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Tags: Barack Obama

The Administration’s Cavalcade of Lies on the Bergdahl Deal Continues



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Today I’m off to Los Angeles to appear on this evening’s edition of Real Time with Bill Maher. My co-panelists will be Nicole Wallace, formerly of the McCain-Palin campaign, and some guy you may have heard of by the name of Anthony Weiner. Yes, that Anthony Weiner. You can watch tonight — 7 p.m. Pacific, 10 p.m. Eastern — and I’ll let you know how it went Monday.

A portion of today’s Morning Jolt:

The Administration’s Cavalcade of Lies on the Bergdahl Deal Continues

Oh, I guess we can relax now.

The five senior Taliban leaders released to Qatar after years of detention at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are subject to strict bans on militant incitement or fundraising that might pose a danger to the United States, according to people familiar with the negotiations that freed American prisoner of war Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

How is this enforced? If these guys begin fundraising or incitement, do the Qataris send them back to us? What about beyond the first year?

Thursday’s big spin:

The Obama administration told senators it didn’t notify Congress about the pending swap of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban officials because of intelligence the Taliban might kill him if the deal was made public.

That fear — not just the stated concerns that Bergdahl’s health might be failing — drove the administration to quickly make the deal to rescue him, bypassing the law that lawmakers be notified when detainees are released from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, congressional and administration officials said Thursday.

They spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly.

Many folks closely following this story immediately dismissed that explanation as bull-you-know-what. Why would the Taliban kill their best bargaining chip? Why would they want absolute silence about a deal that they were going to use for propaganda purposes?

Allahpundit noticed problem number one, from the New York Times, May 9, 2012:

The parents of the only American soldier held captive by Afghan insurgents have broken a yearlong silence about the status of their son, abruptly making public that he is a focus of secret negotiations between the Obama administration and the Taliban over a proposed prisoner exchange.

The negotiations, currently stalled, involved a trade of five Taliban prisoners held at the American military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl of the Army, who is believed to be held by the militant Haqqani network in the tribal area of Pakistan’s northwest frontier, on the Afghan border.

Then John Sexton noticed this Associated Press report from June 20, 2013, roughly one year ago:

The Taliban proposed a deal in which they would free a U.S. soldier held captive since 2009 in exchange for five of their most senior operatives at Guantanamo Bay, while Afghan President Hamid Karzai eased his opposition Thursday to joining planned peace talks.

The proposal to trade U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for the Taliban detainees was made by senior Taliban spokesman Shaheen Suhail in response to a question during a phone interview with The Associated Press from the militants’ newly opened political office in Doha, the capital of the Gulf nation of Qatar.

So how the hell could the Taliban be insisting that Washington be silent about the deal when they were literally calling up the Associated Press and telling them about it?

To quote Joey from Friends, . . . “First, you lied. Then, you lied about lying. Then, you lied about lying about lying. So before you lie about lying about lying about lying about lying . . . STOP LYING!”

By the way, just in case you had faith in senators’ ability to remember what they had been told earlier…

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) said that administration officials who briefed senators said that “if word of the discussions had leaked out there was a danger that Sgt. Bergdahl would have been killed.”

But other senators, including Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), told reporters that they couldn’t recall officials sharing that information during the briefing presented by officials from the White House, Pentagon, State department and CIA.

Somewhere, Thad Cochran is saying, “And they complain about my memory!”

The strict travel ban will keep them from returning to any active role fighting U.S. forces for at least a year, U.S. officials said. By that time, all U.S. combat forces will be gone from Afghanistan. A small force devoted to training and counterterrorism will remain.

Wait, we’re supposed to be pleased that these guys won’t be actively fighting U.S. forces until this time next year? What do you think happens after that? How long until these guys go after that small force remaining, and/or the Karzai government?

You know this path ends with the Taliban running Afghanistan again, right?

Trust Charles Krauthammer to sum it all up so succinctly:

The swap itself remains, nonetheless, a very close call. I would fully respect a president who rejected the deal as simply too unbalanced. What is impossible to respect is a president who makes this heart-wrenching deal and then does a victory lap in the Rose Garden and has his senior officials declare it a cause for celebration. The ever dutiful, ever clueless Susan Rice hailed it as “an extraordinary day for America.”

Good God. This is no victory. This is a defeat, a concession to a miserable reality, a dirty deal, perhaps necessary as a matter of principle but to be carried out with regret, resignation, even revulsion.

The Rose Garden stunt wasn’t a messaging failure. It’s a category error. The president seems oblivious to the gravity, indeed the very nature, of what he has just done. Which is why a stunned and troubled people are asking themselves what kind of man they have twice chosen to lead them.

Tags: Bowe Bergdahl , Afghanistan , Barack Obama , Angus King

The Obama Administration Needs to Become Reacquainted With the Truth



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Also from today’s Jolt — check your spam folder if it didn’t arrive this morning — is this top-to-bottom look at the corrosiveness of the Bergdahl deal decision . . . 

American Government Needs to Become Reacquainted With the Truth

We can’t be governed like this. Shameless lies about life-and-death matters erode the consent of the governed.

The president wants to empty out Guantanamo Bay by the time he leaves office, and perhaps as soon as the end of the year. As the Obama administration sees it, once the war in Afghanistan ends at the end of the year, we don’t have a right to hold our captured Taliban any longer.

You may recall that on the afternoon of September 11, President Bush declared that we would treat those who shelter, support, fund, or feed terrorists the same way we treat terrorists. Throughout his presidency, he repeatedly set a clear standard: “If you harbor terrorists, you are a terrorist; if you train or arm a terrorist, you are a terrorist; if you feed a terrorist or fund a terrorist, you’re a terrorist, and you will be held accountable by the United States and our friends.”

We made a clear offer to the Taliban: Turn over al-Qaeda, or you’re at war with us. Mullah Omar made his choice. (“He chose . . . poorly.”) At no point have they said “uncle” or surrendered. Mullah Omar hasn’t come out of hiding to say, “All right, all right, we won’t shelter al-Qaeda anymore.” In fact, we dropped that demand, if you believe unnamed official sources in the Daily Telegraph:

One official significantly added that a requirement for the Taliban to drop relations with al Qaeda — something which had stymied previous attempts at direct talks — was no longer necessary in order for them to progress.

“We’ve long had a demand on the Taliban that they make a statement that distances themselves from the movement from international terrorism, but made clear that we didn’t expect immediately for them to break ties with al-Qaeda, because that’s an outcome of the negotiation process,” the official said.

We never recognized the Taliban as the legitimate ruler or government of Afghanistan. Yet now we’re talking about returning their guys because our president wants the Afghanistan war to be over. (As someone put it, you can tell whether we won in Afghanistan by the fact that we’re negotiating with the Taliban, the guys we set out to fight.)

And the message is spreading through Afghanistan . . . the bad guys are loose again.

Taliban forces led by Mohammed Fazl swept through this village on the Shomali plain north of Kabul in 1999 in a scorched-earth offensive that prompted some 300,000 people to flee for their lives.

Fifteen years later, local residents here are responding with fear and dismay to the U.S. release of the notorious commander, along with four other Taliban leaders in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the only American prisoner of war who was held by the Taliban.

Keep in mind, all of these guys are associated with al-Qaeda or attacks against Americans:

In addition to Mr. Fazl, other released detainees also played major roles in the former Taliban regime. Khairullah Khairkhwa, a minister of interior in the former Taliban government, served as the militant group’s liaison to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, according to a 2008 Pentagon assessment. Noorullah Noori, once a senior Taliban military commander in northern Afghanistan, led Taliban forces against the U.S. and its Northern Alliance allies during the 2001 invasion, according to the Pentagon.

Pentagon assessments describe the two other former prisoners, Mohammed Nabi Omari and Abdul Haq Wasiq, as linked to other Islamic extremist groups, including al-Qaeda.

The president does this in complete contradiction of public opinion.

A prisoner exchange that released U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five top-level Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay has sparked debate over negotiating with terrorists. Fully 84 percent of voters are concerned that making deals with terrorists will encourage those groups to take more American soldiers hostage. That includes a 57-percent majority that is “very” concerned and another 27 percent that is “somewhat” concerned.

Only 15 percent aren’t worried deals like this will put more troops at risk.

Back to Guantanamo Bay. The Obama administration has convinced itself — after the Iraq withdrawal, after the Arab Spring, after the collapse of Syria and the 160,000 dead there, after the Benghazi attacks, after Boston — that somehow if we shut down Guantanamo Bay, that will create a discernible reduction in anti-American attitudes around the world and particularly in the Muslim world.

What’s more, the Obama administration seems to think that by releasing the most dangerous members of the Taliban in custody, they will make the Taliban more peaceful, agreeable, and cooperative:

During the same debate, officials were considering the emerging prisoner-exchange proposal. White House advisers believed that a successful exchange would not only free Bergdahl but would also encourage moderate Taliban members to take an Afghan-led reconciliation process seriously.

The Gitmo prisoners are all members of groups that have pledged to kill Americans, tried to kill Americans, or have actually killed Americans. If an American is convicted of killing another American, they’re sentenced to life in prison or perhaps the death penalty. A lot of folks think Gitmo is pretty cushy considering their former lives in places like Afghanistan.

Obama himself admitted that in the case of these released detainees, there’s “absolutely” a chance that these guys will go back to trying to help their allies kill Americans again. So, to sum up: If these guys stay in Gitmo, there’s no chance they’ll kill an American in the future. If they get released, there is, in the president’s own words, “absolutely” a chance they kill again in the future. Where is the upside for us? What do we, the American people, get out of this deal?

(One caveat: The Qatari government has to know that if any of these five get loose and kill Americans, the outrage from the American public will be volcanic. You have to wonder if the Qataris have some back-pocket “unfortunate car accident” plans if any of these five seem a little too eager to get back to the battlefield.)

Anyway, if Obama were a better president, he would level with all of us, and declare, “I intend to hand off all of the Guantanamo Bay detainees to foreign governments by the end of the year.”

Of course, the reaction from the public would be apoplectic, as Obama would be announcing that he would be effectively undoing years of unbelievably difficult work which cost the blood, treasure, and lives of the U.S. military and our intelligence agencies, and putting all kinds of ruthless terrorists in the hands of governments that may or may not be all that diligent about keeping them under control.

Obama doesn’t do that. He tries this deal for these five as a trial balloon. Of course, he doesn’t tell Congress, not even Senator Dianne Feinstein, because she would say no. (Strangely, he appears to have told Senator Harry Reid alone.) He goes ahead and does it, even though the law requires him to give Congress 30 days notice. How long does it take to inform Congress? It requires a few secure phone calls. You could do it in an hour.

Ignoring the legislative branch is pretty bad, although it’s not clear the public will get up in arms about members of Congress being irked they weren’t kept in the loop. But the public can, should, and I suspect will be mad when the administration lies to them. Certainly, members of our military could not abide the administration’s claim that Bergdahl was a hero or Susan Rice’s claim that Bergdahl “served with honor and distinction.”

(Although I suppose being captured by the Taliban is pretty distinctive.)

Charles Lane, usually one of the most sensible non-conservative columnists out there, writes:

Obama made a bit of a fool of himself by treating Bergdahl’s impending return as appropriate for Rose Garden celebration, complete with grateful parents, even though he knew, or easily should have known, that Bergdahl is hardly a hero.

That attempt to gin up an election-year feel-good story fell flat, as did national security adviser Susan Rice’s clueless depiction of Bergdahl’s Army career as one of “honor and distinction.”

White House efforts to glorify Bergdahl were matched by the right’s efforts to demonize him. He stands accused of desertion, which is indeed a very serious offense. Convicting him of it under military law requires proof, which we don’t yet have, that he intended to leave his unit for good or sought to avoid a hazardous assignment.

Okay, but we have nine members of his platoon coming forward and contending he is a deserter. We have some evidence — after all, he went missing! — and we have, at this point, not even a theoretical alternate explanation for his actions. He just went for a walk? Sleepwalking? No gun, vest, or night-vision goggles? Come on, Charles, the circumstantial evidence fits. Of course Bergdahl deserves his day in court. And he’ll get it. But let’s not pretend that these nine other soldiers don’t exist because they’re proving so inconvenient to the administration’s narrative.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bowe Bergdahl , Afghanistan , Guantanamo Bay

Obama’s Tuned Out, Rice Is Mendacious, and We Didn’t Appreciate Panetta Enough



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Also in today’s Jolt, some impressions confirmed and contradicted by the revelations about the Bergdahl deal:

Obama’s Tuned Out, Rice Is Mendacious, and We Didn’t Appreciate Panetta Enough

The revelations of the ever-worsening Bergdahl deal tell us that two of our early impressions have been confirmed by subsequent events, and one has been contradicted by subsequent events.

Impression One: Obama has mentally checked out of his presidency.

In light of everything that we’ve learned about Bergdahl in the past few days, we must consider two possibilities. One is that Obama knew that Bergdahl opposed the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, that he told his father he was ashamed to be an American, that he renounced his citizenship before disappearing, that other soldiers lost their lives because of his decision to leave his post, and that he may have been helping the Taliban in their bomb-building and ambushes . . . and Obama went ahead with the trade anyway.

Guy Benson offers the supremely cynical “they knew” assessment:

They figured that the feel-good nature of the “POW” returning home narrative would be blindly seized upon and enabled by a media exhausted by the egregious VA scandal story. Unpleasant details would be white-washed or mostly ignored, and the only real outrage would emanate from the usual suspects on the Right. They thought they could counter critiques of the nature and terms of the trade with faux-indignant questions about whether skeptics were in favor of “leaving Americans behind.”

The other possibility is that Obama didn’t know any of this, and he approved the deal — and invited Bergdahl’s parents to the White House! — poorly-briefed and ill-informed about this supremely consequential, life-and-death decision. Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time Obama has been called “disengaged” on matters of war or the first time someone suggested that “White House officials have not been reading their briefing books.”

In a long, detailed profile piece, Politico paints a picture of a president increasingly ready to wrap it up and move on to post-presidential life:

With his daughters around less, the Obamas are taking fuller advantage of the perquisites of the office, such as squeezing “A Raisin in the Sun” on Broadway into a recent Manhattan fundraising trip.

In a departure from a long practice of keeping his personal circle strikingly tight and rarely lingering at official events, Obama has been hosting star-studded dinners that sometimes go on well past midnight and inviting a few newcomers such as former NBA star Alonzo Mourning into his social sphere. He’s playing golf more than any other year, replacing basketball as his go-to sport, partly because of concerns about getting injured . . . 

The presidential dinners, inside the White House and beyond, are more and more frequent. At one dinner, not previously disclosed, the Obamas hosted U2’s Bono, Gen. Colin Powell, Apple CEO Tim Cook, investor Warren Buffett and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. Another drew actors Will Smith and Samuel L. Jackson, along with journalist Gayle King. Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of Vogue, attended a dinner with fashion-industry insiders.

The guests don’t appear on the public visitor logs because they are considered “purely personal” visits. Multiple White House aides claimed not to know about them. Valerie Jarrett, the senior adviser and longtime confidant of the Obamas who organizes the dinners, appears to be the only regular from the West Wing . . . 

The president has traveled more during the first half of 2014 than he has at any other time of his presidency, except when he faced reelection in 2012, according to a review of his schedule. He’s left town at least once a week since the State of the Union address.

As the crisis in Ukraine escalated in early March, White House aides turned to a less consequential matter: Should Obama travel to Florida for a planned weekend golf getaway?

Earlier in the presidency, current and former aides said, they probably would have canceled the trip. Obama, and his image protectors, had always been mindful about doing anything that could be turned into a Republican attack line.

This time, Obama saw no need to stay back in Washington, in part because the situation in Ukraine had cooled by that Friday. He told an aide that he’d be making the same calls to foreign leaders whether he was in the Situation Room or sunny Key Largo.

At a leisurely dinner with friends on that Saturday night, Obama expressed no regrets about the mini-vacation at the lush Ocean Reef Club resort or the publicity surrounding the trip, which reportedly required planes, five helicopters, more than 50 Secret Service agents and airspace restrictions over South Florida. After a difficult few weeks dealing with an international crisis, he relished the break, which included two rounds of golf.

He’s got presidential senioritis.

Impression Two: Susan Rice is a partisan hack masquerading as a policy expert.

The evidence for this reputation goes back a long way. From April 1994:

At an interagency teleconference in late April, Susan Rice, a rising star on the NSC who worked under Richard Clarke, stunned a few of the officials present when she asked, “If we use the word ‘genocide’ and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November [congressional] election?” Lieutenant Colonel Tony Marley remembers the incredulity of his colleagues at the State Department. “We could believe that people would wonder that,” he says, “but not that they would actually voice it.” Rice does not recall the incident but concedes, “If I said it, it was completely inappropriate, as well as irrelevant.”

Of course, since then she’s offered the infamous Benghazi lies, but now we’ve gotten a rerun, raising the question of just how frequently and blatantly a national-security official can lie to the American public without career consequence:

“Sergeant [Bowe] Bergdahl wasn’t simply a hostage; he was an American prisoner of war captured on the battlefield,” National Security Advisor Susan Rice insisted on Sunday morning in an appearance on ABC’s This Week. “He served the United States with honor and distinction.”

Adding cryptically that there will be time to “learn what has transpired in the past years,” Rice went on to inform the public how they should feel about Bergdahl’s release. “[T]his is such a joyous day,” she swore.

Well, 48 hours after that appearance, it seems the public is not taking Rice’s advice. As more details of Bergdahl’s service emerge, none of which looks especially exemplary, some have begun to ask if Rice had again disseminated misleading information on the Sunday morning talk shows.

On Tuesday, no less a figure than Ret. U.S. Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey definitively asserted that she had.

“I think what bothers people is having our commander-in-chief on television putting a glow of euphoria around this guy,” McCaffrey began, summarizing what he thought was fueling the backlash against this prisoner swap. “And then followed on with Dr. Susan Rice, who’s such a brilliant person, calling him having him served with honor and distinction when they knew full well this wasn’t the case.”

Impression Three: Leon Panetta was a tired old Washington hand, probably too old to be much more than a placeholder at the CIA.

Mea culpa, Mr. Panetta. From the perspective of us on the Right, Panetta may have been the best choice Obama has made so far. We now know he opposed trading any captured Taliban for Bergdahl. You may recall that when he was CIA director, he pushed back hard against Nancy Pelosi’s convenient claim that “the CIA lies to us all the time.” Despite some doubts at the start, Panetta proved to be a pretty solid director at Langley, having a big hand in the bin Laden raid. Later, as secretary of defense, Panetta asked other Obama administration officials why they were picking a fight with Catholic bishops over contraceptive coverage. Most recently, he supported the creation of a select committee to investigate the Benghazi attacks, saying, “I hope Democrats participate, and it really is a legitimate effort.”

I’m sure conservatives can find Panetta decisions they disagree with, but let’s face it: In a national-security team that included or includes the likes of Susan Rice, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Tommy Vietor, he looks like George S. Patton.

Tags: Barack Obama , Susan Rice , Leon Panetta

Criticism of Shinseki Was a ‘Distraction’ From What, Exactly?



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President Obama announced he accepted Shinseki’s resignation today, but you read the easily-predicted tone of his statement on this blog Wednesday:

The next act of this play is predictable: Within a few days or weeks, Shinseki will offer his resignation, not over the widespread failures at the VA but citing fears that he has become “a distraction from the real work that needs to be done.” Obama will accept the resignation, give Shinseki a thank-you ceremony similar to the one for former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, thank him for his service, and make remarks that somehow Washington’s “finger-pointing” and “blame-game” is the real problem here.

Because if Shinseki admits he was a part of the problem, it means the man who appointed him is part of the problem, too.

Despite what you just heard from the president, Shinseki is not resigning because he fears he is becoming a distraction. He is resigning because he failed to do his job well.

Tags: Eric Shinseki , Barack Obama , VA

Oh, Hey, The Economy Is Contracting Again.



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President Obama, speaking to donors at a DSCC fundraiser, May 22: “Over the last four years, we’ve created 9.5 million jobs. The unemployment rate has come down and housing has recovered.  The auto industry has come back. The deficits have been cut in half.  We have dug our way out of the rubble of that crisis.”

The news today:

The U.S. economy contracted in the first quarter of 2014, the latest stumble for a recovery that has struggled to find its footing since the recession ended almost five years ago.

Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services produced across the economy, contracted at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.0% in the first three months of the year, the Commerce Department said Thursday. It was the first time economic output contracted since the first quarter of 2011, when it declined at a 1.3% pace.

Government economists had previously estimated GDP slowed to a 0.1% growth rate in the first quarter as harsh winter weather disrupted work sites, curtailed foot traffic at retail stores and snarled transportation networks across much of the U.S. The newly revised estimate incorporates additional economic data released in recent weeks. Higher-than-expected imports and slower-than-expected inventory growth dragged the economy into negative territory.

Reuters, May 12: “Better economic data could help persuade voters in November to look past President Barack Obama’s weak approval ratings and his unpopular healthcare law and give Democrats enough lift to hold onto the Senate and limit their losses in the House, political strategists said.”

 

Tags: Barack Obama , Economy

No, Really, the VA Scandal Found a Way To Get Even Worse.



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The lead headline from today’s Morning Jolt, hitting e-mailboxes mid-morning, may represent a bit of wishful thinking:

By the Time You Read This, Eric Shinseki May Already Be Gone.

For many, many good reasons:

A Veterans Administration health clinic in Phoenix used inappropriate scheduling practices and concealed chronically high wait times, according to an independent report released Wednesday — igniting a wave of outrage and prompting a new flood of calls for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign.

The report, a 35-page interim document in advance of a full independent probe, found that 1,700 veterans using a Phoenix VA hospital were kept on unofficial wait lists.

Equally damning is the Inspector General’s examination of 226 veterans’ appointments in Phoenix during 2013. While the facility reported that only 43 percent of those veterans had to wait more than 14 days for an appointment, the report found that it was really 84 percent. The average wait for a veteran’s first appointment was 115 days, the investigation found in the sampling.

And those details, the inspector general warned, could be just the beginning.

We are finding that inappropriate scheduling practices are a systemic problem nationwide,” the report concluded.

Wait, it gets worse than the unofficial wait lists: “At least 1,700 military veterans waiting to see a doctor were never scheduled for an appointment and never placed on a wait list at the Veterans Affairs facility in Phoenix.”

Wait, it gets even worse: “It also appears to indicate the scope of the investigation is rapidly widening, with 42 VA facilities across the country now under investigation for possible abuse of scheduling practices, according to the report.”

Don’t worry, America. The President is on the case: “The President found the findings of the interim report deeply troubling,” says Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken.

This morning, Shinseki writes in USA Today that he’s on the case as well.

The findings of the interim report of VA’s Office of Inspector General on the Phoenix VA Health Care System are reprehensible to me and to this department, and we are not waiting to set things straight.

I immediately directed the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to contact each of the 1,700 veterans in Phoenix waiting for primary care appointments in order to bring them the care they need and deserve.

In short, the guy who completely missed an appalling scandal’s emergence and spread, and who remained oblivious to it until very recently, is insisting to us that he’s just the guy to solve the problem. 

Tags: VA Scandal , Eric Shinseki , Barack Obama

The Predictable Next Act of the VA Scandal



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Over in the Corner, Andrew Johnson notes Democratic Senators Mark Udall of Colorado and John Walsh of Montana called on Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki to go.

It’s likely that other Democratic senators will follow, and with a bipartisan calls for a firing or resignation getting louder, at some point in the not-too-distant future, Shinseki will step down. 

Keep in mind, May 19, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters, “The president has confidence in Secretary Shinseki.”

Then on May 21, President Obama said:

Ric Shinseki has been a great soldier. He himself is a disabled veteran, and nobody cares more about our veterans than Ric Shinseki. So, you know, if you ask me, you know, how do I think Ric Shinseki has performed overall, I would say that on homelessness, on the 9/11 GI Bill, on working with us to reduce the backlog across the board, he has put his heart and soul into this thing and he has taken it very seriously.

But I have said to Ric, and I said it to him today, I want to see, you know, what the results of these reports are, and there is going to be accountability. And I’m going to expect, even before the reports are done, that we are seeing significant improvement in terms of how the admissions process takes place in all of our VA health care facilities.

So I know he cares about it deeply. And, you know, he has been a great public servant and a great warrior on behalf of the United States of America. We’re going to work with him to solve the problem, but I am going to make sure that there is accountability throughout the system after I get the full report.

The next act of this play is predictable: Within a few days or weeks, Shinseki will offer his resignation, not over the widespread failures at the VA but citing fears that he has become “a distraction from the real work that needs to be done.” Obama will accept the resignation, give Shinseki a thank-you ceremony similar to the one for former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, thank him for his service, and make remarks that somehow Washington’s “finger-pointing” and “blame-game” is the real problem here.

Because if Shinseki admits he was a part of the problem, it means the man who appointed him is part of the problem, too.

Tags: Eric Shinseki , VA , Barack Obama

The Obama Administration Is Investigating Itself Again.



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I could write a whole morning newsletter just about Obama administration scandals and incompetence.

Obama Administration: We’re Investigating How We Could Make Such a Dumb Mistake

Good news. The Obama administration is investigating itself again:

The White House is investigating how the name of its top CIA officer in Afghanistan was mistakenly divulged to the press during President Barack Obama’s surprise visit to the troops over the weekend.

White House chief of staff Denis McDonough has asked White House counsel Neil Eggleston to look into the matter — and “to figure out what happened and to make sure it won’t happen again,” Obama’s deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken told CNN.

What’s the consequence for the inadvertent leaker going to be — since we know this president never fires anyone? Fifty lashes with a wet noodle? A letter of reprimand in their permanent record? Double secret probation? Staying after work to write “I will not reveal the CIA station chief in Afghanistan” 100 times on the blackboard?

This follows the Justice Department’s investigation of itself in “Fast and Furious, the U.S. State Department’s review of its own actions before, during, and after the Benghazi attacks, President Obama picking his own people to examine his own NSA policies on domestic surveillance, and Eric Shinseki investigating wrongdoing at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

UPDATE: Jeryl Bier reminds us of the Department of Health and Human Services’ investigation of its own Healthcare.gov debacle, and that the position of “chief risk officer,” announced in December . . . remains unfilled.

Tags: Barack Obama , CIA , Veterans Affairs

Why Are Members of Congress, but Not Obama, Calling for a Criminal Investigation of the VA?



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Also in today’s Jolt:

Congress Wants a Criminal Investigation of the VA. Why Not Obama?

Say, why isn’t the FBI or Department of Justice investigating anyone for falsifying federal records at the VA?

It’s very interesting that we’re seeing this call from congressional Democrats, and not, say, the president of the United States, who keeps telling us he’s madder than anyone about what happened:

The Justice Department should enter the investigation of whether Veterans Affairs employees have falsified records to cover up long waits at VA medical facilities, Democratic and Republican lawmakers said Sunday.

“Only the Department of Justice and the FBI have the resources, the expertise and the authority to do a prompt and effective criminal investigation of the secret waiting lists, potential destruction of documents, falsification of records, in effect, the cooking of books and covering up that may have occurred,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said on CBS’ Face the Nation.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, agreed. The “Department of Justice needs to get involved,” he said on the same program.

The VA’s inspector general is investigating 26 sites to determine whether employees covered up long waits for medical appointments, and the Justice Department is already involved to some extent.

Meanwhile, on Memorial Day, President Obama “made only an oblique reference to the scandals at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and spoke in general about the country’s solemn obligations to veterans, as well as to families of the lost.” Of course.

Back to the question of a criminal investigation — what is Eric Holder doing these days? Oh, that’s right, he’s giving the commencement address at Morgan State University, calling stricter voter-ID laws a “moral failing” . . . 

Until the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, African Americans’ right to the franchise was aggressively restricted based solely on race. Today, such overt measures cannot survive. Yet in too many jurisdictions, new types of restrictions are justified as attempts to curb an epidemic of voter fraud that — in reality — has never been shown to exist. Rather than addressing a supposedly widespread problem, these policies disproportionately disenfranchise African Americans, Hispanics, other communities of color, and vulnerable populations such as the elderly. But interfering with or depriving a person of the right to vote should never be a political aim. It is a moral failing.

Ah, I see.

Tags: Barack Obama , VA

The Image of Barack Obama in 2007–08 Was an Illusion



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Also in today’s Jolt . . .

The Myth of Barack Obama

Ron Fournier takes to the Ezra Klein to the woodshed, and it’s a beautiful thing.

Similarly, I loved Pete Wehner’s post “New Obama Narrative: Epic Incompetence,” but I feel like it needed a bit of expansion. Because it’s not merely the competence that never arrived after all the hype of 2007 and 2008, but the entire gamut:

Bipartisanship: Obama doesn’t really respect anyone who disagrees with him; he prefers to adopt an “only adult in the room” pose, demagogue issues, and attack straw men. He’ll talk about the need for a “new tone” and then stand by as his allies attack opponents as “not one of us” or accuse them of committing felonies without evidence, and even of causing cancer. Far from the post-partisan healer he was sold as in 2007–08, he’s a ruthless demagogue who urges his followers to “get in their face” and “punish our enemies.” “Don’t think we’re not keeping score, brother.”

Honesty and willingness to acknowledge inconvenient truths: He thinks nothing of saying something that isn’t true if it helps him at the political moment — “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” When the promise is broken, it’s everyone else’s fault but his.

Engagement with the world: The president is functionally an isolationist and not that interested in the world beyond our borders. Russia’s aggression doesn’t trouble him enough to move beyond routine sanctions. Whether it’s the territorial saber-rattling of China and Japan, the Iranian nuclear program, the Syrian civil war, increasing violence in Iraq, the increasingly routine provocations of the North Koreans, or the prospect of leaving a bloody, Taliban-reconquered mess in Afghanistan . . . it’s clear from his weak-tea proposals, sporadic public comments, tone, and body language that the president wishes it all would just go away.

Consistent Concern: He doesn’t give a rat’s tush about half the things he criticized in the Bush administration: the increasing national debt, a dysfunctional VA, domestic surveillance, concerns about Americans’ privacy, meeting with lobbyists in the White House, appointing lobbyists to high-level White House staff positions, rewarding big-time donors with ambassadorial appointments . . . 

A Focus on What Matters Most: His own staffers have described him as “impatient and disengaged” in key meetings, and the intelligence community has wondered how closely he reads his briefings. With increasing frequency, he says he learns about problems within his own administration from media reports. (See the NRCC’s new “Obama Excuses” page.) He really enjoys the good life of the presidency and doesn’t see any reason why he should limit public expenditures on himself and his family during hard economic times. He recently laughed, “That’s the good thing about being president, I can do whatever I want.”

Accountability: Obama is perfectly fine with letting his subordinates investigate themselves and assess their own failures — the Justice Department’s investigation of itself in “Fast and Furious“, the U.S. State Department’s review of its own actions before, during and after the Benghazi attacks; he picks his own people to examine his own NSA policies on domestic surveillance, and now Eric Shinseki will get to the bottom of any wrongdoing at the Department of Veterans Affairs. He rarely if ever fires staffers; the rare cases, like General Stanley McChrystal or Jofi Joseph, involve cases where an underling criticized him. Even the most consequentially incompetent, like Kathleen Sebelius, are given a soft landing months after they’ve made crucial errors to avoid administration embarrassment.

Respect for the Constitution: He was sold to us as a constitutional-law professor; in office, Obama enacted policies that violated almost every amendment in the Bill of Rights.

Tags: Barack Obama

Recalling Obama’s Dedication to Veterans Back in His Senate Days



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President Obama, yesterday:

I served on the Veterans Affairs Committee when I was in the Senate, and it was one of the proudest pieces of business that I did in the legislature.

An inconvenient truth:

Obama skipped 19 of 37 VA committee meetings in the 109th congress. Obama’s attendance record was the second worst of all Democrats on the committee. He attended just 18 of the committee’s 37 meetings in Washington D.C.

The 109th Congress was from January 2005 to January 2007, and did not overlap with Obama’s presidential campaign, which began in January 2007.

Obama’s VA committee-attendance figure comes from the noted right-wing site, Daily Kos.

We can also see that old habits die hard for this president:

But when asked if he knew, as a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, about the problems at Walter Reed Hospital before the story was published in the Washington Post, Obama admitted he didn’t.

(Chicago Sun-Times, June 4, 2007.)

Tags: Barack Obama , Veterans

Well-Worn Scandal Spin in Response to VA Problem From Hell



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From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Obama Offers Well-Worn Scandal Spin in Response to VA Problem From Hell

I could spend all day dissecting President Obama’s depressingly predictable comments about the VA scandal. Let’s aim for the short version.

Begin with the president’s claim that he — and we — need to wait until until VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and White House deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors complete their respective reports. Contending that there’s some doubt about whether there was falsification of records — when 26 VA facilities now face allegations — is credulous to the point of willful blindness.

“I was a little caught off guard by what apparently is a disconnect by what’s happening out here in the country and what the president is talking about,” [CNN Correspondent Drew] Griffin, [who has been covering the VA scandal in Phoenix] said following Obama’s statement.

He added that Government Accountability Office reports already lay out the problems of dangerous patient backlogs at VA facilities, and no further studies are necessary.

Griffin said the veterans he talked to wanted more direct action by the president. “I was a little confused by the president’s remarks today,” he added.

Then Obama said, “We launched an all-out war on the disability claims backlog. And in just the past year alone, we’ve slashed that backlog by half.”

Mr. President, one of the key accusations in this scandal is that the books are cooked, so the accuracy of the figures you cite to support your claim are in dispute. Obama’s ignoring this means A) he’s willing to claim that allegedly falsified records are true to save his own butt or B) he really hasn’t followed this story at all, and doesn’t even know what the core accusations are:

Dr. Sam Foote just retired after spending 24 years with the VA system in Phoenix. The veteran doctor told CNN in an exclusive interview that the Phoenix VA works off two lists for patient appointments:

There’s an “official” list that’s shared with officials in Washington and shows the VA has been providing timely appointments, which Foote calls a sham list. And then there’s the real list that’s hidden from outsiders, where wait times can last more than a year.

“The scheme was deliberately put in place to avoid the VA’s own internal rules,” said Foote in Phoenix. “They developed the secret waiting list,” said Foote, a respected local physician.

The VA requires its hospitals to provide care to patients in a timely manner, typically within 14 to 30 days, Foote said.

According to Foote, the elaborate scheme in Phoenix involved shredding evidence to hide the long list of veterans waiting for appointments and care. Officials at the VA, Foote says, instructed their staff to not actually make doctor’s appointments for veterans within the computer system.

Finally, Obama declared, “Nobody cares more about our veterans than Eric Shinseki.” The performance of his department offers mounting evidence to the contrary:

[House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller] noted that several cases of preventable deaths at VA facilities have been tied to mismanagement — at VA facilities in Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Columbia, S.C., August[a], Ga., and elsewhere. The VA’s inspector general has linked VA patient care problems to widespread mismanagement, but nonpartisan investigations by the Government Accountability Office have found that often there is no link between a person’s bonus and good performance.

In his own investigation, Miller found at least 20 “preventable veteran deaths” in the VA system. The probe also determined that more than 50 veterans were seriously harmed by delays in endoscopies and other procedures. The majority of the deaths occurred in 2010 and 2011, according to his report.

Miller and his colleagues are also angry that dozens of requests for information from the VA have gone unanswered — a list that is carefully documented on the committee’s Web site.

Did I say this was the short version?

Tags: Barack Obama , VA

Obama’s May: Silent on VA Scandal; Speaks on Tourism, Leaky Pipes, Uruguay, Walmart Light Bulbs



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News coverage of the scandal within the Department of Veterans Affairs broke a month ago — April 23. In the past month, President Obama has spoken publicly about the VA scandal once, a three-paragraph answer at a joint press conference with the president of the Philippines on April 28.

(The most recent story is not the first on serious problems at the VA; the Washington Examiner did spectacular reporting on VA backlogs, complicated bureaucracy, and allegations of cooking the books in its series, “Making America’s Heroes Wait” in February 2013.)

Since the story broke, Obama has spoken at great length on many other topics, some prominent and important, some not so much.

May 3, during the president’s weekly address: “In my State of the Union Address, I said that in this Year of Action, whenever I can act on my own to create jobs and expand opportunity for more Americans, I will.”

May 5, in a joint appearance with President Guelleh of Djibouti: “I had an opportunity to visit Djibouti when I was a senator, before I was elected president, and saw firsthand the importance of U.S. cooperation with Djibouti.”

May 5, appearing at a White House Cinco de Mayo party: “Today, on Cinco de Mayo, we celebrate our shared heritage, our shared history, our shared future. That’s not something to be afraid of — that’s something that we need to embrace. That’s what I’m going to be doing, not just today, but every day, to keep fighting for opportunity for all people and greater understanding between all nations.”

May 7, appearing at a DCCC fundraiser: “We believe in making sure that we’re investing in our infrastructure and putting people back to work, and investing in innovation and basic research that can unlock cures for things like Alzheimer’s; their budget takes us in the opposite direction. We believe in early childhood education to make sure that opportunity for all actually means something, that it’s not just a slogan; they say, no.”

May 8, appearing at a DCCC fundraiser: “In order for us to not simply play defense but actually go back on the offensive on behalf of the American people, on behalf of striving families all across this country, including right here in California, we’ve got to have folks like Nancy Pelosi guiding the debate.”

May 8, appearing at a DNC fundraiser: “[The Republicans] said no to increasing the minimum wage. They’ve said no to helping kids afford college. They even shut down the government and almost created another global financial catastrophe because they wanted to get their way.”

May 9, appearing at a Walmart: “I want to thank the folks at Walmart. And I know this looks like a typical Walmart, but it is different — and that’s why I’m here. A few years ago, you decided to put solar panels on the roof of the store. You replaced some traditional light bulbs with LEDs. You made refrigerator cases more efficient. And you even put in a charging station for electric vehicles. And all told, those upgrades created dozens of construction jobs and helped this store save money on its energy bills.”

May 12, in a joint appearance with Uruguayan president Mujica: “The United States and Uruguay has [sic] developed a strong relationship across a wide spectrum of issues. Our trade and commerce has expanded significantly. On the international front, we are very grateful that Uruguay is one of the largest contributors to U.N. peacekeeping in places like Haiti and Africa, and has been responsible for helping to facilitate peace in some very volatile regions.”

May 13, discussing immigration reform: “It’s estimated that over 80 percent of the folks who are here on an undocumented basis have been here 10 years or longer. These are folks who are woven into the fabrics of our communities. Their kids are going to school with our kids. Most of them are not making trouble; most of them are not causing crimes. And yet, we put them in this tenuous position and it creates a situation in which your personnel, who have got to go after gang-bangers and need to be going after violent criminals and deal with the whole range of challenges, and who have to cooperate with DHS around our counterterrorism activities — you’ve got to spend time dealing with somebody who is not causing any other trouble other than the fact that they were trying to make a living for their families. That’s just not a good use of our resources. It’s not smart. It doesn’t make sense.”

May 14 in New York City: “We can build better — and we have to. We’ve got ports that aren’t ready for the next generation of cargo ships. We’ve got more than 100,000 bridges that are old enough to qualify for Medicare. (Laughter.) We’ve got leaky pipes that lose billions of gallons of drinking water every single day, even as we’ve got a severe drought in much of the West. Nearly half our people don’t have access to transit at all. And I don’t have to tell you what some of our airports look like.”

May 14, at a DSCC fundraiser: “I was with de Blasio I guess two days before the election. We’re in Brooklyn; the streets are filled and everybody is waving. And I go into buy some cheesecake — some woman comes up and hugs me and kisses me and says, Oh, my sister just got on the Affordable Care Act and we love you. What can we do to support you? And I said, move to North Dakota. (Laughter.) If I could just get about a million excess votes in Brooklyn — (laughter) — out to Nebraska, Wyoming, we’d be doing okay. I don’t need 80 percent of the vote here. (Laughter.)”

May 16, speaking to reporters while eating lunch with Joe Biden: “Let me say something to these folks real quick so we can eat our burgers in peace. And excuse me, my voice is a little hoarse — I had a cold at the beginning of the week. In addition to coming to Shake Shack — which has great burgers and pays its employees over 10 bucks an hour, so we’re very proud of them and the great work that they’re doing — we’ve been talking a lot all across the country about the importance of raising the minimum wage.”

May 17, during his weekly address: “On Thursday, I’ll be heading to Cooperstown, New York — home of the Baseball Hall of Fame — to talk about tourism.”

May 19, at a DCCC fundraiser: “The debate we’re having right now is about, what, Benghazi? Obamacare? And it becomes this endless loop. It’s not serious. It’s not speaking to the real concerns that people have.”

May 20, meeting with business leaders: “SelectUSA turned out to be an enormously successful process where we’re coordinating between agencies as well as other stakeholders.”

Today the president’s schedule includes an ambassador credentialing ceremony, a ceremony with the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, and designation of the Organ Mountains–Desert Peaks National Monument at the Department of Interior.

He is still scheduled to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame on Thursday.

UPDATE: At 9:30 a.m., the White House announced the president would be making a statement at 10:45, expected to be about the VA scandal.

Tags: Barack Obama , Veterans , VA

Obama’s Fake Outrage, Fake Tirelessness, Fake Pay Cut . . .



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Tuesday’s ;Morning Jolt:

Obama’s Fake Outrage, Fake Tirelessness, Fake Pay Cut . . . 

The Obama administration is dangerously depleting our nation’s reserves of speechwriting clichés.

For example, when some terrible mess blows up on the president’s watch, what does he say? Come on. You know it.

No one is madder than him.

After White House chief of staff Denis McDonough assured the public, “nobody is more outraged about this problem right now” than President Obama — an outrage that has yet to be expressed in anything more than pro forma public statements — Reid Epstein decided to look up how often the president assured all of us he was angry — or perhaps more angry than anyone else! — about failures of his administration or other setbacks.

It’s quite a list:

October 2013: “Nobody’s madder than me about the fact that the website isn’t working as well as it should.”

The IRS scandal, May 2013: “Americans are right to be angry about it, and I am angry about it.”

April 2012, the Secret Service prostitution scandal: “If it turns out that some of the allegations that have been made in the press are confirmed, then of course I’ll be angry.”

May 2010, the BP oil spill: “And I know that doesn’t lessen the enormous sense of anger and frustration felt by people on the Gulf and so many Americans. Every day I see this leak continue I am angry and frustrated as well.”

March 2009, the AIG bonuses guaranteed in TARP: “I don’t want to quell anger,” he said. “I think people are right to be angry. I’m angry.”

He forgot one, though, when Obama was “apoplectic”:

President Barack Obama is “apoplectic” about lavish spending at the GSA, one of his top advisers said Sunday.

“On the GSA issue, he was I think it’s fair to say apoplectic,” said David Axelrod, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Because we made a big effort to cut waste, inefficiency, fraud against government, saved tens of billions of dollars doing it on just this very kind of thing. And so this was very enraging to him, and, of course, he acted quickly, the administration acted quickly and changed the management there.”

At the time of the “apoplectic” comment, the president had not yet mentioned the GSA spending scandal in the preceding three weeks. Maybe it’s a really quiet anger.

Then, of course, there’s the tired cliché suggesting that president Obama will never rest. Ever.

APRIL 9, 2009: “And we will not rest until we reach a day when not one single veteran falls into homelessness.”

MAY 11, 2009: “I will not rest until the dream of health-care reform is finally achieved in the United States of America.”

SEPTEMBER 15, 2009: “I want you all to know, I will not rest until anybody who’s looking for a job can find one — and I’m not talking about just any job, but good jobs that give every American decent wages and decent benefits and a fair shot at the American Dream.”

NOVEMBER 2, 2009: “We will not rest until we are succeeding in generating the jobs that this economy needs.”

NOVEMBER 23, 2009: “I will not rest until business are investing again, and businesses are hiring again.”

This was a particularly good one, considering the time and the place: Obama, speaking from Hawaii, where he and his family are vacationing, told Americans, “We will not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable.”

JANUARY 28, 2010: “We will not rest until we build an economy that’s ready for America’s future.”

MARCH 5, 2010: “I’m not gonna rest and my administration is not gonna rest in our efforts to help people who are looking to find a job.”

MAY 26, 2010 : “We will not rest until this well is shut, the environment is repaired, and the clean up is complete.”

Okay, BP did eventually shut down the well.

JULY 8, 2010: “My administration will not rest until every American who is able and ready and willing to work can find a job.”

That nice list above missed one big one, although this one was from Hillary Clinton:

What happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack and we will not rest until we have tracked down and brought to justice the terrorists who murdered four Americans.

Yes, the “we will not rest” pledge is always an unrealistic promise. No, no preceding president gave up sleep after making a similar pledge. But there’s something about Obama’s promiscuous use of the pledge that makes everyone involved a little cheaper — his speechwriters for going back to that dry well again and again, the president for managing to deliver the line for the thousandth time and sounding like he means it, and everyone who applauds for acting like saying it means something.

As Frank Drebin said, “Wilma, I promise you; whatever scum did this, not one man on this force will rest one minute until he’s behind bars. Now, let’s grab a bite to eat.”

Remember “all statements from Barack Obama come with an expiration date”?

And then of course, there’s the symbolic pay cut:

The White House is refusing to confirm whether President Barack Obama followed up on his pledge to take a five percent pay cut due to sequestration last year.

Obama promised last April to take a 5 percent pay cut in “solidarity” with federal employees who were furloughed as a result of the automatic budget cuts, known as the sequester. The cut was meant to equate to the level of spending cuts imposed on nondefense federal agencies.

“The president has decided that to share in the sacrifice being made by public servants across the federal government that are affected by the sequester, he will contribute a portion of his salary back to the Treasury,” a White House official said at the time.

The White House would not respond to numerous requests submitted by the Washington Free Beacon to the White House press office to confirm that Obama did, in fact, write checks to the Treasury.

And then, of course, there’s the “I’ll-march-with-you” pledge to labor unions:

On Nov. 3, 2007, Barack Obama — then a senator running for president — pledged to a crowd in Spartanburg, S.C., that he would watch out for unions and protect their collective bargaining rights.

”If American workers are being denied their right to organize when I’m in the White House, I will put on a comfortable pair of shoes and I will walk on that picket line with you as president of the United States,” Obama said.

Which, of course, never happened. Even during the fights over collective bargaining for public sector workers in Wisconsin.

Iowahawk summarizes it well: “I pledge to have my top men get to the bottom of these phony scandals that I’m madder than hell to have only learned about from the papers.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Veterans

Obama, 2007: Time to End ‘Deplorable Conditions at Some VA Hospitals’



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Then-senator Barack Obama, November 12, 2007:

After seven years of an Administration that has stretched our military to the breaking point, ignored deplorable conditions at some VA hospitals, and neglected the planning and preparation necessary to care for our returning heroes, America’s veterans deserve a President who will fight for them not just when it’s easy or convenient, but every hour of every day for the next four years.

By 2012, Obama continued to compare the performance of the VA during his administration favorably to his predecessor, declaring,

For the first time ever, we’ve made military families and veterans a top priority not just at DOD, not just at the VA, but across the government.

Now we know the report of at least 40 U.S. veterans dying while waiting for appointments at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system is only the tip of the iceberg.

Today:

When Shinseki took office, he vowed that every disability claim would be processed within 125 days with 98 percent accuracy. But the backlogs only got worse.

It took about four months for VA to process a claim for disability compensation claim when Shinseki was sworn in. By 2012, the average wait time was about nine months.

In February 2013, the Examiner published a five-part series, “Making America’s Heroes Wait,” showing more than 1.1 million veterans with disability claims and appeals were trapped in bureaucratic limbo at VA.

About 70 percent of the 900,000 claims for initial benefits were considered backlogged, meaning they were older than 125 days.

The Examiner series also showed how agency statistics were manipulated to hide mistakes that doomed veterans into appeals that could drag on for years.

There were some early signs then that VA’s failures in delivering medical care were having deadly consequences.

An outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease was reported in Pittsburgh in November 2012. Subsequent investigations by the inspector general and area media eventually linked a half-dozen patient deaths from the disease to faulty maintenance and poor management.

Reports of other deaths followed.

Four patients under VA’s care in Atlanta died of a drug overdose or suicides.

In Columbia, S.C., at least six patient deaths from colorectal cancers were linked to delays in receiving colonoscopies at veterans’ medical facilities.

VA eventually acknowledged that delays in providing care was linked to the deaths of 23 patients who died of gastrointestinal cancers at veterans’ health facilities. Deaths from other conditions were not disclosed.

Tags: Barack Obama , Eric Shinseki , Veterans

Obama on Veterans’ Care in 2012: ‘We Will Not Rest . . . Until We Get This Right.’



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President Obama, speaking to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in July 2012:

The VA and DOD will work harder towards a seamless transition so new veterans aren’t just piled on to the backlog. And we will not rest — I will not be satisfied until we get this right.

This month we learned of:

hidden waiting lists at a growing number of veterans’ hospitals (seven so far) — wherein dozens of veterans died while waiting months for vital treatment, and the VA covered up the lengthy wait times.

The Daily Beast:

Add Albuquerque, New Mexico’s to the growing list of VA hospitals accused of keeping secret waiting lists to hide delays for veterans seeking medical care. And it may already be too late to get to the truth and find out what harm, if any, was done to veterans there — VA officials are already destroying records to cover their tracks, a whistleblower inside the hospital tells The Daily Beast.

Jay Carney, today:

I believe we learned about [the deaths on VA waiting lists] through the reports. I’ll double-check if that’s not the case, but that’s when we learned about them.

Looks like somebody “rested” before they “got this right.”

Tags: Barack Obama

Shinseki Not a Frequent Visitor to Obama White House



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Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki is on the hot seat in Washington right now. The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank tore into Shinseki’s testimony from last week, concluding, “If Obama wants to resolve this VA debacle, he’ll need a less passive secretary.”

Shinseki, who became secretary in January 2009, is not a frequent visitor to the Obama White House. He visited the White House 33 times, according to official visitor logs, roughly one visit for every two months of his time in that position.

That’s less than some cabinet officials with higher-profile jobs. According to the logs, Attorney General Eric Holder visited 70 times. Hillary Clinton visited the White House 45 times (she was secretary of state for four years, as opposed to Shinseki’s five-and-a-half as VA secretary). The name of Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, appears 30 times.

Some outside the administration visited the White House more frequently. “Democratic super-lobbyist” Anthony (Tony) Podesta appears in the White House visitor logs 36 times. The name of Julian Castro, the mayor of San Antonio who is expected to be President Obama’s next nominee to be secretary of housing and urban development, appears in White House visitor logs 34 times.

Hilary Rosen, lobbyist, appears in the White House visitor logs 59 times. Of course, White House press secretary Jay Carney suggested this may refer to more than one person; he said he personally knows three Hilary Rosens. (An amazing coincidence that all three Hilary Rosens would end up visiting the White House so frequently!)

George Clooney visited the White House seven times.

Tags: Eric Shinseki , Barack Obama

Eric Shinseki’s Meaningless Claim That He ‘Takes Responsibility’



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The abominable callousness demonstrated at the Department of Veterans Affairs is deadly serious, and warrants more than an all-too-familiar claim of “responsibility” from Eric Shinseki:

Under withering criticism, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki told a Senate committee on Thursday that he was “mad as hell” about allegations of deadly waiting times and coverup at VA hospitals but he doesn’t plan to resign.

The retired Army general faced angry legislators and then aggressive journalists with a consistent message, arguing it was too soon to cast blame and vowing decisive action if an inspector general’s investigation finds proof that VA workers manipulated waiting lists to cover up long delays for veterans seeking health care.

Last month, CNN revealed that at least 40 veterans died waiting for appointments at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system, according to sources inside the hospital and a doctor who worked there. Many were placed on a secret waiting list, the sources said.

Of course, Shinskei is just echoing his boss and other members of the administration:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s declaration that she takes responsibility for the failure to secure our facilities and personnel in Libya — with no word on any actual consequence of this failure — is the most recent example. But the approach began from the very start of this administration.

* On Feb. 3, 2009, former Sen. Tom Daschle withdrew as President Obama’s nominee for Commerce secretary after it was revealed he’d failed to pay some taxes. “I think I screwed up,” Obama told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “I take responsibility for it, and we’re going to make sure we fix it, so it doesn’t happen again.”

Of course, Tim Geithner, who failed to pay more than $40,000 in taxes over a four-year period remained as Treasury secretary, and later we learned that 36 Obama aides owe $833,000 in back taxes.

* After a loud public outcry, Obama said he “took responsibility” for the millions in bonuses paid to AIG executives as part of the bailout. Of course, the bonuses remained.

* Discussing the national debt in Virginia on Aug. 6, 2009, Obama said, “I don’t mind being responsible. I expect to be held responsible for these issues, because I’m the president.” We’ve added $4.4 trillion in new debt since he said those words.

* After ObamaCare passed, the president admitted he hadn’t kept his promises on how the legislation would be handled. He told congressional Republicans that most of the debate had been aired on TV — except for some of the talks close to the Senate vote. “That was a messy process,” Obama said. “I take responsibility.” But it was too late to change anything about the law at that point, obviously.

* Obama said he “took responsibility” for the 2010 midterm results . . . but there was little or no sign that he changed his governing approach, philosophy or policies in response to the lopsided results in favor of the Republicans that year.

* Finally, in summer 2011, the president admitted that he’d misjudged the severity of the economic difficulties facing the country when he came into office: “Even I did not realize the magnitude, because most economists didn’t realize the magnitude of the recession until fairly far into it,” Obama said. “I think people may not have been prepared for how long this was going to take, and why we were going to have to make some very difficult decisions and choices. I take responsibility for that.” But the policies and approach we’ve seen since that declaration of responsibility are the same as what we saw before it; nothing changed.

The new way to avoid taking responsibility is to tell the world you’re “taking responsibility.”

Tags: Eric Shinseki , Barack Obama , Veterans

In Illinois, 67% Oppose Spending $100 Million on Obama Presidential Library



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The people of Illinois may still feel fond of their former resident, President Barack Obama. They’re just not eager to spend $100 million to host his presidential library:

A new poll from Capitol Fax’s Rich Miller reveals that a whopping 67 percent of prospective voters here in Illinois oppose the Michael Madigan-sponsored plan to earmark $100 million for Barack Obama’s presidential library and museum.

Results showed that just 29 percent of likely voters approve of the state-financing proposal, which Illinois House Speaker Madigan successfully pushed last month amid vocal opposition from Republicans and just about everyone who thinks that offering nine figures as bait to attract the library here is perhaps not such a great idea given how strapped for cash we are. Also: Obama, a fundraising machine with an arsenal of super-rich Democratic donors, is likely going to sign off on Chicago as the location, with or without the $100 million in taxpayer money. (Take that, Honolulu.)

Federal tax dollars partially foot the bill for all presidential libraries: “These libraries — now 13 in all — cost taxpayers $75 million to operate in the last fiscal year.” That’s for maintenance and operating it once its open; private donors cover the construction costs.

 

Tags: Barack Obama , Illinois

President Drone-Strike Wishes He Could ‘Reach Out’ in Nigeria



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In between Democratic Party fundraisers in California last week, President Obama told an audience, ”Every day when I wake up and I think about young girls in Nigeria or children caught up in the conflict in Syria, when there are times in which I want to reach out and save those kids.”

You might think the president who joked about his authority to kill the Jonas Brothers with a drone strike if they got too close to his daughters might have an actual ability to “reach out” and, if not save the abducted girls, rain a little hellfire upon their captors. After all, during Obama’s presidency, he’s authorized roughly 400 drone strikes that have killed an estimated 2,700 to 4,100 people.

Tags: Barack Obama , Nigeria , Drones

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