Get ready for the costs and chaos of Obamacare

Nancy Pelosi was widely mocked when she said of Obamacare, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.” At the time, March 2010, Pelosi’s words accurately described the Democrats’ just-get-it-done approach to passing a national health care bill. But now it turns out Pelosi was wrong. In fact, we have to implement Obamacare so that you can find out what is in it.

Amid the other momentous events coming in 2013 — bitter fights over federal spending, debt, entitlements and immigration — the biggest story of the year, and of 2014 as well, will be the arrival of Obamacare in the lives of every American.

For millions of people, Obamacare will mean, alone or in some combination: higher insurance bills, unwanted changes in status at work, higher taxes, loss of employer-based health insurance and a bewildering bureaucracy that will make today’s already complex insurance maze seem downright simple.

Whether Obamacare’s benefits will outweigh the chaos it produces could decide the future of the program.

Start with higher insurance bills. “The big unwritten story is that for people who already have insurance through the individual market, or small companies that are buying products in the state-regulated small group market — those current policies are going to see premium increases on the order of 25 percent to 30 percent come Jan. 1, 2014,” says James Capretta, a health care expert and close student of Obamacare at the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center. “They are going to have a rate shock like you wouldn’t believe.”

The reason is that those people are generally younger and healthier and are able to get lower rates. Under Obamacare, they will be combined with older and less healthy people who cost more to insure. Capretta says about 30 million people will see a steep increase — a population big enough to make a lot of political noise.

Read more here.

With Obama policy crumbling, White House blames movie for Mideast unrest

With anti-American demonstrations exploding across the Muslim world, the White House is insisting that the deadly attack on U.S. diplomats in Libya and violent protests targeting U.S. facilities in Egypt and several other countries are entirely the result of an anti-Islamic video on YouTube.

“This is a fairly volatile situation and it is in response not to United States policy, not to obviously the administration, not to the American people,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Friday. “It is in response to a video, a film that we have judged to be reprehensible and disgusting. That in no way justifies any violent reaction to it, but this is not a case of protests directed at the United States writ large or at U.S. policy. This is in response to a video that is offensive to Muslims.”

Questioned at length about the causes of the anti-American violence, Carney insisted it was all about the movie. “The reason why there is unrest is because of the film,” he said at one point. “This is in response to the film.” At another moment, he said, “The cause of the unrest was a video.” At yet another, “These protests were in reaction to a video that had spread to the region.”

Despite Carney’s confident assertions, it became clear in the briefing that the administration does not really know that the most serious incident by far, the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others, was in fact the result of the video. (And it’s not at all clear that a full-length version of the film actually exists.) When ABC’s Jake Tapper pressed Carney on whether the Benghazi attack specifically was sparked by the movie, Carney responded, “We don’t know otherwise.”

It is one thing to say an event was caused by factor A, and it is another to say that you don’t know that the event was not caused by factor A. And the latter is the White House position on whether the video caused the Benghazi attack.

Read more here.

Covering Obama, Press Encounters Nation of Islam

By: Byron York

President Obama’s home is in the same Chicago neighborhood as Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. On Saturday night, the overlapping of Obama’s and Farrakhan’s worlds made for a strange, and sometimes testy, encounter between the Secret Service, the press corps covering the president, and the paramilitary security force, the Fruit of Islam, surrounding Farrakhan.

The encounter was written up — for distribution to the press, not necessarily for publication — by the New York Times’ Jackie Calmes. It began a little after 4:00 p.m. when Obama and his family walked to the nearby home of longtime friend Marty Nesbitt for a backyard cookout. It just so happens that Nesbitt lives across the street from Farrakhan.

A few hours after Obama went to Nesbitt’s home, the press pool, including Calmes, was waiting in a bus parked near 49th Street and Woodlawn Avenue, next to Farrakhan’s mansion. The reporters’ Secret Service minder allowed them off the bus to stretch their legs. As they stood on the sidewalk, some of the journalists inadvertently touched the grass next to the sidewalk, and that is when the encounter began. From Calmes’ report:

Immediately a polite man in jeans and T-shirt emerged to ask us to stay off the grass. Though this grass was the curbside city property, we obliged.

But it turned out that simply staying off the grass was not enough to satisfy the man in the T-shirt. Calmes continues:

Soon, however, he was pacing and talking on a cell phone. He went inside the mansion’s black wrought iron fence, crossed the well-landscaped yard, lifted a water bucket behind rose bushes and, voila!, a walkie-talkie. He was heard to refer to “the CIA” once he began speaking into it.

Soon he approached our [Secret Service] agent, asking him to move the van and its occupants, though your pooler could not hear much else he said. But the agent said, “How is this a security breach?” And he asked if the house was a government property.

The man said something else and at that point the agent stuck out his hand to shake hands and introduced himself as a Secret Service agent. He added, “Sir, I can assure you that we will do nothing to interfere with whatever is going on in there.”

It might be assumed that an assurance from the Secret Service would be enough to satisfy any security-minded guardian of Louis Farrakhan. But not in this case. Calmes continues:

The man is back to pacing and talking on his cell, walkie-talkie in hand.

A co-pooler searched the Internet for the address and found it listed on a Web site called NotForTourists and another called Taxexemptworld.com. Indeed, another pooler found a county Web site that confirmed this property is tax exempt for being a religious institution.

Reinforcements arrived — three men in T-shirts reading “Wide or Die!” One surly man has been staring daggers at us. Asked if this is Minister Farrakhan’s house, he just stared at your pooler. Asked again, he said, “I don’t have no comment.”

At nearly 8 p.m. local time we are still holding while POTUS and family remain at the Nesbitts.

More time passed. The men in T-shirts were joined by even more men, from the Fruit of Islam, Farrakhan’s security force. From Calmes:

It’s 8:45 and nearly dark; your pool has retreated back inside the van. We’re outnumbered now by roughly a dozen Fruit of Islam agents for the Nation of Islam. As each casually dressed man arrives, he exchanges elaborate handshake/hug/double air-kisses with others. Two walked by your pooler chanting “Islam.”

Several have filmed and photographed your poolers, the van and its license plates with their cell phones.

One came and stood close to a couple poolers and OUR [Secret Service] agent. He asked if he could help. No answer. He asked again. The man said no. The agent said, “Secret Service — Please move away from this group of people.”

He did. Soon the agent asked us to go in the bus. We did.

At that point, the Secret Service was badly outnumbered by the Fruit of Islam, who apparently believed that some sort of “security breach” had occurred. Were Farrakhan’s men armed? Were there more on the way? The Secret Service agent called for backup. From Calmes:

9:20 local time and our agent got reinforcements from three Secret Service agents. One shook hands with one of the 22 Fruit members we now can count from the van. After a short discussion the three Secret Service agents walked away again.

No word on when we get to leave. We’re guessing POTUS is watching the Blackhawks game at the Nesbitts’ home.

While this was happening, word of the standoff apparently got around as a result of Calmes’ pool reports (they were sent out piecemeal by email). Someone who had read the reports got in touch with Farrakhan to let the Nation of Islam leader know that the people waiting outside were just covering Obama. From Calmes:

The power of pool reportage! Standoff ends, apparently with help of intermediary in Detroit:

Your pooler got a call at about 10:15 local time from a pool report reader who identified himself as the Rev. Gary Hunter, a Baptist minister in Motown who writes and blogs for the Detroit Times. He said he had called Minister Farrakhan and his son and asked them to have the Fruit stand down.

“I told him you were good people,” Rev. Hunter said. “He said he didn’t know you all were just waiting for the president.”

As it happens, the Fruit of Islam indeed had mostly gone by then. The Rev. Hunter apparently is remembered by [White House social secretary staffer Samantha] Tubman, and he said he knows our frequent press rustler Ben Finkenbinder from past travels with Obama.

Anyway, at 10:33 we pulled away and we are at the Obama residence. Never saw POTUS at all.

And that was the end of it. Some observers will make light of the whole thing — just a little misunderstanding with those weird Nation of Islam guys — but the fact that Farrakhan’s security force is close to the president’s home is likely a matter of continuing concern to the Secret Service. And on Saturday night, the two forces ran into each other.

Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/blogs/beltway-confidential/covering-obama-press-encounters-nation-of-islam-95214269.html#ixzz0pS0aGv80

Sestak was ineligible for job Clinton offered

By: Byron York

In a little-noticed passage Friday, the New York Times reported that Rep. Joe Sestak was not eligible for a place on the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, the job he was reportedly offered by former President Bill Clinton. And indeed a look at the Board’s website reveals this restriction:

The Board consists of not more than 16 members appointed by the President from among individuals who are not employed by the Federal Government. Members are distinguished citizens selected from the national security, political, academic, and private sectors.

As a sitting member of Congress, Sestak was not eligible for the job. And since the White House intended for Sestak to remain in his House seat, he would not have been eligible for the board after this November’s elections, provided he was re-elected to the House.

The statement from White House counsel Robert Bauer did not specifically mention the intelligence board, but speaking to reporters Friday, Sestak said of his conversation with Clinton, “At the time, I heard the words ‘presidential board,’ and that’s all I heard…I heard ‘presidential board,’ and I think it was intel.” In addition, the Times reported that “people briefed on the matter said one option was an appointment” to the intelligence board. But the White House could not legally have placed Sestak on the board.

Did the White House not know that? The apparent contradiction is sure to create more questions from Republicans who want an independent investigation of the affair. Why would the White House — normally pretty careful in such matters — offer Sestak a job he couldn’t take? Were there in fact other offers made to Sestak? So far, there has been little discussion of the fact that the Bauer statement said “options for executive branch service were raised with [Sestak].” The plural “options” certainly suggests that more than one job was presented to Sestak, but Sestak himself says his conversation with Clinton was very brief — less than one minute. Whatever the case, if the White House intended Bauer’s statement to put the Sestak issue to rest, it was probably mistaken.

Fawning press now gets cold shoulder from Obama

By: Byron York

Will Barack Obama go an entire year without holding a formal news conference? He’s getting close: The president’s last full-scale session with the press was on July 22, 2009, which was 307 days ago.

When Obama last held a big news conference, there had not yet been terrorist attacks at Fort Hood, Detroit, and Times Square. Scott Brown was an unknown Massachusetts state senator. There was no national health care bill, much less national health care law. Tiger Woods appeared to be a model family man.

A lot can happen in 307 days, which is far longer than George W. Bush or Bill Clinton ever went between news conferences.

In its defense, the White House says Obama answers a lot of questions from reporters, just not in the traditional news-conference setting. In fact, the president does a lot of one-on-one interviews, frequently with sympathetic reporters. But even in terms of brief question-and-answer sessions with the White House press corps, he has still done fewer than Bush or Clinton.

More troubling is that Obama makes no secret of his disdain for the press. Just look at the scene in the Oval Office May 18, when Obama invited a few journalists to watch him sign a new bill — it just happened to be the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act.

“Speaking of press freedom, could you answer a couple of questions on BP?” CBS’s Chip Reid asked Obama after the signing.

“You’re certainly free to ask them, Chip,” Obama said.

“Will you answer them?” Reid continued. “How about a question on Iran?”

“We won’t be answering — I’m not doing a press conference today,” Obama said. “But we’ll be seeing you guys during the course of this week. OK?”

And that was that. In the spirit of the day, Obama conceded that the press had the freedom to ask questions — he just didn’t have to answer them. (By the way, Obama aides edited the exchange with Reid out of the video of the signing posted on the White House Web site.)

When the president hinted he would answer questions “during the course of this week,” he was referring to his meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderon a few days later. After the leaders made joint statements, Obama allowed questions from just two reporters, both from Spanish-language news outlets. Obama took more than 11 minutes to respond to the questions, then said their time was up, leaving reporters frustrated yet again.

While Obama dodges questions, his spokesman stonewalls them. There’s simply no other word to describe the White House handling of Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak’s charge that the Obama administration offered him a job if he would not challenge Sen. Arlen Specter in the state’s recent primary.

Sestak, a former Navy admiral, first mentioned the matter on Feb.18. In the following weeks, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs was asked about it repeatedly. Gibbs didn’t deny the story; he simply said over and over that he didn’t have any information. Finally, on March 16, Gibbs said he had talked to “several people” in the White House and had been told that “whatever conversations have been had are not problematic.”

After Sestak beat Specter, the question arose again. “You never really explained what the conversation was,” ABC’s Jake Tapper said to Gibbs. “Then I don’t have anything to add today,” Gibbs snapped. The spokesman grew noticeably irritated when other reporters tried to follow up. Gibbs had said all he would say.

The situation amazes veterans of previous administrations. “I think it is astonishing that there isn’t carping about this from the press every day,” says former Bush White House press secretary Dana Perino. “Believe me, they would have nailed us to the wall.”

In one sense, the press, or at least some members of the press, have only themselves to blame. Obama treats them with contempt because he knows that when big tests come, they’ve always been on his side. There’s no reason for him to think they won’t be there in the future. “Most of you covered me,” he told the media elite at the 2009 White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. “All of you voted for me.”

That’s the attitude coming out of the Oval Office every day. Why does Obama do it? Because he can.

Byron York, The Examiner’s chief political correspondent, can be contacted at byork@washingtonexaminer.com. His column appears on Tuesday and Friday, and his stories and blog posts appears on http://www.ExaminerPolitics.com

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