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Politico’s Carrie Budoff Brown On Media Coverage Of The Obamacare Rollout Scandal

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HH: Joined now from Washington, D.C. by one of Politico.com’s best and brightest, Carrie Budoff Brown. Carrie, welcome, it’s great to talk to you.

CBB: Hi, thanks for having me.

HH: I want everyone to follow you on Twitter, @cbudoffbrown, two F’s in that. Now Carrie, yesterday’s Rose Garden speech was really one of the more amazing complex sentence structures full of non-sequiturs that I’ve heard in a long time. Did the White House press corps just look at each other when the President said…

BO: It’s really good.

CBB: Well you know, I think the 800 number was probably that point in which we all kind of looked at each other and said really, is this happening? I mean, it was an interesting speech from that standpoint, that you know, the guy who like rewrote the way campaigns are run with his tech savviness had to really sort of reduce it to an 800 number, going and signing up in person, which just is so far from sort of what he’s been guided by at least in politics. So it was a very, very sort of interesting juxtaposition.

HH: The lead line in your story today was President Obama delivered an Obamacare speech Monday that sounded a lot like hold music.

CBB: Yeah.

HH: Now that is pretty devastating, but it’s also true. It went on and on, and annoyed you throughout.

CBB: Well, yeah, you know, it was, what he was trying to do yesterday was bide himself some time. And because he has really only a few weeks to get the website up and working well, and at the same time, Congress is picking up steam, the Congressional oversight committees are moving ahead. And he really needs to hope that the website continues to improve, gets faster, that moves at a quicker pace than do the oversight committees and their investigations, because there’s a lot of momentum behind this idea that ACA is not working out the way the President promised and predicted, I mean, the websites, that is. And if it gets, if it doesn’t improve anytime soon, you’re going to get to a point where the budget negotiations are beginning, and the argument from Republicans that you need to maybe delay or suspend parts of the law, you know, that might, there might be actually more support for that than there has been, you know, coming out of this government shutdown.

HH: After Marco Rubio floated the idea this morning, Jeanne Shaheen, senator from New Hampshire, joined in this afternoon. So I think you may be absolutely right on that. There are three stories, though, I have interviewed three people this afternoon – Marco Rubio, Fred Upton and Joe Pitts, Joe Pitts the chairman of the Health subcommittee of Energy and Commerce, Fred Upton the chairman. And here are the three stories. And I want to know if you picked up on them, yet. First of all, data security, nobody believes it’s there. Everybody believes this is a hacker’s dream, according to Fred Upton. Is anyone covering that aspect of it, Carrie Budoff Brown?

CBB: Well, I think now that we’re hearing, you know, this has been an issue. The administration has proactively tried to push back on that. They did that a couple of weeks ago. But I think like as you said, Marco Rubio put out a release soon after the President spoke yesterday urging people to keep track of everything that they’re doing in relation to the websites. So I can imagine that now that we’re hearing more from Republicans that there will be more done looking into it, and I don’t know what the answer is other than the administration saying one thing, and data experts and Republicans saying something else. But it’s certainly a very powerful sort of argument that we’re going to have to keep an eye on.

HH: You know, Carrie, I’ve talked to L.A. County and Orange County, California lead cyberprosecutors, very sophisticated lawyers, and there are enormous networks of international criminals that look for data banks that are open. Would you put your personal data on this website?

CBB: You know, I haven’t even, I tried logging on the first or second day and couldn’t do it. I’m in employer-provided coverage, so it’s not something that, you know, I’ve personally given that much thought, yet. But you know, I would if I were, if I had to sign up and put in a lot of personal data, which I just haven’t done, yet, because I haven’t even gotten to the point where I can do that on the website.

HH: Would you recommend a friend do it?

CBB: You know, I’m not an expert. I mean, I’m just not. It’s something I would have to look into a little bit better.

HH: Well, let me ask you this. Joe Pitts said he’s going to be reading testimony previously given back to witnesses who are testifying again. That, of course, is the 5th Amendment corner. Has anyone talked about whether or not on Thursday at the contractor hearing, or next week at the Sebelius hearing, anyone’s going to invoke the 5th Amendment?

CBB: No, we haven’t heard that, yet, but I think it’s certainly one of the things I’m looking for, is just how much those statements of everything going okay, I mean, we were, you know, I talked to people…

HH: Yeah, yeah.

CBB: …who were briefed by the administration, who they were told everything was going fine. And there are a lot of people who are allies of the administration who are very upset with Sebelius and HHS, because they felt like they were misled, and they’re allies of the administration. So the whole idea of what, who within HHS, who within the White House, knew and when they knew, or if they didn’t know, is just the core, I think, of these hearings Thursday, and really, for the foreseeable future.

HH: So do you expect 5th Amendment responses from any witnesses?

CBB: You know, I just haven’t heard that, yet, and you know, it would be remarkable if that were to happen. So I’m not sure.

HH: I predict if you hear a 5th Amendment from anyone, they have to delay the website. Now the next story, Rubio stunned me today. I did not know this, because I don’t speak Spanish, and I don’t listen to Spanish media. The Spanish website isn’t even up, Carrie.

CBB: Yeah.

HH: Did you know that?

CBB: I did, and I mean, that’s been out there. But that’s a huge problem, because the administration’s really banking on a huge turnout from Hispanics, a very high percentage of uninsured, and they’ve put a lot of money and focus into reaching Hispanic audiences – Univision out in California and Telemundo. They’ve done a ton of just turning over their airwaves during commercial breaks to promoting Obamacare. And then you don’t have a website that’s working, and it was delayed so they can get it up? And now, it’s, as I guess today’s only Tuesday, but yes, heard yesterday that it’s been delayed ever further, so…

HH: So they spent tens of millions of dollars to sell a product that isn’t available. In marketing terms, that’s an utter fiasco.

CBB: Well, they can, I think they can still call up or go in person. It’s just the website isn’t working. So that’s, but you know, it’s a huge portal for people to get into, and when you don’t have that, that’s a problem just in terms of the numbers the administration needs and wants to succeed.

HH: Oh, it’s a scandal. Now is John Harris running around Politico assigning everybody to work on Obamacare fail stories?

CBB: You know, I wouldn’t say he’s assigning Obamacare fail stories, but it is a very intense focus is what happened, and how they’re, and the political ramifications of it. I mean, it is, it’s a huge focus of ours, and you know, would have been more if there had not been this shutdown for the last two and a half weeks.

HH: Carrie, it’s finding the burglars at the Watergate. I’m telling you, it’s a career maker. Thank you for joining me. I hope you’ll come back early and often, Carrie Budoff Brown from Politico. It really is. It’s finding the burglars at the Watergate, what’s going on right now on so many levels.

End of interview.

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