The fallout from Netanyahu’s speech to a session of Congress


The fallout from Netanyahu’s speech to a session of Congress will come soon enough The real impact of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of Congress opposing the efforts to reach an agreement with Iran on its nuclear capacity will be seen fairly soon. The first indication will be whether the speech helps or hurts Netanyahu and his Likud party in the March 17 elections.

The second will be whether Iran and the international negotiators — U.N. Security Council members China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States plus Germany — will be able to reach a framework for an accord by the March 31 deadline. While Netanyahu was using his speech Tuesday to attack President Barack Obama for seeking an agreement, Secretary of State John Kerry was in Switzerland meeting with the parties to try to resolve outstanding issues. Whether the speech, set up by Netanyahu with Speaker of the House John Boehner, will help or hurt Likud and its chief is hard to gauge.

The generous ovations and cheers given the prime minister could be seen in Israel as an impressive rally in the capital of its chief ally. Yet the divisions the speech caused for Americans and their leadership may have made some Israelis nervous. Over the years, Israelis have been pleased by the support given to Israel by Americans of almost all political persuasions. But Netanyahu’s speech, its disruptive and partisan purpose and the rifts it exposed and deepened have put the cat among the pigeons on U.S. political unity regarding Israel. On this round, Boehner and some Republicans won, and Obama and some Democrats lost. More than 50 members of Congress boycotted the speech. The more significant returns will come in shortly with the Israeli elections and the fate of the draft Iranian accord later this month. › From Tribune News Service. Over the years, Israelis have been pleased by the support given to Israel by Americans of almost all political persuasions. But Netanyahu’s speech, its disruptive and partisan purpose and the rifts it exposed and deepened have put the cat among the pigeons on U.S. political unity regarding Israel.

Lawsuit presents a phony narrative about Obamacare Having saved the 2010 Affordable Care Act from a legal assault in 2012, the Supreme Court again finds itself holding the fate of Obamacare in its hands. The court is slated to hear arguments Wednesday in King vs. Burwell, a lawsuit that claims federal insurance subsidies should be available only to people buying coverage on exchanges set up by their state governments and not to people in the 34 states that let Washington set up their exchanges for them. If the lawsuit prevails, it could cause premiums to rise uncontrollably in those states while denying millions of Americans the coverage they badly need. It would also render the insurance reforms at the heart of Obamacare unsustainable in much of the country. There are numerous reasons why the court should reject the plaintiffs’ phony narrative about the new exchanges that Congress required in every state. One of the best, though, is that a ruling in the plaintiffs’ favor would retroactively penalize states and their residents for choosing to let Washington run their exchanges when the consequences couldn’t have been foreseen. The handful of plaintiffs in King and a similar lawsuit, Halbig vs. Burwell, say they don’t want to buy health insurance and would qualify for a hardship exemption if there were no subsidies to make the coverage affordable. They’re joined by a few businesses that would face penalties under the law only if their workers obtained subsidized coverage. Although one provision of the law says that anyone who meets the income limits is eligible for subsidies, another says the size of the subsidies will be based on the cost of insurance purchased at an exchange “established by the State.” From that thin tissue the plaintiffs spun out a fanciful story about lawmakers trying to coerce states into building their own exchanges by threatening to withhold subsidies from low- and moderate- income residents. If Congress was making such a threat, that’s news to the lawmakers who wrote the act, who told the court that they intended subsidies to be available through every exchange. State officials were in the dark too, which would violate a Supreme Court precedent that requires Congress to give states clear notice when it attaches strings to the money it offers, officials from 22 states have argued. Had the public known the insurance subsidies wouldn’t be available if their states didn’t set up an exchange, the debates in state capitals over whether to do so would have been far more consequential. The plaintiffs in King have the right to put their own interests ahead of the roughly 9.3 million people who now have subsidized health coverage in the 34 states that did not set up their own exchanges. But they don’t have the right to contort the law’s meaning so one phrase taken out of context undermines the rest of its provisions. Supreme Court justices hold the fate of Obamacare in their hands. › From Tribune News Service.

Cathey Park, of Cambridge, Mass., points to her “I Love Obamacare” cast just signed by President Barack Obama after he spoke at Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall about the federal health care law Oct. 30, 2013. AP FILE

The trouble with Hillary’s email It’s one of the most popular comic strips of all time: “Peanuts” by Charles M. Schulz. But it wasn’t all about Charlie Brown. There was Lucy, Snoopy, Violet and, my favorite, Pig-Pen — the little boy who couldn’t stay clean. He was always surrounded by a cloud of dust and dirt. He couldn’t walk through a snowstorm without getting dirty. Sometimes, it seems, Bill and Hillary Clinton have a Pig-Pen problem. Trouble follows them wherever they go. They’ve survived a long string of scandals, some real and some manufactured: Whitewater, the Lincoln Bedroom, Vincent Foster, Monica Lewinsky, Marc Rich, Benghazi and foreign government contributions. And now they’ve got a new one: Emailgate! Like most of the previous Clinton scandals, there’s less to this one than meets the eye. As reported most recently by The New York Times (first reported by Gawker in 2013), when she was secretary of state, Hillary Clinton chose not to use a State Department account for email. Instead, she set up and exclusively used a personal account for all email correspondence — which, the Associated Press later reported, was all routed, not through a State Department server, but through a homegrown Internet server she and former President Clinton had installed in their home in Chappaqua, New York. Hillary haters were quick to accuse the former secretary of state of breaking the law, hiding important evidence, violating the Obama administration’s pledge of utter “transparency” and basically writing their own rules about emails, the same way they’ve done about everything else. And, ever so predictably, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) seized on the possibility of missing emails as an excuse for launching a whole new round of hearings on Benghazi. The facts say otherwise. Clinton was not the first secretary of state to use a personal email account. So did Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice for at least part of their correspondence. In fact, John Kerry is the first to make exclusive use of a State Department account. Moreover, using a personal account was not against the law when Clinton was secretary. The law making it illegal to conduct public business on a non-official email account was not signed into law by President Obama until 2014. Once the State Department, in response to various Freedom of Information requests, asked for copies of her emails, she provided them with 55,000 pages worth. On March 4, she tweeted out: “I want the public to see my email,” and asked the State Department to release them all. But that merely raises other questions. How secure was her private email account? Who decided which of her emails were provided to the State Department and which were not — and according to what guidelines? What’s contained in the missing emails, and why were they kept secret? And then the biggest unanswered question of all: Why did she feel compelled to set up her own private email network in the first place? To me, that’s the biggest problem with this email flap. For Hillary Clinton, it’s not politically fatal — far from it. She and her husband have survived far bigger scandals. But it’s all so unnecessary. It never should have happened. It may not have been illegal, but it was certainly sloppy and careless to decide to bypass the official State Department email network — especially for someone who knew she might run for president in 2016. And now we see the results: providing more ammunition for the Clinton hate machine, forcing Democrats and the White House to explain and defend her email operation and igniting a scandal that won’t go away until all the votes are cast in November 2016. Out of all this mess, however, there’s one important lesson to be learned: Stop the coronation! Instead of just assuming Hillary will be the Democratic nominee, party leaders should be actively recruiting Democrats to run in 2016: Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Jerry Brown, Martin O’Malley, Andrew Cuomo, Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand and others. And I say that as someone who loves Hillary Clinton. I want her to be president. I think she’d make a great president. But the way to get there is not to hand her the nomination.


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