- The Washington Times - Monday, November 30, 2009

Executive critic

Soon-to-be White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer used the Obama administration’s official blog to attack conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend for a column he wrote about President Obama’s health care reform plans.

“Charles Krauthammer takes great pains to paint a bleak picture of health care reform as ‘monstrous,’ ‘overregulated,’ and rife with ‘arbitrary bureaucratic inventions,’ ” Mr. Pfeiffer charged. “The columnist’s argument may be cogent and well-written, but it is wholly inaccurate.”

Mr. Krauthammer had written that health care would be better improved by focusing on tort reform, allowing people to purchase insurance across state lines and by taxing employer-provided health insurance, rather than through the massive plans being pushed by Congress.

But Mr. Pfeiffer argued Mr. Krauthammer was ignoring actions already taken by Mr. Obama and other provisions in the Senate’s health care bill that he said would have the same effect as the reforms the conservative stalwart was advocating.

First, Mr. Pfeiffer cited an executive order Mr. Obama signed directing the Department of Health and Human Services to offer states an “opportunity to apply for medical liability demonstration projects,” supposedly fulfilling Mr. Krauthammer’s desire for tort reform. Second, he noted that the “Senate bill does impose a fee on high-cost health care plans,” meeting Mr. Krauthammer’s suggestion for a tax on employer-provided insurance. Finally, Mr. Pfeiffer cited a provision in the Senate’s version of the health care reform bill, which is not included in the House bill, that would permit interstate health care choice compacts. He said that this provision, when “coupled with insurance market reforms” to prohibit insurers from not covering someone because of pre-existing conditions, would allow Americans to get insurance across state lines.

Of course, many regulations are imposed in the 2,000-plus pages of legislation being moved through the Senate and the House, which was Mr. Krauthammer’s chief complaint in his column.

“The only thing linking these changes - such as the 118 new boards, commissions and programs - is political expediency,” he wrote. But, Mr. Pfeiffer had a retort, although relatively boilerplate, for that too.

“The legislation actually is designed to take health care off the unsustainable path it is currently on by improving the health of all Americans and reducing costs for families, small businesses and the government,” he wrote.

Custody battle

A Vermont judge awarded custody of Lisa Miller’s daughter, Isabella, to her ex-girlfriend Janet Jenkins on Friday, saying it was in the 7-year-old child’s best interest to reside with Ms. Jenkins.

Rutland Vermont Family Court Judge William Cohen said Ms. Miller, a Christian who has disavowed her lesbianism, was wrong to deny Ms. Jenkins visitation to Isabella, and that the only way to give Ms. Jenkins access to the child was to award her sole custody.

“The court concludes that it is in the best interest of [Isabella] that Ms. Jenkins exercise parental rights and responsibilities,” Judge Cohen said in his 21-page order. “This court stated that continued interference by Ms. Miller with the relationship between [Isabella] and Ms. Jenkins could lead to a change of circumstances and outweigh the disruption that would occur if a change of custody were ordered.”

The lesbian couple used artificial insemination while they were in a Vermont-approved civil union to conceive Isabella, but Ms. Miller, a Virginia resident and the woman who carried the baby and gave birth, dissolved the civil union in 2003 when she felt she could no longer live the lesbian lifestyle. Ms. Jenkins then sued for custody of Isabella, beginning a complex, unusual legal battle.

Ms. Miller, a Christian, has waged the battle for her child in Virginia and Vermont courts, with support from several religious advocacy organizations such as Liberty Counsel. Ms. Miller’s attorney is Mathew D. Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel. They plan to appeal the decision.

HIV ban lifted

Beginning Jan. 1, people carrying the virus that causes AIDS will be allowed to enter the United States, marking the end of a 22-year policy that required immigrants to be tested for HIV and denied visas to those who tested positive.

President Obama lifted the ban as a part of his signing of an extension of the Ryan White CARE Act, named in honor of a young man who contracted HIV/AIDS from a blood transfusion. In doing this, the virus will no longer be on the list of communicable diseases used by officials to keep people out of the country for public health reasons.

“Twenty-two years ago, in a decision rooted in fear rather than fact, the United States instituted a travel ban on entry into the country for people living with HIV/AIDS,” Mr. Obama said. “Now, we talk about reducing the stigma of this disease - yet we’ve treated a visitor living with it as a threat. We lead the world when it comes to helping stem the AIDS pandemic - yet we are one of only a dozen countries that still bar people from HIV from entering our own country. If we want to be the global leader in combating HIV/AIDS, we need to act like it.”

President George W. Bush also supported removing the ban and took initial steps to begin the process of doing so during his last year in office.

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

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