The disastrous rollout of Obamacare, worse than anyone anticipated or warned, could have doomed the president's second term. It would require something very big to take your eyes off of that disaster.
What an idea. Shut down the government.
How clever can you get? The only thing worse than Obamacare is the crowd that would close down the government, leaving people all over the place in the lurch, in what they conceded from the outset was a hopeless act of protest that would in practice change nothing.
The tea party, of course, wants more people like that in Washington. And they may get them. In the convoluted rules of Washington, that would be better for the Democrats than the Republicans, except that it would make getting things done even more difficult, which is not really good for the president, who has to figure out what to do for the next three years — apart from those things that other second-term presidents have done, like leave the country a lot.
The president could drill down on partisan politics, make it his priority to raise money for Democratic candidates, attack the "do-nothing" Republican Congress — all of which he probably will do.
Here's an idea. Acknowledge mistakes. Try to fix things. The big moves for President Obama may be fixing the big moves he's already made.
The health care system is the obvious example. It is going to be a mess, but it will be a mess that is post-Obamacare. Millions of people are covered under Obamacare. You can't "get rid" of it; there is no "it" anymore, no switch that can be turned off.
The question is: How do we fix all of the things people are complaining about without bankrupting ourselves? Not to mention all of the other things we need to fix.
Like the NSA and intelligence gathering. If Obama were a Republican president, the disclosures relating to surveillance programs would be a daily nightmare.
As it is, many of the people you might expect to be screaming the loudest are on the inside or are friends with the people on the inside, not to mention supporters of the president. So exactly whom should they scream at?
Really, the question should be: When is the administration going to step up to the issue? As far as I know, Obama is the only former professor of constitutional law to become president. A frightened and confused country might turn to such a president in search of a little bit of wisdom as to how to balance overwhelming interests (Security! Terrorism! Liberty!) on both sides. Hello?
Are we still at war in Afghanistan? Any news on Guantanamo? Okay. Just had to ask.
Immigration reform? What if you try to do it just the opposite of the way you did health care? Instead of all or nothing, piece by piece. Lots of steps. Hard things to oppose. It's true that, from a rules perspective, if you want comprehensive reform, you'd better have a comprehensive bill — but maybe it's enough to say we will have a long series of small reforms.
I am amazed at the anger I hear from people on the topic of Obama. Some of it, on both sides, may be unconscious racism. There are all kinds of reasons not to focus on race issues during the president's second term. On the other hand, why not?
Whenever I see a "candid" picture of Obama, I am reminded that I have no idea what this man is really like. Of course, I've read the books and I hear stories from those who know him. But five years into his presidency, I don't feel I have come to know him. And that allows me to project onto him attributes — of being cold and aloof, for example — that make it his fault, or worse, to be disappointed, as are many who thought they knew him.
Five years into his presidency, my guess is that fewer Americans believe they know and understand this president than did on the day he took office, which is an agenda of its own.
(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00
Pope Francis' call for a truce notwithstanding, the culture war rages on in America.
Last week, a Utah judge struck down part of the state's anti-polygamy law, clearing the way for men to marry multiple spouses. Methodist pastor Frank Schaefer, defrocked for officiating at the same-sex marriage of his son, refused to recant, and joined a Dupont Circle congregation, declaring from the pulpit to repeated ovations Sunday, "Change is coming" to the United Methodist Church.
Major media stories both. Yet these were skirmishes alongside the culture war clash last week over the remarks to GQ magazine of Phil Robertson, patriarch of the clan of "Duck Dynasty," the wildly popular show on A&E.
Using crude terms, but biblically correct arguments, Robertson told GQ what he thought of homosexuality and moral relativism. Said Robertson: "Everything is blurred on what's right and what's wrong. Sin becomes fine. ... Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men. ... Don't be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexuality offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers — they won't inherit the kingdom of God. Don't deceive yourself."
The homosexual lobby GLAAD swiftly demanded that Robertson be purged from "Duck Dynasty." And A&E suspended him indefinitely.
The backlash was swift and huge. Followers of "Duck Dynasty," Evangelicals, politicians and free-speech champions arose to defend Robertson's right to speak without punishment. Millions endorsed his views on what the Bible says and Christianity professes and promises.
The battle revealed an immense and intense hostility in Middle America to the moral agenda being imposed by our cultural elites.
While defenders of Robertson invoked the First Amendment, that is not the issue here. No one is denying Robertson his right to speak. What GLAAD wants to do is to blacklist Robertson, to punish him by taking away his podium, "Duck Dynasty." The gay rights militants cannot silence him, but they do have the power to cost him his job and take away his megaphone so that his vast audience can no longer hear him.
The blacklist of the Truman era did not deny the Hollywood Ten their right to produce movie scripts. It was an agreed-upon Hollywood policy not to commission or to use the work of unrepentant Communists as writers, producers or directors. Who were the Hollywood Ten? They were closet Communists, secret members of a Communist Party USA, then a wholly owned subsidiary of the greatest mass murderer in history, Joseph Stalin.
And of what were the Hollywood Ten guilty? When Stalinists were eradicating freedom and exterminating Eastern European Christians and overrunning China and murdering millions, as President Truman tried to rally the forces of freedom, the Hollywood Ten took the Fifth Amendment. They refused to repudiate Communism or name names of fellow Communists who were still reshaping the thinking of America from their upholstered perches in the film industry.
Today, however, the Hollywood Ten are regarded as martyrs, moral heroes. Had they been secret Nazis rather than secret Stalinists in those years, they would likely not be so beloved of the Hollyleft.
Contrast if you will the sins for which Phil Robertson is being blacklisted with those of the Hollywood Ten. He is a fundamentalist Christian professing his belief in what he holds to be Bible truths about sin, homosexuality, heaven and hell. For so doing, he is being censored by elites who wish to deny him access to the medium they largely control — television.
And what were the comparable sins of the Hollywood Ten? They were witting collaborators in a 70-year Communist conspiracy responsible for the murder of millions, which, in the 1940s, looked on the United States of America as the last impediment to world conquest. In that era, we were agreed that Communism and Communists were the enemies of America and mankind and should be regarded and treated as such.
To our modern moral and cultural elites, it is those who condemn the values of GLAAD who are the enemies of decency and progress who ought to be fired and blacklisted to prevent their poisonous views from being disseminated. In the Hollywood of the late 1940s, Communism was persona non grata. In the 21st century, biblical Christianity is persona non grata.
No, this is not the America we grew up in. And it is becoming less so. According to a CNN poll last week, while belief in God and the divinity of Christ is still shared by two-thirds of Americans, that share — older, more Republican, less educated — is falling.
Worldwide, too, Christianity at Christmas 2013 seems in a long retreat. Receding slowly in America, and moribund in Europe, Christianity is undergoing merciless persecutions in Africa and the Middle East — from Nigeria to the Central African Republic to Egypt, Syria and Iraq.
Compared to these folks suffering martyrdom for the faith, we have it easy here.
So, Sursum Corda. Lift up your hearts. And Merry Christmas.
(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)
Last Updated on Thursday, 26 December 2013 07:17
Just last month, the Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health expressed its support for Medicaid expansion in N.H. and explained how extending health care to the identified population is aligned with the Partnership's community-based mission.
Now that the Legislature's Special Session has failed to reach consensus on an expansion plan, the Partnership is reiterating its support for Medicaid expansion, given the critical impact such a move would have in the Lakes Region and on their health outcomes. The Partnership is hopeful that the Legislature can find common ground on this issue when it reconvenes in January.
Since the Affordable Care Act originally envisioned Medicaid expansion to be mandatory, no one foresaw that individuals who are not currently eligible for Medicaid but have incomes below $11,000 annually, are not eligible for health insurance subsidies on the Exchange and as a result, do not have access to affordable health insurance anywhere. The numbers are staggering. In N.H., approximately 40,000 people will be ineligible for a subsidy (In Belknap County, it's 1,980 people). That means that a young, underemployed worker in Laconia who suffers from asthma may miss days from work, try over-the-counter remedies to manage symptoms and may eventually end up in the emergency room with a full-blown asthma attack. Were Medicaid expansion in place, this individual would receive ongoing preventive care from a physician, be able to stay at work and avoid a costly, crisis-driven trip to the emergency room.
The Legislature wisely attempted to expand N.H.'s Health Insurance Premium Payment (HIPP) program that allows individuals to stay on employer-sponsored health plans with Medicaid picking up the cost differential to make it affordable for the employee. This is a win-win for all involved: the state saves money by not fully enrolling an individual in Medicaid; the employer has a healthier workforce; the employee has continuity of care with an affordable plan. Hopefully, this provision will be retained in the version of expansion that finally passes the Legislature.
The Partnership supports keeping individuals on employer-sponsored plans when possible especially because the Affordable Care Act mandates that such plans provide 10 "essential benefits". Too many employer-provided plans are catastrophic in nature: the deductibles and co-pays are so high that, while they pay catastrophic expenses and may keep a family from losing their home, covered individuals cannot afford routine, preventive care that helps them avoid those medical catastrophes.
The Partnership is especially supportive of the inclusion of substance abuse and mental health services in the provision of care under Medicaid expansion. Our Lakes Region communities are struggling to meet these needs for local individuals. Expanding Medicaid would not only mean our providers would receive reimbursement for services, but it would engage more underserved populations. Many of these individuals are currently being seen repeatedly in our emergency rooms. With Medicaid coverage and continuity of care, management of their symptoms, medication and behaviors could better be achieved.
The Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health's mission remains "to improve the health and well being of the Lakes Region." Medicaid expansion makes that mission more achievable as health benefits would be extended to many Lakes Region residents in need of dependable, available health coverage. Medicaid expansion would be good for the Lakes Region.
For more information and/or to receive enrollment assistance in the Health Insurance Marketplace, please contact the ServiceLink Resource Center in your area. ServiceLink's toll free number is 1-866-634-9412. To find a location www.servicelink.org.
(Lisa Morris is executive director of the Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health. She wrote this column on behalf of the LRPPH Board of Directors.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00
The Lakes Region has a rich heritage: it has communities, large and small, that have contributed to New Hampshire's growth and status as one of the best places to live in the United States. Its lakes, rivers, mountains, and forests form a landscape that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Its independent communities also understand the importance of shared responsibility and interdependence.
Before us lies the future. Will the Lakes Region build on its heritage, enhancing the lives of Lakes Region residents and make our communities strong, attractive, vibrant places to live, work, and play? We know tomorrow will be dramatically different than today. If it is to be better, coordinated local and regional planning will help to assure it is. As the planning adage goes, if we fail to plan, we plan to fail.
It has been a privilege to serve the Lakes Region for nearly 30 years and I have witnessed numerous changes: physical, economic, cultural, and political. From the tourism renaissance in Meredith to the sprawling regional shopping complex at Tilton Junction, significant alteration of the landscape has occurred. Broad state and regional plans may help portray the kind of society we want; though, specific, local community plans often make their contribution in ways that are more meaningful to its residents. While another comprehensive watershed management plan for our largest lake waits to occur, several smaller watershed plans have emerged as communities and watershed associations have taken the lead to ensure that local water supplies are adequate for drinking and recreation. What was once a one-day four-town household hazardous waste collection has morphed into a twice a year twenty-four community summer tradition to clean up the environment, and the creation of a permanent household hazardous product facility in Wolfeboro. Where funding for regional transportation planning was nearly non-existent, the LRPC now has an essential role in the statewide process to improve our roads and promote multi-modes of travel. We just completed the region's second comprehensive economic development strategy. Countless other local and regional plans have stirred the imagination, and led to numerous incremental steps in our communities that reflect our heritage as well as our attitude and political will about the type of place we want to enjoy in the future.
Former president Dwight Eisenhower once said that the plan is nothing, planning is everything. There is truth to that. For example, if you think that the sidewalks in Gilford village, advocated by school-aged children, or the cleanliness of our lakes and rivers, or the preservation of village squares in places like Hebron or Sandwich, or the connecting trails between Laconia to Danbury, or the downtown revitalization in process in Bristol all occur by chance, please guess again. Planning is at its most elegant when positive changes seem naturally occurring, often through the steadfast work and community involvement with local planning boards and the LRPC.
Town and regional planning have proven to be valuable community and regional processes year after year. In today's highly competitive, nano-second world, it is easy to become distracted. We need to stay focused on where our future lies. We, the people, receive the government and the rules from those we elect and appoint. My observation is that good government and planning result from visionary leadership and persistent, selfless service over many years; with many people sharing common goals and a willingness to make things happen. As my tenure as executive director draws to a close, I encourage you to remain engaged for the well-being of your community. If you are so inclined, take the next step and help your friends and neighbors living in the next town over or across the lake; there is where regionalism lives and where your stewardship is prized. We have much to be grateful for, and more importantly, much more to do. Best wishes meeting tomorrow's challenges ... Go Lakes Region!
(Kimon Koulet is the retiring executive director of the Lakes Region Planning Commission.)
Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 December 2013 06:10
The honchos at A&E, professing shock that an old Southern redneck from their reality TV hit "Duck Dynasty" made the sort of homophobic remarks one would expect from an old Southern redneck, yanked Phil Robertson off the show. A culture war skirmish ensued.
Gay rights groups condemned Robertson, who shared his raw opinions in a GQ Magazine interview. Religious conservatives, meanwhile, accused A&E of censoring the Louisiana duck hunter. What Robertson said, they noted, is right there in scripture, in Corinthians I.
Naturally, the politicians jumped in. "I remember when TV networks believed in the First Amendment," said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. "It is a messed-up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended."
For the record, governor, Cyrus (who gained fame for shaking her raised rear end on TV) got not a laugh from me, but a retch. And I did find it odd that A&E would suspend a rural Bible Belt dweller from a "reality" show for saying what many like him really think — as gross as was his way of putting it.
And as inconsequential. Almost no one cares about homosexuality anymore, including most young conservatives. Outside some swampy precincts, the right to gay marriage is rapidly becoming the law of the land. Last week, same-sex couples lined up to tie the knot in, of all places, Salt Lake City.
Also, for the record, Robertson's reading of Corinthians accurately included "adulterers" among those to be denied entry into heaven. Such concerns evidently did not deter the hunter's fellow Louisianans from re-electing Republican David Vitter, a confessed adulterer, to the U.S. Senate in 2010. (In 1999, Vitter succeeded Bob Livingston in the House, after the representative resigned for having been caught cheating on his wife.)
Adultery may ban one from heaven, but it seems a lesser barrier to holding elective office in Washington. In his tweet defending the "Duck Dynasty" patriarch, Vitter emphasized the free speech part, not the Corinthians passage. That was wise.
Until this controversy flared, I had never seen "Duck Dynasty," using the freed-up TV time to watch old "Frasiers." Thus, I've been pondering how the hyperelitist Crane brothers would have responded to the "Duck Dynasty" to do. I envisioned Frasier making a clueless reference to a Royal Pan-Seared Duck Breast recipe using his signature pomegranate sauce.
The down-home Southern duck hunting culture would have seemed as exotic to the Seattleites as the caviar-binging Crane brothers would probably be to the bayou Robertsons. (Keeping categories straight, "Frasier" is sort-of fiction, and "Duck Dynasty" sort-of reality.) The brilliance of both shows is the characters' comic capacities for self-mockery.
As for freedom of speech, A&E hasn't taken anyone's away. Its executives have every right to suspend Robertson from its programming for violating its code of conduct — or for overdoing the camouflage prints. This is business, you know, and if A&E wants to demand that its crotchety old Louisiana duck stalker be politically correct and a macrobiotic vegan besides, it may do so.
The question is why the network went this far. Why can't it respond to what it considers offensive views by simply announcing that A&E finds them offensive? It's hard to see the point of punishing this redneck, who seems as much no-school as old-school.
The "Frasier" brothers protected their snooty sensibilities by steering clear of shopping malls and Olive Gardens. Those jarred by Southern crackers speaking their minds might likewise try avoidance. (Was I just politically incorrect using the word "cracker"?)
Or they should make peace with the obvious risk that if you watch reality TV, reality is (sometimes) what you get.
(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)
Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 December 2013 06:04