Steve Rose

Kathleen Sebelius, you are not doing a heck of a job

Updated: 2013-12-18T01:14:10Z

By STEVE ROSE

Special to The Star

It grieves me to side with the coward, U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, to suggest that it may be time for Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to step aside.

The Republican senator from Kansas, who is a longtime friend of the Sebelius family, turned on her within minutes of being attacked by his tea party primary challenger, Milton Wolf, a radiologist from Leawood.

Wolf, at the announcement of his candidacy, excoriated Roberts for voting for Sebelius to be confirmed as HHS secretary.

To make sure there would be great distance between himself and Sebelius, Roberts, the fellow Kansan, turned on Sebelius and made national headlines, because it is so unusual for a senator to call for the resignation of a former governor of his state, as well as a longtime friend.

I am embarrassed to be aligned with such treachery, but for me there are no political motivations.

This is strictly a matter of business. And, yes, Sebelius and I have been friendly, despite the fact that I did not support her for governor.

But when it gets down to it, what business would keep the executive employed who had three-and-a-half years and $500 million to smoothly implement the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, and then blow it?

Surely, the thought of her forced resignation must have crossed President Barack Obama’s mind.

Yet, he might have been concerned that with 60 votes needed in the Senate to confirm her replacement, that might not happen, and the spot would go vacant.

Senate rules have now changed, and only 51 votes are needed.

Therefore, it is safe to assume that the president could get anyone he selects confirmed as HHS secretary in a body controlled by fellow Democrats.

That’s a big reason why I have waited to urge this politically sensitive action. Until now, it just didn’t seem realistic.

But, ah, it may be just about plain old-fashioned loyalty, which in the business world does not exist. No, in the business world, if you flop big-time, you are banished and rebuked.

This reminds me of when then-President George W. Bush put his arm around Michael Brown, who as Federal Emergency Management Agency director, was in charge of dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. “Brownie,” said Bush, “You’re doing a heck of a job” — as New Orleans sank.

It was not long after, because of “negative publicity,” as Brown explained it, he resigned.

If anyone happens to care about polls, Rasmussen reports that 43 percent of likely U.S. voters hold an unfavorable impression of Sebelius. We should hasten to add, in all fairness, that in the same poll, it was revealed that a quarter of those surveyed had never even heard of Sebelius.

Polls aside, this fiasco created on the watch of Sebelius should be such an embarrassment to her that she should resign, whether Obama wants her to or not.

One can only speculate, but I think there is a lot of rationalization going on that blames others, instead of where the buck stops — with Sebelius. Clearly, she was not in charge of day-to-day operations when Obamacare’s online efforts cratered. But it ultimately was her responsibility.

That doesn’t mean more heads should not roll. Those who failed in their jobs of implementing a smooth transition should be asked to leave as well.

President Obama and the nation deserve a new slate of leaders to take over HHS, and, thus, the implementation of Obamacare, several parts of which have already been postponed a year.

To just let it go (“You’re doing a heck of a job, Kathleen”) is outrageous.

To reach Steve Rose, a longtime Johnson County columnist, send email to srose@kc.rr.com.

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