Obama: I'm Not the Problem; Need to 'Reorganize the Government'

By Susan Jones | December 6, 2013 | 7:23am EST

President Barack Obama talks with MSNBC's Chris Matthews at a taping of the "Hardball with Chris Matthews" show, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, at American University in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

(CNSNews.com) - President Obama says his personal management style isn't a problem: "Part of what we need to do is reorganize the government, which was designed primarily in 1935-45. We could consolidate agencies," he told "Hardball" host Chris Matthews Thursday in an interview conducted at American University in Washington.

Matthews, an Obama fan, told the president that problems with the rollout of Obamacare suggest he does not have a "strong top-down authority system."

"What is your system for management?" Matthews asked the president.

"Well, first of all, I think it's important to distinguish between this particular project -- this health care project, where it is obvious that we needed additional controls in place...and how we have managed incredibly complex problems for the last five years, everything from wars, to pandemics to, you know, natural disasters, to expanding student loans for young people."

Obama said he has a "strong chief of staff," but he holds every Cabinet member accountable -- "and I want to have strong interactions with them directly."

But on the same day he spoke, a conservative think tank reported that Obama met with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius only once since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in March 2010; and that was a joint meeting with then-Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

According to the conservative Government Accountability Institute, which examined the official White House calendar and the Politico presidential calendar from March 23, 2010 through Nov. 30, 2013, there is not a single one-on-one meeting between Sebelius and Obama.

On Thursday, Obama told Matthews, "I have an open door policy where I want people to be bringing me bad news on time so that we can fix things.

"And the -- the challenge, I think, that we have going forward is not so much my personal management style or particular issues around White House organization. It actually has to do with what I referred to earlier, which is we have these big agencies, some of which are outdated, some of which are not designed properly. We have got, for example, 16 different agencies that have some responsibility to help businesses, large and small, in all kinds of ways, whether it's helping to finance them, helping them to export.

"And so, if you're a small business person getting started, you may think you need to go to the Small Business Administration on one thing, you have got to go to Commerce on another. So, we have proposed, let's consolidate a bunch of that stuff."

And then he blamed Congress:

"The challenge we have got is that that requires a law to pass. And, frankly, there are a lot of members of Congress who are chairmen of a particular committee. And they don't want necessarily consolidations where they would lose jurisdiction over certain aspects of certain policies.

"But this is going to be a major area of focus and has been over the last five years, but going forward over the next three years. How do we have a 21st century federal government?"

Obama said fragmented government "is part of the reason why people are skeptical. There are just some things that people have an interaction with the federal government where we could be doing a much better job."

He noted that some problem areas are not federal, and he brought up the process of trying to get a driver's license, which takes a "long time."

"You know, why do you have to do a written driving test if you already have your license? I mean, there are just a whole bunch of things we could be using with the Internet and new communication systems.

"And the more we can just reorganize the guts of how these agencies work, the easier it`s going to be, because the White House is just a tiny part of what is a huge, widespread organization with increasingly complex tasks in a complex world."

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