Thursday was a very bad day -- perhaps even the worst possible day, in fact -- for President Obama to say the following about his signature healthcare overhaul: "At this point I think, actually, it is working the way it should." Here he is advancing that assessment, in living color:
Obama's statement would sound wildly out-of-touch based solely on the recent announcement of his administration's 30th (!) politically-motivated Obamacare delay -- the repercussions of which expert Bob Laszewski discusses here. Adding insult to injury many of these on-the-fly changes have occurred after White House officials pledged the delay parade was over. But it gets worse. A lot worse. The Washington Post has published an absolutely devastating report about the administration's progress, or lack thereof, in signing up previously uninsured Americans under Obamacare. Which, you may recall, was the primary stated purpose of this $2 trillion law. This is what abject failure looks like:
The new health insurance marketplaces appear to be making little headway so far in signing up Americans who lack health insurance, the Affordable Care Act’s central goal. A pair of surveys released on Thursday suggest that just one in 10 uninsured people who qualify for private health plans through the new marketplace have signed up for one — and that about half of uninsured adults has looked for information on the online exchanges or plans to look. Taken together, the snapshots shown by the surveys provide preliminary answers to what has been one of the biggest mysteries since HealthCare.gov and separate state marketplaces opened last fall: Are they attracting their prime audience? One of the surveys, by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co., shows that, of people who had signed up for coverage through the marketplaces by last month, just one-fourth described themselves as having been without insurance for most of the past year...The McKinsey survey also found, as it had during the previous few months, that, of people who are uninsured and do not intend to get a health plan through the marketplaces, the biggest factor is that they believe they could not afford one.
It's difficult to overstate the scope of this failure. Fully 90 percent of uninsured Americans who are eligible for plans under Obamacare have declined to sign up for one. About half of those people simply haven't bothered looking. Four out of every five who have browsed their options elected to take a pass. And if you're waiting for a statistical rebuttal from the White House, don't hold your breath:
CMS' Cohen, asked how many uninsured signing up for ACA: “That's not a data point we are really collecting in any sort of systematic way”— Sam Baker (@sam_baker) March 6, 2014
Among uninsured Americans who've said 'no thanks' to Obamacare, the number one factor (by far) cited is lack of affordability, even after all of the taxpayer subsidies are calculated:
CHART: McKinsey survey shows 50% who shopped exchanges and did not purchase cited affordability as the reason. pic.twitter.com/SqJMvqciL3— Phil Kerpen (@kerpen) March 6, 2014
According to a review by eHealthInsurance.com, average unsubsidized individual premiums have increased 39 percent for individuals and 56 percent for families compared to pre-Obamacare levels. The former finding aligns closely with the Manhattan Institute's research. So the overwhelming majority of "new" Obamacare enrollees are people who already had coverage before the law was passed. Millions of those people were uprooted from their preferred coverage (a major broken promise) and forced into new plans, for which many are paying more. Disaster. And again, it gets worse: Of those few previously-uninsured Americans who have "selected plans" under Obamacare (thus fitting the administration's loose definition of "enrolled"), nearly half haven't paid their premiums. Those people are not covered:
CHART: McKinsey survey shows 50% who shopped exchanges and did not purchase cited affordability as the reason. pic.twitter.com/SqJMvqciL3— Phil Kerpen (@kerpen) March 6, 2014
And as a final indignity, Gallup is out with new polling on Obamacare. Fox News' national survey released last night showed Obama's approval rating on healthcare underwater by 23 points, with 57 percent of Americans saying that his administration has failed to improve America's healthcare system. Gallup asks different questions, but the results are just as ugly. Approval of Obamacare remains terrible (40/55) with more than twice as many Americans saying the law has hurt their family's situation (23 percent) than helped it (10 percent). And this speaks for itself:
Obamacare is failing to insure the uninsured, driving Americans' healthcare costs up, and hurting twice as many people as it's helping. How many voters would agree with the president's assessment that this law is "working the way it should"?
According to a new poll out of Arizona, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) is the least popular incumbent in the United States. Put simply, PPP surveyed incumbent senators in various states, and as they put it, “McCain [had the] worst poll numbers in the country.”
PPP’s newest Arizona poll finds that John McCain is unpopular with Republicans, Democrats, and independents alike and has now become the least popular Senator in the country. Only 30% of Arizonans approve of the job McCain is doing to 54% who disapprove. There isn’t much variability in his numbers by party- he’s at 35/55 with Republicans, 29/53 with Democrats, and 25/55 with independents.
McCain trails in hypothetical general election match ups with both 2012 nominee Richard Carmona (41/35) and former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords (42/35). He would lead though in a match-up with former Governor Janet Napolitano, 44/36. This has the potential to be an interesting one in 2016.
I’m not sure how Team McCain spins these numbers. Across the board, voters in Arizona overwhelming disapprove of the job he’s doing. Presumably, then, if and when he runs for re-election in 2016, he’ll need to rely heavily on Republicans and independents to carry him to victory. But the problem is only one-quarter of independents currently think he’s doing a good job, and what’s more, the Republican base is seemingly fed up with his “disastrous and harmful” voting record. Indeed, the Arizona Republican Party actually voted to censure him just two months ago:
Delivering a strong rebuke to U.S. Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republicans passed a resolution to censure the one-time presidential nominee for what they characterize as a liberal record that has been "disastrous and harmful" to the state and nation.
While McCain is a political star on the national stage, for years he has had to contend with vocal critics in his home state, who accuse him of betraying the Grand Old Party's principles.
Does this sound like a party willing and able to go to bat for John McCain in 2016? Hardly.
Now, of course, as Allahpundit notes, if the poll was taken from a national sample, perhaps his numbers would be higher, in part because he has national name recognition, and in part because Americans in general are probably more inclined to overlook his "liberal" voting record. But here’s the problem: he needs to convince the people of Arizona that he deserves to be re-elected.
And that will be difficult since, two years out, his approval ratings in his home state are lower than the president’s.
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., discussed the power of education in transforming lives, including his own, at CPAC on Thursday. Scott talked about the difficulties of growing up a poor kid in a single parent household and his struggles in school. “I failed civics. Now think about that—a United States Senator who failed civics. I used to think I was the only one and then I became a member of the Senate and I realized there might be a few more who didn’t pass civics either,” he joked.
It was a mentor Scott met that would change his life and teach him that he could think his way out of poverty. “[He] taught me that if you really want to escape poverty, it comes through the power of education,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons why my Opportunity Agenda understands the necessity of a good education … it believes that kids, not unions, should be the focus of our public education. That parents and not bureaucrats in Washington should decide the path of their child’s education … because when it’s the parents' choice, the kids have a chance.”
In an exclusive interview with Townhall after his speech, Scott elaborated on some of the points he made on stage. He explained why education really does open the door to opportunity and the American Dream, and how his Opportunity Agenda will help all Americans realize their potential.
Lois Lerner has answered questions for the DOJ investigation into the IRS targeting scandal, but continues to invoke her Fifth Amendment rights before the congressional committee.
It's an interesting decision, albeit not without precedent. Either Lerner feels that the committee is doing nothing but setting "perjury traps" for her, or else she's assured that the DOJ "investigation" is little more than an exercise in making the scandal disappear, and thus is helping the department craft a narrative designed to do just that. Or both.
There are, of course, a number of good reasons for objective observers to suspect that Lerner's motives are less than pure:
(1) The DOJ investigation is being led by an Obama donor -- a highly unusual circumstance
(2) Attorney General Eric Holder himself has a checkered history when it comes to favoritism among non-profits.
(3) The FBI has already signaled that it won't file charges against anyone, even though none of the victims of the harassment have been interviewed.
(5) In short, the DOJ IRS investigation is a sham:
One suspects the cagey Ms. Lerner knows exactly what she is doing.
"What happened was so outrageous, so demeaning, so un-judicial, so awful in every respect, that we just absolutely have reached a boiling point," said Rep. Louise Slaughter (N.Y.), senior Democrat on the House Rules Committee.
House Democrats are up in arms because Chairman Darrell Issa quickly adjourned a committee hearing on the IRS targeting of tea party groups without letting any Democrat speak. Lois Lerner, former head of tax-exempt groups at the IRS, had once again exercised her Fifth Amendment right and refused to answer questions during the hearing so Issa saw “no point in moving forward.”
However, because the committee chairman cut the microphone on Rep. Elijah Cummings as he tried to speak, House Democratic leaders are now saying that Issa “not only violated House rules, but also undermined the workings of democracy,” reports The Hill.
Cummings accused Issa of staging a politically motivated attack on the Obama administration without allowing the Democrats to respond — a dynamic he characterized as "un-American."
"Basically, what happened yesterday is Chairman Issa wanted to hold a hearing, and then shut it down before the Democrats could [utter] one syllable. There's definitely something wrong with that picture," Cummings said. "It is un-American, it is unfair, and I reminded Chairman Issa that each one of my colleagues on the Democratic side, we too are elected by 700,000 people, and they deserve a voice."
"The fact is, Mr. Cummings came to make a point of his objections to the process we've been going through," Issa said on Wednesday. "He was actually slandering me at the moment that the the mics did go off -- by claiming that this has not been a real investigation.
"This has been a bipartisan investigation by multiple committees in which we had testimony in multiple hearings...in which it was very clear there was targeting of conservative groups -- in which there were people acting outside the norm," he continued.
"We're going to continue our investigation. But just because Mr. Cummings would like to have a more convenient truth, doesn't give him the right to make a speech."
The House rejected a Democratic resolution on Thursday that condemned Issa’s conduct.
“While we are facing true challenges and real obstacles, there is no other nation that I would trade places with. There is no other country that I would rather be.”
Florida Senator Marco Rubio spoke to a packed house Thursday afternoon at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Although not as riveting as the Cruz speech or as well-received as the Christie speech, Rubio was all business, making excellent points concerning the global impact of American leadership.
“I am convinced that despite the bad leadership that we are getting today, we are literally on the verge - if we make a few right decisions - of a new American century.”
Rubio then went on to illustrate a world in which the totalitarian regimes of China, North Korea, Iran, and Russia were left unchecked to make whatever decisions they wished:
“Without American engagement, the world I just painted for you is not only a possibility, it is a real probability.”
The highlight of his speech came when he called out the Obama Administration for its foreign policy failures that have put both the economy and the American people at risk.
“We have a president who believes that by the sheer force of his personality he could be able to shape global events. We have a president that believes that by going around the world and giving key speeches in key places, he can shape the behavior of other nations,” Rubio said. “We do not have the luxury of seeing the world the way we hope it would be. We have to see the world the way it is." He continued, "We need leaders that understand clearly what our role in the world is in an unapologetic way, and we also need to be able to afford it - which means that we need an economy has sustains it.”
On another note, conspicuously absent from Rubio’s address was any mention of immigration reform. Redemption narrative? We’ll soon see.
We also find out that she is a former Hannity intern who gives a "maybe" when asked if she would go to MSNBC.
After strolling into CPAC with his eight-man security entourage and posing for pictures with countless college students, a smiling Donald Trump sauntered up to the main ballroom podium and delivered a rambling yet impassioned speech that covered virtually every political issue under the sun.
“No teleprompter,” he roared, just before beginning his remarks in an obvious jab at the president. “No teleprompter.”
Then he got down to business.
“I have to tell you,” he said, “that our country is in serious, serious trouble. We owe 17 trillion dollars!”
“We have debt that’s beyond belief,” he continued. “We have deficits that nobody can comprehend. China, which I’ve been talking about for the last five years, just de-valued their currency.”
“[And] the reason they did it is because our leadership is so weak, and so pathetic, they can get away with it," he said. "Believe me, they’re taking our jobs.”
Unsurprisingly, too, he used his plum speaking slot to compare President Obama to one of conservatives’ least favorite American presidents: Jimmy Carter.
“We have a president who just came out today with his lowest job approval ratings -- 38 percent,” he said, referring to the new Fox News poll that dropped Wednesday. “We’re getting into Jimmy Carter territory. And I never thought we’d see something like that [again].”
“I think by next month, we’ll surpass the late, great Jimmy Carter,” he added with a chuckle.
Then abruptly turning to more serious matters, he addressed the Republican Party’s electoral prospects in 2014 -- and beyond.
“I believe the Republicans, and conservative Republicans [are] going to take the Senate,” he asserted matter-of-factly. And when Republicans challenge Hillary in 2016, he added, they’ll “probably” triumph as well.
“[Because we] have so many problems and so little leadership,” he told the audience. “And it’s all about the leadership.”
Curiously, Mr. Trump was also very concerned about the sorry state of America’s roads, bridges and infrastructure -- problems, he said, that are contributing to America's decline. This was unacceptable in his view.
“We’re becoming a third world country,” he declared.
“The bottom line is very simple [to fixing our country],” he concluded. “Make America strong again, make America great again. We have such unbelievable potential. [We] need the right leaders.”
And with that, the speech ended in lukewarm, scattered applause.
Thursday was a banner day for observers of the (very) early 2016 GOP horserace at CPAC, as six rumored presidential candidates addressed attendees. Below is video and brief commentary about each speech, in order of appearance: (1) Sen. Ted Cruz - Whether it was a scheduling necessity of a deliberate strategy, the decision to have Cruz kick off the festivities was savvy. The (occasionally late-arriving) CPAC crowd queued up early and jockeyed for position to see the junior Senator from Texas, who was a big draw. The off-the-cuff ten point conservative plan Cruz outlined was jam-packed with red meat and energized the audience:
(4) Gov. Chris Christie - The New Jersey Governor was greeted with a generous, but not raucous, standing ovation by the audience, which seemed to warm to his message as he progressed through his energetic speech. Christie underscored his conservative credentials -- including beating Big Labor to achieve landmark pension reform -- and noted that deep blue New Jersey has now re-elected its first pro-life governor since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. He beat up on Beltway dysfunction, crowed about the conservative achievements of Republican governors around the country (don't forget, he's RGA chairman), ripped Democrats' misplaced obsession with income inequality, and warned that Republicans must convince voters of what they're for, not just what they're against. And in a pointed reminder about the realities of electoral politics, Christie said, "we don't get to govern if we don't win:"
(5) Gov. Bobby Jindal - Louisiana's chief executive focused most of his remarks on the important issues of education reform and religious freedom, peppering his address with a number of anti-Obama zingers that for some reason fell flat in the room. Jindal is a keen intellect and a strong manager, but I've yet to see him really electrify a room. He performed well today, but there was a palpable lull in enthusiasm inside the ballroom between Christie and Rubio. If Jindal wants to be a contender at the next level, overcoming this stylistic shortcoming -- the exact nature of which is tough to pin down -- needs to be a priority. He's long on substance, which is a real asset:
(6) Sen. Marco Rubio - At last year's CPAC gathering, Rubio spoke back-to-back with Sen. Rand Paul and seemed to be overshadowed by his colleague from Kentucky. The Florida Senator struck me as strangely unfocused and off his game. This year, on the heels of a well-received and impassioned floor speech on Cuba and Venezuela last week, Rubio broke through with a truly excellent message. He attacked 'big government' economics, scolding Democrats for intentionally dividing America rather than fostering growth and opportunity. He also built a stirring case for a strong America in the international arena, defending the United States as the world's indispensable nation. He closed with a moving tribute to his father and the American dream, appearing to fight back tears as he recalled his dad's last days. Some conservatives will never forgive him for his 'Gang of Eight' gambit (immigration went unmentioned in his comments), but Rubio once again showed why he's a force to be reckoned with. This may have been the best speech of the day:
Beyond the 2016 buzz, three GOP Senators also delivered memorable speeches: Mike Lee of Utah spoke about the positive, proactive agenda he's seeking to help build within the party -- admonishing conservatives to stop talking about Ronald Reagan, and start acting like him. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania recounted the blow Harry Reid and the White House suffered in the Senate yesterday, when President Obama's radical DOJ nominee was defeated. And Tim Scott of South Carolina spoke compellingly about his journey from being a failing high school freshman to a United States Senator.
Speaking Thursday afternoon at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre made it clear the civil rights organization isn't backing down when it comes to protecting the Second Amendment rights of American gun owners ahead of the 2014 midterm elections.
"The NRA's five million members and America’s 100 million gun owners won't back down, not now, not ever," LaPierre said. "Our Second Amendment in this country separates us from any other country on earth. It makes us better than other countries and it makes us stronger than other countries."
After thanking the audience and NRA members for their ongoing support and fight against anti-gun legislation, LaPierre railed against the media.
"The media's intentional corruption of the truth is an abomination...They've never told the truth about the NRA. They hate us," he said. "One of America's greatest threats is a national media that fails to provide a level playing field for the truth."
LaPierre also warned about legislative power grabs at local states levels and the filled money coffers of anti-Second Amendment activists.
"This election will be won or lost on every street ... where every NRA member lives and works and volunteers and campaigns," he said. "The NRA will not go quietly into the night. We will fight."