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• New caveat on Obama pledge: Pay to keep your doctor
• No hiding sticker shock on revamped ObamaCare site
• ATF under fire for domestic gunrunning stings
• Huckabee a base player in S.C.
• Surprised by ‘Joy’
NEW CAVEAT ON OBAMA PLEDGE: PAY TO KEEP YOUR DOCTOR - Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a top architect of ObamaCare and one of the top salesmen for the troubled health law, added a major condition to President Obama’s oft-repeated pledge that Americans would be able to keep their current doctors after the law was imposed. Chris Wallace pinned Emanuel down on the promise during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.” Emanuel initially sought to wave off the looming worries about disruptions in the “Doc Shock” as caregivers and hospitals either reject government insurance or new ObamaCare approved policies don’t give access to previously available practitioners. Emanuel claimed it was “a matter of choice” whether Americans would buy insurance that covered top-quality care. “The president guaranteed me I could keep my doctor,” Wallace finally demanded. “And if you want to, you can pay for it,” Emanuel said. Check it out here.
[WSJ: “It's nice to hear a central planner embrace choice, except this needs translating too. The truth is that you may be able to pay more to keep your doctor, but only after you choose one of ObamaCare's preferred plans that already costs you more than your old plan that ObamaCare forced you to give up.]
What is this ObamaCare of which you speak? - “No one has launched a big PR campaign to get these people signed up because of the problems with the federal Web site. We are about to launch a big PR campaign, and that, I think, is going to persuade a lot of people to sign up.” – Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, one of the architects of ObamaCare, on “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.”
[Watch Fox: Correspondent Shannon Bream looks at the legal challenges to ObamaCare’s contraception mandate and how successful they could be.]
NO HIDING STICKER SHOCK ON REVAMPED OBAMACARE SITE - The revamped online home of ObamaCare launched early this morning, with the site now allowing visitors to see costs before enrolling. NYT reports, “For policies offered in the federal exchange, as in many states, the annual deductible often tops $5,000 for an individual and $10,000 for a couple… Higher deductibles are one tool that insurers can use to hold down premiums. Many have also held down premiums on the exchanges by limiting the choices of doctors and hospitals available to consumers in their provider networks.”
[Watch Fox: correspondent Peter Doocy examines the costs and continued concerns with ObamaCare’s problem plagued Web site.]
WORSENING WOES FOR MARYLAND OBAMACARE - With low enrollment and massive technical problems, Maryland’s ObamaCare program is becoming a poster child for the state-level failings previously overshadowed by the program’s federal-level crash. Director Rebecca Pearce resigned over criticism for taking a Cayman Islands vacation in the midst of the crash. It spells trouble for early ObamaCare supporter Gov. Martin O’Malley, D-Md., as he weighs a 2016 presidential bid. WSJ has more.
[Gov. Martin O’Malley, D-Md., is making his first foray on the international stage with a trip to El Salvador. O’Malley is in Central America to formalize an agreement between Baltimore-Washington International Airport and El Salvador International Airport.]
TOP TWEETS - @laurenashburn’s top tweet pick for this morning from @realDonaldTrump: “The Unaffordable Care Act, sometimes referred to as ObamaCare, is not working. Millions of people are losing their plans and doctors-fraud!”
Lauren Ashburn of “#MEDIABUZZ” tracks the Twitterverse every day in Top Twitter Talk.]
just Someone set us up the Medicaid bomb! - Michael D. Tanner, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, writes in The Medicaid Time Bomb that 1.46 million of about 1.6 million Americans enrolled in ObamaCare have actually signed up for Medicaid. “If that trend continues, it could bankrupt both federal and state governments… Already Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid account for 48% of federal spending. Within the next few years, those three programs will eat up more than half of federal expenditures.”
CRUZ TOP LAWMAKER AT MANDELA MEMORIAL - It’s no shock that President Obama is heading to South Africa today for Tuesday’s state funeral of Nelson Mandela, but heads snapped at the announcement of the ranking U.S. lawmaker at the service: Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Cruz will be the only senator to attend, though many members of the House will be on hand, particularly those in the Congressional Black Caucus. Cruz took a lot of heat this weekend from supporters and detractors alike for his tribute to Mandela on Facebook.
Gingrich asks conservative critics of Mandela’s early tactics: “What would you have done?” - “After years of preaching non-violence… Mandela resorted to violence against a government that was ruthless and violent in its suppression of free speech. As Americans we celebrate the farmers at Lexington and Concord who used force to oppose British tyranny. We praise George Washington for spending eight years in the field fighting the British Army’s dictatorial assault on our freedom. Patrick Henry said, ‘Give me liberty or give me death.’” – Newt Gingrich in a statement posted on his Web site.
What will you do now? - Former South African Foreign Minister Pik Botha, who served during the final years of the apartheid era, reflects on Nelson Mandela for Fox News Opinion: “His death is irreversible, his legacy, undying. All of us, the government, the voters, civil society, the churches, are faced with an inescapable challenge: are we going to honor and sustain his legacy or deviate from it.”
Which way to the Axis of Evil box? - More than 70 world leaders will be in South Africa this week to attend the memorial for Nelson Mandela, including Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Cuban leader Raul Castro and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe leading some to believe there could be some uncomfortable encounters with President Obama. As Breitbart points out, it’s a two-way street, Islamist members of the Iranian press wonder if it is a “’trap’ laid by the ‘great Satan.’”
ATF UNDER FIRE FOR DOMESTIC GUNRUNNING STINGS - The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel uncovered some highly questionable tactics being employed by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms across the country. The revelation stemmed from the discovery of a head shop in Milwaukee that was a front for an ATF sting and led to the discovery of similar practices around the nation. “ATF agents befriended mentally disabled people to drum up business and later arrested them in at least four cities in addition to Milwaukee. In Wichita, Kan., ATF agents referred to a man with a low IQ as "slow-headed" before deciding to secretly use him as a key cog in their sting. And agents in Albuquerque, N.M., gave a brain-damaged drug addict with little knowledge of weapons a "tutorial" on machine guns, hoping he could find them one.” Other alleged tactics included enticing teenagers to drink and smoke pot at government-provide hangouts and paying the disabled to get neck tattoos advertizing a bogus pot paraphernalia store.
[Watch Fox: Chief Political Correspondent Carl Cameron has the latest developments on the ATF’s controversial tactics.]
Cops use phony cell towers to grab data - Nearly one in four local law-enforcement agencies are engaging in a tactic known as “tower dumping.” The tactic gives police data concerning the identity, activity and location of any phone that connects to a targeted cell phone tower over a set span of time. According to records obtained by USA Today, several agencies also set up fake cell towers as part of a program called “Stingray” that tricks nearby phones into connecting to a police data feed.
OPTIMISM BLOOMS FOR SMALL SCALE BUDGET DEAL - Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, signaled they wouldn’t stand in the way of a budget deal. A contentious point has been Democrats’ calls for extending 99-week unemployment benefits set to expire towards the end of the month, but speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” Durbin said, “I don’t think we’ve reached a point where we’ve said this is it, take it or leave it.” Portman echoed those statements by saying the issue should be dealt with separately, outside of the budget. House and Senate negotiators have a self-imposed deadline of this Friday the 13th, to present a deal. While this agreement could skirt another government shutdown, Congress is not completely out of the woods yet. Their next battle will be a Feb. 7 deadline—when the Treasury will seek another debt limit increase. Fox News has more.
WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE...Economist James Pethokoukis of the conservative American Enterprise Institute tackles President Obama’s charges against Ronald Reagan’s economic policies in Income-Inequality Revisionism: “Many Americans recall the 1980s as the beginning of an improbable Long Boom when pro-market policies reversed what at the time had seemed like unstoppable economic decline. [Obama], however, described the Reagan revolution as the moment when the postwar ‘social contract began to unravel’ and ‘trickle-down ideology became more permanent,’ leading to decades of dangerously unbalanced economic growth… If we’re going to do a lot better, though, we need to draw the right lessons from the past – not distort it to promote stale ideological agendas.”
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POLL CHECK - Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval: Approve – 40.1 percent//Disapprove – 55.4 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 25.0 percent//Wrong Track – 66.0 percent
HUCKABEE A BASE PLAYER IN SOUTH CAROLINA - Former Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., is pretty obviously having fun hosting his weekend show on Fox News, but a new poll out of South Carolina may inspire him to slip his running shoes back on. The poll from Gravis Marketing shows Huckabee ahead of the pack among potential Republican 2016 candidates in the Palmetto State. Huckabee leads with 18 percent, but former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., is close behind with 17 percent. Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., clocks in at 14 percent, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, holds the floor with 13 percent and Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky. and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., each saw 8 percent support.
CAMPAIGNS BEGIN AT HOME - Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., emphasized the importance of his family in deciding whether he will seek the presidency in 2016. However, he is “seriously thinking about it.” Paul told “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace” that his wife is currently saying “no” to a possible run and that he fears how politics take “a toll on family.”
CANTOR LAMENTS VIRGINIA WOES - Virginia Republican leaders spent the weekend licking their wounds and putting together a strategy for the next election at a weekend retreat at The Homestead. From the Roanoke Times: “[House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said] that recent election defeats ‘have inflamed a lot of tension and, as a result, we’ve been witnessing a lot of finger-pointing and a lot of blame and feelings of resentment. When our party is not united, and when we fail to offer a plan that connects with people and the problems they’re having, we lose at the ballot box,” Cantor said.” The party will hold a June 7 convention to nominate a challenger to take on Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. Former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie confirms to The Washington Post that he is considering a run.
YOU HAVE A SEAT ON THE PANEL: OH, THE IRONY - President Obama’s touting corporate success is ironic after spending most of his presidency championing the role of government in American enterprise. That was the sentiment viewers shared with Charles Krauthammer during Friday’s “Special Report with Bret Baier.” As measured by Bing Pulse, all parties agreed with Krauthammer when he called Friday’s jobs report “good” and that after five years progress is finally being seen. Both genders showed strong disagreement with the president’s statement, “I have an open door policy where I want people to be bringing me bad news on time so that we can fix things.”
Discussion of who should take the fall for ObamaCare’s botched rollout saw heightened viewer engagement. Weekly Standard Senior Writer Stephen Hayes drew agreement across the spectrum when he noted the president has not fired anyone over the rollout debacle. Krauthammer saw high agreement from both genders with his quip, it was as if President Obama “wandered into the White House on a White House tour and discovered himself in the Oval Office as president.” Bing Pulse tracked 164,000 viewer votes, take a deeper data dive and see the full results here. Julie Pace, Stephen Hayes, and Charles Krauthammer will take their seats on the panel tonight, now you can too.
SUPER TROOPERS - Vermont State Police had to corral about 10 chickens that were creating a traffic hazard on I-89 early last week. Officials were able to corral the birds back under a fence by the interstate and get them back to their coop without injury. WPTZ has the story.
IF ONLY IN MY DREAMS…Mark Steyn shares the history of “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” including lawsuits, a missing document and Tojo: “Still, seven decades on, Walter Kent and Kim Gannon's seasonal insurance policy is as sung and recorded as any entry in the American Songbook. Thirty-two bars, nine lines of lyric, but with an awful lot of America in them: those ‘presents on the tree’ from last century's oughts, a gift for a faraway Jewish mother in the Twenties, homesick GIs sitting cross-legged on faraway shores and listening to Bing on USO Christmas tours... ‘Christmas Eve will find me/Where the love-light gleams/I'll be Home for Christmas/If only in my dreams.’”
SURPRISED BY JOY - If you’re struggling to tap into your Christmas spirit, you will be hard pressed to find anything better than this: The Air Force Band pulling a massive flash mob concert at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum to deliver a soul-swelling rendition of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” Even Frank Cross would well up.
[Ed. note: But how did they hide the harp?!?!?”]
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C.