Saturday, December 07, 2013

Quick Hits: Volume LXXXI (President Obama follies)

- I've never questioned the citizenship of President Barack Obama, so therefore I never was part of the "birther" crowd. Yet despite his insistence that he was born Hawaii, Obama's claims were still doubted by "birthers" until he publicly released his birth certificate. Unfortunately, that wasn't even enough to assuage the doubts conveyed by some.

Like no other president, the White House's current occupant has a lot of mystery surrounding him. While it's not a requirement, many presidents and presidential candidates publicly release their college transcripts. Obama has not. Why? Was he lackluster student at Harvard Law and thus embarrassed by that fact perhaps?

Another point of contention regarding the President is the relationship with his Kenyan uncle Onyango ("Omar") Obama. Given that the President has written books and has given myriad speeches over the past decade, there was nary a mention of his uncle Omar. Again, why? It would seem Omar played a somewhat pivotal role during his nephew's college years.

The White House acknowledged Thursday that President Obama briefly lived with his Kenyan uncle as he prepared to attend Harvard Law School, despite insisting in 2011 that there was no record of the two ever meeting.

The scrutiny of the relationship between Mr. Obama and his paternal uncle Onyango Obama was renewed this week in the wake of the elder Obama’s deportation hearing on Tuesday, during which he revealed that his nephew lived at his apartment in Cambridge, Mass. for three weeks during the 1980s.

In 2011, the White House explained, the press office did not ask the president directly whether he had ever met his uncle. This time, when he was asked, the president confirmed his relationship with his uncle, whom he calls “Omar.”

Because he never acknowledged his uncle Omar, the President could avoid being accused of having a personal stake in the push for amnesty (or quasi amnesty) for illegal aliens. But since it's now been revealed that Obama lived with his uncle Omar for a time, there's a natural curiosity as to why that was omitted from his story. I don't look at this as so much a lie as I do a "sin of omission."

- There's no question that of all the issues Barack Obama campaigned on leading up to the 2008 election, healthcare reform was the top priority. Upon being inaugurated in January 2009, Obama took advantage of the fact his party controlled all of Congress by signing into law one of the more radical transformations of a significant sector of the economy (dubbed.the "Affordable Care Act"). And he was well aware of what he was sacrificing politically, knowing that 7-1/2 months after signing the ACA into law his party would take significant hits in the midterm elections (it cost them a majority in the US House).

So with such a monumental piece of legislation, one which will likely define Obama's presidential legacy, it would stand to reason that he would be in constant communication with those primarily responsible for implementing the law. One person in particular that would seem most  vital to the process is the Health and Human Services Secretary who, by the job's very definition, has the goal of protecting the health of all Americans. In essence, that seemed to be how they were touting the ACA. Since Kathleen Sebelius has been the HHS secretary from day one, chances are she's been meeting with the President on a regular basis, right?

That did not happen, at least not according to Obama’s own official White House calendar.

A new Government Accountability Institute (GAI) analysis finds that from July 12, 2010, to Nov. 30, 2013, the president’s public schedule records zero one-on-one meetings between Obama and Sebelius. Equally shocking, over the same period, the president's calendar lists 277 private meetings with his other Cabinet secretaries (excluding full Cabinet meetings).

Given these startling findings, and the fact that the White House calendar did not reflect meetings prior to July 12, 2010, GAI researchers then performed a second analysis using another respected recorder of presidential activity, the POLITICO presidential calendar. The results: Just one April 21, 2010 entry was found listing a White House meeting between Obama and Sebelius—and even that was a joint meeting with then Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
One of the consistent criticisms of the President is his lack of leadership, whether it's unwillingness to take the hits when things go awry or his lack of initiative in negotiating budget deals with Congress. To basically kiss off meetings with Sebelius, arguably the go to person to effectively move the law from passage to implementation, is an utter embarrassment.

- Make no mistake: Whenever there's a big time news event or story, Obama can't help but insert himself in it somehow. The passing of crusader, freedom fighter and former South African President Nelson Mandela this past week was just such an opportunity.

When the White House's official Twitter feed posted a statement from Obama regarding Mandela's passing, they accompanied the quote with a picture of the Obama family in the jail cell where Mandela spent 27 years.

It would seem to me that a picture of Mandela himself upon his release from jail might have been more relevant. Maybe his inauguration as South African President with his jailers seated on the front row of the inauguration ceremony? Certainly a powerful snapshot given where Mandela was just a few years earlier.

Am I nitpicking here? Perhaps. But it wouldn't be as salient an issue had the White House's current occupant ever showed so much as an ounce of humility throughout his time as president.


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