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The bewildered bystander in chief

by Charles Krauthammer   •   Washington Post 

obama_frownThe president is upset. Very upset. Frustrated and angry. Seething about the government’s handling of Ebola, said the front-page headline in the New York Times last Saturday.

There’s only one problem with this pose, so obligingly transcribed for him by the Times. It’s his government. He’s president. Has been for six years. Yet Barack Obama reflexively insists on playing the shocked outsider when something goes wrong within his own administration.

The IRS? “It’s inexcusable, and Americans are right to be angry about it, and I am angry about it,” he thundered in May 2013 when the story broke of the agency targeting conservative groups. “I will not tolerate this kind of behavior in any agency, but especially in the IRS.”

Except that within nine months, Obama had grown far more tolerant, retroactively declaring this to be a phony scandal without “a smidgen of corruption.”

Obamacare rollout? “Nobody is more frustrated by that than I am,” said an aggrieved Obama about the botching of the central element of his signature legislative achievement. “Nobody is madder than me.” [Read more...]

The ‘Chicago Way’ of Voting — Making the Rules Up As You Go

by John Fund    •     National Review

Voter Fraud CartoonPresident Obama took time from his party fundraising duties in Chicago on Monday to vote early in the Illinois election. “I’m so glad I can early vote. It’s so exciting. I love voting,” he said.

But what Obama and his fellow Illinois Democrats love most is voting “the Chicago Way.” That involves bending every rule in the book, appointing compliant election judges, and looking the other way when some of Chicago s notorious voter fraud occurs behind the curtain.

This Chicago Tribune news story told the story in droll terms:

Obama’s visit to Chicago shined a spotlight on the early voting process. . . . State lawmakers enacted a series of one-time changes to make early voting easier for this election only, leading some critics to contend the move was made for political reasons tied to the hotly contested governor race between Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican challenger Bruce Rauner. Among the changes, the two-week early voting period, which traditionally ends the Saturday before the Tuesday election, will this year continue through Sunday, Nov. 2, at some voting locations.

There are other changes. Two years ago, when he early voted in Chicago for his reelection, President Obama was happy to show the required photo ID. But people voting early this year will no longer have to show an ID. Voters will also be able to register to vote and cast a ballot on Election Day — what is known as same-day registration. That lax system has led to frequent reports of fraud and abuse in neighboring Wisconsin, richly detailed in a 68-page 2008 Milwaukee Police report.  [Read more...]

The Surprised and Angry President

From domestic politics to foreign policy, Obama and his aides frequently appear overtaken or overwhelmed by events.

by James Oliphant, White House Correspondent    •    National Journal 

Obama 102President Obama is shocked, we are told. He’s “visibly angry” over the government’s response to the domestic Ebola threat.

A report in The New York Times over the weekend portrayed the president as a frustrated chief executive, directing federal officials to be more “hands on” and to be more on top of events rather than reacting to them.

If this feels familiar, it’s because that has been the go-to White House play for some time when bad news arrives—always unexpectedly—as Obama’s presidency seems overwhelmed by the sense that things aren’t quite under control either within the administration or beyond it, in places overseas such as Iraq and Ukraine.

The president and his staff have seemed flat-footed, reactive, surprised, and at the mercy of outside events rather than in command of them. That has contributed to an abject feeling of powerlessness emanating from the West Wing—one augmented by the administration’s own insistence at times that its reach is limited, that there was little it could to do to ease this summer’s border crisis, or push Vladimir Putin back into Russia, or protect towns under threat from Islamic State forces.

So Obama was “madder than hell” when he learned about the patient backlogs at the Veterans Administration, aides said. He was angry when he was told about the problems with the federal health care website. He was mad when he found out that the Internal Revenue Service was targeting nonprofit political-advocacy groups. [Editor's Note: Obama later labeled the very IRS scandal that had once made him "mad," a "phony scandal" when it suited him to do so. Thus, he may also have claimed he was angry when it was politically expedient to do so. This may explain the low trust polling numbers that he has received of late.] [Read more...]

ObamaCare’s Failing Cost Control

The law’s ‘accountable care’ experiment is a bust so far.

The Symbol of ObamaCare

The Symbol of ObamaCare

by Editorial Board   •   Wall Street Journal

A major claim of ObamaCare’s political salesmen is that it will reduce U.S. health spending. The heart of this claim is the Accountable Care Organization, or ACO, but already evidence is accumulating that it isn’t working.

That’s the news in the recent Health and Human Services release of the results from the first two years of ACO experience under the Affordable Care Act. The much-delayed data received zero media notice despite a speech from HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell citing “evidence that we have bent the cost curve.” The data show the opposite.

ACOs were supposed to be a new paradigm for health care, with hospitals, primary care physicians and specialists working in teams to be more efficient and coordinate patient treatment across providers. In 2011 HHS introduced this business model as a new federal regulation, so providers that reduce spending according to a formula are paid a bonus that is a portion of the savings. If participants boost spending over this benchmark, they pay a penalty. [Read more...]

Obamacare Cancellations. Again!

This time, small-group plans used by small employers are being especially hard hit.

by Tim Phillips   •   USATodayCancelled Cancellation ObamaCare

Last fall, millions of Americans breathed a sigh of relief when Obamacare didn’t cancel their health care plans. Now they’re holding their breath once again.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans will soon receive cancellation letters affecting their 2015 health care plans — and that number may quickly rise into the millions. This wave of cancellations will fall into two categories. The first group hit will be in the individual market, the same group that suffered through at least 6.3 million cancellation letters last year. They will almost certainly be joined by millions of people in the small-employer market, which has 40 million plans and will be under Obamacare’s control starting next year.

That’s right: President Obama’s now-infamous promise, “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it” — Politifact’s 2013 “Lie of the Year” — is still being broken, potentially worse than before.

Most of the individual market cancellations will be for plans that were supposed to be canceled last year, when Obamacare first went into effect. After the fallout from last year’s fiasco became too politically toxic, President Obama unilaterally changed the law so that some non-compliant policies could continue for at least another year. That 12-month period is now up. [Read more...]

It is now painfully clear — Obama Sees Ebola as a Political Issue

Editorial Board   •   Investor’s Business Daily government incompetence

Faced with what the World Health Organization calls the “most severe acute health emergency in modern times,” who gets the job of Ebola Czar? A political hack who signed off on the Solyndra fiasco.

Everything about how the unfolding Ebola crisis is being handled by the Obama administration suggests unseriousness and incompetence — painfully ironic considering that “making government work for the people” was one of President Obama’s original promises.

From refusing to ban travel to and from the West African Ebola hot spots; to the misinformation about medical protocols to isolate any cases of the disease appearing in the U.S. being ready; to the dubious claims that only those with symptoms could pass on the virus; this administration has gotten it wrong.

Challenged by so much confusion and so many dangers, the president canceled several fundraising trips for his party, but who does he then appoint to oversee the U.S. government’s efforts against Ebola? Famed rags-to-riches neurosurgeon Ben Carson perhaps?

No. Ron Klain, a political operative played by Kevin Spacey in a movie about the 2000 Florida recount. [Read more...]

Ebola Isn’t a Matter of Politics

It’s time the Obama administration handled the crisis without petty finger-pointing.

by Peter Roff   •   US News & World Report

Ebola Disease VirusMixing the possibility of a deadly pandemic together with the incompetence of the Washington bureaucracy produces a cocktail that is poisonous to public confidence. No one gets high marks for the way the Obama administration has handled the arrival of Ebola on American soil – especially the president.

It’s times such as these, when little is known and even the slightest misstatement could cause a general panic that the American people look to the president for leadership. Instead, what they are getting is more of the arrogant, self-confident, “smartest guy in the room” pronouncements and hectoring for which President Barack Obama is now famous.

Instead Obama has failed time and again to demonstrate he has a firm grasp on the situation. He’s not taking concrete steps – using his phone and his pen – to prevent the disease from spreading. Instead he’s letting his subordinates – no doubt thoroughly schooled in the Saul Alinsky arts of manufacturing or at least using a crisis to force the political system to give in to your demands – make outrageous statements intended to turn a potential public health catastrophe into a weapon of political leverage in the closing days of the current campaign season.

The worst thing yet said is perhaps the contemptible charge leveled by National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins that if it weren’t for budget cuts insisted upon by congressional Republicans, the agencies under his direction might already have come up with a cure for Ebola.

The data contradicts his statement (the National Institutes of Health have had plenty of money since former House Speaker Newt Gingrich decided to plus up its budget back in the 1990s), but was an otherwise effective misdirection. [Read more...]

Spectacular incompetence turns deadly

Ebola Virus Diseaseby Joseph Curl   •   Washington Times 

It was only a matter of time.

President Obama, a short-term college professor and failed community organizer who became a mostly absentee state senator and then an all-but-invisible U.S. senator, has Petered out. Per the Peter Principle, he has risen to his level of incompetence — some would argue far beyond it.

The president — and the president alone — let Ebola into America. He could have made one phone call (even on Saturday, when playing his 200th round of golf as president) and said one sentence to protect all Americans from the usually fatal disease: “No one from West Africa gets into the country.”

Done. That single sentence would have kept Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian who had carried an Ebola sufferer back into her home after she was turned away at a hospital, out of Dallas. While he lied on an airport questionnaire about whether he had had contact with anyone suffering the disease, and while hospital workers blundered badly even though they knew he has been in Liberia, the bottom line is Duncan would not have been in America had the president banned visitors from Ebola-stricken countries. Simple. [Read more...]

White House Approving & Disapproving Content of Press Reports

by Paul Farhi   •   Washington Post

mediabiasWhite House journalists are creating an alternative system for distributing their media “pool” reports in response to the Obama administration’s involvement in approving and disapproving certain content in official reports.

A small group of reporters initiated an online forum this month in which they shared “pool” information among themselves, without White House involvement. The forum was set up by the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA), which negotiates with the White House’s press staff over access for journalists.

Pool reports — those summaries of the president’s public appearances that go to the news media at large and are used in countless news stories — are filed by a rotating group of journalists whose work is intended to be free of content changes by the White House.

The pool journalists, however, must submit their reports to the White House press office, which distributes them via e-mail to hundreds of news organizations and others. The White House maintains the list of recipients.

Reporters have complained that the Obama White House exploits its role as distributor to demand changes in pool reports and that the press office has delayed or refused to distribute some reports until they are amended to officials’ satisfaction. [Read more...]

Obamacare is in hiding until after the election

How the Administration is obscuring facts about your health insurance until after the election.

by Robert Laszewski    •   USAToday 

ObamaCare Cancelled PoliciesThe second Obamacare open enrollment is scheduled to begin on November 15th and end on February 15th. Instead of learning critical lessons from the mistakes of the first open enrollment fiasco, the Obama administration appears to be trying to silence potential critics.

Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that the administration sent an email to the insurance companies participating in Obamacare telling them to keep their mouths shut about the testing of the new health law’s enrollment system saying, that unlike last year, they would require “all testers (the insurance companies) to acknowledge the confidentiality of this process” before they would be allowed to participate. The administration reminded insurers that their confidentiality agreement with the Obama administration means that insurance executives “will not use, disclose, post to a public forum, or in any way share Test Data with any person or entity, included but not limited to media…” This includes any “results of this testing exercise and any information describing or otherwise relating to the performance or functionality” of the Obamacare enrollment and eligibility system. [Read more...]

Little reason to battle against voter ID laws

Voter ID Fraud

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board

When they go to the polls in a few weeks, voters in many states, including Oklahoma, will be asked to show some form of identification. This is no thanks to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who made it his mission during six years on the job to undo a number of voter ID laws.

Holder, who is stepping aside soon, went so far as to compare voter ID laws to bygone Jim Crow-inspired laws designed to tamp down minority participation. The comparisons were beyond ridiculous, particularly given that in state after state, voter ID laws have withstood legal challenges from liberal interests. [Read more...]

ObamaCare: The Bad News Continues to Mount

by Robert E. Moffit     •     National Interest

ObamaCare Side EffectsOn November 15, open enrollment in the Obamacare exchanges begins again. Before the second act of our national healthcare drama commences, let’s review what we’ve learned in Act I.

For starters, everyone now knows that federal officials are challenged when it comes to setting up a website. But they’ve demonstrated the ability to dole out a huge amount of taxpayers’ money for millions of people signing up for Medicaid, a welfare program. And they’ve proved they can send hundreds of millions of federal taxpayers’ dollars to their bureaucratic counterparts in states, like Maryland and Oregon, that can’t manage their own exchanges. But there are many other lessons to be gleaned from Year One of Obamacare. Here are three of the most important ones.

1. Health costs jumped—big time. Huge increases in deductibles in policies sold through the exchanges were a big story in Florida, Illinois and elsewhere. While the average annual deductible for employer-based coverage was a little over $1,000, the exchange deductibles nationwide normally topped $2,000. [Read more...]

Making Harding Look Good

The Obama administration has tarnished nearly every major federal agency. 

by Victor Davis Hanson    •    National Review

Scandal NewsMany have described the Obama departure from the 70-year-old bipartisan postwar foreign policy of the United States as reminiscent of Jimmy Carter’s failed 1977–81 tenure. There is certainly the same messianic sense of self, the same naïveté, and the same boasts of changing the nature of America, as each of these presidents was defining himself as against supposedly unpopular predecessors. But the proper Obama comparison is not Carter, but rather Warren G. Harding. By that I mean not that Obama’s scandals have matched Harding’s, but rather that by any fair standard they have now far exceeded them and done far more lasting damage — and without Obama’s offering achievements commensurate with those that occasionally characterized Harding’s brief, failed presidency.

The lasting legacy of Obama will be that he has largely discredited the idea of big government, of which he was so passionate an advocate. Almost every major agency of the federal government, many of them with a hallowed tradition of bipartisan competence, have now been rendered either dysfunctional or politicized — or both — largely because of politically driven appointments of unqualified people, or ideological agendas that were incompatible with the agency’s mission.

The list of scandals is quite staggering. In aggregate, it makes Harding’s Teapot Dome mess seem minor in comparison. [Read more...]

Obamacare’s website still faces hurdles as year two approaches

by The Washington Examiner

Obamacare WebsiteA year ago this week, Healthcare.gov launched and set a new standard for costly technological disasters.

The portal for obtaining private insurance under Obamacare proved completely impenetrable for consumers in its first two months. The constant error messages, glitches and outages became fodder for late night comics, but the Americans forced to interact with the site after Obamacare pushed them out of coverage they already liked were not amused.

A year later, most of Obamacare’s outwardly noticeable technological frustrations are gone. Even though the law remains as unpopular as ever — at 25 percent support among U.S. adults, according to the latest Associated Press poll — consumers who log in when with the second open enrollment begins on Nov. 15 will probably have a less unpleasant technical experience.

But here’s the problem: Beginning with the website’s early failure, the Department of Health and Human Services has concentrated mostly on fixing the portion of the site that the public interacts with. They have not yet fixed major structural and security issues on the back-end, and testing for some of these only begins this month. [Read more...]

Climate Change Has Jumped the Shark

by Steven F Hayward     •     Forbes

Global-Climate-Change-environmentLay aside for now all of the arguments that can be made about the weaknesses of catastrophic climate change predictions. In fact, for purposes of discussion, let’s assume that the worst-case scenario is likely to come true. The paradox of climate change is exactly this: the more serious the problem, the more implausible are the remedies of the environmental community. That’s what ought to make the climate campaigners realize that last weekend’s mega-march in New York City represents the dead-end for their cause. Truly we can invoke that overused cliché that climate change has “jumped the shark.”

Here’s why: From the beginning 25 years ago the arguments over climate science have dominated the scene and distracted us away from the fundamental problem: the prescribed method for preventing climate change is essentially replacing nearly all hydrocarbon energy, in the space of less than two generations. Climate orthodoxy calls for an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, worldwide, by the year 2050, which would take the United States back to a level of hydrocarbon energy use last seen more than 100 years ago. For the developing world, it means remaining poor for several more decades. [Read more...]