This clown couldn't organize a two car parade, although he is apparently qualified to be a community organizer - what ever that is.

Having managed nothing in his life, produced nothing in his life and been responsible for nothing how could he know what to do to manage this massive project ?

The least qualified president in history proves why hope is not a strategy for running anything let alone the most powerful nation on earth. 

Where was Time and other MSM agencies when the election campaign was running, were they asking questions of qualifications ....no. They were chanting 'hope and change' and abdicating their responsibility.



JohnWhitehurst
JohnWhitehurst

And  "The Butcher Of Benghazi " has hopes of giving Billy Cartoon a third term......... See billy likes those interns....... Another "Liar In Chief"  was Billy Cartoon and First Ugly Lady Hildebeast, He  got lower house impeached because  of it..

JohnWhitehurst
JohnWhitehurst

This clown has been in over his head since day one; but you and the MSM gave it too him free>.... No Vetting Period....

  Rhetoric is always the cover used to control the masses to benefit the few... Doesn't much matter if the rhetoric is Socialism, Communism or  Capitalism?  ( Propoganda is Propoganda )

Obama and His administartion is like a Tale of  1000 and 1 nights but the terror ones.. As a matter\ of fact it was taught at Harvard, Google it. May be that  is what this clown mastered in Fairy Tales.

But then again, he seems to have masterd lying more so than any thing else. What degree program does that fall under at Harbard  Ms Borger?

On end: The most vetted person in US History would have done a much better job; at least Honest. You and the MSMs went back to night of conception on her rememeber ?

PaulFrantizek
PaulFrantizek

The whole 'No Drama' line is just propaganda.  Anyone who knows anything about how the world works has always understood that Obama was nothing more than an empty suit.  The establishment ignored it because he was vetted by the same Ivy League institutions they used to get their tickets punched and was indoctrinated in the same identity obsessed, neo-Left ideology.

Real people always saw through his glib, teleprompter-fueled rhetoric and his lack of executive experience was obvious from the first.

FredWallingberg
FredWallingberg

Ms. Borger: Your attempt to minimize and deflect blame from Obama by making his failure in this roll-out to be about drama or a lack of drama is weak and transparent. It seems Ms. Borger that you are afflicted with a similar pathological need to minimize drama that you assert is at the root of the ACA debacle.

Hint: President Obama is the root of the problem and it is not about his penchant to minimize drama - it is about his being a lousy executive manager who is utterly out of touch with the biggest undertaking of the US government in the last 50 years. 

Here's the bottom line Ms. Borger:  

Had President Obama skipped one round of golf per quarter and instead called a meeting of the actual ACA IT Program leaders (program being all projects that make up the "system", which is a whole *lot* more than just "the website", including servers, databases and other software, networks, process development, testing, support, etc., etc.)  he would have *known* long ago that ACA was in trouble; he would have known the program was on track to roll out with 30% to 40% of the system Not. Even. Built. Yet!  

For cripes sake Ms. Borger your heart, mind and loyalties seem to lie not with America and its people but with Barack Obama. This is a time when we need real journalists no afraid or too smitten to raise some serious hell, who will hit them hard, afflict the powerful to defend the weak .. Yet, you choose to kiss the a$$ of the powerful and dump on the weak... 

With due respect Ms. Borger all I can say is: Pull your head out of Obama's arse - as that is obviously not a "zone of immunity for truth-tellers".  

KrystalSmith
KrystalSmith

He is more & more like hitler!! Scary! People better do something fast or we going to go down .... Like obama's plan!

KrystalSmith
KrystalSmith

Why he scared of evil!? That's how evil gets away with crap! Grow some damn balls!!! He needs to get the hell out of the White House! We need someone who is for the people and God!

Mcschweety
Mcschweety

"If you like your plan, ....you're a racist!"

That's the "logic" of Obama's attack dogs.

Mcschweety
Mcschweety

Obamacare is a shovel-ready job for the affirmative action press minions guarding Obama from reality.

Mcschweety
Mcschweety

Obama is dangerously incompetent and power-drunk. The lies used to dupe the nation into voting for him are unforgivable. He also abused his political opponents via the IRS. How is this not breaking the law? How could his 2012 win be legitimate?

Is there anything more intimidating - short of unlawful detention - than having the IRS abuse you on political grounds? He joked about audits several times on camera.

His incompetence isn't small-ball stuff, his mistakes and lack of integrity are directly putting our health, lives, finances, economy, and allies at risk. We're making new enemies and insulting die-hard allies.

Wrecking and deceiving Peter to pay Paul is economic and political suicide.

FreedomFan
FreedomFan

"since Obama is none of the above"

Bwahaha!

More like all of the above: "disengaged & incurious" (lazy, arrogant, mendacious and foolish).  Also BOzo has ZERO experience managing anything and exactly ZERO leadership talent, which involves motivating  people and compromising with them rather than constantly insulting or ignoring them or treating them like they were insignificant children.

Mcschweety
Mcschweety

"This much is clear, after speaking with both past and present senior administration officials: no one was really in charge, so no one knew for sure how bad the overall picture was."

Well, that's a description of the dysfunctional leadership, but make no mistake, Obama was the one in charge, the ONE responsible for leading his "signature" failure. He built that failure with lies, hubris, incompetence, empty promises, false virtue, and liberal progressive ideology, and an army of media minions bent on shielding him from anything more than a soft-pitch question, and certainly no follow-up questions.

Obama's supporters were warned, they doubled down on this failure.

SukieTawdry
SukieTawdry

Never send  a community organizer to do a president's job. Especially a community organizer who's disengaged, incurious and, worse, deeply in over his head.

tjp77
tjp77

So wait, Obama is not, in fact, 'disengaged, or incurious, or worse', despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary... for what reason? An assertion from the author does not make it so... and the reality is that Obama is in deep over his head on this, and has absolutely no idea what's going on. 

Gee, its almost as though electing someone who has had zero executive (or even management) experience to the most important chief executive position in the world, and then allowing him to singlehandedly remake the most complex part of the US economy was maybe not the best idea ever. Who would have thought such a thing?

Oh wait, Republicans. Except they were all racists and dimwits when they suggested that maybe this guy wasn't quite as smart or qualified as the hype surrounding him dictated. 

InformedNow
InformedNow

"If this were the presidency of George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan, the obvious theories would abound: the chief executive is disengaged. Or incurious. Or worse. But since Obama is none of the above, what gives?"

What gives?  Think Race! Disengaged, incurious and worse best describes Obama but for his race, and the fact opposers would be labeled Racist, and like the rest of his life, allows him to skate through his presidency, because he knows he can count on the media to be his Affirmative Action!  Ms. Borger would be best served if she got her head out from Obama's arse!  Lord knows it has to be crowded in there.

peterpiper
peterpiper

Clean up on Aisle 9.  Borger has jumped the shark with this outrageously "inaccurate" comment.  So, according to her, the POS is neither incurious, detached or disengaged?  And on what does she base that conclusion other than her incurable POS infatuation?


"If this were the presidency of George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan, the obvious theories would abound: the chief executive is disengaged. Or incurious. Or worse. But since Obama is none of the above, what gives?"


KCOracle
KCOracle

It also was odd that he chose to again play golf and then go to a basketball game on Sunday.  He has been insulated from criticism for so long he assumes the media will continue to protect him.

Little_Siberia
Little_Siberia

"All of which begs the real question: how could he not have known?"

My thoughts exactly.  

Who would have thought, with his extensive experience playing the back nine, voting present as a legislator, schmoozing with elites in the Harvard School lounge, or stepping out with the Choom Gang during those long hours toiling away as a community organizer, he would not know how to seamlessly reorganize one sixth of the largest economy in the world?

Personally, I'm gobsmacked.

(Query: are the minions of the fourth estate that clueless about  the requisite skill sets to successfully manage large enterprises?)

KCOracle
KCOracle

Ms. Borger's bias is shown by her assumption that President Obama is not "disengaged or incurious."  She then goes on to describe a disengaged and arguably incurious executive. 

Also, people don't listen closely enough to presidents or other politicians when they answer questions.  Obama said "I was not informed directly" that the webside did not work.  Notice the word "directly."  That is the tell that he is not telling the truth when he claims he was not aware of the website problems.   It suggests he was told about it, but decided to proceed anyway.  President Obama's conduct on Obamacare is very dissappointing, regardless of your political affiliation.

rickcaird
rickcaird

No CEO worth his salt would not have been monitoring the progress of a "bet your company" program.  Obama, on the other hand, is not an executive.  He is a frustrated golf pro.

FrankC
FrankC

This is absolutely mindless drivel, and an example of hero-worship run wild.  If Obama is so awesome why has he failed to inspire greatness in any of his followers?  He can't even inspire mediocrity, only failure.

JoePickett
JoePickett

You seem to assume he's a saint and a genius because he has the same views on abortion and taxes as you do. Are you blind?

JoePickett
JoePickett

If this were the presidency of George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan, the obvious theories would abound: the chief executive is disengaged. Or incurious. Or worse. But since Obama is none of the above, what gives?

----

now THAT is a gem. 'Although Obama acts incurious and disengaged, that surely isn't possible given his correct political views. So what is the explanation?" 


Out here in fly over land where we are not sophisticated and all, I'd say if it quacks, then it's probably a duck.

JeffPatterson
JeffPatterson

 "If this were the presidency of George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan, the obvious theories would abound: the chief executive is disengaged. Or incurious. Or worse. But since Obama is none of the above, what gives?"

Seriously ?  

The problem is staring you and most in your "profession" in the face every time you look in a mirror.  You assume that Obama is smart, you assume he knows what he's talking about (even though there is no empirical evidence of such) and you were incurious as to how more people would be covered, coverage would be better AND cost would be less.  Anyone with a single business class or high school physics would know that this made no sense.

Politicians are known for stretching the truth.  Very few of your group even tried to sort out the facts early on.  It was easier to brand anyone who disagreed as racist or stupid.  Well, reality can only be ignored for so long.  The media is as responsible if not more so than the Democrats who created this mess.  The media likes to talk about modifying the second amendment to restrict guns.  Maybe we need to talk about modifying the first amendment to remove the protections afforded the press.  It's time for you to be responsible for the mess you facilitated by your malpractice.

blofeld42
blofeld42

"the obvious theories would abound: the chief executive is disengaged. Or incurious. Or worse. But since Obama is none of the above, what gives?"

On what basis does the author claim "none of the above?" He routinely claims to be surprised about stuff his own administration is doing. Isn't that sort of the definition of disengaged?

Speedrcr
Speedrcr

"a "zone of immunity" for truth-tellers"

Man, you just can;t make this stuff up. Howz about a "Zone of competence"?

jtLOL
jtLOL

"If this were the presidency of George W. Bus or Ronald Reagan, the obvious theories would abound: the chief executive is disengaged. Or incurious. Or worse. But since Obama is none of the above, what gives?"

I see what you did there.

funkengruven
funkengruven

In short, who will be the one to tell the emperor that he has no clothes?  Evidently not the media.

Abu-al-perrysburgi
Abu-al-perrysburgi

No one was in chargte?  Gee whiz, I thought the HHS Secretary was in charge?  If not, what is she in charge of? 

esox42
esox42

Has there EVER been a more justifiable case for schadenfreude?

#libtardedamerica
#libtardedamerica

"All of which begs the real question: how could he not have known?"

because he's incompetent and has surrounded himself with people who will never say "no" to him, lest the be forced to stop worshiping at the temple of baraquaman 


rotani0926
rotani0926

Gloria, please remember in the future that the job of the President is in the executive branch, not the teleprompter.  CNN is tanking and only has decent viewership when OJ, Anthony, Zimmerman are in the news.  This article is absolutely shameful in defending Obama, he's too cool, cerebral, aloof to be bothered by the actual duties he swore an oath to perform.  He's worse than an empty suit, he has very bad ideas for our nation and a duplicit press corps to help him shill to all the takers that they're entitled to all the trappings of a good life for free.

DayCrime
DayCrime

If this were the presidency of George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan, the obvious theories would abound: the chief executive is disengaged. Or incurious. Or worse. But since Obama is none of the above, what gives?  

Good heavens Gloria.  Is there a better example of media bias than these three sentences.  Other than your idolatry of Dear Leader, what evidence do you have that Obama is NOT disengaged, incurious, or worse?  Why do you give him a pass?  Why to you make an outright assertion that Obama is "none of these."  Cut me a break.   

segesta65
segesta65

I'll ignore the misuse of the term "beg the question" but Borger still is of the 2007 mindset that Barack Obama is smart, hardworking and politically savvy. In fact, there is little evidence that he's any of these things.

TallDave7
TallDave7

" All of which begs the real question: how could he not have known? It’s a real head-scratcher."

No it isn't.  He's incompetent.  Always has been, since the days he was writing investment brochures for a small finance outfit.  Everyone who ever worked with him agrees -- he's an arrogant timewaster, not a doer.
Barack Obama's only real skill is reading baldfaced lies off a teleprompter to an adoring press.  That's it.  It was enough to get him elected twice, but not enough to actually DO anything.

jmmjr49er
jmmjr49er

Mr. Obama is a delicate flower. 

Mcschweety
Mcschweety

Last year I was scorched 10 ways to Sunday for gently suggesting Obama lacked key leadership skills. Specifically, he has no sense of triage, no strategic sense of building key alliances and broader buy-in via compromise.

Mcschweety
Mcschweety

Hey, be quiet. Obama might hear us speak truth that doesn't harmonize with his carefully tended bubble of denial.

Mcschweety
Mcschweety

...I feel like she's playing a coy game of sarcasm / not sarcasm. She has plausible deniability to take this either way, depending on who asks.

Up to that point she describes the failures as the affirmative action kid-glovery, then she bails out.

Mcschweety
Mcschweety

You don't understand....liberal progressivism is so smart and energized by unicorn glitter that it can't fail.....unless George Bush is in-country. He's democrat kryptonite.

Mcschweety
Mcschweety

I noticed that as well. After 5 years of this man parsing words and dodging accountability for anything, I've learned to parse every syllable.

Mcschweety
Mcschweety

I think we'd be money ahead if we just swamped him with free golf rounds and got things done without him.

jiminnyc
jiminnyc

@segesta65 Certainly there's no evidence of him being any of the above. He'll leave office with one accomplishment -- a lower golf score.

JohnWhitehurst
JohnWhitehurst

@jmmjr49er      A Bigoted Liar he is without question  plus:  

    Buffalo rat. Or spelled Buffa low RAT. One that follows blindly, Heard mentality, Good at chanting real good, Normally Low IQ 70 or less ( See Buffa low RAT) users, takers, waiting for handouts, votes for more dole, some may even seem dead- trance like state, normally no ID and want none; so say their superiors,often vote more than once in Presidential and local elections, good at name calling, not one to have a coherent conversation with, stubborn to the point of being a moron, one that would eat excrement if the current (POTUS) Black Messiah, said so! Follows idiots off cliffs. like Obama the Liar In Chief.

Re

JohnWhitehurst
JohnWhitehurst

@Mcschweety  Here is why she does it......... "

Buffalo rat.  Or spelled Buffa low RAT. One that follows blindly, Heard mentality, Good at chanting real good, Normally Low IQ 70 or less ( See Buffa low RAT) users, takers, waiting for handouts, votes for more dole, some may even seem dead- trance like state, normally no ID and want none; so say their superiors,often vote more than once in Presidential and local elections, good at name calling, not one to have a coherent conversation with, stubborn to the point of being a moron, one that would eat excrement if the current (POTUS) Black Messiah, said so!  Follows idiots off cliffs. like Obama the Liar In Chief.