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Tags: Barack Obama

Positions Don’t Define Politicians, Actions Do.



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From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Positions Don’t Define Politicians, Actions Do.

Way back in 2007, then-Senator Barack Obama was making statements like these, suggesting he wanted to seriously reform affirmative action, shifting it from a program that evaluated people based on race and instead evaluated people based upon income:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Why should your
 daughters, when they go to college, get affirmative action?”

OBAMA: Well, first of all, I think that my daughters should
 probably be treated by any admissions officer as folks who are pretty
 advantaged, and I think that there’s nothing wrong with us taking that
 into account as we consider admissions policies at universities. I think that we should take into account white kids who have been disadvantaged and have grown up in poverty and shown themselves to 
have what it takes to succeed.

The nuanced position on affirmative action was a pretty important point in establishing Obama as a Democrat who wasn’t a down-the-line liberal. The media largely concurred with his self-definition as a pragmatist or a centrist; after all, he had defied the liberal line with his criticism of the increasing national debt as “unpatriotic”, his declaration to Rick Warren that he believed marriage was “the union between a man and a woman,” and his insistence that “we’re going to have to take on entitlements, and we’re going to have to do it quickly.”

You see where I’m going with this.

Here we are, seven years later. Obama has been president for five of them. He’s run up record amounts of debt, he’s announced his support for gay marriage, and there’s no sign that any entitlement reform will be enacted during his presidency. And affirmative action remains the same as it was before, as the Obama administration argues existing programs should remain in place as they are.

All the intriguing anecdotes and thoughtful interview responses in the world don’t amount to a hill of beans compared to actual policy and decisions.

S.M. over at The Wilderness:

Barack Obama thinks his job is to lead the mob, not the country. When the mob dishes out justice, as they did with Brendan Eich, there’s nothing more for him to say.

Selfie!

Obama only speaks out when he sees something he disagrees with. That’s what progressive activists do. He doesn’t take to stage or podium and remind people of the protected First Amendment right of all Americans and that Eich’s contribution to political causes is important to the free political process of participation. As the Democrat Party binges on a Koch Brothers fueled narrative about millionaires owning elections with their wallets, they remained deftly silent about one private citizen, donating a mere one thousand dollars to the cause of his choice, a choice protected by the Constitution and upheld, repeatedly by the Supreme Court.

He adds, “Obama had absolutely nothing to do with Lois Lerner IRS targeting, which is why she talked about taking a job with his organization.”

We can scoff at Democrats, the media and a few Republicans for so easily and credulously buying into the notion that a machine politician mentored by William Ayers and Jeremiah Wright would govern as some David-Gergen-esque centrist. (And we should! And we do!) But we on the Right probably ought to remember this in a year or two, when a half-dozen or a dozen Republicans are going to tell us they’re the “real conservative” in the bunch. A lot of them will attempt to claim this mantle by running down the checklist of policy positions and declaring they agree with us on all or almost all of them.

Tags: Barack Obama

Why Not Use Obama’s Unused 2008 Accountability Promises?



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From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

Obama’s 2008 Government Accountability Promises Sit, Unkept and Unused

One more stray thought spurred by yesterday’s discussion . . . we on the Right are absolutely correct to call out the Democrats on their double standard. But in the end, we need our own single standard.

You may have noticed I’ve put together recent pieces on the hypocrisy that defines the modern Left. Progressives’ complete disinterest in keeping their promises shouldn’t obscure the fact that in quite a few cases, those promises are pretty appealing and worthwhile in their own right.

President Obama was right when he “entered office promising to limit the practice” of naming campaign donors to plum ambassadorial posts “and instead appoint more Foreign Service professionals to ambassadorial positions.” Sure, he’s completely forgotten than promise, and now more than half our ambassadors are political appointees instead of career Foreign Service. But you know what? It’s embarrassing to have wealthy nincompoops who know nothing about their host country representing this country overseas. The next Republican nominee ought to call out this disgrace, promise to end it, and keep that promise.

Sure, Obama’s loud and oft-repeated pledge to not hire lobbyists in policymaking positions is undermined by more than 100 waivers. But Americans have reason to be wary about cabinet appointees overseeing their old clients and employers.

If the next Republican president pledges to disclose meetings between executive-branch staff and lobbyists, let’s not see the new administration working around the rule by meeting with them at a coffee shop across the street.

Back in 2008, candidate Obama lamented bills rushing through Congress and to the president before the public has the opportunity to review them. Obama said he “will not sign any non-emergency bill without giving the American public an opportunity to review and comment on the White House website for five days.” And then he broke that promise, again and again. But that’s not such a terrible policy. Even if the public comment has no impact on the president’s decision to sign a bill into law or veto it, it’s an important symbolic step to emphasize accountability to the public’s views. Point out the broken promise, pledge it again, and keep it this time.

Notice all of these are decisions about the executive branch; no congressional act is needed. No cajoling of the opposition party is needed. All we need is a president willing to make the promise and willing to keep his word, even if it’s inconvenient.

Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal said something interesting while discussing his health-care-reform proposal:

Compared to Obamacare’s baseline, ours reduces premiums by $5,000. His actually took the previous marketplace and increased it by $2,100 for a family. The reality is, our plan, I believe, actually delivers what he promised back in 2008 better than his plan does. In 2008, he talked about the need to reduce health-care costs, he opposed the mandate when Senator Clinton proposed it, and since ‘08 he’s talked about the need to keep your plan and your doctor. His plan doesn’t do those things. Our plan actually does.

The American people are deeply cynical about their government, a sentiment fueled by many, many good reasons. It’s time to get back to basics: tell Americans what you want to do, and then do it. Don’t look for loopholes, excuses, or reasons to blame the opposition. To quote the wise philosopher Daniel Lawrence Whitney . . . “Get ‘er done!”

Maybe a key element of the GOP’s comeback in 2016 will be pledging to keep the promises that Obama broke.

Tags: Barack Obama , Lobbyists , Ambassadors

President Obama’s Trip to Europe Was an Absolute Zoo



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“Sure, Mr. President, why don’t you go ahead and use the room with the giraffe statue?”

I hope the U.S. Secret Service checked out that giraffe.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza of President Barack Obama signs items backstage next to a sculpture of a giraffe in a shipping crate, following remarks at the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels, Belgium, March 26, 2014.

Tags: Barack Obama , Something Lighter

Auto Industry Task Force: Nobody Told Us About Those Switches!



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Bloomberg BusinessWeek sheds a little more light on what President Obama’s Auto Industry Task Force knew about the faulty switches . . . at least according to unnamed sources:

The task force President Barack Obama set up to manage General Motors Co. (GM)’s bailout and bankruptcy in 2009 wasn’t aware of the faulty ignition switches linked to 13 deaths in small cars, said people familiar with the matter.

Had it come up, the task force would have considered setting aside more money for the GM estate left behind after the Detroit-based automaker filed for bankruptcy in June 2009, said the people, who asked not to be named because their meetings were confidential. At the time, GM’s board and the task force based their projections for product-liability claims on a report that the GM estate would face about $414 million for pre-bankruptcy crashes, according to court papers.

While members of the task force met frequently in early 2009 with GM executives to discuss product-liability claims and determine how they should be handled in bankruptcy, the ignition switches or safety problems with the Chevrolet Cobalt weren’t brought up, said the people.

The administration’s line was always likely to be, “Hey, they never told us about the faulty switches!” Of course, the job of the Auto Industry Task Force was to get an accurate understanding of the condition of GM, not just to take GM management’s word for it. Clearly some folks at GM knew about these faulty switches and the safety and liability issues they presented; they chose to not tell the Task Force. Or the public. Did anyone on the task force ever raise the question of whether GM was accurately representing the risk of product-liability claims? Did the task force talk to anyone in the engineering department? Or was the bailout thrown together as quick as possible in order to save the jobs of administration’s ally, the United Auto Workers?

Also note this:

Steven Rattner, who headed the task force for the Obama administration, declined to comment on the matter when reached by phone Wednesday.

Up until recently, Rattner was eager to tout the success of the GM bailout. Now he has nothing to say.

Even contributors to the Huffington Post are noticing that it’s a lot harder to tout the GM bailout as a success or good policy after these revelations:

What kind of company did the government save? One that waited a decade to recall millions of cars with a lethal defect that would shut down engines without warning. One that chose not to replace the defective part, an ignition switch, when it was first detected. It would have cost less than $1 a car to do so.

Tags: GM , Steve Rattner , Barack Obama

Administration Sources to John Kerry:
Give It Up, Man.



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From the final Morning Jolt of the week:

Administration Sources to John Kerry: Give It Up, Man.

When something like this ends up on the front page of the Washington Post, it’s a sign somebody is trying to send a signal to our secretary of state:

When his aides get discouraged about the prospects for Middle East peace, Secretary of State John F. Kerry often bucks them up with a phrase: “Don’t be afraid to be caught trying.”

But as his tireless efforts to broker Israeli-Palestinian negotiations hit bottom Thursday, with Israel’s cancellation of prisoner releases that were considered crucial to keeping the talks alive, there are some around Kerry — including on his senior staff and inside the White House — who believe the time is approaching for him to say, “Enough.”

Kerry risks being seen as trying too hard at the expense of a range of other pressing international issues, and perhaps even his reputation, according to several senior administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity about sensitive internal and diplomatic matters.

“A point will come where he has to go out and own the failure,” an official said. For now, the official said, Kerry needs to “lower the volume and see how things unfold.”

As I noted, we somehow reached a point in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations where we, the United States, needed to make concessions just to keep them talking. Many have argued, accurately, that no peace deal will ever work if we want it to succeed more than the Israelis and Palestinians do. The primary stumbling block to a negotiated settlement is that a big chunk of the Palestinian population wants Israel to cease to exist, and the Israelis, unsurprisingly, refuse to go along with that. Yes, the Israelis periodically build settlements in places that the Palestinians don’t like, and that always turns into the Middle East version of kicking a hornet’s nest.

Jeffrey Goldberg offers a very kind and generous interpretation of Kerry’s entire grandiose, quixotic effort:

President Barack Obama’s administration, and specifically its secretary of state, deserve credit for maintaining the belief — in a very American, very solutionist sort of way — that the application of logic and good sense and creative thinking could bring about, over time, a two-state solution to the 100-year Arab-Jewish war . . . 

This week, we saw the administration float the idea of releasing Jonathan Pollard, the ex-U.S. Navy intelligence analyst convicted of spying for Israel, in exchange for some Israeli movement on the peace process. As I wrote on Monday, this was both a dubious idea generally and extremely unlikely to bring about advances in negotiations. If anything, it was a sign of desperation. As Andrew Exum and others have noted, why would the mediator in a dispute make concessions to one of the parties seeking mediation? It’s up to the parties to make concessions to each other. Obama has argued that the U.S. can’t want a peaceful compromise between Israelis and Palestinians more than the parties want it themselves. The Pollard balloon (now punctured, presumably) suggests Kerry wants a negotiated settlement just a bit too much.

Goldberg concludes by asking, “really, how can we blame a man for seeking peace?”

American foreign policy can’t just be based upon noble goals — or idealistic visions, grand dreams, noble ambitions, utopian goals and a serious lust for a Nobel Peace Prize. A secretary of state has to have some judgment on what’s possible, a realistic sense of what our allies, enemies, and states in between want, what they’re willing to accept, and what they’re willing to kill and die for.

To use an example our friends on the Left will appreciate, the Bush administration had very noble goals when it went into Iraq. It had an inspiring vision of a free, democratic, pluralistic, modernized Arab state in the middle of a turbulent region, at peace with its neighbors and providing a role model for the rest of the region. Obviously, things didn’t turn out the way we hoped. Very bright people in the Bush administration misjudged how the various factions within Iraq would respond to life without the brutality of Saddam Hussein.

Foreign leaders’ worldviews, philosophies, perspectives and desires matter a lot.

Which is why it’s a little unnerving to hear President Obama say something like this:

With respect to President Putin’s motivation, I think there’s been a lot of speculation. I’m less interested in motivation and more interested in the facts and the principles that not only the United States but the entire international community are looking to uphold.

If we knew and understood his motivation — perhaps to reverse the humiliation of losing the Cold War, and leave a world-altering legacy of a restored de facto Russian empire, with satellite or client states all over Eastern Europe? — it would be easier to deter him and predict his next moves, wouldn’t it?

Ron Fournier:

Taken at face value, it’s a disturbing response from a world leader who should lie awake at night concerned about the motivation of U.S. adversaries, whose first meeting of every day involves an intelligence briefing on the motivations of global actors . . . 

I take him at his word: He doesn’t care.

First, his handling of leaders in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, China and most recently Russia exposes a lack of empathy and sophistication…

. . . Caring little about the motivation of his rivals seems to be a trait of Obama’s leadership that has hurt him in Congress, where the opposition party is stubbornly opposed to his agenda . . . 

Putin knows his enemies. Obama dismisses his.

A painfully accurate assessment there, that almost everyone in the administration will tune out.

Tags: John Kerry , Barack Obama , Israel , Russia , Vladimir Putin

Obama, 2009: The Chevy Cobalt Is a
‘Well-Engineered, Safe’ ‘Car of the Future’



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President Obama, speaking at the General Motors Lordstown Assembly Plant in Warren, Ohio, September 15, 2009:

Today, you made, by the way, some more good news: I understand that the one-millionth Cobalt rolled off the assembly line late last night. So I don’t want to just congratulate you, I want to thank you. You’re doing your part to move us forward and make sure that the high-quality, well-engineered, safe and fuel-efficient cars of the future will be built where they’ve always have been built — right here in Ohio, right across the Midwest, right here in the United States of America.

All Chevy Cobalts produced between 2005 and 2010 are being recalled.

ABOVE: President Obama, saluting the Chevy Cobalt as
one of the “high-quality, well-engineered, safe and
fuel-efficient cars of the future,” September 15, 2009.

At the time of Obama’s speech at the GM plant, saluting the Cobalt, GM engineers knew the cars were unsafe, according to the New York Times:

Any doubts were laid to rest among engineers at General Motors about a dangerous and faulty ignition switch. At a meeting on May 15, 2009, they learned that data in the black boxes of Chevrolet Cobalts confirmed a potentially fatal defect existed in hundreds of thousands of cars.

Tags: Barack Obama , GM

McCaskill Tries to Turn the GM Scandal Into a Government-Spending Issue



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From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

McCaskill Tries to Turn the GM Scandal Into a Government-Spending Issue

MSNBC’s Chuck Todd interviewed Senator Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) yesterday, and she offered a revealing moment. Todd asked whether the government, in particular the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, had some culpability for the failure to inform the public about the faulty switches earlier.

The evidence is compelling:

A senior NHTSA investigator in September 2007 asked his superiors to open a formal investigation into Cobalt cars for stalling after reports of four fatal crashes but his superiors opted against it. Friedman said the Cobalt only had a slightly elevated risk. In early 2008, one of the special crash reports was completed that showed a link between the key position and the failure of the air bag to deploy.

The agency has just 51 people in its defect investigations unit with a $10.1 million budget — a fraction of the agency’s $800 million. The White House has asked for a small increase in the agency’s defects budget to $10.6 million.

McCaskill told Todd the problem is that we’re not spending enough money. She lamented “Ten million dollars to keep up with the engineering challenges of the modern auto industry? That’s ridiculous! Most of the time around this building, everyone’s trying to cut government.” She repeated the claim in the hearing Wednesday.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who chaired the hearing on Wednesday, noted that NHTSA’s defect budget — which only funds about 51 people — has remained flat for about a decade. “Do you believe that $10 million is adequate to spend in this country for defects investigation for the entire automobile industry,” McCaskill said. “We need to have the resources and the expertise at NHTSA to find these defects.”

Is there nothing in that existing $800 million NHTSA budget that can be deemed extraneous or unnecessary, with the funds diverted to this? And how, exactly, would more money make the superiors listen to those engineers? The problem here is one of judgment, not funding.

But the Progressive always has an excuse for government failure; we’re not spending enough money. Never mind that this country dramatically increased its spending on public education with no corresponding improvement in student academic achievement. Never mind that Oregon spent more than $200 million on a health-insurance exchange, with nothing to show for it (the exchange doesn’t work), and Maryland spent $125 million, with nothing to show for it (the exchange is so dysfunctional they’re scrapping it and building a new one).

That same Claire McCaskill, back in late November 2008:

Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, said she’s willing to consider an auto bailout, but not before she Congress gets a clear accounting of the companies’ financial situation.

“We need to behave like a bank,” McCaskill said. “And we need to make sure that we get all of those internal financials and that we feel comfortable that this is a good investment for the American taxpayer.”

Clearly, the financials the U.S. government received either didn’t mention the potential liability issue from these switches, or the government didn’t ask, or it didn’t look too hard. After all, the jobs of unionized auto industry employees were at stake.

That same SenatorClaire McCaskill back in 2010: “Look what’s happened at General Motors. We saved ‘made in America’ for domestic auto production. We saved thousands of jobs, we saved entire communities, because of what we did for General Motors.”

So Democrats find themselves insisting, simultaneously, that losing $10.5 billion in bailing out General Motors was absolutely the right thing to do, because GM is a good company full of good people making good cars, and at the same time this is an abominable outrage, because this is a reckless, selfish company full of irresponsible people making cars that kill people if the key chain is too heavy.

Yesterday McCaskill was denouncing GM’s “culture of a cover up” one moment and then telling GM CEO Mary Barra, “You have a great company and an enormous responsibility to get this right.”

How many “great companies” have “cultures of cover-up”?

Tags: Claire McCaskill , GM , Barack Obama

Remember When Obama Touted the Now-Recalled Chevy Cobalt?



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President Obama, speaking at a GM plant in Lordstown, Ohio, September 15, 2009:

“That program was good for automakers, consumers, and our environment,” Obama said of the Cash for Clunkers programs, “and the Chevy Cobalt that you build here was one of GM’s most sought-after cars under that program. Dealers across the country started running out of it and needed you to build more.”

All Chevy Cobalts from 2005 to 2010 are being recalled because of fears the

ignition switch may move out of the “run” position, resulting in a partial loss of electrical power and turning off the engine. This risk increases if your key ring is carrying added weight . . . or your vehicle experiences rough road conditions or other jarring or impact related events. If the ignition switch is not in the run position, the air bags may not deploy if the vehicle is involved in a crash, increasing the risk of injury or fatality.

ABOVE: President Obama, boasting about the popularity of the Chevy
Cobalts under the “Cash for Clunkers” program, September 15, 2009.

Tags: Barack Obama , GM , Cash for Clunkers

Kurtz: Where’s the Coverage of Washington’s Role in GM’s Mess?



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Howard Kurtz, now over on Fox News, raises the question about why coverage of GM’s recall has largely ignored the Washington angle:

. . . The federal government is complicit is more ways than one.

GM, you’ll recall, had to be rescued by the taxpayers in 2009, and the federal stake was so large that the company was dubbed Government Motors when it went through bankruptcy. But bankruptcy rules require a disclosure of all liabilities as well as assets. By hiding the defect in its cars, GM may have committed bankruptcy fraud.

Beyond that, the utter failure of the National Highway Transportation Safety Agency to crack down on the defective ignition switch is an embarrassing failure. But regulatory agencies are a journalistic backwater, drawing a fraction of the coverage lavished on the White House, Congress and politics.

Allow me to submit another motive in the media’s disinterest: The massive GM recalls — now more than 6 million vehicles — would require the media to revise a major storyline from a few years ago — the near-collapse, bailout, and resurrection of General Motors, which has largely been covered as an unvarnished success story for the Obama administration. He writes, “You can’t single out President Obama because the government’s failure to act stretches back to the Bush administration, so it doesn’t make for a left/right slugfest.” That’s true enough as it goes, but the Obama administration somehow missed these multiple massive safety issues while putting together the bailout, which ultimately poured $49 billion into GM, and cost taxpayers $10.5 billion once the last share of stock was sold. Hammer the NHTSA, but at what point does the President’s Auto Industry Task Force look negligent? How did they miss so many consequential lurking safety issues in what was allegedly a thorough review of the company?

In another example of the phenomenon discussed in this piece, a wide variety of voices who are quick to lambaste “corporate greed” and “evil businessmen” — be it Wall Street, Big Oil, Big Tobacco, health-insurance companies, or any one of many others — are strangely quiet about a car company that manufactured and sold cars with a fatal defect. Why? Because progressives don’t begin from the principle, “a company must make safe products to be a good company.” They begin with “Barack Obama is the good guy.” Barack Obama supported and enacted the bailout of GM, thus that bailout must be a good thing. Thus, GM must be a company worth helping. Acknowledging that GM made dangerous cars, lied about it to the public, and then had the audacity to ask the taxpayers for money while keeping the danger of the cars secret would disrupt the “GM is worth helping, and Obama was right to help them” narrative, so it must be ignored, shoved aside, eyes averted, and so on.

UPDATE: Finally, over in the Guardian of the U.K., some tough coverage of Washington’s role in this, from economics columnist Heidi Moore:

Four years later, in December 2013, GM seemed to justify the cost — and faith — of its bailout. When the US Treasury sold its remaining stake, President Obama wrapped the moment in misty-eyed rhetoric about national pride:

When things looked darkest for our most iconic industry, we bet on what was true: the ingenuity and resilience of the proud, hardworking men and women who make this country strong. Today, that bet has paid off. The American auto industry is back.

We were desperate to believe this.

Less than four months later, it seems foolish that any of GM’s fairy tale was believable to anyone. After the recalls and the estimates of driver deaths, all of that talk — of the reborn American automaker, of bets paid and dollars won — seems like a hollow spectacle.

And it has to make us wonder: how much were US taxpayers and the government complicit in sustaining a company that researchers had already suggested was unable to compete in the modern automotive industry?

“It’s no ‘new GM’ if they’re doing this,” Dartmouth Tuck School of Business professor Paul A Argenti tells me. “If this has been hidden for 10 years, there’s nothing new about the company. It’s old-school GM. It’s stuff you can’t even imagine a company could do in the 21st century.”

Tags: GM , Barack Obama

Healthcare.gov Begins Its Final Day of Enrollment . . . Closed for Maintenance



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From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Happy Obamacare Deadline-ish Day. CNN’s Jim Acosta logs on to Healthcare.gov this morning and finds:

Perfect. Old traditions die hard, huh? At least, a lot harder than Healthcare.gov.

Health Care’s Cost Curve Is Turning Into a Squiggly Line, Mostly Upward

May 2013: Health care’s “cost curve” is bending down! Credit Obamacare!

“National health spending grew by 3.9 percent each year from 2009 to 2011, the lowest rate of growth since the federal government began keeping such statistics in 1960,” reports the Kaiser Family Foundation. Early data suggest that the numbers held into 2012. So the curve hasn’t just bent; it has bent more than ever.

September 2013: Health care’s “cost curve” is bending back up again! Blame Obamacare!

Last week, the Obama administration’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a rather different prediction: that “the [Affordable Care Act] is projected to . . . increase cumulative spending by roughly $621 billion” from 2014 to 2022. To be clear, that’s spending on top of the normal health-care inflation that would have happened if Obamacare had not been passed. So much for “bending down the cost curve,” as the president often liked to say his law would do.

November 2013: No, no, health care’s “cost curve” is bending down again! Credit Obamacare!

The White House issued a 29-page report that says, among other things, the once out-of-control health spending trends in the U.S. have been tamed to the point where medical inflation is just over 1%.

Health spending growth is the lowest on record, the report contends, up an average annual rate of 1.3% over the past three years. That’s less than one-third the historical average dating back to 1965.

Today: Health care’s “cost curve” is bending back up again! Blame Obamacare!

Health care spending rose at the fastest pace in 10 years last quarter, a development that could foreshadow higher costs for consumers this year.

Expenses for health care rose at a 5.6% annual rate in the fourth quarter, the Bureau of Economic Analysis said last week. The jump triggered a sharp upward revision in the government’s estimate of consumer spending overall and accounted for nearly a quarter of the economy’s 2.6% annualized growth in the last three months of 2013.

Driving the increase was an $8 billion rise in hospital revenue — more than the previous four quarters combined, according to the Census Bureau and Royal Bank of Scotland. RBS economist Omair Sharif says the increase in hospitals’ income was puzzling because the number of inpatient days dipped 1% during the fourth quarter.

Fewer patients, staying in the hospital less time, and paying more.

In the meantime, thank you, Obamacare.

U.S seniors — those aged 65 and older — have moved from a reliably Democratic group to a reliably Republican one over the past two decades. From 1992 through 2006, seniors had been solidly Democratic and significantly more Democratic than younger Americans. Over the last seven years, seniors have become less Democratic, and have shown an outright preference for the Republican Party since 2010.

Gee, do you think it has anything to do with the fact that Obamacare is cutting Medicare?

Finally, way to go, Maryland:

On Tuesday, Maryland will begin the process of replacing its troubled exchange, which has had so many problems since its launch on Oct. 1 that officials have decided it would be better to start anew. Maryland had more than two years to create its first exchange, which has cost $125.5 million to build and operate, according to the exchange’s spokeswoman.

Tags: Healthcare.gov , Obamacare , Barack Obama , Maryland

Obama’s Task Force on the Auto Industry Flunks the Test.



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Also in today’s Jolt, hitting e-mailboxes a moment ago, a bit more about the General Motors recall scandal. A question that must be answered: How did President Obama’s Task Force on the Auto Industry, which put together the GM bailout, manage to miss the fact that the company had a “potentially fatal defect [that] existed in hundreds of thousands” of GM vehicles, with massive liability issues?

Announcing his Task Force’s plan, President Obama said, “We, as a nation, cannot afford to shirk responsibility any longer. Now is the time to confront our problems head-on and do what’s necessary to solve them.” But we now know GM wasn’t confronting problems head-on and doing what was necessary to solve them; they let the defective and dangerous cars remain on the roads for years. And either they hid that, as they asked the government for billions of dollars in aid from taxpayers . . . or, even worse, it was mentioned, and the Task Force never told the public.

From BusinessWeek:

GM’s own engineers, along with newspaper auto writers, were talking about the ignition switch defect in several GM models almost a decade before the carmaker announced plans last month to recall 1.6 million vehicles . . . 

The documents GM filed yesterday indicate the company got an early indication of the ignition-switch problems as it developed the Saturn Ion in 2001. It thought the problem was fixed. Then, in 2003, an engineer investigating a consumer complaint was able to replicate engine stalls while driving. GM ended up using the same switch in the Cobalt, the G5 and three other U.S. models.

Wait, did we say that they knew about this sudden-stall problem for a decade? Maybe two decades, according to Automotive News:

Stung by rising warranty costs, General Motors decided in the mid-1990s to pull design work for ignition and turn-signal switches from suppliers and put its own employees in charge. One of the first projects for the in-house team was the ignition switch for the Saturn Ion and Chevrolet Cobalt.

Why did GM authorize a redesign of the part in 2006, eight years before the recall? And why was the change made so discreetly — without a new part number — that employees investigating complaints of Ions and Cobalts stalling didn’t know about it until late last year? . . . 

Not assigning the new part number would have been highly unusual, according to three people who worked as high-level GM engineers at the time. None of the engineers was involved in the handling of the ignition switch; all asked that their names not be used because of the sensitivity of the matter.

“Changing the fit, form or function of a part without making a part number change is a cardinal sin,” said one of the engineers. “It would have been an extraordinary violation of internal processes.”

That doesn’t prove that the company was trying to cover up a defective, dangerous part . . . but it sure does look suspicious.

Why does this matter to us? Because $10.5 billion of our tax dollars were given to GM to steward them through the bankruptcy — and it’s very likely they were lying to everyone the whole time. The National Legal and Policy Center is asking some very tough questions:

The timing of the revelation (May 15, 2009, just two weeks prior to GM filing for bankruptcy) that a “potentially fatal defect existed in hundreds of thousands” of GM vehicles is of particular importance as the company is currently being accused of hiding the liabilities arising from the defects from the bankruptcy court in June of 2009. Is it really believable that the company honestly overlooked a “potentially fatal defect” and the accompanying lawsuits when they were required to disclose them to the bankruptcy court? Also, how could President Obama’s Auto Task Force, which orchestrated the bankruptcy process, not know of the issues when they were so deeply entrenched at GM.

If Old GM knew about the defects, New GM had to know as well. Also, meetings were held in July of 2011 regarding the known defects at a time when Mary Barra was head of product development; still, no recall. And New GM’s recent responses have not been any better than the old.

All through the reelection campaign, Barack Obama and his supporters celebrated the GM bailout as one of his shining successes. Now it turns out we were helping a company that sold dangerous, defective vehicles last a little longer until the plaintiffs’ lawyers got a hold of them. (The argument is that by hiding the danger during the bankruptcy crisis, the “new GM” is liable for the actions of the “old GM.”)

Tags: Barack Obama , GM

Obama: I’m ‘More Concerned’ about a ‘Nuclear Weapon Going Off in Manhattan’



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What?

President Obama, speaking in the Netherlands, moments ago:

The fact that Russia felt compelled to go in militarily and lay bare these violations of international law indicates less influence, not more. And so my response, then, continues to be what I believe today, which is that Russia’s actions are a problem. They don’t pose the number one national security threat to the United States. I continue to be much more concerned, when it comes to our security, with the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan.

Tags: Barack Obama , Russia , nuclear weapons

The Taxpayer Bailout of GM, Helping Them Sell Unsafe Cars



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President Obama, December 2013:

In exchange for rescuing and retooling GM and Chrysler with taxpayer dollars, we demanded responsibility and results.

The news he alluded to, but did not directly mention that day:

The taxpayer loss on the GM bailout is $10.5 billion. The Treasury department said it recovered $39 billion from selling its GM stake, and had put $49.5 billion of taxpayer money directly into the GM bailout.

The news today:

It was nearly five years ago that any doubts were laid to rest among engineers at General Motors about a dangerous and faulty ignition switch. At a meeting on May 15, 2009, they learned that data in the black boxes of Chevrolet Cobalts confirmed a potentially fatal defect existed in hundreds of thousands of cars.

But in the months and years that followed, as a trove of internal documents and studies mounted, G.M. told the families of accident victims and other customers that it did not have enough evidence of any defect in their cars, interviews, letters and legal documents show. Last month, G.M. recalled 1.6 million Cobalts and other small cars, saying that if the switch was bumped or weighed down it could shut off the engine’s power and disable air bags.

The Times reports:

Since the engineers’ meeting in May 2009, at least 23 fatal crashes have involved the recalled models, resulting in 26 deaths.

In November 2008, automaker executives came to Washington and “pleaded for emergency government aid.” At the end of May 2009 — after that meeting about the potentially fatal defect in the Cobalts! — the Obama administration finalized its aid package and terms to GM, committing “another $30 billion on top of the $19.4 billion it has already given GM to cover its losses and fund its operations, in exchange for a 60% equity stake in the new company after restructuring, as well as $8.8 billion in debt and preferred stock.”

Great news, taxpayers. You spent $10.5 billion to save a company that sold defective, unsafe cars, and lied about it for years.

Note this wrinkle:

When questioned last week at a news conference whether government ownership had any impact on the regulatory response to the ignition switch problems, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. responded: “I’m not sure that is necessarily true.”

Time to update that Obama 2012 slogan. “GM is alive, and 29 Cobalt drivers and passengers are dead.”

ABOVE: President Obama tapes his weekly address from a GM plant in
Detroit, October 14, 2011; there’s no word on whether the car behind him is one
of those with life-threatening defects that GM knew about but did not disclose.

Tags: GM , Bailouts , Barack Obama , Eric Holder

President Obama’s Discussion of Your Privacy Is Private



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President Obama’s meeting with technology leaders about invasions of privacy of U.S. citizens is private:

We can’t leave the door open or have the press in the room, because it just wouldn’t be right if somebody could listen in on their conversations!

You may recall that three years ago, President Obama accepted a “transparency” award from the open-government community in a closed, undisclosed meeting at the White House.

Tags: Barack Obama

The President’s Busy Morning: Russia Announcement, ESPN Radio



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This morning President Obama announced new sanctions on Russia for that country’s aggression in Crimea and threatening gestures toward Ukraine and Eastern Europe.

Then the president did an interview with ESPN’s Colin Cowherd.

This is the home page of WhiteHouse.gov right now:

“View the President’s Backet” is at the top of the page.

Elsewhere on WhiteHouse.gov, visitors are encouraged to provide their e-mail addresses so they can “Sign up to get the First Lady’s blog posts, videos of events and photos delivered right to your inbox” dealing with first lady Michelle Obama’s trip to China.

This is really the only way for the American public to learn much about the first lady’s six-day taxpayer-funded trip to China with her daughters and mother, as “First lady Michelle Obama will not take questions from reporters or give interviews during her tour of China that begins today, and members of the press corps who usually follows [sic] the first family everywhere can’t travel with her entourage.”

Back in November, news organizations filed a formal complaint with the White House about the administration’s habit of “bypassing them to release ‘official’ photos of presidential meetings and events,” contending “visual press releases” have displaced independent coverage.

Tags: Barack Obama , Michelle Obama , White House , Russia , Basketball

Putin Redraws Russian Borders; Obama Unveils Bracket Picks



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From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

Perhaps Obama Will Play the Fiddle at Tonight’s Democratic Fundraisers

Today’s Headlines, from Moscow . . . 

In a gilded Kremlin hall used by czars, Vladimir Putin redrew Russia’s borders Tuesday by declaring the Crimean Peninsula part of the motherland — provoking a surge of emotion among Russians who lament the loss of empire and denunciations from Western leaders who called Putin a threat to the world.

From Kiev:

Ukrainians, however, were convinced from Putin’s speech to the Russian Duma that the conflict could not remain cold. Many said they found some of Putin’s phrasing chilling, including his statement that “We’re one nation. Kiev is the mother of all Russian cities.”

They also noted that his proclamation of respect for Ukrainian territorial integrity rings hollow when he has already invaded and taken control of one region, and has an estimated 60,000 troops massing at the shared border.

Vitali Klitschko, the former world heavyweight champion and a leading member of Ukraine’s Parliament, underscored what many Ukrainians are thinking when he addressed the Russian threat, pointedly using the words “when the Russians invade” instead of “if.”

From Simferopol:

A member of a pro-Russian militia group is reported to have been killed in the same gun battle that claimed the life of the Ukrainian soldier earlier. There’s some confusion over how the militia man died and it seems that he may have been killed by his own side rather than shot by resisting Ukrainian forces.

From Sevastopol, an old woman in a pro-Russian crowd, lovingly holding an image of Joseph Stalin:

And from Washington:

President Obama stumps for a minimum wage hike Wednesday by appealing to specific television markets.

The president sits for interviews with stations based in New England, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Dallas, Phoenix, and San Diego.

He has asked Congress to increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour.

Also on Wednesday, Obama will host the screening of a new film about Cesar Chavez, the farm worker who campaigned for labor rights.

Just in case you thought this was a productive use of his time, “The odds that Congress will pass an increase in the U.S. minimum wage before the November elections are so low that even the nation’s lobbyists are largely ignoring it.”

That’s not all Obama has going on today: “President Barack Obama, the nation’s No. 1 college basketball fan, is going to make his picks public on Wednesday.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Ukraine , Vladimir Putin , Crimea

Obama’s Schedule for This Week: Three Fundraisers



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This morning Vladimir Putin announced that Crimea had always been a part of Russia, prepared papers for the territory to formally rejoin Russia, and claimed that no Russian military forces had been deployed on the peninsula. Also the Duma, the Russian parliament, dared the United States to put sanctions on all of its members.

Meanwhile, back in the United States, tonight President Obama will attend a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee in Washington, his first fundraiser for the DNC since Tuesday, March 11.

On Thursday, President Obama plans to travel to Orlando, Fla. for an event on the economy followed by fundraisers in Miami for the DNC and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Barack Obama, seen here conducting an interview with Ryan Seacrest Friday, March 14, holds an elected position that many once called “the leader of the free world.” 

 

Tags: Barack Obama , Crimea , Russia

NRCC: Please Bring President Obama to Red House Districts!



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Yesterday, to discuss the referenda in Crimea and the crisis in Ukraine on “Meet the Press,” the White House dispatched… Dan Pfeiffer. You know, the guy who was previously communications director for the Obama campaign. And before that, a spokesman for Sen. Evan Bayh.

When Pfeiffer had finished “answering” questions about the missing Malaysian Airlines jet, and warning Vladimir Putin that the Crimean “referendum is in violation of international law,” he declared that President Obama would be an “asset” to Democrat candidates in 2014 and that he’d help Democrats “up and down the ballot.”

After the National Republican Congressional Committee stopped laughing, they felt the need to help arrange these campaign stops:

They sent that letter, in press release form, to the districts of Gwen Graham (FL-2), Amanda Renteria (CA-21), Andrew Romanoff (CO-06), Ann Callis (IL-13), George Gollin (IL-13), Staci Appel (IA-03), Jerry Cannon (MI-01), John Lewis (MT-AL), Erin Bilbray (NV-03), Domenic Recchia (NY-11), Sean Eldridge (NY-19), Martha Robertson (NY-23), Aimee Belgard (NJ-03), Kevin Strouse (PA-08), and Shaughnessy Naughton (PA-08).

I guess we know where the NRCC thinks Obama’s a liability now!

Tags: NRCC , Barack Obama

If You Liked Your Doctor . . . Well, Never Mind.



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Then: “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Period.”

Now: “But for the average person, many folks who don’t have health insurance initially, they’re going to have to make some choices, and they might end up having to switch doctors.”

It’s not clear what Obama means when he suggests “many” of the “average” don’t have health insurance, since the “average” American has always had health insurance. The percentage of Americans telling the Gallup organization that they don’t have health insurance has ranged from 13.9 percent in late summer 2008 to 18 percent in the third quarter of 2013. The rate dropped to 15.9 percent in their most recent figures.

Tags: Barack Obama , Obamacare

The Gap Between Obama and Reality



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During the old days of tension with Russia, presidents worried about the “missile gap.” During the current days of tension with Russia, the president . . . shops at The Gap.

After a tough morning doing an interview with Funny or Die, and in between two fundraisers, President Obama did his part for the economy:

President Barack Obama looks at a sweater with Gap employee Susan Panariello while shopping for his family during a stop at a Gap store in New York, N.Y., March 11, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

“For Michelle, I have no idea what to get. Maybe we should buy some socks,” he said.

Inspirational, Mr. President.

Tags: Barack Obama

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