Obama administration focuses on following through

Obama brings former Clinton chief of staff to oversee implementation of action plans for tackling climate change
Associated Press
May 20, 2014


Burned by the failed rollout of his health care law, President Barack Obama is seeking to build a team for the final years of his administration where management expertise may trump keen political or legislative skills.

Gone from the White House are nearly all the high-profile political gurus who ran Obama's two presidential campaigns. In their place are mostly lesser-known figures who have spent years in government, often in the type of policy implementation jobs that only make the news when something goes wrong.

The shift is in part an indication of the White House's low expectations for passing new legislation in a second term, even if Democrats manage to keep control of the Senate in the midterm elections. It also shows recognition by the White House that a repeat of the management failures and policy implementation problems that plagued the health care rollout could have dire consequences for the president.

"There's no question that one of the lessons of health care is the need for greater focus on implementation," said Dan Pfeiffer, Obama's senior adviser. "We want to structure the White House in a way that allows that best to happen."

That nuts-and-bolts approach may be a long way from the days when Obama campaigned as the champion of hope and change and urged Washington to do big things. But it comes as the White House faces another deepening political problem that raises questions about administration management, this time at the Veterans Affairs Department.

Republicans and Democrats alike have voiced anger over troubling allegations of preventable deaths and treatment delays at VA hospitals around the country. While Obama is so far standing by VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, officials say there is urgency in getting the matter under control.

As it seeks to shore up its response, the White House is turning to the same playbook it used during the health care enrollment debacle, when Obama dispatched longtime aide Jeffrey Zients to the Health and Human Services Department to oversee efforts to fix the woeful HealthCare.gov website.

Obama made a similar move last week, temporarily assigning deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors to the VA to lead an internal review of agency policies.

While Nabors and Zients are relatively unknown outside of Washington, both are seen as strong managers who also have the president's trust. While it's too early to know the results of Nabors' efforts at the VA, Zients' stint at HHS was largely deemed a success, with the website becoming operational ahead of key enrollment deadlines and sign-ups ultimately exceeding expectations.

Obama's advisers are also seeking to apply that rapid response mentality to daily operations at the White House.

That effort got underway earlier this year when Obama brought on John Podesta, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, as a senior counselor. Podesta is charged specifically with overseeing the implementation of Obama's sweeping executive action plans for tackling climate change, an effort officials say rivals the complexity of the health law's implementation.

And on Friday, the White House promoted Kristie Canegallo, who has held multiple behind-the-scenes policy posts at the White House and Pentagon, to deputy chief of staff. She's been given a broad mandate that includes overseeing the continued implementation of the health care law, as well as management oversight of education policies and the drawdown of the Afghanistan war.

Dana Perino, who served as press secretary in George W. Bush's second term, welcomed the Obama team's effort to shore up its implementation, casting it as a challenge that every White House grapples with.

"The government is so big and there are so many things happening that you really have to have your eyes on every ball all at once," Perino said. "And you might drop one."

Of course, the legislative landscape in Washington is driving the White House's focus on implementation as much as anything else.

Faced with steady opposition from the Republican-led House, Obama has struggled to pass even routine legislation through Congress. Sweeping measures like an immigration overhaul are a long shot between now and the November elections. And with Washington already turning quickly to the 2016 elections, the prospects for immigration or other big legislation may be no better after the midterms.

Chris Lehane, a Democratic strategist who served in the Clinton White House, said Obama is now at the phase of his presidency where his focus will be by necessity "more about maintaining policies in place and managing programs rather than developing big ideas and creating new policies."

The White House insists that while its legislative pathways have indeed narrowed in a second term, Obama hasn't given up on Congress.

"The first team was financial crisis-oriented, legislative-oriented," said Pfeiffer, the only member of Obama's original political team still working in the White House. "This team is more executive action, implementation-oriented while still looking for ways to pass legislation."



There you go again

Too little, too late.


"The government is so big and there are so many things happening that you really have to have your eyes on every ball all at once," Perino said. "And you might drop one."
Then get rid of half of it then. If the "Infallible" Liberal god in his omnipotency cannot watch everything who can we trust? The government is too big and with the idiots we have in office A LOT of stuff gets missed and the best they have for us as a explanation is "It was someone else's fault"

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

"Bumps in the road" and "dropped balls" are quaint, dismissive statements for human lives. The people who are hurt by this must not count enough to be addressed by our leaders as sovereign citizens with human needs and dignity. That's also why we see them pigeonholed into "classes" and other segregationist forces.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Let's see, all these pressing issues and here's what our President is doing today (by the by, you all should take a look at this at least occasionally to see how vigilant our President is): http://www.whitehouse.gov/schedule

10:45 AM
The President drops by a meeting with business leaders
The Roosevelt Room
Pool Spray
5:00 PM
The President meets with Secretary of Defense Hagel
Oval Office
Closed Press

Hmmm well what about yesterday? After all the VA needs some immediate attention.

12:30 PM
The President and the Vice President meet for lunch with Combatant Commanders
The Roosevelt Room
Closed Press
7:30 PM
The President delivers remarks and answers questions at a DCCC event
Private Residence - Maryland
Print Pool

Huh a lunch and party fundraiser. Ok, ok, so let's go back more. There was nothing on Saturday nor Sunday scheduled. Hmm. Well I don't know what else to say. There is a phrase about good intentions but currently there is too much of that made manifest through myriad agencies and bureaucracy that our government is growing further and further away from its constituents. More and more it feels like they represent D.C. to us than represent us to it.

It's very upsetting especially when the answers on how to fix this are to do more of the same: more agencies with more people to watch the other agencies with other people that were put in place so other people in other places could do other things that other people told them to do.


Retire your senator and representative. They aren't doing their job and they sure aren't listening to the people.

The Big Dog's back

My Senator Brown listens to me. Now what?


Brown is a life long tax consumer same as you. Hence why you two get along.

Moochers of a feather stick together.


Hey Obama how about you follow through with getting our vets the medical care you promised them!! Take note all you obamacare lemmings, you see how wonderful government healthcare works now, (sarcasm) not so bright a picture is it now.

The Big Dog's back

You want him to sign a Presidential Order? We know the Repub congress won't do anything.


Typical lame response from king kool aid. You will have to do better than that. Both sides of the congress are upset with lack of action, and why has it taken 23 days for your boy king to address it? Since one of his campaign promises was to fix the VA issues!


Re: "greater focus on implementation,"


What's with this admin. and their constant desire to "focus"?

Kinda like when the Prez said that he would "focus like a laser" on creating jobs?

After five yrs. of stumbling over "bumps in the road," this admin. had better get it's eyes examined.


Aside from the patently obvious, Obama has one problem that's almost certainly insurmountable given his personality: He's not remotely qualified to do the job.

Lest any of you ask, yes, I myself would, in fact, be a far better President. Why? Because I KNOW I'm not qualified, and that knowledge would serve as the impetus to get smarter and well-qualified people on my staff. What would put me head and shoulders above Obama then? I'D ACTUALLY LISTEN TO THOSE SMARTER PEOPLE!

Obama can hire whoever he wants. Given his political leanings, I tend to assume most are almost as unqualified as he is. But let's pretend for a moment he's finally bringing some people on board who would be good. It still won't matter because "the smartest man in the room" continues to think he knows everything!

The Big Dog's back

You didn't like it when he gt business leaders like Jeff Immelt. So now what? Should he get the smartest person in the world, rush, or sean, maybe glen?

Darwin's choice

Would you like the very LONG list of the incompetents he has in his administration?


Re: "Jeff Immelt"

You mean the CEO of GE, a co. which paid $0 in fed income taxes from '08-'12?

That guy?

Don't libs like to pay taxes?

The Big Dog's back

Can't answer again huh?


Only 'cause you're 'clueless' per usual and it flies right by you, putz.

Stop It

I had a good boss who used to say that, Samantha. He said he was good at getting jobs and work because he hired people smarter than him to get things done and done right the first time.


The best bosses in the world hire the most qualified employee, and then say, "Here's where I want you to end up with this." They don't care how it's done. They don't pretend to know better than the most qualified person. They don't micromanage. And not surprisingly, they have successful businesses with happy employees who are vested in his -- and their own -- success.

Obama should take a lesson from your good boss (and the couple like that I've been fortunate to have)! Come to think of it, so should the Sandusky City Comissioners!

MI Smooth

Unfortunately, when the uninformed and politically correct people of this country elected this guy based solely on the color of his skin and lack of accomplishments this is the result. He is in so far over his head and still hasn't figured it out. I'll quote him. "Elections have consequences".


In the mean time this is going on and nobody in the lame stream media is talking about.



My god, that's APPALLING! And you're right: This is the first time I've heard of this, and I'm one of those who actually pays attention to a variety of news sources!

Yes, elections have consequences. In this case, they're dire and in many, many ways. The only hope I have left is that the NEXT change is for the better rather than so much the worse!