Silence on Sleaze-Bob Menendez
by Michelle Malkin
The verdict is in.
I pronounce Democrat leaders, left-wing feminists and Beltway journalists guilty of gross negligence and hypocrisy over a dirty rotten sleazeball in their midst.
For the past 11 weeks, Bob Menendez has been on trial for 18 counts of bribery, fraud and corruption involving nearly $1 million in gifts and donations. The jury remained deadlocked as of Tuesday. A new Media Research Center analysis reported that ABC, CBS and NBC devoted 40 times more of their morning and evening TV newscast coverage this past week to Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore’s alleged sexual assault accusers than to the ongoing federal trial of one of the Democrats’ most powerful, visible and entrenched figures on Capitol Hill.
Four years ago, when the FBI raided the Florida home of creepy Democratic donor and eye doctor Salomon Melgen, Menendez suddenly remembered that he had failed to pay back his “hermano” $60,000 for private-jet flights to the Caribbean — where Melgen owns a tony home in the private Casa de Campo resort.
As the party-boy buds tell it, their two decades of favor-trading were innocent, brotherly acts of affection. That little reimbursement thing for joy rides shuttling Menendez, his girlfriend, his son and his son’s office manager around the world? It “fell through the cracks,” the former chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and lawyer explained.
As government investigators discovered, the “friendship” entailed much more than backslaps and beach nights. Melgen was convicted this spring on 67 counts of massive Medicare fraud totaling $90 million. Prosecutors allege Menendez and his staff pulled strings and put pressure on public officials to back off Melgen’s billing blow-up. Menendez asserts he did nothing illegal and acted not out of obligation to a high-dollar donor, but because of his sincere policy concerns about how Medicare is run.
My favorite M&M production involves what I dubbed the 36DD visa program. This is not in dispute: Menendez and his staff pressured the State Department to expedite the foreign tourist and student visa approval processes for a bevy of buxom foreign beauties. One of them, Brazilian actress and porn pinup star Juliana Lopes Leite (a.k.a. “Girlfriend 1”), had her F-1 student visa application moved to the top of the pile in 2008 after Menendez and his staff intervened as a favor to model-lovin’ Melgen.
Another, Rosiell Polanco-Suera, testified that her rejected visa application (along with her sister’s) received reconsideration and instant approval after Melgen promised to “fix it” by reaching out to Menendez.
Flying the crony skies on taxpayer time. Systematically bilking sick old people. Turning America’s visa programs into an international dating app for Dem donors.
Top Democrat leaders, so quick to call for the resignation of GOP candidates convicted in the court of public opinion, remain noncommittal about where they’ll stand if Menendez is convicted. Liberal media partisans are deliberately ignoring the story because they are incapacitated by Trump Derangement Syndrome. Women’s advocates looked the other way at Justice Department court filings on “specific, corroborated allegations that defendants Menendez and Melgen had sex with underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic.”
The collective silence on Sleaze-Bob — busy raising more than $6 million for his re-election campaign and legal defense fund — roars louder than Melgen’s private jet engines.
Turns out “The Resistance” can’t and won’t resist a crapweasel when Democratic Party coffers and the balance of power in Washington are at stake.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently released its final rule for the 2018 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule, including an increase in Medicare coverage for select telehealth services. CMS indicates that its aim is to transform “access to Medicare telehealth services by paying for more services and making it easier for providers to bill for these services.”
This is good for Medicare beneficiaries, and a promising step for the burgeoning practice of telemedicine. But a major obstacle remains: state physician licensing laws restrict the practice of interstate telemedicine.
According to existing state laws, to treat an out-of-state patient, a doctor has to be licensed in that state. To be available to patients in 50 states, the telemedicine doctor needs 50 state licenses. Some doctors already do this, but securing and maintaining multiple licenses is an expensive and time-consuming process. Distinct state-specific requirements for continuing medical education and questionable variations across states in medical practice standards add to the cost of compliance.
The benefit of eliminating state licensing barriers to interstate practice has never been greater.
Don’t take it from me: When the American Telemedicine Association surveyed health care executives in March 2017, they asked, “What are the key challenges you see with telehealth in the next three years?” Fifty-three percent of those surveyed picked “licensure/privileges” as a key challenge. A 2012 survey of telestroke programs funded by the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration found “inability to obtain physician licensing/credentialing” as one of the most important barriers to the expansion of stroke-related telemedicine programs.
MedLicense.com, which helps physicians get state licenses, offers a discount for physicians who apply in more than 20 states at one time. Michael Brooks, MedLicense.com’s managing member, says annual license renewal fees discourage many physicians from seeking additional state licenses.
Although state licensing requirements were first identified as a barrier to interstate telemedicine in the late 1990s, only one state has considered revising its law. In 2016, Florida lawmakers failed to pass a bill that would have allowed out-of-state telemedicine providers to offer services in the state. Such a law would have facilitated continuity of care for the approximately one million seasonal residents who visit Florida each year.
Congress could solve the problem. Currently, the location of the patient determines the location of the practice of medicine. If lawmakers were to change the definition from the location of the patient to that of the doctor, doctors would only need one license to practice in multiple states. It has always been legal for a patient to travel to seek care from a physician in another state; this change would allow the same visit to occur remotely. Legal scholars suggest that the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution would support congressional action on this front.
The current system not only results in problems with access to care but complicates matters for state medical boards. When a complaint is filed against a physician with a multi-state practice, the various state medical boards that license that physician must cooperate—a herculean task. In contrast, moving to a system that allows physicians to practice across states on the basis of their home-state license would be less complicated, with the physician’s home-state board receiving all complaints.
The benefits of opening state markets to out-of-state providers can be substantial. For example, care from out-of-state cancer specialists would no longer be reserved for patients with the financial wherewithal (and physical stamina) to travel. As for direct-to-consumer telemedicine, which offers patients care from their home, office, or mobile device, it is reasonable to expect the same increase in efficiency that followed the national expansion of retail chain stores and the end of regulatory barriers to interstate banking and trucking.
The time is ripe for reform. With the CMS moving to expand reimbursement of telehealth services under Medicare and the National Business Group on Health predicting near universal adoption of telemedicine by large employers by 2019, the benefit of eliminating state licensing barriers to interstate practice has never been greater.Shirley Svorny is a professor of economics at California State University, Northridge, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute and author of the forthcoming study, “Liberating Telemedicine: Options to Eliminate the State-Licensing Roadblock.”
The Trump administration reportedly plans to propose a peacekeeping force for Ukraine. The initiative would have a greater chance of success if Washington offered a package that made Ukraine a neutral country, backed by a promise not to further expand NATO.
Washington policymakers just can’t seem to imagine life without an enemy. However, the supposed Russian menace falls short. Vladimir Putin is an unpleasant autocrat, but his kingdom is freer than that of American allies such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. On them Washington lavishes attention, money and weapons.
Moscow’s election interference, which appears to have had a minor impact at most, was obnoxious, but Washington has little room to complain. By one count the U.S. has interfered in elections in eighty-one countries. Indeed, the Clinton administration did its best to ensure Boris Yeltsin’s 1996 reelection, which, ironically, ultimately resulted in the Putin presidency.
The United States and its allies should indicate that they have no intention to further expand the NATO alliance.
The Russian Federation is not an ideological competitor. Putinism has little appeal to anyone other than Vladimir Putin and his cronies. While Putin demonstrated his authoritarian tendencies early, he was no Communist ideologue. Rather, he bridled at the West’s treatment of Russia. In fact, he was not otherwise anti-American, and looks like a traditional czar, demanding respect and emphasizing security for Russia.
Which explains Russian foreign policy. For instance, Putin believes Moscow’s interest should be taken into account in Syria, which is far closer geographically to Russia than America and has been a military ally of Moscow for years.
More important, Russia is determined to prevent Georgia and Ukraine from entering NATO. It should surprise no one that Moscow opposes expansion of a historically hostile alliance up to its border, incorporating territories once integral to its predecessor states, both Soviet Union and Russian Empire. That is unfortunate for Georgia and Ukraine, but Washington rarely allows “fairness” to get in the way of pursuing its security interests.
Despite extensive wailing and gnashing of teeth in Europe over Moscow’s behavior, there is no evidence that Putin is contemplating aggression-what could he hope to gain even if he did not face almost certain defeat? Rather, he has perfected the art of unsettling nations determined to leave most hard military work to the United States.
Only a Europe that has become hopelessly dependent on America could seem so vulnerable to a declining power like Russia. Collectively Europe has some twelve times the economic strength, three times the population and two times the military outlays of Russia. The latter lost its superpower status a quarter century ago: today it is a serious regional military power with weak economic and uncertain political foundations. The possession of nuclear weapons alone gives Putin serious international heft, but America has them in abundance and even Europe possesses a couple small arsenals.
Washington and its allies continue to impose sanctions for no practical purpose. Russia isn’t going to disgorge Crimea short of war. By encouraging continued turmoil in eastern Ukraine Moscow ensures that Kiev won’t enter NATO. Congress believes it can use American economic clout to remold the rest of world, but sanctions rarely cause nationalistic governments to abandon perceived vital interests. That should come as no surprise to Americans, who would not likely give in to Russia (or anyone else) if the situation was reversed.
Improving relations with Moscow should be a top U.S. objective. Western policymakers look forward to Putin’s departure, but he represents larger political forces in Russia. He almost certainly will not be succeeded by anyone liberal in a Western sense. Certainly not from the circle around him. Nor even from the opposition. Those who know Alexey Navalny, the leading opposition activist, warn that he may be no less authoritarian and nationalist than Putin. Waiting for change means waiting for something that may never come.
Yet everyone would benefit if conflict in the Donbas ended and perceived threats against Europe dissipated. Russia also can help or hinder Western objectives elsewhere, including in the Middle East, particularly Syria, and Asia, most notably North Korea. Other important issues include Afghanistan and the Arctic. If U.S.-Russia relations improved, Moscow would still pursue its independent interests but might be more willing to accommodate allied concerns.
Most important may be pulling Moscow away from the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Richard Nixon’s geopolitical masterstroke was opening a relationship with the PRC to balance against the Soviet Union. Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and especially Barack Obama reversed course, pushing Moscow and Beijing together. In fact, one of the only interests which binds the two governments is the determination to prevent U.S. hegemony. Yet if America faces a future military threat, it is far more likely to come from China than Russia.
The administration’s policy toward Moscow has been hindered by charges of electoral collusion against the Trump campaign. Although little evidence appears to back the claim, Congress dominated relations with Russia by intensifying sanctions, making positive change less likely. The 2015 Minsk accord over Ukraine remains unfulfilled, but Kiev shares the blame, having failed to make promised constitutional changes.
The administration reportedly plans to propose a 20,000-man peacekeeping force for the Donbas, where some 10,000 have died in fighting since 2014. The ultimate objective is remove Russian forces, disarm separatists and reintegrate the region into Ukraine with greater autonomy.
Moscow’s agreement would be more likely if Washington offered to address Russia’s larger security concerns. NATO still is formally committed to including Ukraine and Georgia. The United States and its allies should indicate that they have no intention to further expand the alliance. While they would go to war to defend present members in the unlikely event of Russian aggression, they will not drive Western commitments, troops, and arms into what once was the heart of the Soviet Union.
Taking NATO membership off the table would remove Moscow’s incentive to keep the Ukrainian conflict alive. A peaceful Ukraine would no longer pose a paradoxical military threat to Russia. Moscow could rid itself of a costly conflict which has consumed resources and lives for no good purpose. Ukraine could develop economically and politically as it wished. Sanctions could end, encouraging economic integration from Europe through Ukraine into Russia.
Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute. A former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is the author of several books, including Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire.
The long-suffering American hope that economic liberalization would yield intellectual and political freedom in China is officially dead after President Xi Jinping’s coronation at the recent party congress. He emphasized party control, strengthened personal power, and stifled intellectual dissent. He used the meeting to cement his dominance and demonstrate his intention to rule beyond a second five-year term.
Xi appears to be the most powerful Chinese leader since Deng Xiaoping if not Mao Zedong. Xi’s thoughts even have been included in the Chinese Communist Party’s charter, just like Mao’s. At the congress Xi outlined his vision for the future: The People’s Republic of China is to develop into a “fully modern economy” and become “a global leader of composite national strength and international influence.”
The PRC already is arguably close to achieving both objectives. Although the country faces significant economic and political challenges, so far it has confounded the doomsayers. Even if China suffers setbacks in coming years, it almost certainly will become a great power with broader global reach. Beijing is likely to pose a substantial challenge to U.S. interests and values. That doesn’t make conflict inevitable or even likely, but to effectively respond policymakers should better prioritize Washington’s objectives.
The Trump administration must demonstrate maturity and sophistication if Washington is going to respond effectively.
Indeed, America’s leaders, if they deserve to be called that, should start by rescuing the U.S. political system from laughing-stock status. Compare presidents and America loses. By all appearances, President Xi is serious, determined, and competent; he knows both privilege and hardship; he even lived in America, now his country’s chief adversary. Today he dominates one of the world’s most formidable political systems. Even Chinese inclined toward democracy have trouble defending the American system these days.
The operation of Congress, too, fails to live up to what the world’s most powerful nation requires. The democratically elected U.S. body should easily outdistance China’s rubber-stamp National People’s Congress, but the inability of American legislators of both parties to work effectively with each other also seems to discredit America’s democratic experiment.
Moreover, Washington needs to restore its economic self-confidence. The Trump administration has multiplied trade complaints against the PRC. The U.S. should emphasize opening Chinese commercial and investment markets, not closing the American economy, as President Trump would prefer. Low cost foreign goods benefit both consumers and producers. In fact, many imports are intermediate goods, destined for use in exports. The U.S. economy needs to become more competitive and efficient.
The administration also should press President Xi to live up to his past emphasis on market reforms, which would benefit American businesses and Chinese consumers. Not incidentally, doing so would help counteract the Xi regime’s ongoing expansion of state control over the economy. Indeed, achieving further liberalization would be worth concessions—including forbearance on the president’s counter-productive threats of a trade war.
Politically, Washington should treat the PRC as a serious competitor. Depending on the issue, China may be adversary or ally. The U.S. should emphasize areas where the two nations’ interests coincide and look for compromises where interests diverge. Perhaps most important, American officials must recognize that Washington cannot dictate: negotiation over contested issues is inevitable.
North Korea may be the most important current controversy between the U.S. and Beijing. Washington obviously wants to prevent Pyongyang from acquiring an ability to target the homeland with nuclear weapons. However, the PRC desires neither a failed state on its border—consider how Americans view Mexico—nor a reunited Korea allied with America hosting U.S. troops. The Trump administration should offer concessions, such as pledge to remove American forces from a reunited peninsula.
Overall, Washington must channel the two nations’ rivalry away from military confrontation. Despite real geopolitical differences, the U.S. and the PRC must not come to military blows. China would be a formidable opponent even now. It would not win a global war with America, but has demonstrated no interest in matching the U.S. around the world. Rather, China hopes to deter Washington from intervening against the PRC in its own neighborhood. While the Pentagon has developed tactics to counteract China’s anti-access/area denial strategy, deterrence is much cheaper than power projection. A few missiles or torpedoes are far less expensive than the aircraft carrier they might sink.
Moreover, even victory for the U.S. would not mean the end of conflict. A resentful, still growing PRC would be an even more formidable foe in the future. The American people aren’t likely to fund endless conflict far from the U.S. when their own defense is not directly at stake. Washington might prefer to limit Beijing’s influence in its own neighborhood. But that objective is not worth catastrophic conflict.
However, Americans in and out of government should do what they can to expand the free information flow to Chinese citizens. Unfortunately, President Trump’s soft spot for authoritarian leaders seeming reaches Beijing, even though he freely attacked the PRC before taking office. But the administration should not launch an official propaganda campaign—they rarely turn out well.
Younger, well-educated Chinese, in particular, are highly nationalistic. Telling them what to believe would be counter-productive. But they resent their government’s internet controls. Widening their access to information while allowing them to draw their own conclusions would be a better approach. Washington should cooperate with private organizations to blow holes in the Great Firewall. Washington also could use the access of Chinese media to the U.S. as a bargaining chip to address Beijing’s restrictions on American journalists.
President Xi is likely to lead China for many more years. Although the PRC’s climb to greatness is not assured, it is likely to pose an ever more serious challenge to the U.S. The Trump administration must demonstrate maturity and sophistication if Washington is going to respond effectively.Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute. A former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is the author of several books, including Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire.