"Fatal Attraction," the Washington version is playing on a television near you as Obama's bipartisan summit on healthcare approaches. Like a possessed, rejected maniac the president refuses to allow the idea of a massive restructuring of our healthcare system to fade.
You're just not that into his healthcare bill? Too bad. He won't be ignored.
Obama is hoping that by rebranding and reworking the old, rejected versions of the House and Senate bill into an even scarier narrative coupled with a televised meeting, the pressure will be so intense that he can kidnap the handful of Republican votes he needs to catapult this monstrosity over the finish line.
To get our attention, Democrats attempted legislative suicide. After laying low, they're back again, and like any prey dealing with a psycho, Republicans are nervous.
They understand that this is a carefully calculated public relations gimmick designed to force their hand. They know that if they don't show up, the images of empty chairs across the table from their caucus will be used, repeatedly, to paint them as unwilling to govern and to target them in campaign ads as obstructionists. Forget alerting the wife, the White House is going to out your bad behavior on C-SPAN. In other words: this is blackmail, Beltway style.
Like any concerned observer frightened for my friend's life, as well as my own, I urged Republicans to set some terms and not accept the invitation to the president's gathering unless he agreed to start over. Apparently, Mr. Obama was in favor of a second chance for the relationship and demonstrated his willingness by crafting a more expensive and politically explosive version of the first health care bill -- just on his own terms (so much for bipartisanship).
With each passing week that the president ignores jobs, choosing to focus on his obsession and an unprecedented legislative trick to stalk the public into a submitting to a relationship they don't want, the more he looks like a lunatic who has escaped the asylum, just waiting to surprise you outside your window, in the rain on your fire escape until you relent.
What has become evident to everyone except the Democratic leadership is that the American majority has no interest in a relationship so dysfunctional, so unstable, so completely unhealthy.
Obama has stumbled many times trying to get his way. Act Two of heath care reform might be his biggest mistake on the issue yet. In an effort to hit a button to reset the process, he might have hit the one that just blew it up. Like any good horror film, the element that's most despised just won't die. Let's hope we can finish health care off before anyone gets hurt.
Earlier this week, Media Matters' Christine Schwen detailed the virulent Muslim-bashing at CPAC's "Jihad: The Political Third Rail" event, co-hosted by Pamela Geller and featuring one speaker's assertion that "[r]ape is also a part of" Muslims' efforts to convert non-Muslims in Europe and that and that "[d]emocracy is being deliberately removed" from the European Union by "incorporating Muslim countries of North Africa and the Middle East in the European Union." (Not to mention Geller's own charming description of Umar Abdulmutallab as "the Christmas balls bomber.")
It's worth mentioning that Geller has been a columnist at Newsmax for the past several months, where she regularly spewed her anti-Muslim and anti-Obama venom. Newsmax, you may recall, has had some issues in recent months with columnists going a bit over the top -- advocating a military coup against Obama, calling for a allegedly figurative "tenting" of the White House to kill the "varmints" inside, etc. -- prompting some hasty column deletions.
We were going to ask if Geller's CPAC hate-fest was acceptable to Newsmax, but it seems that question has already been answered. The latest Geller column in the Newsmax archive is from February 10 -- which means it removed a February 16 column in which Geller smeared Obama as a "weakling," "jihad-enabling," and, finally, "President L-dopa" because "Obama is to American people what L-Dopa was to Oliver Sacks' patients." (Here's the Newsmax column in Google cache, and here's a version of it at Big Government, which apparently has no problem with Geller's vicious insults.)
Anyone familiar with Geller's long record of inflammatory comments could have seen this outcome as inevitable. The question is why Newsmax believed that such hatred deserved to be enshrined in a column on its website in the first place.
From Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce's website:
Never one to miss an opportunity to attack President Obama, the first lady, or health care reform on his radio show (not necessarily in that order), Rush Limbaugh managed to hit all three in the span of a few seconds today while mocking Obama's health care summit. Limbaugh, referring to Obama's anecdote about having to rush his daughters to the emergency room, stated:
LIMBAUGH: Any person in America, from the richest guy in the country to the cheapest, poorest illegal immigrant can do exactly the same thing Obama just described and that's go to the emergency room. And Tom Coburn made that point. Everybody gets treated in this country. That's not what we're here talking about. We're talking about fraud, waste -- we just need to get it out of there.
Now, why, since Obama just described this wonderful system where his two daughters -- two fat daughters, according to his wife -- his two fat daughters came down with some sort of a disease and had to rush them to the emergency room, why design a system that destroys the very best private health care that he says he's so thankful for?
Limbaugh cited no evidence that Michelle Obama -- who has made it a personal goal to raise awareness of, and combat, childhood obesity -- has ever once referred to her daughters as "fat." Obama did mention her children during an appearance on Fox News' Huckabee, where she talked about her impetus for starting the Let's Move campaign:
MICHELLE OBAMA: I come to this issue more so as a mom than a first lady and I shared my story before because this is really how I became aware of the issue just in my own kids. You know, life has changed for families a way that I can see: We're busier; we're less active; you know, our kids watch more TV; sometimes it's hard to get outside; drive-thru fast food is easier and cheaper; and as a result, you know, we're seeing the effects on our kids and I saw it on mine. And it was because of my pediatrician that just sort of waved a red flag, you know.
MIKE HUCKABEE: What did he say?
MICHELLE OBAMA: He said, you know, he monitored our kids' body mass index. He didn't just do it for our kids, but he did this throughout his practice because he was seeing obesity rates increase. It was in an urban African-American setting and he saw those trends, so he did it for all of his patients. And he just said, you know, it -- you know, this -- the trajectory isn't what it should be so you may want to think about doing something. And I didn't know what to do. So we just started making some really small changes in our diet: more water, less fruit juices, more vegetables, I cooked a little bit more -- you know, even though we still had to go out because we were busy -- made sure my kids weren't sitting in front of the TV -- no TV during the week. Little things like that.
HUCKABEE: No TV for your kids during the week?
MICHELLE OBAMA: During the week -- you know, just on the weekend, and now they have homework, so you know they're really busy. So with those minor changes, I saw the impact on my kids almost immediately. So when I got to this position, I thought, you know, families don't even know how modern day life has really changed the way our kids move and eat, and if I didn't know, you know, what about communities where people aren't even talking about this issue? So, I thought that this platform would give me an opportunity to shine a light, to give more information to parents, to talk about health of food in schools, to talk about access and affordability issues, so it is really personal for me.
She made similar comments during an event in late January where she talked about the concerns of her children's pediatrician, who she said "warned that he was concerned that something was getting off-balance" and "cautioned me that I had to take a look at my own children's BMI." The AP further reported:
Obama said parents often recognize that kids in general don't eat right and aren't exercising enough, but "we always think that only happens to someone else's kids, and I was in that position."
"Even though I wasn't exactly sure at that time what I was supposed to do with this information about my children's BMI, I knew that I had to do something," she said. "I had to lead our family to a different way."
The first lady said that over the next few months she made some small changes that got her daughters back on track. No more weekday TV. More attention to portion sizes. Low-fat milk. Water bottles in the lunch boxes. Grapes on the breakfast table. Apple slices at lunch. Colorful vegetables on the dinner table.
"It was really very minor stuff, but these small changes resulted in some really significant improvements, and I didn't know it would," Obama said. "It was so significant that the next time we visited our pediatrician, he was amazed. He looked over the girls' charts and he said, 'What on earth are you doing?' "
Did I miss the part where she called her daughters "fat"?
As participants in today's health care summit took a lunch break, Fox News' Bret Baier brought on Jim Angle to perform what Baier described as a "fact check." But Angle's analysis came up short on a central fact that completely undermines his conclusion that health care reform will raise premiums -- namely, that the very bill Angle analyzed includes subsidies to offset premium costs.
Angle purported to fact check a back-and-forth at the summit between President Obama and Sen. Lamar Alexander about whether the Senate health care bill would increase premiums for people who buy health insurance on the individual market, rather than through their employer. Angle's bottom line: "rates would increase by 10 to 13 percent." He even repeated it to make it official:
ANGLE: Now, what the CBO -- and I can show you a chart here. CBO did a chart on what would happen to rates in individual, small-business, and large-group markets. And you see, in the non-group market -- that's the individual market. If you'll show -- the CBO found that after bringing in all sorts of people -- younger people, healthier people -- after all factors are considered, the bottom line is that rates would increase by 10 to 13 percent. Ten to 13 percent. That is what Senator Alexander was saying.
The president disputed that number, saying, "Well, no, it's a different thing." He came back after being handed a piece of paper by an aide and said, "Well, yes, in fact, the reason I'm paying 10 to 13 percent more is because I'm getting better insurance." Actually, the CBO found that that would cost 30 percent more, up to 30 percent more, but that after you take everything out, the net increase for individuals would be 10 to 13 percent. The president has now essentially embraced that number and seems to have confirmed that Senator Alexander was right; he was not -- with the one stipulation that it'd be different, better insurance, because it may be required by the federal government.
Actually, the bottom line on this topic is that the Congressional Budget Office concluded that the bill would reduce premiums for most policies purchased on the individual market. Angle only reached his "bottom line" after ignoring one of the bill's most important components -- substantial subsidies that would help many people in the individual market pay for their insurance. The CBO estimated that the federal subsidies would cover two-thirds of the premium costs and reduce premiums for most people purchasing insurance on the individual market. PolitiFact.com explained it well:
People who have to go out and buy insurance on their own (the individual market) would see rates increase by 10 to 13 percent. But more than half of those people -- 57 percent, in fact -- would be eligible for subsidies to help them pay for the insurance. People who get subsidies would see their premiums drop by more than half, according to the CBO. So most people would see their premiums stay the same or potentially drop.
The very on-screen chart Angle referred to specifically noted that the "10 to 13 percent" figure didn't take the effect of subsidies into consideration:
As we here at County Fair have said before, so much for zero tolerance.
From the Drudge Report:
Drudge's link goes to a John Birch Society article, headlined "Beware of McCain's Freedom-Destroying Dietary Supplement Regulatory Bill."
The [Congressional Budget Office] analysis estimated that average premiums for people buying insurance individually would be 10 to 13 percent higher in 2016 under the Senate legislation, as Alexander said. But the policies would cover more, and about half the people would be getting substantial government subsidies to defray the extra costs.
As the president said, if the policies offered today were offered in 2016, they would be considerably cheaper under the plan, even without subsidies. One big reason: Many more healthy young people would be signing up for the coverage because insurance would become mandatory. They are cheap to insure and would moderate costs for others.
Moreover, the analysis estimated that almost 60 percent of the people covered under individual policies would qualify for subsidies, bringing their own costs down by more than half from what they pay now.
Handicapping today's health care summit, the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza makes this observation [emphasis added]:
With Democrats in charge of all levers of power in Washington, Republicans rarely get the sort of opportunity they have today to make their case and show their stuff to the American people.
I don't buy it.
Why? Because Fox News, the most-watched news cable news channel, is, to borrow the recent vernacular of Rep. Anthony Weiner, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party. Fox News is the broadcast arm of the Opposition Party, and GOP members of Congress, or least the leadership, appear to have carte blanche to the Fox News airwaves, right?
Well, over the last nine months, how much time have Republicans spent on Fox News spelling out their vision for health care reform? Republicans have done lots of whining about how the White House has locked them out of the process, and that all the really awesome health care reform ideas from the GOP side have been jettisoned. Republicans are quite serious they have their own health care reform plan, so why haven't they been touting it on television?
Raise your hand if you've seen a single Republican appear on Fox News in the last nine months who spent a large block of time seriously detailing what the GOP health care plan stands for. Cillizza at the Post claims today's televised summit is a rare chance for Republicans to explain their position. But that's not quite right because if Republicans really cared about making their position known (i.e. if they have a plan other than opposing Obama), they have access to Fox News and could appear every hour of every day of the week detailing GOP health care reform.
They could use Fox News to talk themselves blue in the face about health care, to the point where viewers could recite GOP talking points at will. So no, I don't think today's televised summit represents a rare chance for the GOP to talk about health care reform. Thanks to Fox News' open door policy, the GOP has that chance every day of the year. It's just that the GOP hasn't shown much interest in doing that.