Big Nanny Government Strikes Again

If you like your light bulb, you can keep your light bulb.

Actually, just like Barack Obama’s promise regarding health insurance, this one’s not true either. As of Jan. 1 (Happy New Year, by the way!), the import or manufacture of 40-watt or 60-watt light bulbs is now forbidden in the United States. This follows the ban on 75-watt and 100-watt bulbs, which had already been implemented.

I wish we could blame this on the current Administration, but actually this assault on our freedom of choice goes back to 2007, when Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act and it was signed into law by President George W. Bush.

Yep, the prohibition on incandescent bulbs is actually six years old. It just didn’t get much publicity until replacement light bulbs began disappearing from store shelves. Now that more consumers realize what’s happening, a whole bunch of people are stockpiling the ones that remain. If this is the first you’re learning of it and you want to keep some incandescent bulbs on hand, good luck finding some.

The experts who’ve decided they know what’s good for us say that, in time, we’ll learn to appreciate the wisdom of their policies. After all, the new compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that we’re being forced to use are much more energy-efficient than the trusty old favorites. The new bulbs last so much longer — up to 23 years, we’re told — that we’ll save money in the long run. So what if they cost 10 times more money than the old, familiar light bulbs that we’ve used for the past 100 years?

And so what if we hate the way these new light bulbs look? Or the weird kind of light many of them give out? Your not-so-friendly Federal government has decided that it doesn’t matter what your preferences might be. No consumer choice here — except which kind of new, energy-efficient light bulb you’re going to buy.

Welcome to one more way that Big Nanny government manages to intrude into the bedroom — not to mention the kitchen, living room and anyplace else where you flip a switch and expect a light to come on.

Oh, and how do you like how long it takes for some of these bulbs to come to full strength? I went into a guest bathroom recently. When I turned on the switch, it was still so dark in the room that I could barely find the toilet. In time, the room got a little bit brighter. But forget about bringing any reading material in with you.

Don’t look to Congress for any relief from these edicts. The House tried twice, back in 2007, to let us keep our incandescent bulbs. But two alternatives offered up by conservative lawmakers, the Better Use of Light Bulbs Act or the Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act, failed to pass the House.

Facing the inevitable, General Electric has closed the last factory in the U.S. that manufactured incandescent bulbs. The shutdown of the plant in Winchester, Virginia cost 200 employees their jobs. And don’t count on the forced demand for CFLs and LEDs creating a bunch of new jobs in this country. All of those are being manufactured abroad, mostly in China. Thanks, Uncle Sam, for helping export even more U.S. jobs.

The assault on the light bulb is mere trifle, however, compared to the job losses and financial costs of Obama’s war on coal. And this isn’t happening because of any laws passed by Congress. No, the culprits here are the bureaucrats in the Environmental Protection Agency, who simply decree whatever regulations they deem necessary to achieve their goals.

Estimates are that some 600,000 jobs will be lost because of the EPA directives, mostly in Kentucky and West Virginia. Last week, both Kentucky Senators, as well as all five of the State’s Representatives, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Supreme Court, in support of a lawsuit challenging the EPA’s authority to regulate coal plants.

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said the case is “an egregious example of the EPA’s violation of the law in pursuit of its overzealous, anti-coal agenda.” And he added, “The ability to create laws is the purview of Congress and the EPA has clearly overstepped its authority.”

We’ll find out later this year if the Supreme Court agrees with him and does anything to retard the EPA’s onslaught against the coal industry. If not, you can expect to pay a lot more for electricity in this country. Nicolas Loris, an economist at the Heritage Foundation, warned that the EPA assault on coal-fired power plants “will deliver a blow to the economy and raise costs for consumers.” He added: “Any way you shake this, it’s a no-win for our economy.”

And speaking of a no-win, how about the latest on Obamacare? Just before Christmas, the Obama Administration announced that it was waiving the individual mandate for people who have had their existing health insurance policies canceled.

Geez, wasn’t it only a few weeks ago that the Democrats allowed a partial shutdown of the Federal government, rather than pass any Republican-endorsed measure to delay the individual mandate? Now it seems that Obama and his allies are tacitly admitting that Senator Ted Cruz and the House Republicans were right in demanding a delay.

This is just one more example of how the Obama Administration is changing the law without bothering to get Congress involved. Columnist John Fund says delaying the individual mandate “is at least the 14th unilateral change to Obamacare that’s been made without consulting Congress.”

Ho-hum, another crisis, another unConstitutional edict from the folks in the White House.

Considering all of the attacks on our freedoms, is it any wonder that the latest Gallup poll says that 72 percent of Americans now say that Big Government is a threat to our liberties? That number is a new record high, by the way.

As I said last week, there are some encouraging signs that more and more Americans are standing up and speaking out in defense of their principles. It was wonderful to see the furor that erupted when A&E Networks suspended “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson.

Let’s hope the new year will bring us some more such victories. I hope that one of your resolutions will be to do your part in making it happen.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Barack Obama’s Lie of the Year

Is the tide finally turning against the left in this country? Two important issues suggest that it may be. We’re a long way from being able to proclaim victory. But we’re winning some important battles. Let’s look at the evidence.

Let’s begin with the most vilified piece of legislation in recent years: Obamacare. The latest polls say that 62 percent of the public are now opposed to the measure, while just 35 percent favor it. That’s one heck of a black eye for President Barack Obama’s major legislative accomplishment.

It’s by now common knowledge that Obama was knowingly and deliberately lying through his teeth when he repeatedly promised, “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.” In fact, PolitiFact, the Pulitzer-Prize winning feature of the Tampa Bay Tribune, named this Obama whopper as its “Lie of the Year.” After the newspaper announced its selection, readers in a separate online poll overwhelmingly agreed with the selection.

For a while, the President tried to deny that he said what he clearly and repeatedly promised. Here’s how he tried to rewrite his own history, in remarks to political supporters last month:

“Now, if you have or had one of these plans before the Affordable Care Act came into law, and you really liked that plan, what we said was you can keep it if it hasn’t changed since the law passed.”

PolitiFact promptly labeled this as a “pants on fire” falsehood. And it noted that it had counted 37 different times before that, when the President had included no such caveats in his promise.

Even many Obama supporters cried foul over this obvious effort to deceive. Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page declared that the public “was entitled to hear the unvarnished truth, not spin, from their President about what they were about to face. I don’t feel good about calling out Obama’s whopper, because I support most of his policies and programs. But in this instance, he would have to be delusional to think he was telling the truth.”

No, Mr. Page, our President wasn’t delusional; he was desperate.

Obamacare supporters claim that the measure’s website is now largely fixed. Therefore, they hope, the problems are largely behind them.

Not a chance. Nearly 10 times more people have lost their insurance than have been able to sign up for a new policy. Millions more will be told in the coming year that their old policies are being canceled.

Many of those who do apply through Obamacare are finding that their premiums will be significantly higher — in many cases, more than twice as much as they had been paying — while their deductibles (that is, the amount they must pay out of their own pockets) have gone through the roof.

More and more Americans are realizing that this massive government takeover of our medical system is a disaster. Fixing the website won’t change the fact that the program is fatally flawed.

This one issue could be enough to decide several Senate seats this fall. Let’s make sure it is.

The ‘Duck Dynasty’ Controversy

Another sign that the sleeping giant called the Silent Majority is coming awake is the amazing response of Christians and conservatives to the attacks on “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson for expressing his honest convictions about homosexuals.

GLAAD, the militant gay-rights group that launched the attack against Robertson, says it has received more criticism for its actions in this case than for any other positions it has taken. Even many gays have spoken out against the group’s efforts to suppress free speech.

One of the quickest about-faces came from Cracker Barrel. At first, the country restaurant chain said it was removing all merchandise from its gift shops that carried Robertson’s photograph. The company quickly did a complete turnaround and issued the following statement:

When we made the decision to remove and evaluate certain Duck Dynasty items, we offended many of our loyal customers. Our intent was to avoid offending, but that’s just what we’ve done.

You told us we made a mistake. And, you weren’t shy about it. You wrote, you called and you took to social media to express your thoughts and feelings.  You flat out told us we were wrong.

We listened.

Today, we are putting all our Duck Dynasty products back in our stores.

And, we apologize for offending you.

Good for Cracker Barrel! The response reminds me of what happened last year, when the gay rights movement attacked Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy for his remarks defending traditional marriage. Instead of hurting the restaurant chain’s business, supporters turned out in droves, leading to some of the busiest days in the company’s history.

The same thing is happening again, this time with “Duck Dynasty” merchandise selling in droves. After the furor broke over A&E’s actions, there was a rush to purchase all sorts of “Duck Dynasty” items from Wal-Mart’s website. The group’s T-shirt was already Wal-Mart’s best-selling item of apparel for men and women. But now the shelves have been stripped of just about everything carrying the “Duck Dynasty” name.

And we’re talking about a ton of stuff. Wal-Mart’s annual sales of “Duck Dynasty” merchandise is said to come to some $200 million a year. According to Forbes magazine, the show’s merchandise empire is worth an estimated $400 million, so Wal-Mart sales come to about half of that amount. As you can see, the family business is a lot more than duck calls.

But let’s get back to the reaction to the attacks against Robertson. Conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh says there is something special going on here. He told his vast radio audience, “I think a lot of people are sick and tired of being pushed around by a very small minority of leftists who use weapons, like political correctness and censorship, intimidation, and everything else, in order to shut up the people who say things they don’t want to hear or disagree with.”

Limbaugh pointed out that Robertson is “the only one that’s really been discriminated against here.” He lost his gig on the family’s TV show. “[A]t some point,” Limbaugh added, “enough people are gonna say, ‘Okay, enough of this,’ and they’re gonna stand up and say, ‘Just shut up.’”

There’s no doubt Rush is right. A&E made a huge mistake by kowtowing to the radical gay rights movement. The reaction of Robertson’s defenders has shocked and alarmed the mainstream media. They’ve always been worried about what would happen if the Silent Majority weren’t silent any more. Let’s hope they’re about to find out.

In this holy season, as we celebrate the good news of Christ’s birth, I hope you’re encouraged by these more earthly glad tidings. Let’s begin the New Year rested, refreshed, and even more resolved to do battle with the enemies of liberty.

Happy New Year! And until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Kelly Was Right, Santa Is White

Good golly, Miss Molly, what a brouhaha FOX News host Megyn Kelly stirred up by saying something that the vast majority of us would regard as incredibly obvious: Santa Claus is white.

It all started when Kelly made a reference on “The Kelly File,” her nighttime TV show, to culture blogger Aisha Harris’ commentary “Santa Claus Should Not Be a White Man Anymore,” posted on Slate.com.

Kelly told her TV audience, “When I saw this headline I kinda laughed and I said, ‘Oh, this is ridiculous. Yet another person claiming it’s racist to have a white Santa.’” Then she added, “And by the way, for all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white.”

That was all it took to send some of the knee-jerk race baiters into paroxysms of rage. But, of course, all they really succeeded in doing was making themselves look incredibly foolish.

Kelly said her comments on her program were meant to be tongue-in-cheek: “Humor is part of what we try to bring to the show. Sometimes that’s lost on the humorless.”

And no one is more humorless than a liberal on a righteous rampage. There is no other issue in America that gives liberals more opportunities to climb up on their soapboxes and spout off than accusations of racism.

So, of course, an almost perfect issue was dumped into their laps when a high school teacher in New Mexico made the horrendous mistake of telling a black student that he shouldn’t dress up as Santa Claus, because, of course, Santa Claus is white.

The student was embarrassed. His parents were incensed. The teacher and the school district did their best to apologize. In fact, Kim Vesely, Director of Parent, Community, and Staff Engagement for Rio Rancho Public Schools, said in a statement:

This situation involves a teacher recently hired by Cleveland High who made — and admits he made — a stupid mistake. The remark was inappropriate and should not have been made. The teacher feels very badly about what occurred. He self-reported the incident to the principal and has apologized to the student and to the student’s parent. Appropriate disciplinary action has been taken.

And one thoughtless remark made headlines from coast to coast. Don’t you miss the good old days, before the mainstream media fastened on every possible point of controversy — especially any that could make conservatives look bad?

So, of course, the controversy had to continue on Kelly’s show. Two days after her original remarks, Kelly devoted a major segment of “The Kelly File” to the episode. She played several clips from coverage on other networks and a round-up of the late-night comedians, who couldn’t resist poking fun at all the fuss.

Kelly said the overreaction “would be funny if it were not so telling on our society.” She said that the saddest part of the controversy was “the knee-jerk reaction to race bait.”

Bill O’Reilly, the most popular personality on FOX, said the real target of the attacks on Kelly was FOX News itself:

Now why the bother? Two reasons: one because any talk of skin color brings out the zealots and two because any controversy attached to the Fox News Channel will be seized upon by the media.

[I]n this case Miss Kelly is correct. Santa was a white person. Does that matter? No it doesn’t matter. The spirit of Santa transcends all racial boundaries, it’s a spirit based on generosity, kindness to children and magical moments. But for those who despise the Fox News Channel there is nothing magical about anything we do here.

Again a little history. When we first started up more than 17 years ago the mainstream media was dismissive believing CNN and MSNBC would crush us. They were wrong. When that became apparent the liberal media attacked and continues to do so today. Because they can’t defeat us on the media battlefield the far left seems to — seeks to demonize Fox News as a right wing propaganda machine and a racist enterprise. That’s why Miss Megyn got headlines about a Santa Claus remark that was totally harmless. So there you have it. And that’s “The Memo.”

Two weeks ago, media billionaire Oprah Winfrey beat the drum once again for a favorite liberal refrain: Much of the opposition to Barack Obama is because he is black, not because of his policies.

This is nothing but racism, pure and simple. But did anyone in the mass media call Winfrey on it? Of course not.

Hey, Oprah, have you ever considered the possibility that maybe, just maybe, a whole bunch of Americans are sick of a government that is spending us into bankruptcy? That we are appalled that the United States is already more than $17 trillion in debt but keeps spending like crazy anyway? That the White House uses the National Security Agency to spy on us and the Internal Revenue Service to intimidate us?

No, my opposition to Barack Obama has nothing to do with the color of his skin. It has everything to do with his policies. And I can assure you that a whole bunch of Americans feel the same way.

Recently, “Saturday Night Live” came under fire for not being “diverse” enough. It seems that of six new players added to the cast this fall, not a single one is “a person of color” (although one is a quarter Hispanic) — no blacks, no Asians, just five white men and one white woman. Shame on SNL!

When confronted about this, SNL creator and executive producer Lorne Michaels said he is committed to hiring a black female. He is, in fact, conducting auditions now and hopes to be able to have a black female join the cast next month. Way to go, Lorne.

Craig Robinson, who was identified as the Chief Diversity Officer for NBC Universal (yes, the company does have such a position), declined to comment for a story in USA Today about SNL’s lack of diversity.

And on and on it goes. Do you think we’ll live long enough to see the left get tired of playing the race card against us? Not so long as they think it can help them win the culture war against us.

As for me, I’m going to ignore their absurd assaults for the next few days. Instead, I’m going to enjoy a very special time with friends and family, as we share our favorite Christmas traditions. I even plan to watch “White Christmas” again.

Please accept my best wishes for a blessed holiday season. Then, let’s return to the battle for our faith and our freedoms with even more energy and enthusiasm.

Merry Christmas. And until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Nelson Mandela: The Un-Obama President

More than 100 world leaders gathered in Johannesburg to attend memorial services for Nelson Mandela, the first black president of that country. None received more attention or got a more enthusiastic reception than Barack Obama, the first black President of this country.

All the hoopla led to an orgy of fawning media coverage for both men. But in all of it, even in the comments and commentaries in what passes for the conservative press, no one drew attention to what seems to me to be the most glaring difference between the two men:

  • For all of his adult life, Nelson Mandela was outspoken about his core beliefs. For most of them, he was a Marxist revolutionary, committed to the violent overthrow of his government.
  • Obama, on the other hand, has never been candid with us about his past associations or activities. Even the grades he received in college are guarded as a deep, dark secret. And the less said about his communist and terrorist associations back then, the better.

As a candidate for President, Obama promised to be a great uniter. Instead, he has turned out to be one of the most divisive presidents this country has ever seen. What a contrast with what happened in South Africa!

But while Mandela is being held as a saint today, let’s not forget that for most of his adult life he was an outspoken Marxist revolutionary. He openly advocated the use of violence against the government of South Africa. When he tried to implement his beliefs by blowing up a hospital, he was arrested, tried and sentenced to life in prison.

At one point, P.W. Botha, then the president of the country, said he would release Mandela from prison if he would renounce the use of violence. Mandela refused. He ended up spending 27 years in prison and was finally released in 1990.

It’s worth noting that for all of the years that he was in prison, Amnesty International never tried to win Mandela’s freedom. The reason was simple: The organization noted in 1985 that it would work only for the release of “prisoners of conscience” who “have not used or advocated violence.” And the group explained, “Amnesty International does not believe that this definition applies to Nelson Mandela.”

By the way, it wasn’t just whites who were the targets of violence by Mandela’s organization, the African National Congress. No, many of the victims were blacks who refused to support the group and its Marxist goals. One of their favorite terrorist tactics against their fellow blacks was “necklacing.” This was when tires were placed around a victim’s neck, filled with gasoline, then set on fire. It was a horrible and gruesome way to die, intended to terrorize any black who considered cooperating with the white “enemy.”

Winnie Mandela, Nelson Mandela’s wife at the time, was one of the most vociferous leaders of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. She gloated about the effectiveness of this weapon of terror and intimidation. “With our necklaces,” she bragged, “we will liberate this country.”

That was the background when Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990. Like many other anti-communists at the time, I was frightened that he would call for even more violence in that beleaguered country. But to my amazement, the opposite occurred. Rather than demand revenge against the whites who had ruled the country for so long, Mandela advocated forgiveness and reconciliation.

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom,” Mandela said later, “I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” While he led the negotiations that brought a peaceful end to segregation in the country, he urged his fellow blacks to forgive the white government that had imprisoned him and discriminated against them.

In 1994, four years after getting out of prison, Mandela was elected as the first black president of South Africa. Happily, Mandela refused to implement the Marxist goals he had advocated for so long. There would be no massive seizure of the property of whites, no sweeping nationalization of the industries in the country.

Where many feared even more bloodshed and acrimony, Mandela called for cooperation and peaceful coexistence between whites and blacks. I confess that I was astonished by the change.

Nothing I’ve seen captured this transformation better than the movie “Invictus.” Morgan Freeman played Mandela in this 2009 film, which was directed by Clint Eastwood. Matt Damon portrayed Francois Pienaar, the white South African who was the captain of the country’s rugby team.

In one memorable scene, Mandela walks onto the playing field before a crucial contest gets underway. He’s wearing a green and gold jersey bearing Pienaar’s number on the back. The stadium, which is filled with mostly white spectators, roars its applause.

Rory Steyn, one of Mandela’s black bodyguards, described the event and its effect on the public: “That crowd, which was almost exclusively white… started to chant his name. That one act of putting on a No. 6 jersey did more than any other statement in bringing white South Africans and Afrikaners on side with new South Africa.”

Contrast that with the disgusting scene from Johannesburg this week, when our President went out of his way to shake hands with Raul Castro, the murderous dictator of communist Cuba. Obama even gave a slight half-bow as he did so.

That was too much for Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla), who declared: “I came here when I was a small child with my family fleeing the aggression of the communist tyranny in Cuba, and to see the President of the United States shake hands with a sadistic murderer, which is what Raul Castro is and what he represents, it is nauseating.”

Ironically, in his eulogy for Mandela, Obama pointed out that “around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs.” Nowhere is this truer than in the communist dictatorship just 90 miles from our shore. Too bad our President didn’t keep this mind — and avoid giving Fidel Castro’s brother a photo op that is sure to become what Ros-Lehtinen described as “a propaganda coup for the tyrant.”

I have no problem with all the praise and plaudits being heaped on Mandela. Especially when I consider the bloodbath that would have torn his country apart, had he not rejected his previous revolutionary rhetoric.

I’m not foolish enough to believe that the same thing will happen with the covert revolutionary who now occupies the White House. Since we can’t trust him, we will have to contain him. Happily, the Constitution of the United States spells out exactly how to do that.

We can take a big step in the right direction a year from now, by replacing four or five liberal Senators with some battle-hardened conservatives. It won’t be easy. But it can be done. In fact, it must be done, if we are going to take our country back.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Get Ready for More Obamacare Propaganda

Well, isn’t that special? Now that the Obamacare website has been “fixed” (more on that travesty in a moment), the Administration of President Barack Obama has announced it will ramp up efforts to build support for its takeover of the American healthcare system. I can hardly wait.

The New York Times reported the Administration is preparing “a daily barrage of more positive messages about the health care law during the next several weeks — some to be delivered by Mr. Obama personally.” And it quoted one anonymous official as promising: “Every day, there will be something coming out of the White House.”

The new propaganda effort kicked off two days ago, with a speech by the President to a White House Youth Summit meeting. Interestingly enough, that was the same day a new poll was released, showing that the President and his signature healthcare measure have become strikingly unpopular with a group that used to be his most fervid supporters: the so-called millennials.

A new poll from Harvard University’s Institute of Politics confirms just how much support Obama and his signature healthcare legislation have lost among young people between the ages of 18 and 29.

The millennials supported Obama in his two Presidential elections by a huge margin. The poll asked, “If you could re-cast your 2012 vote for President today, for whom would you vote?” Seventeen percent of the young Obama voters would not support him.

Boy, how they’ve changed today. To paraphrase an old adage, you can fool some young people all of the time, and all young people some of the time. But you can’t fool all of the young people all of the time.

According to the IOP poll, Obama’s overall job approval rating has plunged 11 percentage points since April and now sits at just 41 percent. A majority of 54 percent now disapprove of his performance. On many specific issues, Obama’s approval is even lower. For example, only 28 percent approve of his handling of the Federal budget deficit. (Frankly, I’m surprised that even one out of four young people think he’s doing a good job here. How bad would it have to get before they said “enough”?)

It should come as no surprise that the issue that has hurt the President the most among young people is Obamacare. It seems that a majority of them have finally figured out that they will be the financial victims in this scheme.

Only 38 percent of the young people surveyed said they approved of the program. A plurality told the pollsters that they expected Obamacare to reduce the quality of their healthcare, while an outright majority said that they expected it to lead to higher costs for them. They got that right!

Here’s a statistic that should scare the bejabbers out of the defenders of Obamacare. Just 22 percent of the young people surveyed said they expected to sign up for health insurance under Obamacare. More than twice as many said they were unlikely to do so. If these numbers are confirmed by actual results in the coming year, it will be a huge problem for the redistributionist scheme known as the Affordable Care Act.

One of the key assumptions behind the plan was that a large number of healthy young Americans would pay more in premiums than they cost the system. If this doesn’t happen, there goes Obama’s promise that Obamacare “won’t add a dime” to the Federal deficit. No, it won’t be a dime; it will be tens of billions of dollars.

The millennials surveyed are so disgusted with politics today that a majority of them, some 52 percent, said that they would recall every member of Congress if it were possible to do so.

But it isn’t just the members of the House and Senate who would feel their wrath. Almost as many would like to remove Obama from the White House. Some 47 percent said they would like to recall him, while 46 percent said they would not. Since the margin of error in the poll was 2.1 percent, you can call this one a toss-up.

Those are some pretty grim numbers for Obama supporters. But according to former President Bill Clinton, in a few more months it will all be different. “I believe that if the computer problems are all fixed, and it’s up and running by — and healthy in the next several weeks,” he told Fusion’s Jorje Ramos. “I think that the damage will be minimal.”

Clinton has certainly benefited more than most people from the public’s short memory of misdeeds. So it comes as no surprise that he hopes “within four or five months people will be talking about something entirely differently.”

Of course all of that optimistic outpouring is predicted on one dangerous assumption: that the problems with the Obamacare website are all fixed. That is hardly the case. The best its defenders can say is that it’s “less prone to errors” than it was. But the system still crashed when CNN tried to use it during a live news broadcast.

Head honcho Kathleen Sebelius offered this helpful piece of advice to potential enrollees: Go the site during “off-peak hours.” Yeah, that’s the ticket. Set your alarm clock for 3 o’clock in the morning, and maybe — just maybe — you’ll be able to get through.

But even then, the process won’t be complete. The New York Times offered up a particularly misleading piece of reporting last Sunday, when it wrote that the back-end systems “that are supposed to deliver consumer information to insurers still have not been fixed.”

Of course they haven’t been fixed; they haven’t been built yet! Remember, it was just more than two weeks ago (on Nov. 19, to be exact) when Henry Chao, the Administration official in charge of overseeing the Healthcare.gov website, told a Congressional committee that “the accounting systems, the payment systems, they still need to be” created.

How can you “fix” something that doesn’t even exist?

Meanwhile, the Administration is gloating that about 100,000 people signed up for health insurance through the online Federal exchange in November. To be sure, that’s a substantial increase from the 27,000 people who, in October, managed to navigate the website and actually select an insurance plan.

But even the number of enrollees is another example of how the Obama Administration plays fast and loose with the truth. They count as “enrolled” anyone who has put a healthcare plan in an online shopping cart.

But to be fully enrolled, a consumer not only has to select a plan, he must also receive confirmation from an insurance company that they’ve been accepted. And then he must make his first premium payment. No one will say how many people have completed the whole process.

Originally, the Administration said it hoped to have 800,000 people fully enrolled in Obamacare by the end of November. That’s just a fraction of the millions of Americans who’ve been notified that their existing health insurance will be canceled at the end of the year. Even so, they are not one-fifth of the way to enrolling 800,000 people.

Yes, the Obamacare story has been one of billions, blunders and baloney. Expect to see a lot more of all three in the coming weeks and months.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

The Democrats Get Desperate

Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, is no stranger to political confrontation. He had some doozies (including two shutdowns of the Federal government) back when Bill Clinton was President.

But he says nothing that happened back then can match the Democrats latest power grab. In a column titled “The Death of the Senate,” he wrote: “No one should be confused about what happened [last Thursday]. The Obama Democrats killed the United States Senate as a deliberative body 226 years after the Founding Fathers created it.”

What happened eight days ago to lead to this harsh appraisal? After years of threatening to employ the “nuclear option” to limit debate, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid finally pushed the button. The Democrats rammed through a resolution on a straight 52-48 party-line vote that will keep Republicans from using filibusters to prevent confirmation of various Presidential appointees.

They did this in part so they could finally get the additional liberal votes they want on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. I mentioned in last week’s column how vital they think this is to protect many of Barack Obama’s unConstitutional usurpations of power. As The Wall Street Journal pointed out: “[T]he D.C. Circuit in particular will now have more liberal judges to hear challenges to [the President’s] unilateral climate-change power grab or his rewrite by fiat of the Affordable Care Act.”

My, how times have changed. Back in 2005, the shoe was on the other foot. Republicans controlled the White House and had a majority in the Senate. So the Democrats used the filibuster, or the threat of doing so, to prevent votes on dozens of George W. Bush’s nominees.

When Republicans threatened to use the nuclear option to end their delaying tactics, Democrats were outraged. Back then, Obama was a mostly unknown junior Senator from Illinois. Here’s what he said at the time: “Everyone in this chamber knows that if the majority chooses to change the rules and put an end to democratic debate, then the fighting, the bitterness and the gridlock will only get worse.”

Back then, it was hard to imagine “the fighting, the bitterness and the gridlock” getting any worse. But that’s certainly what’s happened, isn’t it?

The future President wasn’t the only one to protest the Republican threat. At the time, Harry Reid was the Minority Leader in the Senate. Here’s what he had to say:

[The filibuster] encourages moderation and consensus. It gives voice to the minority, so that cooler heads may prevail. It also separates us from the House of Representatives — where the majority rules. And it is very much in keeping with the spirit of the government established by the Framers of our Constitution: Limited Government… Separation of Powers… Checks and Balances. … [T]he filibuster is a critical tool in keeping the majority in check.

Of course, the Democrats haven’t worried about “moderation” or “consensus” since they won a majority. And Harry Reid has turned out to be one of the most mean-spirited, uncompromising and punitive leaders the Democrats have ever selected.

When Republicans threatened to use the nuclear option eight years ago, no one was more passionate, or more sanctimonious, in protesting the threat than then-Senator Joe Biden. He declared: “We should make no mistake. This nuclear option is ultimately an example of the arrogance of power. It is fundamental power grab by the majority party… We have been through these periods before in American history but never, to the best of my knowledge, has any party been so bold as to fundamentally attempt to change the structure of this body.”

Biden said his opposition to the measure was “the single most important vote” he cast during his three decades in the Senate. And listen to this. In a comment that I’ll bet he would love to delete from the history books, he then added: “I pray God when the Democrats take back control, we don’t make the kind of naked power grab you are doing.”

So what’s changed, gentlemen? Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) explained what’s really going on. “The heart of this action is directed at packing the D.C. Circuit,” he said, “because that is the court that will review the lawless behavior of the Obama Administration implementing Obamacare.”

And the Tea Party favorite added, “President Obama and the Administration refuse to follow the plain text of the law, and the D.C. Circuit court is the court of appeals that has been holding the Administration accountable.”

John Hayward, a staff writer for Human Events, was even more eloquent in his description of the Democrats’ duplicitous action:

Sure, they’re liars and hypocrites who never meant a word they said during the Bush era, shameless political hacks who abandoned all that lofty rhetoric about ripping out the beating heart of democracy in a mad power grab designed to grease the wheels for Obama’s lame-duck years. They desperately need to change the subject from Obamacare’s failure, while packing the D.C. Circuit Court with loyal Party operatives to thwart legal challenges that could bring the hated Affordable Care Act down.

Of course, the left will proclaim that this is all the Republicans’ fault. That it was their “obstructionism” that made the Senate so dysfunctional. And this naked power grab is supposed to make things better?

Three years ago, the Democrats used their super-majority in the Senate to ram through the monstrosity known as Obamacare. They did it on a straight party-line vote. They were willing — nay, eager — to force the most unpopular piece of legislation since Prohibition on us, without getting a single Republican to vote with them.

How much more repugnant legislation will they jam down our throats now? We’re about to find out. In less than two months, the temporary deadline that Congress approved earlier this year to suspend the debt ceiling will expire. They’ll also be confronted with the need to approve some sort of Federal budget.

Meanwhile, the “new and improved” website for Obamacare is supposed to be up and running this Sunday. I’ll take a look next week at how much worse this train wreck is going to be.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Will The Obamacare Lies Ever Stop?

Geez, you’ve got to feel sorry for Jessica Sanford. Do you remember her? She was one of the glowing examples of an Obamacare success that Barack Obama bragged about at a press conference last month. Turns out this much-hyped “success” was anything but.

Sanford is the mother of a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, known as ADHD. The medications to treat him cost $250 a month. For the past 15 years, she had been unable to afford health insurance. But thanks to Obamacare, the President bragged, she was able to buy an affordable plan through the State of Washington’s health insurance exchange.

Except, it turns out that she wasn’t.

When she first applied, Sanford was told she qualified for a federal subsidy, so a “gold” plan would only cost her $169 a month. Then she was told, “Sorry, we made a little mistake here. Your actual cost will be $280 a month.” Then she got another notice, stating that because she earned $50,000 a year, she actually would not receive any subsidy and her actual cost would be almost twice as much again.

Sanford finally gave up and said she’ll just pay the penalty for not joining Obamacare. She posted on Facebook: “Wow, you guys really screwed me over.”

Yes, indeed. And with millions of people being dropped from their existing plans, while only a tiny fraction of that number actually purchases new insurance through Obamacare, you can expect to hear similar stories repeated over and over again.

This has led to such mind-boggling irony as having former President Bill Clinton lecturing Obama on the need to be straight with the American people. Yup, the man who was impeached for lying about having sex in the Oval Office broke ranks with the White House and said, “I personally believe, even if it takes a change to the law, the President should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got.”

To a lot of folks, that sounded like a perfect set-up for the “Keep Your Health Plan Act” introduced in the House by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.). So Obama had to do more than merely denounce the legislation and promise to veto it if it reaches his desk.

No, the President went even further. A day before the House was to vote on the measure, he told a hastily assembled press conference that he would now allow insurance companies to continue offering those supposedly defective insurance policies for another year.

So once again, the White House is engaged in a patently unConstitutional usurpation of power. The President, who is supposed to enforce the laws that Congress passes, claims he can change the law whenever he wants. After all, he’d done it earlier this year, when he unilaterally suspended the employer mandate.

Some Republicans pointed out that the President has no legal authority to issue such an order. Insurance companies say that Obama is basically inviting them to break the law. And State insurance commissioners say that Obama’s “fix” will be impossible to implement in a timely fashion.

Consider: Insurance companies had three years to get ready for Obamacare to take effect. Now they’re being given less than three months to comply with the changes Obama cavalierly insists they make.

When the Upton bill came up for a vote last Friday, 39 Democrats joined 222 House Republicans in voting “aye.” The number of defectors surely would have been higher had it not been for the dubious “compromise” the President offered the day before.

But this wasn’t the only bombshell that exploded over Obamacare this past week. Here are three others that are giving the Democrats an Excedrin headache:

On Tuesday, one of the top tech officers responsible for building the Obamacare website told a Congressional subcommittee that almost 40 percent of the IT systems supporting Healthcare.gov website have not even been built yet. “It’s not that it’s not working,” Henry Chao told a House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations subcommittee. “It’s still being developed and tested.”

On the same day, four cybersecurity experts warned the House Science Committee that the Obamacare website is in danger of being hacked. The personal financial information of people who use it is at “critical risk,” they said. ABC News reported: “Three of the four witnesses agreed that the Obama Administration should take the site offline in order to address the security flaws.”

And finally, we learned this week that McKinsey & Co., an outside consulting firm that was hired to check on the progress of the Healthcare.gov website, told Administration officials back in March that the website would not be functioning properly by its Oct. 1 launch date.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius allegedly was briefed on their findings on April 4. Yet just two weeks later, Sebelius said in sworn testimony before Congress, “I can tell you we are on track.” Think anyone will suggest that perjury charges be brought against her?

All of this helps explain why opinion polls have gone from dismal to disastrous for Obama and the badly misnamed Affordable Care Act, the signature legislative achievement of his Presidency. The latest Quinnipiac national poll shows that just 39 percent of the public approves of his performance. His disapproval rating has climbed to 54 percent.

A month ago, Democrats were gloating at how badly the Republicans had been hurt by the reaction to the partial shutdown of the Federal government. The latest poll numbers indicate that the Democrats are suffering much more from the cataclysmic rollout of Obamacare.

Here’s what may be the most worrisome number of all for the President’s supporters. Some 46 percent of the people surveyed said that the President knowingly deceived the public, when he repeatedly promised that they could keep their health insurance plans if they wanted to.

The numbers just keep getting worse. The latest CBS poll says that the President’s approval rating has slipped even further, and is now down to 37 percent. That’s a drop of 9 percentage points in just the past month. Obama’s disapproval rating, according to the CBS poll, has climbed to 57 percent, an all-time high.

As bad as those numbers must seem to be to the denizens of the White House, the numbers for Obamacare are even worse. The same CBS poll found that 61 percent of Americans now disapprove of the President’s healthcare plan. Only 31 percent approve of it — a drop of 12 points in just the past month.

And here’s something that must have the residents of the White House tearing their hair out. Thanks to Obamacare, the President is losing the support of younger voters. Back in 2008, Obama got 66 percent of the vote of Americans under the age of 30. That landslide majority declined a little bit in 2012, but he still received 60 percent of the youth vote then.

Now, Quinnipiac says that young Americans disapprove of Obamacare by a margin of 51 percent to 42 percent. As shocking as that must be, check this out: The same poll says that young Americans disapprove of Obama himself by an even bigger margin — 54 percent to 36 percent. Not only do they give him a negative rating on his healthcare plan, they also rate him negatively on the economy, the Federal budget, immigration and foreign policy.

Granted, poll numbers can change quickly. It’s far from certain that voters will still feel the same way a year from now, when it will be time to vote for the men and women who will represent them in Congress. But given these numbers today, it’s easy to see why so many Democrats — especially those who will be seeking re-election in areas where Republicans have traditionally done well — are bordering on all-out panic.

Let’s do everything we can to make sure their worst fears are justified.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

You Can’t Pray That Here!

Another Federal court has taken a whack at another 200-year-old tradition in this country. This time, it’s opening public meetings with a prayer. An appeals court has ruled that the practice somehow violates the U.S. Constitution.

Now the issue is in front of the Supreme Court. Let’s pray that a majority of the justices get it right. Here is what is going on.

Like many communities in America, the town of Greece, N.Y., opens its monthly board meetings with a prayer. Although a variety of local religious leaders have delivered the prayers, most of them were given by Christians. This shouldn’t be surprising, since most of the religious institutions in this Rochester suburb — as in most of the country — are Christian.

But this was too much for two women in the town. Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens protested that the prayers constituted a government endorsement of religion. They sued the town to have them stopped.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that such “legislative prayer” is perfectly OK, as long as the prayer does not promote (or disparage) a particular religion. But the plaintiffs found a court to support them. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Town of Greece v. Galloway that the practice was “too sectarian” and had to be stopped. The town appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, which held a hearing on the case last week.

Hopefully, a majority of justices there will agree with earlier Supreme Court decisions, such as Marsh v. Chambers in 1983, which ruled that such legislative prayers weren’t an “establishment of religion,” but rather a “tolerable acknowledgement of beliefs widely held among the people of this country.”

By the way, in that 1983 decision, the Court wrote that the very same group of lawmakers who drafted the 1st Amendment and the rest of the Bill of Rights also “adopted the policy of selecting a chaplain to open each session with prayer.”

That is a tradition that every Congress has followed since then. To this day, every session of Congress begins with a prayer. The Supreme Court begins its sessions with the appeal, “God save the United States of America and this honorable Court.” Our coins carry the motto “In God We Trust.” And even the Pledge of Allegiance contains the phrase “under God.”

As I said, acknowledging our dependence on God and asking His blessings upon us is a tradition that goes back to the very formation of this country.

While our Founding Fathers declared their “firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence,” they had a healthy mistrust of government. They recognized the wisdom of Lord Acton’s famous dictum: “All power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The best way to prevent this from happening, as Thomas Jefferson wrote, was to bind men down “by the chains of a constitution.”

But even the original Constitution didn’t go far enough to protect the rights of the States and the people. So before the Constitution could be ratified, 10 amendments were added, to specify even further what the central government could and could not do.

The 1st Amendment in what became known as the Bill of Rights covered the rights that the Founding Fathers considered most essential: freedom of speech, of the press, to assemble and to petition the government “for a redress of grievances.”

But of all these basic freedoms, the most important was the one they listed first: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Note the first five words: “Congress shall make no law.” It says nothing about what a State or a community might or might not do. In fact, the Founding Fathers were so intent on protecting the rights of the people to do pretty much do whatever they wanted that they wrote not one, but two amendments on the subject.

The 9th Amendment states: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

And in case that wasn’t clear enough, the framers of the Constitution repeated the same idea in the 10th Amendment. Could anything be more straightforward than this? “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

The Founders never wanted or expected every state or community to draft the same laws, follow the same rules or practice the same traditions as every other community. They would have been appalled at the idea of some proscribed uniformity.

Unfortunately, if you’re looking for people to understand and support the Constitution, the Federal courts in this country are one of the last places you should look. And if President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) get their way, that situation is about to get a lot worse.

At a recent fundraiser, Obama boasted: “We’re remaking the courts.” And certainly the ultra-liberal appointments he’s made to various Federal courts confirm what he said.

Now, a key battle is brewing over three vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has said there is no need for more additional judges there. “In terms of raw numbers,” he said, “the D.C. Circuit has the lowest number of total appeals filed annually among all the circuit courts of appeal.” He claims that members of the court agree with him. One even told him, “If any more judges were added now, there wouldn’t be enough work to go around.”

Grassley has introduced the Court Efficiency Act of 2013, which would eliminate three seats on the court, which he says are totally unnecessary. That’s one way to keep more liberals from being appointed.

However, there is no way Reid will allow Grassley’s proposal to come to a vote. Reid has said the Democrats need to get at least one more member on the D.C. Circuit Court to “switch the majority.”

Why is this court so important? Here’s how Janice Crouse and Mario Diaz, both of whom are associated with Concerned Women for America, explained it in the Washington Times: “His credibility shattered, the only hope the president has of advancing his agenda is through executive action. Because administrative actions are reviewed by the judges on the D.C. Circuit, the president seeks to pack the court with left-wing ideologues who will uphold his agenda.”

So that’s what’s at stake in this battle. On the issue of legislative prayer, there are some reasons to be optimistic that this Supreme Court will overturn the decision of the Appeals Court.

During the hearing, Justice Elena Kagan said, “Part of what we are trying to do here is to maintain a multi-religious society in a peaceful and harmonious way.” Then she added, “And every time the Court gets involved in things like this, it seems to make the problem worse rather than better.”

Of course, the same thing could be said about almost every time the Federal government tries to “make things better.”

We’ll let you know how this battle plays out, as well as how the Supreme Court handles this latest assault our right to pray in public whenever our leaders gather. God knows we need His blessings — and protection.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Conservatism Didn’t Die On Tuesday

Liberals are gloating that Tuesday’s election results prove that committed conservatives can’t win the big races. Their main exhibits are two Gubernatorial races: the defeat of Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia and the success of Chris Christie in New Jersey. The left’s message can be summarized in four words: Conservatives lost big time. And, boy, do they love to rub it in.

There’s just one problem with all of their self-satisfied jubilation: The facts don’t support their claims. A much more accurate statement is that, once again, conservatives got sucker punched by liberals. And the GOP’s so-called leadership has a lot to answer for, too.

To see what I mean, let’s take a closer look at the race for Governor in Virginia. Yes, it’s true; Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic operative and longtime friend of the Clintons, beat his Republican challenger, State Attorney General Cuccinelli, by 2.5 percentage points. But considering how Cuccinelli got sandbagged by his own team, it’s surprising that the race turned out to be this close.

The biggest lesson from this week’s elections is that there is no substitute for having plenty of money to spend. And McAuliffe, the longtime Democratic operative, sure did. He outspent Cuccinelli by some $15 million — most of it on the nastiest and dishonest sort of attack ads.

Four years ago, the Republican National Committee spent some $9 million on the Governor’s race in Virginia… and won. This year, it managed to come up with only $3 million for Cuccinelli. Do you think the fact that establishment types control the purse strings at the RNC had anything to do with their pared-down support of a Tea Party favorite?

The spoiler in the Virginia race for Governor turned out to be Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian candidate. Thanks to having a record amount of money to spend for a third-party candidate, Sarvis managed to garner 6.5 percent of the vote. That was enough to tip the scales in McAuliffe’s favor.

But here’s an interesting rumor that’s not getting much play in the national press. It’s that Democratic operatives poured a ton of money into the Sarvis campaign, knowing that he’d siphon a lot more votes from Cuccinelli than their guy. Sad to say, their bet paid off with a victory for McAuliffe.

Now that they’ve proven how to split the conservative/libertarian vote, want to bet that the formula won’t be tried in a lot more places in 2014? What are the chances this story will make the headlines on the nightly news shows? Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

The media have been full of stories about how voters in Virginia were so angry over the 16-day government shutdown that they held their noses and voted for McAuliffe. This is probably true in the northern Virginia counties adjacent to Washington, D.C. Is anyone really surprised that the bureaucrats, lobbyists and others dependent on government largesse want to make sure the good times don’t end?

Cuccinelli did his best to make the election a referendum on Obamacare, and he almost succeeded. Despite being vastly outspent in the closing days of the campaign, he closed the gap dramatically. A month ago, polls said that McAuliffe had a double-digit lead. By the time the polls opened on Tuesday, the race was virtually neck and neck.

Exit polls in Virginia revealed that 53 percent of the people who voted on Tuesday are opposed to the Affordable Care Act. Of that number, more than 80 percent voted for Cuccinelli.

Brian Baker, the president of a conservative political action committee that supported Cuccinelli, said the election proved that “Obamacare is toxic.” And he added: “If the shutdown had ended a week earlier, or the election had ended a week later, Cuccinelli would have won. This is a bad omen for Democrats in 2014.”

Indeed it is. Of course, that’s not how the mainstream media are calling it. But as the debacle that is Obamacare continues to grow, and millions more Americans lose health insurance they like (and get forced into a much more expensive government-mandated program), this is one issue that could win a lot of elections for Republicans in 2014. And maybe even 2016.

Speaking of the 2016 elections, the only surprise in New Jersey was the size of Christie’s victory. The Republican incumbent was re-elected governor by a margin of 60 percent to 38 percent. There was no surprise in how quickly the national media moved to crown him as the front-runner for the Republican nomination for President in 2016.

Of course, Christie was only too happy to play into those expectations. Listen to what the rotund politician said in his victory speech:

I know tonight, a dispirited America, angry with their dysfunctional government in Washington, looks to New Jersey to say, “Is what I think happening really happening? Are people really coming together? Are we really working, African-Americans and Hispanics, suburbanites and city dwellers, farmers and teachers? Are we really all working together?”

As Alex Castellanos, one of the political analysts on CNN, said afterwards, “It wasn’t an acceptance speech, that was an announcement speech.”

But in his campaign in New Jersey, Christie moved far to the left of most Republicans. Here’s how John Gizzi, chief political columnist for Newsmax, put it:

By winning Tuesday night in a landslide election for his second term as governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie moved so far to the left it may be difficult for him to win the Republican nomination for president come 2016.

The GOP governor won in one of the bluest states, where President Barack Obama beat Republican Mitt Romney by 18 points in 2012. To win, Christie had to morph close to not only blue-state values and views, but become close to Obama himself — and he did just that.

Of course, that won’t stop the left from hailing the maverick Governor as the new savior of the Republican Party.

According to the left, the Republican in primary in Alabama’s first Congressional district was another Tea Party failure last Tuesday. But since three of the largest national Tea Party groups — FreedomWorks, the Tea Party Express and the Club for Growth — all refused to take sides in the Republican primary there, it’s certainly stretching things to claim that they failed.

Finally, what is there to say about the election for mayor of New York City? Voters there chose ultra-leftist Bill de Blasio over Joe Lhota, his Republican opponent, by a margin of 74 percent to 24 percent. You sure can’t call that one close.

The Big Apple is about to get its first Democratic mayor in 20 years. De Blasio has promised that he will usher in a new era of extreme liberalism, including raising taxes on the wealthy. His “progressive” administration will be good news for Texas and other no-tax States, as more of the productive and successful flee the city for friendlier climes.

Tuesday’s elections did prove a couple of things: One is that money can buy elections. That certainly shouldn’t come as any surprise. The other is that there are plenty of voters who will cast their ballots for the big-government candidate. But we knew that too, didn’t we?

Are there enough of us left to keep them from spending this country into bankruptcy? Looks like we’re going to find out — whether we like it or not.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood 

Our Know-Nothing President

Is it really possible that the President of the United States knows as little about what his Administration is doing as his defenders claim? That no one tells him anything about what’s going on until he reads it in the papers?

Consider all of the scandals that have taken place since Barack Obama moved into the White House: Operation Fast and Furious; the murder of our ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya; the Internal Revenue Service harassment of Tea Party and other patriotic groups; National Security Agency spying on foreign leaders, as well as millions of Americans; the incredibly botched implementation of Obamacare… The list goes on and on.

We’re supposed to believe that Obama remained in blissful ignorance about all of them until the media reports started. When that happened, he was just as surprised and upset as the rest of us.

The latest “I didn’t know anything about it” scandal is the revelation that the NSA has been monitoring the private conversations of some 35 world leaders. Apparently, the bugging operation has been going on for years. Yet we’re supposed to believe that no one told the President about it until a couple of months ago.

Sure, that sounds credible, doesn’t it? Turns out, we’re tapping the cellphone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, among others; yet no one in the chain of command thinks that maybe, just maybe, Obama should be told about it.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, followed the party line when she said: “It is my understanding that President Obama was not aware Chancellor Merkel’s communications were being collected since 2002. That is a big problem.”

It certainly is. Of all the sorry excuses that have been offered for this Presidential ignorance, my favorite is the one from anonymous officials who said that “the NSA has so many eavesdropping operations under way that it wouldn’t have been practical to brief him on all of them.”

If you were in charge, how would you like to have that pathetic excuse laid in front of you? Do you think that maybe some heads would roll? That’s what would happen in the real world — but not in this Administration, where the watchword is to protect the President at all costs. And always, but always, blame somebody else when anything goes wrong.

The latest example of this came on Wednesday, when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the woman in charge of implementing Obamacare, trudged up Capitol Hill to explain why things have gone so disastrously wrong in the launch of the President’s pet program — and to promise that they will get better very soon.

In her testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Sebelius said that she was “as frustrated and angry as anyone” about the problems that have occurred since the launch of Obamacare on Oct. 1.

At one point, she even denied that the Healthcare.gov website had actually crashed, saying it just runs a lot slower than it should. Hah! In a piece of cosmic irony, the website crashed again, just as she was delivering this whopper. When it did, CNN broadcast a split screen, showing Sebelius on the right half and the crash error message from the website (“The system is down at the moment”) on the left-hand side of the screen.

Potential enrollees aren’t the only ones who can’t get the information they need from the Obamacare website. Turns out that neither can the HHS Secretary. When asked how many people had actually managed to navigate through the website to the end and actually purchase one of the government-mandated health plans, Sibelius said that the numbers weren’t available yet. Check back next month.

Is it that the total number of enrollments can’t be tabulated or that they won’t be released, since they are so embarrassingly low?

Still, Sebelius promised her skeptical inquisitors that everything would be hunky-dory by the end of November, when the website will finally be working properly. In the meantime, she proclaimed, “Hold me accountable for the debacle. I’m responsible.”

Does that mean she’ll do the honorable thing and tender her resignation to the President? Not on your life. Or at least, not yet. If the promised re-launch of the website comes on Dec. 1, as seems likely, I don’t think the White House will bear with her much longer. By sometime in January, I suspect you can color Sebelius gone.

Meanwhile, CNN reports that the Administration is putting pressure on insurance companies not to say anything critical of Obamacare. “What’s going on,” reporter Andrew Griffin told Anderson Cooper, “is [a] behind-the-scenes attempt by the White House to at least keep insurers from publicly criticizing what is happening under this Affordable Care Act rollout. Basically, if you speak out, if you are quoted, you’re going to get a call from the White House, pressure to be quiet.”

Bob Laszewski, a consultant for several insurance companies, says he’s getting calls from executives he knows, asking him to speak out on their behalf. He told CNN: “The White House is exerting massive pressure on the industry, including the trade associations, to keep quiet.”

Now it turns out that the insurance companies — and the Obama Administration — have known for years that millions of Americans would lose their health insurance once Obamacare went into effect, despite all of the claims to the contrary.

Regulations written by the Department of Health and Human Services in July 2010 estimated that “40 to 67 percent” of policyholders would not be able to keep their health insurance once the Affordable Care Act went into effect. Now there are estimates that the actual figure may be as high as 80 percent. So somewhere between 8 million and 14 million Americans will lose the health insurance they presently have.

Of course, Obama promised the American people exactly the opposite. Back in June 2009 he said, “[W]e will keep this promise to the American people: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your healthcare plan, you will be able to keep your healthcare plan. Period.”

And he’s repeated that promise countless times since then. In fact, as of yesterday, the official White House website still claimed, “If you like your plan, you can keep it and you don’t have to change a thing due to the healthcare law.”

Of course, we now know that this isn’t true. Millions of people are learning that they won’t be able to keep their present policy, no matter how much they might like it. But the Obama Administration continues to spread this falsehood.

This helps explain why Obama’s popularity is plummeting faster than a safe falling from a window. The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll says that the President’s job-approval rating has fallen to an all-time low. According to the poll, a majority of Americans — 51 percent — now disapprove of the job he is doing. Only 42 percent say they still approve of his performance. That’s down from 53 percent at the end of last year.

In the same poll, just 29 percent said that their representative deserved to be re-elected to Congress. More than twice as many, some 63 percent, said it was time to give a new person a chance.

The disdain was bipartisan, by the way, with two Republican leaders — House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — joining Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in getting their highest negative ratings ever.

Oh, and get this: Half of those polled don’t believe that an accord will be reached by the Jan. 15 deadline on a plan to fund the government. They say another Federal shutdown is likely.

Will all of this disdain and distrust result in votes to actually reduce the size, power and cost of our central government? It would be wonderful if that were the case. But I wouldn’t count on it.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood