29 December 2009

The case for the filibuster

Cato at Liberty nails it.

Thanks to incessant whining from the likes of Tom Harkin, the wonderful, arcane procedural mechanism unique to the Senate appears to be in the crosshairs of yet another group of political extremists.

Remember 2005? Senate Democrats (a minority party until 2006) threatened to filibuster the roughly dozen of President Bush's 140-plus judicial nominees who they believed were too far to the right. Senate Republicans -- including Majority Leader Bill Frist and Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch -- threw a collective temper tantrum, accusing the Democrats of obstruction and political gamesmanship. Frist, et al. then threatened to change the Senate rules to effectively do away with the filibuster.

But for the "Gang of 14," led by this site's hero, John McCain, the filibuster would be resigned to the history books. Instead, McCain, Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson, Lindsay Graham, Robert "Sheets" Byrd and 7 others struck a compromise -- the 7 Republicans would vote against the GOP's proposed rule change doing away with the filibuster, while the 7 Democrats would vote to invoke cloture on three of the eleven Bush appointees. Rumor has it that part of the agreement was that the rogue Democrats would also vote to invoke cloture on President Bush's yet-to-be-determined appointee to the Supreme Court. This compromise, ergo, led to the confirmation of Justice Samuel A. Alito.

To anyone who would listen, I said at the time that Republicans were making a grave mistake -- assuming that someday, perhaps even in 2009, the GOP would be faced with a Democratic Senate and a Democrat in the White House.

That day is here, and I'd ask you conservatives who stomped your feet and called McCain a traitor -- where would your party be without the filibuster today?

This was just one in a litany of instances, too numerous to count, where the Limbaugh/Hannity wing of the GOP missed the point entirely in the name of blind adherence to the party line.

In the House of Representatives, the filibuster was used until 1842, at which time a permanent rule limited the duration of debate. In 1806, the Senate codified its rules such that the potential for a filibuster was introduced. At that time, the Senate rules contained no alternative mechanism for terminating debate, so the filibuster was occasionally used to block up-or-down votes. The first Senate filibuster took place in 1837, and in 1841, none other than the famed Sen. Henry Clay threatened his Senate colleagues with a filibuster. However, Sen. William King announced that Clay "may make his arrangements at his boarding house for the winter," and Clay eventually backed down.

A rule providing for cloture -- ending a filibuster -- was not enacted until 1917, at the urging of President Wilson. In fact, from 1917 through 1975, invoking cloture required a two-thirds vote. In 1975, the Democratic-controlled Senate revised the cloture rule such that only three in five senators could vote to limit debate.

The bottom line is this: The filibuster is as American an institution as the Senate itself. Our republic -- miraculously, liberal Democrats and ultra-conservative Republicans would argue -- has survived more than two centuries of the filibuster. While the filibuster is not in the text of the Constitution, its legislative history demonstrates that its principle is equally as old.

Read the Federalist Papers. Read the text of the actual Constitution. The American system is one of divided government -- federalism, three branches of government, a bicameral federal legislature and yes, the 200-year-old filibuster -- putting a premium on the rights of the political minority. It seems that the only criticism of the filibuster comes from partisan hacks like Tom Harkin and Sean Hannity who are frustrated by their allies' inability to slam through their narrow, unpopular agendas.

Don't like the filibuster? I've got an idea.

Move to Iran.

21 December 2009

More on health care

First of all: WTF is wrong with Sheldon Whitehouse? Why does it seem that the nutjob contingents of each party are getting larger and larger?

I watched the press conference yesterday with Sens. Reid, Dodd, Baucus and Harkin. All four men praised the health care compromise as a landmark achievement. Whatever. The blowback from the Howard Dean contingent on the far left illustrates how very little this bill actually changes in the eyes of neoliberals. When the extremists start making noise, I view that as a good thing.

Reid and Dodd have one goal -- pass a bill. This particular bill, in many liberals' opinions, isn't worth the paper it'll be written on. No matter; Reid and Dodd face daunting re-election bids in 2010; in my opinion, it will take a miracle for the enormously corruptible Dodd to make a comeback, while Reid's chances are 50/50 at best. These two men don't particularly care what the bill actually says -- they will take anything. They needed some sort of bill to wave around at their constituencies and trumpet as a success.

Harkin admonished progressives that although the bill wasn't as sweeping as they hoped, the Democrats were building a "starter home," not "a mansion." When Harkin said this, Baucus -- standing over his right shoulder -- noticeably grimaced. This was telling. Harkin is one of the Senate's most overtly liberal members and an unabashed advocate of a single-payer system. Baucus -- one of the Democratic caucus' most moderate members -- is perhaps the most powerful of an enormous contingent of reasonable Democratic senators like Kent Conrad and Mark Pryor -- his reaction to Harkin's comments was classic. He was having none of it.

I'd ask conservatives who are predicting the apocalypse to take a step back and look at the big picture. When the Democrats swept back into power in 2008, the GOP was as politically unpopular as it had ever been. Even with an enormous majority in the House and a filibuster-proof margin in the Senate, the more liberal party leadership had to make enormous concessions -- drop the public option, drop the employer mandate, refuse to extend Medicare eligibility -- to get many moderate Democrats to sign on.

The Democratic Party will never -- never, ever -- in my lifetime be as politically powerful as it is at this moment. It controls the White House; has a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate; and overwhelmingly controls the House. If it can't pass a sweeping health care bill now? This was liberals' chance, and it slipped through their fingers. And they lost their chance because the country deplores extremism. The country does not support a single payer system or even a public option. The ideas floated by the Democratic leadership and liberals generally are flat-out unpopular among most Americans. That's why even the rank-and-file -- Blue Dogs, Landrieu, Lieberman, Lincoln and especially Ben Nelson -- wouldn't support the asinine House bill. Too many Democrats realized they were signing away their political careers if they supported such a far left piece of garbage.

Finally, look at these numbers. You're telling me that the Democrats are going to be more popular as a result of the bill's passage? Please.

18 December 2009

... and over the cliff they go

Nearly a year into his presidency, Barack Obama continues to repeat the same, tired mistakes that has sent the Democratic Party into the wilderness time and again over the last 40 years.

Despite a deficit expected to reach $1.5 trillion next year, Obama wasted no time adding another $1.1 trillion to the pile yesterday.

The AP reports that leading Democrats believe that the spending bill will help lift the country out of the recession.

Yes, there's no tonic for an ailing economy quite like spending money that doesn't exist, driving down the value of the dollar, and adding even more interest payments to the government's staggering debt load.

And despite a plurality of Americans opposed to such legislation and the economy still deep in a recession, Democrats and Lindsey Graham appear poised to cut any economic recovery off at the knees with the disastrous cap-and-trade bill.

Sean Trende of the invaluable RCP blog calls the looming health care vote "political suicide," and he's right. Take a look at the polling numbers Trende cites, and then try to argue that most Americans want to pass the president's signature initiative. The health care crusade is like the GOP's immigration binge, circa 2005 -- no matter how much the party leadership intends on pushing extremist positions, the reality is that the vast majority of the country doesn't agree, and the party will be punished for it. This is inevitable.

I'm in disbelief that less than 11 months after George W. Bush left office, the Democratic Party has already fallen behind the party of Joe the Plumber in the generic ballot. This is astounding. The GOP continues to be run by impotent, insular, borderline-incompetent leaders like Mitch McConnell, so losing ground this rapidly is no small feat. The Democrats' freefall has been astounding, but nonetheless fun to watch.

They had better hope either Ben Nelson or Joe Lieberman torpedoes their beloved health care bill, or the beatdown they'll take next November will be even worse.

09 December 2009

Score one for the adults

Before Thanksgiving, I marveled at the cults of personality surrounding both Barack Obama and Sarah Palin and noted, as I have previously on this site, that the deification of these unabashedly self-absorbed political figures evinces the decline of the thinking man in American politics. Put simply, I've written many times that if you will go to the mat for either Obama or Palin, you need to put down the kool-aid.

Yesterday, Salon's Glenn Greenwald said the same thing:

"[These people] are not just random, politically apathetic people selected off the street. They are politically interested an engaged enough to spend hours waiting to see Sarah Palin. They have deep convictions about politics and overwhelming faith in her judgment and abilities. And yet they have virtually no ability to justify any of her specific views on issues. They really don't care about those. What they know is that she's a culturally familiar and admirable person. They share her views and know she's a good person, and thus trust that she will 'do the right thing' on specific issues regardless of whether they agree or even understand what she's doing. ..."

Greenwald marveled that the same phenomenon is true of Obama:

"The similarity between that mentality and the one driving the Obama defenses ... is too self-evident to require any elaboration. Those who venerated Bush because he was a morally upright and strong evangelical-warrior-family man and revere Palin as a common-sense Christian hockey mom are similar in kind to those whose reaction to Obama is dominated by their view of him as an inspiring, kind, sophisticated, soothing and mature intellectual. These are personality types bolstered with sophisticated marketing techniques, not policies, governing approaches or ideologies. But for those looking for some emotional attachment to a leader, rather than policies they believe are right, personality attachments are far more important. They're also far more potent. Loyalty grounded in admiration for character will inspire support regardless of policy, and will produce and sustain the fantasy that this is not a mere politician, but a person of deep importance to one's life who -- like a loved one or close friend or religious leader -- must be protected and defended at all costs."

Greenwald finishes: "This is all about cultural identification and personality admiration, and has nothing to do with the factors that ought to be used to judge political leaders."

Bingo. And so it goes with the American experiment as the 2010 midterms loom.

Our country is helmed by perhaps the most ill-prepared man for the White House in a quarter-century, whose approval ratings have dropped more precipitously than any president's since polling data became a tool 70 years ago, and whose major domestic policy initiatives have proven to be complete and utter failures. And the de facto leader of the opposition party is a former governor of a tiny state who inexplicably quit in the middle of her only term, was unable to answer a question about what books she reads, and who once claimed foreign policy expertise because part of her state borders an uninhabited part of Russia.

If you need evidence of America's intellectual decline, look no further than its leaders.

02 December 2009

The White House vs. Politico

David Kuhn of the indispensable RCP blog has a fantastic analysis of the Obama administration's newest war of choice -- on Politico.

The White House's assault against Fox News has been well-chronicled and doesn't really merit mention here, because Politico is quite different. In this era of partisan journalism -- which began with Dan Rather and the New York Times editorial board, and has spiraled out of control to the point where virtually every news outlet presents news slanted in some identifiable way -- Politico actually stands out as one of the last bastions of tough, independent reporting. To be sure, a few of Politico's bloggers cover the lighter side of Washington. But its reporting is fair, and its analysis top-notch. During the campaign, Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin's blogs following the Obama and McCain campaigns, respectively, were daily must-reads.

In my book, Politico sits squarely with the likes of Bob Woodward and John King -- tough, unaffiliated and with no ax to grind. The administration's attack of it -- along with its war on Fox News, the striking decline of the president's poll numbers, and the public backlash against the Democratic Party's signature initiatives -- paint a portrait of a president who is simply losing control.

Furthermore, RCP's Kuhn is spot on with his analysis. The Obama campaign team wrote the book on narratives. And once elected, more so than any administration in modern history, even Reagan's, the Obama team has carefully crafted the image of the president the public sees at virtually every turn. Obama was swept into office on the back of this nonsensical post-partisan narrative, and by the platitudes of change and hope repeated ad nauseum in rallies, in ads and at debates. Without the help of narratives, it's likely Obama wouldn't even have won the Democratic nomination.

We've written here before that the luster has clearly worn off. At this juncture, the president would be wise to cease these firefights against news organizations and simply worry about governing.

That alone has given him enough trouble.

01 December 2009

Required reading

Donklephant editor Justin Gardner tosses out the new blogger who threw together this piece of partisan garbage. I read the post yesterday and couldn't believe that Donklephant would provide a forum for such drivel. Kudos to Justin, who runs one of the best blogs on the internet.

Sen. Jim Webb has some strong words for the Changemaker. (Hat tip: Donklephant) As a side note, what is it with 21st century presidential administrations ignoring the text of the actual Constitution?

The best write-up on the health care debate I've seen thus far is an exhaustive offering from our friend John Burke at The Purple Center.

I'm not sure how Harry Reid plans to cobble together 60 votes on the health care bill, what with our pal Joe Lieberman promising to filibuster any bill containing public option.

Voting for any plan with a public option in it might well spell the end of the Senate tenures of a number of the Senate's more moderate Democrats -- including Arkansas' Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor. Mary "Louisiana Purchase" Landrieu has five more years to make voters forget. But Missouri's own Claire McCaskill might be a one-termer regardless.

30,000 more. The president has many flaws. But he put his money where his mouth is this time.

A fascinating bit from late in the 2008 campaign, entitled "How They Would Lead."

Rep. Tom Davis and others urge the RNC to step off the ledge.

And finally, a feel-good read on the Reagans and the Kennedys.

21 November 2009

The American descent

I have as much interest in reading "Going Rogue" as I did picking up a copy of "The Audacity of Hope." Shame on any of you who have even thought about feeding the circus of idiots surrounding the country's two most self-absorbed politicians.

It's fascinating, really. As much as they would like voters to think they are polar opposites -- one, a haughty, elitist, traditional big-government liberal; the other, a tax-cuttin', gun-totin' conservative from, you betcha, the "real America" -- Barack Obama and Sarah Palin are remarkably alike.

They both have captured the policy positions, as well as the bleeding hearts, of their respective parties' most extreme factions. Their devotees blindly look past their non-existent records and cling to their cults of personality as fervently and vociferously as fanatical zealots. More so than any other politicians I've ever observed, each is convinced of his or her own brilliance. It seems that the word "humility" isn't in the vocabulary of either.

And when the book tours are over, and the lights are out, and America, as it must, finally gets to the business of governing, the fact is that Sarah Palin and Barack Obama are perhaps the two least-qualified and worst-equipped candidates for the presidency we will ever encounter.

For the cults these two politicians have bred -- and too, for the objects of veneration themselves -- it's never about the policies, but rather the personalities. After all, who needs policy? Obama and Palin themselves are the policy.

Americans made a horrific choice in November 2008. It passed up perhaps the most qualified candidate for the presidency in my lifetime in favor of arguably the least. Can you even imagine the depths of the abyss we'll discover if it makes the next-worst choice in 2012?

As Steve Chapman noted: Leaders who can think?

That's so 20th century.

18 November 2009

A second stimulus?

That's what it sounds like.

By the way, don't you love that the president has pushed virtually every fundamental item of import to the backburner in an effort to shove through his prized "health care reform" package? Afghanistan, immigration reform, and, I don't know ... addressing the fact that one-sixth of the workforce is either unemployed or under-employed.

Here is my take on the proposed second stimulus.

I was not against the basic idea of the first stimulus -- if it was actually an economy-boosting, job-creating stimulus, as opposed to a liberal grab bag costing, in the end, over a trillion dollars. However, the final product was laughable partisan hackery.

In fact, the effect of the first stimulus is so dubious that the official in charge of stimulus oversight said that the administration's questionable "jobs saved or created" metric is actually impossible to quantify.

President Obama had a great deal of political capital entering office, but like President Bush before him, he seemed determined to spend it as quickly as possible. As a result of our increasingly large crater of a deficit, as well as the far-left rhetoric and overall cost of the liberal health care reform package that is now before the Senate, Democrats seem stunned that independents are starting to bolt back to the GOP.

Perhaps it's because, as of October 30, according to Recovery.gov, of the $787 billion (remember, that number is pre-interest) earmarked for spending, just $216 billion has been paid out.

That's 27 percent in 7 months.

Let's separate the idiotic first stimulus from the potential benefit of a second one. I am no economist, but by all accounts, the first stimulus hasn't helped at all, and some predict the unemployment rate to rise even higher. If Congress is able to actually, substantively drive down unemployment with a real stimulus package that immediately creates jobs, Republicans need to seriously consider a good-faith proposal.

As much as I detested the idea of a liberal grab bag masquerading as April's "stimulus," the GOP has already accumulated plenty of ammunition for 2010. The focus needs to be on getting Americans back to work. And if the Democrats can come up with something useful -- which although highly unlikely, is still plausible -- then Republicans need to listen.

16 November 2009

38 percent of Americans are idiots

According to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, 52 percent of Americans would "definitely not" vote for Sarah Palin for president in 2012.

But drilling deeper in the above-cited article, I discovered that nearly 4 in 10 of those surveyed believe her to be qualified for the presidency.

There are certain things worth fighting and arguing over. The Democrats' asinine health care bill, the bloated, laughable stimulus, taxes, abortion, judicial philosophies, and the role of the federal government. But it is not worth trying to argue to normal, clear-thinking Americans that Sarah Palin is qualified to be president.

I've written here before that Sarah Palin appeals to the lowest common denominator in the Republican Party. There exists nothing -- absolutely nothing -- about Sarah Palin's character, her record, her experience or her way of viewing the world -- that should indicate to you that she is even remotely qualified for the presidency. Culminating with her abrupt resignation from the Alaska governorship in July, she has demonstrated herself to be so sorely unfit for that office that it is beyond laughable.

For the love of all things good and holy, according to a recent Fox News report, she apparently made the discovery that I did at age 7, when I learned that Africa was actually a continent.

A Palin administration would give us a third Bush administration, with even greater levels of corruption, arrogance and incompetence. I didn't think it was possible for a Republican president to perform any more poorly than George W. Bush, but that was before Sarah Palin began considering herself presidential timber.

I'm baffled. Thirty-eight percent of you really believe that Sarah Palin is qualified to be president?

You're out of your minds.

09 November 2009

Required reading

Lieberman soldiers on.

Yes, this is exactly what the GOP needs. Have we ever seen a more dimwitted party chairman than Michael Steele?

More excellent material from John Burke at The Purple Center.

Need more proof that governing from the center not only works, but is a necessity?

On the other side of the coin, this piece of garbage from administration shill Eugene Robinson embodies everything that has gone terribly, terribly wrong with modern liberalism.

Speaking of lefty kool-aid drinkers, E.J. Dionne managed to shed the label for a few days and came up with a reasonably insightful piece on young voters.

The Detroit News examines at the utter failure of the "stimulus."

Huck: "I might be fat, but [Corzine] is incompetent, and I can lose weight."

And Aerosmith without Steven Tyler? Really?

Stewart does Beck

Jon Stewart is an occasional guilty pleasure of mine.

When he unloads on the $20 million man, it's wonderful.

For all his citations to the Founding Fathers, Glenn Beck sure must have missed the boat on some of the things John Adams had to say:

"Abuse of words has been the great instrument of sophistry and chicanery, of party, faction and division of society."

"There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to the other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution."

I'm certain many readers view Beck as some sort of great patriot. But few people in 21st century America are as divisive or flat-out ridiculous as he is. Perhaps the most insightful thing I've ever heard Beck say was when he described himself as a "rodeo clown." His wild conspiracy theories and outlandish rhetoric have made him nothing but a shill, and ergo, those to the left of Gary Bauer have trouble taking him seriously.

It seems that anyone -- conservative or liberal -- who equates any presidential administration with the Third Reich ought to be so dismissed.

Maybe while he's recuperating at home, he'll watch Stewart cream him and have an opportunity to think about how ridiculous his shtick really is.

06 November 2009

"Irony," defined


At a tea party rally on the steps of the Capitol yesterday, in an attempt to show his originalist bona fides, House Minority Leader John Boehner mixed up the Preamble and the Declaration of Independence.


Apparently 10,000 (or, tens of thousands, depending on your source) tea partiers descended on the steps of the Capitol yesterday, cheering wildly while the likes of Boehner, Michelle Bachmann and Tony Perkins tossed them red meat.

(My parents' congressman, Rep. Todd Akin, also reportedly botched an attempt to lead the crowd in a recital of the Pledge of Allegiance.)

A woman named Mary Beth Bishop of Colorado spent $500 on a plane ticket, and was quoted by Politico as warning the Democrats, "We need to show and uphold the Constitution. It wasn't written on toilet paper."

Readers know I am no defender of President Obama's policies. But there is nothing remotely "unconstitutional" about publicly subsidized health insurance. It's certainly bad policy, and Republicans shouldn't hesitate to vote against any bill with a public option in it, but to say that the president and Congress are stepping all over the Constitution is absurd. This is the exact same battle cry used by left-wing moonbats use to claim that any law limiting abortion is "unconstitutional" -- the use of a conclusory statement of law with no precedent to support it.

Come to think of it, do you know what actually qualifies as constitutionally repugnant?

Detaining American citizens as "enemy combatants," without trial and without access to an attorney.

A president claiming plenary wartime powers.

A president, exercising his Article II authority, who claims that he alone determines the scope of that authority.

A president who claims that he cannot be limited by his predecessors' executive orders.

For the last eight years, Boehner, Akin, et al. sat idly by while the Bush administration engaged in an unprecedented expansion of executive power that, of all presidential actions since Nixon, was the most crushing to the text of the actual Constitution.

However, over the past 10 months, the House leadership and the right-wing lunatic fringe have apparently experienced an awakening as to what the Constitution purportedly says.

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2009 Republican Party.

28 October 2009

More required reading

Zakaria on Afghanistan.

Will slams Cheney, suggests "dithering" might have been useful re: Iraq.

Will, again, on a potential GOP wave in 2010.

These numbers -- from Illinois, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, Nevada and yes, New York -- back him up.

El Rushbo is losing his marbles.

Newsweek's Jon Meacham on our 21st-century conceptions of ideology.

From deep in the vault: A great John McCain piece, appropriately entitled "The Subversive."

More McCain: Some retro campaign fodder from January '08.

23 October 2009

Sullivan on conservatism

Take it with a grain of salt if you must, but he's exactly right:

"It's perfectly proper -- even admirable -- to demonstrate and argue against the new administration's ideas, but it's also worth recalling that this plan in its essentials was an integral part of the president's campaign platform and his party's effective manifesto. It was debated ad nauseum last year, and Obama won by a hefty margin. The tone of these protests suggests that this is some wild power-grab. It isn't. ...

The protesters keep saying that they want their country back. Sorry, my fellow small-governmenters, but this country is a democracy, and you didn't lose your country, you just lost an election. You had your chance for eight years. You blew it, and you lost. What Obama is doing is what he was elected to do. The principled response is not a massive, extremist-riddled hissy fit a few months in, but a constructive set of proposals ... You have to win some political credibility for that; and then you have to beat the man you lost so badly to last year. That's the civil and civilized way forward for the right. It also seems, alas, to be the one they are currently refusing to take."

16 October 2009

The right and the president

According to the most recent Fox News poll, President Obama's approval rating has slipped to 49. I have offered my thoughts on the president many times on this site -- I have disapprovingly referred to him as a 50 percent president, saw through his changenhope charade from day one and ripped the starry-eyed Obamatrons who wistfully hang on his every word.

I continue to be dumbfounded, however, by his treatment from the lunatic fringe.

This comment from Glenn Beck -- I'm sure, echoed by many others on the right -- was just obscene. (Here, you'll find some gratuitous Beck weepage.)

Applause to Joe Scarborough -- a guy who was reviled by the far right as one of the first conservatives to criticize the Bush administration during Bush's first term, and who is now being criticized for pointing out the hypocrisy of Limbaugh, Hannity, et al., who willingly followed Bush over a cliff and now insist on calling Obama names to burnish their "conservative" credentials.

By the way, if, as Limbaugh mandates, refusing to call the president names makes you a "neutered chickified moderate," then I suppose Scarborough and I are in this together.

I genuinely don't believe that Barack Obama is Muslim, Marxist, a Manchurian candidate, anti-American, or a man who wishes to take away your guns and weaken our military. I believe he was born in Hawaii, is a Christian and yes, like most liberals, loves his country. I suppose I'm in the minority when I say that the president seems like a reasonably nice man who loves his family (after barely knowing his own father) but is simply wrong. He was wrong about the stimulus, he's wrong about "health care reform," he's wrong about deficit spending, and he's just flat-out wrong about the proper role of government.

If Limbaugh and I sat in the same congressional chamber, I'm sure he and I would vote together more often than not. In fact, away from his microphone, I might even like the man personally.

From 1992 to 1998, Rush Limbaugh shared the spotlight with House Speaker Newt Gingrich as the voice of a thoughtful opposition to the fiscally moderate, socially liberal President Clinton. After the revelation of Clinton's affair(s), the far right went into hysterics (the same people, by the way, who will likely re-elect admitted philanderer David Vitter to a second Senate term, and who would pull the lever for admitted adulterer Gingrich in a heartbeat), led by the thrice-married Limbaugh.

As a result of conservatism's uproar against Clinton's dalliances, Democrats, in turn, upon Bush's election in 2000, were almost universally aligned against the Bush administration from day one. After approving ratings in the 80s following 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan, Bush's invasion of Iraq consolidated even moderate Democrats like Jim Webb and Claire McCaskill behind the likes of MoveOn.org and Nancy Pelosi. In the years that followed, some of the things said about Bush were nothing short of despicable. Bush limped through his second term, a lame duck from the very beginning, with very few and 70 percent of the country -- and probably nearly half of his own party -- lined up in firm disapproval of him.

And to this point, Republicans have been just as relentless with Obama. Look -- I don't agree with the man either, and think that his two signature initiatives -- the "stimulus" and his vague idea of "health care reform" -- are disastrous. But his treatment by the far right -- led by virtually every talking head from Beck to Savage and Ingraham to Levin in an effort to toss red meat to the base and spike ratings -- is just as disgusting as Democrats' treatment of Bush.

But I've found that my take on the president is shared by virtually no one: He is flat wrong on almost every policy initiative, but he's not an evil guy.

I suppose that puts me in a lonely place.

09 October 2009

Required reading: Nobel Prize edition

Steele is dead on.

Even liberals can't believe it.

Richard Cohen says the president is still in campaign mode.

Peggy Noonan, one of our favorites and the epitome of a conservative elitist, thoughtfully examines the situation in Afghanistan.

Al Franken annihilates a spongy-kneed anti-plaintiffs lackey. If anyone would care to discuss the GOP's fixation with the utter and complete fallacy that is the "out of control plaintiffs" movement, click here and become educated.

Fiscal responsibility is dead.

Heyward asks: Is conservatism, too?

Or is it just a cult?

Can anyone possibly be surprised by this Fox News report?

Mark my words: This man will be the Republican nominee in 2012.

Another sad example of intolerance reigning supreme on college campuses.

John Stewart obliterates ACORN. (Hat tip: Stubborn Facts)

And Joe Scarborough unloads on Limbaugh.

02 October 2009

The maverick rides again

Politico has a worthwhile piece on Sen. McCain and his efforts to reshape the Republican Party. I actually read most of it while in line at the downtown Starbucks on my new firm-issued iPhone.

Anyway ...

The more I have read about McCain, the more fascinating his political career has been.

Democrats dismissed him during the campaign as the second coming of George W. Bush, and argued that his ill-conceived response to the financial meltdown demonstrated a temperament unfit for the presidency. At best, conservatives simply admire the man and his accomplishments -- warily -- from a distance. At worst (see: Glenn Beck), the tin-pot loudmouths on the far right think he's the second coming of Trotsky. Beck, incredibly, went so far as to say that he would be worse for the country than Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. Ann Coulter said she'd support Clinton before him because, in her words, Hillary was "more conservative." Rush Limbaugh's campaign of perpetual rants against the Senior Senator is approaching the two-decade mark. Laura Ingraham inexplicably engaged in a war of words with McCain's daughter and called her "fat."

At age 72, it would be quite easy for McCain to ride off into the sunset, particularly after two brutal presidential campaigns (2000 and 2008) that left him deeply disappointed. I'm sure most conservatives wish he would do so. However, he intends to seek re-election to his fifth Senate term in 2010, and doesn't appear to be going anywhere.

I've argued here many times -- and Newt Gingrich has said the same thing -- that the Republican Party must enlarge its tent in order to return to prominence. John McCain has voted with the Republican Party better than 80 percent of the time during his 22-year Senate career. He is a conservative. Period. But it's his (in?)famous penchant for crossing the aisle and working with the Feingolds, the Kennedys and the Liebermans that has made him one of the most admired political figures in American life (and one of the most reviled figures by the far right).

Colin Powell was dead wrong when he said the GOP needed to move toward the center and ditch the "small government" mantra if it wanted to return to power. The Republican Party does not need to sacrifice its core principles, but rather needs to be more inclusive, more accommodating, more thoughtful and more civil. There exists an incredible vacuum in Washington -- the president is too aloof and inexperienced, congressional Democrats are too liberal, and Republican leaders feel compelled to capitulate to the shrill voices on the fringe -- that is dying to be filled. Americans want solutions that the vast majority of the Democratic Party is simply unable to provide.

The GOP will be better off if thoughtful candidates who appeal to the vital center are on the ballot. Kudos to Sen. McCain for his work in this regard.

16 September 2009

Required reading: Commish's swearing-in edition

Tomorrow, I will be sworn in as a full-fledged attorney at law in Jefferson City, the town that incomprehensibly happens to be the capital of Missouri.

This means that if you're located in or around the St. Louis area and need an attorney, ours is the firm you want. Of course, the shroud of secrecy around "the Commish" means that my identity is never divulged on this site. However, you can leave a post in the comments section at any time with your e-mail address, and I'd be glad to follow up with you. Our firm does mostly civil litigation, but we're pretty close to what you'd classify as a full-service operation.

Now, for some of the web's more interesting reading:

The best take on 9/11, eight years later, is from Andrew Sullivan, who is quickly becoming one of our favorites.

The RCP blog thinks that Sen. Dodd's re-election bid remains on thin ice, despite a recent poll to the contrary.

More election trouble for the Dems?

Charlie Cook says they're "bleeding independents."

Jeremy Lott from Politico thinks, and I quote, President Obama is "failing miserably."

The Obama White House made even more exceptions to their ultra-stringent, transparent ethics standards? I don't believe it!

Philip K. Howard from The Atlantic gives an informative overview of potential medical malpractice reforms. Interestingly, tort reform is virtually the only Republican idea the president has culled thus far as part of his health care package, and it's the plank of the GOP platform that I find to be the most asinine. I'll freely admit my bias against tort reform as a trial lawyer. However, my thoughts on tort reform can be found here. Facts are stubborn things.

Justin Gardner of the invaluable Donklephant examines the world of rescissions.

Our friend John Burke at The Purple Center has a good take on Congressman Wilson's idiotic outburst last week during the president's speech. My thought on Rep. Wilson is this: Sure, many liberals called President Bush a liar at almost every turn. But there's something different about a presidential address to a joint session of Congress, and an elected official's conduct during such a time. Regardless of your feelings on the president, Wilson's outburst was ugly and quite frankly, unbecoming of an elected official. Imagine your outrage, conservatives, if Charlie Rangel had done that circa 2006.

Two good takes on the "Obama wants to brainwash our children" issue: Pat Buchanan and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Bill McClellan.

Sullivan, again, on the conservative movement that effectively excommunicated him.

Michael Moore says he might quit documentaries. Perhaps he should also quit triple cheeseburgers and morbid obesity.

14 September 2009

From the WTF department

I'd like to offer a hearty "attaboy" to the members of the lunatic fringe who took to the streets on September 12.

By the way, for those of you interested in cementing the GOP as a permanent, irrelevant minority, dressing your kids up like this is a great start.

Andrew Sullivan has his take here. I agree with 90% of it.

I had similar thoughts in April during the advent of the tea party protests.

I don't disagree with the idea that the current administration spends too much and is unconcerned with the deficit. Unless Sarah Palin inexplicably wins the Republican nomination, I will not be voting to re-elect Barack Obama in 2012.

But how quickly we forget about the incompetent, big-government "compassionate conservatism" nonsense peddled by Bush & Co. for eight years that is largely responsible for the Obama administration sweeping into power in the first place. This was an administration that immediately squandered a $200 billion budget surplus, doubled the national debt in just eight years and at virtually every corner, attempted to expand the size and scope of the federal government (Medicare Part D, the TARP bailout, every single possible issue concerning civil liberties, etc.). Outside of his conduct of the war in Afghanistan, I cannot think of one single measure that should indicate to anyone -- Republican, Democrat or independent -- that George W. Bush was an effective president. Sorry.

Here's why that's relevant. Bush left office with an approval rating right at 30 percent. However, his favorables among self-identified Republicans remained in the 70s. I'd bet the farm that the vast, vast majority of those marching would be more than happy to whoop and holler and tell you how much they miss the free-spending Dubya. As Sullivan noted, "limited government" appears to be quite an elastic idea.

Look. I don't care for Obama, either. I have written ad nauseum about why his "changenhope" banter was nothing more than a dog and pony show, and how he has been intellectually lazy (at best) at almost every turn in addressing critics of his policies.

However, I can't take these protesters seriously. These marches are not borne out of principle or logic, but rather out of the same sort of hyperpartisanship that has driven intellectual discourse in this country to the brink of extinction.

11 September 2009

Eight years on

Even though I have plenty to say about the health care debate, the president's speech and the idiotic outburst by Congressman Wilson, it seems much less important today than it did last night.

Eight years is a long time. For some perspective, the immeasurable Mark Steyn has must-reads here and here.

I'd also direct you to Charles Krauthammer's outstanding piece from September 12, 2001.

And the president had a well-articulated op-ed in the New York Daily News this morning.

We can start the bickering and jousting again tomorrow. Just not today.

08 September 2009

Our post-partisan healer

In a speech today, President Obama demanded that the health care debate end immediately.

It's kind of tough to kill the national discourse on a topic when you are scheduled to deliver a primetime address to a joint session of Congress tomorrow night, Mr. President.

The link above tells you everything you need to know.

First, it's impossible for the debate to end, if for no other reason than because the president still hasn't actually put forth any sort of concrete proposal yet. If he supports the House liberals' bill that has been skewered over and over, he should say so. Otherwise, he should actually tell the American people what this vague notion of "health care reform" entails.

I honestly don't get it.

By the way, two speakers who took the stage before the president today called for a public option.

Second, the reason the president wants to kill the debate is because he is simply unable to face critics head-on. As we noted here, his speeches are populated with straw men, as he ascribes to all opponents the characteristics and beliefs of the fringe right. In reality, 84% of Americans are satisfied with the health care they receive, and they are rightfully skeptical of the Pelosi-Reid far-left manifesto. The opposition to the liberal-led attempted overhaul of the health care system is not just from the fringe, and the president is either intentionally ignoring that in his speeches, or is patently stupid.

Is this really transparency? Is this really change we can believe in? Is this really a post-partisan utopia becoming self-evident?

Said Charles Krauthammer:

"For a man who only recently bred a cult, ordinariness is a great burden, and for his acolytes, a crushing disappointment. Obama has become a politician like others. And like other flailing presidents, he will try to salvage a cherished reform -- and his own standing -- with yet another primetime speech.

"But for the first time since election night in Grant Park, he will appear in the most unfamiliar of guises -- a mere mortal, a treacherous transformation to which a man of Obama's supreme self-regard may never adapt."

04 September 2009

Bipartisan health care reform

Tennessee's Bob Corker is quickly becoming one of my favorite senators.

Based on comments by Sen. Corker (see link), Sen. McCain on the Tonight Show a few nights back, as well as comments from several moderate Democrats, I think 70% of Americans could get behind a bill that accomplished the following things:
  • Increases portability of coverage -- e.g., if you lose your job, you still have the option to pay your premiums and continue your coverage
  • Allows people to go across state lines to get the health care of their choice
  • Limits the ability of insurance companies to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions (Keith Olbermann, who I normally can't stand, described this phenomenon as "discriminating against the sick." I'm not sure I agree with that, but it's interesting)
  • Incentivizes the purchase of health insurance via tax credits
  • Encourages the creation of a special risk pool for people with serious illnesses
What's that, you say? You want a "public option"? It's called Medicaid.

The problem is, as noted here, it's up to the president and his liberal allies to actually demonstrate a willingness to compromise. Not surprisingly, "compromise" isn't a word that's used much in the Obama White House.

Your move, Mr. President.

02 September 2009

Slip sliding away

A few weeks ago, I termed Barack Obama a "50 percent president."

The obvious implication of those remarks was that the Changemaker has already alienated conservatives with his outlandish spending and backward-looking attacks on the Bush administration, and has turned off moderates with his insistence on governing largely from the hard left.

I genuinely believe what was unthinkable even four months ago: If he continues down this path, Barack Obama will be a one-term president. And I believe we will be able to point to the ongoing health care debacle as the turning point.

The Democrats could actually learn quite a bit by listening to Chris Matthews. Striking a populist tone, Matthews has argued repeatedly for increased portability of coverage as well as limits on insurance companies' ability to deny coverage to individuals based on pre-existing conditions. These are two big issues that virtually no one can deny are problems with the current system. Whether they should be addressed government regulation is another matter, but to argue that the current system affords "freedom" to choose is a misnomer. Matthews hasn't been a proponent of a single-payer system or even a public option, but rather, has argued that the system we have is only moderately flawed and could be cured by such incremental reforms.

I personally think Matthews is partially right, and it would behoove Obama to pay attention to what moderate Democrats like Matthews, Max Baucus and Kent Conrad are saying. This type of argument, I believe, would be supported by a majority of Americans.

It's no secret that the president's job approval numbers have been in the midst of a steady decline. Real Clear Politics has a handy page, found here, that tracks data published by most of the major polling organizations. As noted by us previously, the president took office eight and a half months ago with approval ratings in the 70s and unfavorable ratings in the high teens.

One poll not cited by RCP (which notably would have dragged the president's aggregate approval rating even lower) was Zogby's from August 31, found here. The veteran Zogby's cadre puts Obama's approval rating at 42. Forty-two! Additionally, Zogby isn't the only high-profile pollster to find Obama's approval ratings in the 40s -- Scott Rasmussen puts the number at 46.

The key to Obama's 2008 electoral victory was not the liberal outpouring of support on his behalf, but rather the fact that, according to Gallup, he won 60 percent of the self-described "centrist" vote.

By contrast, Zogby's poll, cited above, found that just 37 percent of independents approve of the job he is doing.

That is an astounding swing, and it's clear that the president's 20-point drop in his approval rating since inauguration day is due in large part to the views of these independents.

How many times have we argued on this site that winning the center is vital? During the general election, Obama out-centered perhaps the preeminent centrist politician in the country. He argued for middle-class tax cuts, reducing the deficit, adding troops to the fight in Afghanistan, promised transparency in government and only offered vagueries about his health care plans. Barack Obama ran as a moderate, plain and simple. Almost immediately upon his inauguration, he largely abandoned the vital center.

The president still has time to swat House liberals out of the way and formulate a real, adult solution to the country's health care issues that can attract a majority of Americans. But by offering virtually no specifics as to what his plan might include, letting House Democrats write the bill, and attacking anyone -- left, center or right -- who dared to criticize the package, the president has dug himself an enormous hole.

Many liberals, when confronted with the issue of the president's declining poll numbers, try to compare his slide to that of George W. Bush or, more favorably, Bill Clinton.

However, Clinton and Obama are as different as night and day.

Bill Clinton saved his presidency after the 1994 congressional elections swept the GOP into power. By regrouping and governing from the center, Clinton redeemed himself, passing the North American Free Trade Agreement, putting Al Gore in charge of slashing wasteful bureaucratic spending, passing a massive overhaul of the welfare system, and balancing the budget in 1997.

Obama's problem is that he is no Clinton. Clinton came to office in 1993 with a record of working across the aisle in a reliably conservative state. As noted by both Dick Morris and David Gergen, Clinton came to office intent on governing from the center, and became rattled when the Democratic leadership in the Senate gave him stern warnings about becoming friendly with congressional Republicans. Clinton was, in many ways, a different kind of Democrat. And Barack Obama is nothing if not a conventional liberal in every sense of the word.

If the president wants to actually save his presidency before it has barely gotten off the ground, he must demonstrate an ability to work across the aisle and, yes, include conservatives and moderates in the decision-making process.

Unfortunately for liberals, this is something their man has done precious little of during his remarkably unremarkable career.

The torture party?

Andrew Sullivan has a thought-provoking, albeit very hard-hitting and somewhat disagreeable, post here. Regardless of whether you agree with his policy positions, Sullivan is unquestionably one of the best bloggers on the internet, uses his intelligence like a buzzsaw and often is impossible to peg politically.

At the risk of shamelessly self-promoting myself a la The Other McCain, I wrote here that it is disingenuous for Dick Cheney or any other conservative leader to frame the entire torture debate around the ticking time-bomb scenario. If you think this is a simple debate, you need to read more. What Cheney and the likes of Bill Kristol have argued for is effectively a carte blanche on executive branch discretion on national security matters. I have read the original torture memo by Bush administration attorney John Yoo and have examined the U.N. Convention Against Torture, which President Reagan made the U.S. a party to in 1987.

I've also read the Federalist Papers and am a Burkeian. And the notion that any governmental official -- whether it is the Bush administration asking for a blank check and a blind eye to stamp out what they believe to be tyranny around the world, or the Obama administration asking to spend us into oblivion in order to achieve the increasingly vague notion of "health care reform," I'm not willing to buy what anyone is selling.

It's disappointing to me that the bottom layer of the right-wing noise machine -- Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, et al. -- automatically pegs any opponent of "enhanced interrogation techniques" as somehow un-American, or an ACLU ally who is ambivalent about protecting the homeland. That's wrong. Do you really think President Obama, Vice President Biden or Gen. Jim Jones, Obama's national security advisor, wishes to see a repeat of 9/11? If you do, I'd ask that you find the nearest city bus and jump in front of it.

I voted for George W. Bush in 2004 and John McCain in 2008. I blast the present administration more than I did the prior one. Yet I can't bring myself to agree with Dick Cheney. There's a reason for this.

The movement which Cheney leads has one thing in common with the Obama administration: It's intellectually lazy. As I noted on May 19, I want Cheney to tell me, "We tried X, and it didn't work; so we tried Y, and we got valuable information." That hasn't been Cheney's argument (or, for that matter, Cheney's disciples on the far right who still afford the former vice president the same slobbery adoration that spongy-kneed liberals reserve for President Obama). His point has simply been to waive the ticking time bomb scenario around as a magic wand and demand that the administration's critics leave him alone, regardless of the factual circumstances presented.

Much like the health care debate we wrote about here, the emptiest cans have made the most noise in the torture debate. In spite of Cheney's intellectual laziness, the far left, led by the ACLU, has been equally if not more egregious.

The ACLU demanded that the Justice Department release classified photographs of the Bush administration's enhanced interrogation policy in action. The organization claimed that the American people deserved to see the alleged abuses inflicted on terror suspects. In reality, it was a way to score some cheap political points with their benefactors and make a scene.

What has been most disappointing to me has been the president's attitude, approving the appointment of a special investigator to go after the Bush administration, after the torture debate has raged on for more than a year. Again, the president in this regard -- who, very quietly, has moved very little from the policies of the Bush administration that he so vociferously opposed during the general election -- is intellectually dishonest. He's attempting to score political points and distract the country from his own political comedy of errors. I have no other explanation when he has been in office now for eight months.

Additionally, while Cheney, et al. demand absolute discretion, the liberals at MoveOn.org and the Huffington Post demand that terror suspects be treated like they are on vacation. Waterboarding is torture. But loud music? Wall-sits? Sleep deprivation? Refusing to let prisoners read the Koran?


I genuinely would like to sit down with Keith Olbermann, Arianna Huffington or other harsh critics of enhanced interrogation and ask them to outline their own interrogation policy. Olbermann in particular expresses outrage -- outrage! -- anytime Cheney pops into the news. I slam Cheney because he uses tortured logic. But Olbermann slams Cheney because he genuinely seems to believe that the definition of "torture" is wide and sweeping. Additionally, and more notably, I've never once heard him articulate a sound, realistic interrogation policy that simultaneously ensures homeland security is protected and manages to keep the U.S. within the bounds of international law (and the governing international law can be found here).

At the most basic level, I genuinely doubt that the likes of Olbermann, et al. are able to formulate such an idea. It likely hasn't even crossed their minds.

As long as Cheney remains in the news, the likes of Limbaugh, et al. will continue to support him. The noise of the conservative talkers will inevitably rouse the loony left, and another food fight will be on yet again.

We've stated here before, many times, that much of our national discourse could not get much more embarrassing.

Where have the adults gone? The McCains, the Powells, the Liebermans and the Webbs have seen their voices drowned out by the inane shrill partisan drivel from either side.


I'm sick of all of you.

27 August 2009

A farewell to Teddy

About 48 hours since Sen. Kennedy's death, I'm in a contemplative mood.

I disagreed with Sen. Kennedy often. At some of the most fundamental levels, his view of government could not have diverged more sharply from mine. I believe that what has been called the purpose of his life -- universal health care (read: socialized medicine) -- is a bleeding-heart liberal cause, driven by a flat-out wrong conception of what constitutes a "right."

Putting that aside, however, his passing reminds me of what I grew up understanding about the United States Senate, and public service in general. What was most striking to me was not the as-expected liberal outpouring of grief, but rather the words of those colleagues of Sen. Kennedy who worked across the aisle from and so ferociously opposed him. These remarks tell me all I need to know.

Said Missouri's own Kit Bond: 

"Sen. Kennedy was not only known as a tremendous public servant, but also as a gentleman within the halls of Congress. He was a great ally when we worked together, and friendly and courteous -- yet formidable -- when we disagreed."

Said Orrin Hatch:

"When I first came to the United States Senate, I was filled with conservative fire in my belly and an itch to take on any and everyone who stood in my way, including Ted Kennedy. ...

"In the current climate of today's United States Senate, it is rare to find opportunities where both sides can come together and work in the middle to craft a solution for our country's problems. Ted Kennedy, with all of his ideological verbosity and idealism, was a rare person who could at times put aside differences and look for common solutions. Not many ever got to see that side of him, but as peers and colleagues, we were able to share some of those moments."

And finally, said the Senior Senator from Arizona himself:

"Many of his fellow senators, Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, will note today that Ted was sincerely intent on finding enough common ground among us to make progress on the issues of our day, and toward that end, he would work as hard and as modestly as any staffer. Many will recall his convivial nature, his humor, his thoughtfulness. We will praise as his greatest strength the integrity of his word. When he made a promise to you, he kept it, no matter what.

"What is harder for us to express is the emptiness we will feel in the Senate in his absence. Even when we are all crowded in the chamber for a vote, engaged in dozens of separate conversations, it will seem a quiet and less interesting place, in the knowledge that his booming voice, fueled by his passion for his convictions, will never encourage or assail or impress us again.

"I will miss him very much."

Ted Kennedy was an arch-liberal, the perpetual nemesis of the conservative movement. From a political perspective, I believe he was wrong about many things. He had his share of personal failings to be sure, including and not limited to that tragic night at Chappaquiddick Creek. But everyone is entitled to forgiveness. And despite all my quibbles with his ideological convictions, there is no doubt that Sen. Kennedy was a graceful public servant. By all accounts, even in the most heated of disagreements, he never failed to treat his colleagues with respect and dignity. 

In short, for Ted Kennedy, it seemed that politics was never personal. In this world of Hannitys and Palins and Pelosis and Reids, it's an ideal that is too long gone. 

25 August 2009

Required reading: August

It's good to be finished with the Missouri Bar Exam and back to the real world of practicing law. 

I have no doubt that, regardless of your place on the ideological spectrum, one or more of these links will aggravate you:

First things first: The Wall Street Journal criticizes the administration's capitulation to the far left in hiring special counsel to re-open investigations into allegations of CIA abuse.  I intended on addressing this in my next post, but the Opinion Journal's editorial board does this topic more justice than I'm able to. Frankly, this decision is more of the same from President Obama -- it's either a self-serving attempt to distract Americans from the current administration's failures, or it's just another incredibly stupid political maneuver. Post-partisanship indeed, Mr. President.

Without a doubt, Barney Frank is wrong at least 90% of the time. However, this exchange with one of the "Obama = Hitler" moonbats is brilliant. (Hat tip: The Pajama Pundit)

Additionally, should anyone else desire to equate any past, present or future administration with the Third Reich, I'd direct you to this thoughtful column by Newsweek's Jon Meacham.

Joe Scarborough unloads on Sarah Palin. (Hat tip: The Pajama Pundit) Flip to the 0:53 mark for the exchange between Scarborough and Pat Buchanan. And if we haven't shamelessly linked ourselves enough, my uproarious thoughts on the former governor can be found here.

Political analyst Charlie Cook has some interesting thoughts on the 2010 midterms, forecasting a potential Democrat loss of 20 seats in the House.

Speaking of 2010, early polling indicates that liberal stalwarts Harry Reid and Chris Dodd could be in big trouble ...

... and the Dems could be in danger of losing the president's former seat in Illinois.

RealClearPolitics' Jay Cost says the president blew his mandate.

George Will hits what he calls the administration's "statism."

In case you missed it, the most recent Gallup numbers put the president's approval rating at 51 percent. Check out the tracking graph.

And finally: How many other bands can pull off a 9 1/2-minute instrumental live?

21 August 2009

The Commish on health care, part 2

In our prior post on the hubris surrounding the health care debate, we noted that a recent Zogby poll found that 84% of Americans were satisfied with their health care. 

FactCheck.org (my new favorite resource) estimates that there are about 46 million people who do not have health insurance. That sounds like a lot. But let's break down that 46 million number further.

According to the National Institute for Health Care Management, 26 percent of the uninsured actually qualify for public coverage (specifically, Medicaid), but do not make use of it. That's 12 million people. I would submit to you: Whose responsibility is that? If you remove the people who actually qualify for government-provided health insurance but have chosen not to make use of it, the number of "uninsured" drops to 34 million.

Furthermore, according to the Census Bureau, 20 percent of the uninsured have household incomes of at least $75,000. If you are uninsured yet pull in more than $75,000 per year, your priorities are skewed beyond belief. That swath of the uninsured, by the way, is about 9.5 million people. That means nearly 10 million people make at least $75,000 per year and don't have health insurance. I'd submit to you: Whose responsibility is that? 

If you remove the people who (1) qualify for public coverage and (2) make $75,000 or more per year, the number of insured "in need" drops to about 24 million.

According to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, 21 percent of the uninsured are immigrants. Now of course, that includes individuals who are here lawfully. However, there are an estimated 10-11 million immigrants in the United States illegally. If anyone would care to set forth an argument for why exactly American tax dollars should be used to fund the treatment of individuals who have entered the country illegally and flouted our immigration laws, I'd love to read it in the comments section. 

According to the Census Bureau, roughly 40 percent of the uninsured are between the ages of 18 and 34. As a member of this age bracket myself, I can only speak of the attitude among my peers, and do not intend for this to be extrapolated to all 18-t0-34-year-olds generally. However, the prevailing attitude among the individuals of this age that I have encountered is that health insurance is simply an expense that they don't need. And remember -- the federal government insures the truly indigent through Medicaid.

Finally, the harsh reality for the liberal cause is that, according to Families USA, uninsured Americans consumed an astounding $42 billion in health care services in 2008 -- and that doesn't even include money that came out of public funds or private citizens' pockets. In other words, that's free care that health care providers simply were forced to write off. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation made similar findings.

By the way, you can check my numbers here.

This post does not purport to describe the entire picture of the American health care system, but it certainly discredits the apocalyptic portrait painted by the White House. In reality, after subtracting illegal immigrants, individuals who qualify for public insurance, people who earn more than $75,000 (which is nearly 4 times the poverty level), and those between the ages of 18 and 34 for whom it is cheaper to pay per diem than it is to buy insurance, we are simply talking about a very small group of Americans that is in need. To be sure, the cost of health insurance has risen dramatically, and affording it sometimes requires families to make sacrifices. 

However, if you buy into the president's proposals because you think that the current system is barbaric and inadequate, let me simply quote John Adams, and remind you that facts are stubborn things.

14 August 2009

The food fight over health care

I'm less than 72 hours from a federal jury trial, so this will be short and to the point. 

The national discussion over health care hasn't been a debate. It's been a food fight.

I am sick and tired of the idiotic rhetoric about health care reform. Several individuals, like Kent Conrad and Max Baucus, have come up with thoughtful proposals and have resisted the extremist urges of their party. Others, like the president's liberal allies in the House and the "death panel" zealots who make a mockery of these town hall meetings, continue to drink the extremist kool-aid and make the nation collectively dumber.

On one hand, I am highly offended by President Obama's pontificating about the necessity of broad, overarching health care reform on the collective back of the American taxpayer. The president, per usual, has taken it upon himself to lecture the country on what is best for it. He's fighting an uphill battle, and for good reason. According to this Zogby poll, 84 percent of Americans are satisfied with their current health care. Eighty-four. The president and his liberal House allies not only want to crank up taxes on those in the top tax bracket (when hasn't this been a solution for a Democratic Congress?), but wants to impose tax penalties on businesses that don't offer their employees health insurance. There's nothing quite like the smell of haughty, elitist liberal paternalism in the morning. If ever Barack Obama had the chance to demonstrate that he was a different kind of politician, now would have been the time. Instead, the Changenhope luster continues to wear off. He is doing his best to hammer a solution that the majority of the country doesn't want down our throats.

On the other hand, the rhetoric from the far right is so far beyond uninformed it's shocking -- unless, of course, you've paid attention to the rhetoric from the far right since the November election, in which case the "death panel" crap is actually in line with prior behavior. Sarah Palin and Chuck Grassley -- and Grassley, at least, should know better -- have seized on an argument made by former New York lieutenant governor Betsy McCaughey that the bill actually sets up "death panels," which will force your grandparents to go learn about how they can be euthanized. 

Now, I don't agree with federal funding of end-of-life planning, no more than I agree with federal funding of wasteful defense programs that haven't been used since the Cold War ended. However, to claim that H.R. 3200 will set up "death panels" is just plain stupid. Do you really believe that? Then click here and actually read about it from someone other than Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter. Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing. THE BILL SIMPLY ALLOWS MEDICARE TO REIMBURSE YOU FOR THE COSTS OF SETTING UP ADVANCE HEALTH CARE DIRECTIVES! That last sentence was in all caps, so read it again. Conservatives have a glorious opportunity to seize on an ultraliberal president pushing failed, tired, recycled, unpopular policies and present a real solution to America. Instead, they have gone into a collective hysteria about these supposed "death panels" and the Obama administration's desire to kill off old folks. 

Everyone needs to grow up. I'm getting sick of this crap.

10 August 2009

The 50 percent president

I am still preparing a post on health care reform, but with a federal trial coming up next week, I'm not sure when I'll be able to actually piece it all together. Needless to say, Sen. Kent Conrad is making a strong case to be included on the Bipartisan Rules' Mount Rushmore.

At any rate, I've been simultaneously fascinated and disappointed by President Obama's first 200 days in office. On November 5, 2008, I offered these kind words for the president-elect. To me, Bill Clinton's model of moderate Democratic governance and Obama's centrist campaign rhetoric gave me hope (I am so, so sorry for the "hope" reference) that perhaps I could get behind this administration. Given the Changemaker's thin, ultraliberal voting record in the Senate, I was expecting the worst, but crossing my fingers for the best. 

There is no doubt that, in my lifetime, no president of any party has entered the White House with a mandate like that enjoyed by Barack Obama. The election was a clear referendum on the last eight years of Republican rule, and of a lame-duck president whose approval rating hovered around 30 percent during his last two years in office. Without a viable third-party candidate, Obama became the first Democratic president to take more than 50% of the popular vote since Jimmy Carter in 1976. His president's party picked up 9 -- nine! -- seats in the U.S. Senate, giving them a commanding 60-40 lead. His party also gained 18 seats in the House, giving them an overwhelming 256-178 edge in that chamber. 

I applaud the president for ignoring the clamoring of the far left to reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine, his decision to double-down in Afghanistan, and the dispatching of former President Clinton to obtain the release of the American journalists detained in North Korea. 

But, as usual, my instincts were correct -- President Obama has governed as anything but a postpartisan healer.

On the campaign trail, he promised to ban lobbyists from his administration. He repeatedly denounced the McCain campaign for the presence of former lobbyists on the campaign staff. That, my friends, would have been change we can believe in. Then, he attempted to stack his administration with, you guessed it, lobbyists. Our thoughts on this monumental hypocrisy can be found here.

The president appointed myriad officials who seemed to have trouble paying their taxes -- including Timothy Geithner, who is now his chief economic policymaker.

He was pulled into the Blagojevich saga, and refused to disclose any information whatsoever about his contacts with the former governor's office, despite his campaign promises of transparency.

Upon taking office, the president immediately attempted to slam through an enormous liberal grab bag that was termed an "economic stimulus." Given that about 12 percent of the money has been spent thus far, we're not entirely sure that the word "stimulus" is quite appropriate. Our thoughts can be found here

Instead of working with a bipartisan coalition of moderate senators -- McCain, Lieberman, Nelson, et al. -- to create a package about half the size of the actual bill (which some experts believe could have garnered the support of 3/4 of the Senate), the president completely ignored the concerns of moderates (and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office) that the stimulus would do more harm than good long-term. The president had political capital, and with the bloated stimulus package, was clearly intent on spending it. Despite the administration's posturing, the president clearly had no interest meeting Republicans in the middle.

The same thing is happening with respect to the health care debate. The president has enlisted virtually no Republican input, and has displayed no interest in forging a bipartisan consensus. The only reason the administration will discuss particulars of the bill is because myriad Democratic senators have balked at the proposals of the administration and their cohorts in the House. 

The bottom line is that Barack Obama's presidency is shaping up much like his short career in the Senate. On a few minor issues -- such as rounding up loose nukes in the former Soviet Union -- he can attract considerable Republican support and operate in a bipartisan fashion. But on big-ticket items -- the stimulus, the cap-and-trade bill, card check and health care reform -- he simply won't budge. 

It's difficult to overstate this next point.

From a political perspective, the president was given an opportunity to cement the Democratic Party as the dominant governing force in American politics for perhaps the next 20 years. From the perspective of public policy, he was given an enormous mandate to reshape the American way of life to reflect the realities of the 21st century. The stimulus could have been smaller -- much, much smaller -- and directed most of the money to be spent up front. Instead of taking a swing at a single-payer system, the president could have aimed to educate the indigent about the benefits of Medicaid, and backing the creation of privately owned co-ops, thereby providing insurance to tens of millions of uninsured Americans. 

However, instead of making good on his promises to reshape Washington into a postpartisan utopia, the president, as we've noted many times before, clearly has no interest in governing from the center. 

Any dissent whatsoever -- no matter what the topic -- has been met with shrieks of "extremism" and "obstructionism" from the White House. To me, this is a direct reflection of the president's adamant refusal to work across the aisle on any matter of substance during his short time in the Senate. 

He simply doesn't know how to deal with dissent.

And the latest revelation -- that the White House is actually soliciting the e-mail addresses of individuals who are spreading "misinformation" -- is beyond ridiculous. While I don't doubt that the president is legitimately attempting to combat what he believes to be misinformation, it's a piece of hideous political strategy, to say nothing of the underlying 1st Amendment concerns.

The harsh reality is that Obama is turning into just another 50 percent president. If this much of the luster has worn off after just 200 days, what kind of shape will his leftist governing strategy be in when the midterm elections arrive in November 2010?

For all of the Republican Party's failures over the past decade, this remains a staunchly center-right country. Obama won the presidency largely because he campaigned as a centrist, promising middle-class tax cuts, deficit reductions, governmental reform and extremely vague promises about providing greater access to health care. The backlash over the so-called public option floated by the White House and its liberal allies in Congress is yet another example of how many Democrats simply don't understand that some of the most central tenets of the liberal faith are well outside the American mainstream.

From inauguration day until about mid-April, the president's approval rating sat firmly in the mid-60s. A series of polls released last week tells a different story. The Quinnipac and Rasmussen polls put his approval rating at an even 50 percent. Zogby came up with a number of 53. Gallup and CNN/Opinion Research say it's 55. 

Over the last four months, the harsh realities of governing away from the center have set in. The luster is off; savvy voters are realizing that empty campaign promises of "change" and "hope" don't have much meaning if one governs disparagingly from the extreme left. If the president's approval ratings have dropped to the mid- to low-50s in just 200 days, where will they be by the time his congressional allies are running for re-election? What is even more ominous for the White House is that the president himself actually remains more popular than his policies. These numbers indicate that less than 40 percent of voters think the country is headed in the right direction.

It's been bitterly disappointing to watch Candidate Barack Obama, the centrist, postpartisan healer, morph into President Barack Obama, the conventional leftist politician selling the same old liberal policies that have failed so many times before.

But you can't say we didn't warn you.

23 July 2009

A few final links

I couldn't help but post the following links in-between cramming sessions:

Terming the president's health-care push a "suicide march," this column shows why, at his best, there is none better than David Brooks.

The Atlantic columnist Clive Crook, a self-avowed liberal, agrees with Brooks.

... and the immeasurable Charles Krauthammer piles on.

This fascinating write-up by Time Magazine pieces together the final weeks of the Bush-Cheney relationship, and more specifically, the president's refusal to pardon Scooter Libby.

Scott Rasmussen's gang came up with some interesting 2012 numbers.

And finally, back to Brooks: It's no secret that one of the heroes of this site is Sen. John McCain. Ergo, I've had this retro Brooks piece from the heat of the campaign bookmarked for about 10 months, and re-read it from time to time as a reminder of what might have been if my guy had actually become president. If you're a partisan on either side, chances are you are no great fan of the Senior Senator. But the column is a great read.

18 July 2009

Required reading: Commish's bar exam edition

I thoroughly enjoyed the riled-up response to our comments about Gov. Palin. I sincerely hope our conservative readers enjoyed being offended as much as I enjoyed writing it.

The culmination of three miserable years of law school will take place in less than two weeks, as I will sit for the Missouri Bar Exam on July 28 and 29. In the meantime, here's some reading to tide you over:

Sen. Judd Gregg -- who should have serious gravitas in everyone's book as President Obama's choice for Commerce Secretary -- hits the Democrats' horrendous health care bill.

The Wall Street Journal has more.

And for our comments on Harry and Nancy's socialist utopia from earlier in the year, click here.

A centrist House Democrat says that moderates have enough votes to block Pelosi's bill in committee. Let's hope so.

On that note, how's that consensus-building going, Mr. President?

Our pal John Burke at The Purple Center examines the left's attack on moderate Democrats.

The left-leaning Tax Policy Center at the Brookings Institute provided some excellent commentary on the Democrats' desire to tax the rich into oblivion. (Hat tip: Donald Luskin)

Let me offer polite applause for the president's stand against more wasteful defense spending. Our thoughts on the Department of Defense's Cold War mindset can be found here.

Our friend (and fellow lawyer) Ron Coleman at Likelihood of Success has a few thoughts worth checking out regarding Judge Sotomayor. There will be more to come from our end in early August.

Byron Dorgan lays down the law!

Has there ever been a better induction speech than this one?

Meghan McCain rips Joe the Plumber. For our slightly more sophisticated thoughts on the dumbing down of the GOP, click here.

A reader's comments to Andrew Sullivan are spot-on regarding Sarah Palin.

Three days after we blasted the Alaska governor in this space (click here if you just can't get enough), Peggy Noonan offered similar thoughts that were brilliant. Her column couldn't capture my sentiments any more perfectly.

Finally, if you haven't gotten a chance to check it out yet, head over to Donklephant. I received an offer to contribute some of our material over there awhile back, and plan to take editor Justin Gardner up on it when I actually figure out HTML. Among others, our pal the Pajama Pundit is a regular contributor, so it's worth adding to your daily read.