I just had an email conversation with one of our editors about the principles of headline writing, and it brought up an unrelated subject that deserves a brief blog post of its own. The question is: Just how pissed off should liberals be at President Obama for the massive FUBAR of the Obamacare website rollout?
I’d say the answer is pretty pissed off. Sure, there were issues he couldn’t control. Federal procurement rules are what they are. Republican resistance made the job bigger than anyone had predicted. Funding had to be scrounged up because Congress wouldn’t allocate the money.
But look: Anyone who’s worked in or around government for more than a few years knows that big IT projects are black holes. They’re always late. They never work. And surprisingly often, they’re epic catastrophes, projects so screwed up they literally have to be completely abandoned after years of work. That’s just baked into the cake.
Like it or not, this means that everyone should have known that the website was a huge potential point of failure. In fact, not just a potential point of failure, but a highly likely point of failure. You don’t need to have a background in IT to know that, just a background in watching projects like these over the years. And since the website was obviously so central to the overall success of Obamacare, that means it should have gotten lots of presidential mindshare. But as near as I can tell, it didn’t. It just got a routine amount of White House oversight.
That would have been fine for most IT projects. The president can’t oversee them all, and some proportion are going to be disasters. But this wasn’t “most” projects. This project was a key component of what’s obviously going to be the biggest legacy of his presidency. Routine oversight wasn’t enough.
So yeah, this is a huge black mark on Obama. He should have known what was at stake in having a competently managed rollout, but apparently he didn’t. He blew it.