POLITICS
10/23/2013 06:10 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

HUFFPOST HILL, sponsored by The Benghazi Hoax - President Hard To Look At: Source

A CNBC reporter suggested "Mexican music" be played during a segment on Ted Cruz, which was tremendously ignorant: Ted Cruz is from Canada. A senior Republican told President Obama that he "cannot even stand to look at you," according to Dick Durbin, though Durbin declined to say whether the lawmaker could smell Obama from a mile away. And Angela Merkel accused the U.S. government of listening to her phone calls. Between that and George W. Bush's awkward shoulder massages, America's executive branch is becoming Angela Merkel's terrible boyfriend. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013:

A DICK DURBIN WHODUNIT - Jen Bendery: "White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Wednesday flatly dismissed allegations by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) that a top House Republican told President Barack Obama, in the middle of negotiations over the government shutdown, 'I cannot even stand to look at you.' 'It did not happen,' Carney said during his daily briefing. Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), was soon demanding an apology from Durbin. 'Senator Durbin’s accusation is a serious one, and it appears to have been invented out of thin air,' Buck said in a statement. 'The senator should disclose who told him this account of events, retract his reckless allegation immediately, and apologize.' But two Democratic aides, both of whom requested anonymity, told The Huffington Post that the incident was relayed to members during a Senate Democratic Caucus meeting shortly after it allegedly happened. And Durbin isn't backing down from the claims he originally made on his Facebook page on Sunday. 'Sen. Durbin stands by his comments,' said Durbin spokesman Max Gleischman. A request for comment from Carney was not immediately returned. Buck reiterated that the incident never happened. 'This didn't happen and The Huffington Post should be looking into who started this false rumor,' he said." [HuffPost]

AMERICAN HERO HEALTH INSURANCE CEOS TO THE RESCUE - Jeff Young: "Health insurance companies are working with the federal government and its contractors to fix the technical problems that have hampered Obamacare enrollment, the White House said Wednesday. A dozen health insurance executives and the leaders of two industry trade groups met with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and other administration officials to discuss the ongoing problems with HealthCare.gov, the online portal for health coverage under President Barack Obama's health care reform law in more than 30 states. 'The administration is committed to working in partnership with the insurers so we can successfully meet the great demand people have shown for the affordable health care coverage at the heart of the Affordable Care Act,' the White House said in a statement following the meeting Wednesday afternoon." [HuffPost]

SOCIAL SECURITY'S TRAINWRECK MOMENT - After Congress passed the Social Security Act in 1935, a nascent Social Security Board faced a daunting task: enrolling 26 million industrial workers in less than a year, and another 2.5 million each year after that. One major problem: A lot of people had the same name. "There were, according to board calculations, hundreds of thousands of workers with the surnames Smith, Jones, Brown, Miller, and dozens of other common family names, all of whose records would have to be kept straight, their wage histories following them through all geographical and job moves," Nancy Altman, co-director of advocacy group Social Security Works, wrote in her 2005 book The Battle for Social Security. They had no computers, and no precedent for creating such a system. Board Chairman Arthur Altmeyer brought in management expert Harry Hoff, who studied the problem for months before delivering the sad news that it would not be possible. "He recommended that the board notify Congress that the government could not run the Social Security program, after all," Altman wrote. [HuffPost]

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - The bumpy rollout of the federal Supplemental Security Income program in the early 1970s might be the closest parallel for what could go wrong with Obamacare. In 1974, officials estimated 7.2 million would be eligible for the new initiative, which absorbed state welfare programs. But by 1976, only 4.3 million had signed up. (Today the program covers 8.3 million.) The Social Security Administration had developed a new data acquisition system to transmit information about beneficiaries and claims between headquarters and various field offices. But officials said the system received more queries per day than expected. "Also, due to computer or power failures, the response system could not provide timely replies," the Government Accountability Office (then known as the General Accounting Office) said in a 1976 report. "This hindered district office employees from completing their work promptly and imposed a longer wait on SSI applicants." Sound familiar? Berkowitz and fellow historian Larry DeWitt, who have co-authored a book on the SSI program, said in interviews that technology was key to the program's bad start. "It was a disaster," Berkowitz said. "Maybe one of the morals is that high-tech stuff can fail." [HuffPost]

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ANONYMOUS ADMINISTRATION TWEETER ALSO HAD STRONG FEELINGS ABOUT ESCORTS - Foreign Policy: "The anonymous, acerbic tweeter who went by the handle @NatSecWonk was a White House staffer on the verge of being named to a leading Pentagon position before he was fired last week for his nasty, sneering online identity. Now, onetime National Security Council (NSC) staffer Jofi Joseph is under investigation by the Justice Department for his alleged social media activities -- both as @NatSecWonk and also possibly as @DCHobbyist, a Twitter account devoted largely to the exploits of North American escorts. Joseph possessed the kind of résumé that had put him on a Washington fast track. But he was abruptly dismissed last week after administration officials confronted him with evidence that he was the man behind @NatSecWonk. That Twitter handle, well-known to people in Washington's national security circles, relished sniping at government officials, politicians, reporters, and anyone else in his field of digital fire. But FP has also learned that Joseph is suspected of being the man behind a different Twitter handle, @DCHobbyist, which spouts spicy talk about sex and prostitutes peppered among tweets on the Washington Nationals and bike commuting. On Oct. 7, @DCHobbyist tweeted about Toronto's 'tsunami of gorgeous and sensual escorts.' Three days later, he tweeted at @MsBellaAngeline, the Twitter account associated with Isabella Angeline, who advertises herself online as a 'luxury companion and escort.'" [Foreign Policy]

Somewhere one of Darrell Issa's staffers is drawing up the subpoenas.

IMMIGRATION REFORM STILL BOGGED DOWN IN HOUSE - Elise Foley: "House Democrats said on Wednesday that a piecemeal approach to immigration reform isn't going to win their support because they don't trust that Republicans will try to tackle the full issue if they just deal with it in bits and pieces. 'There is a problem with comprehensive immigration reform, and we know what it is,' Rep. Joe Garcia (D-Fla.) said at a press conference, referring to House Republicans. 'The idea that that same party who cannot pass anything ... is now piecemeal going to do this is a fallacy.' Democrats have said in the past, and reiterated on Wednesday, that they're open to voting on multiple bills rather than a single comprehensive one. But Democrats don't want to reform some parts of the immigration system and not others because they see the issues as interconnected...While GOP leadership says it will focus on step-by-step reform, some Republicans have said they should put immigration aside entirely after the recent fight over government funding and the debt limit. Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), who earlier this year was working on comprehensive reform with Democrats, said they should block even more narrow legislation to avoid being rolled by Democrats..."I still think that immigration reform is an important subject that needs to be addressed and I am hopeful," Boehner told reporters earlier Wednesday." [HuffPost]

OH RIGHT, SYRIA - Remember that thing in the place with the people and stuff? Well it's causing a lot of consternation within the West Wing. Times: "A close examination of how the Obama administration finds itself at this point — based on interviews with dozens of current and former members of the administration, foreign diplomats and Congressional officials — starts with a deeply ambivalent president who has presided over a far more contentious debate among his advisers than previously known. Those advisers reflected Mr. Obama’s own conflicting impulses on how to respond to the forces unleashed by the Arab Spring: whether to side with those battling authoritarian governments or to avoid the risk of becoming enmeshed in another messy war in the Middle East. And, as the debate dragged on, the toll of civilian deaths steadily rose, Syria’s government was emboldened to use chemical weapons on a larger scale, and America’s relations with some of its closest allies were strained...As one former senior White House official put it, 'We spent so much damn time navel gazing, and that’s the tragedy of it.'" [NYT]

MERKEL CONFRONTS OBAMA ABOUT ALLEGED PHONE SURVEILLANCE - And she doesn't even know how Barack's been snooping around her Facebook messages to see if she's been talking to Vladimir again. Spiegel: "German Chancellor Angela Merkel phoned United States President Barack Obama on Wednesday to discuss suspicions that she may have been targeted by US intelligence agencies for years, SPIEGEL has learned. The chancellor asked for a thorough explanation of serious indications that US intelligence agencies had declared her private mobile phone to be a target in their operations. Merkel made it clear that, should these indications turn out to be true, she 'unequivocally disapproves' of such methods and finds them 'totally unacceptable,' her spokesman Steffen Seibert said. 'This would be a grave breach of trust,' he added. ' Such practices must immediately be put to a stop.'...In response to the allegations, a spokeswoman for the US National Security Council told SPIEGEL: 'The President assured the Chancellor that the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of Chancellor Merkel.' The spokeswoman did not wish to specify whether this statement applied to the past." [Spiegel]

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MISSISSIPPI POLITICS REALLY GETTING BACK TO ITS ROOTS - Barack Hussein Obama has lost touch with real Americans who don't want to be part of America. Mother Jones: "Chris McDaniel is taking the 'GOP Civil War' to a new level. Two months ago, the tea party-backed Mississippi Senate candidate addressed a neo-Confederate conference and costume ball hosted by a group that promotes the work of present-day secessionists and contends the wrong side won the 'war of southern independence.' Other speakers at the event included a historian who believes Lincoln was a Marxist and Ryan Walters, a PhD candidate who worked on McDaniel's first political campaign and wrote recently that the 'controversy' over President Barack Obama's birth certificate ' hasn't really been solved.'...McDaniel, a state senator, is challenging incumbent Republican Sen. Thad Cochran in next summer's GOP Senate primary. After announcing his run last week, McDaniel quickly picked up endorsements from the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund, a political action committee founded by former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), a prominent backer of the tea party." [Mother Jones]

CNBC REPORTER SAYS INSENSITIVE THING - Hell is a quinceanera DJed by Steve Liesman. ThinkProgress: "CNBC’s Squawk Box blamed Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) for Tuesday’s disappointing jobs numbers, predicting that his effort to shut down the federal government depressed job creation and added to growing business uncertainty...But CNBC took a lighter, if more strange, tone. 'We’re going to call this the Sen. Ted Cruz jobs report and the jobless claims of Sen. Ted Cruz,' Steve Liesman, a senior economics reporter for the network, said Tuesday as the Texas senator’s pictures flashed on screen. 'There he is, there he is,' he exclaimed. 'Can we get some music to go along with that, some Mexican music maybe?'" [ThinkProgress]

In 1999, Ted Cruz was all the rage, yet unlike Eiffel 65 and the war in Kozovo, he's still around. Jason Cherkis: "Fourteen years ago, Ted Cruz wasn't a household name -- but the editors of Newsweek predicted he would be. In a July 1999 cover story on the rise of Latino culture, the magazine highlighted Cruz as one of 20 "Latinos to watch." Sandwiched among a list heavy with entertainers and athletes, the then-29-year-old Cruz was listed as a D.C. lawyer most known for being the 'first Latino to clerk for the chief justice of the United States, in 1996-97.' In the short blurb, Cruz was not presented as a future tea party darling or even a senator-in-waiting. Instead, he was presented as an advocate for educational opportunity. 'Education opened the American dream to [my father],' he told Newsweek. 'We're failing to provide that education now, especially to poor minorities.'" [HuffPost]

Cruz has lost the Nigerian vote: "Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is in hot water over comments he made about Obamacare and Nigerian email scammers while speaking at a Houston rally...Pastor Felix Awotula with Redeemed Christian Church of God Awotula says he fielded calls at his church throughout the day. 'I'm not too sure of the motive behind that. But anyway, the statement has been made, and it has a devastating effect in the mind of Nigerians because we don't want to identify the country with anything negative. I'm not saying all Nigerians are perfect,' Awotula said." [KTRK]

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here is a dog who just wants to look at a cat

The south will tweet again! Poynter: "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Wednesday posted, then deleted, a tweet about a lottery winner in Powder Springs, Ga. Willie Lynch won $1 million and can now “get 40 acres and a whole lotta mules,” the tweet read. That appears to be a reference to a rule by Union Gen. William Sherman thatredistributed land to black families during the Civil War (The “mule” part came later, Henry Louis Gates Jr. writes in a fascinating history.)... The AJC apologized for the tweet..." [Poynter]

COMFORT FOOD

- "What the fuck should I be for Halloween?" tells you what the fuck you should be for Halloween. [http://bit.ly/1czCgs6]

- An animation of Orson Welles' legendary rant during recording of a commercial for frozen peas. [http://bit.ly/15Zsxd1]

- A map showing what each country leads the world in. Who knew Bulgaria leads the world in living the American dream? [http://bit.ly/180JsZn]

- Don't EVER ride your bike over a 72-foot canyon. That said, if you do, be sure to strap on a GoPro camera like this guy. [http://bit.ly/189cnu8]

- James Joyce's prose bears striking resemblance to Kool Keith's lyrics, as this quiz demonstrates. [http://bit.ly/HseDQZ]

- Do your very best to avoid these terrible and hackneyed couples Halloween costumes. [http://huff.to/1h8Vdoy]

- Revel in the glory of the new "Anchorman" trailer. [http://huff.to/18b7q4a]

TWITTERAMA

@BrettLoGiurato: You know who else was worried about their personal communications being intercepted in Germany?

@toddzwillich: Troubling paucity of House water resources and waterways debate tweets. Media is harboring bias.

@Max_Fisher: Did you hear about the mid-level White House official who went on social media to zzzzzzz

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