As Kaylin just reported, Attorney General Eric Holder just told congressmen on the House Judiciary Committee that Deputy Attorney General James Cole authorized the subpoena of AP phone records.
Cole, it seems, is being positioned to take the blame for the scandal. Yesterday, the AP reported that it received a letter from Cole this week defending the subpoena:
The AP revealed Monday that federal agents had collected two months of telephone records for some of its reporters and editors without notifying it of the subpoena. In a letter to the news service’s president, Gary Pruitt, Deputy Attorney General James Cole said the Justice Department had balanced the public’s right to know with national security.
“The subpoenas were limited to a reasonable period of time and did not seek the content of any calls,” Cole wrote.
Meanwhile Holder yesterday claimed he recused himself from the matter of the AP subpoena and left the ultimate decision to Cole. Several voices, on both the right and the left have called for Holder to resign. But Holder seems to have successfully done a successful CYA with the recusal. Cole is being made to own this; expect him to take the fall…and Holder to remain in charge of the Department of Justice.
UPDATE: Under questioning from Rep. Tom Marino, Eric Holder just admitted that, even though he’d allegedly recused himself, there was no paper trail he could provide as evidence. Really? The DOJ lets the nation’s most powerful lawyer be recused on an issue of this magnitude without even having to fill out a form? This entire thing stinks.
Via Joel Gehrke at The Washington Examiner, new revelations that the Internal Revenue Service targeted pro-life groups regarding their protest activities directed at other non-profits, holding their applications for tax-exempt status hostage:
In one case, the IRS withheld approval of an application for tax exempt status for Coalition for Life of Iowa. In a phone call to Coalition for Life of Iowa leaders on June 6, 2009, the IRS agent “Ms. Richards” told the group to send a letter to the IRS with the entire board’s signatures stating that, under perjury of the law, they do not picket/protest or organize groups to picket or protest outside of Planned Parenthood. Once the IRS received this letter, their application would be approved. After a series of letters following a request for more invasive information, Thomas More Society special counsel Sally Wagenmaker sent a letter to the IRS demanding the tax exempt status be issued immediately.
This could be credibly interpreted as federal suppression of political speech, a heinous violation of the First Amendment. It also undermines the official IRS position that staffers were earmarking groups with specific terms like “Tea Party” in their names as a heuristic to investigate political activities which would compromise tax-exempt status. Groups were asked for information including donor lists, staff resumes, and in one case the minutes from board meetings.
In today’s House Judiciary Committee hearing with Attorney General Eric Holder, Congressman Randy Forbes (R-Va.) announced his plan to introduce a bill keeping data on Americans’ healthcare decisions away from the IRS after the agency admitted to targeting conservative groups for auditing.
Forbes began his questioning period by asking Holder about the Benghazi and Fast and Furious scandals. He made the point that neither former secretary of state Hillary Clinton nor Holder himself were held personally responsible for the scandals, nor were any lower-level employees of the State Department or Department of Justice.
Forbes asked Holder if he could identify any actions he should have taken before the death of Brian Terry in connection with Fast and Furious. Holder avoided a real answer, saying that “hindsight is 20/20” and that he has to “run an agency” with thousands of employees.
Forbes connected the actions by the State and Justice departments with the recent actions of the IRS, saying that nobody will be held responsible. “When irresponsible actions take place, nobody has any personal repercussions,” he said.
Due to this, Forbes made it clear that he believes the IRS should never be given access to data on healthcare decisions made under Obamacare, as he believes abuses of power will continue to occur and, again, no one would be held accountable.
Attorney General Eric Holder said in a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee that the criminal investigation of the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS will be nationwide.
The scandal, which is currently being blamed on the Cincinnati office of the IRS, may be national in scope, according to Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas). He said he had heard of organizations in at least four cities being targeting by the IRS, calling it “a threat to our democracy and quite possibly a threat to an organization’s First Amendment rights.”
Holder said that, at its early stages, the investigation is based out of Washington. “The facts will take us where they take us,” he said.
Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), encouraged the administration to “get out front” on this issue and “let the chips fall where they may.”
“I believe there’s been a pattern in this administation is not taking responsibilites for failures, not taking the blame, pointing fingers,” he said.
Facing scrutiny from Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee, moments ago Attorney General Eric Holder punted on responsibility for the subpoena of two months of phone records from Associated Press employees by the Department of Justice.
Pressed on who was responsible for signing off on the subpoena, his answer was, “I don’t know” and “I’m simply not a part of that case.”
The subpoena of records should have been approved by Holder according to DOJ rules, but Holder was recused from the case. After saying he assumed that deputy Attorney General James Cole signed off on the subpoena, he added, “I was just handed a note that we’ve just confirmed that the deputy was the one who authorized the subpoena.”
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) attacked him on issues of responsibility, saying, “There doesn’t seem to be any acceptance of repsonsibility for things that have gone wrong.” He instructed Holder and other senior DOJ employees to go to the Truman libary and take a picture of the famed “The buck stops here” sign. “We don’t know where the buck stops and i think to do adequate oversight we better find out,” said Sensenbrenner.
Holder remained vague on other issues, including the investigation of the September 11 attack in Benghazi. When asked about the status of the investigation by Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC), Holder said, “I can’t be definitive other than to say that the investigation is ongoing, that we are at a point that we have taken steps that I would say are definitive, concrete.”
And this is the organization to be entrusted with enforcing Obamacare???
A lawyer has filed a lawsuit on behalf of an unnamed plaintiff or class of plaintiffs, accusing the IRS of illegally seizing 60,000,000 electronic medical records belonging to 10,000,000 Americans.
From the news report, quoting the attorney:
In a case involving solely a tax matter involving a former employee of the company, these agents stole more than 60,000,000 medical records of more than 10,000,000 Americans, including at least 1,000,000 Californians.
No search warrant authorized the seizure of these records; no subpoena authorized the seizure of these records; none of the 10,000,000 Americans were under any kind of known criminal or civil investigation and their medical records had no relevance whatsoever to the IRS search. IT personnel at the scene, a HIPPA [sic: recte HIPAA] facility warning on the building and the IT portion of the searched premises, and the company executives each warned the IRS agents of these privileged records. The IRS agents ignored and discarded each of these warnings, ignored their own published and public-reliant rules and governing ethical requirements, and ignored the limitations of the court’s search warrant authorization, seizing the records under threat of destroying company property.
All that and rude, too:
Adding insult to injury, after unlawfully seizing the records and searching their intimate parts, defendants decided to use John Doe Company’s media system to watch basketball, ordering pizza and Coca-Cola, to take in part of the NCAA tournament, illustrating their complete disregard of the court’s order and the Plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment rights.
In a long-planned hearing with Attorney General Eric Holder, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. John Conyers Jr., announced his plans to reintroduce the Free Flow of Information Act to the House, after news broke this week that the Department of Justice secretly recorded two months of phone calls by Associated Press reporters.
The act, which would create a federal shield law for journalists, is similar to what exists in 49 states and the District of Columbia.
While journalists are protected at the state level, the federal government has no such law in place. The act would protect journalists from having to testify on information or sources collected as part of the news-gathering process.
The White House has asked Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to reintroduce a similar bill in the Senate, which he agreed to do. Schumer was a major proponent of the original bill.
The New York Times reported:
Called the Free Flow of Information Act, the bill was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in a bipartisan 15-to-4 vote in December 2009. But while it was awaiting a floor vote, a furor over leaking arose after WikiLeaks began publishing archives of secret government documents, and the bill never received a vote.
In an interview on Fox News at around 11:45 AM Eastern Time, Democratic Congressman Sander Levin (MI) who is the ranking Dem on the House Ways and Means Committee (which has jurisdiction over tax issues), would not say that anyone at the IRS should be fired. Instead, he said repeatedly that they should be “relieved of the specific responsibilities” in the area of dealing with tax-exempt organizations.
Perhaps Levin should be relieved of his specific responsibility to serve on the committee which overseas the IRS.
For contrast, earlier in the day, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) asked “My question is, who’s going to jail over this scandal?”
I don’t know what other conclusion you can come to after reading this from USA Today:
In February 2010, the Champaign Tea Party in Illinois received approval of its tax-exempt status from the IRS in 90 days, no questions asked.
That was the month before the Internal Revenue Service started singling out Tea Party groups for special treatment. There wouldn’t be another Tea Party application approved for 27 months.
In that time, the IRS approved perhaps dozens of applications from similar liberal and progressive groups, a USA TODAY review of IRS data shows.
As applications from conservative groups sat in limbo, groups with liberal-sounding names had their applications approved in as little as nine months. With names including words like “Progress” or “Progressive,” the liberal groups applied for the same tax status and were engaged in the same kinds of activities as the conservative groups.
Some time in early 2010, the IRS made a decision that it was going to actively thwart the expansion of the Tea Party. The agency charged with collecting revenue instead acted as an intellectual suppressant, trying to stop the spread of conservative ideas. This goes way, way beyond singling Tea Party groups out for harassment.
Of course we want to get all the facts before we start pointing fingers. But it seems inconceivable that the IRS—an agency of career bureaucrats with little vested interest in the Tea Party—made this decision on its own. Thanks to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, we know the EPA disproportionately granted FOIA fee waivers to friendly groups and charged conservative ones. There needs to be a thorough and across-the-board investigation into where and how often this sort of thing occurred.
Mindy Kaling starred on The Office as Kelly and also wrote for the show. Obviously, The Office has been one of the few consistent successes for NBC over the past decade and Kaling deserves credit for contributing to that. She also published a book called Is Everyone Hanging Out without Me? (My wife loved it.) By all accounts, she is a witty, intelligent, and talented writer. So it comes as no surprise that she was offered her own show on Fox this past year. Thus, The Mindy Project was born.
To be honest, I was dragged kicking and screaming into watching the show. My wife loves TV: good TV, bad TV, it doesn’t much matter. I’ve sadly seen things on my DVR that bring me shame: The Bachelor, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and Happy Endings all come to mind. I still shudder at the names. She is legitimately sad when shows are cancelled (even when she knows they are terrible). I think she feels pity for the actors. Regardless, I had serious reservations about Kaling’s new project; the name alone seemed banal.
But the first season turned out to be generally entertaining and a nice, modern ensemble comedy. It came replete with a will-they/won’t they romance, commentary on the modern workplace, and New York City as a backdrop. It was by far not the most sexually suggestive or offensive comedy on Fox or any other channel. Indeed, Kaling’s character ultimately desires marriage and a relatively traditional life. There was, however, one storyline that struck me as odd. Kaling’s character dates a Lutheran minister for the latter half of the season. The relationship is interracial and interfaith. But all of that was handled well. In fact, one of the most poignant moments of the first season was Mindy looking in the mirror and realizing that her faith was part of her identity and she couldn’t change it for another person. It was not some necklace that she could put on and take off.
What was surprising is that the minister and Mindy had sex before marriage as if it was not a big deal. Now, I know our popular culture certainly doesn’t object to sex in non-marital relationships. But I was surprised that I wasn’t more shocked. Ostensibly, sex with a Christian pastor outside of marriage is a big deal. The show treated it as any other relationship, but I have to imagine that even 10 years ago a pastor having sex after a few weeks of dating would be shocking. It almost felt like a soap opera narrative, but it was handled so glibly that it barely registers with the audience. Just another example of the moral goalposts being shifted I suppose.
All in all, The Mindy Project represents one of the better efforts at new comedic programming this season. It found comedy in honesty without being “gritty” or over the top. The show does reflect our current popular culture’s view on sex, but aside from the previous example, does so without being crass. Kaling’s wit is worth the price of admission alone.
Fatah, the Palestinian political and military organization founded in the 1950s to gain control of territory through guerrilla warfare, agreed to an Arab League proposal authorizing land swaps for a peace deal with Israel.
Fatah, which governs the West Bank (but not Gaza, which is governed by rival party and terrorist group Hamas), agreed to the plan despite early comments from some of its officials opposing it. Under the proposal, borders would be drawn as they were in 1967 with mutually agreed-upon land swaps.
So what does it mean? Probably nothing. If the opinion of the Israeli population is any indication, a two-state solution is not in the near future. Although the majority of Israelis surveyed in an Israel Hayom poll in January supported the idea of a two-state solution, only 40.6% think the idea is feasible.
The 2012 Israeli Democracy Index found that only 25% of Israelis—both Jews and Arabs—believe that a peace deal will be signed with the Palestinians in the next 10 to 15 years. Over two-thirds believe that it won’t happen.
Looking at the Israeli government, it seems no more likely. Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party may have suffered a major loss of seats in the January parliamentary elections, but it is still the majority party and was tasked with forming the governing coalition.
The election results were largely a referendum on the economy, rather than national security and the peace process—the first such election in Israel’s history. This is another sign that a peace deal isn’t likely any time soon. Israeli’s don’t think peace is going to happen right now, so they voted on the next most pressing issue.
There have been chances for peace in the past that were ignored, but this seems to be the opposite: people trying to find a chance for peace where there isn’t one.
The IRS scandal involves much more than the targeting of Tea Party groups according to what the inspector general’s report calls “inappropriate criteria.” As Ross Kaminsky points out, the liberal investigative journalism project Pro Publica has admitted getting confidential information on conservative groups from inside the IRS.
Monday, after the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) complained of its confidential donor information being leaked, I posed the question: What did Arianna Huffington know and when did she know it?
This is not a joke; One of HuffPo’s contributors, Joe Solomonese, a co-chair of the Obama re-election campaign, was directly involved in obtaining those IRS documents, which were first published at Huffington Post. Breitbart.com’s Matthew Boyle reports that this information was used to attack Mitt Romney during the 2012 campaign:
At that time, Joe Solmonese, a left-wing activist
and Huffington Post
contributor, was the president of the Human Rights Campaign
(HRC). Solmonese was also a 2012 Obama campaign co-chairman.
Both the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein and HRC described the leak as coming from a “whistleblower.” The Huffington Post used the document to write a story questioning former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s support for traditional marriage. The document showed Romney donated $10,000 to NOM. HRC went a step further than the Huffington Post in its criticism of Romney and accused him of using “racially divisive tactics” in a press release.
Solmonese, then still the HRC’s president, said in the release he felt Romney’s “funding of a hate-filled campaign designed to drive a wedge between Americans is beyond despicable.”
“Not only has Romney signed NOM’s radical marriage pledge, now we know he’s one of the donors that NOM has been so desperate to keep secret all these years,” Solmonese added.
Solmonese resigned his position at HRC the next day and took up a position as an Obama campaign co-chair. …
NOM announced Tuesday that it will sue the IRS for this alleged leak. Under immense political pressure, Attorney General Eric Holder launched a criminal investigation into the IRS’s actions. Congress will conduct ts own investigation.
In early April 2012, NOM published documents which it said showed this leaked confidential information did not come from a “whistleblower” but “came directly from the Internal Revenue Service and was provided to NOM’s political opponents, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).”
A crime was evidently committed — the unauthorized release of confidential information — and Huffington Post was apparently an active accomplice in that crime. NOM has announced its intent to sue the Internal Revenue Service, but isn’t the Huffington Post, a media property for which AOL paid more than $300 million, also a fair target for litigation?
Feature of the Day: Start-Up Hopes to Help Freelance Writers Get Paid
- Prince Harry Closes US Visit With Conn. Polo Match
- Lawmakers Outraged Over Another Military Sex Case
- House Panel Set To OK Cut in Food Stamp Program
New York Times
- Management Flaws at I.R.S Cited in Tea Party Scrutiny
- U.S. Budget Deficit Shrinks Far Faster Than Economy
- No Benefit Seen in Sharp Limits on Salt in Diet
- Analysis: Once a beacon, Obama under fire over civil liberties
- FBI opens criminal probe of tax agency, audit cites disarray (5/14)
- Four men in Minnesota sentenced to prison for aiding Somali rebel group (5/14)
Wall Street Journal
- FBI Launches Probe of IRS (5/14)
- Holder Defends Phone-Records Seizure (5/14)
- Deficit Is Shrinking Quickly
- Hagel orders retraining of sex-assault prevention officers; Army sergeant investigated (5/14)
- Wonkbook: All the latest on all the scandals
- IG report: ‘Inappropriate criteria’ stalled IRS approvals of conservative groups (5/14)
- IRS audit found political bias against conservatives; groups gave up after application delay (5/14)
- Scandals drown out Obama’s message on economy
- Critics Assail Israeli Silence on Arab Peace Plan
- US Ambassador Summoned by Russian Foreign Ministry
- NKorea: American Starts Life At ‘Special Prison’
New York Times
- An Atrocity in Syria, With No Victim Too Small
- Syria Gives Russia List of Envoys to Peace Talks
- From Russia, With Wig: American Spy Suspect Is Ejected
- Germany can’t stop euro zone from sinking into longest recession
- Russian media delight in U.S. spy case as leaders try to limit fallout
- One killed in attack on police station in Libya’s Benghazi: sources
Wall Street Journal
- Kerry Points to ‘Progress’ in Plan for Syria Peace (5/14)
- Euro-Zone Recession Extends Into 2013
- Anti-Korean Voices Grow in Japan
- Russia expels a U.S. diplomat accused of spying (5/14)
- Colombian rebels recruit child fighters even as they negotiate to end conflict
- In Mexico, restrictions on U.S. agents signal drug war shift (5/14)
Top Conservative Stories of the Day:
- ABC, CNN Call for White House to Release Libya Emails
- House Judiciary Chairman: Holder Hearing About Lack of Accountability
- Politico Absolves IRS: Actions Were Not Partisan
The Daily Caller
- IRS official Lerner speedily approved exemption for Obama brother’s ‘charity’
- IRS managers assigned one person to review all Tea Party tax requests
- Scandal-plagued IRS official will give speech, receive award at college commencement
- Bipartisan Congressional Demand: Provide All Communications Between IRS and WH About Targeting Conservatives; Warns: Don’t Destroy, Modify or Remove Any Documents
- White House: No Comparison Between Obama and Nixon (5/14)
Washington Free Beacon
- Hey, Big Spender: Obama nominee for transportation secretary may send federal funds to hometown if confirmed
- Alexander Criticizes Sebelius’ Fundraising for Obamacare
The Weekly Standard
Top Liberal Stories of the Day:
The Daily Beast
- Is Obama Worse For Press Freedom Than Nixon? (5/14)
- Justice Department’s AP Subpoena: Surgical Strike or Dragnet?
- IRS, DOJ, and Benghazi Expose Limits of Obama’s Big Government Vision
- Eric Holder on AP Phone Records Subpoena: Trust Us (5/14)
- IRS Tea Party Scandal: White House Did Not Drive Investigation, Inspector General Says
Talking Points Memo
- Busted: Portman Clouds Opposition to Background Checks In Letter to Constituent
- Two Stories Not To Miss
- In ‘The Michael J. Fox Show’ and ‘Ironside’, NBC Bets Big On Characters With Physical Limitations (5/14)
“Our right hand doesn’t know what our far right hand is doing,” Ronald Reagan once joked of his administration. Obama lacks the humor, grace, or knowledge of Biblical allusions, to make a similar joke about his White House. Plus, it wouldn’t be true: his left hand does know what his far left hand is doing.
Only when the fingers on it poke people too obviously in the eye, as in the case of this new IRS scandal, does Obama apologize. Otherwise, he likes its extension.
It was the White House’s far left hand that doctored up Susan Rice’s preposterous presentation on Benghazi. Indifferent to the problem of radical Islam, desperate to win an election on the claim that Obama had routed terrorists, and eager to throw a critic of their favorite religion into jail for a YouTube video they deemed hate speech, his aides spun what happened in Libya according to these biases.
Hillary Clinton was stomping around, raging about how that video had hurt the feelings of Muslims and how its creator deserved jail time. For two weeks, Obama treated a national humiliation at the hands of Islamic terrorists as an occasion to muse about the need for greater “civility” in the world.
Obama is still struggling to line up his lies. If he knew, as he now claims, that it was premeditated terrorism from the beginning, why did he spend two weeks on that ludicrous “civility” tour, bouncing from show to show and speech to speech to denounce a video? Gregory Hicks, America’s number two man in Libya, called the YouTube protests a “non-event” there. Yet Obama was happy to leave the impression that Western provocation lay at its root, as that absolved him of responsibility and fit with his far-left ideology of a peaceful Islam that poses no threat to America as long as odious people aren’t antagonizing it.
It is rich that journalists who didn’t mind seeing the creator of the YouTube video thrown into jail (on conveniently “unrelated” charges to his alleged abuse of artistic freedom) now discover their own First Amendment freedom violated. The Obama administration has been snooping on the phone records of reporters. Now that the far left hand of the White House is wiretapping them, it is suddenly okay to talk about tyranny.
This is only shocking to those who haven’t been paying attention. This is perfectly consistent behavior for an administration that deems itself an authority on what constitutes acceptable speech or even what constitutes a news organization. Recall that former White House communications director Anita Dunn, when not sharing with high school students self-help tips from Chairman Mao, decreed that Obama officials boycott Fox News, as it wasn’t a real “news network the way CNN is.”
The far left hand of the White House also pushed propaganda that cast constitutional conservatives as “extremists.” The repeated refrain was that these hopelessly irrational Americans posed a danger to the common good. The Department of Homeland Security even wrote up a report about them. Is it any wonder that IRS officials, operating under this rhetoric, gave heightened scrutiny to conservative groups with Tea Party, patriot, and other terms deemed subversive by this administration in their names?
What annoys Obama about the IRS’s harassment of conservative groups is not that the agents did it but that they got caught. He wants his revolution advanced more subtly. These clumsy disciples interpreted his frequent denunciations of the Tea Party too zealously.
This isn’t the first time that his disciples have listened to his words too attentively. Last summer , for example, they tried to delete any mention of God in the Democratic Party platform, thinking that that comported with his secularism. To mollify public opinion, Obama made a show of rebuking these DNC delegates.
But once the bad publicity passes after a moment of liberal excess the revolution begins anew. The FDA’s recent authorization of over-the-counter abortifacients for 15-year-olds provides a recent example of how that works: when that was first proposed in 2011, Obama opposed it, distancing himself from the FDA; now he is “comfortable” with the FDA’s decision. What changed? Nothing, except the political climate. He has more “flexibility” in his second term. So it might go with the IRS: what he calls “unacceptable” today may pass muster in the future under another Democratic president.
For Obama, who likes to turn the temperature up on the frogs gradually so that they don’t jump out of the pot, whether he approves or apologizes for a moment of liberal excess depends upon public reaction and media feeling. Joe Biden got out “ahead of his skis” on gay marriage, Obama said in 2012, but that was okay because Obama concluded that that wouldn’t hurt him politically and he had the media on his side.
The IRS and wiretapping scandals are a different matter. He knows that the media is upset, so he will have to fake up an appropriate level of anger. On Benghazi, he still has enough of the media to gut that out and is confident that he can continue to snow the public by calling it a “sideshow” and old news.
Obama is the revolutionary who leads from behind, who orders liberals “forward” and then feigns anger when they hear him too clearly and sprint ahead.
There are faint signs of cognition in Maureen Dowd’s latest column, which raises the remote possibility that the brain-dead left is not completely dead, but only mostly dead — in terms of its ability to hold a critical thought about the disastrous Obama presidency for half a second or more.
She wrote in Sunday’s New York Times: “The administration’s behavior before and during the attack on Benghazi, in which four Americans died, was unworthy of the greatest power on earth.”
She used the word “unworthy.”
That is muted criticism, and if the New York Times is willing to go that far in criticizing the Obama administration, that in itself is one kind of a story — not man-bites-dog, but the faithful lapdog — ever so slightly — raising a lip at its master.
Even this little performance won a few plaudits for Dowd and the New York Times. A reporter at Newsmax described the column as a “scathing” critique of the Obama administration. In fact, it was carefully protective of the president — offering just enough criticism, mixed in with a lot of whitewash, to make his performance seem much less shameful than it actually was.
There are three things that stand out about President Obama’s handling of Benghazi — which I will quickly mention before taking a closer look at Dowd’s column.
The first, of course, is that the president knew almost from the start that the consulate in Benghazi was under heavy attack and yet he and his administration did nada — nothing — to mount a rescue mission… or even to mobilize a show of force (scrambling fighter jets from Italy) that might have frightened off the attackers. The president did not call for a meeting in the Situation Room at the White House on the night of Sept. 11/12 to track what was going on Libya. It seems that he went to bed that night without even calling the Pentagon to check on the situation.
Next, having decided the night before to do nothing to try to save the Americans trapped in the consulate and later at a nearby annex in Benghazi, the president and his men, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, went to work the very next day in downplaying the idea that those who lost their lives were the victims of a deliberate terrorist attack. Obama, Clinton and spokesmen for them spent the next two weeks pointing the finger of blame at an all-but-unknown film-maker in California for supposedly whipping up the flames of righteous wrath in the Middle East in making a short and (to Muslims) blasphemous film on Mohammed that found its way onto YouTube. Thus, we as Americans were partly to blame for bringing trouble down on our own heads… because there are some amongst us who are not entirely free of the terrible sin of Islamophobia — or so the president piously suggested. In speaking to the United Nations on Sept. 24, Obama declared, “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”
And third, the president succeeded to the extent that he was able to get through the next eight weeks of a presidential campaign and win re-election on Nov. 5, 2012. In this he had considerable help from the mainstream media (including the New York Times) — which happily accepted the conceit that everything would be investigated in due time and did their best to pretend that there was nothing seriously amiss in the president’s behavior during and after the attack on the consulate.
Let us return then to Maureen Dowd’s column (“When Myths Collide in the Capital’) for what it has to tell about the liberal mind in the throes of trying to step outside the bounds of knee-jerk liberalism. In a key passage she writes:
Truth is the first casualty when competing fiefs protect their mythologies. Some unhinged ideologues of the right cling to the mythology that Barry and Hillary are out to destroy America.
In the midst of a re-election campaign, Obama aides want to promote the mythology that the president who killed Osama was vanquishing terror. So they deemed it problematic to mention any possible Qaeda involvement in the Benghazi attack.
So it all comes down to dueling “mythologies” in Dowd’s telling of the story — with no real truth… and with Obama himself disappearing from sight as “Obama aides” go about doing the hard work not just of wishing away a terrorist attack, but also of covering up for the fact that president and his administration refused to send soldiers to fight for the lives of their embattled countrymen.
“The hierarchies at State and Defense had a plodding response,” Dowd writes, “failing to make any superhuman effort as the siege waxed and waned over eight hours.”
Failed to make any superhuman effort??? The fact is that the same “hierarchies” decided to do nothing at all during those eight hours, while the president, the so-called Commander-in-Chief, might have slept through the whole thing. So far he hasn’t said what the hell he was doing — even though he was fully informed of the attack during its first hours. He went AWOL soon after the first shots were fired.
If we ask ourselves — what is it about Benghazi that someone like Maureen Dowd can’t or won’t understand — several answers come to mind.
One is that the liberal/progressive mindset is characterized by an unquestioning belief in its own moral and intellectual superiority.
Another is that liberal/progressive mindset has always been characterized by willful ignorance — or a steadfast refusal to admit it is ever wrong, regardless of the most terrible of outcomes — including the millions who were starved or slaughtered by Mao and Stalin, to mention two left-wing heroes who continued to get favorable review in the textbooks that are read in American high schools today, thanks to deeply entrenched liberal/progressive thinking in American education.
And finally, the liberal/progressive mindset is all too often characterized by excessive vanity — and a lack of courage or conviction.
It sees morality as a mere extension of politics (based on the prior assumption that it always holds the upper ground in good intentions), rather than a matter of having to choose between good and evil — and being willing to fight against evil.
Those are a few reasons why many liberals are incapable of learning anything from Benghazi. If they are like some liberal pundits, their thinking is damaged beyond repair. Even Miracle Max couldn’t help them.
Health policy economists are puzzled by a persistent slowdown in the growth of health care spending that seems to have started in mid-2005, and accelerated since then. The Wall Street Journal summarized it on Monday, saying, “The health [spending] growth rate has flattened out at about 3.9% over the last three years — a record low since the 1960s and down from the old normal of 6.2% to 9.7% in the 2000s.”
Economists thought at first that the slowdown in spending was due to the recession, when people didn’t have the money to continue to increase health care spending as much as in the past. But new papers published in the journal Health Affairs last week provide “evidence that the moderation [in rising health spending] is durable, and that it is structural — the result of permanent changes in the health system itself rather than the business cycle,” as the Wall Street Journal further explained on Monday.
These papers indicate a sharply reduced role for the recession in slowing the rise in health spending, and indicate a greater role for market choice, competition, and incentives. But even these folks don’t have the full story.
The Health Savings Account Revolution
Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) were enacted into law in December 2003. Traditional, old-fashioned insurance involves a nominal deductible, leaving the insured to pay only the first $100 or $250 each year, with the rest covered by the insurance, perhaps with a modest, limited, co-insurance fee above the deductible. That structure creates the “third party payment” problem. With the insurance company paying for virtually all the bills, neither the patient nor the doctor bears any incentive to control costs. But they both decide between themselves what and how much health care to consume, and bill the insurer. Naturally, that makes health insurance very expensive.
The concept behind HSAs is to greatly reduce the cost of the health insurance with a high deductible, in the range of $2,000 to $6,000 a year, or more. The savings from that lower expense is then kept in the HSA to be used to pay for health care costs below the deductible. Whatever the patient does not spend from those HSA funds on health care he or she gets to keep, for future health care expenses, or anything in retirement. That creates full market incentives to control costs for all non-catastrophic health expenses, because the patient is effectively using his or her own money for such costs. Since the patient is now concerned about costs, the doctors and hospitals will compete to control costs.
The insight of the godfather of HSAs, John Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis, was that the health insurance savings from a deductible in this range would be almost enough to finance all expenses under the deductible for the year. After one healthy year, the insured would have more than enough in the HSA to pay for all expenses below the deductible.
Moreover, patients with HSAs would enjoy complete control over what health care to spend their HSA funds on. They don’t need to beg for the approval of a health insurance company to spend their HSA funds on the health care they want.
These are the reasons why the sick as well as the poor would still prefer HSAs. The sick would have complete control to spend their HSA funds on the health care they prefer. The poor would be fully covered and could pay themselves out of the health care savings they gain with HSAs.
Such HSAs and their incentives have proven very effective in controlling costs in the real world. Total HSA costs, including the savings to fully fund the HSA savings account to cover the deductible, have run about 25% less than the costs for traditional, old-fashioned insurance. Annual costs increases for HSAs have run more than 50% less, sometimes with zero premium increases for years.
These are the reasons why HSA accounts soared by 22% in 2012 alone, to over 8 million. Total savings and assets in the accounts zoomed by 27% to $15.5 billion. That is expected to increase by nearly three-fourths to almost $27 billion by 2015. That booming growth has continued since HSAs were adopted in 2003.
According to the National Health Interview Survey of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one fourth of the privately insured population is covered by HSAs, similar Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRAs), or other high deductible plans, which probably exceeds HMO enrollment by now. About half of those with private insurance obtained outside employer plans are covered by such high deductible plans.
The proof is in the pudding. As HSAs and similar plans have soared in the private market, health spending growth has plummeted. That is the result of market competition and incentives.
Obamacare: Somewhere Between High Crimes and
Most who support Obamacare do so because of a principled belief that everyone should have access to essential health care. But even the Washington Establishment CBO, still dominated by career Democrats, projects that 10 years after full implementation, Obamacare will still leave 30 million uninsured.
But it is going to be much higher than that. Under the perverse incentives of Obamacare, tens of millions will lose their employer provided insurance because of the perverse incentives under the program. CBO reported in February that at least 7 million, and as many as 20 million, will lose their employer coverage. CBO estimated then that “in 2019 [5 years after Obamacare is implemented], an estimated 12 million people who would have had an offer of employment-based coverage under prior law will lose their offer under current law [aka ‘Obamacare’].”
That is because of a second problem caused by Obamacare. Obama promised us that Obamacare would reduce the cost of health insurance by $2,500 a year. But it has already increased those costs by $3,000 per year. That is because of the new mandated benefits and other regulatory burdens of Obamacare already coming online. Obamacare will also increase health care costs by driving up demand but reducing supply, and through new taxes applying to health insurance and health care.
For these reasons, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini said last December that Obamacare (as Investor’s Business Daily later put it) “will likely cause premiums to double for some small businesses and individuals.” Former CBO Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin estimated in a study for the American Action Forum of 5 major cities that premiums would climb there under Obamacare by an average of 169%.
Many employers will prefer to pay the fine for not providing coverage than bear these cost increases. Moreover, employers can give their workers healthy raises plus Obamacare health insurance subsidies if coverage at work is dropped. That is why Holtz-Eakin estimated in another study for the American Action Forum that more than 40 million workers would lose their employer coverage under Obamacare. So much for another Obama promise that “If you like your health insurance, you can keep it. No one is going to take that away from you.”
Employer desperation to avoid the added costs of Obamacare will cause chaos in the labor market as well. To avoid the employer mandate that applies only to companies with 50 or more full time employees, employers are already replacing full time employment with part time employment paying lower wages and no benefits. Small businesses with less than 50 employees are already freezing hiring, and those just above 50 employees have already begun layoffs. Moreover, Obamacare’s employer mandate does not require employers to cover the family dependents of their workers. So employers have already begun a trend towards terminating that coverage as well.
President Obama told us during his State of the Union address earlier this year that “A growing economy that creates good, middle class jobs — that should be the North Star that guides all of our efforts,” and he has repeated that numerous times since then. But all of these labor market effects and the soaring costs of Obamacare will just mean still more declining real incomes for the middle class and for working people, and fewer good, middle class jobs, which have been the actual hallmarks of Obamanomics. That means another central promise by President Obama, repeated over and over, will continue to be violated, more and more.
The young and healthy will also take steps to avoid the high costs of Obamacare’s individual mandate. Under Obamacare’s regulation, any insurer they choose must take them no matter how sick and costly when they sign up, and charge them no more than anyone else. Consequently, many, including myself, will refuse to buy any insurance until they are sick with some costly condition such as cancer or heart disease. Then they will sign up for full coverage at no extra charge, until they recover.
The individual mandate, as well as the employer mandate, was supposed to prevent this. But individuals, like employers, can just skip the insurance and pay the penalty, at a savings of thousands of dollars a year. But why even pay the penalty? When it was put to a vote in Congress, your double talking, unserious representatives denied the IRS the authority to enforce the penalty by garnishment or seizure.
So the end result will be still millions more uninsured under Obamacare, probably in the end even more than there were without Obamacare. But as the young and healthy drop out of insurance pools, that will drive up the costs for those that remain still more, driving still more out, in a financial death spiral for private insurers. So if you like your health plan, you can keep it, until Obamacare drives your insurer out of business. At best, that will leave you only with a government monopoly, like the Post Office, for your health care.
Obamacare will soon be teaching seniors on Medicare what that means. While Democrats and President Obama talk a good game about Republicans wanting to throw grandma over a cliff by slashing Medicare, it is the Democrats and President Obama who have already done that, through Obamacare.
Obamacare already has slashed $716 billion over the next 10 years from Medicare payments to doctors and hospitals for the health care they provide to seniors, growing into trillions in future years. By the end of the decade, Medicare will be paying less for health care for seniors than Medicaid will pay for health care for the poor. That already often leaves the poor without access to essential, timely care, with many suffering worse health outcomes as a result, including premature death, as recent studies have shown. Seniors, do not ask for whom the bell tolls! As John Goodman recently explained on his health policy blog at ncpa.org, “One out of seven hospitals will leave Medicare in the next seven years, say the actuaries, and beyond that things just get worse and worse. Access to care will become a huge issue as waiting times to see doctors and enter hospitals grows…. From a financial point of view, seniors will be less attractive to doctors than welfare mothers.”
In other words, the government monopoly of Medicare will become an official, institutionalized means of denying health care to seniors, just like the government monopoly of Medicaid has become for the poor. And that is what the coming government monopoly of Obamacare will be soon enough, an official, institutionalized means of denying essential health care to everyone, just like socialized medicine in every other country.
Universal health care, indeed. Just another “progressive” delusion, if not outright lie. In a recent paper for the NCPA, John Goodman and I explain how universal health care for all can be assured through Patient Power, free market reforms, without Obamacare, no individual mandate, no employer mandate, at a savings of $2 trillion or more for taxpayers.
As Jon Roland of the Constitution Society has recently shown, the constitutional grounds for impeachment, “high crimes and misdemeanors,” really means violating your oath of office, especially by lying to the American people. Impeach Obama for Benghazi, for Nixonian IRS abuse, for illegal wiretaps of the press? No, impeach him for Obamacare, and the thoroughly wasted, trillion dollar, so-called “stimulus,” which are the biggest lies told in U.S. history.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius was criticized last week for soliciting private contributions to Enroll America, a non-governmental organization run by former Obama campaign operatives. The real monkey business is what the Secretary is doing with taxpayers’ money. She’s pouring it into community organizations. The pretext is that community organizations will do a better job than government employees in enrolling the uninsured in Obamacare. But the likelihood is that these community organizations will steer the uninsured into the Democratic Party.
And beware. The Senate immigration bill tries to repeat this unsavory use of community organizations. It pays community organizations to educate immigrants about American civics and the path to citizenship.
Last week’s brouhaha came about because Sebelius raised money for Enroll America after House Republicans refused to approve additional public funding for Obamacare enrollment efforts.
So what is Enroll America? Its board of directors is made up of Insurers and hospital organizations that will benefit from enrolling millions of people in Obamacare. But its management is 100% political. Its president is Anne Filipic, formerly Deputy Director of the Office of Public Engagement in the White House, where she networked with community organizers. Before that, she had a top job at the Democratic National Committee, and before that she managed Obama’s victorious 2008 Iowa Caucus bid.
To design a media campaign, Enroll America hired Lake Research, which also manages messaging for ACORN, MoveOn.org, LaRaza, and 39 members of Congress, all Democrats.
Sebelius’s fundraising for Enroll America was inappropriate, but it’s minor compared with delivering taxpayer dollars to community organizers. Yet Sebelius isn’t breaking the law. Amazingly, the Obama health law requires that community organizations be hired as “navigators” to enroll the uninsured.
So far Sebelius has announced $45 million in navigator grants. Who qualifies? You don’t have to know math or insurance, but rules announced April 5 specify you have to match the race, ethnicity, and language preferences of the neighborhood that will be targeted. The odious presumption is that only Asians can assist Asians, only blacks can enroll blacks, only Harlem residents can help Harlem residents.
In addition to navigator grants, last week HHS announced $150 million for community health centers to “hire and train staff to conduct community outreach efforts.” Behind those weasel words is the truth that many community health centers engage in political activism. The National Association of Community Health Centers states that part of its mission is registering people to vote and collecting patients’ signatures on desired legislation. Employees hired by the community health centers can say and do things government employees can’t. That’s the problem.
Here’s more monkey business. Section 4201 of Obamacare authorizes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to hand out over $100 million a year in “community transformation grants” to improve the emotional and social wellness of their community, combat environmental hazards, foster healthy living, and reduce disparities between the races. That mandate is so broad it can justify anything.
In September 2012, the CDC awarded $7.9 million to Community Health Councils, based in Los Angeles. Community Health Councils’ executive director, Lark Galloway-Gilliam, has led protests under the organization’s banner against fracking, for-profit hospitals, state budget cuts, and oil drilling. Community Health Councils announced that part of the $7.9 million would be used to “educate community members about environmental hazards” and the rest would be distributed to neighborhood partners.
No matter how you feel about Obamacare, it’s outrageous that money is going for this, rather than covering the uninsured.
The Senate immigration bill includes the same misuse of community organizations. Sections 2106, 2534, 2535, and 2536 fund community organizations to educate immigrants about citizenship. This started in 2009, and a past recipient is the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, which claims to “build political power through citizenship drives and voter registration.” Immigrant education should not be outsourced to community organizations. The Office of Citizenship (part of the Department of Homeland Security) provides nonpartisan materials to teach immigrants about citizenship. Its activities are subject to public oversight. That’s where the responsibility should stay.
The nation has a community organizer for President. He knows better than anyone that outsourcing government functions to community organizations invites abuse. Why aren’t Republicans in Congress protesting these provisions and demanding their removal?
Today, Palestinians and their supporters, as they have done increasingly over the years, mark what they call the naqba (Arabic for catastrophe). It was on this day 65 years ago that Israel came into existence upon the expiry of British rule under a League of Nations mandate.
That juxtaposition of Israel and naqba in not accidental. We are meant to understand that Israel’s creation caused the displacement of hundreds of thousand of Palestinian Arabs.
But the truth is different. A British document from early 1948, declassified only weeks ago, tells the story: “the Arabs have suffered a series of overwhelming defeats…. Jewish victories … have reduced Arab morale to zero and, following the cowardly example of their inept leaders, they are fleeing from the mixed areas in their thousands.”
In other words, Jew and Arabs, including irregular foreign militias from neighboring states, were already fighting and Arabs fleeing even before Israel had sovereign existence.
Thus, on May 15, what is now called the naqba consisted, not of an Israeli act of forcible displacement of Arabs, but of neighboring Arab armies and internal Palestinian militias responding to Israel’s declaration of independence and Britain’s departure with full-scale hostilities. Tel Aviv was bombed from the air and the head of Israel’s provisional government, David Ben Gurion, delivered his first radio address to the nation from an air-raid shelter.
Israel successfully resisted invasion and dismemberment — the universally affirmed objective of the Arab belligerents — and Palestinians came off worst of all from the whole venture. At war’s end, over 600,000 Palestinians were living as refugees under neighboring Arab regimes.
So the term naqba is misleading. Indeed, it smacks of falsehood, inasmuch as it implies a tragedy inflicted by others. The tragedy, of course, was self-inflicted.
As Israel’s UN ambassador Abba Eban was to put it, “Once you determine the responsibility for that war, you have determined the responsibility for the refugee problem. Nothing in the history of our generation is clearer or less controversial than the initiative of Arab governments for the conflict out of which the refugee tragedy emerged.”
However, the Palestinians do not mourn today the ill-conceived choice of going to war to abort Israel. They mourn only that they failed.
This is contrary to normal historical experience of disastrous defeat. The Germans today mourn their losses in the Second World War — but not by lauding their invasion of Poland and justifying their attempt to subjugate Europe. They do not glorify Nazi aggression.
The Japanese today mourn their losses in the Second World War — but not by lauding their assault on Pearl Harbor and their attempt to subjugate southeast Asia. They do not glorify Japanese imperialism.
The very existence of naqba commemorations is therefore instructive in a way few realize. It informs us that Palestinians have not admitted or assimilated the fact — as Germans and Japanese have done — that they became victims as a direct result of their efforts to be perpetrators. It informs us that Palestinians would still like to succeed today at what they miserably failed to achieve then. And it informs us that they take no responsibility for their own predicament, which is uniquely maintained to this day at their own insistence.
If readers doubt my word, consider this vignette from January 2001. That month, Palestinian rioters in the West Bank burned in effigy John Manley, then Foreign Minister in Jean Chrétien’s Canadian Government. His sin? — Mr. Manley had offered to welcome Palestinian refugees and their descendants to Canada after a peace settlement. The Palestinian response? Legislator Hussum Khader of Fatah, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas’ party — not Hamas or another of the Islamist groups — threatened Canada, saying, “If Canada is serious about resettlement, you could expect military attacks in Ottawa or Montreal.” A similar offer by then-Australian Immigration Minister, Philip Ruddock, also received a threatening Palestinian rejoinder.
Scarcely a typical response by a government official to an offer of refugee relief, Mr. Khader’s was illuminating. Setting up a Palestinian state and resettling the refugees and their descendants inside it or abroad would remove any internationally accepted ground for conflict. That is why helping to solve the Palestinian refugee problem is regarded as a hostile act — by Palestinians.
Naqba commemorations disclose that the conflict is about Israel’s existence — not about territory, borders, holy places, refugees, or any other bill of particulars.
Only when Palestinians accept that Israel is here to stay will the possibility of the conflict’s end come into view. In the meantime, responsible governments can discourage and repudiate naqba commemorations as a small but important step towards bringing that day closer.