Could Obama's Campaign Tech Gurus Fix Let's Ask 'Em!

Tim Murphy | Mother Jones | October 24, 2013

The president's reelection team never had to tackle a project this big—or federal procurement rules.

On the 23rd day, Harper Reed finally broke down. Tired of being beseeched to save, the glitchy three-week-old website designed to help people shop for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, Reed, the chief technology officer for President Obama's 2012 campaign (I wrote the first national profile of his role), began compulsively retweeting requests for his assistance on matters entirely unrelated to web forms, government databases, and subsidized health care: "Hey @harper, I have 56 people I need to invite to a dinner that maxes at 50. Can you fix this?"; "Listen @harper, get Firefly back on the air. Whatever it takes"; "@harper I'm out of coffee"; "@harper Can you do anything about the fact that I hear Zooey Deschanel's voice in every coffee shop?"; "@harper I am unable to get past Belial's poison attack on Diablo III…help!"

Those sarcastic tweets were meant to point out that even Reed's formidable code-wrangling skills can't solve every problem under the sun. And by retweeting them, he was doing his part to knock down a false parallel that's been spreading across mainstream political circles over the last two weeks. It goes a little something like this: How can the same president whose re-election campaign was widely praised for its startup ethos watch his signature accomplishment go down at the hands of a broken website?