This needs to be filed in your Department of No Duh file:
Former administration officials and Democratic operatives say President Obama is ill-served by his current White House staff and must reboot his second term team following the disastrous ObamaCare rollout.
First-term insiders argue the White House’s weakness was defined by a lack of preparedness, messaging blunders and failure to keep the president informed.
It’s not just that. The second term utterly reeks of incompetence (uh, oh, here come the emails saying I get money from the Koch Brothers but they’re late with the check, I guess, just as is George Soros, who angry right winters say gives TMV money). And, even worst: of virtual political negligence. Immediately after the government-shut down, all the conventional wisdom had been thrown out the window: hey, now it looks like the Democrats could possible re-take the House. The party is on the run. How will it recuperate?
Now it appears as if Obama & Co have made it harder for New Deal, Great Society type programs to be enacted in the future because they have given conservative GOPers what they lacked in the past: authentic, fact-based ammunition that could be used against what Democrats promise and what Democrats deliver.
They say Obama’s team lacks depth after the departures of longtime advisers David Axelrod, David Plouffe, Robert Gibbs and Patrick Gaspard, and suggest new people must be brought on.
The original team was of the ilk that won Obama the White House: people who could set goals an implement it. The current White House seems as if it could set and meet a goal if it was a foot away on the soccer field.
“You basically have [White House senior adviser Dan] Pfeiffer and [deputy chief of staff] Rob Nabors running the show politically, and that’s it,” one former administration official said.
It often seems like its Michele Pfeiffer and the late Jim Nabors — as Gomer Pyle.
The current White House appears to have “blinders” on, said another former senior official, adding “It’s been a weak spot for them during the second term. It’s not for a lack of advice, that’s for sure.”
In the first term, Axelrod and Plouffe alternated at the White House and were seen as the top political strategists for Obama. While both give Obama and his aides advice from afar, neither are now present in the West Wing.
In their place are a host of officials, including White House chief of staff Denis McDonough, senior adviser David Simas, Pfeiffer and Nabors, all of whom have been involved in trying to navigate a political storm first triggered by the launch of a website that was not ready.
HealthCare.gov’s problems have put the administration behind its enrollment targets, panicking Democrats.
The rollout was further troubled by the cancellation of millions of insurance plans, despite Obama’s promise that people could keep them, a development that angered the public and Democratic allies.
The first former official singled out Pfeiffer for criticism in the handling of that blunder, which led to repeated apologies by Obama as the White House struggled with the story.
“The thing that I hold Pfeiffer accountable for is, ‘If you like your plan, you can keep it,’ ” the former official said.
“I don’t know where the breakdown occurred on that, but it’s Obama’s ‘no new taxes’ moment,” the official said, referring to the broken promise that is widely seen as having cost President George H.W. Bush a second term.
The official said it was “hard to be polite” about the rollout: “It still escapes me how they f—ed up this badly on the president’s and the Democratic Party’s biggest legacy item in 20 years.
It is a fact: this White House had a great opportunity to deliver on a program that could have indeed become popular with Americans fairly quickly, despite what conservative bloggers, Fox News and Tea Party political say. But they literally blew it.
They can recover. But, most likely, only partially. And they left a new legacy for Obama and the Democrats: a legacy of promising one thing that didn’t turn out to be true, and a legacy of being shockingly unable to deliver on something (a website that worked) that they new had to be delivered way before the delivery date.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.