NCDP Clips September 24, 2013


News and Observer: NC Medicaid director resigns after eight months on job
The state Medicaid director has resigned after only eight months on the job, raising more questions about troubles at the state’s program to provide health care to the poor. Carol Steckel, who took on responsibility for holding state Medicaid costs in check and for reshaping it into a managed care program, submitted a resignation letter Monday to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

WRAL: North Carolina’s Medicaid director leaving post
Carol Steckel is leaving her post as head of the state’s Medicaid program after less than nine months on the job.Gov. Pat McCrory hired Steckel, who had the same job in Louisiana, and before that Alabama, to run what he has consistently described as a "broken" Medicaid program. Now, it appears his chief mechanic of one of the state’s most expensive and troubled programs is about to leave the state. By way of a news release, Steckel says she has accepted a position with WellCare Health Plans in Tampa, Fla. Her last day will be "no later than" Oct. 11. She reported to Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos.

Reflector: Fitzsimon: McCrory short on DHHS
Amid the mounting criticism and scandals surrounding his Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos, Gov. Pat McCrory met briefly with reporters this week and said basically three things.He fully supports the embattled Wos, he doesn’t appreciate the media looking into the qualifications and the background of the people she is hiring and paying big salaries with taxpayer money, and he wants to make sure that people know she is working for $1 a year.That was it. No promise to look into how a colleague of Wos’ husband — who is a prominent donor to McCrory’s campaign — managed to get paid $228,000 for eight months of work on a personal services contract. No concern that Wos recently hired a co-founder of a local tea party group and anti-abortion activist who hadn’t worked in health care for more than 10 years to help guide the administration’s effort to privatize Medicaid.

Talking About Politics: Wos in Charge
Governor McCrory has to hope that Aldona Wos and the high-paid operatives around her pull off a miracle at DHHS. Because he clearly can’t fire her. Wos is the most powerful person in Raleigh today. Back in January, it looked like Budget Czar Art Pope was. Then, during the legislature, it was Senator Phil Berger. Now, it’s Wos. And now we know why. Since 2000, she and her husband have given over $600,000 to candidates and committees at the state and federal levels. They raised even more, much of it at their $5.9 million, secluded, fenced-in “turreted mansion” in Greensboro. She raised so much money for President Bush, he named her an ambassador. When you’re that rich and raise that much cash, nobody tells you no.

Politics NC: Just anybody
Well, one thing about the Department of Health and Human Services is certain: If it wasn’t really broken before Aldona Wos showed up on the scene, it sure is now. She and her boss, the Governor, like to mention what a mess they inherited. But it’s looking more and more like a mess they made. McCrory and Wos keep talking about this massive reform effort that is going fix a broken Medicaid system. Well, the woman they hired to oversee that effort, Carol Steckel, just left to take a more lucrative position. She was making over $200,000 a year so that must be one hell of a job. When Wos hired Steckel, she called it the “the first big victory” in her tenure at DHHS. It also was the only victory. And since Steckel bailed after only eight months, I guess it was really just another mistake. Since then, Wos has run off virtually every qualified senior manager at the department and hired a slew of political cronies with little or no public health experience. Every week, the department faces a new set of bad headlines. And almost every week, Pat McCrory defends Wos as a hardworking Secretary putting in long hours.


Politico: President Obama, Bill Clinton begin health care rollout
President Barack Obama will kick off his administration’s six-month rollout of Obamacare during a “conversation” Tuesday with former President Bill Clinton. With the Obamacare insurance exchanges set to open Oct. 1, the White House is deploying the president, first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Cabinet secretaries to encourage consumers to sign up for coverage before enrollment closes March 31, 2014. In addition to Tuesday’s event at the Clinton Global Initiative summit in Manhattan, Obama will deliver a “very personal speech” Thursday in Maryland on the “real-life impact of this law,” a senior White House official said Monday.“That is what defangs the politics of this thing,” the official said.Obama will also host a conference call with mayors and other state officials.

Reuters: Obama to address Iran, Syria, Mideast in U.N. speech
President Barack Obama will make clear on Tuesday that he wants to pursue a diplomatic path to resolve the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program in a U.N. General Assembly speech that will also cover events in Syria and the Middle East. In a speech scheduled for 10:10 a.m. EDT (1410), a White House official said Obama will lay out U.S. views in three areas: efforts to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, the international effort to gain control of Syria’s chemical weapons and the search for Israeli-Palestinian peace. It remained unclear whether Obama would have a direct encounter with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani while both are in New York on Tuesday. White House officials say Obama is open to such an encounter under the right conditions.

Bloomberg: Obama in Spotlight With Rohani as Iran Reaches Out
The U.S. and Iran will be on center stage at the United Nations today, with world leaders watching for any contact between President Barack Obama and Iran’s Hassan Rohani that may signal a thaw in relations. Both leaders have indicated an interest in closing a three-decade-old rupture between the two countries, and they potentially will cross paths at a UN luncheon. Obama is scheduled to address the gathering this morning; Rohani speaks to the General Assembly in the afternoon. Iran, which has the world’s fourth-largest proven oil reserves, is a central player in the U.S. approach to Syria’s civil war, nuclear proliferation and Middle East peace, and any interaction — even a handshake — would be a significant symbol of a shift in relations.“It’s been since the Jimmy Carter administration that we’ve had a serious, sustained conversation with the Iranians and now we have an opportunity to do that,” said Nicholas Burns, a former undersecretary of state who’s now a professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, referring to the administration of the 39th U.S. president. “President Obama is absolutely right to test it.”


The Washington Post: Why are 47 million Americans on food stamps? It’s the recession — mostly
There’s a fairly basic question at the core of the current food-stamp debate in Congress. Why has the program grown so rapidly over the past few years — to the point where 47 million Americans, one-sixth of the country, now receive food stamps? Defenders of the program typically argue that enrollment rose because we had a horrific recession and unemployment hit the stratosphere. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is supposed to kick in to help families hit by economic distress. The program has kept 4.7 million people out of poverty. There’s no problem here. And so on.

Roll Call: How Bad Is the GOP Rift? Worse Than Democrats in the 1980s
Political parties seem to suffer through internal battles periodically, but the current state of the GOP is much worse than what Democrats went through some 25 years ago, when organized labor and old-style liberals fought against the Democratic Leadership Council for the soul of the party.I still remember going to post-election events during the 1980s and watching Al From, then president of the DLC, blame his party’s presidential defeats on liberals and organized labor, only to have someone from the party’s liberal wing whale on From or Will Marshall, the DLC’s first policy director, as Republicans impersonating Democrats. Now, libertarian and tea party elements of the GOP are in open warfare with pragmatists and institutionalists. Republicans in the House and Senate taunt each other on a daily basis in newspapers or on cable television, which is only too happy to provide a platform. The structure of today’s parties and the way we consume news make it more difficult for the GOP to resolve its differences successfully.

Huffington Post: Nancy Pelosi: Republicans’ Goal Is Government Shutdown
Even before a budget deadline arrives, leaders from both parties are blaming each other – and some Republicans are criticizing their own – for a government shutdown many are treating as inevitable. The top Democrat in the House says Republicans are "legislative arsonists" who are using their opposition to a sweeping health care overhaul as an excuse to close government’s doors. A leading tea party antagonist in the Senate counters that conservatives should use any tool available to stop the Affordable Care Act from taking hold. President Bill Clinton’s labor secretary says the GOP is willing "to risk the entire system of government to get your way," while the House speaker who oversaw the last government shutdown urged fellow Republicans to remember "this is not a dictatorship." The unyielding political posturing on Sunday comes one week before Congress reaches an Oct. 1 deadline to dodge any interruptions in government services. While work continues on a temporary spending bill, a potentially more devastating separate deadline looms a few weeks later when the government could run out of money to pay its bills.

New York Times: Senate Democratic Leader Sets Stage for Budget Showdown
The Senate’s Democratic majority leader, Harry Reid, delivered a broadside this week to advocates of the House plan to tie future government financing to the gutting of President Obama’s health care law, starting the clock on a showdown that could be decided on the eve of the potential government shutdown next Tuesday. Facing opposition from the Senate’s most conservative hard-liners, Mr. Reid has set up a series of procedural tallies, starting on Wednesday, that should culminate on Sunday in votes to remove language from the House spending bill that would strip funding from the Affordable Care Act and then to pass a spending measure to keep the government operating through mid-December. It would be up to House Republican leaders to accept that Senate bill or precipitate a shutdown.
“We will not bow to Tea Party anarchists,” Mr. Reid said Monday, denouncing what he called “extremist Republicans” and “fanatics.”


The Daily Tarheel: Berger announces bid for re-election
N.C. Sen. President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, announced Monday that he would seek re-election and would not run to replace Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., in the U.S. Senate. This eliminates a would-be face-off between the two most powerful Republicans in the N.C. General Assembly: Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg. Tillis announced in May that he would be contending for Hagan’s seat. Berger said in a statement that he believed he would make more of a difference in his current position. “I’m proud of what our Republican Senate majority has accomplished over the past three legislative sessions, and there is still much more for us to do in the North Carolina Senate,” he said.

Bloomberg: McAuliffe: ‘A Good Campaign Manager’ – and Some Big Ads
If polling is to be believed, Democrat Terry McAuliffe has flipped his fortunes.In the contest with Republican Ken Cucinelli, a new Washington Post poll shows Virginians ready to elect McAuliffe by the same margin they were ready to hand Cucinelli not long ago. Television advertising must have something to do with both this and the 24-percentage-point advantage that McAuliffe holds among women — ads like a McAuliffe campaign commercial featuring a female obstetrician-gynecologist saying of the anti-abortion Republican attorney general of the Commonwealth: Why doesn’t he just do his job and let her do hers? McAuliffe leads Cucinelli by 47 percent to 39 percent among likely voters, the Post reports, with Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis’s 10 percent “suggesting an unrest among voters not satisfied with either major-party contender. ” In a one-on-one matchup without Sarvis, the survey reveals a narrower, 49-to-44-percentage-point race for McAuliffe and Cuccinelli.

Cody Enterprise: Lynne Cheney to Al Simpson: ‘Shut your mouth’ about Sen. Enzi
While former vice president Dick Cheney declined to comment about his daughter Liz’s U.S. Senate campaign while at public events in Lander on Saturday, his wife Lynne privately delivered harsh words on the subject to former senator Al Simpson that night. During the Patrons Ball, one of Wyoming’s premier annual black-tie events, Lynne Cheney told Simpson to “shut your mouth” about supporting incumbent Sen. Mike Enzi, according to a Facebook post that night by Simpson’s daughter-in-law Deb Simpson, wife of former Wyoming House Speaker Colin Simpson. Later on Monday in an interview with the Casper Star-Tribune, the Cheney campaign denied that Lynne Cheney made the comments. Deb Simpson’s post quickly attracted several dozen comments, shares and likes. People were continuing to follow the Facebook thread and posted new comments Monday.

Real Clear Politics: Sen. Graham in Toughest Re-Election of CareerSen.
Lindsey Graham is showing no signs of changing how he operates as he faces the biggest challenge of his political career. Willing to buck the public tide in South Carolina, Graham has backed military action against Syria, an immigration overhaul that sets a path to citizenship for some in the U.S. illegally and President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominees. "I’m conservative, but I do not mind one bit working with the other side to build my country up," he says in speeches to conservatives. "I’m a Ronald Reagan Republican." His three Republican challengers are coming at him from the right, arguing that he’s not conservative enough. They’re also noting that the 58-year-old lawyer has been in some political office since 1993 and shows no sign of stepping down soon unless he gets voted out. "This seat has been held for 59 years by two people," says one of his challengers, Nancy Mace, referring to Graham and the late Sen. Strom Thurmond.

Politico: Wendy Davis vs. Greg Abbott in Texas: ‘Bruising’
The Texas governor’s race is shaping up to be a bloody and expensive contest between a high-profile Democrat who fires up the party and a well-funded, well-established Republican. Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis last week sent the clearest signal yet that she’s eyeing a gubernatorial run, telling supporters in an email blast that she will announce her next steps in early October. Attorney General Greg Abbott is the presumptive GOP nominee and, by all accounts, the clear front-runner in the race to succeed Republican Gov. Rick Perry. “I expect it to be a bruising campaign,” said Texas GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri. “There’s a lot of material on Wendy Davis. I expect it to be within the bounds of appropriate political discussions. She’s going to have a lot of questions to answer.”

National Journal: Iowa GOP Infighting Could Cost the Party a Senate Seat
Republicans have a once-in-a-generation shot at capturing an open U.S. Senate seat, but first they’ll have to stop fighting among themselves. A nasty and personal civil war has broken out within the ranks of the Republican Party of Iowa, replete with charges of mismanagement, backroom conspiracies, and broken Facebook friendships. Already, two members of the party’s central committee have called on the GOP chairman to resign. And forces faithful to Republican Gov. Terry Branstad are mobilizing loyalists to take back power next year. Scuffles within state parties are commonplace, but the stakes are higher here. Iowa hasn’t had an open Senate seat since 1974 and the state’s funky nominating rules make it possible—even likely—that party leaders and delegates, instead of the voters, will pick the GOP nominee next year at a convention. The fact that the warring party leadership will play host to the leadoff 2016 presidential caucuses only sharpens the significance of the feuding. "I’ve never seen anything like this in my 25 years of political activism," said Jamie Johnson, a member of the central committee, who has called for the resignation of the party chairman. "The inmates are running the asylum."


USA Today: Hillary Clinton: ‘I’m not in any hurry’
Hillary Rodham Clinton has given her first interview in months, but she isn’t any more forthcoming about her plans for 2016. "I’m not in any hurry," Clinton told New Yorkmagazine about the 2016 presidential election. "I think it’s a serious decision, not to be made lightly, but it’s also not one that has to be made soon." The former first lady, senator and secretary of State said, "This election is more than three years away, and I just don’t think it’s good for the country," she says. "It’s like when you meet somebody at a party and they look over your shoulder to see who else is there, and you want to talk to them about something that’s really important … I feel like that’s our political process right now. I just don’t think it is good."Others say a Clinton redux in 2016 is inevitable.

CNN Politics: Sarah Palin: Hillary Clinton ill-suited for president
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said she would be "disappointed" in the American electorate if Hillary Clinton becomes a serious candidate for president in 2016. The 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee argued Clinton would not be right for the role as commander in chief after four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, died last year in a terrorist attack against a U.S. consulate in Benghazi. "If (Benghazi) doesn’t have an impact on the 2016 presidential election, if she is a candidate, then America, I am very disappointed in our electorate," Palin said Sunday on Fox News, where she’s a contributor.

Slate: The Long Game
Hillary Clinton, in her first interview after leaving the State Department, offered a wise metaphor about the current state of presidential election madness. “This election is more than three years away, and I just don’t think it’s good for the country,” she toldNew York magazine, referring to the fevered speculation about her possible candidacy. “It’s like when you meet somebody at a party and they look over your shoulder to see who else is there, and you want to talk to them about something that’s really important; in fact, maybe you came to the party to talk to that particular person, and they just want to know what’s next,” she says. “I feel like that’s our political process right now. I just don’t think it is good.” Clinton knows what it’s like to be on both ends of that exchange. She was a political spouse; the shortsighted looked over her shoulder for many years, seeing her as merely an adjunct to her accomplished husband. Now, she is the person who draws every eye in the room—away from even her husband. (When someone says “Clinton”, it may not be long before a majority of people think of the former secretary of state and not the former president).

The Daily Tarheel: 2 N.C. democrats begin campaign for governor
While new poll results show that Gov. Pat McCrory’s approval rating continues to decline, many Democrats are already campaigning for the seat — even though the election isn’t for another three years. Kenneth Spaulding, a former N.C. House Representative who represented Durham County, and James Protzman, a former Chapel Hill Town Council member, have both joined the race to put a Democrat back in the governor’s seat. According to Public Policy Polling, a left-leaning polling firm, McCrory’s approval rating dropped from 39 percent to 35 percent in the last month. Spaulding said he is running because he thought North Carolina was moving forward until recently. “I have just seen in the last few years and particularly under the McCrory administration, it appears to me that North Carolina is taking a direction that is moving us backwards,” he said. Spaulding said he is concerned with how the McCrory administration has handled the education system by not appropriating proper funding.


The New York Times: Free to Be Hungry
The word “freedom” looms large in modern conservative rhetoric. Lobbying groups are given names like FreedomWorks; health reform is denounced not just for its cost but as an assault on, yes, freedom. Oh, and remember when we were supposed to refer to pommes frites as “freedom fries”? The right’s definition of freedom, however, isn’t one that, say, F.D.R. would recognize. In particular, the third of his famous Four Freedoms — freedom from want — seems to have been turned on its head. Conservatives seem, in particular, to believe that freedom’s just another word for not enough to eat. Hence the war on food stamps, which House Republicans have just voted to cut sharply even while voting to increase farm subsidies.


Micah Beasley, Press Secretary
North Carolina Democratic Party
Twitter: @Micah4NC

Paid for by North Carolina Democratic Party. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate committee.