Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 9, 2009

Joe Wilson’s War

Joe Wilson, the Republican congressman who interrupted Barack Obama’s speech by yelling out “You lie,” deserves censure. There is no excuse for such conduct. That said, he is about to become a folk hero.

Joe Wilson, the Republican congressman who interrupted Barack Obama’s speech by yelling out “You lie,” deserves censure. There is no excuse for such conduct. That said, he is about to become a folk hero.

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How’s It Playing?

Well, a Republican aide sums up the Senate leadership’s take: nonstop partisanship. Among those passages that irked especially: “His partisan barbs about the Bush tax cuts, Republicans opposing Medicare, and his outrageous attempt to paint anyone who disagreed with Ted Kennedy as beyond the pale.” But tomorrow Obama is going to work on civility. Well, there is nowhere to go but up.

Well, a Republican aide sums up the Senate leadership’s take: nonstop partisanship. Among those passages that irked especially: “His partisan barbs about the Bush tax cuts, Republicans opposing Medicare, and his outrageous attempt to paint anyone who disagreed with Ted Kennedy as beyond the pale.” But tomorrow Obama is going to work on civility. Well, there is nowhere to go but up.

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The Response

The Republicans chose a doctor — congressman and M.D. Charles Boustany. These responses, whether by a Republican or Democrat, are almost impossible undertakings. Most people tune out, and those who stay to listen spend the first half trying to figure out who it is. So it’s a mistake to compete word for word with the president and the media spinners. Boustany smartly chose not to. The full text of his remarks is here. The key is the following section, which comprises the most compelling and honest remarks spoken tonight by an elected leader:

The President had a chance tonight to take government-run health care off the table. Unfortunately, he didn’t do it.

We can do better, with a targeted approach that tackles the biggest problems. Here are four important areas where we can agree, right now:

One, all individuals should have access to coverage, regardless of preexisting conditions.

Two, individuals, small businesses and other groups should be able to join together to get health insurance at lower prices, the same way large businesses and labor unions do.

Three, we can provide assistance to those who still cannot access a doctor.

And, four, insurers should be able to offer incentives for wellness care and prevention — something particularly important to me. I operated on too many people who could have avoided surgery if they’d simply made healthier choices earlier in life.

And he didn’t insult the other party or the American people along the way. Good for him.

The Republicans chose a doctor — congressman and M.D. Charles Boustany. These responses, whether by a Republican or Democrat, are almost impossible undertakings. Most people tune out, and those who stay to listen spend the first half trying to figure out who it is. So it’s a mistake to compete word for word with the president and the media spinners. Boustany smartly chose not to. The full text of his remarks is here. The key is the following section, which comprises the most compelling and honest remarks spoken tonight by an elected leader:

The President had a chance tonight to take government-run health care off the table. Unfortunately, he didn’t do it.

We can do better, with a targeted approach that tackles the biggest problems. Here are four important areas where we can agree, right now:

One, all individuals should have access to coverage, regardless of preexisting conditions.

Two, individuals, small businesses and other groups should be able to join together to get health insurance at lower prices, the same way large businesses and labor unions do.

Three, we can provide assistance to those who still cannot access a doctor.

And, four, insurers should be able to offer incentives for wellness care and prevention — something particularly important to me. I operated on too many people who could have avoided surgery if they’d simply made healthier choices earlier in life.

And he didn’t insult the other party or the American people along the way. Good for him.

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Barack Obama, the Man Who Never Worked in the Private Sector, Speaks

A friend e-mails this quote from the speech:

But by avoiding some of the overhead that gets eaten up at private companies by profits, excessive administrative costs and executive salaries, it could provide a good deal for consumers.

Barack Obama thinks profits are overhead?

A friend e-mails this quote from the speech:

But by avoiding some of the overhead that gets eaten up at private companies by profits, excessive administrative costs and executive salaries, it could provide a good deal for consumers.

Barack Obama thinks profits are overhead?

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The Spin—Hmmmm

David Gergen, to whom one should turn on all occasions to find the most conventional of conventional wisdom, is saying on CNN that it was a “moderate” speech but that it didn’t do enough to move the debate in his direction. Losing Gergen for Obama may be a little like losing Walter Cronkite on Vietnam was for Lyndon Johnson.

David Gergen, to whom one should turn on all occasions to find the most conventional of conventional wisdom, is saying on CNN that it was a “moderate” speech but that it didn’t do enough to move the debate in his direction. Losing Gergen for Obama may be a little like losing Walter Cronkite on Vietnam was for Lyndon Johnson.

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LIVE BLOG: How Was It?

Fine, the president wasn’t trying to talk to me; indeed, he was trying to find ways to ensure that the arguments of people like me lose their purchase. And good on him for that—this is a serious matter, he’s staked his early presidency on it, and this is a vital argument the nation needs to hear expressed as pointedly as possible.

But in the end, it was nearly an hour of snake-oil salesmanship, promises that cannot possibly be kept, and false invocations of bipartisan civility even as he was trying to deliver partisan roundhouses of his own. In that sense, the message he was delivering was no different from the one he delivered in July, and it’s difficult to believe it will suddenly convince people it failed to convince in such recent memory.

Fine, the president wasn’t trying to talk to me; indeed, he was trying to find ways to ensure that the arguments of people like me lose their purchase. And good on him for that—this is a serious matter, he’s staked his early presidency on it, and this is a vital argument the nation needs to hear expressed as pointedly as possible.

But in the end, it was nearly an hour of snake-oil salesmanship, promises that cannot possibly be kept, and false invocations of bipartisan civility even as he was trying to deliver partisan roundhouses of his own. In that sense, the message he was delivering was no different from the one he delivered in July, and it’s difficult to believe it will suddenly convince people it failed to convince in such recent memory.

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Moderate, Shmoderate

Okay, all Americans who think this is a moderate president who isn’t fixated on partisan politics, hold up your hands. Mr. Biden and Ms. Pelosi agree. Anyone else?  I didn’t think so. What was the point of this if not to inflame the Right and gin up the Left? Is the president so inured to and so isolated from people with whom he disagrees that he thinks that with a bone like tort reform (which Pelosi and Harry Reid will embrace right after they enact right-to-work legislation for all 50 states and sentence the Democratic party to poverty by offending their key donor class) he can get a deal? The critics of health-care reform, Obama’s brand, can no longer be accused of exaggeration. This is a nationalization vision in which health-care markets, as imperfect as they are, are replaced by government edicts and an avalanche of new taxes (hmm, not too much about those tonight), so that all is provided and all is given (or taken away). Who needs the public option when government micromanages everything?

Okay, all Americans who think this is a moderate president who isn’t fixated on partisan politics, hold up your hands. Mr. Biden and Ms. Pelosi agree. Anyone else?  I didn’t think so. What was the point of this if not to inflame the Right and gin up the Left? Is the president so inured to and so isolated from people with whom he disagrees that he thinks that with a bone like tort reform (which Pelosi and Harry Reid will embrace right after they enact right-to-work legislation for all 50 states and sentence the Democratic party to poverty by offending their key donor class) he can get a deal? The critics of health-care reform, Obama’s brand, can no longer be accused of exaggeration. This is a nationalization vision in which health-care markets, as imperfect as they are, are replaced by government edicts and an avalanche of new taxes (hmm, not too much about those tonight), so that all is provided and all is given (or taken away). Who needs the public option when government micromanages everything?

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LIVE BLOG: “We Came Here … to Shape the Future”

Ladies and gentlemen, liberalism in seven mere words.

Ladies and gentlemen, liberalism in seven mere words.

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LIVE BLOG: Ted Kennedy

OK, wait a minute. He’s trying to sell this to the American people by invoking Ted Kennedy and what Ted Kennedy wanted? Notwithstanding the past few weeks, the invocation of Ted Kennedy’s name brings up complicated associations, and not just for conservatives. This conclusion does suggest he is living in a bubble and doesn’t quite get how to speak to those who don’t agree with him.

OK, wait a minute. He’s trying to sell this to the American people by invoking Ted Kennedy and what Ted Kennedy wanted? Notwithstanding the past few weeks, the invocation of Ted Kennedy’s name brings up complicated associations, and not just for conservatives. This conclusion does suggest he is living in a bubble and doesn’t quite get how to speak to those who don’t agree with him.

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LIVE BLOG: Insult ‘Em, That’ll Do the Trick!

The president’s constant refrain and  stream of accusations — Republicans are scaring old people (well, someone is!), Medicare isn’t going to be used to pay for this (well, except for hundreds of billions in cuts), and Republicans better start coming up with ideas (an e-mail today indicated there are no fewer than 35 bills from GOP lawmakers) — suggests that the president is setting this up as a knock-down, drag-out, go-to-reconciliation (50 votes only in the Senate) sort of fight.

This is not an olive-branch speech. And throwing in tort reform doesn’t make it so. That would be “nice” for many conservatives, but at the price of a government takeover of the health-care sector? My bad — we aren’t supposed to say we’re looking at a government takeover.

The president’s constant refrain and  stream of accusations — Republicans are scaring old people (well, someone is!), Medicare isn’t going to be used to pay for this (well, except for hundreds of billions in cuts), and Republicans better start coming up with ideas (an e-mail today indicated there are no fewer than 35 bills from GOP lawmakers) — suggests that the president is setting this up as a knock-down, drag-out, go-to-reconciliation (50 votes only in the Senate) sort of fight.

This is not an olive-branch speech. And throwing in tort reform doesn’t make it so. That would be “nice” for many conservatives, but at the price of a government takeover of the health-care sector? My bad — we aren’t supposed to say we’re looking at a government takeover.

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LIVE BLOG: He Won’t Waste Time …

… with people who want to kill the plan. And he will call out people who distort the plan. We await the calling out of the head of the Congressional Budget Office, who scored his proposals at over $1 trillion. Perhaps he won’t call out Mr. Elmendorf, because he knows he’d lose.

… with people who want to kill the plan. And he will call out people who distort the plan. We await the calling out of the head of the Congressional Budget Office, who scored his proposals at over $1 trillion. Perhaps he won’t call out Mr. Elmendorf, because he knows he’d lose.

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LIVE BLOG: The Ultimate Question

We will “slow health care costs by one-tenth of one percent a year.” Is it possible—is it conceivable—that he thinks this republic’s polity will actually believe they are going to get all these wonderful things for nothing? For less than nothing?

We will “slow health care costs by one-tenth of one percent a year.” Is it possible—is it conceivable—that he thinks this republic’s polity will actually believe they are going to get all these wonderful things for nothing? For less than nothing?

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LIVE BLOG: Like the Private Sector, but Not

Obama’s explanation of the need for a public option is a classic:

But an additional step we can take to keep insurance companies honest is by making a not-for-profit public option available in the insurance exchange. Let me be clear — it would only be an option for those who don’t have insurance. No one would be forced to choose it, and it would not impact those of you who already have insurance. In fact, based on Congressional Budget Office estimates, we believe that less than 5% of Americans would sign up.

Despite all this, the insurance companies and their allies don’t like this idea. They argue that these private companies can’t fairly compete with the government. And they’d be right if taxpayers were subsidizing this public insurance option. But they won’t be. I have insisted that like any private insurance company, the public insurance option would have to be self-sufficient and rely on the premiums it collects. But by avoiding some of the overhead that gets eaten up at private companies by profits, excessive administrative costs and executive salaries, it could provide a good deal for consumers.

We won’t subsidize the public option, but they won’t need all those profits! So presto, we have a level playing field. Huh? Either the entire administration is economically illiterate, or they think we are. And these options are not mutually exclusive.

Obama’s explanation of the need for a public option is a classic:

But an additional step we can take to keep insurance companies honest is by making a not-for-profit public option available in the insurance exchange. Let me be clear — it would only be an option for those who don’t have insurance. No one would be forced to choose it, and it would not impact those of you who already have insurance. In fact, based on Congressional Budget Office estimates, we believe that less than 5% of Americans would sign up.

Despite all this, the insurance companies and their allies don’t like this idea. They argue that these private companies can’t fairly compete with the government. And they’d be right if taxpayers were subsidizing this public insurance option. But they won’t be. I have insisted that like any private insurance company, the public insurance option would have to be self-sufficient and rely on the premiums it collects. But by avoiding some of the overhead that gets eaten up at private companies by profits, excessive administrative costs and executive salaries, it could provide a good deal for consumers.

We won’t subsidize the public option, but they won’t need all those profits! So presto, we have a level playing field. Huh? Either the entire administration is economically illiterate, or they think we are. And these options are not mutually exclusive.

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LIVE BLOG: We Need Malpractice Reform So That Evil Doctors Don’t Take Out Your Tonsils

That seems basically to be it.

That seems basically to be it.

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LIVE BLOG: No Panels of Experts, Except for This Panel of Experts

Having denounced the death-panels claim, the president now praises the notion of a Medicare commission that will hold down costs. And how, pray tell, will it do that? By forcing insurance companies to pay more? That doesn’t follow. Something else does.

Having denounced the death-panels claim, the president now praises the notion of a Medicare commission that will hold down costs. And how, pray tell, will it do that? By forcing insurance companies to pay more? That doesn’t follow. Something else does.

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LIVE BLOG: Liberal Red Meat

It’s interesting. He does very little to reach out to the middle and more to satisfy his own supporters. This means either a) he’s worried about his base; b) he mistakes the Left for the Center; c) this is what he truly believes. Or all three.

It’s interesting. He does very little to reach out to the middle and more to satisfy his own supporters. This means either a) he’s worried about his base; b) he mistakes the Left for the Center; c) this is what he truly believes. Or all three.

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LIVE BLOG: Palin Is Lying, He Says

He doesn’t call her by name, but she does get billing as a “prominent politician.” Actually she is a private citizen, but it’s no less accurate than the rest  of this. He is not going to “kill” grandma. No, but he is going to slash Medicare and set up these friendly panels to help decide the “best” and most “effective” coverage. Just like the NICE panels in the UK, which decide who gets what care. He may be giving the liberals a feel-good moment, but I suspect he’s antagonizing many others.

He doesn’t call her by name, but she does get billing as a “prominent politician.” Actually she is a private citizen, but it’s no less accurate than the rest  of this. He is not going to “kill” grandma. No, but he is going to slash Medicare and set up these friendly panels to help decide the “best” and most “effective” coverage. Just like the NICE panels in the UK, which decide who gets what care. He may be giving the liberals a feel-good moment, but I suspect he’s antagonizing many others.

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LIVE BLOG: The Real Takeover

“To my Republican friends: Rather than making wild claims about a government takeover of health care, we should work together to address any legitimate claims you may have.” That comes after 20 minutes of claims about new laws imposing new mandates. What exactly does he think a government takeover would look like? The ideal government takeover is one in which government controls  insurance companies without actually running them outright.

“To my Republican friends: Rather than making wild claims about a government takeover of health care, we should work together to address any legitimate claims you may have.” That comes after 20 minutes of claims about new laws imposing new mandates. What exactly does he think a government takeover would look like? The ideal government takeover is one in which government controls  insurance companies without actually running them outright.

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LIVE BLOG: Insurance Companies

Insurance is “a legitimate business.” He just wants “to hold them accountable.” How will he do that? With the “public option.” It would only be an option for those who don’t have insurance. Taxpayers “won’t be” subsidizing the public option. It would have to be self-sufficient. Like, I don’t know … Medicare?

Insurance is “a legitimate business.” He just wants “to hold them accountable.” How will he do that? With the “public option.” It would only be an option for those who don’t have insurance. Taxpayers “won’t be” subsidizing the public option. It would have to be self-sufficient. Like, I don’t know … Medicare?

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LIVE BLOG: Government Is Going to Tell You What to Do

Obama delivers the directive:

That’s why under my plan, individuals will be required to carry basic health insurance — just as most states require you to carry auto insurance. Likewise, businesses will be required to either offer their workers health care, or chip in to help cover the cost of their workers. There will be a hardship waiver for those individuals who still cannot afford coverage, and 95% of all small businesses, because of their size and narrow profit margin, would be exempt from these requirements. But we cannot have large businesses and individuals who can afford coverage game the system by avoiding responsibility to themselves or their employees. Improving our health care system only works if everybody does their part.

And we’ll tell you what type of plan is good enough. And if you don’t do what we say, we’ll fine you. This is the distillation of pure liberal statism. We know best. You are incapable of making any decision other than selecting from one of several preapproved plans.

Obama delivers the directive:

That’s why under my plan, individuals will be required to carry basic health insurance — just as most states require you to carry auto insurance. Likewise, businesses will be required to either offer their workers health care, or chip in to help cover the cost of their workers. There will be a hardship waiver for those individuals who still cannot afford coverage, and 95% of all small businesses, because of their size and narrow profit margin, would be exempt from these requirements. But we cannot have large businesses and individuals who can afford coverage game the system by avoiding responsibility to themselves or their employees. Improving our health care system only works if everybody does their part.

And we’ll tell you what type of plan is good enough. And if you don’t do what we say, we’ll fine you. This is the distillation of pure liberal statism. We know best. You are incapable of making any decision other than selecting from one of several preapproved plans.

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