According to a CNN poll released Friday, President Obama’s approval rating—42 percent—matches the all-time low he reached last month in CNN’s polling. His disapproval rating—56 percent—is unchanged, but still at an all-time high in CNN’s surveys. While the numbers are expected considering what a terrible year it’s been for the president, some may be surprised to learn that one in five of those who disapprove of Obama think he’s too conservative:
According to the poll, which was released Friday, 40% say they disapprove of the President because they say his policies and actions have been too liberal, with 12% saying they disapprove because he hasn't been liberal enough.
"The growth in negative views of the President comes almost equally from the left and the right," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. "Not surprisingly, the number of Americans who disapprove of him because he is too liberal is up six points since the start of the year. But the number of Americans who disapprove of him because he has not been liberal enough is up almost as much since January, indicating that his slide is due as much to disappointment as it is anger."
In December 2005, George W. Bush had the same approval rating in CNN polling, while at this point in their second terms Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan had a 56 and 63 percent approval rating, respectively.
Speaking from the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House today, President Obama delivered some brief remarks at his final press conference of the year before departing for the Hawaiian Islands for a two week vacation. Given the sorry state of his signature domestic achievement, Guy wonders why the president is leaving at all considering millions of Americans are fretting about the status of their health insurance. Will they be covered after the New Year? Some, of course, will not be. And by the time he returns from the beaches of Hawaii, it will be too late to enroll them. Fleeing the capital now might be a decision he later comes to regret.
In any case, after his initial remarks discussing the economy and next year’s budget, the president spent his end-of-the-year presser mostly defending his signature health care law and the controversial NSA program, which he promises to evaluate more fully after the New Year.
“The healthcare website problems were a source of great frustration,” he conceded. “On the other hand, since that time I now have a couple million people who are going to have health care on January 1. And that is a big deal. That is why I ran for that office.”
The president did his best to defend the much-pilloried federal overhaul. However, he did not mention anything about the millions of Americans who’ve lost their health care plans -- or might lose their health care plans -- in the New Year. He did add, however, that more than one million citizens signed up for health insurance on the exchanges over the past three weeks.
Meanwhile, he also addressed the public’s growing concerns about the controversial NSA surveillance programs.
“As you know the independent panel came back with a series of recommendations,” he said. “What we’re doing now is evaluating all the recommendation that have been made. Over the next several weeks we’re going to assess…how we might apply and incorporate their recommendations. And I’m going to make a pretty definite statement about this in January.”
He said he did not think that the NSA was “snooping” on Americans, but conceded that he understands the public is concerned about the program, and that more transparency on behalf of the government is to be expected.
Most significantly, perhaps, the president emphasized time and again that the economy is the strongest it’s been since he took office -- deflecting criticism from the Affordable Care Act -- and dodged whether or not 2013 was the worst year of his presidency.
“A lot of our legislative initiatives in Congress had not moved forward as rapidly as I’d like, which means I’m going to keep at it,” he said.
We'll see how that goes in the New Year.
Despite the fact that the immigration reform debate has largely centered on a path to citizenship, a recent poll found that Hispanics and Asian-Americans are most concerned about relief from the threat of deportation.
Although 89% of 701 Hispanics and 72% of 802 Asian-Americans still want a pathway to citizenship, pluralities in both demographics believe deportation is the more urgent issue:
By 55% to 35%, Hispanics say that they think being able to live and work in the United States legally without the threat of deportation is more important for unauthorized immigrants than a pathway to citizenship. Asian Americans hold a similar view, albeit by a smaller margin—49% to 44%.
Both demographic groups are especially important because (1) they make up a massive majority of America's legal and illegal immigrant totals, (2) a majority of Hispanic adults and a majority of Asian-American adults currently in the US immigrated, and (3) they are relatively active voters who favored Obama by a huge margin (70%) in 2012.
If comprehensive immigration reform misses its moment and fails, Republicans may lose both Hispanic and Asian American votes. CBS News reports:
According to Pew, a plurality of both groups – 43 percent of Hispanics and 48 percent of Asian-Americans – would heap most of the blame on Republicans in Congress if immigration reform continues to falter. 34 percent of Hispanics and 29 percent of Asian-Americans would mostly blame Democrats and the president.
Yet there is some hope from the research for those Republicans who are staunchly opposed to easing deportation laws. Surprisingly, illegal immigration reform is not at the top of the agenda for most individuals in the high-immigrant demographics:
- Among Hispanics, 32% say the issue of immigration is an “extremely important” one facing the nation today. Among Asian Americans, just 17% say the same.
- For both Hispanics and Asian Americans, the surveys find that among five domestic issues tested—jobs and the economy, education, health care, the federal budget deficit and immigration—immigration ranked last.
Say hello to your pre-holiday, late-week, kitchen-sink news dump. Kevin wrote about the administration's new batch of staggering last-minute decrees last night, and Avik Roy has additional details here. The brand new regulations will offer two new options for people whose plans have been canceled due to Obamacare: First, this group will now have the opportunity to purchase "catastrophic" coverage that was previously reserved for people under the age of 30. This might sound like a great deal, but it's not. Roy points out that people on catastrophic plans are ineligible for any subsidies, and liberal Jonathan Cohn notes that these plans aren't significantly cheaper than Obamacare's "Bronze" plans. Also, will people who do sign up for the catastrophic plans be yanked off of them when the exemption expires next year, in yet another "keep your plan" violation? Second, the dumped coverage crowd will be free to claim a self-reported "hardship" exemption from the individual mandate tax altogether in 2014. A few thoughts:
(1) These hardship exemptions apply to perhaps millions of Americans who are newly uninsured because of Obamacare. Note well that the "hardship" here is not technical or enrollment troubles with the exchange websites. Instead, the new category of hardship applies to those who "believe" they cannot afford the law's new rates. This is the administration's first high-profile admission that the 'Affordable' Care Act is in fact unaffordable for huge swaths of Americans. So damning. On a logistical level, it will be somewhat complicated to keep track of who genuinely falls within this group, and it will be impossible to determine if claims of self-reported financial hardship are well-founded. It appears there will be no attempt by the government to verify claimants' financial status. Incidentally, Kaiser Health News reports today that people on employer-based plans should brace for significant cost increases next year. And that doesn't even take into consideration the massive "disruptions" (ie, insurers pulling out of exchanges and additional premium spikes) triggered by these new on-the-fly rule changes. And don't forget that some large number of Americans with employer-based plans will lose their coverage ahead of the employer mandate kicking in. That mandate was unilaterally delayed by the president until 2015.
(2) In the previous item, we described how the administration is conceding that Obamacare itself, and specifically its high costs, is a "hardship" for millions. With that in mind, how can they justify not extending the same waiver to all uninsured people? Or all Americans, for that matter? Yes, people who've been dumped from their existing coverage are the immediate victims of Obamacare's most visible (for now) broken promise -- but if the administration is acknowledging that Obamacare's supposedly affordable coverage really isn't as advertised, that's not a problem that's unique to the newly uninsured. It applies to everybody affected by the law. Ezra Klein frets that this delay could be the camel's nose under the tent on delaying the individual mandate tax even further. Republicans will argue, convincingly, that it's a matter of fairness. Why waive the penalty/tax associated with not buying (unaffordable) coverage for some untold percentage of the population, but not for everyone else? The whole ostensible purpose of Obamacare was to assist a group of millions of Americans who couldn't afford health coverage prior to the law's passage. As of now, those people will still be subjected to the individual mandate tax, whereas people who were insured before Obamacare uprooted their arrangements will enjoy exemptions. Is that politically sustainable? Policy-wise, the more people who are granted passes on the individual mandate, the worse the risk pool's "adverse selection" problem gets. This is a disaster for the law, and is already creating migrane headaches for insurers, who are trying to keep their heads above water as a panicked White House lobs new bombs at them every few days. Their warnings of coming "disruptions" are euphemistic.
(3) With his signature law in utter shambles -- and with millions of Americans deeply worried about their healthcare situation as a result of its technological and substantive failures -- President Obama is about to embark on a 17 day Hawaiian vacation. Is he aware that two state-level Obamacare exchange directors have resigned over taking ill-timed tropical vacations within the last two weeks? Here is the man who is more responsible for Obamacare than literally any other human being on the planet shipping off to paradise, leaving others to grapple with the consequences of the mess he's leaving behind. It's tough to discern which is worse: The optics or the leadership.
(4) At what point do ardent supporters of this law wave the white flag and change their tune on repeal -- or at least a one-year delay? A new poll shows that a majority of Americans support scrapping the entire law, and an overwhelming super-majority would back a comprehensive postponement until 2015. On a practical level, the full delay isn't feasible at this stage, and various "fixes" would only erode its underpinnings. Don't forget that Democrats were offered an opportunity to get a desperately-needed delay in September, but they rejected that political bailout in order to shut down the government and blame the GOP. Are any of them regretting that short-sighted decision, which merely delivered a transient pyrrhic victory? In order for these same Democrats to resist growing calls for sweeping delays, they'll have to explain the concepts or risk pools and death spirals -- wonk talk that won't move many voters. They've created a real hot mess for themselves, and the White House's latest maneuverings only create more instability.
(5) I would be remiss if I didn't mention another hugely important Obamacare story that is developing today -- which, if not for everything else we've just discussed, would be the top headline. ABC News is reporting that two separate internal reviews have elicited findings of "high" data security risks associated with the Obamacare website, and that "nearly three months after its launch and as millions of Americans log on to shop for health plans, HealthCare.gov has still had serious security vulnerabilities." One of these security gaps was just uncovered last week. CBS News quotes an administration official who says she recommended that the site be taken off-line until the risks had been dealt with, but was overruled by higher-ups. Why? Who made those reckless calls? Remember, other Obamacare IT workers had fired off memos warning of "limitless risks" associated with the site, and expert hackers told Congress that Healthcare.gov should be taken down until the myriad vulnerabilities were resolved. That didn't happen, and Americans are being asked to plug their sensitive data into a website that still isn't secure. The finger-pointing has commenced. As Allahpundit says, "it's subpoena time." Darrell Issa is going to be a busy man in 2014:
I'll leave you with this image, which is how the front page of Healthcare.gov looked earlier this afternoon:
Time Stamp. pic.twitter.com/ilqdOejjSm— Noah Rothman (@NoahCRothman) December 20, 2013
Earlier today, Massachusetts State troopers found 1,250 bags of heroin labeled with “Obamacare” during a traffic stop in Hatfield, MA. I guess this isn’t exactly what the White House was looking for when they wanted to increase Obamacare recognition!
According to the state police, most times when sealed bags of heroin are found, they are labeled with different markers in order to differentiate between the various strains of the drug. Apparently this is not something new to police. Since Obama’s election in 2008, many drugs have been branded with the president’s name.
“The Commander-in-Chief’s name and face has been slapped on a wide variety of contraband products including ecstasy pills, LSD tabs, heroin baggies and a popular strain of medical marijuana,” according to the report, including 26 different types of Ecstasy pills alone.
Huh!? I mean the White House did say they needed to work on their PR strategy for the new health care law…I just don’t think this was what they were looking for!
Make sure to check out the picture on Politico!
Frankly, the reason Matthews feels the weight of “a very long presidency” is because there hasn’t been a whole lot to be cheery about. The push for more gun control earlier this year (more specifically, expanding background checks) failed miserably, as did “comprehensive” immigration reform when the Senate-passed bill essentially died in the House of Representatives. These were two initiatives the White House hoped to tackle over the last 12 months. They came up short. At the same time, how many millions of Americans have left the workforce because they can’t find jobs, or lost their health insurance and/or doctors under Obamacare -- problems that have only intensified over the last year? Do I even need to mention the IRS or NSA scandals? Iran, meanwhile, is coming closer and closer to possessing nuclear weapons -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the recent interim agreement with Iran “a historic mistake” -- and the butchery in Syria continues to rage. Matthews called this a “terrible year for the president.”
Perhaps even the president himself would agree.
This may make anyone want to distance themselves with the modern version of feminism. Here is just an abbreviated list of the moments when feminists were less than classy this year.
10. Feminists storm SlutwalkDC with vulgar posters, promiscuous clothing and self-righteous attitudes.
9. A Planned Parenthood representative can’t answer the question, “If a baby is born on a table as a result of a botched abortion, what would Planned Parenthood want to have happen to that child that is struggling for life?”
8. Miley Cyrus, who says she’s “one of the biggest feminists in the world,” twerks live onstage at the MTV VMA awards, causing parents everywhere to shield their children’s eyes.
7. Actress Lena Dunham goes “fangirl” for Bill Clinton at the Golden Globe Awards. Because ya know, Bill Clinton is such a champion of women’s rights.
6. MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry wore these earrings to protest the Texas pro-life law banning abortions after five months.
As Katie said, “If you have to wear feminine hygiene products as accessories in order to make a "point," then it's clear you lost the argument a long time ago.”
5. NARAL’s CPC “Week of Action” Campaign, which was designed to spread negative images around pro-life crisis pregnancy centers, failed to make an impact on college campuses.
Despite major pushes on social media, on blogs all over the web, and from the Feminist Campus organization, students seem to have been uninterested in this newest conspiracy theory from the “progressive” movement.
4. “Comedian Sarah Silverman sticks a napkin down her pants, calls it a “vag napkin” and tries to pawn it off as charity at a pro-choice Texas women’s marathon to raise funds for abortion.
3. Abortion supporters chant “Hail Satan” at the Texas capitol.
2. In the protest that kept on giving, pro-choice activists stormed the Texas capitol with bags of feces, tampons and bricks intended to throw at pro-life advocates. (This is listed as the number one “success” on Repro justice site.)
Can’t wait to see what they plan to throw at us next year.
1. Wendy Davis’s filibuster.
Texas State Senator Wendy Davis is no hero. While her 11-hour spectacle defending late-term abortion in the Lone Star State be number one on many feminists’ top ten success lists, it deserves the worst spot here. The filibuster didn’t win in the Texas Senate, where the sweeping pro-life bill still passed, and it’s not winning for her gubernatorial campaign, where Republican Greg Abbott is way ahead in the race for Texas’s next governor. The only thing it did seem to spawn, was the ridiculous behavior listed above.
For ten of the year’s best pro-life moments, go over to LifeNews, particularly to marvel at number one.
President Obama may have bought his signature domestic accomplishment some political breathing room last night by exempting millions of Americans from Obamacare's individual mandate, but he also made it much easier for future Republican president's to dismantle the law, after Obama inevitably leaves office.
Late last night, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius issued a letter to a group of Democratic senators who had written her earlier in the week about the "many" constituents in their states who were "upset about the cancellation of their health care plans" due to Obamacare.
Sebelius' response letter outlined previous Obama administration promoted efforts to help those Americans who lost their health insurance due to Obamacare, and then also outlined a "clarification" about a new HHS approved method of mitigating Obamacare's harm:
As you point out, the Affordable Care Act recognizes that individuals facing a hardship that makes it difficult to afford a health care plan with comprehensive benefits may qualify for an exemption from the individual responsibility requirement. ... I very much appreciate your asking for a clarification on whether this exemption applies to those with cancelled plans who might be having difficulty paying for an existing bronze, silver, or gold plan. I agree with you that these consumers should qualify for this temporary hardship exemption, and I can assure you that the exemption will be available to them.
So what does one need to do to qualify for this new hardship exemption to the individual mandate? Neither the Sebelius letter nor the accompanying formal guidance letter specifically say. But for those individuals who wish to purchase catastrophic insurance offered through the Obamcare exchange, they must submit: 1) a hardship exemption form claiming "you consider other available policies unaffordable" and; 2) "supporting documentation indicating that your previous policy was cancelled."
Looking ahead, if a Republican were to win the White House in 2016, there is now nothing stopping a President Walker from issuing a guidance letter on the first day of his administration saying: "All Americans who believe the existing health insurance plans on their state exchanges are unaffordable, may submit a hardship exemption form to the IRS stating so, and they will all then be exempt from the Affordable Care Act's individual responsibility requirement."
The mandate would then be functionally dead. And no Democrat could do anything about it.
Just as the 2nd Amendment shouldn't protect assault rifle devotees, so the 1st Amendment shouldn't protect vile bigots. #PhilRobertson— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) December 19, 2013
Katie, Mary Katharine and Ed have all weighed in on the Duck Dynasty flap that's dominated the political news cycle for the last 36 hours, so I won't recapitulate the particulars -- but Morgan's preening assertion is instructive. He doesn't care for "assault rifles," so he thinks they should be banned for everyone else. He doesn't enjoy "vile bigotry," so his instinct is to strip constitutional protections from people whose words cross that line -- as defined by Piers Morgan, of course. Were Robertson's comments perhaps a bit crude? Sure. Did rattling off a list of sins invite furious denunciations of "comparing" X with Y, and paint-by-numbers "outrage" (see GLAAD's borderline-unresponsive condemnation)? Obviously. If Robertson were, say, running for public office, his inelegant phrasing might have different implications. But he's a self-described "Bible-thumping" redneck speaking candidly about his beliefs -- and doing so, by the way, while stressing that it's not his role to judge anyone. His follow-up statement on the contretemps was gracious. Are we at the stage where tolerance and kindness are insufficient? Have we crossed the threshold into the realm of enforced celebration? Enthusiastically embrace my values, or you're a vicious bigot, unworthy of free speech rights! Sorry, Piers, but that's not America. After enduring a torrent of Twitter criticism about his warped understanding of the entire notion of constitutional protections, Morgan backed off. A little:
Calm down, everyone. I'm merely exercising my own 1st Amendment freedom of speech rights to say Phil Robertson's a racist bigot.— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) December 19, 2013
That's not what he tweeted initially, but whatever. It's unclear what good 'ol Piers actually believes in this case. What is clear is that he desperately craves attention. Maybe that's what coming in a distant third-place, night after night, does to a man. I'll leave you with a few thoughts:
By the way, fellow conservatives, our side's hands aren't clean in the pernicious BAN/FIRE/SUSPEND outrage wars either.— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) December 19, 2013
It's fine to forcefully object to things that one finds objectionable, but the "ban hammer" should be wielded sparingly in a free society.— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) December 19, 2013
We were told that ObamaCare meant that everyone would have health insurance. Instead, millions of Americans lost their coverage.
And in an effort to combat the disaster created by the law -- and the wholesale incompetence that has characterized its roll-out -- the administration has taken to governing by issuing ad hoc proclamations unilaterally "amending" the legislation. Remember the on-the-fly announcements that states could allow old plans to continue for a year, extending the deadline for registering for coverage starting January 1, or even asking health insurance companies to cover people who hadn't yet completed their health insurance purchase?
Today's iteration of that tired theme is a biggie: The insurance mandate has been lifted for those with canceled policies. Instead, people who were previously insured (and happy with their insurance) will be able to remain uninsured (!) or buy the catastrophic care insurance previously restricted to those younger than 30.
Obviously, this is another disorganized attempt to avert wholesale disaster come the first of the year. But what it achieves in the short term could imperil ObamaCare in the long term -- as those least likely to need insurance (and therefore most valuable in keeping costs down) now know they will face no penalty for failing to have it.
Two take-aways -- neither are news but both are thrown into sharp relief:
(1) This law is rotten from its inception and should be repealed.
(2) This administration has no idea what it's doing.
This is no way to run a lemonade stand -- much less the US government and our health care system.