Sebelius takes the Obamacare blame: Reactions in the press

Sebelius takes the blame, shields Obama, major news networks spin it how they want. Photo: AP

WASHINGTON, October 30, 2013 — A good Roman general would fall on his sword before bringing dishonor to the Empire, and so it is with Catherine Sebelius. As she testifies before a righteously ticked off Republican led House committee, the embattled Healthcare chief took blame for the websites woes as well as many of the other problems that have occurred as a result of the roll out. An interesting move, much like Col. North taking the blame for Iran-Contra to shield President Reagan, Sebelius will take the blame to shield President Obama.

But why this move? This Administration does not have a history of offering up sacrificial lambs at a high level, much less pulling a mea culpa on Republicans. In fact their history is the opposite. That is how it went with Benghazi, when Hillary Clinton conveniently could not testify and then retired. Not only that, but several key commanders who could have testified were summarily dismissed. It was the same with the IRS scandal, when Lois Lerner told everyone it was not her fault, and then took the 5th. And it was the same with the NSA spying scandal, which is ongoing, and no one seems to be doing anything about. It was the same with Fast and Furious, in which the President exercised Executive privilege over thousands of pages of documents.

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So why now? Why is this particular “chief” of the Obama administration taking the blame?

It may be that Sebelius is taking the blame because she knows that nothing will happen to her after this hearing. If the Republicans choose to hammer her on this issue, they will look like bullies in the eyes of the public. After all, she said she was sorry. If you say you are sorry then everything is forgiven, right?

Look at the morning headlines for today on ABC, CNN, NBC, MSNBC, CBS, Huffington Post, and FOX. There is a very interesting spectrum of political allegiance in this country. From left to right; MSNBC has a headline ingratiating her to the public with “You Deserve Better”, NBC has a headline about how Sebelius fell on her sword with “Hold Me Accountable”, CNN mildly places “Health Secretary Apologizes for Website,” ABC has nothing as of now, FOX also carries the “You Deserve Better” headline with a slightly more critical spin, and CBS of all people has an article about a memo warning the government that the roll out would be bad, making it the most critical of the large news carriers online this morning.

The problem? They should all be critical.

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It is the job of the media in this country to call out politicians and their appointees on their crap, plain and simple. It is not the job of the media to champion policies or to endorse this or that politician, but to say “alright, how much of a liar are you?” “Are you honest?” They are charged with applying pressure to politicians to force them to be honest with the American people, that is one reason the 1st Amendment is in place, so that politicians are open to criticism. But when the balance of power shifts in Washington, and FOX goes from championing President Bush, to challenging President Obama, and NBC goes from challenging President Bush, to championing President Obama, there is no balance. The major media outlets in this country cannot simply be mouthpieces for politicians on either side to press their ideas, they need to be challenging those ideas, and asking question after question. The same people who were raising their hands during press conferences and pressing President Bush for answers with such vigor and tenacity during the 2nd Gulf War are now silent and even apologetic in respect to a President who quite literally lied to the American people concerning their ability to keep individual health coverage.

This is all not to say that they should be abusive, and that they should be mean spirited, but that they should instead realize that theirs is a job most sacred to the preservation of American political integrity and liberty. Questions should be asked objectively, political maneuvering is best addressed as commentary from a bird’s eye view. It’s like watching football. The best games are announced by those who know the game, but are as objective as possible in their commentary. They don’t say “oh damn, the Cowboys scored, that should never have happened…”  No, for the most part they are objective as possible with the noted exception of Bob Costas who feels like he needs to interject himself into every major national issue.

The point is, the system is broken. Major outlets like the one mentioned above, as well as Huffington Post and Breitbart, have their champions. The left aligned media will glorify how Catherine Sebelius said she was sorry, and the mean old Republicans ganged up on her. The right aligned media will say that she should step down, and that the President is incompetent, and the Democrats are stalling. What should be said is something in the middle; Sebelius has accepted blame, most likely in an attempt to shield President Obama or any higher official from fault, and the Republicans smelling blood in the water will most likely press the momentary advantage to be able to say “I told you so.” Calling it like it is can be difficult, even in this column you will be hard pressed to find a post without some bias. But objectivity is hard to come by, though in order to best inform he people objectivity in the media, just like objectivity in the history profession, or in the teaching profession, must be a goal to which all involved professionals strive to reach.

Catherine Sebelius will likely not be punished too harshly for this, and even if she does step down, much like Col. North, as a Washington insider her future is secured. House Republicans will continue to hammer her in order to exploit the failure of and the monstrous price tag attached to it, but unless someone higher than Sebelius takes the blame onto themselves the American public is unlikely to see any progress on this. Republicans will be made to look like bullies, and Catherine Sebelius will be portrayed as the loyal legionnaire who fell on her sword for the good of the Empire. 


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Conor Higgins

Conor Higgins has a B.A. from Catholic University in DC in American History, with a concentration on guerrilla warfare on American soil. He has an M.A. in US History from George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, with a concentration on Cold War insurgency. He believes that all news and all information should be taken with a grain of salt, and implores people everywhere to seek news stories everywhere. 

Higgins is also a fervent believer in the traditional role of media, in terms of acting as a balanced check on government policies and individuals regardless of party affiliation. But in the end, he believes that no matter how heated an issue is, there is nothing that can't be discussed over a smoke and some whiskey. 

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