Kathleen Sebelius

Kathleen Sebelius, Obamacare's Worst Flack

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Obama administration Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius submitted her resignation yesterday, as Scott Shackford already noted. For the last four years, Sebelius has been the face of Obamacare, and the New York Times story on her exit strongly implies that, while she wasn't technically fired, she left at least in part because the administration had lost confidence in her ability to deliver following the spectacularly botched rollout of Healthcare.gov last fall.

Even the statement by White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough on her replacement, current Office of Management and Budget Chief Syliva Burwell, sounds more like a knife in the back than a fond farewell. "The president wants to make sure we have a proven manager and relentless implementer in the job over there, which is why he is going to nominate Sylvia," McDonough said on Thursday.

The clear implication here is that Sebelius was none of those things. And certainly, judging by last October's botched launch of the federal health insurance exchange, it's an easy and obvious judgment to make about her work for the administration.

But it's also worth asking what Sebelius really did as HHS Secretary. She was widely known as the front person for Obamacare, but much of the administrative effort was actually run through Nancy-Ann DeParle, who until last January ran the White House Office of Health Reform.

Sebelius wasn't Obama's first choice for the job. The president initially nominated Tom Daschle, a move that he eventually admitted was a screw-up when reports surfaced that Daschle owed $140,000 in back taxes.

From the outside, then, Sebelius mostly seemed to play the role of a glorified flack for the president's health care policies, dutifully making the rounds and mouthing talking points as necessary. And she wasn't even good at this. Her responses at congressional hearings were so canned that they might have come from a phone-mail system, and they occasionally revealed that she didn't quite know what she was talking about. Her speeches were ho-hum pablum, when they weren't being quietly edited after the fact due to unverifiable claims.When she went on offense during the 2012 campaign, she was often wrong or misleading. She engaged in ethically dubious fundraising for outside groups that support Obamacare.

In the last few months, as a spokesperson for the health law, she's made a fool of herself and the administration. She kicked off the launch of the exchanges with a disastrous, embarrassing interview on The Daily Show, hosted insurance sign-up events where no one could sign up for insurance, and responded to basic questions about Obamacare's continued poor poll numbers with blank silence. Fitting, I suppose, given that Sebelius has never been one for worthwhile answers.

Maybe—probably—Sebelius doesn't deserve all or even the majority of the blame for the administration's health law screw-ups. But regardless of her impact, as the most visible official associated with the law aside from President Obama, she deserved to be shown the door—or at least be given the opportunity to show herself out. 

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  1. tell me again why appointing career politicians to oversee agencies whose workings they know nothing about is a good idea.

    1. If you are not qualified to get an entry level position at an agency, don’t worry. You can just go into politics and get appointed to run that agency.

  2. …she left at least in part because the administration had lost confidence in her ability to deliver following the spectacularly botched rollout of Healthcare.gov last fall.

    I don’t know who could have adequately polished that huge turd Congressional Democrats dumped on her desk.

    1. ^^THIS^^

      I think people should resist the temptation to bash Sibelius too much. The problem was the idiotic law and the equally idiotic President. I don’t see how anyone could have made things any better without actively working to sabotage it.

      1. She’s paid in tax dollars to be the president’s official propaganda puppet on the subject of his massive healthcare fuckup. She deserves contempt, but no more than routine contempt for a flack or shill.

        If she were a man I’d have an easier time reveling in her resignation. Instead I just feel slightly embarrassed for her.

        #patriarchy

        1. She totally deserves contempt. She is a lying hack who participated in this debacle. People should not however blame her so much that they let the rest of the administration off.

          I have little doubt the plan is to blame everything on her to excuse the rest of them. We shouldn’t let them do that.

          1. That’s probably true, but it’s also going to fail as this POS law keeps screwing things up.

          2. I’m surprised they got rid of her before the midterms.

            I thought they’d keep her around at least until then, like keeping Janet Reno around after Waco.

            Mistakes? What are you talkin’ about? We didn’t make any stinkin’ mistakes!

            Incidentally, after the midterms, the ObamaGloves come off. Obama won’t have anything left to lose.

            We’re gonna see the Obama we saw the first two years he was in office–the one from before the Tea Party gave Republicans control of the House.

            He won’t have any more reasons to hold back. I hope the Republicans take the Senate. Otherwise, Obama can still do some serious damage his last two years in office.

            1. IF the Republicans own the Congress, what is Obama going to do? He had 59 votes in the Senate and a huge majority in the House in his first two years and managed to pass Obamacare, Dodd Frank, and a giant porkulus. Obamacare is really the only significant bill and he just shoved that down the country’s throat. Dodd Frank was passing wall street regulation in the wake of a financial collapse, not exactly heavy lifting. Any President R or D can get the Congress to spend money.

              If the Republicans take the Senate, the last two years are going to be tragic comedy. Obama will take the gloves off and keep damaging the Democratic brand and more and more Dems will abandon him. You will end up seeing congress overriding his vetoes and him stamping his foot in petulant and powerless anger.

              1. I hope so, John.

                But the only thing suppressing Obama’s class war now is fear of how it would effect him in the midterms.

                He may not be able to do much, but he’ll try. He’ll do ever single thing he can to ignite a class war using everything he’s got to fight with, and we better hope that the Republicans take the Senate to mute that.

                He won’t have midterms or reelection to worry about anymore. He won’t be a lame duck, he’ll be untethered to reality.

                He isn’t going to go quietly.

                1. He may not be able to do much, but he’ll try. He’ll do ever single thing he can to ignite a class war using everything he’s got to fight with, and we better hope that the Republicans take the Senate to mute that.

                  That is not a bad guess as to what he will do. If he does that, he will scare the living hell out of the suburban left leaning voters that the Democrats depend on.

                  The Democrats are the party of the gentry left. The party of college professors, trust fund babies, tech millionaires, upper middle class government employees and such. The class warfare stuff is fun and games as long as it doesn’t amount to anything beyond making the gentry left feel good about themselves for being so understanding and progressive. If Obama ever managed to get real class warfare going, those people would pee their pants and turn on the Democrats in a heartbeat. Not every Republican is some southern SOCON. The ones in the Northeast or generally big government law and order assholes like Peter King. If we had real class warfare in this country, the gentry liberals would vote for people like King I guarantee you.

                  Good luck to the Democrats in 2016 if the major election issue is how to stop the riots and rampaging mobs. Pat Buchanan could win the Presidency under those circumstances.

    2. Nobody with a brain would want such a job.

      There were, and will remain, plenty of people willing to fill the position.

  3. The worst failures of ObamaCare are yet to come, and when they happen, Obama and the left will put the blame on whomever is nominally in charge of the program, then, too.

    That’s the punchline to every progressive joke, “Everything would be fine if only we had the right leadership!”

    If the bus is broken, if the steering is locked, and if the brakes don’t work, then the solution isn’t to switch bus drivers. We need to get off the damn bus.

    The only leadership change we need is getting the progressives out of the White House. Things may not improve with a Republican, but they’ll just keep getting worse so long as there’s a progressive in the White House.

    1. Things will continue getting worth so long as activist presidents aren’t reigned in by their Congressional rivals. The GOP takes a lot of flack for obstructionism under Obama, but as far as I can tell they’ve managed to make spectacles of themselves for a few weeks before ignobly capitulating. They’re easy scapegoats. The presidency should be an extension of the people’s will, or at least confined by it, not its arbiter.

      1. reigned reined

      2. They can’t do anything substantial so long as there’s a progressive in the White House, whose signature they need in order to pass or reform any law.

        They’ll have more leverage if they take the Senate, but as it stands now, the Republicans control one-third of the government. There’s only so much you can do with that.

    2. That is an interesting way to think about it Ken. My reaction to this has been that she is resigning and will not be blamed for everything. Maybe that is wrong though. You bring up the opposite. Maybe she wasn’t fired but really is getting out because she doesn’t want to get the blame for the disasters to come.

      She could be the tar baby. But she also could be the great might have been. She can now claim “hey this thing would be going better if I had stayed and the new guy hadn’t fucked it up.”

      Sibelius is an idiot but also has the feral sense of political survival all these people seem to have. It is possible that she is smart enough to leave before things get really bad. HMM

      1. Hillary got out for similar reasons, too. Sure, it was time for her to start concentrating on her campaign, if she was going to run, but another Benghazi could happen at any moment and probably will!

        I have a friend in the UK who had a biopsy yesterday. The doctors seemed to be pretty worried about it.

        They said she has to wait four to six weeks to get the test results!

        Just wait ’til the rationing really kicks in here in the U.S. Who wants to be in charge when that happens?

        Who are they gonna blame when getting more than 7.5 million people signed up didn’t avert disaster after all?

        You know, that 7.5 million number was just a statistic. Making that statistic avert disaster is the where the rubber meets the road, and there’s no way this socialist model is going to outperform what we had when people were freer to make their own choices.

        This is going to end in tears. Their only hope, long term, is to make people accept a new normal in the name of self-sacrifice.

        1. “Their only hope, long term, is to make people accept a new normal in the name of self-sacrifice.”

          And who wants to be in charge of that?

          1. There will be thousands of asshole volunteers.

        2. Their only hope, long term, is to make people accept a new normal in the name of self-sacrifice.

          That is exactly what they plan to do. That is what they are doing with the economy. Hey, capitalism is just terrible and 70s era labor participation rates and tens of millions of long term unemployed are just the best we can do. Healthcare will be the same story.

          This is why the Republicans need to get away from the culture war and nominate an optimist. Reagan destroyed those assholes in the 1980s because he was an optimist. He played to people’s pride and ego by saying “the status quo is not good enough you and we can do better”. When you have that message, the liberal message of gloom and doom and lowered expectations won’t sell. This is why the progs wage a constant culture war. They have to. Without the culture war they are left selling long poverty and misery.

  4. “Come over here to the window for a minute, Kathleen. Look down there, and tell me what you see.”

    *shoves Sebelius out of window”

    “I accept your resignation, and will make the appropriate announcements. Thank you for all your hard work.”

  5. The real reason for her resignation: Almanian gave her a better offer.

  6. Even the statement by White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough on her replacement, current Office of Management and Budget Chief Syliva Burwell, sounds more like a knife in the back than a fond farewell. “The president wants to make sure we have a proven manager and relentless implementer in the job over there, which is why he is going to nominate Sylvia,” McDonough said on Thursday.

    We don’t know whose fault it was, but we know whose fault it wasn’t.

    1. It will never happen but I would pay money to see someone ask the Chocolate Nixon to list the mistakes he has made in office besides just not selling his genius well enough. The awkward silence and hmms and angry looks would be priceless.

    2. The president wants to make sure we have a proven manager and relentless implementer in the job over there number massager and the OMB head fits the role perfectly. That kind of experience will help explain away the shitty enrollments, higher than expected costs, and overall ill effects of Obamacare.

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