Late Friday, with the help of White House Press Secretary Jay Carney’s former employer TIME, the Obama Administration attempted to explain away the Government Accountability Institute’s (GAI) explosive report revealing that President Barack Obama’s official White House calendar records a single face-to-face meeting with HHS head Kathleen Sebelius in the over three-and-a-half years leading up to Obamacare’s unveiling.
A TIME “Fact Check” by Kate Pickert published minutes after Carney’s press conference quoted HHS spokesperson Joanne Peters as saying that Sebelius “is frequently at the White House for meetings related to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, including dozens with the President in the last year alone. In fact, she met with the President just yesterday.”
Pickert said, “the problem with [GAI President Peter] Schweizer’s analysis is his data set: Cabinet Secretaries who regularly come to the White House are not always recorded in the White House visitors log or listed on the president’s public schedule.”
But the GAI report was not based on visitor logs; rather, it was based on the White House’s own official calendar and was verified with the Politico presidential calendar, as Schweizer made clear in a Politico Magazine article published on Thursday. Furthermore, the GAI report notes that the White House calendar records 277 one-on-one meetings between Obama and his other Cabinet Secretaries.
The push-back by HHS through Carney’s former employer, TIME, raises new and serious unanswered questions. If the Obama White House official calendar lists 277 one-on-one meetings with other Cabinet Secretaries and Sebelius has met privately with Obama “dozens of times in the last year alone,” why was Sebelius omitted? Moreover, if the Obama Administration says its own calendar is unreliable, why have one?
Perhaps the biggest question raised by the growing Obama-Sebelius meetings controversy is if Sebelius and Obama held regular private meetings to work on Obamacare over the last three-and-a-half years, why did the President claim in his November 14 press conference to have no knowledge that there were problems with the Obamacare website?
I was not informed directly that the website would not be working as–the way it was supposed to. Had I been informed, I wouldn’t be going out saying, ‘Boy, this is going to be great.’ You know, I’m accused of a lot of things, but I don’t think I’m stupid enough to go around saying, ‘this is going to be like shopping on Amazon or Travelocity,’ a week before the website opens, if I thought that it wasn’t going to work. So, clearly, we and I did not have enough awareness about the problems in the website.
As Schweizer made clear in his Politico Magazine article, Sebelius was notified by contractors months before the Obamacare launch that serious problems existed with the website. If Obama and Sebelius had frequent private working meetings, why does Obama claim he was unaware that healthcare.gov was in trouble?
“Obama must answer for his absence of leadership,” said Schweizer.