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“Boehner Struggles With His Failed ACA Predictions”: He Should At Least Try To Discuss The Substance Of The Issue Honestly

House Speaker John Boehner sat down with NBC’s Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” yesterday, and the host asked a good question about the Republican leader’s failed predictions about the Affordable Care Act. Regrettably, the Speaker couldn’t respond with an equally good answer.

TODD: You made some dire predictions about health care. 2014 you said fewer people would have health insurance. According to plenty of surveys, more people have health insurance today than they did before it went down from – the uninsured rate went down 17 percent to just under 12 percent. You said it would destroy jobs. The first year it was implemented, the country added 3 million jobs. Why…

BOEHNER: Obamacare made it harder for employers to hire people. The economy expands and as a result, you are going to have more employees because businesses have to. But if you can ask any employer in America, and ask them whether Obamacare has made it harder for them to hire employees, they’ll tell you yes. Because it’s a fact.

When you look at – you know why there are more people insured? Because a lot more people are on Medicaid. And giving – you know, we expanded Medicaid in a big way. And giving people Medicaid insurance is almost like giving them nothing. Because there aren’t – you can’t find a doctor that will see Medicaid patients.

The Speaker soon added that, as far as he’s concerned, the Affordable Care Act is “not working.”

Boehner might have a credible argument, if we abandoned the agreed upon meaning of “working.”

Look, I realize that health care policy has never been the Ohio Republican’s strong suit, and the Speaker isn’t a wonk deeply engaged in policy details. I can also appreciate why he’s a little embarrassed about making all kinds of ACA predictions, each of which turned out to be wrong. It’s just not realistic to think Boehner will fess up on national television to getting the entire fight over health care backwards.

There’s just no avoiding the fact, however, that Boehner’s comments on “Meet the Press” were woefully incorrect.

According to the Speaker, “it’s a fact” that the Affordable Care Act has “made it harder for employers to hire people.” There’s simply no evidence to support this. None. The U.S. economy saw a jobs boom coincide with the implementation of the ACA. Indeed, the reform law has actually created plenty of jobs within the health care industry by spurring “unprecedented” levels of “entrepreneurial activity.”

At the same time, Boehner believes the drop in the uninsured rate is the result of Medicaid expansion, but that’s wrong, too – millions of consumers have gained private coverage by way of exchange marketplaces. This is even true of the Speaker’s home state of Ohio, which is prepared to create its own exchange if the Supreme Court makes it necessary.

As for the benefits of Medicaid, coverage through the program is not the practical equivalent of “nothing.” Many Americans who’ve gained health security through Medicaid have benefited greatly from affordable care.

Boehner’s conclusion – that “Obamacare” is “not working” – is only true if one closes their eyes, sticks their fingers in their ears, and refuses to consider the evidence. The law is pushing the uninsured rate to new lows; it’s succeeding in satisfying consumers; the law’s price tag is lower than expected; it’s producing impressive results on premiums and enrollment totals; we’re seeing the lowest increase in health care spending in 50 years; the number of insurers who want to participate in exchange marketplaces keeps growing; there’s reduced financial stress on families, the efficacy of Medicaid expansion is obvious, as is the efficacy of the medical-loss ratio and efforts to reduce medical errors system-wide.

The maligned law is even becoming more popular.

Boehner doesn’t have to like the law. He doesn’t even have to admit he was wrong. But he should at least try to discuss the substance of the issue honestly.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 4, 2015

May 5, 2015 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, John Boehner, Obamacare | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Painfully Obscene”: Dick Cheney’s Tortured Appearance On ‘Meet The Press’ Should Be His Public Swan Song

It pretty much goes without saying that any pundit or political writer coming from the left side of center can be expected to presume Vice President Dick Cheney to be nothing less than the political equivalent of Darth Vader.

However, there has remained a small cadre of left leaning pundits and commentators willing to give a fair hearing to the man who was arguably the most powerful Vice-President in the nation’s history—a group I previously would have included myself to be among.

After Mr. Cheney’s appearance on Sunday’s “Meet The Press”—where he employed twisted rationales coupled with outright, provable and painful lies to support his position on torture—finding a commentator from either side of the aisle willing to give credibility to Cheney, let alone those from the left, should prove exponentially harder if not completely impossible.

While there was nothing particularly surprising or odd about Cheney highlighting the politics that may have played a role in last week’s release of the Senate torture report, even the most ardent Cheney supporter had to question the logic of the Vice President’s answers—which are better characterized as retorts—most notably Mr. Cheney’s constant deflection of a question asking for his definition of illegal treatment of detainees.

Cheney’s response?

Torture is  “an American citizen on his cellphone making a last call to his four young daughters shortly before he burns to death in the upper levels of the Trade Center in New York on 9/11.”

Cheney would be right were he to pose this as an example rather than the defining metric when seeking to determine an act of torture.  The horrendous, unthinkable experience referred to by Cheney is, unquestionably, one example of inflicting torture—and a pretty good example of horrific torture at that—but hardly the sole method that Cheney insisted on pretending to be the case.

Yet, each time Cheney was asked for a more realistic and more encompassing definition of torture that would rationally go beyond any one particular example, he continuously returned to the experiences of our lost countrymen on 9-11. This seemed, in the mind of Dick Cheney, to be the only standard to be applied when determining if our interrogation methods may have exceeded the legal bounds imposed by the Geneva Convention for the treatment of detainees.

At a point, it became more than clear that Cheney had pre-planned this “non-answer” for his appearance, thinking it to be very clever.

By pretending that only a horrible infliction of agony similar to what was heaped on the victims of 9-11 would rise to a level that could be termed torture, the Vice-President was simply sending a coded message to his supporters to remind them that, given what the bad guys did to us, there was nothing too horrible that we could do to them—Geneva Convention be damned.

Of course, that includes waterboarding, a practice that Cheney continued to argue is not an interrogation method that constitutes torture or a violation of international law.

I can appreciate that there are a great many Americans who agree that torture should be employed in the circumstances we have faced in our battle with terrorists. Indeed, a CBS News poll out today reveals that while more than half of all Americans believe that waterboarding is torture, just a bit less than half of the American public believes that the use of torture is sometimes appropriate .

If Cheney had shown up on “Meet The Press” and argued that what we did was torture but that, in his estimation, it was completely appropriate to engage in such torture under the circumstances, a far more meaningful discussion could have ensured.

Instead, Cheney played a game of saying that what we did was not torture while winking to his loyal supporters in the audience in an effort to say that what we did certainly was torture…but you know you loved it.

In what might have otherwise been amusing, had the entire performance not been so painfully obscene, Cheney actually went on to admit that there did exist actions that constitute torture, separate and apart from the one and only criteria he was willing to subscribe to involving 9-11 victims.

When Chuck Todd reminded the Vice-President that the United States prosecuted and hung Japanese soldiers following WWII for engaging in the waterboarding of American soldiers, Cheney answered that this was not the reason we hung offending Japanese soldiers. According to Cheney, we prosecuted these people, “For a lot of stuff, not for waterboarding… and they did a lot of other stuff.”

 

By: Rick Ungar, Forbes, December 15, 2014

December 17, 2014 Posted by | Dick Cheney, Torture, Waterboarding | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Make This Monster Pay A Price”: Why We Needed To Hear From Dick Cheney One Last Time

Former Vice President Dick Cheney’s time is about up, in many senses. For a Republican Party trying to look forward, he shouldn’t be a go-to voice for the media on national security policy. His sneering attacks on President Obama aren’t news anymore. The man who famously said, “It’s my new heart, not someone else’s old heart,” about the donor to his taxpayer-funded heart transplant should have lost the power to shock us by now. Unless he has a sudden attack of conscience, and apologizes for his career, he has nothing to say worth hearing.

Except on the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report. There’s been some anger on the left that Cheney took his seat yet again on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, but I think he belonged there, one last time. Let the American people hear from the man who claims that interrogation methods we prosecuted after World War II, as well as others even more depraved, aren’t actually torture.

Cheney is such a monster that he couldn’t even keep himself from defending “rectal feeding.” While he acknowledged that it “was not one of the techniques that was approved,” he sanctioned it nonetheless. “I believe it was done for medical reasons. … It wasn’t torture in terms of it wasn’t part of the program.”

That would seem to imply that anything that was “part of the program” was torture, which of course Cheney denies.

Ironically, earlier on Fox News Cheney said, “I don’t know anything about” rectal feeding or rectal rehydration (he may well have been lying). But by the time he got to “MTP,” he wasn’t willing to let any torture method go undefended. And even host Chuck Todd noting that “the medical community has said there is no medical reason to do this” didn’t shame him.

Todd asked Cheney some tough questions about U.S. prosecution of Japanese officials who waterboarded Americans, about the fact that at least a quarter of the detainees were innocent and, of course, about rectal feeding. Unfortunately, Cheney either dodged or lied.

Their exchange about innocent detainees showed Cheney at his most sociopathic:

TODD: Twenty-five percent of the detainees, though, twenty-five percent turned out to be innocent. They were released.

CHENEY: Where are you going to draw the line, Chuck? How are –

TODD: Well, I’m asking you.

CHENEY: — you going to know?

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: Is that too high? You’re okay with that margin for error?

CHENEY: I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective. And our objective is to get the guys who did 9/11 and it is to avoid another attack against the United States. I was prepared and we did. We got the authorization from the president and authorization from the Justice Department to go forward with the program. It worked. It worked now for 13 years.

“I have no problem” if 25 percent of the people we detained and potentially tortured were innocent. Take that in. It’s the same mentality that leads to police shooting unarmed black men in the name of public safety. But it squares with Cheney’s famous “one percent doctrine” that governed the aftermath to 9/11: If there’s even 1 percent chance that terrorists might have a weapon of mass destruction, the U.S. should act as if it’s a certainty, and do whatever it takes to stop them.

It also squares with Cheney telling Larry King, about his lifesaving heart donor, “I don’t spend time wondering who had it, what they’d done, what kind of person.”

America’s torture architect got a new heart, but he can never get a soul. Americans needed to see that display of authoritarian arrogance on Sunday. But now let’s hope he goes away.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, December 15, 2014

December 16, 2014 Posted by | Dick Cheney, National Security, Torture | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Wanted; Less Terrible Political Coverage On TV”: An Increasingly Tiresome Model Of Political And Current Events Coverage

Jon Stewart is nothing if not America’s foremost cable news critic. On Sunday, he couldn’t help telling CNN what he thinks of them—and he did it on their network. “I want more of good CNN,” Stewart said. “CNN is very similar to the doll Chucky. Sometimes it’s good Chucky, but you really got to watch out for bad Chucky.”

It’s not just CNN. Much of what passes for political coverage these days is (to borrow a phrase) “bad Chucky.” What Stewart admires are the “brave correspondents” who cover things like the Arab Spring. What he doesn’t like, though—the breathless and feigned “BREAKING NEWS” time fillers and pearl clutching—is what cable news relies on the majority of the time spent between revolutions and natural disasters. It’s an increasingly tiresome model of political and current events coverage.

Aside from Fox News (as evidenced by the ratings), MSNBC’s Morning Joe (as evidenced by its status as a tastemaker), and comedy shows like the Daily Show and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and HBO’s Real Time (by virtue of their place in the cultural zeitgeist), politics on TV doesn’t seem to be as good anymore. Maybe it’s just me. Then again, cable news ratings are down more or less across the board, and Americans find much of the media untrustworthy.

There are other exceptions, no doubt. But whether it’s cable news or the Sunday morning talk shows, something just doesn’t seem right. One gets the sense that they’re flailing, that the world has changed, but they haven’t. That they’re trying to figure out how to make it work, but so far it’s not coming together.

And I think it’s worth noting that among the shows that I believe to be “working” include several examples that are, ostensibly, comedy. And that makes me wonder if maybe the networks and shows might not want to look to them for guidance? And, of course, they already are: Jon Stewart was seriously considered as host for Meet The Press, a move that would have either changed the whole damn paradigm—or failed spectacularly. But the larger question lingers: Why do these shows work, while much of what passes for straight political commentary and analysis (not to be confused with straight news) seem so stale?

A theory: As our political system—not to mention our coverage of it—becomes more absurd, there’s a natural yearning to point out that absurdity in a way a show like Meet the Press is not equipped to handle. MTP and shows like it are all about how serious this is. These are senators, don’t ya know—statesmen. It’s like the whole format is left over from the Washington that existed in an Allen Drury novel, a time before the message was controlled and you rose in the ranks on your ability to avoid gaffes and raise cash.

Our politics—our culture at large, really—now disincentivizes loose informality when it comes to political coverage. It’s really quite schizophrenic: we urge you to be loose and fun and interesting, but we’ll crucify you if you trip up. It’s all absurd, yes, but don’t take it lightly! seems to be the mantra, and there’s a million tripwires to look out for if you’re a senator talking on a set. So we settle on this arrangement that has this sort of bloodless/uber-serious political coverage on the one hand, and Jon Stewart absurdity on the other. A politician or pundit screws up on one, and is made fun of on the other.

But there’s a missing middle ground here—a warm wit, a little mischievous but not cynical—that Sunday shows kind of miss now.

I’m not advocating that we dumb down political analysis and chase the lowest common denominator. Quite the opposite. The irony is that shows that are meant to be funny are often also the smarter shows. There is a long tradition of Swiftian satire, and in this regard, the comedy shows are selling themselves short when they cast themselves as mere “entertainment.” One could argue that they are providing a service—and a service that could be replicated by other outlets and media.

But as faking sincerity is difficult, replicating insouciance is a challenge. It helps to have fun, smart hosts who don’t have an ideological ax to grind. That’s not to say Stewart and Oliver and Maher (just to mention three) don’t have a point of view; they tend to universally lean leftward. But they are probably more intellectually honest—more willing to call their own team for BS—than most political commentators.

They’re also funny. For them, the rule has to be to “be funny first.” You can have an agenda, but it’s always second fiddle to being funny. Or, if your show is about ideas, then I think it has to be intellectually stimulating first. My point here is that scoring political points probably can’t come first, at least if believe this is the model that works best.

Here, talent is important, too. There were a lot of things about that infamous Jon Stewart rant on Crossfire that I thought were unfair, but one thing he got completely right is that being funny is harder than doing political commentary. On the other hand, Stewart and Oliver and Maher have some huge advantages over their political interlocutors, such as a team of writers helping them come up with one-liners. They’re also held to a lower standard, partly at their own insistence, allowing them to quickly move back and forth between serious public-service style journalism and “we’re all just having fun” irreverence.

So I leave you with this: Could a cable network—tasked with providing content 24/7 replicate the quality of these shows, day in and day out? There’s probably no way that would happen. It’s so much easier and cheaper to book guests to gab about the news of the day. There’s little time or money for flying the perfect guest—maybe a smart author—across the country to have an elevated discussion. But it could work as a model for the Sunday shows which, let’s face it, would benefit from a little more levity.

Political commentary will slowly evolve, and what I think we’re witnessing right now is a kind of transitional period—an adolescence, if you will, and that’s rarely an attractive stage. The current formula for TV news isn’t working, and the networks know it, but they haven’t quite figured out what will replace it. Yes, there will always be a place for serious discussion about policy, but this much seems obvious: A decade from now, political punditry will look very different. And I’m betting on the funny guys.

 

By: Matt Lewis, The Daily Beast, November 19, 2014

November 23, 2014 Posted by | Cable News, Journalism, Network Television | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Protest Too Much, Methinks”: Obama Doesn’t Have A Manhood Problem — But Conservatives Certainly Do

It seems beneath my manly dignity to give David Brooks a hard time for his comments decrying Obama’s “manhood problem in the Middle East.” He made them on a Sunday talk show, after all, and we know that no one watches them. And anyway, people accidentally say stupid things on television all the time.

And yet, I suspect that Brooks actually meant it. Because even though he’s distanced himself from the conservative movement in all kinds of ways over the past six years (basically, since George W. Bush’s presidency went down in flames), one thing that’s remained consistent with him since his days writing paeans to American “national greatness” for William Kristol’s Weekly Standard is his tendency to swoon (in only the most manly of ways, of course) at dramatic displays of militaristic swagger and toughness.

When that kind of man’s man looks at Barack Obama’s policy in the Middle East — with its gratuitous displays of not bombing countries, not overthrowing their governments, and not invading and occupying them — he sees something less than virile, a little bit limp, and just a tiny bit flaccid (emphasis on the “tiny”).

He sees a girly man.

This certainly doesn’t place Brooks out of the mainstream on the Right. On the contrary, Brooks’ comments on Meet the Press might be the most mainstream conservative thing he’s said in years. There is a long, deep, and highly repetitive tradition of testosterone-fueled bellicosity on the Right that consistently justifies itself in terms of manliness and sees itself as the necessary antidote to the creeping, potentially fatal feminization of the nation.

Theodore Roosevelt was one of the first to valorize manliness (and decry feminization) in American public life. In the 95 years since his death, he’s been venerated by a broad swath of conservatives, and especially by the second-generation neocons and their onetime hero John “Battlefield: Earth” McCain. Hell, this faction’s leading political philosopher — Harvard’s Harvey C. Mansfield — even wrote a book titled Manliness, in part to defend men against all the mean and hurtful things that scary feminists like to say about them.

If all of this sounds a little personal to me, that’s because it is.

Back in 2002 when I worked as an editor at First Things — a journal that’s aptly been dubbed the New York Review of Books of the religious right — I wrote a column for the magazine that got me into a bit of trouble. My son had just been born, and I wanted to make a case for the modern, egalitarian family in which fathers play an active role in the day-to-day drudgery and delights of raising small children. This was in contrast, of course, to the more traditional family structures usually defended in our pages.

Conservatives have a point, I argued, when they focus on negative consequences of women working outside the home; children often end up being raised by strangers in day-care centers, and women feel torn between their maternal instincts and their desire for careers. But the answer to such problems, I suggested, was not an (unjust, undesirable, and impossible) return to some earlier paradigm of stay-at-home mothering. It was rather an increase in fatherly involvement in the family — and perhaps even the advent of Scandinavian-style government-sponsored paternity leave to allow men to more fully share domestic burdens and rewards.

That didn’t go over well with our readers. At all. Not that I expected it to. But I did expect that the controversy would be about ideas. Instead it was about testicles. Mine, to be specific — and in particular about how my wife had quite obviously stolen them just before bullying me into denying the self-evident fact that mothers are forbidden to work outside the home, fathers are precluded from changing diapers, and God wants to keep it that way.

And then there was the special treat of a letter from Gilbert Meilaender — distinguished moral theologian, longtime friend of the magazine’s editor-in-chief (Richard John Neuhaus), and member of President Bush’s Council on Bioethics. As far as Meilaender was concerned, my ideas clearly flowed from a deep-seated longing to lactate.

As I wrote in my published response to the letters, this charge had about as much intellectual substance behind it as a playground taunt of “f–got.”

Another day at First Things, another reason to break from the Right.

The important point is that when they pronounce on the subject of manliness, none of these people — not Teddy Roosevelt, not John McCain, not Bill Kristol, not David Brooks, not Harvey Mansfield, not Gil Meilaender — can be taken seriously on an intellectual level.

What they’re doing is some kind of ideological shtick, whether or not they recognize it as such. They’re either cynically flattering gullible men and attempting to whip them into a froth of indignation in the way that Fox News and talk radio hosts do every day — or else they’re inadvertently confessing their own gendered status anxieties. Either way, it’s both inaccurate and insulting to treat their grunts as more than irritable mental gestures.

Obama’s policy in the Middle East is wise or foolish, smart or misguided, moral or immoral. His “manhood” has nothing at all to do with it.

 

By: Damon Linker, The Week, April 23, 2014

April 24, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Middle East | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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