‘Whatever’ are you babbling about, Kathleen Sebelius?
By John Podhoretz
October 31, 2013 | 4:48am
For a moment Wednesday morning, the person in charge of ObamaCare — not to mention the largest and most expensive Cabinet department in the United States and, therefore, the world — turned into a frustrated teenager.
Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of Health and Human Services, was undergoing a grilling from a Republican congressman over whether President Obama bore responsibility for the failures of his health-care rollout. She said it was her fault. He said Obama was her boss and she reported to Obama, so wasn’t it his fault, too?
To which Sebelius responded thusly: “Um . . . You clearly . . . Uh . . . Whatever.”
It was like a line straight out of Tina Fey’s screenplay for the movie “Mean Girls.” You could almost see Sebelius, in her head, taking her thumb and forefinger and splaying them at 90-degree angles to make the “L” for “loser” sign at the congressman.
A few minutes earlier, she let drop that, by her calculations, the administration had spent $118 million on the HealthCare.gov Web site — you know, the one that isn’t working at all, the central tool in the federal government’s administration of its new health-care plan.
Another Republican asked her who was to blame for the waste of that $118 million — was it an official named Michelle Snyder? “Excuse me, congresswoman,” Sebelius replied. “Michelle Snyder is not responsible for the debacle. Hold me accountable for the debacle. I’m responsible.”
To which the obvious comeback ought to have been:
OK, you say you’re the official we must hold accountable for a debacle in which $118 million was basically set afire and burned into the air. That’s an ungodly amount of taxpayer money, Mrs. Sebelius. Why are you even testifying, ma’am? Why haven’t you resigned?
Resigning would not only be the honorable thing to do — it would be the only logical thing to do.
Logically, you simply can’t tell the world you’re to blame for the fact that $118 million of taxpayer money was entirely wasted and then continue on in your highfalutin job as though nothing bad had happened.
Maybe — maybe — you could argue you should stay just to help clean up the mess you had made and then surrender the job to someone else. But you can’t keep doing it — not after a disaster like that. Right?
For the record, until she spoke those words yesterday, I did not think Sebelius should resign. I don’t believe public servants in the midst of controversies should be viewed as useful political sacrifices to propitiate angry political gods.
But after she said that she was responsible and directly accountable for the wasting of $118 million, it is utterly dumbfounding that she can continue to serve as Health and Human Services secretary for one more moment.
>But in Barack Obama’s Washington, “taking responsibility” doesn’t mean what it means elsewhere.
When the officials who serve Obama say they are to be held accountable, what they actually mean is that they are willing to take the heat and absorb blame that might otherwise attach to the president himself.
By doing so, by serving as scapegoats and whipping dogs in the arena of public opinion, they demonstrate their fealty to him above all. And that fealty will be rewarded by loyalty in return.
When Hillary Clinton took responsibility for the killings of four Americans in Benghazi as she began to transition out of the administration, her departure became the occasion for a bizarre joint interview with Obama on “60 Minutes,” in which the president all but anointed her his successor.
Remember that, even as she was taking responsibility, Clinton notoriously yelled at a Senate hearing looking into circumstances that preceded the slaughter of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and others: “What difference, at this point, does it make?”
In the case of Sebelius, we’re told (by Matthew Cooper of National Journal, among others) that the president has given no thought to firing Sebelius, who was an early supporter of his in 2008 — and that he couldn’t do so anyway, because he’d have a devil of a time getting a replacement through a confirmation hearing.
What’s the diff.