31 March 2010

Are we still taking John Boehner seriously?

The Republican mantra since the 2008 election has been "drill baby drill."

Today, President Obama announced intentions to do just that, but apparently that's not good enough for the House Minority Leader and other like-minded conservative knuckleheads who have somehow found a reason to criticize the White House for adopting the Palin/Limbaugh wing's only piece of energy policy.

Recently, and more quietly, Obama also announced plans to pursue the other avenue that more serious conservatives have pushed, when he announced plans to build the first two American nuclear power plants in three decades.

If you're conservative, how can you possibly oppose this?

There's ideology, and then there's politics.

This is politics.

Yes, the White House's plan to drill might not go as far as many conservatives would prefer in terms of the coastal areas that will be explored, but why not give credit where credit's due when the president makes the Democratic Party's moonbat wing shriek in opposition? By the way, check out the interactive map here as to the new areas that will be opened for drilling. This is an impressive expansion of our existing activities.

John Boehner's job is of course to oppose the president at every turn, but perhaps a tip of his hat every now and then might convince more people that he is anything other than a partisan hack.

29 March 2010


Mitt Romney's presidential aspirations hinge entirely on Republican voters forgetting, or ignoring, the type of governor he was in Massachusetts.

By way of explaining his pro-choice position, Romney once brought an audience nearly to tears with the story of a family member who died as a result of a "back-alley" abortion.

While governor, Romney was for gay marriage -- this was of course before he ran for president and discovered that he was actually against it.

What kills me is that serious establishment conservatives -- not entertainers like Limbaugh and Hannity, but the likes of Jim Talent and others -- actually seem to believe that Mitt Romney is the clear conservative choice in 2012.

As has been astutely noted by savvy politicos, the recently enacted health care bill bears a striking resemblance to Romney's health care package instituted in Massachusetts during his tenure as governor -- the central feature is an individual mandate to purchase health insurance (to eliminate the "free rider" problem), as well as subsidies to purchase insurance for lower wage earners.

To be fair, Romney isn't the only conservative double-taking on the mandate issue -- the Heritage Foundation proffered the individual mandate as a type of free-market alternative to HillaryCare in 1994.

But Romney is the only one running for president.

What is particularly delicious is this YouTube montage of Romney expressing his support for a mandate, and then painfully trying to distinguish his Massachusetts plan from Obamacare.

Mitt Romney is the Republican Party's version of John Kerry -- a rudderless, unprincipled demagogue who will say anything to get people to vote for him.

28 March 2010

Mitch McConnell's failure

After the Republican leadership purported to gauge the country's support for the Democrats' bill, it was faced with a choice when evaluating the bill's unpopularity and the party's huge hole in Congress.

First, they could proffer a new piece of legislation with substantive policy ideas and present it to the American people. The Sunday morning talk shows, in particular, are an enormous platform for such ideas, and McConnell, et al. chose to use those opportunities in the weeks leading up to the vote to simply oppose the Democratic bill in its entirety. I personally believe the country might be better off with no bill rather than the one recently passed by Congress. But I am not a congressional Republican leader charged with making public policy. Though he probably has long since forgotten, Mitch McConnell was sent to Washington many years ago to legislate.

The Republicans' second option was to do nothing and continue to fill the airwaves with their worn-out "government takeover" arguments. Even John McCain got into the act, one Sunday parroting nearly verbatim on "Meet the Press" the same arguments McConnell made 15 minutes later on "State of the Union." It was a fascinating, utterly disappointing study in the policy of obstructionism. Even the normally loquacious McCain simply towed the party line (no doubt because anything less would strengthen his primary challenger, J.D. Abramoff, er, Hayworth).

The leadership couched the debate entirely wrong. Instead of arguing that the Democrats' bill was completely unworkable and needed to get tossed out completely, the GOP should have crafted its own bill, adopting some of the Democrats' better ideas (and yes, the bill has several useful provisions in it) and focusing their version of the legislation on driving down costs system-wide. Instead of making policy arguments in favor of their proposals, McConnell and his ilk simply took to the airwaves in complete opposition to the existing bill. This was a risky gamble, especially when facing such an enormous deficit in each house, and it completely backfired.

I expressed in a prior post that although the Republican leadership was correct in its assessment that most Americans opposed the Democratic bill, they ignored at their great peril the fact that a number of provisions of the bill were actually very popular, in particular the bill's prohibition of denials for preexisting health conditions. Another popular element of the bill was the provision giving college students the ability to continue coverage on their parents' health plans through age 25. There is no rational reason to oppose such a provision.

I also noted that it is true that Paul Ryan and Tom Coburn, among others, wrote legislation to address various problems with the system, and that would achieve the objective under which the Democrats' legislation utterly fails -- controlling costs. For instance, Jeffrey Anderson of the Weekly Standard set out his thoughtful ideas here.

However, as Russ Douthat noted, these ideas were never adopted by the Republican leadership or the conservative amplification infrastructure (Fox News, the American Enterprise Institute, talk radio and the vast conservative blogosphere).

Instead, McConnell adopted the theory that the answer wasn't proffering substantive ideas, but rather whipping congressional Republicans into a unified opposition to the Democratic agenda. Douthat examined the absurdity of that approach here.

Newt Gingrich -- perhaps the most legitimately conservative man on the planet -- has long warned Republicans they must be able to use the legislative process to their advantage and not simply oppose the president's agenda in totality; rather, Gingrich said that the Republican objective must be to rebuild a sustainable, governing majority, which requires actual policy ideas.

It's truly disheartening that the bright, engaging Gingrich has left the halls of Congress. In his place have arisen bureaucratic, unimaginative Washington insiders like McConnell and Boehner who are interested in nothing more than maintaining their grip on a crumbling party.

McConnell and Boehner gambled, and they lost. They, sadly, are the party's leaders and chief strategists. Their members take walking orders from them. They ultimately are responsible for this epic defeat.

These men have utterly failed their party, and the ideological movement -- birthed in large part by Buckley and Goldwater and transformed by Reagan -- that their party represented once upon a time.

23 March 2010

Comprehensive health care reax

The health care legislation passed Sunday was classic sausage-making, with bribes for the honorable senators from Louisiana, Florida and Nebraska, and unsavory deals cut with Big Pharma and the Democrats' most beloved constituency, labor unions. The president delayed an overseas trip to put the full-court press on waffling House members -- both liberal (Dennis Kucinich) and moderate (Bart Stupak, et al.).

As an aside, I find it humorous that most conservatives recoil at President Bush's creation of Medicare Part D, but shrieked in opposition when a Democratic-controlled Congress proposed cutting $500 billion from Medicare. It really is all about this November, isn't it?

The quality of the debate devolved so severely that my first reaction to the bill's passage on Sunday was, for the first time, a degree of embarrassment for my country. Most conservatives -- regurgitating the talking points of Republican congressional leaders -- term this legislation a "government takeover of health care." This is absolutely idiotic. No single payer. No public option. No "death panels." Handouts to Pharma. "Government takeover" -- you're kidding, right?

Just because Mark Levin or Rush Limbaugh pounds his fist on the desk and use such catchphrases as "socialism" or "government takeover" to drive up listenership doesn't mean you get to parrot them. An informed citizenry is crucial, and conservatives do themselves, their party and their country a disservice by regurgitating talk radio talking points and being unable to otherwise argue against what is actually a bad policy.

And that is the critical conclusion of the last 6 months -- conservative opinion leaders have whipped their disciples into such a frenzy that conservatives' only opposition to the bill is in the form of buzzwords. Conservatism continues its steep descent into a movement devoid of anything but reflexive, hysterical opposition. This is a sad trend for the movement started by William F. Buckley.

Mitch McConnell led the Republicans in staunchly opposing the totality of the Democrats' bill. This is perfectly acceptable conduct, but if you do so, you must have an alternative in hand that you can present to the American people. This is precisely what Newt Gingrich warned the GOP of a year ago. While some Republicans -- namely, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan -- put forth interesting, substantive proposals, those floundered outside the mainstream of Republican policy and were never embraced or proffered by Mitch McConnell or John Boehner (and in fact, barely acknowledged) as alternatives to the Democrats' plan. If Ryan & Co. couldn't get anywhere with the Republican leadership, why should Pelosi and Hoyer take them seriously in crafting the final product?

What McConnell should have said at the health care summit was the following: "Mr. President, after hearing the proposals from each of our parties, it is clear that we have agreed upon items A, B, C and D. On Monday, you, Sen. Reid and Speaker Pelosi will each have a bill on your desk setting forth these policies and only these policies." McConnell would have backed Obama into a corner and painted him as the partisan ideologue he is -- instead, the awkward, wooden Kentuckian displayed his sheer ineptitude by assuming that the Democrats' bill would fail on its own merits. McConnell made a gamble that treating this as Obama's Waterloo, and opposing the totality of the bill, would be a better political gambit than publicly embracing some of the more popular elements of the bill (removing lifetime maximums), but not others (the employer mandate). This was a crucial miscalculation. When Obama called the health care summit, he was on the ropes. McConnell and Boehner had a chance to go for the throat by forcing the president to publicly reject the most popular aspects of the bill -- and they didn't do it. This fact cannot be overstated.

The problem with the Republican leadership's approach to the entire process was that although the Democrats' bill in its totality -- all 2,700 pages worth -- was opposed by a majority of Americans, some specific elements of the bill were actually highly popular. Removing the antitrust exemption, eliminating lifetime maximums and addressing preexisting conditions each enjoyed support among a high percentage of Americans, and the GOP ignored this fact at its peril.

On the other side of the aisle, liberals have been blinded for years by the moral imperative argument -- their claim that access to health care is a right and that therefore, the government has a responsibility to provide it. The same Democrats who criticize pro-life Republicans for opposing abortion on moral and ethical grounds claim the same moral and ethical grounds as their sole reason for supporting expanded access to health care. This is pure hypocrisy.

Health care is no more a right than a doctor has an obligation to give it to you for free.

The most objectionable specific provisions of the bill are the expansion of Medicaid, the subsidization of health insurance for individuals earning nearly $90,000 annually for a family of four ($90,000!), and most especially, the mandate. The government can force you to do a lot of things -- serve in the military, pay taxes, etc. -- but this is the first time I can remember that the federal government has compelled citizens to engage in some sort of private activity. The bill is obviously susceptible to a challenge under the 10th Amendment, and it will be good for our country (and the federal courts) to have this discussion. The Constitution specifically sets forth that the federal government is to be one of enumerated powers only, and the 10th Amendment specifically reserves all powers not expressly enumerated to the federal government to the states. This is precisely why the State of Missouri can fine me if I don't buy auto insurance, but the federal government, to this point at least, wasn't able to. For a good discussion of the constitutionality of the mandate, click here.

Additionally, the employer mandate will do nothing more than hit businesses of all sizes in the pocketbook. If employers over a certain size don't provide their employees some sort of health insurance plan, they will be fined $2,000 per worker. This is absurd. As our country tries to climb out of a recession, what effect do Democrats think this provision will have on the economy?

But the most compelling reason to vote against the bill? It doesn't reduce health care costs in any measurable way -- and health care costs, rising at a double-digit inflation rate annually, are precisely why the system is broken. The Democrats' bill purports to provide insurance or subsidies to purchase insurance to 32 million Americans, but does nothing to stem the tide of costs in the health care sector generally. Any reduction in costs by introducing millions of new insureds into the market will almost certainly be stunted by insurance companies' inability to deny coverage based on preexisting conditions. Shouldn't any so-called "comprehensive reform" -- and this it clearly is not -- of 1/6 of the American economy include some way to stem the skyrocketing costs that have made coverage so expensive?

Less than a month ago, Joe Biden appeared on Larry King Live and unequivocally stated that cost containment must be one of the central features, if not the one of most paramount importance, of any legislation.

I repeat: The Democrats' bill does nothing to control costs. And this was the exact problem in the first place, and the reason the national debate has occurred. That was precisely why 48 million Americans were uninsured in the first place -- the cost of health care has simply risen too high.

Republicans screamed "socialism." Democrats screamed "moral imperative."

I've about had it with you idiots.

That said, the horrifically embarrassing national discussion hasn't been wholly devoid of fascinating commentary.

Glenn Greenwald scoffs at the notion that special interests took one on the chin. For all the president's rhetoric that a vote against him was a vote for the insurance companies, he sure gave his supposed adversaries quite the bag of goodies.

Jonathan Chait goes so far as to call the bill "moderate."

Mitt Romney's presidential ambitions hinge entirely on Republican voters forgetting the type of governor he was in Massachusetts. I wonder what Romney's biggest backers in the GOP -- e.g., Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Jim Talent -- think about this?

The invaluable FactCheck.org evaluated the makeup of the uninsured.

Ross Douthat and David Frum debate the extent to which the Republican leadership set the table for the GOP's Waterloo. Both make compelling arguments, and I'm not sure who I agree with.

In a separate post, Douthat opines that neither party will make difficult decisions on health care "until we're way too close to the fiscal wall for comfort."

Mark Halperin thinks that Republicans running against the bill is medicine for defeat in November. I agree with him -- instead of slamming the totality of the bill, the GOP needs to pick out specific provisions -- the mandate, the sleazy deals, etc., the simple fact that it won't cut costs a dime -- and run against those.

21 March 2010

A day which will live in infamy

... but not for the reasons you probably think.

Sometimes, public policy is slightly more nuanced than yelling "socialism" or claiming the government has a moral imperative to do something. March 20, 2010, was not the day that the government swung hard to the left, nor the day that health care in America improved in any measurable way.

No, March 20, 2010, will be remembered as the day intelligent, thoughtful political discourse was officially consigned to the history books.

12 March 2010

Tinfoil hat thoughts for the day

All, coincidentally, courtesy of Glenn Beck:

"When I see a 9/11 victim family on television, or whatever, I'm just like, 'Oh shut up.' I'm so sick of them because they're always complaining."

On Katrina victims: "The only ones we're seeing on television are the scumbags."

"I'm not saying Obama is a sleeper agent of the KGB trained in Kenya, then sent to the United States so that several decades later, he could become president and make subtle changes to America, making it more communist, but I'm not saying he isn't, either."

More on Obama: "A racist who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture."

"Every night, I get down on my knees and pray that Dennis Kucinich will burst into flames."

"I'm thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I'm wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it."

"I also know our country is on fire, and the fuel is illegal immigration; they [threaten] our national security;” they come for “three reasons: one, they’re terrorists; two, they’re escaping the law; or three, they’re hungry (because) they can’t make a living in their own dirtbag country.

"You got to have an enemy to fight. And when you have an enemy to fight, then you can unite the entire world behind you, and you seize power. That was Hitler's plan. His enemy: the Jew. Al Gore's enemy, the U.N.'s enemy: global warming. Then you get the scientists -- eugenics. You get the scientists -- global warming. Then you have to discredit the scientists who say, 'That's not right.' And you must silence all dissenting voices. That's what Hitler did."

"So here you have Barack Obama going in and spending the money on embryonic stem cell research. ... Eugenics. In case you don't know what Eugenics led us to: the Final Solution. A master race! A perfect person. ... The stuff that we are facing is absolutely frightening."

On Sen. Mary Landrieu: "A high class prostitute."

Who could forget Beck finding communist art at the NBC headquarters?

And finally, this. Flip to the 1:00 mark.

I have no words.

A toilet flushes every time this maniac opens his mouth.