Meet Sylvia Burwell, The Titanic’s New Captain - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Meet Sylvia Burwell, The Titanic’s New Captain

The replacement of Kathleen Sebelius by Sylvia Mathews Burwell as the Secretary of Health and Human Services has been portrayed by the legacy “news” media as a new lease on life for Obamacare. The party line is that Sebelius was mortally wounded by GOP exploitation of a single uncharacteristic mistake — the botched rollout of — while Burwell is a brilliant Beltway veteran unsullied by controversy and possessing the very administrative skills needed to save Obama’s “signature domestic achievement.” As the Los Angeles Times put it, “Advisors to the president say he is putting his best organizational player into the position.”

In other words, politically motivated Republicans have hounded Sebelius out of office only to see her replaced by their worst nightmare, “a highly efficient manager capable of keeping the Obamacare trains running on time.” This tale fails to conform to the facts, however. First, Sebelius’s mismanagement of the health law’s implementation went far beyond her debacle. In addition to that blunder, for example, she has undergone serious scrutiny pursuant to her legally dubious solicitation of cash from corporations to fund the implementation of Obamacare. And, as for Burwell, she is far less efficient than she is being depicted and is by no means uncontroversial.

The establishment media have made much of Burwell’s long career in government, pointing out that it goes back to the 1990s when she served under President Clinton in various capacities, including Deputy Chief of Staff. None of these reports, however, mentions the most bizarre feature of her tenure in that administration. On the night that White House Counsel Vince Foster committed suicide during one of the myriad scandals that defined the Clinton presidency, Burwell (then Sylvia Mathews) rummaged through the dead man’s garbage, presumably to make sure that it contained no documents implicating the President or Mrs. Clinton, one of Foster’s law partners.

In a story about the Senate investigation of Foster’s suicide, the New York Times reported that some members of the committee “found it significant” that Mathews had “managed to retrieve a special bag of garbage containing classified and sensitive papers that was usually destroyed by the Secret Service.” It seems passing strange that this episode fails to get a mention in any of the major media outlets that have been cranking out paeans to Burwell. A typical example is ABC’s article, “9 Things You Might Not Know About HHS Nominee Sylvia Burwell,” which contains not a syllable about it. It’s a safe bet, however, that many voters “might not know” about this creepy story.

The ABC story does tell us that Burwell is “really smart.” It should have said, “willing to do anything the boss asks.” NBC News, in a story that somehow slipped past the editors, reports the following: “A single person shut down the entire U.S. government.… Not a congressman, but an unelected woman named Sylvia Burwell who … sent the email that initiated the process that has closed national parks.” This eventually led to the refusal by park rangers to allow WWII veterans into their own memorial, a travesty that clearly demonstrated how the White House was deliberately inflicting as much pain as possible on the public in order to gain political points.

This willingness to inflict pain on the public inevitably brings us to Obamacare, and the contribution Burwell will make in cleaning up the mess. Because she is currently the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, presumably Burwell can manage basic arithmetic. Thus, it shouldn’t take long for her to figure out that the “Affordable Care Act” is anything but affordable. But we have also seen that, if asked to do so by her masters, she is willing to go through a dead man’s garbage and shut the public out of parks paid for by their own tax dollars. So, can we really expect Burwell to impose some sanity to the implementation Obamacare in her capacity of HHS Secretary?

The obvious answer to that question is, NO! This is why even the MSM has faced the fact that Burwell will have a very tough confirmation hearing in the Senate. John McCain’s premature endorsement notwithstanding, most observers expect the Republicans to press her very hard on a variety of issues relating to Obamacare. Yesterday morning, Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina told Fox News that the GOP will want to know about Burwell’s priorities as HHS Secretary: “The question is will the next secretary put the interests of Americans first, or the policies of the president.… We’re going to keep the focus on the American people, not politics.”

Unfortunately, the Democrats have changed the rules of the Senate so that Burwell’s nomination can be confirmed by a simple majority. The Democrat majority can give her the job without a single Republican vote. This means that, unless she pledges to impose euthanasia on anyone over 70 or throw babies into a bonfire to propitiate Baal, she will be our next Secretary of Health and Human Services. The good news is that she isn’t as corrupt as Kathleen Sebelius, who was without a doubt the most lawless HHS secretary the nation has ever endured. The bad news is that Burwell is a classic “I was just following orders” bureaucrat. She will do as she’s told.

And Obama isn’t going to tell her to do the right thing. He knows that he’ll be remembered for little else than being our first African-American President and for signing the “Affordable Care Act” into law. Thus, he’ll order her to make sure his legacy isn’t tarnished by the collapse of the latter. To accomplish that, she will have to implement all the provisions of Obamacare that the President has delayed until after the upcoming midterm elections. This includes the go-live date for the employer mandate. She will also have to deal with Supreme Court rulings that could well cripple the law, including whether the IRS can subsidize plans bought through federal exchanges.

And these items constitute only the tip of the iceberg into which Commissar Sebelius has steered the President’s “signature domestic achievement.” The vessel is taking on water at an alarming rate, and Sylvia Burwell’s obvious euphoria at being nominated to run HHS will soon devolve into handwringing about the number of lifeboats there are compared to the number of people whose careers are riding on this rapidly sinking vessel. Secretary Burwell may discover that she is destined to go down with the ship.

David Catron
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David Catron is a recovering health care consultant and frequent contributor to The American Spectator. You can follow him on Twitter at @Catronicus.
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