My 10 Favorite Washington Clunkers of 2013
Around the State
Washington, they say, is Hollywood for ugly people. I don't know about that, but certainly 2013 in the nation's capital hit new peaks for bipartisan buffoonery and uselessness.
Could President Barack Obama, the administration and Congress have made themselves any more unpopular with the American people?
How dysfunctional was this year inside the Beltway? Let me count the ways. Please.
I would love to be different, but this time I'm all-in with the media crowd -- left, right and center -- in pronouncing the president's oft-repeated Obamacare promise the boldface-iest lie of 'em all in 2013: "If you like your health care plan, you can keep it."
They say you can’t get a second chance to make a first impression. We'll see how the Big Lie of '13 and Obama's Affordable Care Act affect the 2014 fall elections.
Runner-up for Biggest Whopper: again, Barack Obama. The primary reason the healthcare.gov website was a complete disaster, the president said during the Obamacare rollout, was "because too many people are trying to access the site."
No. 2: Most Frightening Quote, Lois Lerner
"I'm not good at math," said Lois Lerner, who headed the tax-exempt division for the Internal Revenue Service.
The senior IRS staffer made the statement in May, about a half-hour into a conference call with reporters, and her comment immediately blew up on Twitter. "It wound up punctuating what was a torturous response to the IRS's admission that it inappropriately targeted tea party groups," wrote The Washington Post.
Her inane remark turned into a major scandal for the IRS, igniting the following chain reaction: House Republicans jumped all over it, Lerner was hauled in front of a House committee, she took the Fifth and retired in September.
No word if she's using retirement to brush up on her math.
No. 3: Most Revealing Quote by a Republican during the Government Shutdown
"We have to get something out of this. And I don't know what that even is," Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., told the Washington Examiner.
No. 4: Most Revealing Quote by a Democrat during the Government Shutdown
"We are winning. ... It doesn't really matter to us" how long the shutdown lasts "because what matters is the end result," a senior Obama administration official told the Wall Street Journal.
No. 5: Worst Prediction, Sen. Rand Paul
"How about we defund the whole damn thing," said Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., at an anti-Obamacare rally held by tea party groups on the Capitol lawn in September. "This battle can yet be won."
No, this battle couldn't be won, as Republicans soon found out. The House adopted the tea party's strategy of insisting that funding for health care reform be stripped from a federal spending bill that needed to be passed by Oct. 1. The Democratic-controlled Senate, predictably, refused to go along with this strategy, and a government shutdown was the inevitable outcome. Washington Republicans will spend from now until the 2014 election recovering from the perception by many Americans that they're the ones who turned out the lights on the people.
Runner-up for Worst Prediction: Cheryl Campbell. "CGI Federal is confident that it will deliver the functionality that CMS has directed to enable qualified individuals to begin enrolling in coverage," said Campbell, senior vice president of CGI Federal, the lead contractor for HealthCare.gov.
Campbell gave this assurance to a House committee three weeks before the federal insurance exchange's disastrous debut.
No. 6: Darwin Award for the Least Evolved Among Us Goes to ... Steve King
There’s no doubt that Hispanics have become an increasingly important part of American politics and culture in recent years, but that doesn’t mean our leaders are getting any wiser. The best worst example of this by far is U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa.
King stood out before 2013 for comparing immigrants to dogs, then defending the comparison as a compliment. But he continued to alienate Hispanics in 2013, most notably in July, when he said that for every undocumented student “who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”
Frankly, I'm sorry King, with so little respect for his fellow man, calls himself a Republican. He has done more than perhaps any other elected official in Washington to degrade the immigration debate and insult the Hispanic community. If I were an Iowan, I would be looking like the cyborg Terminator to take him out in the 2014 primary.
No. 7: Most Outrageous Hyperbole, Debbie Wasserman Schultz
In a statement on Democrats.org, Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz wrote, “There are a half-million Americans who today have signed up for quality, affordable health insurance through Obamacare’s federal and state Marketplaces, Medicaid and CHIP. That is a significant achievement in the fight to provide every American with access to the health care that they deserve and it is only the beginning."
The chair of the Democratic National Committee repeated it again in a Tweet Nov. 16: "This week we found out 500,000 people have signed up for #Obamacare. It's good news, but we have more work to do: http://j.mp/1aqmtuY."
Except, once again, Wasserman Schultz was playing fast and loose with the facts. By Nov. 16, 106,185 had signed up for Obamacare. Another 300,000 or so had signed up for Medicaid -- not a part of Obamacare.
When called out on the "error" on national television, she said, "I guess I just get a little passionate ..."
No. 8: Most Obvious Act of Intimidation, Dick Durbin
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., majority whip and a veteran member of Congress since 1982 who should have known better, used the death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin to conduct an all-out campaign against the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
Durbin sent a letter in August to more than 300 companies that have supported ALEC, asking about ALEC’s work on model legislation for Stand Your Ground laws.
Durbin was attempting to tie the free-market, nonprofit organization to the shooting of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of George Zimmerman in a subsequent murder trial. It was nothing but a political effort to put the screws on a prominent right-of-center group, to scare off companies that have long supported ALEC.
ALEC had been targeted in 2012 by left-wing activists who attempted to tie the group, which works with private companies and state legislators to craft model legislation, to the shooting.
“Florida’s Stand Your Ground law was the basis for the American Legislative Exchange Council’s model legislation, not the other way around,” the group said in a statement at the time.
What's more, documents released by a liberal, anti-ALEC group as part of a massive leak of internal communications support ALEC’s contention. Florida’s Stand Your Ground legislation was first introduced in December of 2004.
Durbin knew that. He was playing with a highly emotional, highly volatile case that had nothing to do with federal law and everything to do with the administration's gun-control agenda and war against billionaires Charles and David Koch, libertarian ALEC supporters. Tomfoolery at its most sinister, at the expense of so many Americans.
No. 9: Most Irrational Argument, Gun Control Dumbed Down
“If we can save only one life …”
The demagoguery started early in 2013, as Democrats tried to push gun-control laws in the wake of the December 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Conn. The White House argued for gun restrictions. They used a litany of simpleton talking points, most absurdly this gem by President Obama: “If there's even one life that can be saved, then we've got an obligation to try.”
Vice President Joe Biden echoed it. So did White House spokesman Jay Carney.
Such a heart-tugging goal — that we take any action that would save one child’s life. But missing from the administration's mantra is the fact that policies have costs, in terms of freedom, unintended consequences and using up enforcement resources. As the Washington Examiner pointed out throughout the year, Obama’s “just one child” argument pretends his gun control proposals have no costs.
I think Americans understand the priorities in a democratic republic better than the current administration.
Outlawing party balloons would save the handful of kids who choke to death on them. Outlawing swimming pools would save hundreds of children who drown in them every year. A national speed limit of 10 mph would spare untold numbers of Americans who die in automobile accidents. I'd like to ask President Obama why he didn't push for these laws in 2013?
No. 10: Craziest Poll, PPP
Granted, Public Policy Polling (PPP) is a Democratic-leaning outfit and you would expect it to play up unflattering assumptions about right-wing kookiness ... but in March it produced the darndest survey. Here's some of what it told us:
-- 29 percent of registered voters believe "a secretive power elite with a globalist agenda is conspiring to eventually rule the world through an authoritarian world government, or New World Order." Twenty-nine percent -- that's nearly a third of the population. Good heavens.
-- 15 percent believe "media or the government adds secret mind-controlling technology to television broadcast signals."
-- 4 percent of Americans believe that "shape-shifting reptilian people control our world by taking on human form and gaining political power to manipulate our society."
About those reptilian people: There are days when I watch C-Span and wonder ...
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423.