Sebelius’s “Slow-Motion Resignation”

April 12th, 2014

The Times has some inside scoops about Kathleen Sebelius’s 6-month long resignation from Secretary of HHS. Here are some highlights:

Everyone knew it was a disaster. After Kathleen Sebelius appeared on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” last October, she and her staff at the Department of Health and Human Services felt she had been sandbagged by Mr. Stewart. At the White House, President Obama’s top aides were aghast at her wooden performance.

The White House frustration with Ms. Sebelius crystallized by Thanksgiving, as it became clear in Washington that she would eventually have to go. Republicans were brutalizing her at congressional hearings. The health care website’s problems were consuming the White House. Under mounting pressure from congressional Democrats panicking about the fallout from the health care debacle on their fall campaigns, Mr. Obama had already brought in Jeffrey D. Zients, a management guru, to take control of the crisis from Ms. Sebelius. …

But three things put off Ms. Sebelius’s departure: Mr. Obama’s fear that letting people go in the middle of a crisis would delay fixing the website; his belief that ceremonial firings are public concessions to his enemies; and the admiration and personal loyalty that Mr. Obama still felt for Ms. Sebelius and her advocacy for his chief domestic legacy.

Over the next four months, Ms. Sebelius engaged in a kind of slow-motion resignation, largely staying out of the national limelight but crisscrossing the country in a furious effort to enroll people in health insurance and taking comfort from strangers who recognized — and offered thanks — for her efforts.