Inside the Beltway: John Boehner’s guerrilla war

House Speaker John A. Boehner is not done with the Affordable Care Act; there’s some health stealth in mind to undermine Obamacare — we’re talking smart and pesky tactics rather than one big, bunker-busting bomb here.

“Our drive to stop the train wreck that is the president’s health care law will continue,” Mr. Boehner declared in a statement Sunday. “We will rely on aggressive oversight that highlights the law’s massive flaws and smart, targeted strikes that split the legislative coalition the president has relied upon to force his health care law on the American people.”

An initial volley in this guerrilla warfare that combines calm persistence and keen-eyed pounces? Mr. Boehner is enthusiastic about a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing Thursday that will examine the ongoing startup problems with Obamacare, titled “Implementation Failures: Didn’t Know or Didn’t Disclose?”

Though the Department of Health and Human Services pledged Sunday that fixes to online sign-up glitches were forthcoming, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has still declined to appear at the upcoming hearing to answer questions and clear the air.

“Either the administration was not ready for launch, or it was not up to the job. The president and top officials were quick to boast the number of visitors to HealthCare.gov, but they have since gone silent, refusing to disclose even basic enrollment figures,” says Rep. Fred Upton, Michigan Republican and the committee chairman.

“Ducking an investigation with spin is one thing. Responding with a wall of silence to the invitation of a duly elected congressional body probing the use of more than half a billion taxpayer dollars is another. This Obama crowd is something else,” notes a Wall Street Journal editorial.

WHERE IT STANDS

“Although federal and state health insurance exchanges opened on Oct. 1, 71 percent of Americans who lack health insurance — the primary target group for the exchanges — say they are ‘not too familiar’ or ‘not familiar at all’ with them, little changed from last month,” reports Jeffrey Jones, a Gallup analyst. “At the same time, 28 percent of uninsured Americans say they are very or somewhat familiar with the exchanges, up slightly from 25 percent last month.”

Mr. Jones also notes that 56 percent of the respondents in the survey released Friday say they plan to get insurance, while 34 percent say they are more likely to pay the fine for not doing so.

GUIDED BY THE IRON LADY

“Liberalism reigns in the White House, but America remains a conservative nation at heart,” write Nile Gardiner and Stephen Thompson, authors of “Margaret Thatcher on Leadership: Lessons for American Conservatives Today,” just published by Regnery Books.

Margaret Thatcher succeeded because she understood the concerns of the conservative grassroots on core issues such as the economy, government spending and taxes. She won over millions more to the conservative cause not by watering down her message or shifting her position, but by presenting an attractive vision of economic freedom,” the authors note.

On shelves just 10 weeks before 2014 dawns, the publisher calls the book a “practical and inspirational” guide.

“She made the conservative party more open and inclusive. Lady Thatcher understood that conservative principles are for everybody, not tied to special interest groups or trends,” Regnery says. “Conservative ideas must win people over first, before conservatives can win their votes later.”

TEXAS TALES

“After two months in Washington, it’s great to be back in America,” Sen. Ted Cruz told 800 enthusiastic, red-clad attendees at the Texas Federation of Republican Women in San Antonio on Saturday. “It is tremendously uplifting to be back home. I’ve got a job, and it’s not to work for the party bosses in Washington, it’s to work for 26 million Texans.”

Meanwhile, Texans borrowed from the Granite State at an event not far from the hotel where Mr. Cruz appeared. “Live free or die” was the official crowd chant during a Second Amendment rights rally by some 1,500 participants toting their firearms. The “Come and Take it San Antonio: Line in the Sand” demonstration was on the grounds of the Alamo.

“Live free or die,” of course, has been the motto of New Hampshire since 1945, adopted from a toast written by Revolutionary War officer General John Stark in 1809: “Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.”

BUSH COUNSEL

“The best way to repeal Obamacare is to have an alternative. We never hear the alternative — that we could do this in a much lower cost with improved quality based on our principles, free market principle. And two, show how Obamacare, flawed to its core, doesn’t work,” former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told ABC News on Sunday.

Some observers might say that House Republicans did that, but no matter. Mr. Bush is counseling Sen. Ted Cruz and company to ramp down their quest to repeal Obamacare. Let it fail, then see what happens.

“Have a little bit of self-restraint. It might actually be a politically better approach to see the massive dysfunction,” Mr. Bush advised.

THE COAL CONNECTION

Former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton are both campaigning for Terry McAuliffe in his quest for Virginia governor. “You won’t hear them brag about the years of Bill Clinton’s presidency when Terry McAuliffe sold seats on Air Force One and was the booking agent for the Lincoln Bedroom,” predicts Richard T. Cullen communications director for Cuccinelli for Governor.

Powerful friends aren’t always the solution, some say.

“Voters face a critical decision Nov. 5 when it comes to the future of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Two men are vying to succeed Gov. Bob McDonnell. Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe are worlds apart when it comes to what is best for the coalfields of Southwest Virginia,” points out the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, in its endorsement for Mr. Cuccinelli published Sunday.

“Cuccinelli is actively campaigning for coal — and for coal miners and their families. He correctly refers to President Obama’s war on coal as also a war on Virginia’s poor and middle class. Cuccinelli has stumped across the coalfields of deep Southwest Virginia. The same can’t be said for McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman who also headed up Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful 2008 presidential bid.”

POLL DU JOUR

73 percent of Americans overall have a favorable impression of NASA; 76 percent of Republicans and 74 percent of Democrats agree.

72 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of the Defense Department; 77 percent of Republicans and 77 percent of Democrats agree.

66 percent overall have a favorable impression of the Department of Homeland Security; 62 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of Democrats agree.

62 percent overall have a favorable impression of federal workers; 46 percent of Republicans and 79 percent of Democrats agree.

61 percent overall have a favorable impression of the Department of Health and Human Services; 45 percent of Republicans and 78 percent of Democrats agree.

23 percent overall have a favorable impression of the U.S. Congress; 23 percent of Republicans and 25 percent of Democrats agree.

19 percent overall trust the federal government to do what is right “always or most of the time”; 10 percent of Republicans and 28 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A Pew Research Center survey of 1,504 U.S. adults conducted Oct. 9-13.

Murmurs and asides to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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