Remembering HillaryCare, Benghazi and "What Difference at This Point Does it Make?"

Posted: Mar 26, 2014 12:01 AM
Remembering HillaryCare, Benghazi and "What Difference at This Point Does it Make?"

WASHINGTON - The end of Barack Obama's presidency effectively began after the 2010 congressional elections when Republicans took control of the House.

Obama and the Democrats have been tumbling into a political abyss ever since, hurtling toward major Senate losses this fall, if not a decisive Republican takeover of the Democratic-run chamber.

He has been robotically going through the motions of being the president, but he no longer steers the nation's agenda or is seen as a catalyst for change or as a leader who gets things done -- as his job approval polls sink into the low 40s and the lethargic U.S. economy shows no sign of serious improvement.

His grand plan to further push our country in a sharply leftward direction has turned into a disaster for his party. Democrats have been thrown on the defensive as a result of his unpopular healthcare law that is coming apart at the seams, driving up medical insurance costs, and most likely facing some dismantlement in the courts.

Vulnerable, frightened Democrats running for re-election talk now of "fixing" Obamacare rather than preserving it as it is presently shaped -- while Obama orders one year long delay after another in its full implementation in the face of devastating losses in November.

"There is no doubt the Senate outlook has deteriorated significantly in the past six weeks," a Democratic political strategist told the Washington Post last week. "Between the map and the [Affordable Care Act's] unpopularity in the states on the map, it has gone from being a jump ball to advantage Republicans."

The GOP needs to pick up just six additional seats to take control of the chamber, but their odds are now much better than that.

"Eleven Democratic-held [Senate] seats are in peril....a significant expansion even from a few months ago," writes the Post's ace election tracker Chris Cillizza.

If Republicans were to win only in the states that George Romney carried in 2012, "they would be in the majority in 2015" in the Senate, he says.

The newspapers have been filled with stories about how Hillary Clinton is the enthusiastic choice of her party to be their 2016 presidential nominee. Indeed, there is no other serious Democratic candidate on the horizon.

But gushing news stories about her credentials to follow Obama into the White House ignore or downplay a lot of critical issues and political factors that suggest the country may think otherwise.

After two failed terms of a weak, job-challenged, sub-par growth economy, will Americans really elect another liberal Democratic administration for the next four to eight years? One that offers them pretty much the same policies of the previous eight years?

Or will the voters be sick and tired of the Democrats' big government, class warfare, soak-the-rich, jobless policies that call for keeping Obamacare largely as it exists now?

Polls suggest Republicans have either moved ahead, or are running neck-and-neck with Democrats on taxes, the economy and dealing with enormous deficits. Obama's party has clearly lost ground in the last five years on all of them, as the 2010 elections and the 2014 campaign polls now show.

And let's not forget that Clinton was the highest ranking figure in Obama's administration who backed its policies to the hilt -- foreign and domestic. Can she now argue that she disagreed with its economic and foreign policies, but chose to say nothing or quietly backed them?

And what in Hillary's resume makes her fit for taking on the awesome powers of the presidency? It is hard to think of any achievement she led as the senator from New York, which she hoped to use as a spring board to the White House in 2008.

Would the nation look to her as someone who knows a lot about health care and can begin fixing the Obamacare wreckage? Hardly.

You may remember that Bill Clinton put her in charge of designing his failed health care reform plan in the 1990s. It was a Rube Goldberg contraption that was so complicated no one could explain it to the American people.

I remember leading a forum on Hillarycare during that time when the chief lobbyist of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) told me he never fully understood how it worked.

Neither did Democratic leaders in Congress, because they never held a vote on her health care plan, either in committee or on the House and Senate floor.

Now, flash forward to her role as secretary of State in Obama's administration, a job for which she had little or no experience or in- depth knowledge.

Can anyone point to a major foreign policy achievement during her tenure? For many observers, she seemed to be trying to outdo her predecessor, Condoleezza Rice, in the number of countries she visited, but beyond that did little if anything in the job.

Rice, after all, had served as the White House national security adviser to President George W. Bush, and was a noted expert in Soviet and East European Affairs. Clinton's background was all in politics, as First Lady, and a senator who lost to Obama in the 2008 presidential primaries.

If her four years as secretary of State and chief foreign policy adviser to Obama is remembered for anything, it's the brutal terrorists' attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya where U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other American officials were killed.

For months, her State Department received numerous, fearful pleas from Stevens for additional security leading up to the attacks, which went unheeded. In the immediate aftermath, her staff tried to downplay what happened as merely a protest that got out of control.

Clinton was criticized for not responding to the calls for protection, but in lengthy Senate testimony delivered her now-famous response, "What difference -- at this point, what difference does it make?"

For the answer to that politically combustible question, we will have to await the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. That is, if she runs.