All-Star Panel: Reaction to explanation for bungled ObamaCare site launch

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," October 30, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN, R - TN: Who was in charge as it was being built?


BLACKBURN: At that team, who is the individual?

SEBELIUS: Michelle Snyder --

BLACKBURN: Michelle Snyder is the one responsible for this debacle?

SEBELIUS: Excuse me, congresswoman, Michelle Snyder is not responsible for the debacle. Hold me accountable for the debacle. I'm responsible.

REP. GREGG HARPER, R - MS: So you're saying the president is not responsible for HHS?

SEBELIUS: Sir, I didn't say that.

HARPER: OK. So the president ultimately is responsible – and while I think it's great that you're a team player and that you're taking responsibility, it is the president's ultimate responsibility, correct?

SEBELIUS: You clearly -- whatever. Yes, he is the president. He is responsible for government programs.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Interesting three and a half hours of testimony for Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius up on Capitol Hill. The questions ranged really all over the map, but as you can imagine, it broke along party lines. Take one more listen.


REP. FRANK PALLONE, D - NJ: I don't know how you keep your cool, Madam Secretary, you know, with this continuous effort on the part of the GOP to sabotage the ACA, to scare people.

REP. PETE OLSON, R - TX: It's been down the whole time you have been testifying. The system is down at this moment.


BAIER: OK, with that, let's get our thoughts from our panel, Jonah Goldberg, at large editor of National Review online, Juan Williams, columnist with The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, who we welcome back from his book tour. He's the author of "Things that Matter," available at fine book stores everywhere, and after the special and now this, am I getting a cut?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: We have to negotiate. It will be a hefty commission, and it goes straight to the Cayman Islands.


BAIER: There you go.

Charles, let's start with you. What about the secretary's testimony today?

KRAUTHAMMER: I hate to say this because I think I'm going soft. I almost felt sorry for her, but almost. I drew back from the cliff. She had no cards. She had nothing to explain the disaster. And I thought her answers, you know, it's the standard -- I'm responsible, but that doesn't have any real meaning.

I thought the most devastating question came from Mike Rogers. This was a point that had not been emphasized. He's the House Intelligence Committee chairman, and he was just incredulous that they had launched a program knowing in advance there was no testing for the security system.

BAIER: Let's listen to Mike Rogers and that part where he's asking Secretary Sebelius about the security on the system.


REP. MIKE ROGERS, R – MI, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: You allowed the system to go forward with no encryption on back-up systems. They had no encryption on certain boundary crossings. You accepted a risk on behalf of every user of this computer that put their personal financial information at risk because you did not even have the most basic end-to-end test on security of this system. Amazon would never do this. Pro-flowers would never do this. Kayak would never do this. This is completely an unacceptable level of security.


BAIER: She said it's constantly being tested real-time.

KRAUTHAMMER: But it apparently can't be done while it's being tweaked and fixed and lines of code are be written. You have to do it in advance.  All the other stuff you can write off as mistakes, incompetence, bureaucracy. But this means that in order to launch this October 1, in order to establish, as Israelis would say, a fact on the ground so that ObamaCare becomes, say, irreversible, they launched deliberately knowing that they're exposing everybody who signs in to the kind of easy hacking that would endanger them. That I think is malfeasance. It's not just a mistake and incompetence.

BAIER: Juan?

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: I thought today was pure theater. I thought it was a big stage show with Republicans attacking Sebelius. Meanwhile, Democrats trying to rescue their partner in the ring by giving her resets and launching into speeches of their own in defense of ObamaCare. I think even Mike Rogers in that presentation, and I think the world of Mike Rogers, former FBI agent and the like, doing a great job as Intelligence Committee chair, all of this is in the weeds. What do I care about how things are put into computers? Who is to blame, who is not to blame?  Look, the big --

BAIER: The security of a major site --

WILLIAMS: First of all, there's no issue here about security at the moment. Zero. Nobody is saying, oh, yeah, they have now gained access to people's Social Security numbers or private information. That information is not necessary to sign up.


KRAUTHAMMER: You allow people to put their financial information into the system, their Social Security numbers, stuff that would damage them for life --

WILLIAMS: No one has said that this is happening. Zero, period, nobody.  So again, what we come back to is, is there any way to go after ObamaCare?

BAIER: You just had lot of respect for Mike Rogers. The guy has been working on cyber-security for the past couple years. And he comes out and says this, and you say he's full of it.

WILLIAMS: Mike is an expert in fact, in NSA stuff and you know, looking at that kind of security. But that's not what this argument is about. The politics of this argument is about ObamaCare. Do we need this program?

BAIER: You're getting fired up here. I'm asking, do you think the website should have rolled out October 1st?

WILLIAMS: Well, obviously it didn't work, but we know that. Here we are, I forget the exact date today, but I guess we're October 28th or so.

BAIER: It's the 30th.

WILLIAMS: Yeah, we know what happened. Yet, the Republicans continue to hammer. It makes you just want to grab, you know, on to something and say, wow, what is all this bloviating?

BAIER: I just want to point out our Bing graph has taken a little bit of an interesting turn. You can also vote on this, and you can vote on some of the questions here, who's more to blame for the ObamaCare rollout, President Obama or Kathleen Sebelius. 87 percent right now for President Obama. And did Sebelius seem sincere, apologetic, or condescending? It's a little lopsided in that voting right now. Jonah?

GOLDBERG: A couple of things. One, I agree entirely with Juan that it was a lot of theater and a lot of bloviating and a lot of silly speech-making. I think your position about the security thing is very strange. It sounds to me like saying, you know, there haven't been any security breaches, there hasn't been any identity theft yet -- it's a not issue. It's sort of like saying, well a really poorly built bridge that is guaranteed to collapse isn't a big issue until some busloads of kids go over the side.

If the thing is badly made, if the thing is destined to be a haven for hackers, we should know about that before people start putting their information in to it. But I think the privacy thing -- I think Mike Rogers did a good job, and that's all fine and good. Where I disagree a little bit with Charles is that this idea of her worst moment to me was you expected it to be theater. I agree entirely she had no cards. But the least you could expect of Kathleen Sebelius is she would know how the actual law works. And when she was asked, why don't you join the health care exchanges, she said it's against the law for me to join the exchanges, which is just flatly untrue. It's just factually untrue. Left-wing commentators have shown that it's not true. She didn't understand how her own law worked when she's up there defending it. I thought it was -- the most generous you could be to her would be sort of a "D-minus." And I think that's way too generous on how she performed.

BAIER: Last word here before we move on to the president.

KRAUTHAMMER: A little human sympathy. And Juan, it's the 30th, you're two days late and it shows.

WILLIAMS: We're way past October 1st, and the fact you guys are still jumping on this and acting like there's news here, I don't know.

BAIER: OK, we'll continue this discussion after a quick break.

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