Littwin: Forever running against Obama

If I didn’t know better, I’d say that Rudy Giuliani was collaborating with the enemy (by which I mean, of course, Hillary Clinton).

Clinton is the all-but-certain Democratic candidate for president, but hardly anyone on the Republican side is laying a glove on her. The media is all over the Clinton Foundation for taking money — apparently legal, but perhaps not altogether ethical, money — from foreign countries while Hillary Clinton has presumably been preparing to run for president.

And, meanwhile, the headline story continues to be that Republicans are all over Barack Obama, who can’t run again, for supposedly not loving America enough, or at all.

Haven’t we gotten past this? Quick answer: Uh, no.

They won’t be running against Obama but they can’t stop running against Obama. The fringe attack lines are still going mainstream. They come from Rep. Mike Coffman and America’s ex-Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

If it all seems so 2012 — back when people like Mike Coffman were saying of Obama “that in his heart, he’s not an American” and Newt Gingrich was on his “Kenyan, anti-colonial” kick — that just means you haven’t been paying attention. It’s 2008, 2012, 2015 and every year in between. Obama paranoia is a constant in our political world. If it’s not a birth certificate, it’s his religion or — you can actually hear this from GOP Rep. Scott Perry on YouTube — it’s his collaboration with the “enemy of freedom” (by which I don’t mean, of course, Hillary Clinton).

The latest round began, as we all know, with Giuliani, once America’s Mayor and now, sadly, a Donald Trump wannabe. If only Rudy could get his own TV show.

It was Giuliani who told a meeting of rich Americans that Obama didn’t love America, whatever that means. I grew up in the era of love-it-or-leave-it bumper stickers — which didn’t make much sense even then — and now for years a significant percentage of Republicans have been stuck on the idea that Obama doesn’t love/won’t leave and can’t accept either.

No one would have paid attention to Giuliani except that Scott Walker, the hot new thing in GOP presidential politics, was also at the dinner. And Walker chose to say nothing to refute the Rudyness or to defend Obama’s patriotism.

Actually, saying nothing might have been his best course. It’s when Walker started answering questions about saying nothing that he got himself in trouble. The right answer for a Republican candidate — see: Marco Rubio, as one example — was that, of course, Obama loves America, but it’s his policies that are questionable.

Walker said, “I’m not going to comment on whether, what the president thinks or not. . . . I’ll tell you I love America, and I think there are plenty of people, Democrat, Republican, independent and everyone in between, who love this country.”

That was just the beginning. In a follow-up interview, the Washington Post asked Walker if he believed Obama when he said he was a Christian, and Walker said “I don’t know,” leading to the obvious question: Which answer is the more dangerous kind of pandering? I’ll go with America-hater, but it’s a close call.

None of this may hurt Walker in the GOP primaries, but the reason the Wisconsin governor suddenly got so hot is that he’s seen as a hard-nosed conservative who seemed able to also talk to moderates. And worse still, every conceivable GOP candidate is now being asked whether Obama loves America, and whatever the right response, it’s clearly the wrong question to have to answer.

American presidents pretty much all love America. It’s part of the job description. It’s harder to define exactly what loving America is — I’m guessing that Rudy and I see the whole thing differently, and not just because he’s a Yankees fan — but Giuliani goes so far as to accuse Obama of not loving actual Americans, including American voters who elected him twice.

In Rudy’s words, ones that will haunt him forever: “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up, through love of this country.”

I’m sure Walker didn’t agree with Giuliani. I don’t know if Giuliani agreed with Giuliani. It’s just as clear, though, that Walker didn’t quite know how to say so, which suggests a larger problem.

Demonizing your opponent — from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush to Barack Obama — is the modern product of red-blue, cable-TV-news, Internet-driven choosing up of sides. It’s not enough to question policies. We have to question motives. And so, from the fringes, Clinton killed Vince Foster and Bush blew up the World Trade Center. But Obama is different because, in his case, the fringes have gone mainstream. It’s from Mike Coffman. It’s from America’s ex-Mayor.

And when the why-is-this-so question is inevitably asked, the inevitable answers divide us even more. As Vox’s Ezra Klein wrote the other day, can you really not love America when your vice-president is literally America-loving Joe Biden?

Obama will be president for nearly two more years, and you don’t have to be Karl Rove to figure out that the best strategy for any Republican candidate will be to tie Hillary Clinton to Obama whenever possible. Except for now, of course, when Walker helped Giuliani make defending Obama all too easy.

[Photo by Barry Hackner.]

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TV’s Giuliana Rancic is in hot water after saying Zendaya ‘smells like weed’

Fashion pundit Giuliana Rancic is in hot water after saying Disney actress/pop singer Zendaya “smells like patchouli oil or weed.”

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Alaska gets ready for legal marijuana starting Feb. 24

Alaska is set to become the third state with legal marijuana: Smoking, growing and possessing weed becomes legal in America’s wildest state Tuesday, thanks to a voter initiative aimed at clearing away 40 years of conflicting laws and court rulings.

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Colombian indicted after 2013 Colorado marijuana raids pleads guilty

One of four men indicted in connection with large-scale raids on medical marijuana businesses has pleaded guilty under an agreement that requires him to cooperate against his co-defendants.

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Opinion: How vaporizers will fuel Big Tobacco’s marijuana expansion

You may like technology (who doesn’t these days?) or the energy sector (where would we be without it?) — but if you’re making a long-term bet as an investor, there’s a lot going for Big Tobacco. As marijuana gradually becomes a legal drug, Big Tobacco is poised to dominate the market. Right now, the industry is undergoing a vaping revolution.

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Colorado pot credit union: Decision appears headed to Fed board

The decision of whether a Colorado credit union created just for the marijuana industry can open its doors ultimately could come from the nation’s top financial policymakers.

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Colorado lawmakers work together to update lagging autism policy

DENVER — Here’s how it sometimes works at the Capitol: No politics, no one working angles. Instead, there were constituents experiencing a problem that needed solving and lawmakers worked together to solve it. So now children with autism in Colorado will be able to receive the kind of longterm care that can transform their lives and the lives of their parents for the better.

Carrie Brown, her husband, and their six-year old son Craig, who is on the autism spectrum, moved to Fort Collins fro Utah in 2013. But in Colorado, unlike Utah, insurance coverage for autism care has been arbitrarily capped, which meant that the Applied Behavioral Analysis — intensive therapy for autism — that Craig was benefitting from would be slashed.

“My son was going to lose as much as 70 percent of his therapy hours,” said Brown.

Ken Winn, chief clinical officer at nonprofit Firefly Autism in Denver, said the way the law works, children can receive $34,000 a year in therapy, but that amount drops to $12,000 once they turn nine.

“Those caps are arbitrary, they’re not based on medical need. Many of these children need more care than that,” he said, adding that research recommends as many as 40 hours a week of the behavioral analysis therapy.

Winn has been providing the therapy for more than 20 years. He says that, with intense early intervention, many kids on the spectrum not only go on to lead independent lives but they’re also able to tackle regular coursework in school without the need of a special education plan. Craig is on track to be one of those kids.

“Craig was nonverbal when he started ABA therapy,” said Brown. “Within a matter of months he’d gained 500 words.” 

Though Craig is on a specialized learning plan in public school now, Brown says that by next year’s evaluation he’s slated to fully rejoin all standard classroom activities.

“Friends and family say it’s an absolute miracle that Craig has gained these [verbal and social] skills,” she said. “But the real miracle is that he was able to access medically necessary treatment.”

So, why the caps in coverage?

In 2009, Colorado was one of the first states to pass a law requiring insurance companies cover autism care. It was considered a great step forward in the autism community, though compromises were made — in the form of coverage caps — in order to get the legislation passed.

Brown has brought the issue to the attention of her lawmaker, Sen. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, and now the level of care Craig has enjoyed is likely to become a given for every kid on the spectrum whose family is covered by private insurance.

“We love it in Colorado. So I decided it was easier to get involved with the legislative process than to move again,” said Brown of her decision to reach out to Kefalas. “We really just fell in love with this community.”  

Last week, the state Senate voted unanimously to pass Kefalas’s SB 15, a bill that removes the coverage caps on medically necessary therapy. Health insurers will have to cover medically necessary treatment for autism in no more restrictive a manner than they cover physical health care.

“We’re making sure that these kids get access to the treatment they need so that they can grow into fully functioning adults,” said Kefalas, later adding that he was thrilled to see the measure get such strong bipartisan support in the Senate.

And SB 15 isn’t the only law in the works at the Capitol that will expand access to autism treatment. Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, says the joint budget committee is working on a measure to make behavioral analysis therapy more readily accessible for kids on Medicaid as well.

“There’s a waiting list of about 300 people and a cap at 75 individuals that can be covered [for ABA therapy under medicaid in the state],” Lambert said. “The JBC bill… will increase medicaid coverage for young people affected by this between the ages of six and eight, which will give them a little bit more coverage and eliminate the wait.”

Winn, who testified in favor of both bills, said it’s high time that Colorado made moves on treating autism.

“I think Colorado is on the brink of breaking out of the old way of treating children with autism and becoming a leader, but we need better funding and care that isn’t piecemeal,” he said.

Winn pointed out that even though the expanded Medicaid coverage the JBC is considering would cost $10 million next year and $19 million the year after, the state would still be looking at a long-term savings.

“Research indicates that if you can provide enough ABA therapy during the first three years of life there’s a 90 percent chance of what we call recovery in the sense that the child no longer meets the behavioral criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder,” said Winn.

He added that in Colorado, where the autism rate is one in 85, the state stands to save $2.5 million for every child that doesn’t end up needing specialized public education. 

“Some of the cost savings are hard to put a price tag on, like keeping a child in their home,” said Winn. “But I can tell you that keeping them out of group homes saves hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and there’s also cost savings in preventing hospitalization and incarceration.”

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Wiretap: Governors all ‘meh’ on possibility millions could lose Obamacare coverage

This may not surprise you, but when governors are asked what they might do if the Supreme Court rules against Obamacare, most of them have no answer. At a meeting of the nation’s governors in Washington last weekend, Politico asked more than a dozen. Most, it was reported, shrugged — some in indifference, some in indecision. Florida Gov. Rick Scott said, “This is a federal program. It’s a federal problem.” What he didn’t say is that 1.6 million Floridians are covered under Obamacare and that 90 percent of those get subsidies.

Sam Baker does a little thought experiment in the National Journal. He writes the reasons that Obamacare will lose before the Supreme Court. And he writes another piece explaining why Obamacare will win.

Boulder tried on some Boston this weekend: Fifteen inches of snow buried the state’s favorite college-Buddha-yoga town. Flakes the size of fists landed outside the window and just sat there grinning, sticking their tongues out at you.

The Notorious R.B.G. — Ruth Bader Ginsburg tells columnist Gail Collins that she’s not going anywhere any time soon. Via the New York Times.

Rudy Giuliani writes in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal that his bluntness on Barack Obama not loving America overshadowed his message, which was — well, it’s not clear, but presumably that Obama does not love America. Meanwhile, Glenn Kessler does the Fact Checker thing in the Washington Post and gives Giuliani four Pinnochios.

And the beat goes on: Scott Walker says he doesn’t know whether Obama is a Christian. Via The Washington Post.

Nate Cohn writes that this time — unlike 2008 — Hillary Clinton really is inevitable (as Democratic nominee, anyway). Via the New York Times.

Amy Davidson asks in the New Yorker whether Oscar winner Citizenfour is actually worth celebrating.

John Legend’s Oscar-speech statistic that more men are currently under correctional control than were enslaved in 1850 is right, although it’s also a little misleading. Via Vox.

[ “Meh” by Quinn Dombrowski.]

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