- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Blame game

Former President Bill Clinton, at an event for Internet-savvy progressives last week, belittled a gay-rights activist and blamed the liberal grass-roots movement for not doing more to help him advance gay rights while he was president.

“You oughta go to one of those congressional health care meetings, you’d do really well there,” Mr. Clinton said when gay-rights blogger Lane Hudson interrupted his address at the Netroots Nation political conference.

Mr. Hudson had loudly asked, “Mr. President, will you call for a repeal of [the Defense of Marriage Act] and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell? Right now?”

“You want to talk about don’t ask, don’t tell?” Mr. Clinton asked. “I’ll tell you exactly what happened.” Wagging his index finger, he lectured, “You couldn’t deliver me any support in the Congress, and they voted by a veto-proof majority in both houses against my attempt to let gays serve in the military, and the media supported them, they raised all kinds of devilment, and all most of you did was to attack me instead of getting me some support in the Congress.”

White House spam

The White House admitted it may have spammed Americans with e-mails by asking citizens to forward the administration evidence of “fishy” health care information on the Internet and blasting out appeals that high-ranking officials hoped would go “viral.”

Fox News reported that people were receiving e-mails from the White House they did not recall agreeing to receive. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs ducked questions from Fox News’ Major Garrett with a sarcastic remark: “I appreciate the fact that I have omnipotent clarity as to what you’ve received in your e-mail box today.”

Questions about how the White House obtained and used e-mail addresses were raised after a controversial White House blog post asked people to report “fishy” Internet material on health care reform to flag@whitehouse.gov. (It was deleted Monday.)

Then, White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod signed an eight-page e-mail with 24 bullet points detailing reasons why health care reform was needed and listing myth busters about the plan, all designed to look like a chain letter. “Right now, someone you know probably has a question about reform that could be answered by what’s below,” Mr. Axelrod wrote. “So what are you waiting for? Forward this e-mail.”

On Sunday evening the White House admitted it was possible that people were receiving unsolicited e-mails from the administration, but it said that was not intended.

“If an individual received the e-mail because someone else or a group signed them up or forwarded the e-mail, we hope they were not too inconvenienced,” said White House New Media Adviser Nick Shapiro in a statement. “Further, we suggest that they unsubscribe from the list by clicking the link at the bottom of the e-mail or tell whomever forwarded it to them not to forward such information anymore. We are implementing measures to make subscribing to e-mails clearer, including preventing advocacy organizations from signing people up to our lists without their permission.”

Surgeons attack

President Obama was criticized by a group of surgeons for suggesting at a recent town hall meeting that they may choose to perform amputations when not medically necessary in order to boost their paychecks.

Mr. Obama had done his own criticizing when he mentioned a Medicare reimbursement rate system during a health care event in Portsmouth, N.H.

“Right now if a family care physician works with his or her patient to lose weight, modify diet [and] monitor whether they are taking their medication in a timely fashion they might get reimbursed a pittance, but if that same diabetic ends up getting their foot amputated, thats $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 the surgeon is immediately reimbursed,” he said.

Surgeons make nowhere near that amount from amputations, said the American College of Surgeons.

“President Obama got his facts completely wrong,” the organization said in a statement. “He stated that a surgeon gets paid $50,000 for a leg amputation when, in fact, Medicare pays a surgeon between $740 and $1,140 for a leg amputation. This payment also includes the evaluation of the patient on the day of the operation plus patient follow-up care that is provided for 90 days after the operation.” Private insurers pay about the same amount.

The president’s suggestion that surgeons would choose to perform amputations when not medically necessary is insulting, the group complained. “The Presidents remarks are truly alarming and run the risk of damaging the all-important trust between surgeons and their patients,” the statement said. “We would urge him to have his facts correct before making another inflammatory and incorrect statement about surgeons and surgical care.”

Amanda Carpenter can be reached carpenter @washingtontimes.com.

• Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter@washingtontimes.com.

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