ObamaCare: Stop, Drop, Enroll
ObamaCare may be a nightmare for the American people, but it's been a dream come true for government contractors. Teams of specialists have been trucked in to deal with a health care system that's quickly dissolving into the most expensive taxpayer-funded punch line of this administration. Desperate to fix the glitches that threaten the Democrats' credibility, scores of technology experts are performing CPR on a website that wasn't even tested until a week before it went live. Most people familiar with the fiasco say the problems are so expansive that, even with an all-hands-on-deck approach, the errors will take months to correct. In an interview with the New York Times, one consultant said Health and Human Services (HHS) would have to rewrite as many as five million lines of software code to get Healthcare.gov up and running.
Democrats, who no longer have the government shutdown to hide behind, are understandably nervous. The debt debate had provided convenient cover to the ObamaCare mess, which threatens to bleed well into 2014 when the President's party had hoped to put the spotlight on the GOP. Instead, the ObamaCare rollout is doing the Republicans' job for them: exposing the health care failure they'd opposed all along. For the Obama administration, which had three years to perfect the system, the last few weeks have been marked by political humiliation. Once loyal liberals, including the President's former press secretary Robert Gibbs, are tiptoeing away from the law that they spent so much personal capital passing. "I hope they fire some people," Gibbs said bluntly, because this has been "excruciatingly embarrassing for the White House and for the Department of Health and Human Services."
With one-sixth of the U.S. economy tied up in this disaster, President Obama finally appeared to defend his signature accomplishment. Earlier today, the President hosted a Rose Garden event with people who had successfully enrolled in the health care exchanges (surprising everyone who thought no such people existed). Urging patience, he insisted the problems were being fixed. And while he may have decided to face the American people, the chief architect of ObamaCare's implementation is still in hiding. Amid calls for her resignation, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius still refuses to appear before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, whose Thursday hearing aims to get to the bottom of the law's disarray. "We believe the American people deserve answers to important questions related to the department's implementation of the exchanges," the Committee said in a statement, "and a failure to appear voluntarily to discuss the law's unfolding challenges would only deepen our concern."
But it's not just Secretary Sebelius who won't appear. Suddenly, everyone in HHS has scheduling conflicts -- including Henry Chao, who heads up the technology side of ObamaCare. Recently, Chao gave up the lofty goals of website functionality and said he'd settle for "mak[ing] sure it's not a third-world experience." Even that seems like a step up now, as the gap widens between the people applying for ObamaCare and the number actually enrolled. Unfortunately, we won't know how many Americans that is, since the administration is still mum about enrollment numbers.
With the law's credibility in the tank and the administration's reputation not far behind, Sebelius's refusal to testify only heaps suspicion on a hugely unpopular program. "Listen," Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told "Fox News Sunday," "ultimately, Secretary Sebelius will testify before Congress." And when she does, it will be tough to defend the biggest glitch of all: passing ObamaCare in the first place.
Jeh Walking: Pentagon's Johnson on Path to DHS Post
The Department of Homeland Security is hardly the most popular agency in Washington -- and the President's latest pick to head the office isn't likely to change that. Last Friday, the White House tapped Jeh Johnson, former general counsel at the Defense Department, to head the much-maligned office, despite Johnson's total lack of management or law enforcement experience.
In his nomination presser, President Obama applauded Johnson for his "deep understanding of the threats and challenges facing the United States" -- a statement some would find questionable, given the great time and effort Jeh devoted to introducing open homosexuality into the ranks of the military. As the Pentagon's top lawyer, Johnson is best known for his role in overturning "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and later, recanting on several of his assurances about the policy change. In the Pentagon's Comprehensive Review Working Group (CRWG) on the effects of overturning DADT, which Johnson co-authored in 2010, before the policy change was implemented, Jeh insisted that religious liberty would be protected and sexual orientation would not become a protected class -- two promises the Pentagon has since broken. FRC's Clear and Present Danger report reveals that the military's pattern of religious hostility, specifically against service members with a natural view of marriage, started under Johnson (who left the Pentagon in late 2012).
In hearings about the implementation of the new policy, Johnson told House members that chaplains have a right to preach their beliefs -- even if those beliefs are incompatible with the administration's radical views on homosexuality. Four short months later (while the Defense of Marriage Act was still law), Johnson was the one giving approval for the Defense Department memo that allows military chaplains, paid for by federal taxpayers, to perform same-sex "marriages" in federally-subsidized chapels on military bases. Eight weeks later, Johnson took things a step farther, outlining a strategy to abolish federal marriage law so that the Pentagon could transfer benefits to "partners and other family members of gays and lesbians."
Meanwhile, social conservatives aren't the only ones concerned about Jeh's possible confirmation. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) accused the President of nominating Johnson as payback for his hefty Democratic contributions. "It would appear that the President plans to nominate a loyalist and fundraiser to this post," he said. The Wall Street Journal piled on with some legitimate criticism of Jeh's troubling record on national security. "Early in the administration, it was Mr. Johnson who fought to maintain military commissions, an alternative court system for terrorists, over objections from officials who viewed the legal experiment conceived under President George W. Bush as fatally flawed. Mr. Johnson also proposed several changes to the military commissions that gave defendants greater protections, such as limits on hearsay evidence..."
With hot-button issues like U.S. immigration, terrorism, and cyber-security under his control, the confirmation of Jeh Johnson would probably do more to undermine the public's confidence in DHS than bolster it.
Jersey Shores up Support for Same-sex "Marriage"
FRC is still analyzing today's decision by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) to withdraw his state's appeal of a court order to redefine marriage. His withdrawal came after the New Jersey Supreme Court refused to stop the state's same-sex "marriages" until a lower court ruling could be appealed. In a announcing the retreat, a Christie spokesman said, "Although the Governor strongly disagrees with the Court substituting its judgment for the constitutional process of the elected branches or a vote of the people, the Court has now spoken clearly as to their view of the New Jersey Constitution and, therefore, same-sex marriage is the law. The Governor will do his constitutional duty and ensure his administration enforces the law as dictated by the New Jersey Supreme Court."
On its face, it seems Christie not only yielded to judicial activism -- but aided it by capitulating. Apparently, the Governor is giving up all hopes of identifying as a conservative in any future political aspirations.
** MSNBC's Chris Matthews, who recently called the Founders' "We the People" racist, is being blasted for his comments by both sides of the political establishment. Today, FRC's Ken Blackwell and Bob Morrison take on the controversial host in their American Thinker, piece, "Chris Matthews: Did You Drink Three Fifths?" Check it out here.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.