Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 23, 2009

Flotsam and Jetsam

Fred Barnes observes that the more Obama talks, the worse his and ObamaCare’s approval numbers go. “Two conclusions are inescapable. The first is that Obama is not Mr. Persuasive, a compelling orator like FDR, swaying public opinion with his words. . . . The second conclusion to draw is that Obama has been dragged down by his health care policy. The more he’s identified himself with it, the less the public likes him. There’s nothing irrational about this. Why should people without a partisan allegiance to Obama hang with him when they dislike his signature policy? There’s no good reason.”

From the “not on the same page” chronicles: “A day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that health reform won’t get through the House without a public option, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Friday that the public option may have to go in order to get a bill passed.”

A freshman Democrat who voted for cap-and-trade faces the voters’ ire: “Freshman Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.) has gained plenty of attention—some of it unwanted—during the August recess for the tightrope he is walking in a conservative district on issues like health care reform. . . . Perriello’s district was one of the most surprising to go Democrat in 2008. Given a sizable student population and black population that comprises about a quarter of the district, the turnout model was highly unusual in 2008, when those groups turned out in record numbers for Barack Obama. Republicans hope the pendulum will swing back their way in 2010, and the race has frequently been listed among the top 10 House races in the country.”

He’s not the only one: Democrat Alan Boyd has figured out that voters are “scared” by ObamaCare.

In fact, it’s now a trend: “The divisive healthcare debate and sliding poll numbers for President Barack Obama are creating an even more difficult political environment for Democrats in 2010. Democrats can’t ride Obama’s coattails as they did in 2008, when a strong turnout among young and minority voters helped them increase their House and Senate majorities.” But the real bad news: “They can’t run against former President George W. Bush, whose unpopular policies were key to their winning control of both chambers in 2006.”

George Will muses: “We are already testing whether President Obama and other statists who have given his administration and this Congress their ideological cast have a doctrine analogous to Brezhnev’s. Having aggressively, even promiscuously, blurred the distinction between public and private sectors with improvised and largely unauthorized interventions in the economy, will they ever countenance a retreat of the state? Or do they have an aspiration that they dare not speak? Do they hope that state capitalism will be irreversible—that wherever government has asserted the primacy of politics, the primacy will be permanent?” Really, is there any doubt?

Mickey Kaus on the “death panel” flap and the equally creepy phone call with the rabbis: “At least when voters are having notentirelyirrationalfears that Obama would have the state play god by exercising yes/no power over life-ending medical decisions, he didn’t go and say something creepily extravagant and provocative like ‘we are God’s partners in matters of life and death.’ ”

How big of Bob Herbert to admit that not all the ObamaCare critics are “certifiables who are scrawling Hitler mustaches on pictures of the president.” Wow, there are, he fesses up, “Many sane and intelligent people who voted for Mr. Obama and sincerely want him to succeed have legitimate concerns about the timing of this health reform initiative and the way it is unfolding.” Actually, there are more than 50 House Democrats who match that description.

Obama’s approval poll average—not just a single outlier—is getting perilously close to dropping below 50 percent.

Andy McCarthy asks: “Compared to the infinite complexity of healthcare and health-insurance, cash-for-clunkers is kindergarten stuff. You trade in your old car for a new one that gets (slightly) better mileage and the government gives you money—between $3500 and $4500. How hard is that?” Well, it turns out, too hard to correctly staff and budget.

You knew this vile scene was coming: “Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi welcomed with a hug the only man convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing that killed 270 people and praised Scotland’s leaders for ‘their courageously right and humanitarian decision’ to release him.”

Fred Barnes observes that the more Obama talks, the worse his and ObamaCare’s approval numbers go. “Two conclusions are inescapable. The first is that Obama is not Mr. Persuasive, a compelling orator like FDR, swaying public opinion with his words. . . . The second conclusion to draw is that Obama has been dragged down by his health care policy. The more he’s identified himself with it, the less the public likes him. There’s nothing irrational about this. Why should people without a partisan allegiance to Obama hang with him when they dislike his signature policy? There’s no good reason.”

From the “not on the same page” chronicles: “A day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that health reform won’t get through the House without a public option, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Friday that the public option may have to go in order to get a bill passed.”

A freshman Democrat who voted for cap-and-trade faces the voters’ ire: “Freshman Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.) has gained plenty of attention—some of it unwanted—during the August recess for the tightrope he is walking in a conservative district on issues like health care reform. . . . Perriello’s district was one of the most surprising to go Democrat in 2008. Given a sizable student population and black population that comprises about a quarter of the district, the turnout model was highly unusual in 2008, when those groups turned out in record numbers for Barack Obama. Republicans hope the pendulum will swing back their way in 2010, and the race has frequently been listed among the top 10 House races in the country.”

He’s not the only one: Democrat Alan Boyd has figured out that voters are “scared” by ObamaCare.

In fact, it’s now a trend: “The divisive healthcare debate and sliding poll numbers for President Barack Obama are creating an even more difficult political environment for Democrats in 2010. Democrats can’t ride Obama’s coattails as they did in 2008, when a strong turnout among young and minority voters helped them increase their House and Senate majorities.” But the real bad news: “They can’t run against former President George W. Bush, whose unpopular policies were key to their winning control of both chambers in 2006.”

George Will muses: “We are already testing whether President Obama and other statists who have given his administration and this Congress their ideological cast have a doctrine analogous to Brezhnev’s. Having aggressively, even promiscuously, blurred the distinction between public and private sectors with improvised and largely unauthorized interventions in the economy, will they ever countenance a retreat of the state? Or do they have an aspiration that they dare not speak? Do they hope that state capitalism will be irreversible—that wherever government has asserted the primacy of politics, the primacy will be permanent?” Really, is there any doubt?

Mickey Kaus on the “death panel” flap and the equally creepy phone call with the rabbis: “At least when voters are having notentirelyirrationalfears that Obama would have the state play god by exercising yes/no power over life-ending medical decisions, he didn’t go and say something creepily extravagant and provocative like ‘we are God’s partners in matters of life and death.’ ”

How big of Bob Herbert to admit that not all the ObamaCare critics are “certifiables who are scrawling Hitler mustaches on pictures of the president.” Wow, there are, he fesses up, “Many sane and intelligent people who voted for Mr. Obama and sincerely want him to succeed have legitimate concerns about the timing of this health reform initiative and the way it is unfolding.” Actually, there are more than 50 House Democrats who match that description.

Obama’s approval poll average—not just a single outlier—is getting perilously close to dropping below 50 percent.

Andy McCarthy asks: “Compared to the infinite complexity of healthcare and health-insurance, cash-for-clunkers is kindergarten stuff. You trade in your old car for a new one that gets (slightly) better mileage and the government gives you money—between $3500 and $4500. How hard is that?” Well, it turns out, too hard to correctly staff and budget.

You knew this vile scene was coming: “Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi welcomed with a hug the only man convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing that killed 270 people and praised Scotland’s leaders for ‘their courageously right and humanitarian decision’ to release him.”

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Not About to Go Away

Finding merit in both support for Obama on Afghanistan and opposition on nearly everything else, Bill Kristol writes:

The most heartening development in the Age of Obama so far is this: the impressive behavior of conservatives and Republicans. They have been principled in their major domestic and foreign policy positions, have opposed Obama and advanced their own agenda in a savvy and sensible way, and have begun to find new and fresh spokesmen. There are some conservative pundits and GOP talking-heads who’ve kept themselves busy with navel-gazing and fratricidal-sniping—but they haven’t distracted most on the right from the job at hand.

This is precisely what drives the Obama team around the bend. The mere existence of opposition from the opposition party is considered an affront. The “Party of No” label told us more about the assumptions and perspective of the Obama team than it did about the Obama critics. Of course conservatives opposed Obama’s big-government schemes. This is, after all, what politicians, pundits, and activists who defend free markets, individual liberty, and decentralized government do. They oppose statism. But Obama and his supporters expected the opposition to fold and the president’s soothing rhetoric to disguise what was afoot.

By refusing to buy into the ludicrous Obama spin that he really didn’t want to run car companies, take over health care, or do permanent injury to market capitalism, conservatives have clarified exactly what Obama is up to. As infuriating as it may be to the Obama spin squad (which spent two years campaigning to convince Americans that Obama was a technocrat moderate), they now are at a loss to respond when conservatives point to the trillions in debt and the enormous expansion of government that Obama is trying his darnedest to ram through.

His critics are opposing Obama on the domestic front consistently and vociferously for a reason: Obama’s big-government agenda is anathema not only to conservatives but also to the electorate that occupies the vast middle ground in American politics. Refusing to go away—or “get out of the way,” as the president peevishly demanded—is conservatives’ greatest contribution of late because it serves continually to remind voters of Obama’s radical agenda. And that, for the president who never tires of telling us “he won,” is a bitter pill indeed.

Finding merit in both support for Obama on Afghanistan and opposition on nearly everything else, Bill Kristol writes:

The most heartening development in the Age of Obama so far is this: the impressive behavior of conservatives and Republicans. They have been principled in their major domestic and foreign policy positions, have opposed Obama and advanced their own agenda in a savvy and sensible way, and have begun to find new and fresh spokesmen. There are some conservative pundits and GOP talking-heads who’ve kept themselves busy with navel-gazing and fratricidal-sniping—but they haven’t distracted most on the right from the job at hand.

This is precisely what drives the Obama team around the bend. The mere existence of opposition from the opposition party is considered an affront. The “Party of No” label told us more about the assumptions and perspective of the Obama team than it did about the Obama critics. Of course conservatives opposed Obama’s big-government schemes. This is, after all, what politicians, pundits, and activists who defend free markets, individual liberty, and decentralized government do. They oppose statism. But Obama and his supporters expected the opposition to fold and the president’s soothing rhetoric to disguise what was afoot.

By refusing to buy into the ludicrous Obama spin that he really didn’t want to run car companies, take over health care, or do permanent injury to market capitalism, conservatives have clarified exactly what Obama is up to. As infuriating as it may be to the Obama spin squad (which spent two years campaigning to convince Americans that Obama was a technocrat moderate), they now are at a loss to respond when conservatives point to the trillions in debt and the enormous expansion of government that Obama is trying his darnedest to ram through.

His critics are opposing Obama on the domestic front consistently and vociferously for a reason: Obama’s big-government agenda is anathema not only to conservatives but also to the electorate that occupies the vast middle ground in American politics. Refusing to go away—or “get out of the way,” as the president peevishly demanded—is conservatives’ greatest contribution of late because it serves continually to remind voters of Obama’s radical agenda. And that, for the president who never tires of telling us “he won,” is a bitter pill indeed.

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For Me, but Not for Thee

When I saw the headline “Kennedy Illness Symbol in Health Debate,” I thought: “Oh, here it comes. The Lion of the Senate tugs at the heartstrings one last time to pass his lifelong dream of nationalized health care.” But it’s really not about that at all. It’s about the rank hypocrisy of limiting care to the poor slobs who don’t live in the Kennedy compound. Jeanne Cummings explains:

The uncomfortable truth, according to health care experts, is that most concepts about lowering health care costs involve patients and care-givers becoming more disciplined about resisting the kinds of aggressive medical treatments Kennedy has pursued to battle his brain tumor.

By these lights, the problem is not that too few Americans have access to the kind of care that Kennedy is receiving. The problem is that too many Americans avail themselves of expensive treatments that may extend lives at the margins but have low prospects of actually saving them.

You have to love the terminology—”more disciplined about resisting the kinds of aggressive treatment” that the author of the lowest-common-denominator health-care regime wants for himself. And we get the finger-shaking from a “Harvard ethicist” (when those two words appear in tandem, be afraid, very afraid) who warns that we need to get about the business of “rethinking treatment” for the elderly because they suck up so much of our health-care costs. (Remember when liberals used to speak about the measure of a just society being how it cared for the very young and the very old?)

And what does the president have to say about all this? He, as Cummings points out, has “circled around” the issue of limiting care. And what about the notion that his grandmother might have to forgo a hip replacement? He says that would be “pretty upsetting.” (Well, at least he wouldn’t be “deeply disappointed,” as he is whenever a vile regime abuses its own people—or American citizens.)

So the bottom line in all this, as those who have weighed in on the “death panel discussion” have found, is that there is—I know, amazing isn’t it?—a widespread revulsion at turning upside down a health-care system that is the envy of the world, even with it flaws, and subjecting all but the mega-wealthy to a thicket of government oversight with the goal of increasing “discipline” (i.e., avoiding going the extra mile to save those in dire condition, or constructing atypical treatment regimes). Funny how it is that when presented with a terminal diagnosis (or when thinking they might be one day), ordinary Americans have the nerve to insist that they get better care than what a Harvard ethicist would dole out. And maybe as good as what a Kennedy would demand.

When I saw the headline “Kennedy Illness Symbol in Health Debate,” I thought: “Oh, here it comes. The Lion of the Senate tugs at the heartstrings one last time to pass his lifelong dream of nationalized health care.” But it’s really not about that at all. It’s about the rank hypocrisy of limiting care to the poor slobs who don’t live in the Kennedy compound. Jeanne Cummings explains:

The uncomfortable truth, according to health care experts, is that most concepts about lowering health care costs involve patients and care-givers becoming more disciplined about resisting the kinds of aggressive medical treatments Kennedy has pursued to battle his brain tumor.

By these lights, the problem is not that too few Americans have access to the kind of care that Kennedy is receiving. The problem is that too many Americans avail themselves of expensive treatments that may extend lives at the margins but have low prospects of actually saving them.

You have to love the terminology—”more disciplined about resisting the kinds of aggressive treatment” that the author of the lowest-common-denominator health-care regime wants for himself. And we get the finger-shaking from a “Harvard ethicist” (when those two words appear in tandem, be afraid, very afraid) who warns that we need to get about the business of “rethinking treatment” for the elderly because they suck up so much of our health-care costs. (Remember when liberals used to speak about the measure of a just society being how it cared for the very young and the very old?)

And what does the president have to say about all this? He, as Cummings points out, has “circled around” the issue of limiting care. And what about the notion that his grandmother might have to forgo a hip replacement? He says that would be “pretty upsetting.” (Well, at least he wouldn’t be “deeply disappointed,” as he is whenever a vile regime abuses its own people—or American citizens.)

So the bottom line in all this, as those who have weighed in on the “death panel discussion” have found, is that there is—I know, amazing isn’t it?—a widespread revulsion at turning upside down a health-care system that is the envy of the world, even with it flaws, and subjecting all but the mega-wealthy to a thicket of government oversight with the goal of increasing “discipline” (i.e., avoiding going the extra mile to save those in dire condition, or constructing atypical treatment regimes). Funny how it is that when presented with a terminal diagnosis (or when thinking they might be one day), ordinary Americans have the nerve to insist that they get better care than what a Harvard ethicist would dole out. And maybe as good as what a Kennedy would demand.

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Running from the Party

Creigh Deeds has his troubles. The Democratic gubernatorial candidate these days has to run not only from the president but also from the Democratic governor. Yes, Gov. Tim Kaine is helping to raise money for Deeds, but it’s an uneasy partnership at best, according to the Washington Post:

But while Kaine is fully invested in helping to elect Deeds, campaign officials realize it’s not always politically beneficial for Deeds to be publicly associated with him. His popularity rating remains above 50 percent but is waning, and his position as chairman of the Democratic National Committee brings with it the burdens of a national party that voters are viewing with increasing skepticism. Some Democrats have also privately criticized the governor for oddly timed announcements that had the effect of overshadowing Deeds campaign events.

As a result, Deeds has subtly sought to limit his public connections to Kaine, a strategy the politically savvy governor has blessed. On Friday, for instance, Deeds aired his first television ad of the general election campaign. It includes a clip of Deeds walking with Sen. Mark Warner (D), but makes no mention of Kaine.

So much for the Obama-Kaine era of Democratic domination in Virginia. In fact, from Deeds’s perspective, Obama himself is even more toxic. Kaine’s poll numbers are at least at the 50 percent mark. Obama is at 42 percent. So the trick for Deeds, then, is to run a race that turns out the base (no small feat for a rural Democrat with no particular appeal to traditional Democratic constituencies) while not reminding independents, conservative Democrats, and moderate Republicans that he is from the Kaine-Obama Democratic party.

That might work if Deeds had an innovative reform agenda or a catchy slogan or two. But since his upset win in June, he’s largely become a nonentity, performing poorly in an early debate and generally receding into the background. Perhaps he’s calculated that voters aren’t yet focusing on the race. But unless he gets up to speed fast, he’s likely to be labeled as a plan-wrap Democrat at the very time it’s not so fashionable to be a Democrat in Virginia.

Creigh Deeds has his troubles. The Democratic gubernatorial candidate these days has to run not only from the president but also from the Democratic governor. Yes, Gov. Tim Kaine is helping to raise money for Deeds, but it’s an uneasy partnership at best, according to the Washington Post:

But while Kaine is fully invested in helping to elect Deeds, campaign officials realize it’s not always politically beneficial for Deeds to be publicly associated with him. His popularity rating remains above 50 percent but is waning, and his position as chairman of the Democratic National Committee brings with it the burdens of a national party that voters are viewing with increasing skepticism. Some Democrats have also privately criticized the governor for oddly timed announcements that had the effect of overshadowing Deeds campaign events.

As a result, Deeds has subtly sought to limit his public connections to Kaine, a strategy the politically savvy governor has blessed. On Friday, for instance, Deeds aired his first television ad of the general election campaign. It includes a clip of Deeds walking with Sen. Mark Warner (D), but makes no mention of Kaine.

So much for the Obama-Kaine era of Democratic domination in Virginia. In fact, from Deeds’s perspective, Obama himself is even more toxic. Kaine’s poll numbers are at least at the 50 percent mark. Obama is at 42 percent. So the trick for Deeds, then, is to run a race that turns out the base (no small feat for a rural Democrat with no particular appeal to traditional Democratic constituencies) while not reminding independents, conservative Democrats, and moderate Republicans that he is from the Kaine-Obama Democratic party.

That might work if Deeds had an innovative reform agenda or a catchy slogan or two. But since his upset win in June, he’s largely become a nonentity, performing poorly in an early debate and generally receding into the background. Perhaps he’s calculated that voters aren’t yet focusing on the race. But unless he gets up to speed fast, he’s likely to be labeled as a plan-wrap Democrat at the very time it’s not so fashionable to be a Democrat in Virginia.

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