- - Thursday, May 22, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

President Obama reluctantly went to the White House press room Wednesday to deal with yet another scandal that has hit his dysfunctional presidency.

This one is as bad as scandals get: Our veterans were dying because they weren’t getting timely care at the Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals that would have saved their lives. There were leaked memos suggesting the long-delayed appointments were rewritten to make the wait time seem shorter.

Making matters worse, the president took his sweet time to publicly address the life-or-death issues that have been festering in the VA for a number of years.

The White House chief of staff said last weekend that Mr. Obama was “madder than hell” about the reports. The president’s remarks Wednesday, though, were the first he’s made about the subject since the scandal came to light late last month that 40 veterans had died as they waited for care at their local VA facility in Phoenix.

As I reported in my previous column, this scandal goes a lot deeper into a long-broken, underfunded, incompetent VA system that has been ignored at the White House as well as on Capitol Hill.

This happened on Mr. Obama’s watch, and it’s one more scandal on a growing pile of scandals over the course of his troubled presidency that is reaching critical mass in the midst of a game-changing midterm election year.

All of them are going to be played out this summer and fall, when the Republicans are showing new strength in their party primaries that threatens to topple Democratic control of the Senate in Mr. Obama’s last two years in office.

Here’s what the White House and the Democrats will be facing before the Nov. 4 elections:

The Benghazi scandal: A Republican-led House select committee will be taking new testimony and digging deeper into the White House’s role in a concocted story that the deaths of our ambassador and three others at the U.S. Consulate in Libya were the result of a spontaneous protest that got out of hand over an Internet video.

The attack, in fact, was carried out by trained al Qaeda terrorists, after pleas from Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens for increased security were denied by Hillary Clinton’s State Department.

At the time, Mr. Obama was making the campaign claim that al Qaeda was “on the run” and that its forces and leadership had been “decimated.”

There is now ample evidence those claims were not true. Al Qaeda and its allies have stepped up their deadly offensive in Afghanistan and Iraq, across North Africa and throughout the Middle East.

The investigation will also focus on the role Mrs. Clinton played in all of this, why pleas for security were turned down, and why her department initially mischaracterized the al Qaeda attacks.

After criticizing the GOP’s select committee, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi reluctantly decided that Democrats will participate in the investigation.

Obamacare: Its troubles, financial and otherwise, didn’t end with the disastrous rollout when the administration’s sign-up website went into a meltdown and was incapable of handling applications.

Since then, Obamacare has been hit by one problem after another, raising new doubts about whether enough younger, healthier Americans will sign up for coverage to cover the costs of older enrollees who have more health care needs. It still isn’t precisely known how many of the 8 million sign-ups will pay their monthly premiums. As many as 15 percent to 20 percent usually don’t.

That will raise the cost of insurance, and that could be what is happening now. A Kaiser Tracking poll last month found that four in 10 uninsured adults said they were not signing up for insurance because of its cost.

About 45 percent of the uninsured told pollsters they intended to pay the Obamacare penalty this year rather than sign up for plans that, for them, were unaffordable.

As in every government program, there is a substantial amount of waste and abuse. Obamacare’s troubles are just beginning. There are reports the government may be needlessly paying much higher subsidies to hundreds of thousands of Americans who have signed up for Obamacare.

There are many more revelations to come about the president’s unpopular health care program, which is why even some top Democrats are not embracing it.

In Georgia, for example, Senate Democratic nominee Michelle Nunn refuses to say whether she would have voted for Obamacare or even whether she approves of the job he’s doing.

“I’m not going to get into his job performance,” Miss Nunn told Politico this week. “My name is on the ballot; the president is not on the ballot this time.”

Taken together, the unfolding investigations and scandal at the VA, the Benghazi cover-up hearings in the House, and the ticking time bomb that is Obamacare makes a very poisonous, election-year brew.

However, there’s another, in many ways, more lethal issue that will be fiercely in play this year, especially in the key swing-state contests. And that is the struggling Obama economy, which Republicans will be campaigning on from Maine to California.

The U.S. economy virtually stopped growing in the first three months of this year, and most economists don’t see it taking off anytime soon. The consensus is that the economic growth rate will remain somewhere in the 2 percent range this year and next.

National retail sales were shockingly low in April, barely rising 0.1 percent, the Commerce Department said. That was reflected in overall poor earnings data on Wall Street that sent the stock market into a swoon earlier this week.

Then there is Mr. Obama himself. No, he won’t be on the ballot in November, but make no mistake about it, this election will be a referendum on his failed presidency.

It will be about the VA, whose incompetence dishonors our veterans; about the lost lives in Benghazi crying out for justice; the costs and canceled policies under Obamacare; and several years of an underperforming, jobless economy.

It’s rapidly shaping up to be a wave election that has “slam dunk” written all over it.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.

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