Saturday, November 02, 2013

Book review: ‘Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House’ by Peter Baker

By James Mann

October 31, 2013

James Mann, a resident fellow at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, is the author of “Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet.” He is working on a biography of George W. Bush for the American Presidents series.

We are in the midst of a wave of revisionism about George W. Bush and his administration.

For years, amid the rancor of the Iraq war, Bush was often portrayed as a simple idiot or sometimes as a demonic manipulator. More recently, amid an outpouring of coverage prompted by the April openingof the George W. Bush Presidential Library in Dallas, we have been treated to even thinner caricatures of W.: Bush the humanist, a contemplative painter who was misunderstood at the time and did little to inspire the passions that engulfed him.

This recent rethinking will prove no more enduring than the original perceptions. The historical judgments of the Bush administration are only beginning to take shape. It has taken several years for the key actors to write their memoirs and for the president’s friends and subordinates to offer stories they wouldn’t volunteer at the time the Bush team was in the White House.

Peter Baker’s impressive new book, “Days of Fire,” one of the first efforts to set out the history of the Bush administration, is a distinguished work, notable for its scope and ambition, that should become a standard reference for historians. After tracing the upbringing and early careers of both Bush and his vice president, Dick Cheney, Baker chronicles their time in office from start to finish, encompassing their foreign and domestic policies. (The book’s title is a play on a quote from Bush’s second inaugural address: Referring to Sept. 11, 2001, the president said, “And then there came a day of fire.”)

The book has few groundbreaking revelations or startling judgments. Its virtue lies in the mass of information Baker has collected and the way he has pulled it together, so that the jumble of material on the Bush years is consolidated in one smooth narrative. He has read the memoirs so you don’t have to. From them he unearths gems, such as Bush’s quip about the icy reception he would get when addressing the United Nations General Assembly: “It’s like speaking to the wax museum. Nobody moves.” (This comes from former spokesman Ari Fleischer’s memoir.)

Baker also gathers a wealth of other revealing quotes and anecdotes, not previously published, from interviews and from private notes of White House meetings. “Write this down,” Bush told Republican governors in the fall of 2002. “Afghanistan and Iraq will lead that part of the world toward democracy.”

The heart of “Days of Fire” lies in the changing relationship between Bush and Cheney — how Bush in the early years of his administration relied heavily on his vastly more experienced vice president, but during his second term he increasingly operated on his own, relegating Cheney to the margins. Baker draws out each development in this tangled relationship in much the same way that Robert Caro wrote about the relationship between John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

In this, Baker sometimes succeeds, yet his approach has some flaws, too. The book is overwhelmingly event-driven and chronological. On occasion, it reads too much like a tick-tock of Bush’s eight years in office, dwelling on time and detail until it becomes eye-numbing: When Bush has a routine colonoscopy in 2002 and transfers power to Cheney for a couple of hours, Baker informs the reader that the White House physician “performed the procedure, finishing at 7:29 a.m. without finding any polyps. Bush awoke at 7:31, got up soon thereafter, ate a waffle and played with his dogs.” This is simply too much information.

The book dwells more on the personalities in the Bush administration than on the ideas and larger forces at work. Baker depicts the relationship between Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell as an old friendship turned sour; Powell had been Cheney’s “once-trusted sidekick during the first Bush presidency,” he writes. This is doubly off-kilter: Powell, both as a former national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan and as the most powerful chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff the nation had ever known, was anything but Cheney’s sidekick; his stature and influence in George H.W. Bush’s White House engendered considerable mistrust on the part of Cheney and top civilian aides such as Paul Wolfowitz and Scooter Libby. At the root of this mistrust was the fact that Cheney and Powell represented different ideas about America’s post-Cold War role in the world.

When the two men returned to office under George W. Bush, they brought with them these distinct worldviews. In addition, each man (particularly Cheney) installed a network of allies and supporters who reflected his beliefs. Amid these larger conflicts, the personal relationship between Cheney and Powell was almost irrelevant; it was bound to be strained.

Baker’s careful reconstruction gives readers a good sense of the day-to-day flow of the Bush administration. He describes the events as the White House saw them — switching often, in short order, from one subject to another, with Baker drawing the connection that “even as” one thing was happening, another was. “The economic crisis began to worsen dramatically the day after [Adm. William J.] Fallon’s resignation,” he writes in one typical passage, leaving time as the sole connector between unrelated events.

“Days of Fire” makes far too little effort to separate the wheat from the chaff. Events of historic consequence, such as the Bush tax cuts, are given comparable treatment with White House staff feuds and minor personnel changes that had little significance at the time and none at all by now. Why should we care about the conflicts between, say, political strategists Matthew Dowd and Karl Rove, or between press secretary Dana Perino and one of her predecessors, Scott McClellan? Such material distracts from the important story Baker has to tell about the administration’s leading actors and about events including the Iraq war.

The final verdict on the Bush administration, of course, remains to be written. After nearly five years of the Obama administration, some of Bush’s counterterrorism policies — the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for example — have proved more lasting than they seemed when he left office. It will take years, perhaps decades, to judge what Bush’s tax cuts did to America’s economic and social structure. Over time, we will be able to see just how badly the war in Iraq eroded American power and damaged its international standing.

“Days of Fire” doesn’t try to make these larger assessments. It is, however, as thorough and detailed an account of the Bush years — day by day, week by week — as we are ever likely to get.

DAYS OF FIRE Bush and Cheney in the White House
By Peter Baker Doubleday. 800 pp. $35

Friday, November 01, 2013

A Phalanx of Lies

Remember that health insurance you could keep? 

Obamacare Laid Bare

Every disaster has its moment of clarity. Physicist Richard Feynman dunks an O-ring into ice water and everyone understands instantly why the shuttle Challenger exploded. This week, the Obamacare O-ring froze for all the world to see: Hundreds of thousands of cancellation letters went out to people who had been assured a dozen times by the president that “If you like your health-care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health-care plan. Period.”
The cancellations lay bare three pillars of Obamacare: (a) mendacity, (b) paternalism and (c) subterfuge.

(a) Those letters are irrefutable evidence that President Obama’s repeated you-keep-your-coverage claim was false. Why were they sent out? Because Obamacare renders illegal (with exceedingly narrow “grandfathered” exceptions) the continuation of any insurance plan deemed by Washington regulators not to meet their arbitrary standards for adequacy. Example: No maternity care? You are terminated.
So a law designed to cover the uninsured is now throwing far more people off their insurance than it can possibly be signing up on the nonfunctioning insurance exchanges. Indeed, most of the 19 million people with individual insurance will have to find new and likely more expensive coverage. And that doesn’t even include the additional millions who are sure to lose their employer-provided coverage. That’s a lot of people. That’s a pretty big lie.
But perhaps Obama didn’t know. Maybe the bystander president was as surprised by this as he claims to have been by the IRS scandal, the Associated Press and James Rosen phone logs, the failure of the Obamacare Web site, the premeditation of the Benghazi attacks, the tapping of Angela Merkel’s phone — i.e., the workings of the federal government of which he is the nominal head.
I’m skeptical. It’s not as if the Obamacare plan-dropping is an obscure regulation. It’s at the heart of Obama’s idea of federally regulated and standardized national health insurance.
Still, how could he imagine getting away with a claim sure to be exposed as factually false?
The same way he maintained for two weeks that false narrative about Benghazi. He figured he’d get away with it.
And he did. Simple formula: Delay, stonewall and wait for a supine and protective press to turn spectacularly incurious.
Look at how the New York Times covered his “keep your plan” whopper — buried on page 17 with a headline calling the cancellations a “prime target.” As if this is a partisan issue and not a brazen falsehood clear to any outside observer — say, The Post’s fact-checker Glenn Kessler, who gave the president’s claim four Pinocchios. Noses don’t come any longer.
(b) Beyond mendacity, there is liberal paternalism, of which these forced cancellations are a classic case. We canceled your plan, explained presidential spokesman Jay Carney, because it was substandard. We have a better idea.
Translation: Sure, you freely chose the policy, paid for the policy, renewed the policy, liked the policy. But you’re too primitive to know what you need. We do. Your policy is hereby canceled.
Because what you really need is what our experts have determined must be in every plan. So a couple in their 60s must buy maternity care. A teetotaler must buy substance abuse treatment. And a healthy 28-year-old with perfectly appropriate catastrophic insurance must pay for bells and whistles for which he has no use.
It’s Halloween. There is a knock at your door. You hear: “We’re the government and we’re here to help.”
You hide.
(c) As for subterfuge, these required bells and whistles aren’t just there to festoon the health-care Christmas tree with voter-pleasing freebies. The planners knew all along that if you force insurance buyers to overpay for stuff they don’t need, that money can subsidize other people.
Obamacare is the largest transfer of wealth in recent American history. But you can’t say that openly lest you lose elections. So you do it by subterfuge: hidden taxes, penalties, mandates and coverage requirements that yield a surplus of overpayments.
So that your president can promise to cover 30 million uninsured without costing the government a dime. Which from the beginning was the biggest falsehood of them all. And yet the free lunch is the essence of modern liberalism. Free mammograms, free preventative care, free contraceptives for Sandra Fluke. Come and get it.
And then when you find your policy canceled, your premium raised and your deductible outrageously increased, you’ve learned the real meaning of “free” in the liberal lexicon: something paid for by your neighbor — best, by subterfuge.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sebelius's Big Day of Big Lies

By Arnold Ahlert
October 31, 2013

Those Americans who watched Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s testimony yesterday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee might be forgiven for thinking they were in an alternate universe. Despite her assertion that Americans should ”hold me accountable” for the ongoing debacle, Sebelius later claimed she was never warned by anyone that the scheduled roll out of the Healthcare.govwebsite would be the disaster it turned out to be. Furthermore, she stood by the assertion that the president has been “keeping his promise” with regard to the idea that Americans who liked their insurance policies could keep them. Fittingly, during the entire three and a half hours the Secretary testified, the website was down.

Sebelius’s contention that she was not warned of the problems with the website is a lie. CNN reveals they obtained a confidential report showing that while website creator CGI executives were publicly testifying about achieving milestones, they warned the administration a month before the launch that there were “a number of open risks and issues” associated with the website.

Undoubtedly, Americans are far more interested in the far bigger lie perpetrated by this administration, highlighted by the exchange between Sebelius and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). “Before, during and after the law was passed the president kept saying if you like your health care plan, you can keep it, so is he keeping his promise?” asked Blackburn. “Yes, he is,” Sebelius replied. When Blackburn noted the reality that 300,000 people in Florida and 28,000 in Tennessee had their policies terminated, Sebelius contended that “they can get health insurance.”

The president didn’t promise people they could get health insurance. “No matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If 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,” Obama said in remarks made to the American Medical Association in 2009.

In 2010, after the law’s enactment, Obama made the same promise. “And if you like your insurance plan, you will keep it. No one will be able to take that away from you. It hasn’t happened yet. It won’t happen in the future.” he said.

Nothing changed in 2012. “If [you] already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance,” reiterated Obama.

On Tuesday, it was Press Secretary Jay Carney’s turn when he claimed the president “was clear about a basic fact. If you had insurance that you liked on the individual market, and you wanted to keep that insurance…you could,” he contended. The website made the same assertion as recently as yesterday. “If you like your plan you can keep it and you don’t have to change a thing due to the health care law.”

As NBC News reports, the Obama administration knew as early as 2010 that assertion was a lie. Despite promising that some insurance policies in non-compliance with the current law would be “grandfathered” into the bill, the Department of Health and Human Services tightened the provisions for that grandfathering three months after the bill’s passage. If any part of a policy was significantly changed, such as a deductible or copay, it no longer qualified for grandfather status.

According to the Washington Post, “significant” meant as little as a $5.00 change in one’s copay, ”plus the medical cost of inflation” (which would have been $5.20 based on last year’s inflation rate of 4 percent), or anyincrease in the coinsurance rate above what it was when the law went into effect on March 23, 2010. Moreover, in the bill itself, there was a statement noting that the normal turnover in the insurance market would cause “40 to 67 percent” of customers to lose their policies.

Despite this reality, Sebelius essentially testified the American public was not only aware of these technical changes, but that they represented a “wide corridor” allowing Americans to keep their existing policies. Thus, contended Sebelius, the president was being truthful.
The Post inadvertently reveals the utter absurdity of that contention, noting that those technical changes Sebelius cites are contained in Vol. 75 of the Federal Register, dated June 17, 2010, three months after the bill was passed, and the regulations themselves are listed on pages 34,560 through 34,562.

At a later point in her testimony, Sebelius contradicted herself, conceding that Americans remain largely uninformed about the healthcare bill, heartily agreeing with Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) that a “real marketing campaign” was necessary to make sure Americans, especially the young who must sign up to keep the system viable, get better informed about the healthcare website.

Doyle was at least affable. Most of his Democratic colleagues were far more interested in praising and protecting Sebelius, as well as castigating Republicans, than getting answers about the problems plaguing the roll out of the program. Republicans were alternately accused of “sabotaging the bill,” “rooting for failure,” and being on “the wrong side of history.” Democrats further extolled the virtues of ObamaCare, and the great benefits it was providing to millions of Americans, even as Sebelius steadfastly refused to release any figures regarding the number of people who have actually signed up for insurance. When asked if the administration would lift a gag order and allow insurance companies to provide those numbers to the public, Sebelius said no.

One of the more pointed exchanges occurred between Sebelius and Rep. Mike Rodgers (R-MI). Addressing security issues with the website, Rodgers got Sebelius to admit that she did not know whether or not each code fix being added to the website was tested for security. Sebelius insisted that security is “an ongoing operation,” yet when Rodgers asked if the system had been tested “end to end,” Sebelius didn’t know the answer.

Rodgers did. He had documentation stating that the website would be rolled out despite the fact that security was only partially completed and that “this constitutes a risk that must be accepted before the marketplace day one operations.” Rodgers was incensed. “You accepted a risk on behalf of every user of this computer that put their personal financial information at risk, because you did not have even the most basic end-to-end test on the security of this system,” he said. When Rodgers asked if Sebelius would commit to shutting down the system until an end-to-end test of security was conducted she declined, and insisted that ongoing testing is underway. In other words, no end-to-end test has been conducted, and Americans’ confidential information remains at risk — all of which is apparently fine with Sebelius.

Perhaps it is fine because Sebelius has her own healthcare plan, a point emphasized by Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO). He told Sebelius that he had rejected the Cadillac coverage offered Congress, and enrolled in a plan in the individual market, only to discover that plan was being discontinued due to ObamaCare. He asked the Secretary why she hadn’t subjected herself to a similar experience, drawing the only applause during the entire hearing. Sebelius claimed she wasn’t eligible, because she was covered by her employer.

The Washington Post discovered that Sebelius was wrong. She could get coverage, but it wouldn’t be as good as the deal as she gets now. After further challenges by other Republicans, Sebelius contended she would “gladly join the exchange” if she didn’t already have her federal plan.

In other words, she can, but she won’t.

With help from Democrats, the Secretary repeatedly extolled the virtues of ObamaCare, noting that even those who are losing their current insurance will be getting a better, more comprehensive product instead. That has been the fallback answer for this administration, even as it has been revealed that more than two million Americans are losing their current healthcare plans, a total more than triple the number signing up for ObamaCare. ”What we’re seeing now is reality coming into play,” said industry expert Larry Levitt, of the Kaiser Family Foundation. Many Americans are unaware that this is occurring because ObamaCare mandates 10 minimum standards, whether Americans need a particular kind of coverage or not.

Representative Renee Ellmers (R-NC) drove that point home at the hearing, noting that some single men have to have maternity coverage included in their policy. Sebelius stated that this was necessary because “an insurance policy has a series of benefits whether you use them or not.” Thus, those buying insurance must pay for coverage they will never use, so other people can have coverage. In other words, in addition to taxpayer subsidies included in ObamaCare, those buying insurance are also subsidizing other insurance purchasers.

During the course of the hearing, Sebelius promised the website would be completely operational by November 30, but admitted there are no fallback options for those who have lost their insurance, even if they are unable to sign up for a new policy before their current one runs out.

As far as Sebelius taking responsibility for the current failure of the website, one should remember a similar statement was made by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with regard to Benghazi. Clinton’s acceptance of responsibility amounted to exactly nothing. Since Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest announced late yesterday afternoon that the “President has complete confidence in Secretary Sebelius,” she is likely to “suffer” the same fate.

Meanwhile, as is always the case with this administration and their media sycophants, the real action on healthcare is occurring largely under the radar. While Americans are having difficulty keeping old policies or buying new ones, Medicaid enrollment–as in enrollment in a single payer government run healthcare program–is exploding. The numbers are stark.
In Washington, 87 percent of the more than 35,000 people newly enrolled in the healthcare system signed up for Medicaid. In Kentucky, it was 82 percent of 26,000 new enrollments, and New York, Medicaid accounts for 64 percent of that state’s 37,000 new enrollments. ”Medicaid experts say they’re not sure why they’re seeing the lopsided enrollment numbers, but point out it’s easier to enroll in Medicaid than private insurance,” reports CBS, apparently oblivious to obvious correlation.

What some Americans are not oblivious to is the threat this represents. ”Either the private insurance enrollments come up somewhere around the expected amount or there’s going to be a problem. … You need a volume and you need a mix of people that are healthy as well as high users in private insurance, in order to have it be sustainable,” said Gail Wilensky, a former Medicaid director.

What Americans need to ask themselves is this: is the chaos surrounding the implementation of the healthcare bill, coupled with the explosion of Medicaid enrollments enabled by the same bill, happening by accident or design? “My commitment is to make sure that we’ve got universal health care for all Americans by the end of my first term as President,” said Barack Obama in 2007, at an SEIU union Healthcare Forum. Obama envisioned a 10 to 15 year rollout, and some critics contend the current ineptitude is happening too fast for Americans to swallow a wholesale transition to single-payer government run healthcare.

Yet millions of people losing healthcare coverage, with dim prospects of finding affordable alternatives at this moment in time, could conceivably alter that equation. If there is one thing the massive expansion of the welfare state has proven, it is the reality that a record-breaking number of Americans are willing to be subsidized by their fellow Americans. Furthermore, demonizing private insurance companies that many Americans already hold in contempt, to the point where they would be driven into bankruptcy, is certainly not unimaginable. The president did his part yesterday blaming “bad apple” insurance companies for canceling plans.

Unfortunately for Americans, the demonization may amount to little more than piling on: there is a good possibility the quality of current enrollment is already producing a death spiral in the industry.

The Obama administration has promised to reveal the number of enrollees in the new system the middle of next month. It could be one of the more historic announcements in recent history, as Americans will likely discover just how much of Barack Obama’s promise to “fundamentally transform the United States of America” has been realized. In the meantime, Sebelius and company will ostensibly be trying to “fix” the current system. The fix as they say, may already be in.

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Atheists don't get God

October 31, 2013
Richard Dawkins on board his atheist bus (PA)

The most signal contribution of David Bentley Hart's The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, and Bliss is to clarify that serious theists and atheists, though they debate frequently concerning the reality of God, are hardly ever using the word "God" in the same way. This fundamental equivocation contributes massively to the pointlessness and meanness of most of these discussions.
It is not so much that Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins disagree with Thomas Aquinas on the existence of God; it is that neither Hitchens nor Dawkins has any real grasp of what Aquinas even means when he speaks of God.
To a person, the new atheists hold that God is some being in the world, the maximum instance, if you want, of the category of "being." But this is precisely what Aquinas and serious thinkers in all of the great theistic traditions hold that God is not. Thomas explicitly states that God is not in any genus, including that most generic genus of all, namely being. He is not one thing or individual -- however supreme -- among many. Rather, God is, in Aquinas's pithy Latin phrase, esse ipsum subsistens, the sheer act of being itself.
It might be helpful here to distinguish God from the gods. For the ancient Greeks and Romans, for example, the gods were exalted, immortal, and especially powerful versions of ordinary human beings. They were, if you will, quantitatively but not qualitatively different from regular people. They were impressive denizens of the natural world, but they were not, strictly speaking, supernatural. But God is not a supreme item within the universe or alongside of it; rather, God is the sheer ocean of being from whose fullness the universe in its entirety exists.
It is absolutely right to say that the advance of the modern physical sciences has eliminated the gods. Having explored the depths of the oceans and the tops of the mountains and even the skies that surround the planet, we have not encountered any of these supreme beings. Furthermore, the myriad natural causes, uncovered by physics, chemistry, biology, etc. are more than sufficient to explain any of the phenomena within the natural realm. But the physical sciences, no matter how advanced they might become, can never eliminate God, for God is not a beingwithin the natural order. Instead, he is the reason why there is that nexus of conditioned causes that we call nature -- at all.
The Russian cosmonaut from the 1950's who, having pierced the heavens, confidently asserted, "I have found no God," was speaking so much nonsense, though he would have been right had he changed the "G" from large case to small. This is why the new atheists and their army of disciples are committing a category mistake when they confidently assert that scientific advances cause religion to retreat onto ever-shrinking intellectual turf or when they stridently challenge religious people to produce "evidence" for God. No amount of scientific progress can even in principle pose a threat to authentic religion, and no amount of experimental evidence can tell for or against the true God.
So how do we get at the true God? Hart clarifies that real religion begins with a particular type of wonder, namely, the puzzle that things should be at all. We are surrounded on all sides by things that exist but that don't have to exist. The computer on which I am typing these words indeed exists, but its existence is not self-explanatory, for it depends on a whole range of causes, both extrinsic and intrinsic. It exists only because an army of manufacturers, designers, technicians, etc. put it together and only because its molecular, atomic and sub-atomic structure sustains it. Furthermore, it is situated in an environment that conditions it in numberless ways. The technical philosophical term for this caused and conditioned existence is "contingency."
Now a moment's meditation reveals that all of the conditioning elements that I mentioned are themselves, in similar ways, contingent. They don't explain their existence any more than the computer does. Therefore, unless we permanently postpone the explanation, we have to come, by logical deduction, to some reality which is not contingent and whose very nature is to exist. This power of Being itself, which explains and determines all the contingent things or our ordinary experience, is what serious theists of all of the great religious traditions mean by the word "God." I fully realize, of course, that the vast majority of religious believers wouldn't say that their faith in God is a function of this sort of philosophical demonstration. Nevertheless, they are intuiting what the argument makes explicit.
I often tease the critics of religion who take pride in the rigor of their rationalism. I tell them that, though they are willing to ask and answer all sorts of questions about reality, they become radically uncurious, irrational even, just when the most interesting question of all is posed: why is there something rather than nothing? Why should the universe exist at all?
David Bentley Hart's book helps us to see that the question of God -- the true God -- remains the most beguiling of all.
Father Robert Barron is the founder of the global ministry, Word on Fire, and the Rector/President of Mundelein Seminary.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Obama's Big Lie

The president was deceiving either himself or the rest of us about Obamacare

October 30, 2013

Political Cartoons by Bob Gorrell

"All we’ve been hearing the last three years is if you like your policy you can keep it. . . . I’m infuriated because I was lied to,” one woman told theLos Angeles Times, as part of a story on how some middle-class Californians have been stunned to learn the real costs of Obamacare.

And that lie looks like the biggest lie about domestic policy ever uttered by a U.S. president.

The most famous presidential lies have to do with misconduct (Richard Nixon’s “I am not a crook” or Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sexual relations”) or war. Woodrow Wilson campaigned on the slogan “He kept us out of war” and then plunged us into a calamitous war. Franklin D. Roosevelt made a similar vow: “I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.”

Roosevelt knew he was making false promises. He explained to an aide: “If someone attacks us, it isn’t a foreign war, is it?” When his own son questioned his honesty, FDR replied: “If I don’t say I hate war, then people are going to think I don’t hate war. . . .  If I don’t say I won’t send our sons to fight on foreign battlefields, then people will think I want to send them. . . . So you play the game the way it has been played over the years, and you play to win.”

The burning question about Barack Obama is whether he was simply “playing to win” and therefore lying on purpose, or whether his statements about Obamacare were just another example of, as Obama once put it, “I actually believe my own” spin, though he used another word.

“No matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people,” he told the American Medical Association in 2009. “If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If 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.”

No matter how you slice it, that was a lie. As many as 16 million Americans on the individual health-insurance market may lose their insurance policies. Just in the last month, hundreds of thousands have been notified by their insurers that their policies will be canceled. In fact, it appears that more Americans may have lost coverage than gotten it since went “live” (a term one must use advisedly). And when the business mandate finally kicks in, tens of millions more probably will lose their plans.

Ah, but they’ll get better ones!

That appears to be the new rationalization for Obama’s bait-and-switch. “Right now all that insurance companies are saying is, ‘We don’t meet the requirements under Obamacare, but we’re going to offer you a better deal!’” explained Juan Williams on Fox News Sunday.

A better deal according to whom? Say I like my current car. The government says under some new policy I will be able to keep it and maybe even lower my car payments. But once the policy is imposed, I’m told my car now isn’t street-legal. Worse, I will have to buy a much more expensive car or be fined by the IRS. But, hey, it’ll be a much better car! Why, even though you live in Death Valley, your new car will have great snow tires and heated seats.

This is what the government is saying to millions of Americans who don’t want or need certain coverage, including, for instance, older women — and men — who are being forced to pay for maternity care. Such overcharging is necessary to pay for the poor and the sick signing up for Obamacare or for the newly expanded Medicaid.
At least Darth Vader was honest about his bait-and-switch: “I am altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further.” Obama won’t even admit he lied.

At the 2008 Democratic National Convention, Obama talked at great length about the middle class and not once about the poor. His critics on the right said he was lying, that he was really more interested in income distribution. Such charges were dismissed as paranoid and even racist. But the critics were right. Obama was lying either to himself or to the rest of us — because he was playing the game to win.

— Jonah Goldberg is the author of The Tyranny of Clich├ęs, now on sale in paperback. You can write to him by e-mail at, or via Twitter @JonahNRO. © 2013 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

CBS Finally Reports: Benghazi a Planned Attack

By Joseph Klein
October 29, 2013

The Obama White House said last July that it considers the controversy over the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attack to be one of the “phony scandals” that President Obama had accused his adversaries of exploiting to distract the American people from more important issues. But there is nothing phony or distracting about insisting on the unvarnished truth regarding the death of four American public servants at the hands of al Qaeda on the anniversary of 9/11.

“We’re here to kill Americans,” were the chilling words the al Qaeda jihadists used as they undertook their attack that claimed the lives of the four brave Americans, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, John Christopher Stevens. The victims’ families deserve to know the truth. The American people deserve the truth. More than a year later, however, the Obama administration has continued its stonewalling, preferring instead to cast stones at those who insist on accountability for what happened.
By now, Obama and his apologists have probably convinced themselves that they had successfully buried the Benghazi scandal for good. Indeed, much of the mainstream press has been complicit in Obama’s wall of silence, leaving Fox News and some persistent Republican congressmen and senators to try to unravel the web of lies while facing charges of bias and partisanship.

To this day, nobody has been held accountable for the failure beforehand to provide adequate security for Americans in Benghazi, for the stand-down order issued in the midst of the fighting that prevented a possible rescue, or for the cover-up that tried to falsely characterize the pre-meditated jihadist attack on the U.S. Special Mission Compound and CIA facility known as the Annex as some sort of spontaneous mob reaction to an anti-Islam video. But the truth has a way of emerging sooner or later. Finally, the wall of silence, fortified by a pliant mainstream media, is beginning to crack.
CBS News put Benghazi back on the front burner with a scathing report on “60 Minutes” this past Sunday. The “60 Minutes” twitter that supplemented the TV report concluded: “Contrary to early WH statements, Benghazi was a planned, sophisticated attack by Al Qaeda against the barely protected American compound.”
That’s a 180 degree turn from last year when CBS News helped the Obama administration deep six during the presidential campaign a clip of an interview for “60 Minutes” with President Obama on Sept. 12, 2012, one day after the Benghazi attack. In the originally unaired clip, Obama suggested that the attack on the Benghazi consulate was premeditated, rather than a spontaneous reaction to an obnoxious video that became the administration’s talking point.
CBS News correspondent Lara Logan, no shrinking violet as she proved during a personal assault she suffered at the hands of Islamists while reporting from Cairo, delivered the no-holds-barred account of the Benghazi saga. She better have a tough skin. Her CBS colleague Sharyl Attkisson, who had been looking into Benghazi as well as the Fast and Furious scandal, discovered that her computer was hacked by an unauthorized party on multiple occasions.
Lara Logan interviewed several individuals with first-hand knowledge of the mounting security concerns during the months preceding the attacks. Their concerns were conveyed to Washington and ignored. She interviewed “Morgan Jones” (pseudonym), a former British soldier involved with training the unarmed Libyan security force who manned the Benghazi compound’s gates. While performing his duties, he noticed that the separate armed militia hired by the State Department to defend the compound in the event of an attack were not up to the job. “I was saying, ‘These guys are no good. You need to– you need to get ‘em out of here,’” he told Ms. Logan. The warnings went unheeded.
Ambassador Stevens’ deputy based in Tripoli, Greg Hicks – a 22-year veteran of the Foreign Service who testified earlier this year before Congress – told Ms. Logan that, after already having been rebuffed twice in his request for additional security assets, he “was in the process of trying to frame a third request but it was not allowed to go forward.”
There were also clear warning signs that senior Obama administration officials chose to ignore. Green Beret Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Andy Wood, who was one of the top American security officials in Libya where he remained until three months before the attack, was quoted by Lara Logan as saying: “We have learned the U.S. already knew that this man, senior al Qaeda leader Abu Anas al-Libi was in Libya, tasked by the head of al Qaeda to establish a clandestine terrorist network inside the country.” It was not until more than a year after the attacks that this al Qaeda leader was arrested by U.S. forces in Libya and then transported to New York City where he will face a trial in federal court on prior charges relating to his alleged role in bombing two U.S. embassies in Africa.

The failure of the Obama administration to heed multiple warnings to more effectively secure the Benghazi facilities in time and capture or eliminate Bu Anas al-Libi before he could carry out his al Qaeda mission was inexcusable in itself. But the failure to use all possible resources to attempt a rescue of Americans while they were actually under attack was a case of wilful abandonment.
Here is a chilling exchange between Lara Logan and Greg Hicks:
Lara Logan: You have this conversation with the defense attache. You ask him what military assets are on their way. And he says–
Greg Hicks: Effectively, they’re not. And I– for a moment, I just felt lost. I just couldn’t believe the answer. And then I made the call to the Annex chief, and I told him, ‘Listen, you’ve gotta tell those guys there may not be any help coming.’
Lara Logan: That’s a tough thing to understand. Why?
Greg Hicks: It just is. We–, for us, for the people that go out onto the edge, to represent our country, we believe that if we get in trouble, they’re coming to get us. That our back is covered. To hear that it’s not, it’s a terrible, terrible experience.
Who gave the stand-down order? Where was the commander-in-chief during the seven hours of the attacks? These are among the many lingering questions that the Obama administration refuses to answer. It is still stonewalling, but the stones are beginning to crumble.
As for CBS, Lara Logan’s report was a refreshing example of honest journalism in today’s mainstream media. But it may be an anomaly. A day after the “60 Minutes” report aired, CBS News announced that former Obama Chief of Staff Bill Daley is joining the network as a contributor. The revolving door between the Obama administration and mainstream media continues.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Christianity Under Attack in America

October 25, 2013

According to information released at a May 9, 2013 press conference by the families of Navy SEALs killed in an August 2011 helicopter shoot-down in Afghanistan, "military brass prohibited any mention of a Judeo-Christian G-d" and "invited a Muslim cleric to the funeral for the fallen Navy SEAL Team VI heroes who disparaged in Arabic the memory of these servicemen by damning them as infidels to Allah." 
The accusations arose over a "ramp ceremony" held at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan as flag-draped caskets of the dead soldiers were loaded onto a plane for transport back to the United States.  The shocking words of the Muslim cleric, revealed in later translations, were spoken at a memorial service meant to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.  They were yet another example of the abject disrespect of Christians and Christianity endemic to the Muslim world.
Here at home, Christianity and Christian religious practices are also under attack, but in more subtle ways and under a misinterpretation of the principle of freedom of religion.  In the United States, that legal doctrine is cited to marginalize Christian prayer and traditions, while, at the same time, dramatically accommodating and even expanding Muslim religious practices.  Myriad examples exist.
During the recent government shutdown, Catholic priests were warned that they could be arrested for celebrating Mass, even if performed on a voluntary basis.  Under Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel's direction and determination was that priests do not "contribute to the morale" and "well-being" of military personnel."  Thus, offering of the sacraments was prohibited and the Eucharist placed under lock and key.  Curiously, no mention was made of curtailing religious freedom for Muslim service members or furloughing imams.
This prohibition against Christian religious practice is not limited to the military.  Police throughout the land also frequently come down hard against Christians.  In 2010, a group of students from the Arizona-based Wickenburg Christian Academy were ordered by a police officer to cease their quiet prayers on the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.  The officer cited a statute that prohibits demonstrations on the steps, but no official policy bars prayer at that location.
In June of 2010, David Wood and two other Christian missionaries were arrested by Dearborn, Michigan, police at the annual Arab festival for discussing Christianity on a public sidewalk outside the event. The men, who have since been acquitted, were charged with disturbing the peace and spent the night in jail.
Contrast these incidents with a massive public display of praying Muslims during the annual Muslim Day Parade in New York City. Muslims, who are protected each year during the event by Muslim NYPD officers, are free to engage in mass prayer, even prostrating themselves on the streets of midtown Manhattan. Vehicular traffic halts and participants freely harass non-Muslims who attempt to pass through the area on foot.
Meanwhile, the ACLU has been at the forefront of an extensive effort to ban Christian prayer from public schools under the "separation of church and state" provision of the First Amendment.  This is a signature issue for the "civil rights" organization.  However, for Muslim prayers, the organization reverses its interpretation and fights for student rights to engage in prayer.
For example, when Carver Elementary School in San Diego instituted a 15-minute prayer period during class time for Muslim students in 2004, the ACLU endorsed the practice.  ACLU spokesman Kevin Keenan said the group supported Muslim prayer under the First Amendment's prohibition against impeding religion.  In this way, the ACLU was "honoring constitutional standards for freedom of religion."
Again in 2010, the ACLU mustered only mild to nonexistent concern when 6th-graders from a Wellesley, Massachusetts's middle school took a field trip to a local mosque at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center and engaged in prayer.  Parents were told that students would learn about the architecture of the building and observe a midday prayer service.  But once at the mosque -- which is associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, known supporters of Islamic terrorism -- students were told by a mosque official that "Allah is the only G-d" and taught how to recite the midday prayer.  After being encouraged to join the Muslim men, some of the boys prostrated themselves to Allah.
Meanwhile, in Michigan, Dearborn public schools have a policy of accommodating Muslim prayers at school during school hours, as well as ignoring unexcused absences for Muslims to leave school early for Friday prayers.  Yet, in 2009, after a Muslim organization complained about permission slips given to Christian students to attend off-site afterschool Bible study, issuance of the slips was discontinued.
In addition to police, the ACLU, and schools, U.S. courts have also sided with the Islamic religion and against Christianity.  In 2001, the Byron Union School District in Byron, California instituted a three-week unit on Islam for 7th-graders.  Students took Muslim names, recited Islamic prayers, and celebrated Ramadan.  When parents sued the school on the grounds that the course was "officially endorsing a religion," the U.S. Supreme Court rejected their appeal, leaving intact an earlier ruling by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that deemed that the unit did not violate the Constitution and had an "instructional purpose." 
In 2009, the same court of appeals upheld a ban by Henry Jackson High School officials in Everett, Washington against an instrumental performance of Ave Maria at a 2006 commencement ceremony.  A student futilely challenged the school's determination that the song was "an obvious religious piece" at a graduation that should be "strictly secular."
Government entities also bear down on the Christian religion.  After allowing baptisms in Sinking Creek in the Ozarks for an almost uninterrupted 50-year span, the National Park Service in August notified Gladden Baptist Church in Salem, Missouri that permits would now be required in advance of baptism ceremonies in the waterway.  The requirement was later rescinded in response to the intervention of local Congressman Jason Smith.
And this month, in Ovid, Colorado, the director of a city-owned cemetery initially refused to inscribe the Ichthus or "Jesus fish" on the tombstone of a local preacher's wife on the grounds that some people might be offended.  Despite the fact that the cemetery is filled with headstones inscribed with religious symbols and Biblical verses, city officials refused to come to the family's aid.  The cemetery director defended his position with a logic-defying hypothetical: "What if someone wanted to put a swastika?" -- thereby disrespectfully equating a representation of Christ with a symbol associated with Nazi Germany.  The city reversed itself only after public outcry and media attention.
The instances listed above make it readily apparent that the First Amendment is often conveniently misinterpreted to buttress the assault on the Christian religion and its expression, practice, and traditions.  In this way, Christianity is being insidiously expunged from public life using false legal pretenses.  The legitimate interpretation of the provisions of the First Amendment, which include prohibitions against government interference in public religious expression and the establishment of a national religion, has been twisted to prohibit Christian prayer in public places and schools.  This is a false reading of "separation of church and state." 
Yet, as the instances listed above and many others illustrate, this interpretation doesn't apply to "mosque and state."  Freedom of religion has come to mean no freedom for the practice of Christianity but ample freedom to practice Islam.  If the war on Christianity in America isn't halted soon, Barack Obama's statement that "[w]hatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation," will certainly become a reality.