Obamacare, Executive Nonresponsibility, and the Limbaugh Theorem

Remember the 2010 BP oil spill? The oil geyser in the Gulf of Mexico threatened the environment, hurt tourism in the area and led to the failure of businesses.

At the time the administration was aggressive in assigning blame and ratcheted up the rhetoric against BP. From the Christian Science Monitor:

“White House press secretary Robert Gibbs endorsed the language of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who had used graphic tough-guy imagery in talk-show appearances Sunday. “Our job basically is to keep the boot on the neck of British Petroleum,” Secretary Salazar said, citing the company that leased the rig.”

The president went a step further and took BP CEO Tony Hayward to task. “He wouldn’t be working for me after any of those statements,” said the president of Hayward’s comments.

Heated words and butt kicking aside, it is understandable that the leader of an organization is responsible for its mistakes. Whether Hayward knew about the problems that led to the spill was irrelevant. He was in charge and had to accept responsibility and work to correct the problem.

Which brings us to Obamacare. After the first week 99.6% of healthcare.gov visitors did not enroll in the program. Of the nearly ten million visitors to the site only 36,000 managed to complete the process. Users were stymied by a site that was unresponsive and tended to fail part of the way into the process.

On October 21st the president addressed these and other issues during an appearance at the White House Rose Garden. The speech was billed as an honest look by the president at issues with the implementation of the health care law. Instead it looked closer to a pep talk.

CNN: Obama: No ‘sugarcoating’ problems with health website

The president was introduced by Janice Baker, the first person in Delaware to complete the enrollment process. He spoke about successes so far and then addressed the website’s technical issues. President Obama said that a team of specialists from the private sector had been called in to help. The president said that the site had not worked as smoothly as it was supposed to and that “nobody’s more frustrated by that than I am.”

See what he just did there? Could anyone fault Tony Hayward for thinking the same thing three years ago?

The problem is that while Hayward had to react to an unexpected disaster, the president is in a mess of his own making. There were warning signs prior to launch that the site was not ready for the public. Congressional Republicans requested a one year delay of the individual mandate to accompany the same delay for businesses. If the president had accepted this offer the roll-out could have begun with far less pressure and stood a better chance of success.

The president was adamant that he would not negotiate the terms of the health care law in the run up to the government shutdown. He had an opportunity to appear generous and agree with Republican requests while at the same time obscuring problems with the coming website launch.

The president is in charge. The Department of Health and Human Services, which is tasked with implementing the health care law and its website,  is part of the executive branch. Wherever it was that the failure occurred, the president is ultimately responsible for the success or failure of his subordinates. And now he claims to be the person most frustrated by the situation.

If you suspect you’ve heard this song before, it’s not deja vu. This is but the latest appearance of a phenomenon explained by the Limbaugh Theorem. Here is the essence of the theorem straight from the source:

“He’s never seen as governing. Obama is always seen opposing everything that’s happening, even the things he is causing to happen. He is on a perpetual campaign.”


These problems are just happening and the president is just as upset as everyone else is about them. Don’t worry though, the technicians are on the way.

That’s the important part of the story. Right?

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