Open thread: Man to survey smoking ruins of his credibility in year-end press conference

You know how this goes. The White House says the presser is scheduled for 2 p.m., so figure on 2:40 at the earliest. I’m not sure if there’s any official business or if he’s there simply to field the inevitable “Duck Dynasty” question from the White House press corps. He’ll probably formally announce Max Baucus’s nomination as ambassador to China. He might also announce which recommendations he’ll be adopting from the report issued by the White House’s panel on NSA surveillance. Read this for background if you missed it the other day. It looks like he’s ready to make a few semi-significant changes, if only to end the relentless beating he’s been taking on this issue. Case in point:

A member of the White House review panel on NSA surveillance said he was “absolutely” surprised when he discovered the agency’s lack of evidence that the bulk collection of telephone call records had thwarted any terrorist attacks.

“It was, ‘Huh, hello? What are we doing here?’” said Geoffrey Stone, a University of Chicago law professor, in an interview with NBC News. “The results were very thin.”

While Stone said the mass collection of telephone call records was a “logical program” from the NSA’s perspective, one question the White House panel was seeking to answer was whether it had actually stopped “any [terror attacks] that might have been really big.”

“We found none,” said Stone.

Zero evidence that the metadata program is disrupting attacks — which is exactly what Judge Leon found when he asked the DOJ to give him proof that all of this surveillance was accomplishing something. I think O’s actually in a similar position on the NSA right now as he was on ObamaCare a few years ago insofar as he’s prevented for political reasons from making the argument he really wants to make. The argument he wanted to make on O-Care was, “Yeah, people who can afford it will have to pay a little more for insurance. Covering the sick and the poor is expensive. The middle class will have to give a little to help those less fortunate.” In utopia, though, the state doesn’t force some to lose so that others might win; that’s how we ended up with the “if you like your plan” crapola. Under ObamaCare, everybody wins! On the NSA, I suspect he’d like to say, “Yes, it’s true that we don’t have any major counterterror victories from this process yet, but the technology’s getting better all the time. We will, sooner than you think, reach the point where AI can put pieces of collected data together instantaneously to sniff out terror plots in the making. NASA had to put some rinky dink satellites into orbit before it learned how to go to the moon, right?” He can’t argue that, though, because then everyone would freak out about the feds’ surveillance capabilities heading towards Total Information Awareness and “Minority Report.” So he’s got to stick to the “no, really, it’s working” talking point to defend the program until it finally does produce some concrete achievement to show its critics.

Speaking of which, here’s where we are on the Great Boondoggle as I write this:

I’m surprised HHS decided to roll a grenade into the insurance industry’s tent last night, before O’s presser, rather than wait until this evening after he’s already on his way to Waikiki. Maybe he decided that was a touch too weaselly even for him. Sure, he’ll dump a new load of chaotic “fixes” onto insurers right before Christmas to cover his ass politically and then jet off to Hawaii while they try to pick up the pieces. And yeah, he’ll kneecap his biggest liberal fans by putting a major crack in the individual mandate and setting insurers up for serious adverse selection problems next year now that millions of consumers can opt for cheap “catastrophic coverage” instead. But he won’t do it without giving the press a few minutes to make him squirm on TV. That’s how a responsible leader, who’s now making the law up as he goes along, handles adversity.

Here’s your thread to comment while you watch. Exit question via RB Pundit: If, per the Supreme Court, the mandate is a tax duly enacted by Congress, how can HHS decide unilaterally to suspend it for some consumers?

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