Saturday, November 16, 2013

No Clothes: White House Soul-Searches as Errors Mount

At WSJ, "After Summers, Syria and Health-Care Fiascoes, a Senior Aide Says Aim Is to Be More Organized 'Going Forward'":

No Clothes photo 225__420x_obama-no-clothes_zps145bf80d.jpg
The White House has begun a quiet self-assessment in the wake of the troubled health-law launch, recognizing that administration officials missed warning signs and put too much trust in their management practices in implementing a program that is the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's domestic legacy.

White House officials want to learn how the rollout flopped, despite what they believed had been sufficient planning, preparation and attention to the issue. Although not a full-bore "forensic" inquiry into what went wrong, the administration aims to organize itself so that "going forward, we don't have these problems," a senior White House official said in an interview.

More details about managerial shortcomings emerged Friday, when a House committee released emails showing that staff who were working on the HealthCare.gov website worried the project was off track months before the Oct. 1 launch.

Mr. Obama said at a news conference Thursday that he hadn't been "informed directly that the website would not be working the way it was supposed to."

"Had I been informed, I wouldn't be going out saying, 'Boy, this is going to be great,' " he said.

As he struggles to implement the health-care law, Mr. Obama faces one of the most serious crises of his presidency, with consequences for his long-term agenda and his place in history. Very recent polls show people are less apt to take him at his word. His credibility was damaged by his repeated promise that people who liked their coverage could keep it under the 2010 health law, a claim that turned out not to be true.

The health-law problems expose what some Democratic allies of the White House see as a troubling pattern: Mr. Obama's struggles with executing policy.

On several occasions this year, he has misread the mood in Congress.

For months, he had allowed Lawrence Summers's name to be floated as a potential Federal Reserve chairman, even though Senate Democrats were rebelling at the prospect of confirming him. In September, Mr. Summers wound up withdrawing his name from consideration after a number of Democrats came forward to say they wouldn't support him.

Mr. Obama later nominated Janet Yellen, who has faced an easier path to confirmation.

Over the summer, Mr. Obama signaled that he was prepared to launch a military strike against the Syrian regime over the use of chemical weapons. Then, after the British Parliament declined to back military intervention, he pulled back, saying he would ask Congress to authorize the strike. Lawmakers balked, and it was clear Mr. Obama would have lost a vote.

Later, Syria agreed to dismantle the chemical weapons. But the lack of support for Mr. Obama's policy in the House and Senate showed a disconnect between the White House and its allies on Capitol Hill.

Top White House officials had been confident they could get a favorable outcome on the use of force in Syria, which turned out to be a miscalculation.

Meanwhile, outside groups affected by White House policy have complained they weren't consulted on important White House decisions. Health care offers a fresh example.

Hoping to defuse anger among people who have lost health coverage, Mr. Obama announced Thursday that insurers would be able to extend for one year policies that had been canceled because they didn't meet coverage standards established by the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

The Obama administration is asking insurance commissioners to allow companies in their states to take that step. But an association representing state insurance commissioners said the White House didn't consult with it before announcing its new policy. After the president spoke, the association released a statement saying it would be difficult to put into effect the changes laid out by Mr. Obama.

"I'm sure he has all sorts of reasons he made the decision he made,'' said Monica Lindeen, vice president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. "But from a practical standpoint, for commissioners all across this country, it really did turn our lives upside down."
And see Victor Davis Hanson, "America’s Wilderness Years":
Most two-term presidents leave some sort of legacy. Ronald Reagan won the Cold War. George W. Bush prevented another 9/11, and constructed an anti-terrorism protocol that even his critical successor embraced and often expanded.

Even our one-term presidents have achieved something. JFK got Soviet missiles out of Cuba. LBJ oversaw passage of civil rights legislation. Jerry Ford restored integrity to the White House. Jimmy Carter finally issued the Carter Doctrine to stop Soviet expansionism at the Persian Gulf. George H.W. Bush won the first Persian Gulf War and got Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait.

And even our impeached or abdicated presidents at least left some positive legacies. Richard Nixon went to China and enacted d├ętente. Bill Clinton through compromise balanced the budget and incurred budget surpluses.

But Barack Obama?

The economy is anemic. We have never seen unemployment dip below 7% in the last five years. Real jobless rates that include those who have given up on working are perhaps double the official figures. By 2017 the national debt will have doubled. The stimulus did not lead to a “summer of recovery.”

Near zero interest rates, vast expansions in the money supply, and huge increases in federal redistributive payouts have not jump-started anything — except to end entirely the cherished American idea of receiving a modest interest rate on lifelong passbook savings accounts. The middle class has been squeezed as never before, lacking the administration’s romance of the poor and its crony-capitalism connections of the rich.

Even with new taxes on top incomes, the end of the war in Iraq, sequestration, and a supposed recovery, the 2013 annual deficit will still near $700 billion — a bragging point for Obama, given that this is the first year of his administration that we did not borrow over $1 trillion. To the degree that Obama has made headway — the sequestration forcing cuts and reducing the 2013 budget deficit somewhat, or gas and oil production soaring on private lands — success has come despite his opposition, not because of his advocacy.

Not since Richard Nixon have we seen such a record of scandal. The disclosures of wrong-doing and cover-ups now come so often that they become mind-numbing — Fast and Furious, Benghazi, and the IRS, AP, NSA, and ACA messes. After the president’s flips and flops over Syria, confusion about Egypt, and leading from behind in Libya, no one believes him — which is why also that no one was surprised at home about the untruth about Obamacare. In such a context, misdeeds like the Pigford payouts or Solyndra do not even raise an eyebrow.

Foreign policy is likewise in shambles...
Still more at the link.

The emperor has no clothes.

IMAGE CREDIT: iMAKSIM.

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