Con: Sebelius' clueless incompetence deserves a one-way ticket to Topeka
EDITOR'S NOTE: The writer is addressing the question, “Should Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius go?”
WASHINGTON -- Our Botcher-in-Chief is searching for a fall gal to blame for the continuing train wreck that is Obamacare, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius seems the likely pick.
Sebelius, the former Democratic governor of Kansas, recently testified at the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing where Republicans and even some Democrats prodded her about why Healthcare.gov and Obamacare itself seem to be on life support.
With her testimony, Sebelius indicated a willingness to cooperate with Congress, thus muting charges that the Obama administration was engaged in a wholesale cover-up.
Even with that testimony, Sebelius, as she freely admitted, is stuck with ownership of the Obamacare website fiasco. If historical standards for incompetence are still in play, Sebelius already would be back in Topeka.
Sebelius has had a strange disdain for Capitol Hill when you consider that her father, John Gilligan, was a member of the House before becoming a Democratic governor of Ohio.
Until recently Sebelius not only was turning a cold shoulder to Congress but to the Fourth Estate, as well.
A few weeks ago, The Associated Press obtained an internal memo from Sebelius' department stating the administration expected to have 500,000 enrolled in Obamacare by the end of October and 3.3 million by the end of the year.
Responding to an AP query about those expectations, Sebelius' HHS declined to answer but did issue a statement saying that the administration “has not set monthly enrollment targets.”
Of course, the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act passed the Democratic-controlled House and Senate in March of 2010, so Sebelius has had some 42 months to get its website up and rolling.
One problem, of course, is that no one in Congress actually knew what was in Obama's signature legislative achievement.
As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously told her colleagues shortly before the vote, “We have to pass the bill so you can find out what's it.”
Chances are good that Sebelius, like many of her Democratic colleagues on Capitol Hill, hasn't read all 906 pages of the Affordable Care Act or the 2,202 small-print pages of regulations it has begot thus far.
Her unfamiliarity and sometime confusion is passing strange because Sebelius—more than any other administration official—has been the designated Top Tub Thumper for Obamacare. She has crisscrossed the country speaking to carefully selected audiences and friendly talk show hosts and had dozens of op-ed published in newspapers around the country.
Unfortunately for Sebelius, a likely majority of the Americans, warily waiting for Obamacare to take control of one-sixth of the world's leading economy, now view her performance as the nation's chief health advocate as an unmitigated disaster.
As anger and frustration have mounted over the inaccessibility of the health care website, Sebelius has become the target of catcalls, jeering jokes on late-night talk shows and increasing shouts from both sides of the aisle for her resignation. It's difficult for Americans to have much faith in someone who can't oversee the construction of a website—in an age when thousands of sites are successfully launched each day.
“It's tough to take these shots,” Sebelius said a few days ago. “But I will take them until we get this right.”
Taxpayers may be frowning at the thought. But somewhere in Guilford Cemetery in Surrey, England, the skeleton of Lewis Carroll must be grinning—Alice in Wonderland lives on.
Bogdan Kipling is a Canadian journalist in Washington. Readers may write to him in care of the National Press Club front desk, 13th floor, 529 14th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20045.