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“Abhorrent”: Libyan Ambassador’s Death Should Not Be A Political Issue, Says Dad

The father of Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya who was killed in the attack in Benghazi last month, said his son’s death shouldn’t be politicized in the presidential campaign.

“It would really be abhorrent to make this into a campaign issue,” Jan Stevens, 77, said in a telephone interview from his home in Loomis, California, as he prepares for a memorial service for his son next week.

Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, has criticized President Barack Obama for not providing adequate security in Libya, saying the administration has left the country exposed to a deadly terrorist attack.

The ambassador’s father, a lawyer, said politicians should await the findings of a formal investigation before making accusations or judgments.

“The security matters are being adequately investigated,” Stevens said. “We don’t pretend to be experts in security. It has to be objectively examined. That’s where it belongs. It does not belong in the campaign arena.” Stevens said he has been getting briefings from the State Department on the progress of the investigation.

The question of whether the embassy attack and the ambassador’s death are being politicized came up on several Sunday morning television talk shows.

Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod said on “Fox News Sunday” that Romney is “working hard to exploit this issue.”

Citing the interview with Stevens’ father, Axelrod said, “we ought to follow ambassador’s family and allow this investigation to run and get to the bottom of it.”

Robert Gibbs, senior adviser to the Obama campaign, also cited the comments by Stevens’ father and said Romney is “playing politics with this issue.”

“We don’t need wing-tip cowboys,” Gibbs said on CNN’s“State of the Union” program. “We don’t need shoot-from- the-hip diplomacy, and when Mitt Romney first responded to what was going on in Libya, his own party called him out for insensitivity.”

Romney campaign adviser Ed Gillespie said on the Fox program that the country needs “honest and accurate answers.” “What we have seen is a constantly shifting story from this administration,” Gillespie said.

“Why wasn’t security there?” Ohio Senator Rob Portman, a Romney supporter, said on ABC’s “This Week” program. “I believe folks deserve an explanation.”

Stevens said that, while he was close to his son, “we weren’t that familiar with the day-to-day activities” he undertook in Libya. On the occasions when his son called home, Stevens said, he didn’t share many details about his work other than to say that “he was very optimistic about the results of the election and the new government.” They last spoke by phone in August and by e-mail days before his son’s death.

Stevens, a registered Democrat, said he isn’t politically active. He declined to say how he’ll vote in the presidential election.

He said his son, who was a career diplomat and had worked for Republican and Democratic presidents, hadn’t expressed concerns to him about security or support from the administration. “He felt very strongly about Secretary Clinton,” Stevens said, referring to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “He felt she was an extremely able person.”

As for whether he had the tools and protection he needed for his job, Stevens said of his son: “We didn’t get into that” sort of discussion. “I never heard him say a critical word about the State Department or the administration, or any administration for that matter. He came up through the foreign service, not politics.”

Stevens said neither of the two presidential campaigns reached out to him, and that he is grateful for that. He said Obama telephoned him after his son’s death to express his regrets and talk about identifying the perpetrators who should be brought to justice, and that the conversation was in the context of his presidential duties and not political.

While polls indicate that voters say Obama would do a better job on foreign policy issues, Republicans see an opportunity to cut into that advantage, pointing to surveys showing that voters have grown less satisfied since the Sept. 11 assault in Libya.

Stevens stopped short of directly criticizing either candidate.

“I’m not sure exactly what he’s been saying and not saying, but our position is it would be a real shame if this were politicized,” Stevens said, referring to Romney. “Our concern now is memorializing Chris and remembering his contribution to the country.”

Romney’s current foreign policy position marks a shift in tone from a campaign that has focused almost exclusively on economic issues and jobs.

The Romney team is attempting to link two campaign messages by charging Obama with weakening American interests abroad at the same time as he’s failed to boost the economy back home.

Speaking to voters on Oct. 12 in Richmond, Virginia, Romney chastised Vice President Joe Biden for his defense of the administration’s actions in the Libya attack.

“He’s doubling down on denial, and we need to understand exactly what happened as opposed to just having people brush this aside,” Romney said.

During last week’s vice presidential debate, Biden said the White House wasn’t told of a request for additional security at the mission in Benghazi the month before the incident.

State Department official Eric Nordstrom, who served as a regional security officer in Tripoli until July, told a congressional committee that he was turned down when he requested an extension of a 16-member security support team that was scheduled to leave Libya in August.

Romney hasn’t specified what he would do differently than the administration in Libya. In a speech at the Virginia Military Institute earlier last week, he called for support of Libya’s “efforts to forge a lasting government” and to pursue the “terrorists who attacked our consulate.”

That view is at odds with the position Romney took more than a year ago, when he opposed expanding the intervention in Libya to capture Muammar Qaddafi, calling it “mission creep and mission muddle” in April 2011.

Neither the administration’s initial public report that the attack began with a spontaneous demonstration against an anti- Islamic video clip nor Republican suggestions that it was a planned attack tied to al-Qaeda are supported by U.S. intelligence reports or by accounts of the night provided to a Bloomberg reporter by Benghazi residents.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that “the president wants to get to the bottom of what happened.”

Carney also sought to minimize questions about why the president and other administration officials were slow to publicly acknowledge the role of terrorism in the attack.

“As time went on, additional information became available,” Carney said. “Clearly, we know more today than we did on the Sunday after the attack. But as the process moves forward and more information becomes available, we will be sure to continue consulting with you.”


By: Margaret Taley, Bloomberg, October 14, 2012

October 14, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“And The Rich Get Richer”: Massive Insurance Industry Profits For Republicans In Ryan Medicare Scheme

Insurance companies that would benefit from a Medicare privatization program supported by GOP candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and nearly every congressional Republican are filling their campaign coffers and raising questions about whom they really work for – constituents or big insurance and Wall Street donors. The privatization scheme, designed by Ryan, would end Medicare as we know it and leave seniors without protection from soaring out-of-pocket medical costs.

The insurance industry and HMOs so far in the 2012 election cycle have given at least $14 million in campaign contributions to U.S. House members who voted for the Ryan plan to privatize Medicare, according to a new report prepared by Public Campaign Action Fund and Health Care for America Now utilizing data downloaded and coded by the Center for Responsive Politics. Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, has received $2.7 million from insurance interests this cycle alone. Taking the long view, members of Congress who voted for the Ryan budget collected $49.7 million in campaign contributions from the insurance industry over their careers – far more than those voting against the plan, the report said.

For the insurance industry, the political spending is an investment that could reap enormous returns. The market value of Wall Street-run health insurance companies will increase by $12 billion to $25 billion if the Republicans win the Senate and the White House, and by 2030 the industry would post $16 billion to $26 billion in increased annual profits attributable to the Medicare privatization, the report said.

“Americans want quality and guaranteed Medicare, but when we have a Congress on the auction block, they’ll put Medicare on the chopping block,” said David Donnelly, executive director of Public Campaign Action Fund. “This report allows voters to connect the dots for themselves by showing the members of Congress who voted for Ryan’s plan to privatize Medicare while scooping up checks from the insurance industry that would benefit.”

“The Republican plan to privatize and voucherize Medicare would increase costs for seniors and turn the most effective and cost-efficient health insurance program over to the insurance industry,” said Ethan Rome, executive director of Health Care for America Now, the nation’s largest grassroots health care advocacy organization. “It’s disturbing, though not surprising, that the GOP is bankrolled by the insurance industry – the special interests that would reap staggering profits from this plan. When the GOP and health insurance companies win, consumers lose.”

New polling shows that seniors are extremely sensitive about the alliance between the health insurance industry and the Republican Party. More than half – 55 percent – of voters said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who supports the budget that includes the privatization scheme, according to Democracy Corps, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and Public Campaign Action Fund. But that swelled to 70 percent when voters were asked if they would be less likely to vote for that candidate if he or she also took thousands in campaign donations from insurance executives, lobbyists and political action committees.

“Along with their systematic effort to undermine Medicare, the Republicans are working to repeal the Affordable Care Act and decimate Medicaid,” Rome said. “The GOP’s plan is to put seniors and their families at the mercy of the private health insurance industry without adequate coverage, without their choice of doctor and without protection from huge new out-of-pocket costs.”

“Policy in Washington is too often decided by those who give the most money at the expense of everyday Americans,” said Donnelly. “Insurance interests are pouring money into campaigns because it’s in their narrow interest to privatize Medicare and maximize profits. The problem is, Americans of all political stripes don’t have the same power and influence to shape policy. That’s why we have to hold our members of Congress accountable and it’s why we need fundamental changes to our campaign finance system.”


By: Adam Smith, Health Care For America Now, October 10, 2012

October 14, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Wrong Again Mitt”: Romney Says People Don’t Die Because They Lack Insurance

In an interview with the Columbus Dispatch in Ohio published Thursday, Mitt Romney repeated a claim that already got him in trouble once this cycle and has reflects an enduring belief among Republicans: that people in the U.S. don’t die because they lack health insurance.
“[Y]ou go to the hospital, you get treated, you get care, and it’s paid for, either by charity, the government or by the hospital,” Romney said. “We don’t have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don’t have insurance.”

It’s eerily reminiscent of a statement President George W. Bush made in 2007 that haunted Republicans during the 2008 campaign — “[P]eople have access to health care in America. After all, you just go to an emergency room.”

There’s just one problem: It’s not true.

Numerous studies over the past 10 years conclude that tens of thousands of Americans die each year because they lack insurance.

A 2009 study conducted at Harvard Medical School and Cambridge Health Alliance, and published in the American Journal of Public Health concluded that “[l]ack of health insurance is associated with as many as 44,789 deaths per year in the United States, more than those caused by kidney disease. … The increased risk of death attributable to uninsurance suggests that alternative measures of access to medical care for the uninsured, such as community health centers, do not provide the protection of private health insurance.”

A 2012 report by the health care reform advocacy group Families USA concluded that 26,100 people died prematurely in America in 2010 due to lack of insurance. That report extrapolated from a 2002 Institute of Medicine study — conducted when the uninsurance rate was lower — which concluded that 18,000 people died prematurely because they weren’t covered.

In a 2009 update, the IOM concluded that uninsured patients are at higher risk of mortality or poor health outcomes in the aftermath of both acute medical issues (heart attacks, serious injury, stroke) and chronic ones (cancer, diabetes).

In 2008, the Urban Institute’s Stan Dorn concluded that “[b]ased on the IOM’s methodology and subsequent Census Bureau estimates of insurance coverage, 137,000 people died from 2000 through 2006 because they lacked health insurance, including 22,000 people in 2006. Much subsequent research has continued to confirm the link between insurance and mortality risk described by IOM. In fact, subsequent studies and analysis suggest that, if anything, the IOM methodology may underestimate the number of deaths that result from a lack of insurance coverage.”

Conservatives have attacked these findings and methods and argued that, controlling for health status, there’s no difference in survival probabilities between insured and uninsured people. When the Families USA report came out, Avik Roy, a Romney health adviser, called its findings “statistical hogwash.”

To buttress his argument, he cited a thorough study by Richard Kronick — a University of Rochester health policy expert who served in the Obama administration and was a senior adviser to Bill Clinton during his push for health care reform. His conclusion? “[I]f two people are otherwise similar at baseline … but one is insured and the other uninsured, their likelihood of survival over a 2-16-year follow-up period is nearly identical.”

Further, I show that survival probabilities for the insured and uninsured are similar even among disadvantaged subsets of the population; that there are no differences for long-term uninsured compared with short-term uninsured; that the results are no different when the length of the follow-up period is shortened; and that there are no differences when causes of death are restricted to those causes thought to be amenable to the quality of health care.

However, Kronick conceded that “[g]iven the inherent uncertainties in inferring causality from the results of observational analyses, the results presented here are not able to provide a definitive answer to the question, ‘How many fewer deaths would there be in the United States if all residents were continuously covered by health insurance?’”

In an interview, Urban’s Stan Dorn praised Kronick but defended his and his colleagues’ conclusion.

“I’m aware of Rick’s study and he’s a great researcher. And I guess what I’d say is it’s an outlier,” Dorn said in an interview. “There’s a lot of research that goes beyond what we did, and it’s an outlier.”

Dorn noted that other studies focusing on particular ailments make the link between uninsurance and death quite clear. “We know that women with cervical cancer who are uninsured get their cancer detected later…. We know that people with heart disease don’t take their medicine because they can’t afford it…and sometimes die.”

And as Boston University health economist Austin Frakt noted when he engaged this same controversy in February 2010, “among recent studies in this area the evidence is greater than three-to-one in favor of an insurance-health outcome link, including mortality.”

In 2006, then-Massachusetts governor Romney himself agreed — at least to an extent. Though he did not address the mortality issue specifically, in an April 2006 presentation before the Chamber of Commerce he conceded that uninsured people who seek health care at emergency rooms experience worse outcomes.

“There ought to be enough money to help people get insurance because an insured individual has a better chance of having an excellent medical experience than the one who has not. An insured individual is more likely to go to a primary care physician or a clinic to get evaluated for their conditions and to get early treatment, to get pharmaceutical treatment, as opposed to showing up in the emergency room where the treatment is more expensive and less effective than if they got preventive and primary care.”


By: Brian Beutler, Talking Points Memo, October 12, 2012

October 14, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, Health Care | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Completely Clueless”: No Wonder Romney-Ryan Pretends There’s No War In Afghanistan

For much of the campaign, Mitt Romney seemed to forget that the United States is still fighting a war in Afghanistan, culminating in his convention speech which inexplicably ignored the war and American troops altogether.

Last night, we were reminded of why the Republican ticket says so little about the conflict: they haven’t the foggiest idea what they’re talking about. In reference to Paul Ryan, Charles P. Pierce wrote overnight, “He was more lost in Afghanistan than the Russian army ever was.”

In a debate which had plenty of ups and downs, the congressman’s efforts to be coherent on the war were cover-your-eyes awful. One the one hand, Ryan supports the Obama administration’s withdrawal timetable:

“Now, with respect to Afghanistan, the 2014 deadline, we agree with a 2014 transition.”

On the other hand, Ryan thinks the Obama administration’s withdrawal timetable is dangerous:

“[W]e don’t want to broadcast to our enemies ‘put a date on your calendar, wait us out, and then come back.’ … What we don’t want to do is give our allies reason to trust us less and our enemies more — we don’t want to embolden our enemies.”

What’s the Romney-Ryan ticket’s position on the war? No one has a clue because the Republican candidates, four weeks from the election, haven’t picked one yet. As Rachel noted in the post-debate coverage, “The Romney-Ryan ticket is not credible on the issue of the war…. Paul Ryan embarrassed himself on Afghanistan tonight in a way that he embarrassed himself on no other issue. He did not understand the question well enough to know that he was making a mistake because he’s just learned this for the test. He doesn’t understand any of it. I find that terrifying.”

Incidentally, Dan Senor, a leading Romney-Ryan adviser on foreign policy, told Fox News yesterday that the Romney-Ryan position on Afghanistan “is the same as the president’s,” adding that Romney “obviously supports the president’s position.” Senor also said, “We have some disagreements with the president on Afghanistan.” After endorsing 2014 withdrawal, Senor added, “If you’re the Commander-in Chief, to broadcast timelines so our enemies are in the know about our next move” is a mistake.

If this wasn’t so critically important, I might even feel sorry for the Republican ticket.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 12, 2012

October 14, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Richard Milhous Ryan”: No Details, No Specifics, Just A “Secret Plan”

Richard Milhous Nixon said in 1968 that the war in Vietnam was the critical concern of that year’s presidential contest, the one issue that had to be addressed by the candidates. And he addressed it with a “secret plan” to end the war. No details during the campaign, the Republican nominee for president explained; voters just needed to trust him and he would cut the right deals once elected.

Paul Ryan says in 2012 that budgeting to cut taxes for the rich while at the same time doing away with deficits is the critical issue of the presidential contest, the one that has to be addressed by the candidates. And he addresses the issue with a secret plan to cut taxes and balance budgets. No details during the campaign, the Republican nominee for vice president explains; voters just need to trust him and he will cut the right deals once elected.

In the most remarkable exchange of the only vice presidential debate of 2012 came when moderator Martha Raddatz said to Ryan: “You have refused…to offer specifics on how you pay for that 20 percent across-the-board tax cut. Do you actually have the specifics? Or are you still working on it, and that’s why you won’t tell voters?

That’s where Ryan borrowed a political page from “Tricky Dick”:

RYAN: Different than this administration, we actually want to have big bipartisan agreements. You see, I understand the…

RADDATZ: Do you have the specifics? Do you have the… Do you know exactly what you’re doing?

RYAN: Look—look at what Mitt Romney—look at what Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill did. They worked together out of a framework to lower tax rates and broaden the base, and they worked together to fix that.

What we’re saying is, here’s our framework. Lower tax rates 20 percent. We raised about $1.2 trillion through income taxes. We forego about $1.1 trillion in loopholes and deductions. And so what we’re saying is, deny those loopholes and deductions to higher-income taxpayers so that more of their income is taxed, which has a broader base of taxation so we can lower tax rates across the board. Now, here’s why I’m saying this. What we’re saying is, here’s the framework…

We want to work with Congress—we want to work with the Congress on how best to achieve this. That means successful. Look…

RADDATZ: No specifics, again.

RYAN: Mitt—what we’re saying is, lower tax rates 20 percent, start with the wealthy, work with Congress to do it…

RADDATZ: And you guarantee this math will add up?

RYAN: Absolutely.

That was it. No specifics. No plan. Just a plea for voters to trust Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan to “fill in the details.”

Vice President Biden, who was already well aware that he was winning the debate he had to win after last week’s presidential debate debacle, pounced. Displaying the skills that would lead 50 percent of undecided voters to tell pollsters that Biden won the debate, while only 31 percent picked Ryan, the experienced vice president hit the inept pretender with the obligatory “I was there when Ronald Reagan tax breaks—he gave specifics” line.

Then the vice president explained why Ryan was avoiding specifics. Under even the most basic outlines of the Romney-Ryan plan “ taxes go up on the middle class, the only way you can find $5 trillion in loopholes is cut the mortgage deduction for middle-class people, cut the healthcare deduction, middle-class people, take away their ability to get a tax break to send their kids to college. That’s why they arrive at it.”


Easily the most substantive “zing” of the night. But not the most amusing “zing.” That came after Ryan condemned the 2009 stimulus bill as “Crony capitalism and corporate welfare.”

It went like this:

BIDEN: I love my friend here. I—I’m not allowed to show letters but go on our website, he sent me two letters saying, ‘By the way, can you send me some stimulus money for companies here in the state of Wisconsin?” We sent millions of dollars…

RADDATZ: You did ask for stimulus money, correct?

RYAN: On two occasions we—we—we advocated for constituents who were applying for grants. That’s what we do. We do that for all constituents who are…

BIDEN: I love that. I love that. This was such a bad program and he writes me a letter saying—writes the Department of Energy a letter saying, ‘The reason we need this stimulus, it will create growth and jobs.’ His words.”

Ryan’s Nixonian turns gave Biden the upper hand on a night when Democrats needed a win.

By the time the debate turned to the issues on which Biden was always going to have the upper hand: defending Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, all the vice president really had to say was: “Who you believe, the AMA, me, a guy who’s fought his whole life for this, or somebody who would actually put in motion a plan that knowingly cut—added $6,400 a year more to the cost of Medicare?”

All he had to say with regard to wild claims about how Obamacare threatens seniors was: “You know, I heard that death panel argument from Sarah Palin. It seems every vice presidential debate I hear this kind of stuff about panels.”

And all he really had to say, after Ryan took the most radical anti-choice stance ever uttered on a debate stage by a major-party nominee, was that, while he respects the teachings of his Catholic religion: “I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that, women, that they can’t control their body.… I’m not going to interfere with that.”

It may not be entirely fair to compare Ryan with Nixon. In truth, the former president would never have bumbled Thursday night’s Afghanistan questions as badly as did this year’s Republican vice presidential nominee—who was reduced to repeated the seasons of the year “winter, spring, summer fall” in an attempt to cover for his misstatement of details of the current fight.

But Ryan played Nixon Thursday night.

On issue after issue, the Republican vice presidential candidate danced around the details.

But unlike last week when Barack Obama allowed Mitt Romney to repurpose himself as a credible contender, Joe Biden was having none of it.

Hubert Humphtey never got a chance to call Richard Nixon out on a debate stage in 1968.

If he had, that very close election might have finished differently.

But in the end, it was not Biden who made Ryan the Nixon of the night.

It was Ryan.

On what he says is the most important issue of the campaign, the “fiscal cliff” issue that brought him to national attention and a place on the GOP ticket, Ryan had no details, no specifics, just a “secret plan.”


By: John Nichols, The Nation, October 12, 2012

October 14, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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