Over the weekend, Amy Goldstein and Juliet Eilperin reported that much of Obamacare’s flaws were not due to the president’s lack of attention or focus:
On the balmy Sunday evening of March 21, 2010, hours after the bill had been enacted, the president had stood on the Truman Balcony for a champagne toast with his weary staff and put them on notice: They needed to get started on carrying out the law the very next morning. It was not ready even though, for months beginning last spring, the president emphasized the exchange’s central importance during regular staff meetings to monitor progress. No matter which aspects of the sprawling law had been that day’s focus, the official said, Obama invariably ended the meeting the same way: “All of that is well and good, but if the Web site doesn’t work, nothing else matters.”
But they also report that healthcare.gov was “was hampered by the White House’s political sensitivity to Republican hatred of the law — sensitivity so intense that the president’s aides ordered that some work be slowed down or remain secret for fear of feeding the opposition.” Andrew Sprung sees the logic of this strategy:
The dominant charge in the incompetence indictment is that political considerations drove policy. But in this case, the “political considerations” consisted of sidestepping sabotage or trying to avoid providing new fodder for it. Perhaps in some cases, fear of taking propaganda hits should not have trumped operational considerations. But that’s easy to charge in hindsight. And the “political” considerations — evading sabotage — were in service of getting the law implemented well.
… [I]t seems clear to me that Obama should have drilled deeper into the administrative structure of the website-building project. Charges that the tech project did not have the right leadership or management structure seem well founded. Perhaps the responsibility for failing to find that leadership can be laid at the doorstep of DeParle, or Lambrew, or Sebelius, or Obama, or all of the above. But the decisions that Goldstein and Eilperin detail are not on their faces irrational. The damage done to the law and to the country by Republican sabotage, on the other hand, is unmistakable.
Has there ever been a law in the history of the country as aggressively resisted by the political opposition as this? Republicans didn’t do this with Social Security. Most of them voted for Social Security. They didn’t do it with Medicare. They, and the Southern racists who were then Democrats, didn’t do it with civil rights. There was a fair amount of on-the-ground opposition to that, but it wasn’t orchestrated at the national level like this was. And when the Voting Rights Act was passed the year after civil rights, Southern states in fact fell in line quickly. Check the black voter-registration figures from Southern states in 1964 versus 1966. It’s pretty amazing.
No, to find obstinacy like this, you have to go back, yes, to the pre-Civil War era. The tariff of 1828, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which led to the civil war in “Bloody Kansas” and ultimately to the Civil War itself.