Holding Senate Democrats accountable for Obamacare’s fallout
Feigned surprise over millions of canceled policies should fool no one
With President Obama’s approval rating sinking below 40 percent, it has become clear that a majority of Americans have concluded that he did indeed lie about his signature health care legislation allowing individuals to “keep their insurance plans” if they desired.
While the president deserves much of the scorn being heaped upon him for having misled the public about Obamacare, another group within Washington equally deserves to be held accountable for the millions of Americans currently losing their existing health care coverage; namely, Senate Democrats.
Sen. Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana recently took to the floor of the Senate to proclaim her anger and concern over Obamacare causing so many Americans to lose their existing coverage. Her incredulity may have been more believable had she not been part of the reason it happened in the first place.
“The promise was made, and it should be kept,” Ms. Landrieu stated. “And it was our understanding when we voted for that, that people when they have insurance, could keep what they had.”
Expressing similar concerns, Sen. Kay R. Hagan of North Carolina stated, “Obviously, it’s not going the way it should, and I’m disappointed, and I’m frustrated, and it’s totally unacceptable because the American people deserve better, and the way I look at it, North Carolinians deserve better.”
Her colleague, Sen. Mark L. Pryor of Arkansas also expressed frustration over Obamacare’s disjointed rollout. His recent tone, however, is a stark departure from the panegyric press release he issued upon Senate passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2009.
“Elements of this package will drive down costs for families, small businesses, and government; protect and expand an individual’s choice of doctors and insurance plans without any government interference; and assure affordable, reliable health care for every Arkansan,” Mr. Pryor stated nearly four years ago.
The anxiety caused by millions of Americans losing their health care coverage in the wake of Obamacare has caused many of its previous supporters to run for cover.
Senate Democrats, many of whom find themselves mired in fierce re-election campaigns in 2014, took their anxieties over Obamacare directly to the White House when they met with President Obama last Wednesday.
One of those in attendance, Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska, immediately issued a press release upon conclusion of the meeting. In it, Mr. Begich said, “It’s absolutely unacceptable in this day and age that the administration can’t deliver on the promises it made to all Americans because of technical problems with a website.”
Unfortunately for Senate Democrats now enraged over the fallout from Obamacare, they are the very people that systematically voted against assurances designed to prevent millions of Americans from losing their coverage in the first place.
In 2010, Senate Democrats voted unanimously to shut down a Republican resolution that would have blocked Obamacare’s so-called “grandfather” clause. Republicans correctly argued at the time that the grandfather clause would actually cause millions of Americans to lose their existing health insurance coverage. Buried in Section 1251 of the Affordable Care Act, the grandfather clause was ostensibly meant to ensure that Americans who obtained coverage prior to the law being signed on March 23, 2010, could keep their existing plans, just like the president repeatedly promised.
Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s subsequent interpretation of regulations surrounding the grandfather clause were so constrained that millions of Americans losing their preferred coverage became a fait accompli.
Even the Obama administration itself conceded such when it wrote in the June 2010 issue of the Federal Register that “a reasonable range for the percentage of individual policies that would terminate, and therefore relinquish their grandfather status, is 40 percent to 67 percent.”
When Republican Sen. Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming offered Senate Joint Resolution 39 to ensure that no Obamacare regulation would be interpreted to deny people access to their existing health care policies, Democrats voted it down. Unanimously.
On a motion to proceed, the resolution was defeated on a 59-40 vote. Every single Senate Democrat voted the resolution down, and in so doing, virtually ensured that the health care choices of millions of Americans would be fall under the highly restrictive mandates of Obamacare.
They may be trying to disavow Obamacare today, but Senate Democrats are as complicit for the fallout of the health care debacle as the president himself.
It’s time to hold Senate Democrats accountable. No amount of feigned incredulity today should absolve elected officials of poor decisions made yesterday.
Doubleday, $28.95, 577 pages
For political scientists, and especially academics, intelligence is the dark angel of foreign affairs, eager to topple governments and betray other persons — including allies — through stealth and lies. Oh, perhaps. The chronicles of spookdom certainly brim with case histories of chicanery. But in terms of flagrant international treachery, few episodes in diplomatic history surpass the sordid record of the allied powers — including the United States — in their dealings with Middle East nations during World War I, 1914-1918.
Much of what the average reader knows about intrigue during the period revolves around the British anthropologistturned-intelligence-operative T.E. Lawrence, a covert agent for the Crown who strove to inspire the so-called “Revolt in the Desert,” an attempt to stir an Arabic uprising against Germany. Lawrence’s image benefited from his own books and from an adoring “biography” by Lowell Thomas, the famed radio commentator.
But Lawrence was far from being the only intelligence agent in the game. The United States, Germany, France, even stateless Israelis trying to form their own nation, vied for influence among the disparate tribes that occupied Arabia. The goal was to wean away Turkish support for Germany during the first years of the war so as to protect Britain’s routes to India.
Scott Anderson relates the story with vivid writing supported by a staggering amount of research — one of the more fascinating reads I have encountered in years. His cast of characters alone satisfies one’s appetite for how espionage really works in the field.
Consider the United States. A latecomer to international intelligence, Washington, had no operatives in the area, so it sought the help of Standard Oil Co. of New York (Socony), one of 34 units into which the Rockefeller Standard Oil monopoly had been splintered in a 1911 antitrust action. Standard continued to harbor international ambitions, running a “foreign-service school” for men it dispatched abroad to monitor its interests.
Its recrui for the Middle East was a 20-ish chap named William Yale, scion of a prominent family that had fallen onto hard times. An Ivy League graduate, he joined Standard as an oil-field worker in Oklahoma. But his pedigree qualified him for grander things. Soon he was in Arabia, under cover with a group of wealthy “swells” making a grand tour.
Then he got down to business, buying oil rights for broad swaths of the crumbling Ottoman Empire. As the only major oil company still active in the area, Socony acquired rights for 500,000 acres at knock-off prices. Turkey desperately needed oil for its war effort. Tough: Standard furnished not a drop for the duration; its eyes focused on future riches. Socony sold to belligerents on both sides, reflagging tankers in neutral countries, the man responsible explaining to Yale that “business was business, and that if he didn’t ‘sell to the enemy, his competitors surely would.’” (Yale eventually went on the U.S. payroll, but continued under Socony cover.)
Mr. Anderson covers a wide range of spy tradecraft. An Israeli agent, an agronomist named Aaron Aaronstein, used his supposed field work in tracing locust infestation to establish an extensive network of prospective Jewish spies across Palestine.
The Germany spy, Curt Prufer, held a shadowy post in his embassy known as the “dragoman,” a flunky in the gray area between diplomatic and consular duties, giving him considerable operation freedom.
The hypersexual Prufer relied heavily on females. “They will … try to get friendly with people who might be able to supply … information.” He left no doubt what he meant by “friendly,” proclaiming, “Above all, the women agents — who must be young and not without charms — should try to get into relationships with influential people who may, in a moment of weakness born of intimacy, let escape information that could be useful to us.”
The main chicanery, however, came from the Brits, in an episode that tells why it was known as “perfidious Albion” for decades. The Arabs wanted recognition of an independent nation encompassing virtually their entire world, from Iraq in the east to Syria in the west and extending to the tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Details would come later, but an “absolute precondition was that the French were not to have a controlling presence anywhere.” If that was agreeable, the British “could have their revolution in the heart of the Ottoman world.” The Brits signed onto the deal.
Need it be said that Whitehall lied? A secret covenant assured France a continued role in Syria, a presence it maintained for decades. Apologists for years dismissed the episode as a “misunderstanding” in the government. Mr. Anderson rightly snorts that such an excuse is “squalid, akin to arguing that a promise isn’t a promise because one’s fingers were crossed. To the degree that the British right hand did not know what the left was doing, it was because a select group of men at the highest reaches of government went to great lengths to endure it.” He speaks of “a labyrinth of information firewalls — deceptions, in a less charitable assessment.”
I generally consider it a waste of time to address “what if?” scenarios, because history tends to veer in nonlineal directions. But in this instance, I cannot resist wondering “what if” the great powers had played it straight in a time of crisis in the Middle East? We shall never know.