JOURNAL EDITORIAL REPORT

Will Democrats stage a post-holiday ObamaCare revolt?

Lawmakers return home to angry constituents

 

This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," November 23, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

DAVID ASMAN, GUEST HOST (voice-over): This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," the administration hints it won't meet its deadline to fix the health care website as lawmakers prepare to head home for the holidays and face angry constituents. Is an ObamaCare delay just a matter of time?

Plus, a record settlement with JPMorgan has the Justice Department crowing, but who are the real winners in this $13 billion payout?

And as the country commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, we will examine new evidence of a Castro connection.

(on camera): And welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm David Asman, in for Paul Gigot.

The Obama administration all but admitted this week that it will not meet its own deadline to get healthcare.gov up and running. With HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius softening her November 30th deadline, saying the website would, quote, "be a work of constant improvement." And another official telling Congress a whopping 30 percent of the online federal exchange still hasn't been built.

So how in the world will supporters of ObamaCare defend the new laws as the deadline comes and goes and as those policy cancellations keep rolling in, particularly as they head home and mingle with a lot of unhappy constituents during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, something Republican Senator Marco Rubio says may be a game changer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-FLA.: This law cannot be saved. It will have to be repealed. The question is, how long will it take for Democrats to realize that and cooperate in that endeavor? So far, I think at the upper echelons of the Democratic Party, they're still being very stubborn about it, but my prediction is, check back in eight weeks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ASMAN: Joining the panel this week, Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; Washington columnist, Kim Strassel; and assistant editorial page editor, James Freeman.

So, Dan, this is going to be quite a sight, when lawmakers go home to face their constituents. I'm thinking back to 2010 and those Tea Party town halls. Are we going to see a re-do of that?

DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: Yes, I think we probably will, David. But the people who are there are not going to be members of the Tea Party. They're just going to be average Americans. They're going to come in and they're going to be very upset about the stories that they have heard of people having their insurance policies canceled, either personally or friends. There's been enough of them that virtually everybody, all of us knows someone who had their insurance canceled. They're going to demand these Democratic lawmakers explain what the heck they thought they were doing. It's going to be very difficult for them to defend the law right now.

So I think the more that they get pressed -- look, let me give you one example. Dianne Feinstein, Senator from California, went back home recently, came to Washington and said she's signing on to Senator Mary Landrieu's bill to force the companies to continue these insurance policies. She's from a safe seat! She must have really got it in the neck back in California. And that's going to happen all over the country.

ASMAN: Kim, you have these Democratic fixes. You have Democrats admitting that there are mistakes, but that we've got the fixes that are going to work. Are constituents going to believe them?

KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST: Those are exactly what you suggest, they're cover. So the Landrieu bill would require insurers to continue offering the plan. The Kay Hagan bill that would extend enrollment for a certain amount of time. People are rapidly realizing those aren't going to work. They're not going to offer any real relief. If Democrats did such a phenomenal job of creating a law to destroy the insurance markets, that there are no quick fixes. And so they can talk about all this but you've got insurers saying they can't comply with rules like that in such a short period of time. And so you are not going to have any Democrats going down and convincing people that this is the way that things are going to get better. It's just not going to happen.

ASMAN: Particularly, James, after you've seen these very public pratfalls. You've seen all of these Democrats falling on their face trying to prove that the thing works when it doesn't work. In fact, you had -- Sebelius was down in Florida for a photo op, supposedly to show how smooth things were operating. Take a look at what happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's great that this is happening.

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: Well, it's been a long time coming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- temporarily down.

SEBELIUS: Uh-oh.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's OK. It will come back. That happens every day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

ASMAN: So, James, you know, they try to put the best face on.

(LAUGHTER)

They have a photo op where everybody's supposed to cooperate, make it look good, and they fall flat on their face.

JAMES FREEMAN, ASSISTANT EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR: Yeah, that happens every day. Maybe they were talking about government generally or ObamaCare specifically or the website. But I'm glad you noted in the opening there that much of the system hasn't been built. It hasn't had the chance to fail yet because much of it doesn't exist.

But I thought the most interesting moment this week is when the president said, at our "Wall Street Journal" CEO council, that ObamaCare needs to be remarketed and rebranded. I think he still doesn't understand the underlying architecture will not work. So even after they get the website up and running, if, when, whenever that is, this system of throwing people out of insurance and giving them more expensive policies they don't want, is not sustainable.

ASMAN: That's the point, Dan, is that really the website is the smallest of their problems. It's the policy cancellations, the sky-high premium. Those are going to last. Those are much more powerful.

HENNINGER: Those are not going away at all, David. I think one of the things we haven't mentioned here that's very, very important -- James alluded to it -- was that Barack Obama sits at the top of this mess. He is the president of the United States. Two things are happening to him. His credibility is being eroded. And the competence of his White House and his administration is being eroded. For a president, those are two very dangerous things, to have your credibility and competence so called into question as this.

Now, if these Democrats go back at Thanksgiving and get into as much trouble as they inevitably are going to, they're going to come back to Washington and start deciding, we've got to put some distance between us and this White House. You may be seeing the development of a veto-proof majority to delay the individual mandate for a year.

ASMAN: We talked about the danger for Democrats. Let's talk about the opportunities for Republicans.

Kim, you had a terrific piece in Friday's "Journal" about the opportunities for Republicans. Spell that out for us.

STRASSEL: Well, there's a debate going on right now within the Republican caucus about whether or not they should just sit back and continue to let this health care bill fail or whether or not now is the opportune moment to get out there, which is certainly my view, and start talking about free-market and innovative health care, the sort of reforms that they would want to do, making very clear that it's not their goal to go back to the system before ObamaCare, which was not perfect by any means, but that they had a lot of proposals that would both move us beyond the terrible mess that is ObamaCare, but also move us into a system that's far better than what we had already. And they've got the architecture for that. There's some reticence. People are worried about making themselves the story. But there's never been a time when the American public is better educated on the issues of ObamaCare, and where they have been more unhappy about what's happening in Washington and perhaps open to those sort of free-market changes.

ASMAN: And, James, Republicans have had experience in pilling defeat out of the jaws of victory in the past. I mean, is it possible they could make some deal with Democrats that may delay the opportunities they could gain from this?

FREEMAN: Well, I think it will be a mistake for them to do any kind of deal to give Democrats cover to pretend that the problem of ObamaCare has been solved. Any deal they do, then they sort of own the result. So even a one-year delay in the mandate, while we sort of welcome that from an individual freedom point of view, remember, that just hastens the economic collapse of these exchanges. That doesn't do anything for people whose insurance has been destroyed, for people who can't get the coverage they want. Not a solution.

ASMAN: All right.

Great stuff, everybody.

Coming up next, it's been hailed as a victory for consumers with JPMorgan Chase agreeing to pay a record $13 billion settlement over toxic mortgages, but you're not going to believe where that money is likely to go. Hang on. More to come.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ASMAN: Well, the Obama Justice Department is taking a victory lap after this week's record $13 billion settlement with JPMorgan Chase for its alleged role in the financial crisis and the sale of mortgage-backed securities. The left is applauding the agreement as a victory for consumers. And Attorney General Eric Holder is promising it won't be the last. Saying Tuesday, quote, "The size and scope of this resolution should send a clear signal that the Justice Department's financial fraud investigations are far from over."

But, where is all that money really going? And is there a political motive underlying the administration's case against the bank?

We're back with Dan Henninger and James Freeman. And Wall Street Journal editorial board member, Mary Kissel, also joins the panel.

James, there's not a lot of sympathy out there with the people for banks. But I have trouble figuring out who the victim was in all this.

FREEMAN: Yeah, I think the Justice Department had trouble, too. You're right, a lot of Americans, angry about the Wall Street bailouts in 2008, I'm one of them. Here, we have one of the banks that did not need a bailout, did not run to the government for a rescue. Actually help the government take over banks that were failing because they made all the mistakes. And now the government suing JPMorgan for the crimes, or alleged offenses, of those ailing banks that they took over at the government's request. It's just incredible bad faith on the part of the government. And I think -- you mentioned the political motives. We can get into that. But this is a CEO who has criticized the Dodd/Frank financial law.

ASMAN: That's an interesting point, Mary. The fact is that this is - - the banker who runs JPMorgan Chase, Jamie Dimon, who has been very critical of the Obama administration.

MARY KISSEL, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: Yes, Jamie Dimon is one of the big CEOs that's come out and spoken out against what happened with Fannie and Freddie and government regulation. And as James says, where is this money going?

ASMAN: That's a good question. Where is it going?

KISSEL: It's going -- $2 billion is going to the Justice Department to do with it what it likes, $7 billion to federal and state agencies, and $4 billion to consumers. Now, David, are these consumers who were truly harmed? Are these people who were paying their mortgages and foreclosed on? That's very unclear. What I do know is that some very prominent attorney generals here, who have political aspirations. The New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, California Attorney General Kamala Harris, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, they're all getting payouts, too. And I'll bet you that's going to help their political careers.

ASMAN: And, Dan, the question is whether -- a lot of money goes to these groups like ACORN. We all remember ACORN, which, of course, doesn't exist anymore, but the people are still around and they've formed other organizations, and maybe they're going to get a piece of this pie.

HENNINGER: Undoubtedly, they will. One of the things that Morgan's being required to do is to take measures to alleviate what the settlement calls urban blight. And they're going to have a monitor who decides whether they're doing enough to alleviate urban blight. And if they don't, they'll have to give money to these groups.

David, we're talking about making a bank an arm of the government, a vassal of the government. And though the banks are not sympathetic players, for sure, we want them to function in the economy. They should be making loans. They should be doing the sort of things that they were created to do. And they're really pulling back because, as Eric Holder said, there are going to be more of these prosecutions. As a result, the economy remains flat. And that also means that all of those poor people sitting out there in America without jobs and no prospects of being hired are not going to find an economy that creates jobs.

ASMAN: So is there a message here, James, to banks out there, saying, unless you do what we, the administration, wants, you're going to get hit just like JPMorgan did?

FREEMAN: Yeah, I think that's the message. The message is that the war on business continues.

And to try and answer your original question, where are these victims, they're very hard to find in the documents. But the $2 billion that Mary mentioned to the Justice Department, this is allegedly for JPMorgan harming itself.

ASMAN: Interesting.

FREEMAN: By doing things that the Justice Department didn't like.

ASMAN: Yeah.

FREEMAN: I mean, it's -- trying to make sense of this case is -- it's just beyond weird. And I think a negative signal for all those reasons we talked about for people who want the free economy to rebound.

KISSEL: Want the free economy to rebound. It's an attack on JPMorgan. It's an attack on capitalism broadly but it's also an attack on bank shareholders. This money isn't coming out of the sky. This money is coming out of JPMorgan. I'm telling you, many mutual funds across the country. So if you're saving money in you're 401K, you've likely got JPMorgan in it. And as James said, these attacks are going to continue.

ASMAN: So people who actually did what the government is saying was bad, Dad, aren't even there anymore. It's the shareholders of the bank that are paying the cost, not the people who did the bad things.

HENNINGER: Yeah, I think we've made clear what is going on here is how to transfer capital out of the private sector, through these banks, and into the public sector, as Mary said, attorneys general and the Justice Department, could distribute for other purposes. That's basically what it is.

ASMAN: More cash for the government.

When we come back, as the country commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, new evidence of a Cuban connection. Did Fidel Castro play a role in the death of a president?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ASMAN: Friday marked 50 years since President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. And the anniversary has sparked a new round of speculation about whether Lee Harvey Oswald got a little help or at least some inspiration for his murderous plot from a man that Kennedy wanted dead, Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro.

Brian Latell is a veteran CIA Cuba analyst who has been looking into all this. His new book, "Castro's Secrets," explains a lot about what went on.

Brian, good to see you. Thank you for coming in.

Did Castro know anything about Lee Harvey Oswald before Kennedy was shot?

BRIAN LATELL, FORMER CIA CUBA ANALYST & AUTHOR: David, this is one of the big surprises that I uncovered doing the research on this book. Fidel Castro and Cuban Intelligence had undoubtedly a thick file on Oswald that they began accumulating as early as 1959.

ASMAN: Whoa.

LATELL: That's the first year of the revolution. And think of it also -- think of how shocking that is in the context of what Fidel Castro said publicly about 30 hours after Kennedy was killed. Castro went on Cuban television the day after Kennedy's death and he told anybody who was listening, we never in our life heard of him, Oswald, we never heard of him. It was a flagrant lie. Cuban Intelligence had plenty, plenty of evidence and knowledge of Lee Harvey Oswald.

ASMAN: And particularly in those early days after the revolution, Castro kept a very personal, close hold on all of the intelligence information. So if the Cuban Intelligence had it, clearly, Fidel Castro did, right?

LATELL: Fidel was the supreme spy master. Fidel, for 48 years, ran Cuban Intelligence almost out of his back pocket. It was the thing -- it was the public affairs activity that he loved to do the most.

ASMAN: All right, well, we know that Oswald went to Mexico in September of 1963, just a of couple months before the assassination. Why did he go there? And what connection did he have with the Cubans when he went there?

LATELL: David, he went to Mexico because he wanted to defect to Cuba. His wife believed that -- this was the conclusion of the Warren Commission. It's not something exotic today, by way of conclusions. He wanted to defect. He wanted to go and help Fidel. He wanted to fight for the Cuban Revolution. He adored Fidel and the Cuban Revolution. So he went to Mexico to get the visa that he needed. He never got it. But he met at the Cuban consulate with several Cuban Intelligence officers.

ASMAN: Including a woman he had an affair with or a fling with.

LATELL: She was Mexican. She was the secretary at the consulate. And he did apparently have an affair with this woman.

ASMAN: OK. You interviewed a lot of former spies, Cuban spies, who have defected to the United States, including a guy named Florentino Aspillaga. Now, on November 22nd, the day Kennedy was assassinated, what happened to Aspillaga?

LATELL: Aspillaga was a young intelligence officer. He did communications intercept intelligence. His assignment was to listen in on CIA communications -- Langley, Miami, CIA ships hovering off the Cuban coast. And that was his exclusive assignment until the morning of November 22nd. He got orders that morning from his headquarters: cease all of your activities aimed at CIA and focus instead on Texas. I said, when was that? What time was that? Kennedy was killed, of course, at 12:30 Dallas time. I said, what time was it? He said, it was about three hours before Kennedy was killed.

ASMAN: This is a bombshell, Brian.

LATELL: Yeah.

ASMAN: This is an absolute bombshell. So it seems that the Cubans had advance notice of Oswald's assassination of Kennedy?

LATELL: This is what my source concluded. And after doing extraordinary amounts of due diligence in terms of checking him out and checking out his story as best I could, I concluded the same thing.

ASMAN: And yet, the Warren Commission didn't seem to be interested.

LATELL: Well, the Warren Commission overlooked the -- it looked at the Cuban angle but not very carefully.

ASMAN: Is that because they knew they'd find out that there was a U.S. plot to kill Castro?

LATELL: I think the White House feared that. I think the Johnson White House feared that. I wouldn't fault the Warren Commission and the staff for covering up. But the CIA covered up and the FBI covered up.

ASMAN: By the way, we've got to go, but didn't Johnson always believe that Cuba had a hand in it?

LATELL: He did. Yes, he did.

ASMAN: Brian Latell. "Castro's Secrets" is the name of the book.

Thank you so much for coming in.

LATELL: Thank you, David.

ASMAN: Fascinating stuff.

We have to take one more break. When we come back, out "Hits and Misses" of the week. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ASMAN: It is time now for our "Hits and Misses" of the week.

Dan, first to you.

HENNINGER: Well, a big hit to the comedian, Bill Cosby. Cosby went on Jon Stewart's "Daily Show" the other day and told Jon Stewart that he really ought to stop all the cursing and swearing he does in his public stages performances. Cosby said cursing used to be a serious business, but now people are doing it just to get laughs. I mean, boy, is Bill Cosby ever right. Little kids are cursing and swearing now because they have learned it from adults. I think this is a really big hit for the great Bill Cosby.

ASMAN: By the way, how did Stewart take it?

HENNINGER: He said, I was speaking Yiddish.

(LAUGHTER)

ASMAN: Yeah, but he tried to make a joke of it and Bill Cosby wouldn't have it.

(CROSSTALK)

ASMAN: Yeah.

Mary, what do you have for us?

KISSEL: I'm giving a big miss to the Environmental Protection Agency which, for 23 years, employed a guy named John C. Beale, of the Office of Air and Regulation. Well, Mr. Beale pretended to be a CIA agent for part of the time. He bilked the agency out of almost $1 million. In 2008, he took six months off. Nobody seemed to care. This is an agency where the inspector general says there's a, quote, "absence of even basic controls." These are the people who are supposed to be regulating vast swaths of our economy? What a mess.

ASMAN: Government at your service.

And to the former Wall Street Journal foreign correspondent, Everett G. Martin, died last week at the age of 87. Ev covered many of the 20th century's most exciting and dangerous events. In Vietnam, he tagged along with Special Forces guys behind enemy lines. He was kidnapped by bandits in the Khyber Pass and he dodged bullets in Chile during the 1973 military coup. Ev's talent attracted the likes of author, John Steinbeck, who said of Ev's writing, and I quote, "It is lean and sparse and alive and true. It has the keen and penetrating quality of good writing." But Ev Martin was not only a good writer, he was a good man, and he will be sorely missed.

That's it for this week's show. I'm David Asman. Thanks for watching us. You can catch me weekday afternoons on "After the Bell" on the Fox Business Network.

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