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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Is VA Scandal The One That Will Doom Democrats? Or Will It Only Hurt Obama?

Political Observers: VA Scandal Differs From Other Obama Debacles

Friday, 23 May 2014 09:36 PM
By Todd Beamon
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The spiraling scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs over deadly treatment delays and falsified waiting lists is setting itself apart from the other controversies that have plagued the Obama administration, Republicans and political observers tell Newsmax.

"The VA scandal is different because it is one that every American can relate to," said Democratic pollster and analyst Doug Schoen. "Everyone has a relative who has been a veteran who've put themselves in harm's way to protect this country.

"Every American can relate to the horrific nature of the abuses that are alleged to have gone on at VA hospitals — abuses that have gone on for too long, involving too many people," Schoen said.

Unlike the 2012 Benghazi attacks that killed four Americans, the targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service — even the widespread snooping by the National Security Agency — reports that some veterans may have died because of the secret lists that some VA centers used to cover up failures have united opposition on many fronts.

Several Democrats joined with Republicans and veterans groups this week to demand the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. President Barack Obama vowed to "fix whatever is wrong is wrong" with the agency and named a top aide to investigate it.

The GOP-controlled House overwhelmingly passed the VA Accountability Act, which empowers the secretary to remove senior executive employees based on performance, with broad Democratic support. But the Senate, which Obama's party controls, failed to back a similar measure.

"You're breaking into an area that crosses party lines," debate expert and pollster Matt Towery told Newsmax. "When you start talking about the VA failing the vets who have served our country, you start to irritate and irk people who are both Democrats and Republicans.

"It's different, but it's not really that different," Towery added, comparing the VA with the other debacles. "In this case, it crosses party lines, and so everyone is outraged. With the IRS, and when it came to Benghazi, not everyone was outraged."

But Republican Rep. Paul Gosar said the scandal pointed to a more fundamental premise. The two-term congressman represents Arizona, where reports of at least 40 veterans dying while awaiting treatment first surfaced last month.

"It comes down to the mantra of the promises made by this administration," he told Newsmax. "If the greatest of our nation, the men and women who've served to protect our liberties and freedoms, can't get healthcare and can't be taken care of, who can?

"This is what scares everybody," Gosar added, likening the VA to Obamacare's goal of a massive single-payer healthcare system. "Here's one that doesn't work. This is exactly what it looks like.

"If we can't give it, with the promises we made to our veterans, this is what's coming down the road," he said. "And there's a face with this. Everybody knows a veteran."

That's why both Republicans and Democrats must tread carefully in how they respond, especially as the November congressional elections near.

Further, it all begins with Obama, the observers told Newsmax.

The president, who is under fire from the GOP for not speaking out sooner, named Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors to lead an investigation into the VA and make recommendations for improvement. Republicans have called for an independent inquiry.

"Without even taking a poll, you could say that this story that continues to drip, drip, drip out would be off the Richter scale with the American public," Towery said. "It's why President Obama came out and finally made some strong statements, because it appeared that he was being unrealistic again.

"But the question is, will he get to the bottom?"

It is especially critical for the Democrats, who risk losing the Senate this fall, said Tobe Berkovitz, an associate professor of advertising at Boston University.

"The Democrats are not going to toe the party line on this one," he told Newsmax. "Any Democrat who is up for re-election will have to break with the president as long as Obama refuses really to take any firm action.

"There's just too much on the line for the Democrats," he added. "It's one thing to stay with the president on the IRS and Benghazi, but they're not going to be able to stay with and support the president if he doesn't take some firmer action and make some really concrete statements."

The GOP must not be too hasty, either.

"They have to be careful not to overplay their hand," Berkovitz cautioned. "It is something that the American public is ashamed of, feels deeply about — and the Republicans really have to be smart and sensible and aggressive when it comes to this whole failure."

As such, "they argue for change," Schoen told Newsmax. "Hopefully, they will argue for change and for a new set of policies to promote growth, reconciliation and to fix abuses that have gone on at the VA."

Perhaps the best thing for the GOP to do is to "not take advantage" of the scandal, Towery advised.

"The GOP has, over history, been its biggest enemy because they overreach. The public can perceive overreaching immediately.

"When you overreach, you create — in the minds of independent voters, voters who have not already decided — the concept that you're biased and that you're going in one direction and not being fair," he added.

"What the GOP can do to help themselves is to very much make this a nonpartisan issue.

For his part, Gosar told Newsmax that "we have to solve this. We've lacked the leadership and oversight and directives to do this.

"That's the problem: America wants to see the administration and the executive branch hold their promise and actually do something," he added. "We see nothing. Time is everything to a veteran who's in need."

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Another Look For MH370--Will It Ever Be Found? We Think So!

Missing Plane Found? Nope, but Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 370 Data to Receive Another Review

 Satellite data for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 will be again reviewed, said the Australian Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC).
The head of the JACC’s search operations, Angus Houston, said that a review of all the data for the missing flight, which disappeared March 8 with 239 people on board, will be looked over, reported
Houston stressed that the plane crashed into the current area of search, located in the southern Indian Ocean.
“The data and technique used by Inmarsat has been independently peer reviewed by a number of organisations outside of Inmarsat, in both the UK and US,” he was quoted as saying this week. Houston was referring to the Britain-based satellite company.
Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Organisation will also carry out more reviews of the data, he said.
The decision comes as some scientists have questioned the methods and the politics surrounding the MH370 search.
“As soon as I saw the frequency and the distance between the pings I knew it couldn’t be the aircraft pinger,” one scientist, who was not named, told News Corp Australia on Friday.
Some underwater scientists have described the search for the missing plane as a “debacle.” They said that Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was trying to gain political leverage via the search.
The deep-sea submarine drone, “Bluefin 21,” will again carry out a search of the Indian Ocean. The unmanned submarine will go back to Perth, located in Western Australian, over the weekend.
The Malaysian government says calculations using Inmarsat data showed Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 veered off course and ended in the Indian Ocean after it went missing March 8 while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
No wreckage has been found, and an underwater hunt led by Australia continues.
Authorities believe the plane was flown deliberately off course, but are still investigating the cause of the disappearance.
“In moving forward, it is imperative for us to provide helpful information to the next of kin and general public, which will include the data communication logs as well as relevant explanation to enable the reader to understand the data provided,” the statement said. It stressed the data was just one of many elements in the investigation.
The statement didn’t say when or how the data will be released.
Malaysia has been criticized for its handling of the crisis, especially by relatives of Chinese passengers who make up the majority on board the plane.
Earlier this month, family members urged Malaysia, China and Australia to review Inmarsat data for its accuracy. In a letter to the countries’ leaders which is also posted on their Facebook page, the relatives said the data did not “support a definitive conclusion that no other flight path was possible.”
“We feel that it is necessary that the data be subject to independent third-party review. It is our hope that with out of box thinking, the whole world can help to look for the plane,” the letter said.
The search has moved into a new phase, with a Chinese navy survey ship to start mapping the seabed off the west Australian coast this week.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Category: World Asia & Pacific

Congress And Society Locked Into Gridlock.

Analysis: Partisan society, gridlocked Congress

Associated Press

FILE - In this Oct. 1, 2013, file photo, the U.S. Capitol is mirrored in the Capitol Reflecting Pool on Capitol Hill in Washington. It’s not news that Congress is gridlocked. What’s increasingly striking is that both parties are nearly unanimous in their stands, with each one seemingly certain that its position is totally right and the other’s is totally wrong. (AP Photo/J. David Ake, File)
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FILE - In this Oct. 1, 2013, file photo, the U.S. Capitol is mirrored in the Capitol Reflecting Pool on Capitol Hill in Washington. It’s not news that Congress is gridlocked. What’s increasingly striking is that both parties are nearly unanimous in their stands, with each one seemingly certain that its position is totally right and the other’s is totally wrong. (AP Photo/J. David Ake, File)
WASHINGTON (AP) — It's not news that Congress is gridlocked. What's increasingly striking is that both parties are nearly unanimous in their stands, with each one seemingly certain that its position is totally right and the other's is totally wrong.
That would seem to defy common sense. After all, most Americans either want a higher minimum wage or they don't. They want to extend unemployment benefits and repeal "Obamacare" or they don't.
Isn't one party in danger of falling out of step? For instance, is the congressional Republicans' near-solid opposition to a higher federal minimum wage risky, given that three-fourths of Americans say they support it?
No, say lawmakers and congressional scholars.
Increasingly, elected Republicans and Democrats speak to constituencies separated by geography and partisan convictions. This ongoing self-segregation into conservative and liberal enclaves is shrinking the political middle that once made compromise more attainable and the parties more ideologically diverse.
The results play out almost every week in Congress. Republicans repeatedly vote to repeal the president's health care law. Democrats push to raise the minimum wage even when they know Senate Republicans will block it.
The great majority of Republicans today are elected from solidly conservative districts and states. And the great majority of Democrats are elected from reliably liberal districts and states.
If congressional Democrats and Republicans seem to speak different languages, it's because they speak the political languages of their electoral homes. Simply put, "they represent their constituents," said Gary Jacobson, a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego.
Democratic President Barack Obama twice won national majorities, Jacobson said, but Republicans control the House because their voters "are distributed more efficiently across districts."
Of course, congressional Democrats and Republicans have clashed over policy for decades. But in the not-so-distant past they had sizable numbers of moderates to challenge party leaders and pull the parties closer to each other.
The current Congress is the most polarized since at least 1982, when National Journal began analyzing lawmakers' votes, the publication says. The most liberal Republican senator is to the right of the most conservative Democratic senator.
In the 435-member House, National Journal reported, only two Democrats were more conservative than a Republican. And only two Republicans were more liberal than a Democrat.
By contrast 20 years ago, 34 senators and 252 House members had voting records that put them between the most liberal Republican and the most conservative Democrat.
Those days are essentially gone. Congress' increasingly clear-cut partisan divisions reflect a mobile society in which liberals tend to congregate in cities and on the coasts, and conservatives dominate vast swaths elsewhere. The widespread gerrymandering of House districts amplifies the political trend.
Meanwhile, Americans are becoming more consistently partisan in their voting. There are fewer ticket-splitters who, for example, will vote Democratic for president and Republican for Senate, or vice versa. Jacobson, who tracks the issue, says state-level straight-ticket voting for president and for senator is now the highest since the 1950s.
The two major parties also are more clearly liberal and conservative, respectively.
In 1980 exit polls, 72 percent of self-described liberals said they voted for a Democratic House candidate. By 2012, the proportion was 86 percent. Conversely, two-thirds of self-described conservatives voted Republican in their 1980 House races. In 2012, 82 percent did so.
In firmly liberal or conservative House districts, the elections that really matter are the party primaries, where strongly ideological voters play outsized roles. This encourages Republican lawmakers to veer hard right, and Democrats to veer hard left, to discourage challenges from their political flanks.
Perhaps, then, it's not surprising that Congress now struggles to do once-routine tasks, such as passing a budget and paying the nation's bills by raising the debt ceiling.
Congress has raised the minimum wage seven times since 1988, to $7.25 an hour. Now, a Democratic bid to raise it to $10.10 faces nearly unanimous Republican opposition. Democrats cite national polls showing widespread support and predict Republicans will pay in midterm elections.
"This issue really resonates with the American people," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. Former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney endorses a higher minimum wage. But most Republican lawmakers shrug it off, saying there's little enthusiasm among their supporters.
Polls show that national support for a higher minimum wage is broad but not intense. In an AP-NORC Center poll that asked people to list the top 10 issues they'd like government to address, 52 percent mentioned the health care overhaul. Only 7 percent named the minimum wage or other wage issues

Republican Repeal Of ObamaCrapCare Would Require An Alternative For Those Covered By It Currently.

McConnell Still Wants to Repeal Obamacare But Won't Say If That Applies to Kentucky's Exchange

The Atlantic Wire

McConnell Still Wants to Repeal Obamacare But Won't Say If That Applies to Kentucky's Exchange
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McConnell Still Wants to Repeal Obamacare But Won't Say If That Applies to Kentucky's Exchange
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Friday that if he becomes the Senate Majority Leader after the midterms, he will work to repeal the Affordable Care Act. That's awkward for him, because 421,000 of his Kentucky constituents now have health insurance because of Obamacare. 
When theAssociated Presspointed this out to McConnell, he responded that the fate of Kentucky's exchange isn't connected to the health care law. ("I think that's unconnected to my comments about the overall question.") As the AP's Adam Moss points out, "the exchange would not exist if not for the law that created it." 
McConnell will probably realize soon, if he hasn't already, that it's hard to take away health insurance once citizens have it. Jonathan Chait wrote about Republicans' "repeal fantasy" back in 2010, explaining how hard that would be to actually do:
Republicans would have to pair their repeal with the immediate enactment of another plan that addressed the problems of people with preexisting conditions. ... Crafting a health care plan that can get 60 votes is very, very hard — that's why the country went for decades with a dysfunctional health care system.
There hasn't yet been conservative health care plan that Republicans have coalesced around. McConnell may get cheers when he talks about repealing Obamacare, but actually doing that would require quick, cooperative legislative action in the Senate. That's unlikely to happen. Moreover, according to a March Bloomberg poll, 51 percent of Americans would keep the ACA with"small modifications," and 13 percent would keep it as is. That leaves only 34 percent of Americans who still want to see full repeal. 
Perhaps McConnell just missed Dave Weigel's proclamation in Slate this morning that "repealing Obamacare is out" and "'fixing health care' is in." Many Republican candidates have starting saying they'll fix health care in their ads, rather than outright repeal the ACA.