Obama Battered by Healthcare, Shutdown, Surveillance Scandals

Image: Obama Battered by Healthcare, Shutdown, Surveillance Scandals

Thursday, 26 Dec 2013 05:39 PM

By Todd Beamon

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From Obamacare to sequestration to Iran to the 16-day government shutdown that cost American taxpayers $1.4 billion, 2013 marked the year of the scandal — domestically and internationally — for President Barack Obama.

The president's year was so riddled with troubles because "the Obama White House isn’t nearly as transparent as they had bragged during two different campaigns," Tobe Berkovitz, an associate professor of advertising at Boston University, told Newsmax. "The White House is so tight with letting any information out that once negative information goes out, the press and the public start to take more interest in it because usually there's such tight control on everything."

But the worst problem of all is Obamacare, Berkovitz said.

"That affects everybody — and healthcare and a family's health, along with their economic security, are the most important things to Americans," he told Newsmax. "You start messing with people's health and their healthcare, that gets right to the core of what people care about."

Here are some of the major scandals that rocked the Obama administration:

The Obamacare Rollout

After delaying the mandate for large companies under Obamacare, President Obama decided to proceed with the mandate for individuals on Oct. 1. The rollout was plagued by a dysfunctional website, HealthCare.gov, which serves 36 states that lack their own exchanges.

The site has experienced a plethora of technological glitches — and HealthCare.gov was shut down its first weekend to address these issues, and again in November.

Americans continue to have problems accessing the site — and concerns surrounding whether applications have been processed sufficiently, even whether Americans' personal information is safeguarded, continue to dog the website.

President Obama promised that the site would be improved by Nov. 30 — and then even that deadline was extended by a day. HealthCare.gov crashed during a visit by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to a Miami hospital in November.

The glitches led the White House to postpone deadlines for Americans to apply for insurance that would start on Jan. 1 — from Dec. 23 to 11:59 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

The Big Obamacare Lie

In touting his signature domestic policy achievement, President Obama declared, "If you like your healthcare plan, you’ll be able to keep your healthcare plan, period." He also said, "If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period."

But millions of Americans have lost their healthcare coverage because the policies did not meet Obamacare's requirements. The Heritage Foundation reported that 4.7 million insurance policies have been canceled or changed in 32 states.

The cancellations led Obama to apologize to Americans who lost their coverage due to the healthcare law and later urged Americans to not be discouraged in using Healthcare.gov.

But Americans have seen both their premiums and deductibles skyrocket.

Republicans continue to charge that Obamacare cannot be fixed and should be repealed. Last month, the GOP-controlled House passed legislation sponsored by Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan that would allow insurers to continue continue for another year selling policies that don't meet Obamacare requirements.

It passed on a 261-157 vote, with 39 Democrats breaking ranks and supporting the bill. The day before the vote, President Obama promised that he would grant a one-year reprieve to Americans whose health policies had been canceled.

The Benghazi Coverup

The controversy surrounding the deaths of four Americans on Sept. 11, 2012, at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya spilled into 2013, as Republicans charged the Obama administration with covering up the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other U.S. citizens, including two former Navy SEALs.

News reports later surfaced that dozens of CIA operatives were on the ground during the attacks and that they were being polygraphed every month since January to determine whether anyone might be talking to Congress or the media.

The efforts were described in the news reports as intimidation — and even included threats that the careers of unauthorized leakers would be terminated.

Led by Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, and Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire — all members of the Senate Armed Services Committee — Republicans relentlessly pressured President Obama to make Benghazi survivors available to Congress for questioning.

Several CIA personnel, including former contractors, gave a closed-door briefing to the House Intelligence Committee last month. They told lawmakers they were well aware that the 9/11 anniversary could be a flashpoint and could spur increased hostilities against Western targets during that period, Fox News reports.

The new testimony apparently countered the findings of the Accountability Review Board, which concluded that the Benghazi annex and the State Department “were well aware of the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks but at no time were there ever any specific, credible threats against the mission in Benghazi related to the Sept. 11 anniversary," Fox reports.

That testimony has not quieted Republican calls for an investigation by a special prosecutor.

Five days after the 2012 attacks, Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, went on five Sunday morning talk shows and said that the incident began as a peaceful protest against an anti-Muslim film that was later “hijacked” by militants.

In addition, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explained in her congressional testimony in January that her department was unable to obtain reliable information as the assaults were unfolding.

This week, Rice called Benghazi "a false controversy" in an interview with "60 Minutes" on CBS.

The IRS-Tea Party Scandal

In May, a Treasury Department Inspector General's report revealed that tea party, conservative, and religious groups had been singled out for special scrutiny by the IRS for their applications for tax-exempt status between 2010 and through the 2012 presidential election.

The scrutiny involved IRS agents placing groups with words like "tea party and "patriot" in their names on a "be on the lookout" list for additional screening of applications for tax-exempt status.

President Obama fired Steven Miller, the head of the IRS, who apologized in testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee, calling it "horrible customer service."

At least three other IRS officials were replaced or were put on administrative leave.

Lois Lerner, who oversaw the IRS division that targeted the groups, invoked her Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination in May and refused to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

She was placed on administrative leave with pay, and retired in September.

The IRS and the Obama administration were sued by 25 conservative groups in federal court over the additional scrutiny. An IRS agent told congressional investors in August that the agency was still targeting the groups.

NSA Surveillance

Widespread spying on Americans and world leaders was revealed in stolen documents that were leaked to news organizations in June by Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor.

Snowden, 30, who now is living under temporary political asylum in Russia, smuggled the classified information out of the NSA's operations center in Hawaii.

The leaks disclosed that the agency collected billions of data on Americans' telephone and Internet activities daily. The NSA began the surveillance after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — and the activities were broadened under Obama.

Snowden's disclosures prompted a maelstrom of criticism of the NSA and the White House.

They've even split the GOP — with Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, author of the Patriot Act, attacking the NSA while Rep. Peter King of New York vocally supported the surveillance efforts.

In a public hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that the NSA "not wittingly" collected data on millions of Americans.

Clapper later called the statement "clearly erroneous" and apologized to committee chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

Seven House Republicans, including Sensenbrenner, have since called on the Justice Department to begin a criminal investigation into whether Clapper lied to Congress.

The firestorm led Obama to form an advisory panel that recommended this month that the NSA should have access to some records but that it should not be able to store them and should get court approval to search individual data.

The day before the report was released, a federal judge ruled that the NSA’s secret collection of telephone records was unconstitutional and that it violated privacy rights.

Budget/Sequester/Shutdown

Various budget battles with Congress dogged President Obama all year — from the Jan. 1 approval of the "fiscal cliff" deal to this month's signing of the bipartisan two-year budget agreement.

The deal was sponsored by GOP Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Budget Committee, and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, who heads the Senate Budget Committee.

In the interim, however, Capitol Hill Republicans fought against the deep budget cuts scheduled to take effect through sequestration. The cuts were expected to slash the Pentagon's budget so severely that even outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta decried them.

Other battles included the stalemate over defunding Obamacare in a continuing resolution to finance the government in which Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas spoke for 21 hours and 19 minutes against the healthcare law during a Senate floor debate and the skirmish over extending the nation's debt ceiling, which led to a 16-day partial shutdown of the federal government in October that cost American taxpayers $1.4 billion.

The shutdown tarnished both Congress and the White House, with Republicans bearing the brunt of the ire from Americans in surveys. Obama did not escape culpability, either, as poll respondents attacked him for refusing to negotiate with Congress.

Putin-Syria

On the international front, President Obama was upstaged by Vladimir Putin in September when his Russian counterpart brokered a deal that led to Syria giving up its nuclear weapons stockpiles to international control.

Putin seized on an off-hand comment by Secretary of State John Kerry that Syria could avoid a U.S. missile attack by turning over the chemical weapons. The Russian president insisted that the deal would only work if the United States agreed not to use force.

The deal, signed last month, vaulted Putin into the world spotlight — Forbes magazine recently named him as the most influential person in the world. A Russian group even nominated the ex-KGB strongman for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Two days after proposing the Syrian deal, Putin slapped Obama again in an op-ed piece in The New York Times, saying Americans should oppose U.S. strikes in Syria. The article was published the morning after Obama made his case for limited strikes against Syria in a prime-time televised speech.

Iran

Critics continued to slam President Obama's ineptitude in international affairs with the signing in November of the deal between Iran and world leaders requiring Tehran to curb some of its nuclear activities in return for $7 billion in sanctions relief.

The deal would lead to further talks on a final deal to ends Iran's nuclear program.

Most Americans surveyed opposed the deal while Israel charged that it was a "historical mistake." Republicans and Democrats blasted the accord as enabling Iran to continue its nuclear program while leaving the United States with less leverage.

Despite assurances from President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry that Iran would honor the agreement, a bipartisan group of 26 senators this month introduced legislation to toughen sanctions on Iran and compel the United States to support Israel if it launches a pre-emptive attack on the Iranian nuclear program.

Obama has threatened to veto the legislation.

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