Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Incomprehensible Incompetence

Incomprehensible Incompetence.

I can use it to describe the Obama administration's roll-out of Obamacare or I can use it to describe the Republican strategy on the budget and debt ceiling negotiations.

One thing is for sure.  They deserve each other.

The United States won World War II in less time than Obama was given to get Obamacare up and running.  In that war we mobilized millions of men and women in a common cause.  We built planes, tanks and ships.  We fought two major enemies in different parts of the world.  We invaded Europe and made beach landings on dozens of Pacific islands.  It took 1,347 to complete the effort and declare victory.

The Obama administration was given 1,379 days to implement Obamacare (March 23, 2010-December 31, 2013).  That's more than a month longer than it took us to win World War II.  What have they done with the time?  All we have seen are exemptions, excuses, delays, denials, waivers and whining.

As of today, it has been 1,303 days since the law was signed.  If Obama and Kathleen Sebleius were in charge during WWII we would probably be sitting on Catalina Island on the Pacific Front and the Germans would be celebrating Oktoberfest on Trafalgar Square if we turned back the clock to 1945.

Obamacare is an utter disaster almost three weeks into the enrollment period.  People can't get on to the site to enroll.  There are no records on how many Americans have enrolled.  And journalists across the country have not even been able to find anyone that has signed up.

Remember that this was 100% their law.  There were no Republican votes.  They could choose any deadlines they wanted.  They could put any provisions in the bill they wanted.

Incomprehensible Incompetence.

If misery loves company, Obama has the perfect partner in Congressional Republicans.

They were handed an enormous gift in two ill-advised moves by Obama over the summer. Both actions were in direct violation of the Obamacare statute and were clearly outside of President Obama's power as President.

First, a waiver of the employer mandate under the law.  Second, granting employer subsidies to Congressional members and their staffs in the Obamacare exchanges which was also not permitted under the law.  These two actions had to be among the most legally and politically indefensible acts I have ever seen done in Washington, D.C.

For good measure, Obama also issued an order to ignore the income verification provision of the law to obtain exchange subsidies which could open the Obamacare system to wholesale fraud.

Given this gift, what were the Republicans able to accomplish in their negotiations over the budget and debt ceiling?

They were able to shutdown the government for almost three weeks for which they agreed to give every federal employee who did not work a paid vacation.

They were also able to get the Democrats to certify that they are going to use their "best efforts" to "kind of try" to verify income before they give someone a federal subsidy.

It is almost as if the U.S. Constitution has been turned upside down in the process.

The President seems to no longer be charged with faithfully executing the responsibilities of his office to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.  How could that be true if he is picking and choosing the duly passed laws of the United States based on his political views and positions?  In addition, it now seems that a law needs to be passed twice to be be considered a "law".  This is what occurred with the income verification provision.

I don't know if I have ever seen a worse case of negotiating in my life than was done by the Republicans considering the facts they had on their side.

Incomprehensible Incompetence.

It is easy to criticize the result but what would I have done at the end?  I wrote several times previously that I would done things far differently in the negotiations from the beginning.  However, that is ancient history at this point.

There is little doubt that the Republicans had painted themselves into a corner at the end but there is always a way out if you think strategically.  That means looking at the negotiation from your adversary's perspective, not from your own.  What is the position they don't want to be in?

Obama decided early that the position the Republicans could not afford to be in was to be in the last couple days before the debt ceiling deadline where they were taking heat from his friends in the media for being unreasonable extremists.  He figured if he refused to budge, they would eventually have to blink because they would not want to take the blame if the debt ceiling was breached.

Effective negotiating often means putting your adversary in a place they don't want to be to put yourself in the place that you want to be.

Therefore, I would have reversed the tables on Obama and this is what I would have suggested in the Republican House caucus yesterday.  And this is how I would have worded it when I presented it to the public.

  • The Republicans recognize that Obamacare is the law of the land.
  • We are providing a clean CR and debt limit for 6 months (put it after the next election if he wants it)  President Obama has asked for.
  • In keeping with the recognition that Obamacare is the law of the land, President Obama must enforce all aspects of the law as written and provide evidence of such to the Supreme Court of the United States by December 15, 2013.  The employer mandate, income verification, no exemptions for Congress, small business exchange etc. must all be operational pursuant to the dictates of the law.
  • If the Supreme Court does not find that all provisions of the law are being faithfully followed in accordance with the timetable of the law it will be suspended until 2015. 

Would this have been a place that President Obama would want to be in? I doubt it.

What would his argument be to the American people to veto this bill?  He doesn't believe in his own law and his capabilities?

What would his argument be against it?  He was given exactly what he asked for.

Everything that is in play would now be in his hands.  He has a clean CR.  He has a clean debt ceiling limit.  The Republicans have recognized his law.  All he has to do is perform his duties to keep it all in place.

He controls his destiny.  The Republicans could just sit and watch the chaos ensue.

Our Constitution is supposed to be about equal protection under the law. If this law is not ready to be implemented as written on everybody, it should not be applied to anybody until it is ready.  That is a very simple proposition underlying this proposal.

He would probably state that this is another extremist position. However, all that is being asked is for him to do his job and follow his law.  Would there have been a simpler message for the American people to understand?

He would also probably say that there is not enough time?  How long did World War II take again?

What would the view of Republicans be today if that was what came out of the GOP House Caucus yesterday?

I don't think it would be Incomprehensible Incompetence.

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