November 4, 2013
The Wall Street Journal broke the news this weekend that, even as President Obama was telling the American people they could keep their health plans, “some White House policy advisors objected to the breadth of Mr. Obama’s ‘keep your plan’ promise. They were overruled by political aides.”
Overruled by political aides? This is simply damning.
It’s not easy to get a lie into a presidential speech. Every draft address is circulated to the White House senior staff and key Cabinet officials in something called the “staffing process.” Every line is reviewed by dozens of senior officials, who offer comments and factual corrections. During this process, it turns out, some of Obama’s policy advisers objected to the “you can keep your plan” pledge, pointing out that it was untrue. But it stayed in the speech. That does not happen by accident. It requires a willful intent to deceive.
In the Bush White House, we speechwriters would often come up with what we thought were great turns of phrase to help the president explain his policies. But we also had a strict fact-checking process, where every iteration of every proposed presidential utterance was scrubbed to ensure it was both accurate and defensible. If the fact-checkers told us a line was inaccurate, we would either kill it or find another way to make the point accurately. I cannot imagine a scenario in which the fact-checkers or White House policy advisers would tell us that something in a draft speech was factually incorrect and that guidance would be ignored or overruled by the president’s political advisers.
This whole episode is a window into a fundamentally dishonest presidency. And the story gets worse. After Obama began telling Americans they could keep their plans, White House aides discussed using media interviews “to explain the nuances of the succinct line in his stump speeches.” But they decided not to do so, because “officials worried . . . that delving into details such as the small number of people who might lose insurance could be confusing and would clutter the president’s message.”
Yes, no need to “clutter” the president’s message with confusing details — like the fact that millions of Americans being told by the president that they could keep their plans were being knowingly misled.
Obama could easily have come up with another way to make his point accurately. He could have said “most Americans will be able to keep their plans.” Or he could have said, as his communications director Dan Pfeiffer put it on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday, “if you had a plan before the Affordable Care Act passed, [and] it hasn’t been changed or canceled, you can keep it” (which prompted McConnell spokesman Don Stewart to reply, “So . . . you can keep your plan — unless it’s been cancelled. Gee, thanks.”) That would certainly have been less powerful, but at least it would have been accurate.
But Obama didn’t say those things. He said, “If you like your health-care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health-care plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what.” That statement was clear, unequivocal and wrong — and Obama and his advisers knew it.
The president’s defenders are twisting around for ways to explain away his 16 words. The New York Times wrote in an editorial Sunday that “Mr. Obama clearly misspoke.” Misspoke? On 24 separate occasions? Sorry, the president didn’t “misspeak.” This was an premeditated deception. This wasn’t something Obama ad-libbed. It was a line in a presidential speech that was carefully reviewed by the entire White House senior staff. Obama’s political advisers were told by his policy aides the statement was inaccurate — but they decided to let Americans believe the falsehood.
Obama’s former chief speechwriter, Jon Favreau, told the Journal that the speechwriters were working to find ways to explain a complex policy and that the goal was “simplification and ease of explanation . . . while still being true.” Except what Obama said wasn’t true.
Every president faces the challenge of explaining complex policies in simple terms. But the quest for simplicity is no excuse for dishonesty.
Obama’s own advisers told the Journal that they knew those 16 words were untrue, but Obama kept on saying them — over and over and over again.
If that’s the case, then Obama didn’t misspeak.
By Mark Hosenball
WASHINGTON | Tue Oct 23, 2012 9:11pm EDT
(Reuters) – Officials at the White House and State Department were advised two hours after attackers assaulted the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11 that an Islamic militant group had claimed credit for the attack, official emails show.
The emails, obtained by Reuters from government sources not connected with U.S. spy agencies or the State Department and who requested anonymity, specifically mention that the Libyan group called Ansar al-Sharia had asserted responsibility for the attacks.
The brief emails also show how U.S. diplomats described the attack, even as it was still under way, to Washington.
U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the Benghazi assault, which President Barack Obama and other U.S. officials ultimately acknowledged was a “terrorist” attack carried out by militants with suspected links to al Qaeda affiliates or sympathizers.
Administration spokesmen, including White House spokesman Jay Carney, citing an unclassified assessment prepared by the CIA, maintained for days that the attacks likely were a spontaneous protest against an anti-Muslim film.
While officials did mention the possible involvement of “extremists,” they did not lay blame on any specific militant groups or possible links to al Qaeda or its affiliates until intelligence officials publicly alleged that on September 28.
There were indications that extremists with possible al Qaeda connections were involved, but also evidence that the attacks could have erupted spontaneously, they said, adding that government experts wanted to be cautious about pointing fingers prematurely.
U.S. intelligence officials have emphasized since shortly after the attack that early intelligence reporting about the attack was mixed.
Spokesmen for the White House and State Department had no immediate response to requests for comments on the emails.
MISSIVES FROM LIBYA
The records obtained by Reuters consist of three emails dispatched by the State Department’s Operations Center to multiple government offices, including addresses at the White House, Pentagon, intelligence community and FBI, on the afternoon of September 11.
The first email, timed at 4:05 p.m. Washington time – or 10:05 p.m. Benghazi time, 20-30 minutes after the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission allegedly began – carried the subject line “U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi Under Attack” and the notation “SBU”, meaning “Sensitive But Unclassified.”
The text said the State Department’s regional security office had reported that the diplomatic mission in Benghazi was “under attack. Embassy in Tripoli reports approximately 20 armed people fired shots; explosions have been heard as well.”
The message continued: “Ambassador Stevens, who is currently in Benghazi, and four … personnel are in the compound safe haven. The 17th of February militia is providing security support.”
A second email, headed “Update 1: U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi” and timed 4:54 p.m. Washington time, said that the Embassy in Tripoli had reported that “the firing at the U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi had stopped and the compound had been cleared.” It said a “response team” was at the site attempting to locate missing personnel.
A third email, also marked SBU and sent at 6:07 p.m. Washington time, carried the subject line: “Update 2: Ansar al-Sharia Claims Responsibility for Benghazi Attack.”
The message reported: “Embassy Tripoli reports the group claimed responsibility on Facebook and Twitter and has called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli.”
While some information identifying recipients of this message was redacted from copies of the messages obtained by Reuters, a government source said that one of the addresses to which the message was sent was the White House Situation Room, the president’s secure command post.
Other addressees included intelligence and military units as well as one used by the FBI command center, the source said.
It was not known what other messages were received by agencies in Washington from Libya that day about who might have been behind the attacks.
Intelligence experts caution that initial reports from the scene of any attack or disaster are often inaccurate.
By the morning of September 12, the day after the Benghazi attack, Reuters reported that there were indications that members of both Ansar al-Sharia, a militia based in the Benghazi area, and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the North African affiliate of al Qaeda’s faltering central command, may have been involved in organizing the attacks.
One U.S. intelligence official said that during the first classified briefing about Benghazi given to members of Congress, officials “carefully laid out the full range of sparsely available information, relying on the best analysis available at the time.”
The official added, however, that the initial analysis of the attack that was presented to legislators was mixed.
“Briefers said extremists were involved in attacks that appeared spontaneous, there may have been a variety of motivating factors, and possible links to groups such as (al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Ansar al-Sharia) were being looked at closely,” the official said.
(Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Mary Milliken and Jim Loney)
- White House told of militant claim two hours after Libya attack: emails | Reuters (reuters.com)
- Emails: White House told of militant claim two hours after Libya attack (dailystar.com.lb)
- Reuters: White House, State Dep’t received e-mails within two hours of Benghazi attack about jihadi group taking credit (hotair.com)
- White House Was Told Benghazi was a Terrorist Attack Two Hours Into the Battle (pjmedia.com)
- White House told of militant claim two hours after Libya attack: emails (punditfromanotherplanet.com)
Posted on February 11, 2012
…[It] was public research dollars, over the course of thirty years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock – reminding us that Government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground.
– Barack Obama’s 2012 State of the Union Address
On Thursday, Energy Secretary Dr. Steven Chu visited the National Energy Technology Laboratory in South Park, PA:
Chu said the Department of Energy’s experiments between 1978 and 1992 helped develop the widespread practice of horizontal drilling and fracturing that made capturing natural gas from rock formations such as shale cost-effective enough that private industry could take over. (Source.)
This is some pretty serious revisionist history, and it’s all directed at justifying continued “investment” in
green clean energy research*.
Nicolas Loris is an energy and environmental policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation. Mr. Loris gets it right:
Well before the government invested in natural gas technologies, it was the private sector that established and developed hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”), a process by which producers inject a fluid, composed of 99 percent water, and sand into wells to free oil and gas trapped in rock formations.
Its roots go as far back as the 1860s. In the 1940s, Stanolind Oil and Gas Corp. began studying and testing the method, with a patent issued in 1949 and a license granted to Halliburton to frack on two commercial wells.
Government involvement came years later. The Department of Energy partly funded data accumulation, microseismic mapping, the first horizontal well, and tax credits to extract unconventional gas. But who was in the driver’s seat? George Mitchell, who invested millions of his own money in research and development for fracking and horizontal drilling.
The geologist for Mitchell’s company, Jim Henry, first identified Barnett shale as a possibility for more energy. Mitchell spent between $7 million and $8 million of his own money trying to extract shale gas successfully and eventually made it economically viable. He is behind the shale gas revolution, not the government.
Truth be known, DoE has never taken the lead in oil and gas research. The majors (“Big Oil”) historically had their own research labs and were loathe to share their proprietary research with the government or each other. The major service companies like Halliburton and Schlumberger also wanted to develop their own patents and protect their commerciality.
Much of the research that mattered was conducted by the Gas Research Institute, an industry consortium that spent private funds. The revenue base was a small fee on gas transported by the major interstate pipelines. DoE cooperated with GRI, and may have provided funding at some level. For two or three years in the early ’90s, I served as one of 2-3 dozen industry advisors, providing GRI with industry feedback for their research planning. There were always a couple of DoE staffers present at our meetings.
Some of the GRI-backed research was private, some at research universities, and some at national labs like Sandia and Lawrence Livermore. But it was privately directed and privately funded.
I remember from those days Mitchell Energy’s keen interest in unlocking the gas in the Barnett Shale. Mitchell has most of Wise County, TX under lease, and the Barnett was widespread. I thought at the time that Mitchell was particularly good at milking the Feds when it came to funding its research. Mitchell’s strategy was the exception, not the rule.
As ex-Mitchell VP Dan Steward recalls, Mitchell did drill the first horizontal shale well with DoE backing.
Money wasn’t given directly, but like on the horizontal well, Mitchell paid the cost of a vertical well, and government paid the rest. If the horizontal well cost $1.5 million, but the vertical was 800k, the DOE contributed the difference between the two. I don’t know exact numbers. But there was a contribution of money toward that well. …
Mitchell got the slickwater frack from UPR [Union Pacific Resources]. They developed it.
If there was a government program that was significant, it was the Section 29 production tax credit, which I blogged about back in 2010. Steward has this to say about the importance of the credit, but also the advantageous gas sales contract that Mitchell enjoyed:
Mitchell was selling his gas dollar and a quarter over the spot price. We would never have been able to do what we did in the Barnett without that. Mitchell had the money to invest in R&D. And he had the vision. He had people in the company saying this is bulls**t, this is wasting our money, you’re using our retirement money on something that’s no good. They’d say, “Dan, if Barnett is the best thing we have, then we don’t have s**t.” …
We had a gas contract with a natural gas pipeline that gave us a higher price. We had a basket of prices and gases and with the different categories we could keep our gas price. So you could say that those pricing scenarios, and the tight gas tax credit, created the possibility for shale gas.
Yes, the government played a role by providing the tax credit. DoE research, and support of private research, was significant but not central to the story.
Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing are private sector successes.
In any case, there is no analogy in oil and gas to the kind of support that is being lavished upon alternative fuels and “green energy”. Where is the gas analog of a Solyndra, or a Fisker? They don’t exist. Government support for gas did not come in the form of $535 million loan guarantees. That kind of silly money is begging to be wasted.
But as the good Dr. Chu reminds it, there are more failures to come.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu again warned Friday that more recipients of Energy Department green technology loan guarantees will likely collapse even as he touted the strength of the program overall.
* Factoid from President Obama’s 2012 SOTU address:
References to “Green Jobs” or “Green Energy”: 0
References to “Clean” Energy: 10
This change in terminology presumably reflects the Administration’s begrudging embrace of the promise of natural gas.
Cross-posted at RedState.com.
- Energy secretary backs natural gas exports (mb50.wordpress.com)