- - Thursday, October 31, 2013


The unraveling of Barack Obama’s dysfunctional presidency started when it became clear his policies were not improving a jobless economy that is still on the Federal Reserve’s temporary life-support system.

Things went from bad to worse when he won a second term without offering a new agenda. The government was on autopilot and remains so today. It is still sinking deeper into debt (two-thirds of a trillion dollars this year alone), jobs are in short supply, we’ve lost the respect of our allies, and global terrorism is spreading. At long last, the national news media seem to be turning on him.

His administration was irreparably tarnished by its bungled attempt to cover up the terrorist attack on our consulate in Benghazi, rejecting pleas for security, which never came. Then it took a huge hit in its sinister plot to use the Internal Revenue Service to suppress conservative groups opposing his re-election.

Now, his health care program, the only major legislative achievement that he hoped would be his legacy, is coming apart at the seams. Its shaky, poorly tested online sign-up program crashed on the first trial run. It is now clear Mr. Obama was not telling the truth when he swore no one would lose health care policies they wanted to keep.

This past week, the White House went to great lengths to deny what the news media was reporting and that the administration’s own regulations spelled out in clear detail: If existing private health care policies did not contain the benefits mandated under Obamacare, they wouldn’t meet the government’s standards. The West Wing’s response from the beginning was that if the insurance companies canceled any policies, they were to blame, not Mr. Obama’s health care law.

Valerie Jarrett, the president’s shadowy fixer and political apologist (the only such adviser who’s been given Secret Service protection) sent out this tweet Monday, rejecting the news reports on all of the TV networks: “FACT: Nothing in #Obamacare forces people out of their health plans. No change is required unless insurance companies change existing plans.”

Other administration officials maintained the millions of policy cancellations that have been sent out in the past few months were a result of policies that were “substandard” and didn’t contain the health care benefits that the government now mandates.

The Washington Post’s highly respected fact-checker, Glenn Kessler, rejects Ms. Jarett’s claim, as well as Mr. Obama’s repeated insistence that “[i]f you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.”

“The administration is defending this pledge with a rather slim reed — that there is nothing in the law that makes insurance companies force people out of plans they were enrolled in before the law passed,” Mr. Kessler writes. In fact, “The president’s statements were sweeping and unequivocal — and made repeatedly both before and after the bill became law, at least three-dozen times,” He says.

He’s not buying any of Mr. Obama’s latest attempts to throw in some new definition of his policy promise. “Now it turns out the president’s promise came with a very large caveat: ‘If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan — if we deem it to be adequate,’” he added.

Mr. Kessler’s scoring system for dishonesty is based on the number of long-nose “Pinocchios” he gives his targets. He gives Mr. Obama four of them, the maximum failing grade. When the president is caught being dishonest, though, he doesn’t own up to it. Instead, he resorts to demagoguery and goes on the attack.

That’s what he did when he went to Boston on Wednesday for a stagecrafted sideshow, as his accomplices blamed insurance companies for the cancellation notices that were going out and the higher premiums they were charging for the additional benefits mandated by Mr. Obama’s law. “It’s no surprise that some of the same folks trying to scare people now are the same folks who’ve been trying to sink the Affordable Care Act from the beginning,” he said.

The national news media isn’t buying his excuses, and neither are a majority of the voters or even Democrats, who now talk openly about his inattention to the details of governing.

The Post’s political reporter Dan Balz sees much more at stake here than just some temporary “glitches” in the disastrous Obamacare rollout. “Obama and the Democrats are the advocates for more government, which is why the problems with the rollout of the health care law potentially loom so large,” he says.

“When government doesn’t work, it’s difficult to convince people that government should do even more,” he adds.

However, Mr. Obama is still peddling bigger government, as is his party, even though polls show more Americans now want government to do less. In November 2008, voter exit polling showed 51 percent wanted government to do more for them. By Election Day 2012, 51 percent said government was doing too much.

On Wednesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said she alone was responsible for the problems with the rollout. A prominent Democrat is suggesting that the law’s real problems rest with Mr. Obama, who doesn’t like to dirty his hands with the complicated details of governing. The president “doesn’t seem to be as relentlessly curious about the processes of government — whether the legislative process or the implementation process or the administrative … process,” says William Galston, who was President Clinton’s chief domestic policy adviser.

That’s when things can go wrong, and then “people start wondering if he’s in charge, if he’s a strong leader,” Mr. Galston said.

What’s shaping up here is another catastrophic failure of big government trying to do what the private sector can do better for a lot less money. The person responsible for all of this is the bystander who now sits in the Oval Office — trying to point the finger of blame at everybody else.

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

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