Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Morning Must Reads from DCExaminer

NBC News -- Obama: I’ll continue to reach out to GOP
One would be tempted to say NBC was the most ridiculous and fawning of all the news organizations when it comes to interviewing President Obama – Brian Williams going out for burgers with the president, etc. – but that would be giving short shrift to CBS. Sixty Minutes man Steve Kroft has been nuzzling Obama since back in the Democratic primaries and on Friday, Harry Smith will interview the president during a game of hoops at the White House basketball court – with a cheesy cross promotion to the network’s March madness coverage. That’s bush league, even for a morning show.

But NBC probably still wins the battle of the lightweights on points.

This morning, the president’s interview with Matt Lauer aired on Today. Credulous throughout, asked the president was if he really he could reach out to the Right, despite all the things they’ve said and done. Obama said that though conservatives are undeserving, he would still help them overcome their petty fears and prejudices.

The Lauer interview, Smith’s hoop dreams, and the visit to snub Hamid Karzai in person in Afghanistan, are all part of the rollout of the new, new Obama – the tough guy who gets results.

Today Obama will also sign the health care reconciliation bill, which the White House is re-branding as a college loan bill. The feds took over the student loan program to Hoover up billions of dollars currently going to private bank interest and repurpose it to Obamacare. The bill also adds hundreds of billions in new taxes, including a 4 percent tax on investment income.

But the message from Obama: those who oppose his policies (say, 54 percent of the electorate) have been led astray by radical and racist xenophobes who hate him personally and have no legitimate reason to dissent. Obama blames the news media for spreading these bitter, clinging instincts to other succeptable minds. (To complain about bad press in the middle of such sycophancy must have been some kind of veiled joke.)

If you think that spending $2 trillion when we’re already $12 trillion in the hole and that putting a government that has failed to steward the existing welfare programs in charge of the rest of health care sound crazy, you’ve probably been misled by a birther and may soon unwittingly join a militia.

Lauer did not ask the obvious questions – Are you concerned that making these invidious distinctions for your own political gain will further divide the country? Are you concerned that it will backfire?

Brett Baier, and to a lesser extent, George Stephanopoulos are so far the only interviewers who I’ve seen question Obama’s assumptions.

But maybe I’m just mad because Obama jinxed my WVU Mountaineers by picking them to beat Duke and win the national championship. You know Obama’s a Duke guy. Why pick on West Virginia?

“Moving back to domestic topics, Obama took a measured view of the Tea Party movement that has focused its anger on him and his administration. He took care to distinguish between the people who question his citizenship and who are convinced he’s a socialist and those who are simply concerned about the future of a country going through economic turmoil.

‘There's a part of the Tea Party that actually did exist before I was elected … where there's some folks who just weren't sure whether I was born in the United States, whether I was a socialist. Then I think that there's a broader circle around that core group of people who are legitimately concerned about the deficit, who are legitimately concerned that the federal government may be taking on too much. And I think those are folks who have legitimate concerns. And my hope is that as we move forward and we're tackling things like the deficit, imposing a freeze on domestic spending, taking steps that show we are sincere about dealing with our long-term problems that some of that group will dissipate.’”

New York Times -- Companies Push to Repeal Provision of Health Law
The shady accounting of the Republicans’ Medicare drug benefit depended on companies continuing to cover retirees’ prescriptions, which was going the way of the defined-benefit pension plan. As an enticement to stay in the game, big employers were given a direct subsidy of 28 percent of the value of the drug benefits but also allowed to deduct the amount of that subsidy from their corporate taxes.

In crafting Obamacare, Democrats took away the subsidy write off and plugged the revenue from continued, consistent consumption into their fantasy accounting projections for the president’s plan.

Of course now that there’s less subsidy, there will be less lavish retirement benefits. And those retirees’ drugs will be 100 percent subsidized on Medicare instead of 28 percent subsidized on a corporate plan.

I hate to be the one to break the news, but this whole universal health insurance thing could turn out to be pretty expensive.

Companies are charging off the loss of revenue as SEC rules require and preparing to change benefits packages. The politically obsessed White House, of course, believes that it’s all political. If the companies would embrace, instead of resisting change – they would see that less money is really more money.

But what will they do about labor?
“Gerry Shea, the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s chief strategist on health care, stopped short of calling for a repeal of the provision. ‘We’re very concerned about the disruption that could be caused because of this, with people being pushed out of employer plans,’ he said. ‘With all the changes we’re looking at because of the new health legislation, we feel you don’t need this.’

Mr. Klein argued that the provision would undercut Mr. Obama’s job creation plans. ‘If companies are going to take a hit like this on their financial statements that will certainly hurt their ability to borrow in the marketplace and make the type of investments that will retain and create jobs,’ he said.”

New York Times -- Afghan Leader Is Seen to Flout Influence of U.S.
If you can’t do anything about a problem, why pick at it?

As Ambassador Eikenberry’s cables show, we’ve known that Hamid Karzai is not exactly Mustafa Kemal for a long time.

We had the chance to force him out or let the wolves carry him away and start over with the new replacement, but opted to stick with our man if Afghanistan. So there’s no chance that we will now decide to plunge the country into chaos just at the moment we are trying to pacify and stabilize Afghanistan.

What’s the point of President Obama calling out Karzai for being the figurehead of a marginal government of a narco state ruled by warlords? Presumably it must have something to do with mollifying American liberals because it sure doesn’t play in the Hindu Kush, where everyone is waiting for the attempted U.S. drawdown to begin.

Writers Dexter Filkins and Mark Landler give us the back story.
“This month, with President Hamid Karzai looking ahead to a visit to the White House, he received a terse note from aides to President Obama: Your invitation has been revoked.
The reason, according to American officials, was Mr. Karzai’s announcement that he was emasculating an independent panel that had discovered widespread fraud in Mr. Karzai’s re-election last year.

Incensed, Mr. Karzai extended an invitation of his own — to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, who flew to Kabul and delivered a fiery anti-American speech inside Afghanistan’s presidential palace.

“Karzai was enraged,” said an Afghan with knowledge of the events, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the issue. “He invited Ahmadinejad to spite the Americans.”

The dispute was smoothed over only this week, when Mr. Obama flew to Kabul for a surprise dinner with Mr. Karzai.”

Washington Post -- Under shadow of 1957, Arkansas stays out of health-care fight
Writer Peter Slevin tells us that states resisting the imposition of Obamacare in court are walking the same path that the states who fought the application of Brown v. Topeka Board of Education.

What dreck.

Democratic Gov. Mike Bebee of Arkansas said he would not join the dozens of chief executives considering a legal battle to prevent their citizens from being forced into Obamacare. Bebee told reporters that when Arkansas tried to resist Brown v. Board in 1957 it lost, just as the other state would loose this fight too.

Grasping for any link between Obamacare resistance and racism – the very motif Democrats served up on the day they passed the bill – Slevin was off like a shot to Little Rock to soak up this new evidence of moral equivalency between racism and health opposition.

The states fighting Obamacare are seeking a Supreme Court ruling, not resisting one. The states that seek to block the insurance mandate want to preserve individual rights, not impede them.

Also, health care is not a racial issue.

Slevin does not note these differences. Neither does he treat detractors with a shred of fairness.
It’s one thing to do as Matt Lauer does and not question the president’s assumptions, but doing the work of Democrats looking to demonize their political foes is something even worse.

“When President Dwight D. Eisenhower (R) federalized the Arkansas National Guard and sent soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division to protect the Little Rock Nine, he told the nation that the Supreme Court's ruling was ‘the law of the land.’ When Obama signed the health-care bill into law at the White House, he said health insurance ‘is the law of the land.’

[Democratic Attorney General Dustin] McDaniel used the same phrase as he explained why Arkansas will not join the lawsuits.

‘The law of the land does, in fact, come from our elected officials in Washington,’ McDaniel said. ‘A state deciding that it wants to singularly defy federal law simply because the citizens may not like it -- that's not the way the democratic process works. That's not the way the Constitution is set up.’”

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