The administration has mastered the art of declaring  victory at will. Not that it means anything, but it sounds good. Obamacare, which has missed one deadline after another and has promised not to extend yet again … has extended yet again. As Avik Roy at Forbes wrote “Though the Obama administration repeatedly insisted that its March 31 enrollment deadline for Obamacare’s first year was “firm,” many observers predicted that the administration would combat lagging sales of health law-sponsored insurance plans by extending that deadline. Sure enough, on Tuesday night the White House indicated that it would be postponing that drop date in order to squeeze as many people as possible into the program.”

Count on them to let you down. HHS said they didn’t even have the power to do it. But now they’ve done it, on an “honor basis” without a deadline too.

On March 11, Julie Bataille, the appropriately-surnamed spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said that “we have no plans to extend the open enrollment period. In fact, we don’t actually have the statutory authority to extend the open enrollment period in 2014. …

Under the new rules, people will be able to qualify for an extension by checking a blue box on HealthCare.gov to indicate that they tried to enroll before the deadline. This method will rely on an honor system; the government will not try to determine whether the person is telling the truth. … According to a Health and Human Services official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity about decisions that have not been made public, an exact time frame for this extension has not been set, and it will depend in part on how many people request it. Nor have officials decided precisely how long people will have to select a health plan after they get the extra time.”

Not that it matters. Sixty percent of uninsured don’t even know about the deadline and more than half have decided not to sign up anyway, according to the Kaiser Health Foundation.  It is as if even the lowest income people in America understand that Obama’s deadlines have all the rigidity of a rubber band.

But if the Obama administration has a problem observing its own deadlines, it is nothing to the contempt with which foreign enemies treat his Red Lines. The New York Times says the challenge now is for President Obama to regain his credibility somehow. “While President Obama insisted again on Tuesday that the West would not recognize the annexation of Crimea, officials in the United States and Europe have privately concluded that Crimea is lost and that the real challenge is stopping Russia from further destabilizing Ukraine.”

Ivo H. Daalder, a former ambassador to NATO under Mr. Obama and now president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, said the fate of eastern Ukraine, not Crimea, should be the priority for the administration now. “If the basic question is whether we focus on Crimea or focus on the next thing, the right thing to do is to focus on the next thing,” he said in an interview. …

The administration cannot admit that publicly, however, because it would be taken as a sign of capitulation. … In The Hague, administration officials repeatedly sought to avoid saying directly that the United States and its allies had accepted the annexation as a fait accompli. A senior administration official who briefed reporters on Monday under an agreement that he not be identified said Mr. Putin could incite more serious sanctions by trying to stir trouble inside Ukraine.

So they pretend they’ve won, even though they know they’ve lost and are reduced to searching for ways in which Putin can be induced to believe him next time.

Perhaps by impressing upon the Russian dictator a true appreciation of the president’s brilliance, Putin can be made to respect him. Obama’s supporters argue that the president is playing some devious and brilliant game whose snare will be drawn at the proper time. It would be a mistake, says Anne-Marie Slaughter, a director of policy planning at the State Department from 2009 to 2011, to interpret events in Ukraine as a hostile act. Obama knows better, unlike former NATO officials and ambassadors who seem to regard the past month’s trouble — as trouble.

The West is playing into Vladi­mir Putin’s hands by treating Russia’s annexation of Crimea as the return to a world in which Russia and the United States are once again principal adversaries. Yet a trio of current and former NATO secretaries general took exactly this position at the Brussels Forum over the weekend, announcing that 2014 marked the end of the post-Cold War era. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said that Putin “has reignited a dangerous, pre-1991, Soviet-style game of Russian roulette with the international community.” Michael McFaul , the most recent U.S. ambassador to Russia, has written that the annexation “ended the post-Cold War era in Europe.”

If Putin is unimpressed it is only because he’s too dumb to be awed by a being far beyond his comprehension.  But Jeffrey Folks at the American Thinker is unmoved by Obama’s refusal to stoop to ordinary umbrage. “For Obama, the Great Man is the man who refuses to negotiate, the one who advances but never retreats, the one who presents himself as ‘above’ partisanship while pursuing his own ends, the ‘only adult’ in the room.”  He is unimpressed because the Great Man act’s not working.

Just yesterday “president Obama declared North Korea’s nuclear program ‘unacceptable’ during a meeting with the leaders of Japan and South Korea on Tuesday in The Hague.”

Kim Jong Un however, appears not to be listening to the Great Man. In fact, he is treating Obama with positive derision. “North Korea fired two ballistic missiles capable of reaching both Japan and South Korea as President Barack Obama hosted the first meeting between the leaders of the U.S.’s biggest Asian allies. … The launches also coincided with the anniversary of the sinking of a South Korean naval vessel, the Cheonan, in 2010. Forty six sailors died in the incident, which a multinational investigation blamed on a North Korean torpedo fired from a submarine. North Korea denied any role in the sinking.”

Kim is like a punk stoning the police station. He’s not much of a punk, but then maybe the cops aren’t much of a police either.

Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post offers this advice: “Please, Mr. President, stop talking”.

His obsession with words and his excessive self-regard are what got us into this and other situations in which seemingly two-bit powers run rings around him. That’s not a reflection of their relative strength, but of the president’s ineptitude in defending U.S. interests.

Now — are you sitting down? — Obama made an even more troubling comment on Tuesday, calling North Korea’s nuclear program “unacceptable.” Umm. . . . Yikes! That is precisely what he has been calling an Iranian nuclear weapon program. But North Korea, it is widely believed, has a nuclear weapon. So we now know all too well that “unacceptable” means a two-bit regional threat defies every international norm, threatens the United States and our allies and incurs the rhetorical barbs of the president of the United States — but suffers no real consequences for its actions. Good grief.

How will cutting back on talking help? Maybe the president suffers from what has been called a low signal to noise ratio. “Signal-to-noise ratio is sometimes used informally to refer to the ratio of useful information to false or irrelevant data in a conversation or exchange.” The president utters a lot of words, but nobody seems to know what they mean. And the more words he utters the less people get the drift.

For example: is an Obamacare deadline a deadline or is it a sort of deadline? Is a Red Line a Red Line or just in a manner of speaking? If North Korea’s nuclear program is “unacceptable” or if Russia’s seizure of the Crimea is “unacceptable” then how come it’s been accepted?

Even stupid minds want to know.

When a cheap tub of lard like Kim Jong Un doesn’t get the message maybe there is no message. There’s such a low signal to noise ratio that it appears to be all noise. So when the New York Times asks itself what president Obama should do to regain credibility obviously he must do something different. He has got to change something.  Yet what he must change is the hardest thing of all to alter. He cannot bring himself to address the single most significant point of failure, which he regards as the single greatest factor for success.

Himself.


Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with you friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.

The War of the Words for $3.99, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
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No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea $0.99, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
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