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Wednesday, January 29, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Syndicated columns

Smart Bombs: Benghazi ‘scandal’ on hiatus

As you may have heard – though probably not on Fox News – the House Intelligence Committee, run by Republicans, recently released a report that turns the Benghazi “bombshells” into duds. No advance warning of the attack. No “stand down” order issued to the military. No willful deceit in producing erroneous accounts of what happened.

I recently caught up with Benghazi Scandal, which agreed to sit down for an interview.

What will you do now that this report ends your reason for being?

First, I’m going to take some time off – a nice, quiet island vacation. As you know, I’ve been going full-bore for two years.

Yes, I recently read that Fox News did a hundred or so segments on the mythical stand down order alone.

Sounds about right. The producers had me on speed dial. Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and the rest of that bunch just wouldn’t give me a rest.

Did the intense interest surprise you?

Absolutely. So fast and furious. Numerous U.S. embassies, consulates and diplomatic stations have been attacked over the years. None of those events got the scandal treatment. And then for a presidential candidate to immediately turn me into a political attack before the facts were known? Unprecedented.

We do seem to be living in a hyperpolitical time, don’t we?

Tell me about it. As I was saying to my buddies Ebola and Birth Certificate, the scandal industry is one of the few manufacturing sectors experiencing growth. It takes less and less to be promoted to “scandal.” Just need one party to be outraged and a media outlet that’s willing to recycle baseless charges. In the past, scandals yielded jail time and lessons learned. Now they just boost TV ratings.

House Speaker John Boehner said the House Select Committee may still take a look at you next year.

Yeah, that would be the seventh or eighth time. Good thing I kept my punch card for the Capitol Hill coffee shop.

So you’ll show up?

Sure. I’ll be tanned, rested and ready to go.

Strange bedfellows. Five years ago, President Barack Obama cast insurance companies as the heavies in selling the need for reform. Today, the president and the industry are practically allies. Whatever differences they have are worked out in private.

The New York Times recently published an article that traces the arc of this transformation.

In 2010, the health care bill was stalled in Congress, and Republican Scott Brown had just won a Massachusetts Senate seat in a race that was seen as a referendum on reform. Then WellPoint, a giant health insurance company, inadvertently tossed the president a lifeline by announcing a 39 percent increase for premiums in California. The company’s chief executive officer also wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal calling reform a threat to the insurance industry.

This switched the momentum back to reformers, a bill was passed and insurance companies have become smitten.

WellPoint recently told shareholders it’s gained 751,000 new customers through the health care exchanges and 699,000 through Medicaid. Aetna, which once thought 2014 would “spell the death of our industry,” is having a banner year. Government health care programs now account for more than 40 percent of its premiums. UnitedHealth Group is predicting $60 billion in revenue derived from government work, and it’s planning to offer plans on 23 state exchanges, up from four.

When the HealthCare.gov website had a great fall, the insurance industry helped put it back together again.

The political turnabout is so dramatic that if Republicans try to repeal the ACA, they’ll face strong resistance from longtime allies and campaign contributors. Not to mention the millions of people who are now insured.

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

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