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Saturday, December 07, 2013

Cruising the Web

The National Journal has a cover story asking if Tom Cotton of Arkansas is just too good to be true.
He seems too good to be true. With his sterling résumé—he has undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard and served in both of America's post-9/11 wars—Cotton seems like a throwback to another era, when military service and an Ivy League pedigree were common plot points on the road to elected office.
They find out that he's always been conservative and hasn't been hesitant to express his views even when writing for The Harvard Crimson or responding to the New York Times' leaking of a secret CIA program with a letter written from his deployment in Iraq. They can't find anything wrong with him except that he's conservative. Running for senator in Arkansas against Mark Pryor, that isn't going to be enough. Democrats will just have to find some other way to demonize him.

Yet again administration emails are revealing that they knew more than they let on about how their health care program wasn't ready for prime time, but didn't let on in time. They preferred to try to keep the bad news to themselves rather than allowing businesses prepare for the problems ahead.
The Obama administration knew as early as August that the small-business portal on healthcare.gov would not be ready by the Oct. 1 launch, but delayed admitting those problems until Nov. 27, according to documents released by House Republicans on Friday....

They [the emails] also show that the Obama administration agreed on Aug. 13 to delay the small businesses exchange until Nov. 15, but did not first announce the setback until Sept. 26, less than a week before employers were expecting to begin shopping online for health coverage for their employees.

Last week, on the day before Thanksgiving, when many Americans were traveling or focused on the holiday, the administration announced a one-year delay of the small-business enrollment feature.
Peter Schweizer at Politico takes the shredder to Jay Carney's claims that President Obama had had a whole bunch of one-on-one meetings with Kathleen Sebelius that some how had just never gotten onto the White House calendar.
To be sure, presidents exchange emails and phone calls that are not recorded on White House calendars. Still, why would the White House calendar list by name one-on-one meetings with 16 other Cabinet secretaries but omit Sebelius if other meetings with her occurred? Wouldn’t Obama want to catalog for all to see his personal devotion to the law that bears his name? Perhaps the insular White House team wanted to distance the president from the bureaucratic process in the hopes of granting him a halo of deniability if the launch failed. Or perhaps the lack of meetings reinforces the severity of what the New York Times describes as the “deeply dysfunctional relationship between the Department of Health and Human Services and its technology contractors, and tensions between the White House chief of staff and senior health department officials.”
Of course, Carney is trying to deny this reporting since it casts so much light on the President's poor leadership style by claiming that her visits with the President just didn't make it onto the visitor logs, but Schweizer is having none of that.
The White House’s response to the GAI calendar investigation is absurd and alarming.
Press Secretary Jay Carney said Friday, “Cabinet secretaries don’t regularly get entered into the visitor logs.” The GAI report was not based on visitor logs; it was based on the White House’s own calendar and the POLITICO presidential calendar.
Obama's calendar lists 277 one-on-one meetings between the president and his other Cabinet secretaries, including 73 with former Secretary Clinton and 57 with former Secretary Geithner. If, as Carney claims, Secretary Sebelius “is here a lot and meets with the president with regularity,” why aren’t they listed? How many meetings took place and when did they occur? Carney said he doesn’t know.
And if Obama and Sebelius worked together closely and regularly, why did the president publicly state he did not know about the problems with HealthCare.gov?
The ordinary work of oversight of his own administration and his massive overhaul of the health care system just didn't interest him. Remember how he wasn't all that involved in crafting the bill itself. He just let it be known that he wanted it done and it was outsourced to the Democrats in Congress to come up with something. Then Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi took the lead in crafting all the little deals of getting the votes necessary to cram the thing through even when they lost the 60th vote when Scott Brown got elected. All Obama is really interested in is making speeches and being adored. The sort of daily follow-up and supervision of those in his administration is just not as much fun as showing up on TV for every possible sports event to get his face in front of the people or hanging with celebrities like Jay Z. He'll go give the speeches in front of adoring crowds. But doing what a true leader does - that's not what he's in this job to do. He's always preferred to be an icon, rather than a true leader.

So are we supposed to be impressed that the administration says Healthcare.gov is messing up only 10% of the applications for healthcare? Is that another one of these small numbers that the administration is using to defend itself, just as they tried to persuade us that having 5% of people lose their insurance due to Obamacare was an insignificant number of people to be concerned about?

I don't care whether Barack Obama knew or didn't know his paternal uncle who had been arrested a couple of years ago for drunk driving. Every family has those whose private lives would not make for edifying publicity. What is peculiar, however, is that the White House press office would resort to poring over Obama's autobiography to see if Uncle Omar had been mentioned so they could peddle a denial to the press, rather than simply asking the President himself. As Paul Mirengoff writes,
How ridiculous is this? We are asked to believe that instead of checking with Obama, the only available person who could know the extent of his relationship with Omar, his flacks issued a denial based on book that doesn’t even purport to be autobiographically accurate.

Dreams From My Father does not, of course, provide a definitive list of Obama’s acquaintances. But more than this, Obama has said that the book uses pseudonyms and contains composite (or “compressed”) characters. Thus, it would make no sense to deny Uncle Omar’s existence based on his non-appearance in the book.

So what explains the denial? The most straightforward explanation is pathological lying — the impulse to deny, deny, deny whenever an embarrassing story, even an essentially innocuous one, appears. In this scenario, staff (perhaps at Obama’s direction; perhaps not) decided to deny that Obama had met Uncle Omar provided there was nothing in Obama’s book, or elsewhere in the record, that would show otherwise. Believing they could get away with the lie, they lied.

But Stanley Kurtz suggests a more sophisticated explanation. Stanley suspects, based on his experience with Team Obama’s responses to potentially embarrassing stories he has uncovered, that it is Obama’s policy not to have staff ask him about his past.

This policy enables Obama to avoid confirming embarrassing stories without having to lie. Staff can then deny, or at least not confirm, the story. If the story turns out to be true, Obama can blame his staff. Staff, while taking an obvious hit, can blame sloppy research and thus defend against accusations of lying.
Whichever explanation is the true one, it is clear, yet again, of what a weak sort of leadership that Obama has.

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