Long gone are the days when President Obama tried to woo House Speaker John Boehner with a bottle of Italian Brunello. Or when the two men tried (to no avail) to cut a deal on the deficit and debt ceiling. Or when it seemed possible they could get something done on immigration. Yesterday featured both Obama and Boehner officially finished dealing with each other -- given the House GOP's lawsuit against Obama and the current back-and-forth over the border crisis. “This is a problem of the president’s own making,” a visibly angry Boehner said yesterday. “He’s been president for five and a half years! When's he going to take responsibility for something?" Obama was just as blunt in his remarks from Austin, TX. “So when folks say they're frustrated with Congress, let’s be clear about what the problem is. I’m just telling the truth now. I don't have to run for office again.” The president added, “The best thing you can say about this Congress -- the Republicans in Congress, and particularly the House of Representatives -- the best you can say for them this year is that so far they have not shut down the government.” At the end of the day, Boehner responded with a shot of his own, officially announcing that the GOP lawsuit against the president will target his executive actions around the health care law so despised by the GOP.
The pros and cons of the ACA focus
By making this lawsuit all about Obamacare, Boehner gets one big narrative win for his party: The political debate will shift back towards the health care law that’s so effective at energizing Republicans. And the GOP gets to talk about the legislation rather than vague criticism of Obama’s executive orders generally. (Remember, Obama’s actually issued far fewer executive orders than predecessors like George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan.) But there’s a downside too: The lawsuit focuses on the White House’s decision to delay the employer mandate, which happened in 2013. If the one-year delay was so egregious, why wait a year to address it with this lawsuit? Perhaps most importantly, Democrats can counter that administrative delays happen all the time in implementing laws. Just look at how the Bush administration took action to waive penalties for low-income seniors who signed up late under the Medicare prescription drug law.
Vindication for Obama administration on Benghazi
The most outspoken Republican critics of the 2012 Benghazi attacks have hammered away at the theory that someone – perhaps even Hillary Clinton – gave a “stand-down order” that halted military assets that could have saved the Americans killed at the diplomatic outpost and CIA annex there. But the testimony of nine military leaders to a House panel, made public just this week, suggests that’s simply incorrect. The Associated Press reports that the military officials were “largely in agreement” over how they responded to the attacks and that the decision to direct a Special Operations team to stay in Tripoli to protect embassy personnel there was the right call. All this comes before even the first public moves of House’s new special select committee to investigate the Benghazi attacks – a panel which plans to spend as much as $3.3 million on its efforts, by the way. The “stand down” theory had certainly gotten some credence in the past from Rep. Trey Gowdy, the chairman of that new committee. If the newly released testimony undercuts a theory widely disseminated by high-profile GOP members of the panel, how much credibility are these lawmakers going to have when they try to keep the Benghazi issue in the headlines later this year?
America’s Famous Moneymen to Congress: “Seriously?”
In this morning’s New York Times, billionaires Sheldon Adelson, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates take Congress to the woodshed for its impasse over immigration reform. It’s not new that business leaders are exasperated at the lack of reforms to policies that keep top talent from coming to the U.S. from abroad, but check out just how harsh this language is. “The current stalemate — in which greater pride is attached to thwarting the opposition than to advancing the nation’s interests — is depressing to most Americans and virtually all of its business managers.” And that’s coming as Congress keeps up its hemming and hawing about less than $4 billion to address what both sides agree is an untenable humanitarian crisis at the border? Oof.
Ex-Politicians Gone Wild
A little observation this Friday morning: Has anyone else noticed how some notable ex-politicians have been in the news -- and for all the wrong reasons? Earlier this week, an NBC/WSJ/Annenberg poll found 54% of voters saying that they had heard enough from Sarah Palin (coming after her call for President Obama’s impeachment). Todd Akin came out with a book defending his “legitimate rape” comments from 2012, and Republicans told him to get lost. And Michael Bloomberg, in a Rolling Stone article on the NRA, described the areas in Colorado that recalled Democratic state senators over gun-control measures as places “where I don’t think there’s roads.” Rolling Stone, per Politico, pulled the article after Colorado Republicans criticized the former New York City mayor. (However, the article is now back up, apparently.) Part of this can be explained as the price for no longer being in the political arena – when you’re no longer in office or in the game, folks usually aren’t as interested in what you have to say about politics (and you’re not as sharp as you used to be). But another part is that these ex-pols don’t have the staffs or party apparatus to check them.
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First published July 11 2014, 5:49 AM