When it dumped 100 emails related to the Benghazi talking points Wednesday night, the Obama White House showed it hasn’t been telling the truth.
These talking points were not the sole product of the intelligence community, but were in fact edited by State Department officials and White House officials and then decided upon at a White House meeting.
After reading these emails, it’s clear the administration’s principal concern behind the edits was to protect itself from public and Congressional criticism, not to get out the facts of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi in which four Americans died.Laying out the facts about the Benghazi attacks was a task better left to substantive policymakers, not spin merchants.
But the emails also leave unanswered important questions, while offering tantalizing clues and suggestions.
First, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland was pushing to water down the CIA-drafted talking points. But she’s not the person in charge at State.
At 9:24 PM Friday, September 14, she complained that the edits made so far “don't resolve all my issues or those of my building leadership. They are consulting with NSS.” NSS could stand for National Security Staff, i.e., the White House.
So who above Ms. Nuland at the State Department was talking to whom at the White House? And did these unnamed parties agree on the final edits that were laid out at a National Security Council Deputies meeting at the White House on the morning of September 15?
Second, we still don’t know who is responsible for cooking up the story offered by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice on Sunday morning, September 16, namely that an anti-Muslim video was the cause of the attack on the Consulate. The emails may yield a possible clue.
There's a series of emails starting Saturday afternoon and going into the evening between an unnamed person at the U.S. mission to the U.N. and National Security Council communications chief Ben Rhodes and NSC spokesman Tommy Vietor about the preparation for Ms. Rice for the Sunday morning talk programs. Could the unnamed USUN staffer be Erin Pelton, the spokesperson for the mission?
Ms. Nuland has already told the press she had nothing to do with prepping Ms. Rice.
Jacob Sullivan, then at the State Department, and now Vice President Joe Biden's foreign policy advisor, says he, too, had nothing to do with preparing Ms. Rice.
But Saturday afternoon and evening, this unnamed USUN staffer told two White House staffers that they needed to get settled on Ms. Rice’s appearances the next morning.
Does that mean the USUN staffer, Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Vietor were responsible for cooking up the absurd and misleading storyline that an anti-Muslim video caused the death of four Americans when it was clear this was a terrorist assault carried out by a group with ties to Al Qaeda?
One final observation: when the task at hand was explaining what happened at Benghazi, it is amazing that so much of the email traffic was between at least seven communications people in six agencies.
With all due respect to communications people, laying out the facts about the Benghazi attacks was a task better left to substantive policymakers, not spin merchants whose principal concern might have been the election less than two months off.
There’s even a summary of a secure video conference conducted Friday with a number of national security, intelligence, and counter-terrorism officials during which Mike Morell, the deputy director of the CIA, offered to sit down with Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Vietor to work out the talking points.
When the deputy CIA director is working on talking points with communications people three layers down in the White House, it shows the power of the spin patrol within the West Wing and gives the appearance that the White House is the ultimate shot caller on the talking points.
Since this is contrary to everything the Obama administration has said previously, these spin merchants have been forced to work overtime recently.The pressure is not likely to end soon, and they have no one to blame but themselves.
This article originally appeared on Foxnews.com on Friday, May 17, 2013.
President Obama may think the dispute over his handling of Benghazi is a “sideshow,” but his remarks Monday at the joint press briefing with British Prime Minister Cameron are evidence that his administration misled the American people and is trying to do so even today.
For example, in just one paragraph consisting of two sentences, Mr. Obama contradicted himself twice. Mid-way through one his lengthy non-answer, the president said:
“Keep in mind, by the way, these so-called talking points that were prepared for Susan Rice five, six days after the event occurred pretty much matched the assessments that I was receiving at that time in my presidential daily briefing. And keep in mind that two to three days after Susan Rice appeared on the Sunday shows, using these talking points, which have been the source of all this controversy, I sent up the head of our National Counterterrorism Center, Matt Olsen, up to Capitol Hill and specifically said it was an act of terrorism and that extremist elements inside of Libya had been involved in it.”
Let’s unpack these two sentences. First, Mr. Obama claims that his briefing from the CIA put the blame for the Benghazi attack on an anti-Muslim YouTube video, even though we know that (a) the video had nothing to do with the attack in Benghazi and (b) no mention of the videos appeared in any version of the talking points.
The president is getting deeper into trouble. He must come clean by revealing who directed the CIA to remove the language about terrorismSo precisely who pinned the blame for the attacks on the video? And will the president reveal his intelligence briefings to an investigative committee to prove that the final talking points tracked what the intelligence community was telling him?
In addition, if the president’s press conference statement is true – that he and his top aides were saying right after Benghazi that these were Islamist-inspired terrorist attacks – then why did a September 20, 2012 New York Times story begin this way?
“The White House is now calling the assault on the American diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, a ‘terrorist attack.’”
“It is self-evident that what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack,” the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, told reporters aboard Air Force One on Thursday. ‘Our embassy was attacked violently and the result was four deaths of American officials.’
“Until now, White House officials have not used that language in describing the assault.”
And why were the following (accurate) phrases excised from the CIA’s original draft of the talking points:
…as to who is responsible for the violence, although the crowd almost certainly was a mix of individuals. That being said, there are indications that Islamic extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.
The wide availability of weapons and experienced fighters in Libya almost certainly contribute to the lethality of the attacks.
The Agency has produced numerous pieces of the threat of extremists linked to al-Qa'ida in Benghazi and eastern Libya. Since April, there have been at least five other attacks against foreign interests in Benghazi by unidentified assailants, including the June attack against the British Ambassador's convoy. We cannot rule out the individuals has [sic] previously surveilled the U.S. facilities, also contributing to the efficacy of the attacks
It certainly appears as if on Saturday, September 15, someone in the administration told the Deputy Director of the CIA to delete these words from the draft talking points.
We don’t yet know who this was, but we need to find out. And you can bet that individual was not a press aide like the State Department press spokeswoman or the communication guy at the National Security Council.
It is simply bizarre for Mr. Obama to suggest the CIA would chuck its early, accurate findings and instead (falsely) inform him that the Benghazi attack was a simple spontaneous reaction to an anti-Muslim video.
Second, Mr. Obama says after Ambassador Rice made the round of five Sunday morning talk programs to sell the blame-it-on-the-video line, that he, the commander-in-chief, sent Matt Olsen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center “up to Capitol Hill…specifically” to say “it was an act of terrorism and that extremist elements inside of Libya had been involved in it.”
If that were in fact the case, then why was Ms. Rice, the most visible and prominent administration spokesperson on this matter, telling the American people something utterly at odds with what Mr. Olsen was telling members of Congress?
As he is prone to do, Mr. Obama constantly misstated the facts Monday. For example, he said “congressional committees” had “reviewed” administration emails about the evolution of the talking points “several months ago” and “concluded that, in fact, there was nothing afoul in terms of the process that we had used.”
That’s certainly not what we heard last week. Just when did which congressional committee clear the administration on preparation of the talking points?
The president is getting deeper into trouble. He must come clean by revealing who directed the CIA to remove the language about terrorism and who authorized that person or persons to so direct the CIA.
He must disclose who prepared Susan Rice for the Sunday morning talk programs and directed her to say something that they knew at the time was untrue. And the president must explain to us, fully and in detail, why he was still wrongly blaming the attacks on the YouTube video weeks after they had taken place. Because the president’s strategy of a modified limited hangout won’t work any longer.
This article originally appeared on Foxnews.com on Tuesday, May 14, 2013.
ABC New’s Jonathan Karl and Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard have both produced some excellent new reporting on the Benghazi scandal.
Mr. Karl has uncovered emails showing how talking points used by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice during her appearances on five Sunday morning talk shows were profoundly misleading.
And in an upcoming Weekly Standard piece, Mr. Hayes reports on the concern inside the CIA, starting with Director David Petraeus, over the efforts to weaken the Agency’s proposed language.
These journalists have done much to advance our understanding of what happened during and after the attack on the American diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, but there still remain critical, unanswered questions.
For example, on whose behalf were State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland and deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes – both of whom played key roles in altering the Benghazi talking points – acting when they objected to the CIA’s language characterizing Benghazi as a terrorist incident?
It’s unlikely that the decision to gut the CIA-draft by expunging any reference to terrorism or possible Al Qaeda links was done by Ms. Nuland or Mr. Rhodes, both communications people. It’s far more likely that they were doing the bidding of people further up the chain of command at the State Department and the White House.
Was Ms. Nuland getting orders from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, either directly or through her chief of staff, Cheryl Mills? Was Mr. Rhodes being told by White House Senior Advisors David Plouffe or Valerie Jarrett to strike any embarrassing reference to Islamic extremists?
For the record, according to Mr. Hayes’ earlier reporting, here’s what the participants of that Saturday morning White House meeting agreed upon:
The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. diplomatic post and subsequently its annex. There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.
This assessment may change as additional information is collected and analyzed and currently available information continues to be evaluated.
The investigation is ongoing, and the U.S. government is working with Libyan authorities to help bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of U.S. citizens.
Note what’s missing: Any reference to the anti-Muslim YouTube video. Yet Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, repeatedly blamed the YouTube video during her Sunday morning talk show appearances.
So who – after the White House meeting on Saturday, September 15 occurred – insisted on this further revision to the talking points and directed Ms. Rice to scapegoat the video? It’s reasonable to assume that people higher-up in the State Department and White House did so. Then the question is, why?
Ms. Nuland has publicly distanced herself from the final talking points and Ms. Rice’s appearances, making clear she wasn’t at the Saturday morning meeting and didn’t prepare Ms. Rice for the Sunday talk programs, according to Mr. Karl.
Jake Sullivan, then deputy chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the State Department’s director of policy planning, has similarly been distanced from any preparation work with Ms. Rice. His name appears in emails Mr. Hayes reports on.
That still leaves lots of people in the West Wing and the Secretary’s suite at State to be heard from.We get a hint of the Administration’s mindset from a new tweet from one of President Obama’s closest confidants, David Axelrod, who tweets:
“@DavidAxelrod: Can't help but feeling that If Ken Salazar were the front runner for '16, the House GOP be holding hearings on the BP oil spill.”
Team Obama wants to make this all about partisan politics. The hope is to distract Americans from what really matters: who in the Obama administration is responsible for presenting the American people an utterly false account of what happened in Benghazi despite having known the truth within hours after the attacks?
What did Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton know, when did they know it, and did they direct Ms. Rice directly or indirectly to mislead the American public two months before a presidential election rather than admit Benghazi was a terrorist attack?
Members of Congress have plenty of time to discover the truth. They should use their subpoena power to do just that. Because this story matters.
This article originally appeared on Foxnews.com on Friday, May 10, 2013.
At his impromptu news conference last Tuesday, President Obama demonstrated he is either so detached he doesn’t know what’s happened as the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) is being implemented or that he knows but intends to brazen his way through an emerging policy debacle. Whichever it is, it’s likely to be a political disaster for the president and his party.
Saying that while there were big changes for those now uninsured, it was a different situation “for the 85 to 90 percent of Americans who already have health insurance,” Mr. Obama said. The only impact for them, he assured us, is that “their insurance is stronger, better, more secure than it was before. Full stop. That’s it. They don’t have to worry about anything else.”
Yes they do.
Start with their premiums. Rather than declining by $2,500 per family of four by the end of 2010 as Mr. Obama pledged, average family premiums have risen from a pre-ObamaCare cost of $13,375 in 2009 to $15,745 last year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2012 Employer Health Benefits Summary.
That’s a $2,375 or 18% increase, not the $2,500 or 19% decrease Mr. Obama promised.
Workers are picking up most of that increase as employers grapple with rising insurance costs by requiring bigger co-pays and deductibles.
Premiums are rising fast for precisely the reason ObamaCare critics predicted: the health care act includes so many mandates and requirements that make insurance much more costly.
Premium sticker shock is even worse for those who aren’t covered by a group or company policy. There has been an “average increase of roughly 50% in premiums for some in the individual market for the same coverage,” according to last year’s “Medical Cost Trend: Behind the Numbers 2013” report from PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute.
Premiums will go up even more and faster for younger families because of the perverse provision of ObamaCare called “community rating.” This causes younger, healthier policyholders to pay higher prices than they would otherwise in order to subsidize the premiums of older, less health policyholders.
Then there was Mr. Obama’s 2009 pledge that he’d never raise taxes on any family making less than $250,000 a year. But the Affordable Care Act includes $525 billion in new taxes during its first decade as law, with ever-higher taxes in the decades ahead. Among these are new levies on medical devices, drug companies, hospitals and providers and insurance policies.
Medical device manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, health care companies and insurance companies will not pay these taxes.
As Congressional Budget Office director Douglas Elmendorf told a Senate hearing, these companies will simply pass the taxes onto their customers.
In other words, sick people needing a medical device, a drug, a hospital stay, a doctor’s care or even the backstop of an insurance policy will pay the $525 billion in new taxes through higher prices for those goods and services.
Last time I looked, there were plenty of sick people who made less than $250,000 a year. And since these taxes are phased in, the tab will get bigger and bigger in the “out” years.
ObamaCare even raises revenue from those in college on a student loan. The Affordable Care Act nationalized student loans issued with a federal guarantee. Now students can only get these loans from the government, not private lenders.
College students are being hit again because the federal government took over the student-loan business in 2010, eliminating the competition. This allows the Education Department to borrow money from Treasury at an interest rate of 2.8% and lend it to college students at a rate of 6.8%. A portion of the profits from overcharging students will be used to help pay for ObamaCare. Mr. Obama also said in 2010 that he didn’t “want a plan that interferes with the relationship between a family and their doctor. So we’re going to preserve that.”
But a massive survey of 14,000 doctors by the Physician’s Foundation, conducted in 2010, said that 40% of physicians said they would drop out of patient care in the next one to three years, either by retiring, seeking a non-clinical job within health care, or by seeking a non-healthcare related job. The majority of physicians (59%) said health reform will cause them to spend less time with patients, most of them saying Medicaid and Medicare patients would be most affected.
Who can blame the doctors? The over 150 new federal commissions, bureaus, agencies, and panels — and the new rules they are charged with crafting to govern every minute action by physicians, nurses and other care givers — are already causing many health professions to contemplate doing something else or retiring early.
But perhaps the worst impact on American families are coping with all of this springs from Mr. Obama’s pledge that “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.”
With $130 billion in cuts to Medicare Advantage plans, the 13 million seniors, or roughly 25% of the total, who use Medicare Advantage are seeing their plans dramatically altered or even cancelled.
But seniors aren’t the only ones impacted by Mr. Obama’s false promise that “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.” More Americans are beginning to understand that ObamaCare will have grave implications for their families and their health coverage.
Insurance is getting more expensive for small businesses to their employees. When insurance coverage gets too expensive, businesses can dump their employees into a government-run pool called an “exchange” and pay a $2,000 fine for each employee after the first 30 workers.
Since most companies pay as much as 80% of the premium costs for their workers, ObamaCare has a perverse incentive for them to dump coverage and drop their workers into the exchange where taxpayers pick up most of the cost.
Companies can also avoid providing insurance by limiting non-salaried employees’ hours to 30 or less a week. Then they escape any penalty for failing to provide coverage.
Already, restaurants, fast food joints, hotels and others in the hospitality sector are moving to limit non-salaried workers to 30 hours or less a week.
This will cause real hardship. Many servers, hotel workers, or fast food employees need to 34 or 35 hours a week plus tips just to make ends meet. They are hearing they’ll get 30 hours and no more from their current employer and have to find the other hours they need somewhere else. Not an easy task in today’s economy.
This trend is likely to affect some retail and other service industries as well. I recently talked with an executive in the auto parts industry who says franchise owners are moving in this direction.
On a more personal note, a family friend recently lost his sales job despite being the leading performer two years running for his company. He’s being replaced by a 30-hour a week non-salaried employee.
Last year, the annual Towers Watson/National Business Group on Health Employer Survey on Purchasing Value in Health Care found that more than two in five employers are at least somewhat likely to direct part-time and temporary workers into exchanges.
For these workers and their families, it doesn’t matter if they like their health care plans. They won’t be able to keep them. And that has consequences for ObamaCare’s price tag.
When the Affordable Care Act passed in March 2010, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that 24 million Americans would get coverage through the exchange, 21 million of them previous uninsured and 3 million who would lose their employer provided coverage.
In its March 18, 2010 score the CBO said the cost for this would be $466 billion, offset by $52 billion in employer penalty payments, with the exchange started in 2014 and being fully operational by 2016. Ninety-five percent of the outlays for the exchange would be paid in the last four years of ObamaCare’s first decade, 2016 to 2019.
This February, the Congressional Budget Office revised its estimates. Now it believes 8 million Americans, not its original estimate of 3 million, will lose their employers provided coverage. That would mean a total of 29 million people, not 24 million, would be covered through the exchange. That would point to the real cost of the exchange being about 17% higher than originally forecast.
The CBO also issued a new projection for the cost of the exchange between 2014 and 2023. This would include the cost for the two years spent phasing in the exchange (2014 and 2015) and the cost for eight years of their operation. That number is now $949 billion.
And the CBO’s new estimate is on the low side.
The actuary’s office at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) at the Department of Health and Human Services says 14 million Americans will lose their employers provided coverage, raising to 35 million the total number who would be covered through the exchange. That would suggest costs being roughly 46% higher than projected.
The Lewin Group, a respected healthcare policy research and management-consulting firm, estimates 17.2 million Americans will lose employer provided insurance so that 38.2 million are covered through the exchange. If the Lewin Group is correct and those in the exchanges number 38.2 million, then ObamaCare’s tab is approximately 59% more than the original estimate.
And economists at the American Action Forum (AAF) suggest 35 million will lose employers provided coverage, putting 56 million into the exchange. If AAF’s estimate of 56 million is accurate, then the cost of ObamaCare’s exchange could be as much as 133% of CBO’s estimate, more than twice the cost Mr. Obama told Americans it would be.
But the Affordable Care Act’s price tag could be even larger. A survey by McKinsey & Company suggests 30% of employers will stop offering health insurance coverage.
Around 61% of firms offer insurance plans per Kaiser’s 2012 Employer Health Benefit report with roughly 170 million Americans having heath insurance tied to their jobs, according to the latest U.S. Census data.
So a 30% decrease in employer provided insurance would mean as many as 53 million lose coverage, bringing the total in the exchange to 71 million. You work the math.
Whatever the final price tag for the exchange, virtually all of the new cost will be deficit financed. It’s hard to see much of the cost being covered by the $2,000 a person fine since it appears most of the workers dumped into the exchange will come from small businesses or workers who are now part-time, non-salaried employees.
The bottom line, then, is that huge problems related to ObamaCare are emerging. Companies – especially small businesses -- are holding back hiring in order to avoid the rising costs of providing health insurance that are being imposed by ObamaCare.
Employers are trying to find ways to limit the hours of non-salaried workers to 30 hours or less a week to avoid ObamaCare’s requirements altogether. And the administration’s estimate of how many people will receive taxpayer subsidized insurance coverage through the exchange may be terribly low, grossly understating ObamaCare’s cost. All these trends are likely to be accelerating as the November 2014 midterm elections approach.
During his press conference last week the president said, “even if we do everything perfectly, there will still be glitches and bumps.”
The problem is that the president constructed an unworkable plan and he’s implementing it incompetently. The result is not “glitches and bumps;” it’s “sinkholes and craters.” And the result is that ObamaCare will become even greater political deadweight for the president and his party.
No wonder Democrats from Senator Max Baucus to liberal favorites like Elizabeth Colbert Busch are running from what Mr. Baucus calls an impending “train wreck.” And there’s not a thing in the world they can do to avoid it.
This article originally appeared on Foxnews.com on Monday, May 6, 2013.
Karl Rove on Bush legacy: “He got the big things right”
By Jonathan Karl, Richard Coolidge, and Jordyn Phelps
Politics Confidential, ABC/Yahoo News
Friday, April 26, 2013
Karl Rove, who has been described by former President George W. Bush as “the architect” of his 2000 and 2004 election victories, isn’t backing down in his defense of the former president’s legacy, saying “he got the big things right.”
“He kept us safe after 9/11, he moved to modernize our tools, provide the tools to fight terror, he called terror for what it was, he tackled the big issues of trying to reform Social Security, Medicare, immigration, education,” Rove tells Politics Confidential, standing outside the new Bush library and museum.
When asked if he has any regrets about the Iraq War, knowing now that Saddam Hussein did not actually possess weapons of mass destruction that were given as the main justification at the time, Rove says he still thinks the war was the right decision.
“I do believe that the Iraq War was the right thing to do and the world is a safer place for having Saddam Hussein gone,” says Rove, who points out that there was a “bipartisan consensus” that Hussein had WMD’s before the U.S. entered the war ten years ago.
On the topic of the 2008 financial crisis that resulted in the greatest U.S. economic recession since the Great Depression, he says President Bush is not at fault.
“I'll tell you what it is: it is a 20 year history of letting these two institutions get out of control,” says Rove.
Rove loosely faults those who let the country’s financial institutions get over leveraged, and specifically identifies Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and other Senate Democrats for threatening to veto a regulatory bill in 2005 that he says would have reined in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
When it comes to ranking the former president on a historical scale, Rove says he’d put Bush high on his list, with the exception of a few presidents.
“The greats, you can't touch: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, FDR, the greats. But yeah, I'd put him up there,” says Rove, who refers to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll that found 47 percent approve of Bush as evidence that he will continue to be remembered more keenly as time goes by.
To hear more of the interview with Rove, and to hear why he thinks Jeb Bush would be a good 2016 presidential candidate for the GOP, check out this episode of Politics Confidential.
On April 25, 2013, President and Mrs. Bush will commemorate the completion of the George W. Bush Presidential Center — home to the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum and the George W. Bush Institute. As part of the Dedication Ceremonies, President and Mrs. Bush will present the Bush Presidential Library and Museum to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) located on the campus of Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, Texas.
Can't make it to Texas for the opening? Watch the webcast here live April 25, 2013 at 8 AM CT. The Dedication Ceremony begins at 10:00 AM CT.
You can also sign up for email updates here and follow the Bush Center on social media to receive the latest news, behind-the-scenes photos, and more at www.twitter.com/thebushcenter.
The 2013 TIME 100
Governor of New Mexico, 53
By Karl Rove
At 18 and armed with a Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum, Susana Martinez guarded parking lots at church bingo nights for her parents’ security business. She later attended law school, becoming a prosecutor and handling child-abuse and homicide cases. Fired by her boss after being called to testify against him, she challenged him at the polls, eventually winning four terms as Doña Ana County district attorney.
Then in 2010, she was elected America’s first Latina governor and New Mexico’s first female governor. Though her state usually votes Democratic, that hasn’t stopped this Republican from working with a Democratic legislature to turn a structural deficit into a surplus, pass education reforms to rate each school’s performance, enact comprehensive tax reform and focus on a pro-growth jobs agenda.
Martinez was considered for Mitt Romney’s running mate last year. If she is re-elected in 2014, her reputation as a reform-minded conservative Republican could grow even more in a second term.
Read full post here.
ICYMI: 'Front Row Seat: A Photographic Portrait of the Presidency of George W. Bush,' By Eric Draper
Former White House photographer Eric Draper’s new book, 'Front Row Seat: A Photographic Portrait of the Presidency of George W. Bush,' is a stunning behind-the-scenes look at President George W. Bush’s time in the Oval Office as told through over one hundred of Mr. Draper's White House photos. His account not only offers a unique view of history, but an irreplaceable portrait of the 43rd president of the United States as well.
Biographer Zev Chafets was granted unprecedented access to the founder and chairman of Fox News, Roger Ailes, and his friends, family and colleagues. The result is a fascinating look at one of the most influential media moguls of all time. In "Roger Ailes: Off Camera," Mr. Chafets presents thoughtful, never-before-told stories of Mr. Ailes' life, modest upbringing and incredible career, from consulting Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush, to founding the number one cable news network ten years running. Even if you're not a routine Fox News viewer, this book is a compelling and inspiring story of the man behind the news.
Find on Amazon.com.
Much media attention is being paid to two reports this week about President Barack Obama’s outreach to Congressional Democrats and Republicans. But there’s a third report – less prominent but more revealing – that sheds light on the president’s real intentions.
One of the two reports that received attention is Ron Fournier’s National Journal article about Mr. Obama’s dinner last week dinner with a dozen Senate Republicans in which Fournier quotes an unnamed presidential adviser.
“This is a joke,” the senior White House official told Mr. Fournier, referring to such outreach efforts. “We’re wasting the president’s time and ours….I hope you all [in the media] are happy because we’re doing it for you.”
Despite later denials by White House press secretary Jay Carney, this candid admission can’t add to the warm and fuzzy spirit of cooperation and comity Mr. Obama insists he wants to nurture.
The second report that’s drawn attention was Tuesday when Mr. Obama told Senate Democrats that they needed to be open to entitlement reforms, such as changing the inflation measure used to calculate benefit changes. While liberal Senators met his remarks with some skepticism and more than a little resistance, it was nonetheless an important move by the president, if sincere and not for show.
The answer to whether this was a real shift in policy or merely meant for public consumption came in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. In the interview, Mr. Obama dismissed the importance of a balanced budget, saying, “We don’t have an immediate crisis in terms of debt. In fact, for the next 10 years, it’s gonna be in a sustainable place.”
It actually won’t be, thanks to the president’s policies (particularly the Affordable Care Act) and saying in so many words that a debt crisis will be his successor’s problem is not a good excuse for doing nothing now.
But Mr. Obama got into even more trouble. Discussing a grand bargain to balance the budget and at least stabilize if not reduce the debt, Mr. Obama suggested the Republican position was “We can only do revenue if we gut Medicare or gut Social Security or gut Medicaid.”
Can the president name a single important Republican who wants to “gut” Medicare or Social Security?
This goes to a deeper truth. Mr. Obama cannot lead the conversation a president must have with Congress about entitlement reform because he seems wholly unable to acknowledge that reasonable people can disagree about policies while sharing a common goal.
In Mr. Obama’s view, Republicans only want “to gut” Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid. Republican policy prescriptions are not just wrong but border on malevolent. Republicans are motivated by a desire to hurt the most vulnerable members of society. And so the president, given his worldview, is incapable of finding common ground. Because you can’t compromise with evil.
Particularly for a president who fashions himself as an intellectual, this is a shallow and sanctimonious way to avoid a serious dialogue. And for a president who campaigned five years ago – it seems like a lifetime ago – saying he didn’t want to be the leader of red states or blue states but the United States, it is an ineffective, irresponsible and – dare we repeat his own description to Barbara Walters of himself – lazy way to try leading.
Name-calling, the occasional slander, and repeatedly constructing a field of strawmen are marks of seriousness. It is, to borrow a phrase from a senior Obama adviser, “a joke.” The president should stop wasting our time and his.
Mr. Obama was able to function when his party controlled the Congress with crushing margins in both houses. That was easy. Now he finds himself presiding over divided government. That is harder. And continuing attacks like this will make it impossible for Mr. Obama to forge the compromises for which presidential leadership is necessary.
This article originally appeared on FoxNews.com on Friday, March 15, 2013.