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“You Can See Russia From 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue”: My Disorienting Day With Sarah Palin

Had John McCain been elected president in 2008, Sarah Palin still may not have ever set foot in the White House…because she wouldn’t have been able to find it.

On Friday afternoon, the failed reality-television star and one-time VP nominee materialized in Washington, clad in a leather blazer, to deliver a speech to the crowd at the Values Voter Summit—an annual social-conservative confab held at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, a sprawling, gilded maze of a place that is rumored to be haunted by a dead maid.

Maybe she was the one screwing with Palin’s notes, because about halfway through her remarks, Palin said this: “Don’t retreat: You reload with truth, which I know is an endangered species at 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue. Anyway, truth.”

1400 Pennsylvania Avenue.

One assumes Palin was attempting to say truth is an endangered species at the White House, which is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue is roughly a plaza in front of the Willard Hotel.

Palin is not the first politician to make this mistake. On Aug. 1, 2008, Rep. K. Michael Conaway, Republican from Texas, wrote a letter to then-President George W. Bush, which he addressed to:

“The President
The White House
1400 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500”

I would like to imagine Conaway has spent the last six years wondering why he never received a response.

Out in the hallway of the Omni Shoreham, I talked to conservative women who felt that Palin’s mistake was not a big deal: “She speaks from the heart,” Marlea Knighton of Arizona, said. “The news never misprints?” Linda, an older lady from Virginia, said that anyone criticizing Palin for not knowing where the White House is located is just doing it “because they’re scared of what she says,” because women “who love the Lord” are intimidating to non-believers, like those populating the mainstream media.

Mark Roeske, who operates campaign buses, offered a different take: Conservative women like Palin intimidate feminist women because “they’re women who are not just a vagina,” and so they feel compelled to attack her whenever possible and make her seem stupid.

Gaffe aside, the rest of Palin’s speech was an unremarkable, nonsensical collection of Palinisms haphazardly strung together and delivered in her signature bright-yet-bitter-sounding sing-song style—like a homicidal kindergarten teacher.

“You’re the Americans that the media loves to hate,” she crooned, menacingly. And then, “All you mama grizzlies out there, rear up and charge against the lawless, imperial president and his failed liberal agenda and the lapdogs in the media.” And then, “So, I’m out in the shop with Todd, and he’s winterizing his snow plane.”

Let’s hope Todd has a better sense of direction.


By: Olivia Nuzzi, The Daily Beast, September 26, 2014




September 30, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Sarah Palin | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Overheated, Half-Baked Advice”: No, Obama Doesn’t Have To Fire Everybody In The White House

In the wake of the disastrous rollout of, President Obama’s inner circle is taking a pounding.

Several anonymous Democrats recently dumped on Obama’s White House political aides in the pages of The Hill newspaper, suggesting they should be fired for dropping the ball on their boss’s top domestic priority.

Ron Fournier took a more direct approach. In a National Journal piece titled “Fire Your Team, Mr. President,” Fournier argued that Obama will never regain his standing with the public unless he overhauls his staff “so thoroughly that the new blood imposes change on how he manages the federal bureaucracy and leads.”

The “off with their heads” approach is just the latest manifestation of longstanding criticism that Obama’s group of advisers is far too insular, which in this case resulted in utter embarrassment for the administration.

But this overheated advice is half-baked for a few reasons.

Yes, the rollout is a headache for the White House, but early problems are typical of new government programs. In particular, ObamaCare’s hiccups are reminiscent of Social Security’s at the beginning. The eventual government audits may find instances of individual incompetence, but even if so, there likely won’t be evidence of a systemwide governmental breakdown warranting mass firings.

In fact, the Obama administration has a rather impressive managerial history, pulling off an $800 billion stimulus free of graft and boondoggles, executing the auto industry bailout, and providing scientific expertise to stop the BP underwater oil gusher. Any assessment of the Obama administration’s competence should factor in all it has done before demanding across-the-board career sacrifices.

Furthermore, panic firings breed more panic. Jimmy Carter learned this the hard way in 1979. Suffering from low approval ratings and a sputtering agenda, Carter sparked a fresh wave of support and renewed grassroots spirit with his daring “Crisis of Confidence” speech. But a few days later, he snuffed out his own momentum by demanding the resignation of his entire cabinet.

One Carter-era reporter recently told Politico, “Wholesale sacking of cabinet officers usually comes off as desperation,” and fed the perception of Carter as a “floundering leader.”

Contrast that to Franklin Roosevelt, who was suffering his lowest approval ratings in 1939 as fears circulated that the Social Security Board had failed to collect necessary wage data from employers and would be unable to cut millions of checks. Did FDR start firing people left and right? Nope. As his top Social Security man recounted decades later, “He wasn’t interested in it. He was bored stiff. I couldn’t have kept him interested in any of my woes. He laughed them off.”

Some people today say Roosevelt was a pretty good leader.

By: Bill Scher, The Week, December 5, 2013

December 6, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Obamacare | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Misleading Pretend Scandal”: It Turns Out IRS Commissioner Did Not Visit The White House 157 Times After All

One of the more enduring legends put forth by those working overtime to stoke the fires of scandal within the walls of the Obama Administration, is the often cited tale of how the now departed IRS Commissioner, Douglas Shulman, visited the White House 158 times during his years serving the Obama Administration.

Surely, as the logic goes, there could be but one credible explanation for an agency boss spending so much time within the epicenter of executive power. If Commissioner Shulman had pitched his tent and made the White House his second home, it could only mean that he was a co-conspirator in a well-coordinated effort on the part of the president and White House staff to influence the 2012 election by putting a beat down on conservative money groups looking to gain tax exempt status and the ability to hide the names of their contributors as they raised millions to defeat the Obama re-election effort.

So compelling is this argument that it has become a ‘go to’ bit of circumstantial evidence in the effort to take the IRS ‘scandal’ to the doorstep of the Oval Office and beyond.

And why not? The story does add up to a fairly decent piece of speculative evidence…or at least it would if the story were true.

Sadly (for the scandal mongers), it turns out that the entire meme falls dramatically short when someone actually takes the trouble to dig just a millimeter under the surface to discover what really happened here.

The ball on this enticing bit of scandal bait got rolling when The Daily Caller, the conservative hatchet rag operated by Tucker Carlson, reported in a May 29th piece that IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman had racked up more visits to the White House than “even the most trusted members of the president’s cabinet.” The article appeared to be carefully put together, so much so that it came complete with a chart revealing how the second most active visitor to the West Wing, Rebecca Blank, was a very distant second to the tally put up by Commissioner Shulman.

The problem is—in what is becoming something of a tradition for The Daily Caller—the website managed to sort of ‘semi-report’ the story without feeling much of a need or desire to gather or report all of the details and facts as, to do so, would have been highly inconvenient to the intent of the article.

Reacting to the Daily Caller story, Bill O’Reilly immediately demanded that Mr. Shulman “explain under oath what you were doing at the White House on 157 separate occasions.” Considering how odd such an extensive visitation history would be for the boss of a second level government agency, O’Reilly’s request was not an unreasonable one.

However, Mr. O’Reilly’s insistent demand turns out be unnecessary as readily available public records have already answered the questions he sought to have answered. All someone need to do is look at these records to know the reason for Shulman’s visits (which turn out to be far, far fewer than 157.)

As reported by Garance Franke-Ruta in The Atlantic 

“And yet the public meeting schedules available for review to any media outlet show that very thing:

Shulman was cleared primarily to meet with administration staffers involved in implementation of the health-care reform bill. He was cleared 40 times to meet with Obama’s director of the Office of Health Reform, and a further 80 times for the biweekly health reform deputies meetings and others set up by aides involved with the health-care law implementation efforts. That’s 76 percent of his planned White House visits just there, before you even add in all the meetings with Office of Management and Budget personnel also involved in health reform.”

If you are wondering why the IRS Commissioner would be so actively involved in meetings involving the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, you will want to keep in mind that the Internal Revenue Service is at the center of the action when it comes to enforcing the mandate and penalty provisions of the law. As a result, any serious meeting regarding the execution of the Affordable Care Act would not make much sense without Shulman, or a high-ranking member of his staff attending in his place.

But even this does not tell the entire story.

You see, while the records reveal that Mr. Shulman was cleared for entry into the White House 157 times, these records speak only to the result of the clearance required by the Secret Service for someone seeking entry into the building and do not speak to whether or not Shulman actually attended the meetings for which he was cleared.

As someone who has, myself, been to the White House on a few occasions, I am keenly aware that nobody without a permanent entrance pass (given to those who have their office in the complex) gets in the door of the White House or the Executive Office Building unless specifically cleared for entry on a particular date and time by the Secret Service. Indeed, on one occasion, I had been cleared by the Secret Service to attend an event but, at the last minute, I had to pass on the White House visit when something came up. Yet, using the list relied upon by The Daily Caller, my skipped visit would be counted as an additional visit on my part if someone were counting.

What’s more, Franke-Ruta’s research reveals that the records tracking the time and date that a visitor signs in and out of a White House event suggests that Mr. Shulman signed in for just 11 events during the years 2009 through 2012 and signed out of 6 events during that same time frame.

Given the discrepancy between the ‘sign in’ and ‘sign out’ records noted above, it is certainly possible that Franke-Ruta may have actually been at the White House on additional occasions. However, there is absolutely no record—as claimed—that Mr. Shulman was at the White House 157 times. All we learn is that Shulman was cleared to come into the building for various meetings and events; meetings and events that made all the sense in the world given his key role in implementing Obamacare.

If you are wondering why Mr. Shulman would require Secret Service clearance so many more times than, say, cabinet members, it turns out that there is a very simple and clear explanation for this too—along with some understanding of Shulman’s testimony before Congress when he referenced going to the White House for an Easter Egg Roll.

Writes Franke-Ruta

“But there is no record that Shulman attended a White House Easter Egg Roll under Obama, most likely because large events organized by the East Wing, like that one, don’t always show up in the visitor’s access records. Neither do visits by staffers, journalists covering large events, or people who enter the White House grounds in their pre-cleared cars, like Cabinet members, who do not wait for badge swipes at the gate with the policymaking hoi polloi.

So, how can there be so much confusion when it comes to White House records tracking who comes in and who comes out?

Prior to Obama’s arrival, there were no such records published for the public to review. The decision to do so was a part of Obama’s stated quest for transparency when he first took office. As Franke-Ruta adds, “The real problem with combing through the White House visitor logs is that they were a system designed for Secret Service clearance and White House security, not as comprehensive means of documenting every visitor to the White House, high to low. They miss the top end and some of the social end of people visiting the White House — people who are cleared through separate processes designed to protect presidential security other than getting swiped in at the front gate for an appointment.”

Clearly, there is nothing even close to evidence suggesting that Commissioner Shulman visited the White House anywhere near the number of times suggested by The Daily Caller and immediately seized upon as a juicy bit of supposed evidence of White House involvement in this juicy story perpetuated by Darrell Issa and friends.

The true bottom line, however, is that those trying—and failing miserably—to make these pretend scandals stick should themselves be investigated within an inch of their lives for failing to set forth the true facts and data when the same becomes readily available. Failure to do so—whether on the part of supposed journalists or supposedly concerned Congressional committee chairmen—is malpractice, pure and simple, and a purposeful, malevolent misleading of the American public who would actually like to know what really happened here.


By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, July 7, 2013

July 8, 2013 Posted by | Internal Revenue Service | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Time For Issa To Put Up Or Shut Up”: Proof That White House Was Not Involved In IRS Tea Party Targeting Finally Exposed

Appearing this morning on CNN’s “State of the Union” and “CBS Sunday Morning”, Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa, revealed that the manager responsible for the Cincinnati screening team involved in the 501(c)(4) investigations of conservative tea party groups—and the man that apparently first referred the issue to IRS technical office in Washington—has now weighed in on the controversy.

The Cincinnati based manager—a long-time employee of the IRS who self-identifies as a “conservative Republican”—was interviewed on Thursday by the staff of the Oversight Committee. What he had to say might well be the beginning of the end of Darrell Issa’s campaign to lay the blame for the IRS fiasco at the White House doorstep.

According to the transcript of the interview, the still unnamed supervisor was asked, “Do you have any reason to believe that anyone in the White House was involved in the decision to screen tea party cases?”

The manager’s response? “I have no reason to believe that.”

The gentleman is in a unique position to know what actually happened as he was the supervisor who, in 2010, sent the matter to the IRS technical office in Washington for further guidance after an IRS screener under his supervision identified an applicant for 501 (c)(4) status as a “high profile’” conservative organization. According to the manager, he forwarded the case to the Washington based technical folks for their guidance so that the matter could be treated “with consistency”.

What this tells us is that this was not a case of Washington instructing the Cincinnati office to target Tea Party applicants but rather it was the Cincinnati office that first sought guidance from the IRS in Washington as to how to handle the matter. This is a far cry, indeed, from what Chairman Issa has been trying to sell to the American public through his constant—yet fully unsubstantiated—claims that the targeting originated in White House.

According to the transcripts, the manager is now on record saying that there was no political motivation or instruction originating in the White House or anywhere else in the nation’s capital, noting “I do not believe that the screening of these cases had anything to do other than consistency and identifying issues that needed to have further development.”

In response to the interview with the Cincinnati supervisor, Representative Cummings suggested this morning that “Based upon everything I’ve seen the case is solved, and if it were me, I would wrap this case up and move on to be frank with you.”

Of course, Cummings desire to put the matter to bed is unlikely to happen. Certainly, any hope that the tide can be turned on the full-scale GOP attack on the President will require that the public gets a look at the actual transcripts to see the full interview—a matter that has, in and of itself, been chock full of controversy.

While Chairman Issa made news last week by promising to release full transcripts in support of his still unsupported claims in this matter, he has failed to release a word of testimony despite numerous requests from various reporters and columnists, including myself.

It was during Issa’s  own “State of the Union” appearance last Sunday when he stated that interviews with workers in the Cincinnati IRS office indicated that targeting Tea Party applicants was “a problem that was coordinated in all likelihood right out of Washington headquarters – and we’re getting to proving it. My gut tells me that too many people knew this wrongdoing was going on before the election, and at least by some sort of convenient, benign neglect, allowed it to go on through the election. I’m not making any allegations as to motive, that they set out to do it, but certainly people knew it was happening.”

Despite Issa’s indication that the transcripts of interviews with the Cincinnati employees would be forthcoming, the transcripts have not been released including the transcript with the manager providing the testimony that would appear to clear the White House.

Representative Cummings is now demanding that all of the transcripts be released for review.

Speaking to Candy Crowley on this morning’s edition of “State of The Union”, Cummings said:

“I wrote Chairman Issa on Thursday and I wrote to him this morning. I want those transcripts to be released,” Cummings said. “I’m willing to come on your show next week with the chairman with the transcripts if he agrees to do that. If he doesn’t, I’ll release them by the end of the week.”


It’s far past time for Issa to back up his over-the-top allegations with some evidence–evidence that even conservative Republican Senator Lindsey Graham acknowledges has not been forthcoming.

While there is no reason to imagine that the anti-Obama forces will actually allow the truth to get in the way of their political narrative—nor will there be any shortage of Americans who will be more than willing to ignore the testimony of the one man in the Cincinnati who actually knows what happened—the truth may serve to accomplish one real benefit for which we can all be grateful—

Just maybe, Darrell Issa’s fifteen minutes of truly illegitimate and undeserved fame may finally be over.



By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, June 9, 2013

June 10, 2013 Posted by | Internal Revenue Service, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Pick A Narrative And Go With It”: Lazy, Incoherent And Contradictory Political Media Critiques

Regular readers may recall that I’ve long been fascinated by the trouble President Obama’s detractors have had with understanding what it is about him they dislike. The result is a series of rhetorical attacks that are incoherent and contradictory.

He’s a ruthless Chicago thug and a “wuss.” He’s a bystander who goes golfing too much and an activist president who engages too much. He’s sticking to the Bush/Cheney script on national security and he’s putting us at risk by abandoning the Bush/Cheney national security agenda. He’s cutting cherished entitlement programs like Medicare and he refuses to cut entitlement programs like Medicare. He’s waging a class war against the rich and he’s coddling millionaires.

This week, as much of the political world tries to stick to the dubious line that the White House is engulfed in scandals, we’re seeing the same phenomenon once more. Greg Sargent makes a nice catch this afternoon:

One current storyline has it that all of these stories could converge to create a sense that Obama’s embrace of government activism has shaded into Nixonian abuses of power — revealing that Obama personally harbors a far more intrusive, overbearing, and even sinister approach to governing than he previously let on.

But another current storyline has it that the White House’s pushback on these scandals — the claims of a firewall between the Justice Department and the White House, the assertions of no connection to the IRS abuses — reveal a president who is weak and unable to control the government he presides over.

Good point. Just today, the Washington Post reports that the recent uproars “add evidence” to detractors’ claims that President Obama is a power-hungry leader who “has not acted within the constraints of the Constitution.” And also today, the New York Times reports that the controversies that have captured the Beltway’s attention present President Obama as a helpless “onlooker” who seems unable to “use his office.”

Greg added, “Obviously, these narratives can’t both be true at once. The scandals can’t demonstrate that Obama’s true dictatorial streak has finally been revealed while simultaneously supporting the idea that they’ve shown him to be too weak to control a government that has run amok.”

Ordinarily, I give the “pick a narrative and go with it” advice to the president’s Republican detractors, but in this case, it seems more appropriate to remind pundits and the political media establishment that their own preconceived narratives are just as contradictory.

Indeed, in this case, the critiques are especially incoherent since the so-called “scandals” generating so much chatter about “a White House in crisis” don’t actually relate much to the White House. None of the stories — Benghazi, the IRS, AP subpoenas — points to a tyrannical dictator or a hapless onlooker.

To connect three disparate stories of varying degrees of legitimacy and importance into a mega-scandal is lazy. So, too, is the embrace of competing narratives that cancel each other out.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 16, 2013

May 20, 2013 Posted by | Media, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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