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November 25, 2015
March 20, 2010
In his last speech before the historic vote on his Obamacare package in the House of Representatives set for tomorrow, President Barack Obama gave a speech to a members-only House Democratic caucus meeting today. In his speech, the President sadly repeated many of the same lies and misrepresentations he made yesterday at George Mason, including his false claims that everyone can “keep their doctor” and “keep their plan” while also falsely asserting that Obamacare will be an “historic” deficit reduction bill. Obama made these claims despite their debunking by even establishment media sources many months ago, and the CBO’s addendum to their scoring made public late yesterday that reports an addition to the deficit of $59 billion over the next 10 years from Obamacare once the “doctor fix” is factored in.
Despite making these misleading and explicitly false statements in his speech today, Obama recited an Abraham Lincoln quote about speaking the truth in his speech today, twice:
“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true”
Apparently the establishment media has no interest in reporting on the explicit lies (you can keep your doctor, you can keep your health plan and Obamacare will be “historic” deficit reduction) repeated again by the President today, as the NYT, CNN, WaPo and the AP all focus on the rhetorical grandeur, the “history being made” and the “impassioned plea” in Obama’s speech to Democrats today while ignoring the substantively false claims made by the President.
Amazingly, none of the above-linked articles make any reference to the President’s claims that all Americans will be able to keep their doctor and keep their insurance after the passage of his reform plan; instead, the establishment media just completely ignores these explicitly false statements.
The Associated Press epitomizes the frenzied, wrongful efforts of the establishment media to cover for the explicit lies of the Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats regarding Obamacare, printing this as if it is fact:
The sweeping legislation, affecting virtually every American and more than a year in the making, would extend coverage to an estimated 32 million uninsured Americans, forbid insurers to deny coverage on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions and cut federal deficits by an estimated $138 billion over a decade.
Congressional analysts estimate the cost of the two bills combined would be $940 billion over a decade.
In repeating the explicitly false claims above, as made by Obama and the Democrats, the AP fails to mention the fact that the CBO admitted last night that Obamacare will actually add $59 billion to the deficit over 10 years when the pending “doctor fix” is enacted and further fails to mention that the CBO has also stated that at least $50 billion in additional funds will be required to administer Obamacare over 10 years after its passage, meaning Obamacare will add at least $109 billion to the deficit over the next decade. Sadly, that $109 billion in deficit spending resultant from Obamacare does not account for the many additional budget gimmicks used by the Democrats to entrench the false perception that the bill that creates over $100 billion a year in new federal entitlement spending will actually be an “historical” deficit reduction bill. Even the NYT’s Obama-loving (literally) columnist David Brooks listed the many ways the CBO score is explicitly rendered false by no less than seven Democratic “dodges” designed to game the CBO scoring process:
They’ve stuffed the legislation with gimmicks and dodges designed to get a good score from the Congressional Budget Office but don’t genuinely control runaway spending.
There is the doc fix dodge. The legislation pretends that Congress is about to cut Medicare reimbursements by 21 percent. Everyone knows that will never happen, so over the next decade actual spending will be $300 billion higher than paper projections.
There is the long-term care dodge. The bill creates a $72 billion trust fund to pay for a new long-term care program. The sponsors count that money as cost-saving, even though it will eventually be paid back out when the program comes on line.
There is the subsidy dodge. Workers making $60,000 and in the health exchanges would receive $4,500 more in subsidies in 2016 than workers making $60,000 and not in the exchanges. There is no way future Congresses will allow that disparity to persist. Soon, everybody will get the subsidy.
There is the excise tax dodge. The primary cost-control mechanism and long-term revenue source for the program is the tax on high-cost plans. But Democrats aren’t willing to levy this tax for eight years. The fiscal sustainability of the whole bill rests on the naïve hope that a future Congress will have the guts to accept a trillion-dollar tax when the current Congress wouldn’t accept an increase of a few billion.
There is the 10-6 dodge. One of the reasons the bill appears deficit-neutral in the first decade is that it begins collecting revenue right away but doesn’t have to pay for most benefits until 2014. That’s 10 years of revenues to pay for 6 years of benefits, something unlikely to happen again unless the country agrees to go without health care for four years every decade.
There is the Social Security dodge. The bill uses $52 billion in higher Social Security taxes to pay for health care expansion. But if Social Security taxes pay for health care, what pays for Social Security?
There is the pilot program dodge. Admirably, the bill includes pilot programs designed to help find ways to control costs. But it’s not clear that the bill includes mechanisms to actually implement the results. This is exactly what happened to undermine previous pilot program efforts.
All of the above-referenced “dodges” and gimmicks to obtain a good CBO score are based on publicly available information, yet nowhere in the establishment media can you find this information actually reported to rebut the ridiculously false claims by Obama and Democrats over the past few days that Obamacare will actually reduce the deficit and be “one of the biggest deficit-reduction plans in history.” The NYT yesterday even manages to lionize the CBO scoring as unimpeachable and nonpartisan while attacking those who dared to note some of the above-referenced dodges and gimmicks listed by Brooks. In short, the establishment media is allowing the President and the Democratic Party to use an explicit lie (Obamacare reduces the deficit) to sell their comprehensive plan to the American public without informing the public in any way of illusory basis for such claims. Such conduct is a true abdication of the 4th Estate’s role as a watchdog of the American government.
Further, Obama concludes by claiming that Democrats must pass this bill for “the American people”:
“Help us fix this system,” Obama said. “Don’t do it for me. Don’t do it for Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid — do it for all those people out there who are struggling. . . . Do it for the American people. They’re the ones who are looking for action right now.”
Amazingly, the Washington Post and the other establishment media articles fail to note that CNN’s latest poll found 73% of Americans want Obama and the Dems to either stop or start over from scratch and only 25% are “looking for action right now.” Similarly, Fox News’s latest poll found that 64% want Obama and the Dems to stop or start over from scratch and only 30% are “looking for action right now.” Even the highly left-wing Kaiser Foundation’s latest poll shows that 56% of Americans want Obama and the Democrats to stop or start over, while 42% want to proceed to a vote now. All of the establishment media reporting also omits any reference to the fact that a full 80% of the American public are satisfied “with the quality of medical care available to them” in the much-reviled “status quo”. Based on these polls, it is impossible to claim with a straight face that passing Obamacare now is what the American people are looking for “right now” – yet this is exactly what Obama is saying, and the media simply cheers without retort, notwithstanding the indisputable facts noted above.
Finally, Obama today made the equally ridiculous claim that Obamacare “runs straight down the center of American political thought” and “is a middle of the road bill” and, again, no one in the media even bothers to rebut this claim with the obvious fact that the only bipartisan thing about Obamacare is the opposition to Obamacare, as at least 31 House Democrats are joining a unified Republican opposition to the bill. Sadly, facts such as these go unmentioned by the establishment media reports as they scurry to defend their hero President Obama as the final hours tick away before the all-important House vote on Obamacare.
When the 4th Estate (media) work so strenuously to support both the President and the Congress in an effort such as Obamacare, avoiding the reporting of any facts which could possibly hinder the Democratic effort to “remake one-sixth of the U.S. economy” while cheerleading every step of the way, the continued viability of the American political system moving forward can reasonably be questioned by centrists and independents as such coordinated misinformation brings to mind the world described by George Orwell in his classic work “1984”. Should Obamacare pass the House and become law, years from now historians will review Obama’s speeches from yesterday and today and likely designate them as some of the most misleading speeches by an American President in the history of our country.
March 16, 2010
Politico issued an interesting piece this morning regarding the departure of Obama family friend and former White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers which describes the “reason Desiree got pushed out” as elite donors who “rose up” against her:
But a previously undisclosed gripe about her provides another explanation for her abrupt departure last month: Some of Obama’s biggest fundraisers, already chafing at not getting enough love from the administration, didn’t even get Christmas cards last year.
“The donors rose up, and that was another reason Desiree got pushed out,” said a source close to the White House.
Apparently the whole “party crashers” incident at the Indian State Dinner was not the only reason Rogers was quietly forced to resign last month; instead, some of the richest people in America, elite donors to the DNC, “rose up” to force her out because of what they perceived as a lack of appropriate glad handing and service by Rogers. Indeed, the hiring of Julianna Smoot, a longtime Democratic fundraising insider who had close ties to now-jailed Democratic fundraiser Norman Hsu and who also ran the entire Obama 2008 record-breaking fundraising operation, was Obama’s “rallying call” to those rich, fat cat donors to pay up, ASAP:
The White House recently sent what could be a rallying call to its donors when it appointed Julianna Smoot, the president’s campaign finance director, to replace Rogers as social secretary.
Smoot brings a variety of strengths to the job: She’s detail-oriented, she’s a strong manager, and she knows both the political and the donor worlds.
President Obama apparently took this drastic action of installing his chief fundraiser for his Presidential campaign as social secretary, unprecedented in the history of the Presidency, because just 10% of the rich, elite donors who were assembled by Smoot to act as “bundlers” for the Obama presidential campaign in 2007 and 2008 have maxed out their contributions to the DNC this election cycle:
While such a slight may seem insignificant, it can carry major repercussions in a year when the Democratic National Committee is going to need every possible resource to help the party’s congressional committees stave off major losses in the midterm elections.
According to an analysis by POLITICO, only 15 — or just 10 percent — of the 150 biggest fundraisers for the Obama campaign gave the maximum $30,400 to the DNC last year.
Julianna Smoot, the new White House social secretary, has, of course, no substantive experience in managing a large executive offices’ day to day visitors and operations, as the White House social secretary is tasked with. This nakedly political power play by Obama, inserting his chief fundraiser into a position of control over every American’s access to the White House, could be construed as putting the proverbial fox in charge of access to the henhouse as Smoot’s main asset is her status as an “insider’s insider” and strong ties to rich Democratic donors and “bundlers”, i.e. those who find other maximum contributions to Democrats and “bundle” them to the candidate.
Smoot’s appointment as social secretary is another example of the disconnect between Obama’s actions (appointing his chief fundraiser and insider’s insider to control access to the White House) and Obama’s words (condemning “fat cat” bankers and “special interest” influence on Washington, DC). As the establishment media continues to deify and lionize Obama with every story they issue, very few in the media have bothered to even analyze these issues so far, and it appears the establishment media intends on giving the Obama Administration yet another pass regarding this transparent prioritization of some of the richest folks in America over access to the White House for the average American.
March 15, 2010
At a time when the establishment media, led by the NYT, is ignoring the untoward Democratic procedure trickery regarding Obamacare (“Slaughter Solution”) and downplaying the substantive special interest pork Obama is using to purchase votes, the NYT truly sets the standard for Obama worship with the photo reproduced here, showing Obama as a messiah-like figure in front of large cross, with a halo around his head, clearly intended to draw comparisons to Christian savior Jesus Christ.
This is nothing new for the NYT, their Obamaphile journalists like Peter Baker and other establishment media, as the cheerleading of the Obama candidacy and then Presidency has been continuous and systemic since the inception of Obama’s campaign for President in 2007. As the clock counts down on perhaps the most important vote in Congress in decades, the House vote on Obamacare, we can expect to see even more frantic Obama worship by the establishment media in the attempt to convince the American public to support the unpopular bill. Centrist, independent and non-ideological Americans are left to wonder what establishment media coverage of the Obama Administration would look like if the narrative-setting giant NYT reported in an objective, as opposed to supportive, manner regarding the Obama Presidency.
A final note from this NYT article bears mentioning. Despite tons of rhetoric about how this week’s House Obamacare vote is so critical to Obama’s Presidency, the establishment media also sets a new narrative into action, claiming that if the House vote fails, Obama’s Presidency will be a-okay. Apparently the establishment media, as orchestrated by the Obama Administration, wants to have all its bases covered as this final week of the Obamacare battle begins.
Still, for all the potential consequences, it is probably too hyperbolic to suggest the presidency rides on this moment. If he fails this week, Mr. Obama could still recover. Even a weakened president has enormous capacity to set an agenda. For all the damage Mr. Clinton absorbed from the failure of his health care plan and the Republican takeover, he eventually found his footing again and won re-election handily.
March 8, 2010
Coming on the heels of the Massa Disaster and the Saigon analogy this morning, the NYT breaks another interesting comment from the White House this morning’s profile of Rahm Emanuel, essentially admitting that its an even-money bet as to whether Obama can force the House to pass Obamacare:
As Emanuel put it the morning of the Massachusetts election, the final judgments will depend on the final results. If the president and his chief of staff manage to salvage their ambitious campaign to overhaul health care in the next few weeks — a proposition the White House privately put at 51 percent as the month began, according to an official — then, as Emanuel said, they will be seen as smart all over again. But that 49 percent chance of failure could devastate Obama’s presidency, weaken Democrats heading into the fall midterm elections and trigger an even fiercer, more debilitating round of finger-pointing inside the administration.
The recent series of stories about Rahm has apparently angered Obama, according to the Times, which Politico notes spurred a Rahm apology:
Baker, who interviewed most of Emanuel’s inner circle, discovers that President Obama was, indeed, irked by a spate of stories defending Emanuel, including a recent Dana Milbank column that suggested the president would have been wiser to heed his underling’s advice on strategic decisions.
And Rahm seems to have apologized.
“As for Obama, ‘he’s irritated by the stories,’ a top aide told me, and Emanuel has ‘expressed regret’ to the president,’ Baker writes.
March 7, 2010
If your only source of information was establishment media reporting, it would be easy to draw an altogether false conclusion from the recent attacks by John Patrick Bedell (Pentagon gunman) and Joseph Andrew Stack (suicide pilot) that a wave of “right wing extremism” or “tea party terrorism” is descending upon America. This narrative is being pushed relentlessly by the establishment media, despite indisputable countervailing facts as shown in detail below. An objective review of the writings and activities of the suspects in each of the recent horrific terrorist attacks by Americans on Americans – Joseph Andrew Stack (airplane suicide bomber), John Patrick Bedell (gunman at Pentagon), and Amy Bishop (massacred fellow professors) – unequivocally demonstrates that each of these deranged individuals actually have closer ties to the American left than any right wing group.
First, regarding John Patrick Bedell, the gunman who opened fire outside the Pentagon a few days ago, wounding two police officers in a shootout that cost Bedell his life, the establishment media essentially ignored that Bedell was a registered Democrat as of 2008, a fervent Bush/Cheney hater and a strong believer in the anti-Bush “9/11 Truth” conspiracy theory that claims Bush personally arranged for the 9/11 attacks to be committed. Media coverage has asserted, falsely, that Bedell was a “right wing extremist” based on some anti-government internet postings by Bedell while ignoring Bedell’s indisputable status as a registered Democrat who hated Bush and a 9/11 Truther (a left wing conspiracy theory). The NYT spends several thousand words detailing Bedell’s background but fails to note his status as a registered Democrat as of 2008 or his extreme hatred for former President Bush and VP Cheney. The seminal article pushing the “right wing extremist” narrative in the Christian Science Monitor expressly states Bedell is a right wing extremist while also dishonestly censoring any reference to Bedell’s status as a registered Democrat or Bush/Cheney hater.
Similarly, suicide pilot Joseph Andrew Stack, who flew his small plane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas a few weeks ago, was famously labeled the “first tea party terrorist” by the narrative-setting, highly ideological New York Times. The facts, of course, point in a different direction as Stack’s suicide note conclusion strongly praises Communism while attacking Capitalism – views that no tea party protester hold and views that are certainly more in line with the American left than any right wing ideology. The Washington Post, New York Times, Christian Science Monitor and CNN went so far as to censor the final lines of Stack’s suicide note (which praised Communism and attacked Capitalism) and instead falsely and dishonestly reported that Stack concluded his suicide note with an anti-IRS threat on the day of the incident. The final two lines of Stack’s suicide note, which apparently did not exist according to the American media, were as follows:
The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.
The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.
Further, the seminal opinion piece claiming that Stack was the “first tea party terrorist” in the New York Times also dishonestly omits any reference to Stack’s far left statements in praise of Communism as well as Stack’s hatred for Bush and attacks on drug and insurance companies that echo Democratic talking points in furtherance of the false, yet preferred “right wing extremist” narrative.
Accordingly, a casual observer of establishment media reports on Bedell and Stack would conclude, falsely, that both were “right wing extremists” despite the indisputable facts that both men strongly hated the former Republican Bush/Cheney Administration while one (Stack) was a proponent of Communism and another (Bedell) was a registered Democrat. While it is true that both men engaged in anti-government rantings, such rantings alone do not prove that either man was a “right wing extremist”. Neither man was a registered Republican or had any history of tea party activism or right wing activism, yet the establishment media made exactly those claims in its “reporting”. Such intentionally misleading reporting by the establishment media on Bedell and Stack are examples of the most odious aspects of the establishment media’s strong left wing bias in its reporting.
A final example, mass murdering Professor Amy Bishop, also demonstrates the establishment media’s strong left wing bias in its reporting of terrorist or extremist attacks in the United States by Americans against Americans. Bishop opened fire on her longtime professorial colleagues in a department meeting at an Alabama university, killing three and wounding several more until her gun jammed and she fled the horrific scene. Bishop came from a well-connected liberal family in Boston and was “a far-left political extremist who was ‘obsessed’ with President Barack Obama to the point of being off-putting.” It bears mentioning that if either Bedell, Stack or Bishop were registered Republicans or strong Bush supporters, those facts would have probably led the establishment media’s reporting of the incidents themselves. While ignoring Bishop’s political leanings in all of its reporting on Bishop, and declining to issue editorials about “left wing extremism” regarding Bishop’s horrific rampage, the NYT did report on the execution-style murders by Bishop, halting only when her gun jammed:
In an e-mail message describing the event, another professor, Joseph Ng, wrote, “She started with the one closest to her and went down the row shooting her targets in the head.” He continued: “Blood was everywhere with crying and moaning. We were in a pool of blood in disbelief of what had happened.” The message was published on the Web site of The Orange County Register after Dr. Ng, who had not intended to make it public, sent it to a friend.
Dr. Ng, Dr. Moriarity and the others on the far end of the room dove under the conference table. Dr. Moriarity crawled over to Dr. Bishop and grabbed her by the leg, yelling, “Amy, think about my grandson! Think about my daughter! I helped you, I helped you before, and I’ll help you now,” she said.
Dr. Moriarity said she had often acted as a “sounding board” for Dr. Bishop and had given her advice when she came up for tenure.
But in the room, any such relationship seemed forgotten. Dr. Bishop shook Dr. Moriarty off, turned, and pointed the gun down at her. “She looked at me and fired — and it clicked,” Dr. Moriarity said.
Dr. Bishop did not speak, Dr. Moriarity said. “She just looked angry,” she said. “The expression on her face never changed. Until the gun jammed — the last expression I saw was more of a perplexed look.”
Indeed, the NYT spends literally 1000’s of words describing every detail of Bishop’s life, yet somehow fails to even address Bishop’s political leanings. This glaring omission of reporting by the NYT in the Bishop case, as compared to the NYT’s relentless pushing of the “right wing extremist” narrative regarding the Stack and Bedell cases, clearly demonstrates the left wing, ideological filter the NYT applies to its reporting. Following the lead of the Times, in contrast to the Bedell and Stack reporting, which primarily focused on the political leanings of the deranged attackers, the Bishop establishment media coverage ignored Bishop’s indisputably left wing political leanings and express, enthusiastic support for President Obama.
While we believe that no political party or politician deserves any blame for the actions of deranged individuals such as Bedell, Stack and Bishop, the American left’s use of these recent terrorist or extremist incidents to “prove” that a wave of “right wing extremist” or “tea party terrorist” attacks are hitting America is intentionally dishonest and appears motivated by a left wing ideological desire to use the tragic incidents to score political points against Republicans as the high-stakes partisan debate over health care unfolds in Washington, D.C. Considering the dishonest cherry-picking of facts by the establishment media in their relentless efforts to portray Stack and Bedell as “right wing extremists”, the media’s failure to report, let alone pursue, the clear indications that Bishop was a “far left political extremist” is clear evidence of untoward ideological left-wing bias and screening at work in today’s media reporting to the American people. One can only hope that Americans are not taken by the dishonest, ideological narrative creation engaged in by the likes of the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and Christian Science Monitor and instead the media is shamed into reporting all the facts on these matters.
UPDATE: The Christian Science Monitor is now trying to back away from its ridiculous claim that Bedell is a “right wing extremist”.
February 25, 2010
Fox News just released new polling done on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week which shows the lowest approval (37%) and highest disapproval (56%) of Obama’s handling of health care than ever before, a 19% net deficit. The only other issue in which President Obama scores worse with the public than his handling of health care is Obama’s handling of the federal budget deficit, where Obama faces a thirty point deficit (31% approve, 61% disapprove) with the American public. Obama’s 19% net American public disapproval on his handling of health care in the new Fox poll is matched by the 20% net deficit in public approval of Obama’s handling of health care (35% approve, 55% disapprove) found by the latest CBS/NYT polling on the subject. Finally, 59% of the public think that Obama and the Democrats should scrap the health care bill and pass nothing if a bipartisan deal is not reached with the GOP while 34% believe Obama should push through his plan without GOP support:
If President Obama is unable to reach a deal with Republicans at the summit, 59 percent think he should start from scratch later. Some 34 percent think he should go ahead and try to pass the current bill without Republican support.
By a 50 to 40 percent margin, more voters think the health care summit is a “sincere effort” on the president’s part to work out a compromise than think it is “just for show.”
Nearly seven out of 10 voters feel “fed up with” the health care debate, including most Republicans (82 percent) and most independents (70 percent), as well as half of Democrats (50 percent).
The national telephone poll was conducted for Fox News by Opinion Dynamics Corp. among 900 registered voters from February 23 to February 24. For the total sample, the poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
More voters than ever now disapprove of the job President Obama is doing on health care — 56 percent. That’s 19 percentage points higher than the 37 percent who approve.
Furthermore, on only one other issue does the president receive lower ratings than on health care — his handling of the federal deficit (31 percent approve and 61 percent disapprove).
If a compromise isn’t achieved at the summit, by a two-to-one margin Democrats think the president should still try to pass the bill without Republicans. Even so, 31 percent think the president should start over in this scenario.
For independents, it’s just the reverse, by more than two-to-one they support dropping the current bill and starting over. An overwhelming majority of Republicans say the current bill should be dropped if the health care summit fails to find bipartisan agreement.
The new Fox poll also found Obama’s overall job approval at 47%/45%, and interestingly found by a 62%/17% margin that President Obama is better at campaigning than governing, and half of the American voting public believes that the Obama Administration does not “get it” regarding voter anger at DC:
The consensus among American voters is Barack Obama is better at campaigning for the job than at doing the job, according to a Fox News poll released Thursday. In addition, half of voters say the Obama administration doesn’t “get it.”
As the president’s approval rating remains in the high forties, the poll finds that voters by a wide 62 to 17 percent margin think Obama is better at campaigning than at governing.
It isn’t surprising most Republicans feel this way (83 percent). What may surprise the White House is that nearly seven out of 10 independents say they feel the president is better at campaigning than governing, and so do more Democrats (albeit by a thin 6 percentage-point edge). More than one out of five Democrats was unable to choose between campaigning and governing and volunteered a “both” response (22 percent).
On Wednesday there were reports, dismissed by the administration, the White House is starting to make plans for its 2012 re-election campaign.
While 47 percent of voters approve of the job President Obama is doing, almost as many — 45 percent — disapprove.
Earlier this month the president received his lowest job ratings to date when 46 percent approved and 47 percent disapproved (February 2-3, 2009).
Vice President Joe Biden recently said the administration understands why American voters are angry and bluntly stated, “We get it.” Nearly half of voters agree with Biden (45 percent). Yet half — 50 percent — say no, the administration doesn’t get it. That includes over one of five Democrats (22 percent).
More than half of independents (52 percent) think the administration doesn’t “get it,” while 44 percent agree with the vice president that it does.
Finally, American voters disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy by a 56%/40% margin, while also disapproving of Obama’s handling of job creation by a 52%/41% margin. Hotair points out that the latest Gallup polling show similar problems for Obama regarding the public’s approval of continuing with a comprehensive plan if he cannot reach a deal with the GOP. With these grim new personal approval numbers, all double digit net negative, on the key issues of the day such as the economy, job creation, the deficit and health care, Obama faces an uphill struggle in gathering the needed 218 Democratic House and 50 Democratic Senate votes to push through his comprehensive health care plan.
February 21, 2010
As the anticipation grows in DC regarding tomorrow’s release of Obama’s latest intra-Democratic compromise health care proposal, the NYT reports that the Obama Administration will include provisions that create a “new power” of the federal government to control the price of health insurance:
WASHINGTON — President Obama will propose on Monday giving the federal government new power to block excessive rate increases by health insurance companies, as he rolls out comprehensive legislation to revamp the nation’s health care system, White House officials said.
The president’s legislation aims to bridge differences between the bills adopted by the House and Senate late last year, and to frame his debate with Republicans over health policy at a televised “summit” meeting on Thursday.
By focusing on the effort to tighten regulation of insurance costs, a new element not included in either the House or Senate bills, Mr. Obama is seizing on outrage over recent premium increases of up to 39 percent announced by Anthem Blue Cross of California and moving to portray the Democrats’ health overhaul as a way to protect Americans from predatory insurers.
The timing of the leak to the NYT tonight appears designed to control the media narrative tomorrow, when Obama’s specific language will be released on the internet. Obama’s emphasis on being tough on insurance companies appears designed to paint the GOP as soft on insurance companies should the GOP continue to refuse to go along with Obama’s health care plans. Additionally, the price controls would take effect immediately, giving the Democrats something to point to in the short term should Obamacare pass as most individual benefits are not set to begin until 2013. Specifically, the price control system proposed by Obama would work as follows according to the NYT:
The president’s bill would grant the federal health and human services secretary new authority to review, and to block, premium increases by private insurers, potentially superseding state insurance regulators. The bill would create a new Health Insurance Rate Authority, comprised of health industry experts that would issue an annual report setting the parameters for reasonable rate increases based on conditions in the market.
Officials said they envisioned the provision taking effect immediately after the health care bill is signed into law.
The legislation would call on the secretary of health and human services to work with state regulators to develop an annual review of rate increases, and if increases are deemed “unjustified” the secretary or the state could block the increase, order the insurer to change it, or even issue a rebate to beneficiaries. States would be eligible for a portion of $250 million in grants finance premium review and approval.
The new price control provisions will also provide the GOP with an opening to paint Obamacare as a big government takeover of the health care system, especially as they are to take effect immediately and potentially disrupt private insurance company operations and plans for the ongoing fiscal year 2010. Conversely, the large new increases in a small subset of non-employer obtained health care insurance in California have provided political fuel to those on the left who advocate strong federal price controls. However, even some Democratic Senators, such as Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), who participated in Democratic Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus’s bipartisan health care negotiations, reject health insurance price controls, notes the LA Times in September 2009:
But Democrats have shied away from regulating premiums in the face of charges from business leaders and Republicans that controlling what insurers charge would be meddling too much in the private sector.
As a result, while states have long supervised what companies charge for mandated automobile and homeowners insurance, the idea has been largely banished from the healthcare debate.
“That would be a very substantial additional intervention in the marketplace,” said Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), a member of a bipartisan group of lawmakers who worked with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) on his healthcare bill. “I just don’t think the support would be there for that kind of a change.”
Another wildcard in the health care debate this week is the role of the nation’s governors, who are increasingly upset about being shut out of the intra-Democratic health care negotiations and desire “more of a voice” in the negotiations:
Leaders of the National Governors Association meeting in Washington on Sunday expressed frustration that that they had been largely shut out of negotiations over the future of the health care system, even though they would be responsible for carrying out many of the changes envisioned by federal officials. They said they want more of a voice in shaping those changes.
“It’s important that governors be at the table and bring our perspective to the debate,” said Gov. Jim Douglas of Vermont, a Republican who is chairman of the National Governors Association.
Mr. Douglas said governors were deeply involved in discussions with Congress and Mr. Obama on the economic stimulus law adopted early last year. But he said, “We have not had that kind of relationship in the current debate” on health care.
Gov. Phil Bredesen of Tennessee, a Democrat, said: “Governors have something unique to contribute. Washington, D.C., is full of think tanks, theoreticians and advocacy groups. Governors are the ones whose feet are on the ground. We have a sense of what will work and what won’t work. Our perspective is not the only one. But we can bring some practicality to this discussion.”
In what is sure to be an exciting week for those interested in health care reform, the addition of federal price controls into the mix is will spark renewed disputes between liberals and conservatives over whether increased government power is the answer for the issues facing America’s health care system.
UPDATE: Hotair and others follow CentristNet’s lead regarding Obama’s proposed price controls.
Despite the return of 2007-2008 Obama campaign manager David Plouffe to an active role in molding President Obama’s political strategy, today’s Rasmussen Reports daily polling shows that only 22% of likely voters strongly approve of Obama’s job performance, a new low of Obama’s Presidency, while 41% strongly disapprove:
The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Sunday shows that 22% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. That is the lowest level of strong approval yet recorded for this President.
Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -19. The Approval Index has been lower only on one day during Barack Obama’s thirteen months in office. The previous low came on December 22 as the Senate was preparing to approve its version of the proposed health care legislation. The current lows come as the President is once again focusing attention on the health care legislation.
Including soft supporters and opponents of the President’s job performance, President Barack Obama’s overall job approval now stands at 45% approval and 54% disapproval amongst likely voters, also near his all-time low of disapproval. Today’s polling, as well as other polling done by Gallup, the NYT and CNN, demostrates the perils of President Obama’s renewed focus on health care legislation with an “impassioned plea” for the passage of Obamacare at the Nevada town hall, in yesterday’s weekly Saturday morning message and the upcoming “Health Care Summit” on February 25, 2010. Obama fell to his lowest ratings of his Presidency at prior moments of intense focus on health care reform, and it appears his renewed focus over the past few days is eliciting a similiar reaction amongst the American public.
On the day of Scott Brown’s election to the US Senate in Massachuetts, President Obama decided to bring Plouffe back into his inner circle and subsequently shifted rhetorical gears to again focus on bipartisanship, with an emphasis on economic policy. That shift in Obama’s political strategy, and Obama’s performances in the State of the Union and at the House Republican retreat, appeared to staunch the bleeding of Obama’s core supporters while providing him a slight bounce amongst independents.
As noted above, the Obama Administration’s return to an intense focus on health care reform in the leadup to the “Health Care Summit” on February 25, 2010 appears to have halted any positive momentum from the Plouffe strategic shift and once again led Obama to fresh lows in strong supporters of his Presidency. The Obama Administration, the Democrat Party and special interest groups that support Obamacare all argue that once passed by Congress and signed by Obama, the public’s strongly negative view of Obamacare will reverse itself. As Obama’s job approval ratings have reached their lows at moments of public focus on health care reform, that theory may not be tested after all as Congress may balk at taking the last leap by passing Obamacare in final form for Obama’s signature via reconciliation in the face of strong public disapproval and GOP condemnation.
February 15, 2010
Breaking News: CIA and Pakistani Intelligence Capture Taliban’s Number Two Leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar – Interrogation to Shape Obama detainee policy – UPDATE – CBS News’s Expert Concurs: “Most Important Event…in the War on Terrorism in Years”
Outstanding news in the War on Terror from the New York Times: Operatives of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) worked in tandem to capture the top military commander of the Taliban, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. The NYT details the importance of Mullah Baradar’s capture and ongoing interrogation:
The commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, is an Afghan described by American officials as the most significant Taliban figure to be detained since the American-led war in Afghanistan started more than eight years ago. He ranks second in influence only to Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban’s founder and a close associate of Osama bin Laden before the Sept. 11 attacks.
Mullah Baradar has been in Pakistani custody for several days, with American and Pakistani intelligence officials both taking part in interrogations, according to the officials.
It was unclear whether he was talking, but the officials said his capture had provided a window into the Taliban and could lead to other senior officials. Most immediately, they hope he will provide the whereabouts of Mullah Omar, the one-eyed cleric who is the group’s spiritual leader.
Disclosure of Mullah Baradar’s capture came as American and Afghan forces were in the midst of a major offensive in southern Afghanistan.
His capture could cripple the Taliban’s military operations, at least in the short term, said Bruce O. Riedel, a C.I.A. veteran who last spring led the Obama administration’s Afghanistan and Pakistan policy review.
Details of the raid remain murky, but officials said that it had been carried out by Pakistan’s military spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, and that C.I.A. operatives had accompanied the Pakistanis.
Without question, this is the most favorable development in the War on Terror since the beginning of the Obama Administration. Noone quite knows why the ISI has now begun cooperating with the CIA in capturing high-ranking Taliban leaders, as for many years since 9/11, foreign policy analysts and even US Afghanistan Commander General Stanley McChrystal have speculated that the ISI has been covertly assisting the Taliban:
In a recent report, General McChrystal explains Taliban fighters in Afghanistan are aided by international intelligence agencies, referring specifically to Iran’s Quds Force and Pakistan’s ISI. This is perhaps the first time a top ranking official cites current, and direct links between the state run ISI and Taliban. McChrystal says the insurgency in Afghanistan is supported by way of aid given through “some elements of Pakistan’s ISI”. That is alarming, and definitely runs against our interests.
With Mullah Baradar’s capture, the pressure on Mullah Omar, the head honcho of the Taliban, who remains at large, increases significantly. As Mullah Baradar has been undergoing interrogation by the ISI and CIA since Thursday, presumably significant information has been gleaned from him and from the electronic devices and documents found on or about his person upon capture. Such information undoubtedly relates in some fashion to the whereabouts of Mullah Omar, who’s days of freedom are hopefully numbered now that Omar’s military commander, Mullah Baradar, has been captured.
Indeed, the yoke of the State Department upon CIA activities appears to have been lifted once and for all regarding the Taliban as Mullah Baradar was deeply involved in negotiations with the Karzai regime in Kabul in the past few years, as noted by Newsweek last summer:
Back in 2004, according to Maulvi Arsala Rahmani, a former Taliban cabinet minister who now lives in Kabul, Baradar authorized a Taliban delegation that approached Karzai with a peace offer, even paying their travel expenses to Kabul. That outreach fizzled, but earlier this year another two senior Taliban operatives sent out separate peace feelers to Qayyum Karzai, the Afghan president’s older brother, apparently with Baradar’s approval, according to three ranking Taliban sources. They say the initiatives were quickly rescinded. Still, when NEWSWEEK spoke to the elder Karzai last week and asked him about the story, he did not deny that such contacts had taken place, saying only, “This is a very sensitive time, and a lot of things are going on.”
Despite all the talk from the Obama Administration about an “outreach” to the “moderate” elements of the Taliban via negotiations floating about, it appears that the CIA’s governor is now removed and with ISI cooperation, Mullah Omar’s remaining days may be few in number. Perhaps this recent aggressive US posture was foreshadowed by this Friday, February 12, 2010 comment from previously-dovish Richard Holbrooke:
The administration has responded uncertainly to Karzai’s outreach to the Taliban — even though it flies in the face of what top US officials were saying just two months ago.
“The separation of the Taliban from al Qaeda is not currently on the horizon. The leaders of the Taliban and the al Qaeda are deeply intermeshed,” US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke told a Council on Foreign Relations audience in mid-December. “It is our judgment that, if the Taliban succeed in Afghanistan, they will bring back with them to Afghanistan al Qaeda.”
All told, the CIA’s cooperative action with the ISI, resulting in the capture of Mullah Baradar, is the most substantial progress in the War on Terror since Obama’s Inauguration. Considering the incoming fire from the Obama White House and Department of Justice taken by the CIA since Inauguration Day, including the loss of detainee interrogation responsibilities and reopened criminal investigations into the actions of CIA operatives during the Bush Administration, it is indeed ironic that the CIA has now delivered to the Obama Administration their most stunning success in the War on Terror to date.
A centrist independent observer of these developments can only take joy in the CIA’s weakening of the Taliban and the reforming of the ISI’s past misguided policies of support for the Taliban. One can only hope that the Obama Administration now lays off the continued attacks, both rhetorical and legal, upon the CIA and frees up the fine men and women of the CIA to accelerate their efforts to stamp out the Taliban’s leadership once and for all.
One can only wonder whether Mullah Baradar is being interrogated solely as directed in the Army Field Manual, as directed by Obama upon his banning of all other interrogation techniques last year. Furthermore, if the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, or HIG, which was first authorized in August 2009 but first became operational only after the Christmas Day Bomber in February 2010, is being utilized in Mullah Baradar’s interrogation. Indeed, the HIG was created primarily to shift the “the center of gravity away from the CIA and giving the White House direct oversight.” Is or will HIG be used here, to shift the “center of gravity away from the CIA,” despite the CIA’s central role in Mullah Baradar’s capture? Finally, the Administration’s response as to whether Mullah Baradar was mirandized upon capture will surely come under great scrutiny. Taken together, the next few days, and the Obama Administration’s response to the above-listed questions, may end up shaping the Obama’s Administration’s detainee interrogations policy for the remainder of Obama’s term considering Mullah Baradar’s indisputable status as the most important captured terrorist since Obama’s inauguration.
UPDATE: CBS News concurs with Centristnet, with their Taliban expert calling the capture of Mullah Baradar and the ISI’s cooperation in doing so the “most important event in years” in the War on Terror:
Haroun Mir, a leading expert on the Afghan Taliban movement, tells CBS News the arrest of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is “the most important event in the war against the Taliban and the war on terrorism in years.”
“This is a significant blow to the Taliban. In the past they have been able to replace leaders, and no doubt they will replace him, but there are not many members of the Quetta Shura who can step into his role,” Mir told CBS News producer Ben Plesser in Kabul, referring to the Afghan Taliban by its traditional name.
But the implications of Baradar’s arrest for America and its allies in the war against Islamic fundamentalism may be far greater than the tactical victory of nabbing the purported No. 2 commander of the group.
“The real significance is the change in the Pakistani policy,” explains Mir.