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Smart Bombs: Obama severed from care

What if you like the Affordable Care Act, but don’t like the president? You could stop calling it “Obamacare” and pretend your state’s health care exchange just happened to materialize at the same time.

Welcome to the U.S. Senate race in Kentucky, where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell recently claimed that the state’s popular exchange, called Kynect, would survive his desire to rip the ACA out by the “root and branch.” By this logic, you can chop down a tree and still expect apples.

Or, as an editorial in the Lexington Herald-Leader eloquently stated, “Huh?”

Americans could be enjoying McConnellcare, but the issue never reached the top of the Republican agenda in his 30 years in the Senate.

On the other hand, his Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, must be cagey about her response, because Kentuckians may not appreciate an instructional effort to link an unpopular president to popular reform. Kynect has connected 300,000 previously uninsured people to health care.

It brings to mind those signs at tea party rallies that read, “Get your government out of my Medicare.”

Post-war surrender. The National Journal published an excellent three-part series on the history of problems at Veterans Affairs, and it implicates every Congress and presidential administration going back to John F. Kennedy. Some of the issues are bureaucratic, some are just plain corruption, like we’re witnessing now.

But the root cause is a failure to remain mobilized when troops become veterans.

The Internal Revenue Service computerized in 1990, but the VA is still pushing paper. The National Security Agency can snoop around the world, and the military can launch precision drone attacks, but the VA and the Defense Department can’t synchronize electronic records.

America is John Wayne as it heads off to war, and Jack Benny after the last shot is fired. VA health care is where the penny-pinching plays out.

The government battled Vietnam veterans for decades on the effects of a jungle defoliant. The mental stress of war has been downplayed. It’s only in recent years that victims of the jungle defoliant and post-traumatic stress syndrome have been treated with compassion, rather than suspicion or indifference. But that also means more patients at the VA. Claims doubled from 2009 to 2012, and more troops will be streaming home from Afghanistan soon.

Before we leap into another war, the American people must demand “Mission: Accomplished” for veterans.

Congress is covered. Here’s a way members of Congress can match their patriotic rhetoric on veterans. Stop treating defense spending as a government jobs programs, and then pass some of the savings along to VA health care.

The Pentagon has been lobbying Congress to end outdated weapons programs, close more military bases and rein in some personnel costs, so it can reorganize and be more responsive to modern-day threats. In response, the House of Representatives voted recently to spend like a drunken sailor, giving the Pentagon more than it requested.

This never happens with VA budgets.

The Pentagon said it wanted to retire the Cold War-era U2 spy plane and the A-10 Warthog, and forgo the modernization of 11 Navy cruisers. It also wanted to start another round of base closures, saying it had more than it needed.

Requests denied.

The House overwhelmingly passed a $601 billion defense authorization bill in an election year. It looks like the Senate will also ignore some of the Pentagon’s cost-cutting, too.

“We ducked every difficult decision,” said Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.

That’s easy to do when campaigns are deemed the front lines, and politicians are covering their own flanks.

Associate Editor Gary Crooks can be reached at or (509) 459-5026. Follow him on Twitter @GaryCrooks.


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