Washington Games

Robert Gibbs, like most presidential spokesmen, is a master of spin.  Last Thursday, he was whirling faster than the turbine blades in the engines of an F-22 accelerating past the speed of sound.

Defending President Obama’s failed stimulus plan, Gibbs said, “People have been allowed to get away with…making statements that they knew weren’t factual… Washington games are still being played with the truth.”  

Well, yes.  Certainly by Gibbs and his boss, and not just on the stimulus.  As my sainted former law partner Billy Butterfield always says — the facts are what they are, and we’re all stuck with them.  Even Obama is stuck, at least when the important facts are revealed.  

The two most important illustrations of the Washington games Obama is playing are health care and the interrogation of terrorist prisoners.  As diverse as these topics are, they both are central to our nation’s fiscal and existential future.  

Obama’s national health care plan is based on two whoppers: that 47 million American households are without health insurance, and that it won’t create yet another huge addition to the federal budget deficit.   

The 47 million number comes from a 2007 Census Bureau report.  But that same report says that more than 27 million of those households earn over $50,000 a year, and one-third of them earn more than $75,000 a year.  Which means that those 27 million families choose not to pay for health insurance.  

The second big Obama health care whopper is that his plan won’t increase the federal deficit and will actually decrease health care costs.  

In May, having corralled representatives of health care providers and insurers, Obama claimed that he’d negotiated reduced costs and other savings that amounted to nearly $2 trillion over the next decade.  Which he then proceeded to spend.

Obama’s titanic health care program hit a factual iceberg on July 16 in the House and Senate testimony of Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf.  CBO is the non-partisan expert congress goes to for estimates of the cost of legislation.

Elmendorf said, “Although the House plan to cover the uninsured, for example, would add more than $1 trillion to federal health spending over the next decade, according to the CBO, it would trim about $500 billion from existing programs — increasing federal health spending overall.”

In his personal blog that same day, Elmendorf wrote “…CBO estimates that in fiscal years 2009 and 2010, the federal government will record its largest budget deficits as a share of GDP since shortly after World War II.  As a result of these deficits, federal debt held by the public will soar from 41 percent of GDP at the end of fiscal year 2008 to 60 percent at the end of fiscal year 2010.”

Those enormous deficits will increase if Obama’s health care program becomes law.
What about all those promises Obama extracted from healthcare providers and insurers?  They are as ephemeral as any political promise, and the legislation being considered by Congressional Democrats doesn’t require they be fulfilled.

Elmendorf said, “The changes that we have looked at so far do not represent the sort of fundamental change, the order of magnitude that would be necessary, to offset the direct increase in federal health costs that would result from the insurance coverage proposals.”
Elmendorf’s testimony sent shock waves through Congress.  Obama’s plan will be delayed, and probably blocked, at least for the remainder of the year.

A day after Elmendorf testified, Obama said, “Health insurance reform cannot add to our deficit over the next decade and I mean it.”  The president is surely as sincere on that as he is in his desire to “look forward not backward” on how effective harsh interrogation techniques were in extracting valuable intelligence from terrorist prisoners.

Long before and then throughout the 2008 campaign, Obama condemned the harsh interrogation methods used by the CIA in interrogating those prisoners.  In October 2007, he said they were “an outrageous betrayal of our core values, and a grave danger to our security.”  

As soon as he took office, Obama forbade the use of such harsh interrogation methods as the “open-fingered face slap” and “walling”, where a prisoner’s neck is wrapped in a towel to prevent whiplash and then he’s thrown against a flexible wall to cause shock and dismay.

Obama’s whopper — enthusiastically joined, notably by Speaker Pelosi, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mi) and the media — is that the harsh interrogation methods (including waterboarding) failed to extract actionable intelligence that actually saved American lives.

In May, the White House rejected a request by former Vice President Cheney to declassify and release two memos that Cheney contends prove that the harsh interrogation methods did produce valuable intelligence information. Levin said that Cheney’s claim was false.

Unfortunately, there’s no intelligence equivalent of the CBO to expose the Democrats’ lie.  Fortunately, there is Sen. Christopher Bond (R-Mo), the ranking Republican on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Last week, Bond won a SSCI vote and attached a provision to the 2010 intelligence authorization bill that requires the CIA to publish declassified versions of four reports that show the harsh interrogation methods worked.  Though congressional sources would not confirm or deny it, among the four must be the two Cheney asked for.

As I’ve written again and again and again, the most important thing Republicans can do is force the disclosure of the Cheney documents and the others that will prove the harsh interrogation methods paid off in American lives saved.  

Just as our economy is being attacked by Obama’s spending spree, our security is being threatened by the Democrats’ war against our intelligence community.  The president is guilty of selectively disclosing only the information that makes the members of the Bush administration seem reckless torturers and war criminals.  What Obama conceals protects Pelosi and the Democrats’ political agenda, nothing else.

If Americans learn the truth about the intelligence gained — just as we learned from Douglas Elmendorf the truth about Obama’s health care nationalization plan — the facts will defeat the president.  Nothing else can.