“We’ve got to move forward on this,” Says The President

Yesterday Speaker John Boehner said the health care law needed to be fixed. Today he said it can’t be fixed. Tomorrow, who knows what he will say. But what we do know is that beneath all the hysterical media coverage of the number of people who have so far signed up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act—106,000 brave or desperate souls—lies one simple fact: Republicans have exactly no interest in making the law work, in helping people who can’t get or can’t afford insurance, some 41 million Americans.

In a better world, that is, in a world where there really is a liberal mainstream press, the reporting on what is happening relative to ObamaCare would be much different. It would start by noting that the disappointing numbers of insurance buyers is not just the result of the troubled federal website, or the normal wait-till-the-last-minute propensity we all have, but the reporting would also point out that the other side has been trying to destroy the law or, failing that, scare people into avoiding it.

Reporters would tell the people that despite the Republican conspiracy to sabotage the law, despite the concerted efforts by the right-wing to encourage people not to sign up, a rather large number of folks—at least at this stage of the process—have nevertheless found their way into the marketplaces and signed up for coverage. Reporters, in my ideal world, might lead their coverage with the fact that almost 400,000 people, some who likely never had insurance in their lives, have signed up for Medicaid.

As I said, that kind of news coverage would be in a better world, not the one we live in.

In any case, President Obama came forward in a news conference today and announced some tweaks to the law. He was responding to media pressure and to pressure from fraidy-cat Democrats,President Barack Obama pauses while speaking about his signature health care law, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. Bowing to pressure, President Barack Obama intends to permit continued sale of individual insurance plans that have been canceled because they failed to meet coverage standards under the health care law, officials said Thursday. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) as well as to the genuine concerns some Americans have about the cancellation of their policies.

The President also took all of the blame for the problems associated with the law (“we fumbled the ball” and “I feel deeply responsible”), especially his promise that people could keep their insurance, even if a lot of it is crappy insurance. He absolved congressional Democrats, some who are shaking in their political boots, of any responsibility for that so-called broken promise. Now those Democrats can go home and tell the folks it was all Obama’s fault. Happy now, Dems?

The President announced today that he is trying to make it possible, as I said, for people to keep their mostly crappy insurance policies because the grandfather provision in the law was insufficiently protective of such sub-standard plans:

What we wanted to be able to do is to say to these folks, “You know what, the Affordable Care Act is not going to be the reason why insurers have to cancel your plan.”

We all know, and the President acknowledged it, that any of the normal disruptions or problems (like rising premiums) in the health insurance market are going to be blamed on the ACA. And if insurance companies don’t take advantage of the fix the President announced today (and how that fix will be implemented is not clear), he will still get slammed on Fox “News” and, sadly, in much of the mainstream press. That’s just the way it is these days. As I write, Andrea Mitchell is reporting that the insurance industry is complaining that what the President proposed won’t work and that the blame is squarely on him. Blah, blah, blah.

Democrats, as is their tendency, usually jump ship when their boat has a leak in it. Some of them in the House were threatening to vote on a Republican-sponsored “fix” to the law that would essentially, as it was really designed to do, undermine it. But President Obama is not jumping ship. “I’m up to the challenge,” he said. He noted, rather importantly:

We’ve got to move forward on this. It took a hundred years for us to even get to the point that we could even start talking about and implementing a law to make sure everybody got health insurance. My pledge to the American people is that we’re going to solve the problems that are there, we’re going to get it right, and the Affordable Care Act is going to work for the American people.

Will the President’s press conference shut down all the criticism? Of course not. Fox “News” will go on doing segment after segment about disgruntled people who had their policies cancelled while it ignores the millions upon millions who stand to be helped by the law, particularly if Republicans will stop sabotaging it; Fox will go on showing graphics of a non-working website, long after it has been repaired. And the mainstream press will treat all of this like it is a political game, rather than a long-awaited attempt to do something good for Americans, even if doing this particular good is enormously complicated and necessarily problematic.

Finally, I want to make a comment about what Alex Wagner, a reliable progressive on MSNBC, said after the President spoke. She said he “seemed a wounded man today.” No, he didn’t. He seemed like a disappointed but determined man who is trying to do all he can do to guide the ACA through a rather difficult storm, a storm that, unfortunately, is a rather perfect one for Republicans, for those who never before gave a damn about those millions of people who will, hopefully and when all is said and done, get health insurance through ObamaCare.

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

A Quick, Reasonably Accurate Summary Of Obama’s Press Conference

Here is, more or less, a quick summary of President Obama’s presser today:

  • The NSA intelligence gathering program is not about spying on you, worried Americans, but the President suggests that it can be made a little more transparent and less worrisome. So, don’t worry, all you worried Americans.
  • Oh, in case you didn’t know, Edward Snowden, the leaker of classified information who is charged with three felonies, is not a patriot. If Snowden thinks he is a genuine whistleblower, as opposed to a felon, he can stop using authoritarian-polluted Russian air to blow in his whistle and come back here and face justice.
  • Vladimir Putin and the President have a pretty good personal rapport, except when they don’t. And Americans will go to the Winter Olympics, if only so our gay and lesbian athletes can kick Ruskie butt.

obamanewsconference

  • Obama wouldn’t have to unilaterally delay the ACA’s employer mandate, if there were normal Republican leaders in Washington who would work with him. Having found no “normal” Republican leaders, the President implied, he had to act on his own.
  • The immigration bill that passed the Senate would pass the House, again, if only there were “normal” Republican leaders.
  • The President reminded folks that it took him longer than 11 months to send Osama bin Laden on a deep-sea snipe hunt and that those responsible for killing four Americans in Benghazi will hopefully one day have a date with the bottom of the ocean, or another form of justice.
  • Republicans have made Kill ObamaCare their “holy grail,” and they have been lying about the Affordable Care Act, and they don’t have a plan to replace it, and there is something wrong with a party that would sabotage the country in order to keep 30 million Americans from getting affordable health care. The President’s remarks on right-wing efforts to threaten the country with even more dysfunction amounted to a spinning headlock elbow drop on the GOP.

Have a happy and well-deserved vacation, Mr. President.

[AP Photo]

A Very Stupid Game

Via his press conference on Monday, President Obama has now at least tried to educate the people (journalists don’t help much, though) as to just how damaging a failure to raise the debt ceiling would be (“the consequences of us not paying our bills…would be disastrous“).

He has also tried to educate the people (again, with little help from journalists) as to what the debt ceiling actually is: paying for spending already authorized (“These are bills that have already been racked up and we need to pay them“).

The President also laid out the two choices that Republicans are offering him, neither of which he says he will accept:

And so what we’re not going to do is put ourselves in a position where in order to pay for spending that we’ve already incurred, that our two options are we’re either going to profoundly hurt the economy and hurt middle-class families and hurt seniors and hurt kids who are trying to go to college, or, alternatively, we’re going to blow up the economy.  We’re not going to do that.

Ain’t gonna happen, he said. Rather than those two damaging options, President Obama spells out the two options Republicans really have:

So we’ve got to pay our bills.  And Republicans in Congress have two choices here:  They can act responsibly, and pay America’s bills; or they can act irresponsibly, and put America through another economic crisis.  But they will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy.  The financial well-being of the American people is not leverage to be used.  The full faith and credit of the United States of America is not a bargaining chip. 

And they better choose quickly, because time is running short. 

There you have it. They can act responsibly or irresponsibly. It’s their choice.  And the President says he will not be a party to their recklessness, should they choose that route.

Which is exactly why Republican leadership, despite their rhetoric now, will find a way to pivot away from this disastrous debt-ceiling talk and on to a fight over the upcoming budget resolution.

They realize that the President is willing to give them the rope to electorally hang themselves, and most of them don’t even want to feel the noose around their necks, let alone hang up there for all to see, their political bodies swinging in the wind of public disgust.

Finally, if you read the transcript of that press conference, you will see that President Obama didn’t exactly rule out any unilateral executive action to raise the debt ceiling, should Republicans refuse to do so. He was pressed on this issue and, while it sounded like he wouldn’t go down that road, he left himself enough room to do so to avoid what he called “disastrous consequences” or, as he quoted John Boehner, “a financial disaster, not only for us, but for the worldwide economy.”

And really, given such stakes, what else could he do?

Here are a few clues from his presser as to why he just might take action on his own (emphasis mine):

So to even entertain the idea of this happening — of the United States of America not paying its bills — is irresponsible.  It’s absurd.

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…there are no magic tricks here.  There are no loopholes. There are no easy outs.  This is a matter of Congress authorizes spending.  They order me to spend…They lay all this out for me because they have the spending power.  And so I am required by law to go ahead and pay these bills. 

Separately, they also have to authorize the raising of the debt ceiling in order to make sure that those bills are paid.  And so, what Congress can’t do is tell me to spend X, and then say, but we’re not going to give you the authority to go ahead and pay the bills. 

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You do not go out to dinner and then eat all you want, and then leave without paying the check. And if you do, you are breaking the law.

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And the notion that Republicans in the House, or maybe some Republicans in the Senate, would suggest that “in order for us to get our way on our spending priorities, that we would risk the full faith and credit of the United States” — that I think is not what the Founders intended.  That’s not how I think most Americans think our democracy should work. 

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What I will not do is to have that negotiation with a gun at the head of the American people — the threat that “unless we get our way, unless you gut Medicare or Medicaid, or otherwise slash things that the American people don’t believe should be slashed, that we’re going to threaten to wreck the entire economy.”  That is not how historically this has been doneThat’s not how we’re going to do it this time.

Obviously, President Obama cannot come out and say directly that he will not, as America’s chief executive, let the country default on its obligations. If he did so, it would empower Republicans to not raise the debt ceiling and then blame him for the unilateral action (some on the right have already suggested impeachment, should he do so).

So he has to play this part of this very stupid game with his cards close to his chest.

 

President Obama Dope Slaps McCain And Graham At Press Conference

If you heard a loud pop this afternoon, it came from Washington, D.C., as President Obama, during an excellent press conference that every American should have seen, dope-slapped John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

And it’s about damn time.

Here was the question and the President’s remarks:

JONATHAN KARL: Thank you Mr. President. Senator John McCain, and Senator Lindsey Graham both said today that they want to have Watergate-style hearings on the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, and said that if you nominate Susan Rice to be Secretary of State, they will do everything in their power to block her nomination. Senator Graham said, he simply doesn’t trust Ambassador Rice after what she said about Benghazi. I’d like your reaction to that? And — and would those threats deter you from making a nomination like that?

OBAMA: Well first of all I’m not going to comment on various nominations that I’ll put forward to fill out my cabinet for the second term. Those are things that are still being discussed. But let me say specifically about Susan Rice, she has done exemplary work. She has represented the United States and our interests in the United Nations with skill, and professionalism, and toughness, and grace. As I’ve said before, she made an appearance at the request of the White House in which she gave her best understanding of the intelligence that had been provided to her.

If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me. And I’m happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi? and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received? and to besmirch her reputation? is outrageous.

And, you know, we’re after an election now. I think it is important for us to find out exactly what happened in Benghazi, and I’m happy to cooperate in any ways that Congress wants. We have provided every bit of information that we have and we will continue to provide information. And we’ve got a full-blown investigation, and all that information will be disgorged to Congress.

And I don’t think there’s any debate in this country that when you have four Americans killed, that’s a problem. And we’ve got to get to the bottom of it and there needs to be accountability. We’ve got to bring those who carried it out to justice. They won’t get any debate from me on that.

But when they go after the U.N. ambassador, apparently because they think she’s an easy target, then they’ve got a problem with me. And should I choose, if I think that she would be the best person to serve America in the capacity at the State Department, then I will nominate her. That’s not a determination that I’ve made yet.

That was a presidential beat down. And McCain and Graham deserved every bit of it.

A Radically Simple Solution

If you missed today’s Obama presser, here is all you really need to know about what he said: 

We’re not Greece; we’re not Portugal…It turns out we don’t have to do anything radical to solve this problem.

We don’t need to “gut” social programs or stop investing in our country’s future, Obama said, what we need is,

modest adjustments to get our house in order.

Those modest adjustments, of course, must be put in place soon and must stay in place over time, but Obama—seemingly the only non-radical in Washington—calmly and rationally told the American people that, “We don’t need a Constitutional Amendment to do our jobs,” but only a commitment to do what Obama says “80% of the American people” want done: fix the debt problem with a balanced approach—a mix of spending cuts and revenue increases.

In a weird sort of way, it really is that easy.  The truth is that we don’t need to do anything radical because the solution is radically simple: cut spending and raise taxes.

If only the radicals would shut up and govern.

Obama’s Presser: Here’s What He Said, Sort Of

In case you missed it, here’s what President Obama said today to various folks (more or less, in my stunningly accurate interpretation) during his press conference, the theme of which was, “Congress, get off your ass and go to work, the middle class is hurting“:

To those worried about jobs: There are plenty of job-creating bills in the congressional hopper right now that I would sign, if only Congress would act.  But speaking of acting, what the hell have you guys been doing?  While I’ve been dealing with Libya and handing over bin Laden to the bottom feeders, the Congress is here one week and gone the next.  Sheesh.  Good work, if you can get it.

To those who don’t want to raise revenues to help alleviate the deficit: Are you nuts? I’ve spent the last two years cutting taxes for ordinary folks, but the millionaires and billionaires and the oil companies and those who flitter about on corporate jets need to cough it up.  Come on, people.

To those who wonder whether Republican leadership will stop the nonsense and make a deal on the debt ceiling: My hope—and I confess at this point it is only a hope—is that despite all the teaparty talk, that eventually “leaders will lead” and do the right thing.  This debt ceiling business is not an abstraction.  It could kill the economy. The August 2 date is real and we won’t have any more “tools” to put off paying our bills.  Get busy.

To those who wonder what Obama’s stand on gay marriage is: Look, obviously I’m changing my mind about that issue but I’m not dumb enough to tell you that today because that’s all that would make news.  I came here to point out that Republicans have to get their act together on the debt ceiling negotiations and stop playing games.

To those worried about the National Labor Relations Board’s decision on Boeing:  Union folks, close your ears for a minute while I toss you under the bus:  The main thing is that as long as Boeing is keeping jobs here in America, nothing else much matters.  Okay, union folks, you can listen in again.

To those worried about over-regulating businesses: Don’t worry.  Businesses always complain about that stuff and we are working on eliminating a lot of previous regulations that we think are unnecessarily hindering business.  Give us a chance to get that done and you will be very, very happy.

To those making a fuss about his Libya policy: Are you kidding me?  Do you want to side with the American-killer, Kaddafi?  There’s no constitutional issue involved because I’m doing exactly what I said I’d do and this is nothing like Vietnam.  Do I look like Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon?

To those who note that Obama didn’t use the word “victory” in his talk about Afghanistan:  Victory?  No way would I use that word, but I will use the word “success.”  And by success I mean giving the Afghanis a chance to defend themselves, whether they ultimately can or not.  I don’t mean turning their country into some kind of Jeffersonian paradise.

To those worried about how we will prosecute future terrorist suspects who are apprehended:  We will deal with those individuals on an individual basis, but the American people should rest assured that our top priority is killing the bastards who want to kill us.

To those concerned about our immigration policy: Nothing has changed.  We need comprehensive reform and we need to pass the DREAM Act. I’m shipping back more undocumented folks than any president in recent memory, so what more do you want from me?  Congress must act. 

To those worried about whether Sasha and Malia are getting their homework done: Look, my kids are more responsible than Republicans in Congress. They don’t wait ’till the last minute, when they know they gotta do something.

To those wondering whether the idea of cutting payroll taxes to stimulate the economy must be part of the debt ceiling agreement: Before I answer this one, I would like for all the Republicans to plug their ears: Hell no, it doesn’t.  I’m willing to wait on the stimulus as long as we get a deal on the debt ceiling. And I’m willing to say so right now, which means, of course, that I have lost my edge in negotiations.  Why the hell did I do that?

To those who want to know if Obama believes he can use the Fourteenth Amendment to get around the debt ceiling limitation statute:  I’m sort of not going to remember that Chuck Todd of NBC News ask me about that one.  Maybe I’ll just surprise you later.

Finally, to the middle class:  I think about you ever minute of every day because I know how desperate some of you are.  I came into this office pledging to fix the problems that plague you and most of the time the Republican leaders in Congress only want to play political games and look only to the near-term.  I’m a long-term sort of guy, and I am willing to make deals that aren’t that popular with the base of my party because I believe that in the long run fixing this economy and getting the deficit under control will serve you the best.

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