Thursday, December 26, 2013

KENDALL: All Americans wanted for Christmas was health care choice

Seeing Obamacare for the first time, it isn’t what we asked for

By Mary Claire Kendall
Wednesday, December 25, 2013 
Originally published in The Washington Times

Illustration by Linas Garsys/ The Washington Times more >
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President Obama's famous unkept promise, "If you like your insurance, you can keep it," has had a Scrooge-like effect on countless Americans this Christmas season.
Far from delighting in Obamacare goodies, as Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius delusionally recommends, millions will be staring at the proverbial lump of coal, having lost health insurance coverage because of Obamacare, forced to fend for themselves on the public exchanges, and facing a very insecure future given steep prices, risk of identity theft, and uncertainty over actual coverage.
Individual stories shine a brighter spotlight on the misery afoot in the land.
Take 7-year-old Hunter Alford from Gainesville, Texas. This salt-of-the-earth child, passionate about country music, playing guitar and keyboards, and soon the fiddle, is now fighting a rare form of cancer without health insurance. His Children's Health Insurance Program coverage was canceled on Nov. 1, after 18 glitch-free months. When Texas transferred the program to Obamacare Medicaid, it seems Hunter's police officer father earned $173 a month too much to qualify.
Can our leaders finally admit it? Obamacare is an unmitigated disaster, and it's time to repeal and replace it with health care reform that works for all Americans.
We've seen this movie before.
Twenty-five years ago, Americans rejected a massive government health care overreach called the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act. Seniors pounced — literally, on the car of House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski, Illinois Democrat — and it was promptly repealed.
While Democrats like to argue Obamacare is the 2010s version of 1930s Social Security, and its 1960s Medicare and Medicaid expansions, Medicare Catastrophic is the more apt comparison.
Like catastrophic Obamacare, Medicare Catastrophic was inspired by social engineering do-gooders who believed government knows best. A Congressional Budget Office staff working paper described its benefits: "The net result of the act if it were fully effective in 1988 would be to reduce out-of-pocket costs (direct costs plus premiums) for poor and near-poor enrollees, while increasing costs for other groups." The ceiling on those increased costs in 1989 was $1,600 per couple, $800 per individual. The legislation also assumed the almost 75 percent of seniors who had Medigap coverage would drop it in favor of Medicare.
It's the same template Obamacare uses: the well-off subsidizing the less-well-off while assuming the former will agree to this beneficence and sign up despite increased costs. It's the same incorrect assumption underlying the anticipated "death spiral" that would make the "Affordable Care Act" increasingly unaffordable, not only for families and individuals struggling with Obamacare sticker shock, but for the nation as a whole.
Just as Medicare Catastrophic was gone when reality set in, so should Obamacare be.
When it's repealed, we can finally put to rest that other big lie: Republicans have no alternative proposal to Obamacare. The Patients' Choice Act, offered in 2009 by Republican Reps. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Devin Nunes of California, and Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Richard Burr of North Carolina, was a particularly good plan. Rejecting top-down, one-size-fits-all government mandates, it emphasized disease prevention and health promotion, affordability, accessibility, transparency and equal tax treatment. Unique among the plans, it transformed Medicaid's inferior health care system such that, as Mr. Nunes said, it would have given the poor not only health care, but "dignity," because it put funds directly into their pockets to purchase first-rate coverage.
In the Christmas classic film "It's a Wonderful Life," Jimmy Stewart plays the part of George Bailey, who learns how different his hometown of Bedford Falls would be if he had never been born. Similarly, now that we've experienced life without "the private option," we know how dismal life can be with "the public option." Isn't it time that Americans be given the freedom to enjoy true choice in health care?
For Hunter, and others like him, it can't happen a minute too soon.
Miracle of miracles: Late in the day on Dec. 19, the Obama administration decided folks who have had their insurance canceled because of Obamacare can buy less-expensive catastrophic-only plans or be freed of the health insurance mandate entirely, the deadline for which was Dec. 23.
President Obama minimized this eye-popping change at his news conference Dec. 20, before he jetted off to Hawaii for his year-end vacation.
It's understandable: This unconstitutional change in the law by presidential fiat is an admission that Obamacare is not working. Mr. Obama is not one to admit failure — much preferring to point out the supposed failure of others, particularly Republicans.
Giving Americans a smaller lump of coal was not exactly a Christmas present.
Mary Claire Kendall, a Washington-based writer, served in the Department of Health and Human Services under President George H.W. Bush.

KENDALL: Ken Cuccinelli, the Virginian

By Mary Claire Kendall
Monday, October 21, 2013
Originally published in The Washington Times
Illustration by Alexander Hunter for The Washington Times
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It’s tempting to call what’s going on in the Virginia gubernatorial race entertainment, mirroring the dysfunction across the Potomac River in the nation’s capital. It is, unfortunately, real. The outcome will shape the political landscape for years to come, impacting not only the 2014 elections — given the morale and policy boost — but more importantly, the critical 2016 presidential race.
Will the other half of the Clinton power partnership — Hillary Rodham Clinton — sit in the White House, thanks to her buddy Terry McAuliffe working from his perch in the Richmond governor’s mansion, when she seeks the presidency?
Or will a Republican with the seriousness of purpose of a Gov. Ken Cuccinelli, radiating out over the Virginia Commonwealth, occupy the White House come Jan. 20, 2017, thanks to rising Republican leadership?
Make no mistake: Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is by far the better candidate for governor than Mr. McAuliffe.
How, though, to get past the lies?
There’s that famous line uttered by Gary Cooper’s character in “The Virginian” (1929), the first Western “talkie,” based on the novel by Owen Wister: “If you wanna call me that — smile.”
Mr. Cuccinelli could say the same to Mr. McAuliffe, who is attempting to distract from his nonexistent governing record by lobbing untruths about the attorney general.
Mrs. Clinton, ending her five-year political hiatus, endorsed Mr. McAuliffe at a rally on Oct. 19, in Falls Church, Va. “I believe Terry has what it takes to lead Virginia forward in this rapidly changing world,” she roared.
The Northern Virginia Technology Council PAC (Tech PAC), which endorsed Mr. Cuccinelli last month, begs to differ.
When Tech PAC met with Mr. McAuliffe, he was “uninformed, superficial, flamboyant, no details, all [expletive deleted],” The Washington Post reported. On the other hand, the council found Mr. Cuccinelli “precise, serious and detail-oriented.”
The Tech PAC endorsement of Mr. Cuccinelli undermines the credentials that Mr. McAuliffe’s campaign touts as the basis for his bid for the governorship — that he is a lifelong pro-business entrepreneur whose administration will be all about jobs.
The reaction of Team McAuliffe — warning that the state’s “doors will be closed” to Tech PAC if the organization sticks with its endorsement — also underscores how Mr. McAuliffe’s business success has largely been achieved through his high-powered political connections, most prominently, to the Clintons.
The Virginia state motto, “Sic semper tyrannis” (“Thus always to tyrants”), would need to be replaced by “Quid pro quo” (“this for that”) in a McAuliffe administration, Mr. Cuccinelli said at a Fairfax Chamber of Commerce debate.
If Mr. McAuliffe is elected governor, it’s a good bet Virginia will kiss goodbye Forbes’ recent ranking of the state as the best for business. For one thing, Mr. McAuliffe would rubber-stamp “Barack Obama’s ‘war on coal,’” that would “kill Virginia coal, Virginia jobs.”
In her endorsement, Mrs. Clinton also trumpeted Mr. McAuliffe’s 21 years living in Virginia, i.e., since the Clintons arrived on the Washington political stage.
Here’s the truth, according to The Washington Post: “McAuliffe has been viewed as a Virginia outsider and Washington insider.” The real Virginian is Mr. Cuccinelli, who, unlike Syracuse, N.Y., native Mr. McAuliffe, grew up in the Old Dominion and attended school there, including the University of Virginia.
Mr. McAuliffe is also a Hollywood insider. His contributions from ZIP code 90210 ranking fourth-highest. Mrs. Clinton is headlining a Beverly Hills fundraising luncheon for him on Oct. 30, hosted by media mogul Haim Saban and his wife Cheryl, costing $15,000 per person, and $25,000 per couple.
He’s using all that non-Virginia Hollywood money to tar Mr. Cuccinelli as anti-woman, using camera techniques Hollywood pioneered and knows best. However, if you visited the attorney general’s home, you’d encounter, besides his wife, five daughters running around the house, along with his two young sons — all of whom he wants to succeed beyond their wildest imaginings.
The most pro-woman (and pro-man) policies are those that create jobs. In this regard, actions speak louder than words, and the Tech PAC endorsement of Mr. Cuccinelli speaks volumes. So this real-life drama continues.
In “The Virginian,” the good-natured cowboy played by Cooper listens to his conscience when he discovers his best friend is cattle-rustling. Hopefully, Virginians will choose as their next governor the candidate who, likewise, consults his conscience before listening to his well-connected friends: the very quality that defines Mr. Cuccinelli.
Mary Claire Kendall writes a regular column on “Old Hollywood andBeyond” for Forbes.

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Benghazi Providing Rich Material For An 'All the President's Men' Sequel?

A picture shows a burnt building at the US con...
A picture shows a burnt building at the US consulate compound in  Benghazi on September 13, 2012. (Image credit: AFP/Getty Images via @daylife)
  originally published September 20, 2013

By Mary Claire Kendall

It was a scene right out of All the President’s Men (1976).
A Chicago reporter, calling a CIA officer about the Benghazi attack, got this response, said Colonel Ken Benway, USA (Ret.) at the Heritage Foundation this week:  “Who gave you my number?,” after which he slammed down the phone.
Cut to Dustin Hoffman playingWashington Post reporter Carl Bernstein, his stunned expression conveying the realization that Washington is in full cover-up mode.
No, that was Watergate.  This is Benghazi.  The two have distinct similarities, albeit Watergate was a two-bit burglary; Benghazi, in which four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, were brutally murdered in a Middle East hot spot, takes it to a whole new level.
“Since January, some CIA operatives involved in the agency’s missions in Libya have been subjected to frequent, even monthly, polygraph examinations,” Drew Griffin of CNN Special Investigations Unit reported on August 1. (In the same report, it was revealed that 35 CIA agents were at the Benghazi compound that night.) One source, said Griffin, called this “an unprecedented attempt to keep the spy agency’s Benghazi secrets from ever leaking out.”  At the same time, some CIA operatives, it was reported elsewhere, were being forced to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA).
“The reports on the non-disclosure agreements are accurate,” Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) told me at the Citizens’ Commission on Benghaziconference, held at Heritage. Additionally, he said, he was called by “a person on the scene in Benghazi, asked to sign another NDA, and he wouldn’t do it, so therefore he has a lawyer downtown to fight this with regard to his career.”
As to the polygraphs, Wolf said they are usually done every 3-5 years, but “we’ve heard that they are polygraphed again every (few) months in order that they not speak to the media… (nor) to Congress” about Benghazi.
Kevin Shipp, a former CIA officer, said these interrogations are grueling and, if they are done to intimidate, are illegal.  In fact, Griffin reported that the frequent polygraph tests were “being described as ‘pure intimidation’ with the threat that any unauthorized CIA employee who leaks information could face the end of his or her career.”
Wayne Simmons, another former CIA officer, offered a plausible explanation for why this is happening:
I spent 27 plus years running nothing, and doing nothing, but special operations. I know what they look like. I know how they end… This Benghazi assault, this attack has all, and I mean all of the earmarks of what we call a ‘con op’—Concept of Operation… This did not happen because some guy rented a video… we don’t know who planned it; we don’t know who drew it out—yet… All of the responses by every single person involved and group involved was drawn out, methodically planned and contingencies are so vast and so perfect as to buy, whoever was responsible for this, the time (now, almost 13 months) they needed (post-op)… It is virtually impossible for an operation like this to have happened compartmentalized in one agency… Every day that goes by the accountability of those responsible gets… further and further away. They know this. They know how it works. That’s what everyone involved is counting on…
—Wayne Simmons, Former CIA Officer, Remarks to Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi, September 16, 2013
The Accountability Review Board, chaired by Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering and Admiral Mike Mullen, investigated the matter for the State Department, issuing its findings in December 2012. But, it’s not hard-hitting, said Christopher Farrell, Director of Investigations & Research at Judicial Watch, serving as their main representative at United Nations Headquarters in New York.  So, Farrell, a former Military Intelligence Officer, specializing in Counter-Intelligence and Human Intelligence, focusing on unconventional warfare and terrorism, asked a recently retired diplomatic security service agent by the name of Ray Fortier to shed light on ARB’s findings.  Fortier, who served for 30 years as an RSO (Regional Security Officer) and a Chief Security Officer for the State Department in five different embassies around the world, “had knowledge of all practices, procedures, lines of communications, chain of command, all the details, all the functions, all the activities within the State Department,” said Farrell.
Unanswered Questions for Accountability from the Obama Administration” is the fruit of Fortier’s ‘slicing and dicing’ of ARB’s findings. “Instead of the self-serving, I’m going to ask and answer my own questions outline of the ARB, where no one gets their hair mussed,” said Farrell, “Ray goes in and takes apart the report and asks all those inconvenient, awkward questions that, to this day, have not been answered—not adequately, not sufficiently.”
One big elephant in the room is the fact that, as Farrell pointed out, “Special Mission” compound or consulate is “a manufactured term by the State Department in an attempt to do an end-run around Congress… It’s not in the law. It doesn’t exist.”  The reason they created it and insist on calling it that, said Farrell, is “because they need to have an excuse as to what they were doing in Benghazi. Those are details that the Administration would like to airbrush out of the narrative. They don’t want to discuss that there’s no legal standing for what took place in Benghazi because it puts them in a very awkward position.”
Someone else, who is asking hard questions, is Charles Woods, father ofTyrone Woods, one of the four, who tragically died that evening.
“His most important question,” said Roger Aronoff of Accuracy in Media, host of Monday’s meeting, is, who made the decision not to save Ty Woods and the other Americans who died under siege?,” including Glen Doherty and Sean Smith.  The question becomes “more compelling,” he said, because “denial of help came from official sources who knew real time that the attacks were terrorist attacks.  Still military and CIA were ordered to ‘stand down.’”

Woods, a retired lawyer, opened his remarks by noting, “It’s been over a year… and we still don’t have the answers, we still don’t have the truth.” Taking the president’s cue, who “had offered to reach out to the families,” Woods addressed a letter to him.  “I am the father of Tyrone Woods, who was killed while heroically defending the American consulate in Benghazi,” he wrote. “In order to bring closure to my family, there are questions that need to be answered.  These are some of the questions:  Who made the decision to stand down?  And when and why was the decision made?”
Only two people, he said, are empowered to give the “stand down” order—the President of the United States and the Secretary of Defense.
That all the President’s men are refusing to provide answers to these and other questions, is why, Cong. Wolf said, it’s imperative that Congress convene a select committee to investigate. Watergate occasioned such a body.  Officially known as the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, it convened 40 years ago this past May.  Wolf is sponsoring legislation, HR 36, to establish this committee; it now has 176 co-sponsors, with 42 more needed to pass. The committee should be conducted, Wolf said, in such a way that when Americans watch the hearings, answers to questions are not limited to five minutes so that experts like Cong. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), a former U.S. district attorney, and Cong. Jim Jordan (R-OH) have sufficient time to lay out the facts of the case.
The subpoena power of this select committee, Wolf said, would help protect witnesses.  “Those who come forward on their own” have no protection.  “You know what they do in the government,” said Wolf. “They put you in a room, about 12 by 12 with a metal desk. And, there’s a phone, one picture of the agency or something and the walls are green, nobody calls you and a year goes by.  Look what they’ve done to (Gregory) Hicks (former Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya),” said Wolf. “Hicks is a hero. And, yet Hicks is being treated” poorly.
All the chatter inside Washington that this committee could discern the truth of, suggests the real story, being covered up, is that the Benghazi compound had warehouses full of Libyan weapons, including many MANPAD surface to air missiles (SAMS), being inventoried by the two former SEALS for shipment to Syrian rebels, including Al Qaeda, via Turkey.  Ambassador Stevens had dinner with the Turkish Consul on September 11, 2012, leaving at 8:30 p.m.  Over dinner, the Consul advised the Americans to leave town immediately because the “gun walking” had been exposed and the locals, as well as the Russians, knew what was going on.  The advice was ignored and we know the rest of the story. The attack began at 9:40 pm.  Sources tell me hundreds of SAMS went missing in the aftermath and their presence that night, without more ground information or support, was the reason military planes were not sent in to try and rescue those fighting for their lives at the embattled mission and that once they realized the ambassador was lost in this CIA operation gone bad, they rescued as many as possible with agency assets sent in from Tripoli.
Is that “Deep Throat” I hear clearing his throat?
One citizen, Mike from Long Island, noting his family’s heroic, humble service in so many wars, including World War II, made an impassioned plea at Monday’s meeting, asking what an ordinary citizen like himself could do to help this effort.
Charles Woods had a ready answer:  Pray.