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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

Congressional Democrats Agonize Over Which Course Will Best Prove They Matter



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From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Congressional Democrats Agonize Over Which Course Will Best Prove They Matter

There’s a certain sweetness in watching a cynical, ruthless political opposition frozen in indecision because they can’t decide which option is more politically advantageous:

House Democrats on Sunday made it clear that they do not expect fair proceedings from the Republican-led panel newly tasked with investigating the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, but offered no definitive answer on whether they would appoint any of their own members to participate.

It doesn’t really matter. The Democrats seem to think that their participation comes with some sort of nebulous sense of “validity” stapled to it, and that their participation is a bargaining chip that the Republicans greatly desire. They also seem convinced that they can somehow strong-arm special committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. into giving them the power to veto subpoenas in exchange for this nebulous sense of “validity.”

Congressional Democrats greatly overestimate the value of their presence, both in this particular example and as a general rule.

Still, with or without Democrats, the House panel faces the steepest of uphill climbs because it’s trying to reintroduce a concept that this administration rejects on a cellular level: accountability. This is the administration where Kathleen Sebelius stays on the job after she blind-sides the president on the condition of Healthcare.gov, IRS employees retire early and go on paid administrative leave, and the four State Department officials most directly responsible for not acting on Ambassador Chris Stevens’ warnings were put on paid administrative leave. For a while. Then they were reinstated. This is an administration where it is commonplace for Cabinet secretaries and other high-profile officials to conduct official business on “alternative” e-mail accounts that somehow never get included in responses to Freedom of Information Act requests. This administration collectively shrugs when they learn that the president spent enormous political capital – and $10.5 billion in taxpayer money – to save a car company that made cars that killed people if their key chains were too heavy.

If there were any pulse left in the idealistic guy who ran for president in 2008, who promised a vastly improved federal government to the American people, the president would be saying something like this:

When the uprising against Qaddafi began in Libya, it was clear to me that it was in our national interest to stand with the people against an autocratic ruler who had sponsored terrorism against Americans in the past and whose long history of irrational and brutal rule meant he could never be a reliable U.S. ally. Our effort to help the Libyans build a decent and just form of government was spearheaded by one of the very best of our diplomatic corps, Chris Stevens. Chris and his team, along with our intelligence community, had a separate, difficult and dangerous mission: securing the now-loose weapons of Qaddafi’s arsenal, rapidly flowing to the wrong hands in and out of Libya. We knew that during Libya’s civil war, our Qatari allies had sent anti-aircraft weapons to help the rebels – and those weapons could lead to a massacre if they ended up in the hands of a terrorist. I know many Americans feel like we’ve already spent too much blood and treasure trying to help these far-off corners of the world turn the corner from bloody chaos to order and peace. But this was a danger we felt we needed to address, because someday it might threaten the lives of Americans  – and that meant we had to have Americans on the ground in dangerous places like Benghazi.

We now know our State Department underestimated the threat, and did not take the warnings from the staff on the ground seriously enough. Our military took the first steps to mobilizing forces for a rescue that night, but our efforts didn’t move nearly quickly enough as our brave men and women in harm’s way have a right to expect. And our explanation to the American people in the days afterwards blurred the lines between a protest in Egypt and what clearly was an opportunistic, barbaric attack by terrorists, hell-bent on killing Americans.  The suddenness of the attack, and the challenges of geography and the murky, shifting alliances in far-off lands with little functioning government are factors, but not an excuse. The American people deserve better, and we must perform better in the future.

We’ll never get anything resembling that speech from President Obama. He’s just not capable of it. 

Tags: Benghazi , Congressional Democrats , Barack Obama

Obama: Dems’ Troubles Have Nothing To Do With My Policies



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During his fundraising trip to Los Angeles Wednesday, President Obama discovered anew that the United States is in bad shape, and he was again left in puzzlement about what could be the cause.

“You get a self-fulfilling prophecy,” the president told supporters, urging them to help Democrats avoid potentially significant losses in both houses of Congress in the November midterm elections. “The people who have the most at stake in a government that works opt out of the system. People who believe government doesn’t work are most empowered. Gridlock reigns and we get the downward spiral of even more cynicism.”

Speaking to a group of millionaires during a $10,000-to-$34,000-a-plate dinner at the Bel Air home of Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn, Obama explained that the Democrats’ problem is that they’re just too committed to the poor.

“The congenital problem that Democrats have is in midterms especially we don’t vote,” Obama told donors including living legend Barbra Streisand and Dreamworks SKG co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg. “Our voters are younger, they’re more likely to be minority, and because they’re more likely to be struggling they’re not always paying attention when the president is not – the presidential candidate isn’t on the ballot.”

During his L.A. sojourn, Obama, whose achievements include stopping the rise of the oceans and healing the planet, also received an “Ambassador for Humanity” award from Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation. (“President Obama’s commitment to democracy and human rights has long been felt,” the powerhouse filmmaker said.) And his second-term fundraising has outpaced that of most or all previous two-term presidents.

Still, Obama is stumped as to whose mismanagement of national affairs has left the country in such a state of “disquiet” and “frustration.” In addition to speculating about his party’s “congenital” problems, the president has attributed his party’s fading hopes in 2014 to Republican obstructionism and theorized that Democrats usually “get clobbered” in midterm races.

Even more baffling about the Democratic stagnation is that Obama has boldly avoided the cautionary example set by Bill Clinton following the Democrats’ steep losses in the 1994 midterms. Clinton responded by changing course pursuing policies of welfare reform and reduced spending that contributed to an economic boom and the elimination of the deficit by the time he left office. Clinton won re-election in 1996 and defied both expectations and historic precedent by leading the Democrats to pick up congressional seats in the 1998 midterms.

By contrast, Obama has stuck to his principles, betting that “getting people talking” about Obamacare, using his “pen and phone” to bypass Congress, and appearing on web shows with Zach Galifianakis will win over voters. Yet the stiff-necked electorate has failed to turn its frown upside down.

The president remains optimistic that, come November, voters will show their dissatisfaction with Democrats by electing more Democrats.

“I’ve got to make sure we have a Democratic Senate, and I want a Democratic House of Representatives in Washington,” Obama told the audience, which also included Streisand husband James Brolin, who played Pee Wee Herman in Warner Bros.’ big-screen biopic. “My main message to you is feel a sense of urgency about this election.”

With a freer legislative hand after November, Obama may finally be able to persuade Americans that they’re better off than they were six years ago.

Tags: Barack Obama

A Lying Administration’s Endless Benefit of the Doubt on Benghazi



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From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

A Lying Administration’s Endless Benefit of the Doubt on Benghazi

Those who deny the existence of a widespread, deep-rooted liberal bias in most “mainstream” media institutions can and will point to periodic tough coverage of the Obama administration’s explanation on Benghazi.

We get lots of individual cases of this. CNN’s Jake Tapper will accuse Jay Carney of being “dissembling, obfuscating, and often, you know, insulting.” Ron Fournier of National Journal will declare that Carney reminds him of “Baghdad Bob.” ABC News’s Jonathan Karl will rip into him for giving false information during the briefing. CNN’s Dana Bash will point out that the administration is withholding documents from congressional subpoenas. Slate’s John Dickerson will state, matter-of-factly:

The Obama administration’s story has never been straight on the Benghazi attack. Press Secretary Jay Carney once said the White House and State Department had only been involved in changing one word in crafting the first public response about the attack — the infamous Susan Rice talking points. Emails released in May showed that wasn’t the case. This new batch underscores the White House’s involvement in shaping the story. The Obama administration left the impression that everything related to the Benghazi attack had been released to the investigating committees months ago. That is also clearly false.

White House defenses earned scores of Pinocchios, and fact-checkers have corrected the president repeatedly, again and again.

You would think this repeated mendacity, on topics ranging from keeping doctors to red lines, would add up; that the media would greet White House statements with increasing skepticism. You might think the coverage would characterize White House statements as assertions, not proven facts. The White House shifts to “trust us” quite a bit. Trust us, we’ve held everyone in our government responsible for security in Benghazi accountable. Trust us, we’ve determined why no rescue effort was launched. Trust us, we’ve turned over all relevant documents to congressional investigators. Trust us, all of the false information we told the public after the attack stemmed from a series of innocent mistakes and miscommunications.

Instead, we live in a world that feels as if someone has picked up our national Etch-a-Sketch and shaken it on a regular basis. After getting caught in a lie, the administration goes to work the next day and deals with a press corps as credulous as the day before. We’re living in a world where the villagers never wise up about the boy who cried “wolf!”

The current administration line is that they may simply refuse to cooperate with the House’s special committee investigating the Benghazi attacks, concluding it doesn’t meet the Obama administration’s standard as “legitimate.”

Obama’s top spokesman on Monday gave no indication that the White House would participate in the latest investigation — but the implicit answer seemed to be that it would not.

“We have always cooperated with legitimate oversight,” Carney said, adding that the GOP committee didn’t meet that test.

When you’ve been caught lying to the American public about life-and-death matters so often, you don’t get to decide which congressional investigations are legitimate and which ones aren’t. You have forfeited the benefit of the doubt. If it’s really that illegitimate, or a fishing expedition, the American people will let Congress know in November.

The notion of checks and balances in the Constitution is not dependent upon each branch’s opinion of the legitimacy of the questions of the other. Nixon didn’t think highly of Congress, either. You don’t get to ignore the Supreme Court if you don’t think their decision was “legitimate.”

What are the consequences of losing all credibility? It turns out, not much.

Tags: Benghazi , Barack Obama , Jay Carney

With Worsening Messes at Home and Abroad, Obama Brags of ‘Year of Action’



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On the White House home page right now:

Had you noticed we were enjoying a “Year of Action”? Are you enjoying it?

On Saturday President Obama enjoyed his 11th golf outing of the year before heading off to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Today the president meets with President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti and then hosts a Cinco de Mayo reception in the Rose Garden. Later this week, the president will attend four Democratic fundraisers in California.

But perhaps the clearest sign of the “Year of Action” is in the results.

USA Today this morning:

By more than 2–1, 65 percent to 30 percent, Americans say they want the president elected in 2016 to pursue different policies and programs than the Obama administration, rather than similar ones…

By more than 2–1, Americans are dissatisfied with the direction of the country. They remain downbeat about the economy. They aren’t persuaded that the Affordable Care Act is going to help them and their families. Even the president’s supporters worry he is a political liability for fellow Democrats. The president’s job approval rating remains anemic in the new survey, at 44% approve, 50% disapprove.

Bloomberg: “Workforce Participation at 36-Year-Low as Jobs Climb”

Time: “U.S. GDP Slows to a Crawl in First Quarter of 2014″

Meanwhile, overseas . . . 

Tags: Barack Obama , Economy

Obama: Vote Out Minimum Wage Hike Opponents! Let’s Start With Three . . .



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President Obama, yesterday:

If your member of Congress doesn’t support raising the minimum wage, you’ve got to let them know they’re out of step, and that if they keep putting politics ahead of working Americans, you’ll put them out of office.

Does that apply to the three House Democrats who voted against it who are up for reelection this year? John Barrow of Georgia, Colin Peterson of Minnesota, and Kurt Schrader of Oregon all voted “no” last month, and the DCCC is pulling out all the stops to ensure Barrow, Peterson, and Schrader are reelected.

Jim Matheson of Utah, Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, and Bill Owens of New York also voted against the minimum-wage hike, but they will not be seeking another term.

Tags: Barack Obama , Minimum Wage , John Barrow , Colin Peterson , Kurt Schrader

Benghazi E-Mail Writer in 2010: ‘I Always Wanted to Be a Fiction Writer.’



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From the Wednesday Morning Jolt:

White House E-Mail: ‘Underscore that These Protests Are Rooted in an Internet Video’

KABOOM. In short, the Obama administration’s lies about Benghazi came about exactly as we expected: one of the political guys telling the national-security appointees what to say.

Republicans say e-mails released Tuesday on the attack in Benghazi, Libya, include “the smoking gun” that shows a White House official urged that the assault on the U.S. consulate be blamed on a protest that never happened.

The e-mails, obtained by conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch through a Freedom of Information Act request, include one in which White House official Ben Rhodes lists “goals” for then-U.N. ambassador Susan Rice to meet in explaining the attack and protests occurring across the Middle East that week to the American public.

Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans died in the assault, which the White House subsequently acknowledged was an al-Qaeda-linked terror attack.

The e-mail, sent to various officials including White House spokesman Jay Carney, said one goal was “to underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.”

Another goal was “to reinforce the president and administration’s strength and steadiness in dealing with difficult challenges.”

Rhodes is assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for strategic communication and speechwriting.

During appearances on five Sunday news programs, Rice did blame the attack on Sept. 11, 2012, on a protest against an anti-Islam video produced by an American. So did Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and President Obama would not say whether it was a terrorist attack until several days later.

The CIA station chief in Libya reported from the beginning that the attack was an al-Qaeda-linked operation and that there was no protest. Though there was some dispute over the manner of the attack, former CIA deputy director Mike Morell testified earlier this month that he had no idea where the story about a video protest came from when he saw Rice make the claim on television.

Well, now we know.

Yes, Rhodes’s speechwriting always focused in the foreign-policy realm. He was a longtime assistant to Lee Hamilton, then joined Obama as a speechwriter in 2007. But this guy’s not an expert on Libya. There’s no way he was in any position, from Washington, to overrule the assessment of the folks on the ground. He’s a message guy. And he quickly concluded – accurately – that the administration’s obvious ill-prepared presence in Libya, and failure to organize timely rescue efforts, on the 9/11 anniversary represented a serious threat to the president’s reelection. They needed a scapegoat; the video was the best option at hand.

A perfectly ironic quote from a 2010 profile: “I very much wanted to be a fiction writer.” Guess he finally got that chance.

Tags: Benghazi , Ben Rhodes , Barack Obama

Obama’s Earth Day Travels Will Generate 868 Tons of Carbon



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Today is Earth Day. President Obama will mark the day by flying from Washington, D.C., to Washington state — 2,328 miles, generating 568,032 pounds of carbon emissions at 244 pounds per mile — and then beginning his week-long trip to Asia, flying tonight to Tokyo — 4,792 miles, an additional 1,169,248 pounds of carbon emissions. The two trips add up to 1.73 million pounds of carbon, or 868.64 tons.

For perspective, the average American generates about 19 tons of carbon dioxide in one year.

This figure does not count the carbon emissions from the president’s backup plane, cargo planes transporting the president’s limo and helicopter, advance staff, etc.

Perhaps the president will discuss climate change during his trip to Asia.

Tags: Barack Obama , Carbon Emissions , Environmentalism

A Face to Strike Fear in the Heart of Putin



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At yesterday’s White House Easter Egg Roll, President Obama terrified the children in attendance by announcing that he was, indeed, in the process of “fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”

No, no, just kidding. The above photo from the AP shows the president reading from Where the Wild Things Are.

Tags: Barack Obama , Something Lighter

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

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