It has long been part of the Washington game for officials to discredit a news story by playing up errors in a relatively small part of it. Pfeiffer gives the impression that GOP operatives deliberately tried to “smear the president” with false, doctored e-mails.
But the reporters involved have indicated they were told by their sources that these were summaries, taken from notes of e-mails that could not be kept. The fact that slightly different versions of the e-mails were reported by different journalists suggests there were different note-takers as well.
Indeed, Republicans would have been foolish to seriously doctor e-mails that the White House at any moment could have released (and eventually did). Clearly, of course, Republicans would put their own spin on what the e-mails meant, as they did in the House report. Given that the e-mails were almost certain to leak once they were sent to Capitol Hill, it’s a wonder the White House did not proactively release them earlier.
The burden of proof lies with the accuser. Despite Pfeiffer’s claim of political skullduggery, we see little evidence that much was at play here besides imprecise wordsmithing or editing errors by journalists.
The more the evidence emerges, the more one has to wonder: Could Obamacare have been designed any more poorly? Even those who don’t mind Obamacare’s striking consolidation of power and money in Washington at the expense of Americans’ liberty, or who don’t mind the medical overhaul’s $2 trillion price-tag over its real first decade (2014 to 2023), must be starting to wonder at the sheer ineptitude of those who spearheaded its passage and penned its provisions.
Now comes a report from the Wall Street Journal, further confirming that President Obama’s signature legislation has essentially everything backward. We already knew that Obamacare’s fix for an American health care system that the federal government long ago broke, is to give the federal government far more power over American health care; that its solution to escalating health costs is to mandate greater health benefits (and, hence, higher costs); and that its solution to the pricey overreliance on pre-paid health plans — offered by insurance companies in lieu of real insurance — is to have the government require Americans to buy those pre-paid health plans under penalty of law.
Now, courtesy of the Journal, we learn that Obamacare’s mandated “essential benefits” (so “essential” that tens of millions of people freely forego them when the government doesn’t compel their purchase) really only apply to the small group and individual markets. In the realm of bigger businesses, the mandates won’t similarly apply.
“Many employers and benefits experts have understood the [Obamacare] rules to require robust insurance, covering a list of ‘essential’ benefits such as mental-health services and a high percentage of workers’ overall costs….
“But a close reading of the rules makes it clear that those mandates affect only plans sponsored by insurers that are sold to small businesses and individuals, federal officials confirm….Larger employers, generally with more than 50 workers, need cover only preventive services, without a lifetime or annual dollar-value limit.”
The Journal continues, “Administration officials confirmed in interviews that [these] skinny plans, in concept, would be sufficient to avoid” Obamacare’s penalties. Highlighting the Obama administration’s striking naïveté about government-imposed incentives, the Journal adds, “Several expressed surprise that employers would consider the approach.”
The thoughtful Carl Cannon has written a piece, "Richard Milhous Obama," concluding that our current president has more in common with our 37th than President Obama's partisans would like to acknowledge. The estimable Victor Davis Hansen has weighed in, defending against liberal dissents the proposition that "Nixon Is a Fair Comparison" with Obama.
I protest. Will no one stand up for Richard Nixon? Richard Nixon was a combat veteran, a staunch and brave anti-Communist, a man who took on the liberal establishment and at times his own party's as well, a leader who often thought for himself and had the courage of his convictions, a president who assembled a first-rate Cabinet and one who—while flawed both in character and in policy judgment—usually tried to confront the real problems and deal with challenges of his times. Richard Nixon led neither the country nor his own administration from behind.
I worked for Richard Nixon (well, I worked for two months in the Nixon White House in 1970 as a summer intern). I voted for Richard Nixon (in 1972, my first vote, against George McGovern—and one about which I have no regrets). I knew Richard Nixon (very slightly—I met him on a few occasions in groups in the late 1970s and the 1980s, and then a couple of times when I worked for Vice President Quayle). And so I feel obliged to rise to Richard Nixon's defense, and to say, with all due respect, to our current president: Barack Obama, you're no Richard Nixon.
The show will go on. Sequestration may have cost Washington D.C. tourists a chance to tour the White House, but the Independence Day fireworks will go off as planned. A contract was awarded yesterday to Garden State Fireworks of Millington, NJ for $221,819.77. The listing for bids on the typically business-like fbo.gov website contained this somewhat colorful solicitation:
Provide supervision, labor, materials, supplies and equipment necessary to present an innovative, bounteous, dynamic and attractive fireworks display for Independence Day on the Grounds of the Washington Monument, Washington, D.C. on July 4, 2013.
The National Park Service that puts on the fireworks show each year offers several suggestions for enjoying the show, which is scheduled to begin at 9:10 on the evening of the 4th:
• Consider wearing hearing protection. These fireworks are BIG and LOUD.
• Consider wearing eye protection to protect yourself from falling debris.
Perhaps no other IRS official is more intimately associated with the tax agency's growing scandal than Lois Lerner, director of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations Division. Since admitting the IRS harassed hundreds of conservative and Tea Party groups for over two years, Lerner has been criticized for a number of untruths—including the revelation that she apparently lied about planting a question at an American Bar Association conference where she first publicly acknowledged IRS misconduct.
Still, Lerner has her defenders in the government and the media. Shortly after the scandal broke, The Daily Beast published an article headlined "IRS Scandal’s Central Figure, Lois Lerner, Described as ‘Apolitical.’" Insisting Lerner, and the IRS more broadly, were not not politically motivated has been a central contention of those trying to minimize the impact of the scandal.
The trouble with this defense is that, prior to joining the IRS, Lerner's tenure as head of the Enforcement Office at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) was marked by what appears to be politically motivated harassment of conservative groups.
Lerner was appointed head of the FEC's enforcement division in 1986 and stayed in that position until 2001. In the late 1990s, the FEC launched an onerous investigation of the Christian Coalition, ultimately costing the organization hundreds of thousands of dollars and countless hours in lost work. The investigation was notable because the FEC alleged that the Christian Coalition was coordinating issue advocacy expenditures with a number of candidates for office. Aside from lacking proof this was happening, it was an open question whether the FEC had the authority to bring these charges.
James Bopp Jr., who was lead counsel for the Christian Coalition at the time, tells THE WEEKLY STANDARD the Christian Coalition investigation was egregious and uncalled for. "We felt we were being singled out, because when you handle a case with 81 depositions you have a pretty good argument you're getting special treatment. Eighty-one depositions! Eighty-one! From Ralph Reed's former part-time secretary to George H.W. Bush. It was mind blowing," he said.
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The White House press office announces that President Obama and his wife, Michelle, will travel to Africa next month:
Statement by the Press Secretary on the President’s Travel to Africa
President Obama and the First Lady look forward to traveling to Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania from June 26 - July 3. The President will reinforce the importance that the United States places on our deep and growing ties with countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including through expanding economic growth, investment, and trade; strengthening democratic institutions; and investing in the next generation of African leaders.
The President will meet with a wide array of leaders from government, business, and civil society, including youth, to discuss our strategic partnerships on bilateral and global issues. The trip will underscore the President’s commitment to broadening and deepening cooperation between the United States and the people of sub-Saharan Africa to advance regional and global peace and prosperity.
In a commencement ceremony address to Morehouse College yesterday in Atlanta, President Obama made a joke at his wife Michelle's expense.
"I see some moms and grandmas here, aunts, in their Sunday best -- although they are upset about their hair getting messed up. (Laughter.) Michelle would not be sitting in the rain. (Laughter.) She has taught me about hair. (Laughter.)," said Obama, according to the White House press office.
But elsewhere, Obama praised his wife, the first lady:
I was raised by a heroic single mom, wonderful grandparents -- made incredible sacrifices for me. And I know there are moms and grandparents here today who did the same thing for all of you. But I sure wish I had had a father who was not only present, but involved. Didn’t know my dad. And so my whole life, I’ve tried to be for Michelle and my girls what my father was not for my mother and me. I want to break that cycle where a father is not at home -- (applause) -- where a father is not helping to raise that son or daughter. I want to be a better father, a better husband, a better man.
It’s hard work that demands your constant attention and frequent sacrifice. And I promise you, Michelle will tell you I’m not perfect. She’s got a long list of my imperfections. (Laughter.) Even now, I’m still practicing, I'm still learning, still getting corrected in terms of how to be a fine husband and a good father. But I will tell you this: Everything else is unfulfilled if we fail at family, if we fail at that responsibility. (Applause.)
“Oprah was demoted from her first job as a news anchor, and now she doesn’t even need a last name,” she said of media giant Oprah Winfrey. “And then there’s this guy Barack Obama … he lost his first race for Congress, and now he gets to call himself my husband.”
The first lady joked: “I could take up a whole afternoon talking about his failures.”
A reporter confirmed with Jay Carney, today at the press briefing, that President Obama met with his chief of staff and the treasury secretary many times over the last month and that neither official told the president of the IRS scandal:
White House spokesman Jay Carney says that the president's counsel and chief of staff knew about the investigation into the IRS's targeting of conservative group. But, Carney says, they didn't see it fit to tell President Obama about the investigation.
The White House counsel heard about the investigation on April 24. Obama maintains that he found out about the IRS's targeting of conservatives through the press.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki refused to criticize Iran for excluding women candidates from the upcoming "election" there. The remarkable exchange, which concludes with Psaki saying this (“We want this [election] to be free and fair. There’s a lot of ways to, of course, define that.”) happened at Friday's press briefing.
QUESTION:Jen, can I change the subject? It would seem that in Iran the Guardians Council, which is vetting the candidates for the upcoming elections next month, have decided and have ruled that women cannot contest, they cannot stand as candidates. I wondered what the United States reaction is to that, considering that 50 person of the population in Iran is women – are women.
MS. PSAKI:Well, we don’t take positions on any candidates, as you know, and we hope that the upcoming elections will be free, fair, and transparent and will represent the will of the Iranian people. So we wouldn’t weight into decisions made by the government. Of course, broadly, we hope that women around the world participate in politics and elected office, but beyond that I don’t think I have anything specific for you.
QUESTION:Taking the word “fair” – if you’re being fair, it would seem to exclude 50 percent of the population from an election, would already mean that it is not a fair election.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t weigh in on to the candidates and the candidates that are chosen through the process in Iran. Of course, of course, broadly speaking we do want women to participate in elections around the world and rise up in elected office.
Normally I blog about each week's Mad Men episode here. I avoid Slate and Esquire and everywhere else that offers analysis and simply try to reflect on the more interesting aspects of the show. Then I'll go over to the other sites and realize I know nothing. I am reminded of Gene Hackman's Lex Luthor explaining to Otis that "some people can read War and Peace and come away thinking it's a simple adventure story. Others can read the ingredients on a chewing gum wrapper and unlock the secrets of the universe." Consider me the former.
I am also reminded of what the actor Joe Pantoliano once told me about The Sopranos. He called it "a TV show you really need to earn the privilege of knowing. Most people don't." (Pantoliano played the vicious Ralph Cifaretto.) He went on,
I get people who watch the show and they say, "Oh, it's the best show on television. I loved it when Tony strangled the guy when he was taking his daughter to college." Or they go, "Hey, what the fuck happened with you? Why'd you beat up that girl? What's a matter with you?" What they don't get is what the author was trying to say there.
Likewise on Mad Men, whose creator Matthew Weiner is a Sopranos alumnus, I'm left trying to figure out what the author is trying to say. (SPOILER ALERT) Was the break-in at the apartment a metaphor of Black America making its way into white culture or was it simply a break-in? I realize the opening scene involving Ken Cosgrove and the Chevy guys crashing the Impala was a metaphor for an entire episode that ends with a crash after the effects of a dexadrine shot wears off on most of the office. But what about the rest? Why are Roger Sterling and Jim Cutler playing checkers and not chess? Because they're accounts and not creative? Is it shameful to say at 11:04 p.m. last night, "Wow, that was interesting"?
Sure, the more effort you put into understanding a show, the more gratifying the experience should be. But what if it's too much work? In an effort to keep up with the show's aficionados, I will attempt (pretend) to recap last night's episode:
Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, is an institution of good reputation and high quality, where I have some friends. It offers a liberal arts education typical of the best available in America today. It troubles me that Bowdoin, rather than, say, Harvard—a bigger and richer place where I work—should be made an example of. Nonetheless, Peter Wood and Michael Toscano have done just that in a comprehensive new study, “What Does Bowdoin Teach?” the first of its kind and probably destined to be the best, which shows in the practices and principles of one college what political correctness in our time has done to higher education in our country.
The authors are conservatives and their study was sponsored by the National Association of Scholars, a conservative organization. (It is available as a free download at www.nas.org.) It seems that liberals, even those critical of American education, are not inclined to investigate what their liberalism has done to it. Once upon a time, earlier in my life, liberals took pride in the high standards they set for the colleges that they had recently come to dominate and had made the headquarters of their liberalism. Now, they have made an unholy sacrifice of the devotion to excellence they once prized as a mark of distinction over fuddy-duddy, tradition-bound conservatism, and it is conservatives who stand for high standards in education.
Today’s liberals do not use liberalism to achieve excellence, but abandon excellence to achieve liberalism. They have effectually eliminated conservatism from higher education and intimidated—“marginalized”—the few conservatives remaining. These few are the only ones in academia who think something is missing when conservatives are gone. There was a liberal president of Harvard for a brief time recently who thought something was missing when conservatives are gone, and then, courtesy of the liberals, he was gone.