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President Barack Obama. (Associated Press)

President Barack Obama. (Associated Press)

Beam: We may never know what, when

Last Modified: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 5:13 PM

By Jim Beam / American Press

What did the president know, and when did he know it?

Ask that question on Google, and you will get a wide variety of sources. The question, unfortunately, has become a trademark of the Obama administration because of its poor handling of a variety of issues. Some call them scandals, but the president’s defenders say that’s too strong a word.

The Washington Post back in May called the IRS targeting of conservative groups a “mess” that didn’t implicate the White House, “or even senior IRS leadership.” The newspaper called the killing of the American ambassador to Libya and three other Americans at Benghazi “a bureaucratic knife fight between the State Department and the CIA.” And it said “there’s no evidence that the DOJ (Department of Justice) did anything illegal” when it seized Associated Press phone records.

Two of the more recent administration nightmares are the disastrous rollout of Obama’s health care law and the National Security Agency’s bugging of leaders of America’s allies, particularly those in Germany, France and Spain.

Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the scapegoat for the dysfunctional Obamacare website.

“You deserve better,” she told a House committee Wednesday. “I apologize. I’m accountable to you for fixing these problems. Hold me accountable for the debacle. I’m responsible.”

OK, we will do that, but what did the president know about the problems and when did he know about them? Jay Carney, the White House spokesman who covers for his boss, said Obama knew there would be glitches but didn’t expect anything monumental.

That is puzzling because the website crashed during a test run when there were just a few hundred users on it. And why did they go ahead and start trying to enroll people on Oct. 1?

Sebelius said, “There are people in this country who have waited for decades for affordable health coverage for themselves and their families.”

Yes, there are, and they are still waiting.

Republicans continue to criticize Obamacare, and the Democrats keep telling Americans everything is going to be hunky-dory once the kinks are ironed out.

The latest wrinkle has to do with people losing health care insurance policies that they were told they could keep. And they got that promise from none other than the president himself.

“If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan,” Obama told the American Medical Association. “No one will take it away, no matter what.”

Well, policies are being canceled and Carney has come up with another convenient excuse.

“The good news,” he said, “is that for every one of these individuals who might have a plan that is almost by definition providing less than minimal benefits ... you are now being offered a variety of options, including options by the very insurer that covers you already, for new coverage.”

One of those choices, which isn’t optional for many, provides for maternity care — even for women who passed child-bearing age many years ago. That is a tough one to justify.

The Los AngelesTimes quoted a self-employed attorney who is pregnant.

“It doesn’t seem right to make the middle class pay so much more in order to give health insurance to everybody else,” she said. “This increase is simply not affordable.”

Another woman who complained about a 50 percent rate increase said, “I was all for Obamacare until I found out I was paying for it.”

Maybe some of those so-called inadequate policies were exactly what the insured individual liked and wanted. Why has the government suddenly become the decision-maker on what kind of insurance coverage we all need?

The bugging of the phones of world leaders has even outsiders asking tough questions.

Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, told CNN no one should expect the president to know everything the NSA is doing.

“But when you’re talking about the surveillance of world leaders and an issue that’s been controversial for a while now, you would expect that there’s some knowledge either by the president or people surrounding him...,” Zelizer said. “I do think there’s surprise that this was off the radar in the inner circle of the White House.”

Former officials in the Obama and George W. Bush administrations told The Washington Post it is hard to believe Obama was never told — and never asked — about the bugging of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone.

“... Before every phone call and meeting with her, intelligence officials brief the president on what the German leader is thinking about Iran, economic policy and other issues of interest to the United States,” those officials told the newspaper.

William A. Galston of the Brookings Institution and a former domestic policy adviser to President Bill Clinton, told The Post Obama doesn’t appear to be interested in the way government works. He said “the president gives every appearance of being blindsided by the flow of events.”

“Then people start wondering if he’s in charge, if he’s a strong leader,” Galston said.

Yes, that is exactly what concerns them about recent events. But judging from the response from the administration so far, it appears Americans will never get a straight answer about what the president knew about almost anything and when he knew it.

    • • •

Jim Beam, the retired editor of the American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or

Posted By: Jerry On: 11/2/2013

Title: My worry about Obamacare

"People respond to incentives, although not necessarily in ways that are predictable or manifest. Therefore, one of the most powerful laws in the universe is the law of unintended consequences." -From the book "SuperFreakonomics"
With that in mind, see:
"Obamacare: Making a bad situation worse"

With that in mind, see:
"Obamacare: Making a bad situation worse"
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Posted By: Joseph LeFevre On: 10/31/2013

Title: We may never know what, when

If the government didn't always have the right to decide what kind of health insurance is acceptable, I would think it gained that right when the law was passed that emergency rooms must take care of everyone who shows up without regard for whether or not they can pay (through insurance or private funds). All of us are paying for that kind of expensive care (through higher insurance premiums and/or taxes) so long as anyone is uninsured or does not have adequate insurance.
I might also point out that the difficulties in the roll out of the affordable care act exist primarily because so many governors (including ours) refused to cooperate by setting up state exchanges. The law included that provision as part of "states' rights" lobbying and it was anticipated that most states would cooperate. The unrelenting resistance from the Republicans to the law is what has led to the current difficulties.

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