Commentary Magazine


Flotsam and Jetsam

Abe Greenwald notes conservatives’ difficulty in finding praiseworthy tidbits in Obama’s foreign-policy speeches and actions: “The suspicion? That Barack Obama has no operable foreign policy. He does not stay the liberal course he so often talks up, nor does he effectively plan for the conservative solution he eventually adopts. Shifting gears and looking flat-footed while doing so is not the president’s intention. . . . Any resemblance to a political philosophy or school of thought is purely coincidental. As Mrs. Clinton put it in a speech at the Center for Foreign Relations last Wednesday, ‘Rigid ideologies and old formulas do not apply.’ An à-la-carte approach is in. Those of us hoping to nudge the administration through positive reinforcement are left sifting through fragments in search of something worthwhile.”

David Broder calls PAYGO a fake. “The reason is that the bill exempts from pay-go all of the spending involved in Medicare physician payments and all of the revenue dependent on estate and gift taxes, the alternative minimum tax for individuals and the administration’s plan to continue the middle-income tax cuts of 2001 and 2003. That is not the only giant loophole in this version of pay-go. Unlike the one enacted in 1990, it is not accompanied by any multiyear cap on discretionary spending. That means the 40 percent of the budget reflected in annual appropriations bills for ongoing or new government programs does not have to be paid for.”

The AMA’s endorsement of ObamaCare has set off a firestorm of protest from doctors and a civil war within the organization.

Yuval Levin on the nonmedical question in Obama’s presser: “But I have to admit I was actually most struck by his answer to the last question, about the arrest of Henry Louis Gates. It’s the kind of question to which a president would normally reply with something like: ‘that’s a local police matter, I don’t know the details and I know it will be worked out responsibly,’ and move along. Obama gave a lengthy review of the facts, called the police officers involved stupid, and implied they are also liars. Very odd behavior for a president.”

Did Obama get caught working the ump? “Administration officials invited Doug Elmendorf, the director of the CBO, to the White House on Monday to meet with Obama and senior officials. The invitation came a few days after Elmendorf testified that Democratic healthcare reform proposals crafted in the Senate and House would add to long-term government spending on healthcare, an assessment some Democrats have called ‘devastating.’ Obama’s advisers have claimed that healthcare reform will eventually reduce government spending. Republicans suspect Obama may be trying to cajole Elmendorf into giving Democrats more favorable cost estimates.” Really!?

Well, if we had everything on C-SPAN a lot would be cleared up.

It is not often that Larry Sabato (“Least impressive of Obama’s four prime-time pressers. Little passion until the last question about Prof. Gates. This didn’t help O’s plan”) (h/t NRO), Howard Fineman, and Bill Kristol agree. But they all gave thumbs down on Obama’s presser.

The usually cheery Ben Smith did, too: “The president’s remarks on his chosen subject, health care, were cautious and choreographed, hemmed in on one side by the calculations of his professional wordsmiths, on the other by the delicacy of negotiations with two houses of Congress. He never detailed his own plan, or named a single victim of America’s broken system, and he spoke largely in the abstractions of blue pills, red pills, and legislative processes. It’s not easy to turn delivery system reform into a rallying cry for change, but at times, it was as if Obama wasn’t even trying.” The performance, Smith says, was “bleached of life.” Ouch.

Gov. Bobby Jindal liked what he heard: “You listen to what the president said. He said he does not want to increase the deficit, does not want government control of health care. He wants people to keep their insurance. He wants to crack down on the abuse, the over-utilization. All that’s great. The problem is, that’s not what’s in the House Democrat bill.”

Even the normally sympathetic Mark Halperin is underwhelmed: “Even a great explainer like Obama had trouble making headway Wednesday night as he delivered his extensive opening remarks and offered unusually long answers to the press. He was oddly free of passion and anger, given how intense the debate has become in the past few days, and he also avoided any risk. . . . Most striking, perhaps, was Obama’s failure to address head on some of the most difficult issues. Such evasions are a common practice for presidents, of course, but Obama is usually more straightforward and prides himself as too self-aware to engage in the artful dodge as comfortably as some of his predecessors.”

Mickey Kaus: “Obama’s refusal at his press conference to declare that all covered treatments would still be covered is an example of what people worry about. And Obama knows — or even scarier, maybe he doesn’t — that the difficult decisions don’t involve cheap blue pills that are as good as red pills, but treatments that are the ‘best’ but also the ‘most expensive’ — including cancer drugs like Herceptin and Sutent.”

Albeit in rather sexist terms (woman can be sexists, too), TNR’s Michelle Cottle touts Liz Cheney: “With Liz Cheney’s gradually rising profile, does anyone else smell a new political dynasty in the making? I know. I know. She has a toxic last name (for now). But she’s bright, attractive, and (at least when I chatted with her several years ago) exceedingly personable. Plus, she’s a chick (with five adorable kiddies, no less) in a party that’s desperate for XX voters. As far as the horses in the current GOP stable go, she’s got potential.”

Does she really have the votes? “Indiana Democrat Baron Hill, a Blue Dog congressman negotiating with leaders on health care, disagreed with Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s statement Wednesday that Democrats have the votes to pass health care in the House. . . . Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak, who is trying to change the bill to make it clear it would not use taxpayer money for abortions, also disagreed with the Speaker.”

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