Thursday, November 14, 2013

Good Governance? Not from Republicans.

In my last column on this blog, I spent the majority of the article criticizing President Obama and the administration for the woeful mess they have made of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (aka "ObamaCare").  Indeed, the problems with the web-site, the misleading statements by the President, and the monumental lack of good management on the part of HHS are worthy of intense criticism.  Most of the wounds with the roll-out are self-inflicted wounds by the administration.  Couple that with the sweetheart gift to the Republicans that now allows them to bleat "I told you so" relative to the roll-out and the problem just gets compounded.

But,  there are two sides to every story, and the one that must not go untouched is the intensive and blatant attacks by the GOP (in Washington primarily, but also with several governors) to sabotage the Obama Presidency from the outset.   There has been in my life-time (54 years) no administration that has taken more focused hatred and intentional obstruction from Congress than this one. 

There was a time when the Republican Party gave a damn about America.  Even up through George Herbert Walker Bush's administration, the GOP in Washington would actually work with the Democrats to improve the lives of the American people at large.  But now, and effectively since the 2010 elections which swept the toxic "Tea Party" caucus into the House of Representative and elected odious people like Rand Paul, Mike Lee and Ted Cruz into the Senate, the GOP in Congress has made it their life's mission not to uphold their Constitutional oaths and not to do the People's work of enacting legislation.  No, their life mission, beginning the moment that President Obama took the oath of office in January of 2009 was to sabotage him and obstruct every attempt at governing the President has done.

Whether it is the record number of filibusters in the Senate (The Senate, since 2009, has filibustered over 241 times against legislation or appointees by the President.), or the ridiculous and money wasting exercise in futility of voting to repeal the ACA over 40 times by the House of Representatives, the GOP has made it clear that they aren't interested in getting anything done.  They aren't interested in the economy. They aren't interested in poverty.  They aren't interested in National Security.  They aren't interested in governing.  What they are interested in is defeating President Obama and or making his signature legislation (the ACA) fail.

This systematic and insidious obstruction is the clearest example I have ever seen that at the national level, the GOP doesn't want government to function.  The icing on the cake in this sad tragic-comedy is the government shutdown, where for over 16 days, the GOP obstinacy with regard to the ACA lead to over 800 thousand government workers being furloughed, several corporations laying off people (Lockheed Martin laid-off over 3000 people), and an estimated $24 billion dollars of the damage to the economy according to Standard and Poors.  All because the GOP (the House specifically with support from Ted Cruz) refused to put a clean Continuing Resolution for funding the government on the floor for a vote.  Which, had Mr. Boehner done, would have passed easily with both Democratic and Republican support.

But, Mr. Boehner is running scared.  He is afraid of losing his job. So what does he do? He shuts down the government and for a while almost 1 million people lose their jobs.  So frightened is Mr. Boehner of a Tea Party revolt that would remove him from his speakership that he has surrendered his power to the lunatic fringe of his party who would like nothing more than to see the federal government implode upon itself.  We actually had a US Congressman (Representative Ted Yoho R-FL)say on live television, that taking the government to default by not raising the debt ceiling would be "good for the economy as it would stabilize the markets".   So rather than allow the government to keep functioning, they shut it down.  Then they complain about the government being shut down and attempt to run through small funding measures to open the pieces of government (like National Parks) they started getting flack about.

The President's approval ratings are sitting now at about 39% approval.  That's the lowest he's had since being elected.  The dip in approval is justified, given the colossal cock-up relative to the ACA and the lack of leadership he has provided in trying to make Washington work.  But, if you think that is bad. The GOP members of Congress' approval rating ranges from 18 - 21% depending upon the poll you look at.  That's almost a 20 point swing to the negative for the GOP.  So, as bad as the President is doing right now, the GOP in congress is doing worse.  It's not surprising, because they don't even try to hide their obstructionism behind arguing about policy, it is just blatantly opposing the President.

Let's not forget, the ACA is a plan based on a Republican think tank (The Heritage Foundation) who developed the framework in response to the Clinton Health Care proposals of the early 1990's.  It was modeled on the plan implemented by then Governor Mitt Romney who, along with the Democrats in 2004 implemented state-wide coverage in Massachusetts.  Guess what?  It's working there.  98% of the folks in Massachusetts have health care and it is overall cheaper than before.

So, even with the President modeling his plan on a conservative think-tank's plan and a Republican governor's plan, these guys are dead-set against it.

The lack of positive legislation coming from this Congress (jobs bills laying dormant; immigration bills laying dormant; background checks for guns being "shot-down" in the Senate), the lack of fiscal responsibility from this Congress (40+ times voting to repeal legislation that in no way the President would sign nor would the House have the votes to override a veto if it ever got through the Senate), the shut-down of the government costing this economy over $24B in the space of a month's time should tell you that the GOP is not concerned about this country. They are concerned about "winning". Whatever the hell that is.

If anyone tells you the GOP is the party of fiscal responsibility, laugh in their face and ask them what they have been smoking, because I want some.

Tell me what you think.


Tuesday, November 05, 2013

2nd Term Blues


"Doctor, Doctor, give me the news, I've got a bad case of 2nd Term Blues".   With apologies to Moon Martin and Robert Palmer, I had to steal a line from their great tune "Bad Case of Loving You" and reword it a bit for this post. 

So, Mr. President, how is it going?  Not so well obviously.   The situation relative to your standing in the polls is deteriorating.  The landmark program that you, and no other President before you was able to pass into law is running as bad as advertised.  You haven't been able to get a long term budget deal done with your opposition party.   All, in all, I would think you might be ready for your 2nd term to be over. 

However, you still have work to do on behalf of the people who sent you back to Washington.  You have got to get your act together and focus on the next 3 years being run as smoothly and competently as the last 2 have been run incompetently. 

You are suffering from a bit of buyer's remorse from the people who sent you back for your 2nd term.  I supported you and voted for you because I still think you are the best person for the job considering your competitor.  I'm very angry with you right now because you have committed a couple of the most grievous sins a politician can make; getting caught lying, and giving a utterly ridiculous opposition party ammunition to make your life harder.  What's going on? What happened to the well-oiled and crack team of political experts that helped you win two terms as President?  What happened to you?

I realize governing is not easy.  It is extremely difficult even in the best of times.  No easy decisions come to your desk.  It must be a monumental headache every morning for you to wake up and see what John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz are up to.  It must be hard to control your temper when the lies that are being said about you are continually covered by the "media" over and over again.  But, young man, you have to get past all that and focus.  You have to stop making mistakes that give this Republican Party a stick to beat you mercilessly, which is what they are doing.   Most importantly, you have to stop trying to walk back a lie by spinning.  It's cheap and doesn't wear well with you.

The launch of the ACA has been by all accounts poorly done.   The fact that over two years of planning and design time were available to your team and they still didn't get it right cannot be overlooked.  You guys messed this up big time.  While your intentions are very good and proper, the execution of the intended plans has done more harm to your goal of getting Universal Health Care for all than any GOP obstruction ever could.  What you and your team has to do is make sure the technical problems are fixed as fast as possible and when that is done, in humility apologize to the American People for this monumental screw-up.

The fact is that the poor roll-out has given the Republicans a chance to say "I told you so", and ramp up their fund-raising against you, you "Kenyan, anti-colonialist, Muslim, communist, so and so".  You've given fodder to the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, two people that will strip a carcass of all of its flesh without a second thought.  Will any Republican step up and say "You know, I didn't like this law, and I voted against it, but it is now the law of the land and incumbent upon all of us to ensure that it is implemented as well and efficiently  as possible"?  Of course not.  They will use this as a club to beat you and any Democrat over and over again in 2014 and beyond.  So, get this fixed, and get it fixed now.  You have a small window before the 2014 campaign season starts.  Not only that, get the damned thing fixed for the benefit of the American People.  If you allow this program to fail because of the terrible implementation, then shame on you.

Secondly, stop the spinning on the lie.  You know what I'm talking about:  "If you like your health care plan, and your doctor, you can keep it".   Sound familiar?  Well, over and over again since 2009 you have said this. No, you didn't have the asterisk on the end of the phrase that said "if the insurance companies don't change the policy", or "insurance plans in place at the time of the law were grandfathered", etc., which all may be true, but that is not the point.  You blatantly misled the American People about this.  Forget the fact the insurance plans that are being canceled are "junk" plans that provided almost no coverage for serious medical events. Forget about the fact the new plans are better and from a cost of coverage stand-point more affordable in most cases.  Forget about all the benefits the program is now providing and will continue to provide.  Forget about saying this until you come out and say "I made a mistake".  You, as the leader of this country have to be big enough to go to the people and say you messed up.  You told them something that turned out not to be true. Now, were you intentionally lying about this or is it an unplanned circumstance that was not foreseen?   It doesn't matter. It reads like an intended lie and always will until you apologize for it and put it behind you.

You have the ability to recover from this.  We all make mistakes. We can get better.  Focus on getting the plan implemented correctly and focus on being a more humble and honest President.  Those are the things you can control.  Stop worrying about the GOP.  They hated you when you took the oath of office in 2009, they hate you now, and they will hate you tomorrow.  You cannot control that.  What you can do is make sure you don't let down more than 30 million people that desperately need health insurance as we know people are dying because they cannot get health care.  That must be your focus.

I like you and think you are well intended.  Be the president we all think you can be and get focused.


Dennis Sherrard