NBC, ABC News Press White House on Secret Sebelius Meetings
During Friday's White House briefing, Jonathan Karl of ABC News and Peter Alexander of NBC News both pressed White House spokesman Jay Carney on a Government Accountability Institute (GAI) report that found President Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius had met only once during the three and half years after the passage of ObamaCare.
After Alexander asked about the GAI report, Carney bizarrely suggested that Alexander should have called him to ask the question. Apparently, Carney would have preferred not to have to answer the question on camera -- and for good reason; his answer only opened the door to more questions.
Alexander got to the heart of the matter by pointing out that President Obama's calendar lists all kinds of meetings with other cabinet secretaries, including 277 with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. And yet, although she is in charge of Obama's signature legislative accomplishment, this calendar shows no meetings with Sebelius.
"That draws some questions about the president's leadership skills as the chief executive," Alexander said. "And I'm curious--" A visibly agitated Carney interrupted. "Peter, I wish you had called me beforehand," Carney scolded. "Because I am in a very terrible charitable mood today, I won't go too strong on this."
Carney went on to claim that Sebelius met "often" with the president, but that those meetings were not recorded on the visitors logs or any public calendars. Carney didn't know how many times the two had met, and did not bother to explain why these calendars record numerous other cabinet officials meeting dozens, and in some cases, hundreds of times with the president.
ABC's Karl followed up by asking if HHS would be able to tell him how many times Sebelius had in fact met with president. Carney laughed and said he didn’t know. Karl wasn't laughing and explained, "Because they tend to refer us back to [the White House]."
Karl also pressed the elephant in the room, asking how a process works that would record dozens of meeting with numerous cabinet secretaries but miss completely what Carney describes as "frequent" meetings between Sebelius and the president.
Carney explained that on-the-fly meetings are not recorded and assured Karl that Sebelius was one of the cabinet secretaries who had "more frequent" meetings with the president.
Neither Karl nor Alexander seemed anywhere close to satisfied with Carney's illogical explanations, or the fact that Carney did not come prepared with the details of when the president and Sebelius met.
It is fairly obvious that the White House is hoping to two-step this story into oblivion before they are put into a position of having to answer a question with no good answers. Either the president was derelict in his duty beyond comprehension in not meeting with the cabinet secretary in charge of remaking one-sixth of the American economy, or he indeed did meet frequently with Sebelius, which only begs another question…
We now know that Sebelius was warned in April that Healthcare.gov was behind schedule and would not be ready in time to be properly tested for a national roll-out. We have also been told that the president was caught completely off guard by the site's collapse, and that his first hint that there was a problem came a few days after the site launched.
If the two met frequently, as the White House now claims, that just doesn't add up. How is it that Sebelius met frequently with the president but never once warned or informed him about the potential for catastrophe?
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC