Hello, Angelenos: Commentary is taking its act out on the road. We will be traveling to Los Angeles on Tuesday, October 20, to present the first in a series of discussions across the country with Commentary‘s editors and writers. The Commentary Forum in Los Angeles will be entitled “The Obama Challenge: Israel, Iran, and American Jews.” I will be leading the discussion, and joining me will be my CONTENTIONS colleagues Jennifer Rubin and Rick Richman. The event will be held at 7 p.m. at the Skirball Cultural Center. Admission will be $10. To attend, you need to pre-register. Please click here to do so. (I’ll keep reminding you over the next couple of weeks.)
Posts For: October 8, 2009
The findings paint a portrait of the electorate that, if replicated elsewhere, stands as a warning sign for President Obama and Democrats who will be running in next year’s midterm elections. The new poll shows a lack of enthusiasm among many of the voters who propelled Obama and his party to victory last November, raising troubling questions for the Democrats: Were many of Obama’s 2008 energetic supporters one-time participants in the political process who care little about other races? Is Obama’s current agenda turning off some voters who backed him last year but now may be looking elsewhere?
Well, in fairness to Deeds, he hasn’t lost yet, but one can sense how jumpy the liberal media is — and how precarious Obama’s aura of political invincibility seems less than a year after he reshaped the political landscape (or so we were told by the now nervous mainstream media). The fretting is more pronounced, perhaps, in Virginia because Republican Bob McDonnell has made a point of running against the Obama agenda — card check, cap-and-trade, and tax hikes. To a greater extent than anyone could have predicted, McDonnell has made this into a “send a message to D.C.” election. Voters in a swing state now have their chance to register disapproval over the ultra-liberal agenda. And hence, the liberal media and Democratic consultants and incumbents fret.
And then there is that “intensity” gap. Many more McCain voters than Obama voters are planning to turn out this time, suggesting all those first-time voters in 2008 may not be repeat customers for Democrats. Part of this may be explained by the difference between a presidential election (an historic one, at that) and a gubernatorial race that doesn’t have the same allure for younger voters. But then Obama won’t be on the ballot in 2010 either.
Would a Deeds loss in a prominent swing state send shock waves through Congress? Perhaps, but just to be on the safe side, be prepared to hear plenty more bad-mouthing of Deeds from the White House and national Democratic establishment. (“Creigh Deeds has not been the world’s greatest candidate, that’s for sure,” huffs an anonymous White House spinner.) They wouldn’t want anyone to get the idea that the Age of Obama is toxic for Democrats.
Joe Klein has crafted an extremely transparent and sloppy white-washing of the tension between Barack Obama and Gen. Stanley McChrystal. Klein calls it all “smoke and puffery” and explains,
the controversy was all about a comment McChrystal made during the question-and-answer session, when he said a switch from counterinsurgency to a counterterrorism strategy, in which American troops are withdrawn and the war against al-Qaeda is fought mostly with drones and special forces, would be “shortsighted.” A week later, the President said essentially the same thing at a meeting of congressional leaders.
Doubly false. Klein misrepresents both McChrystal’s words and Obama’s and then proceeds to build a Time magazine article out of the double fiction. Here is what McChrystal actually said:
A strategy that does not leave Afghanistan in a stable position is probably a short-sighted strategy.
Not a word about drones and special forces. It’s true that McChrystal was responding to a question that alluded to drone strikes and such in Pakistan. However, in answering the question he moved on to a related but larger point; namely, the one that appears above. Afghanistan must be left in a stable position.
It is Klein’s contention that Obama said “essentially the same thing at a meeting of congressional leaders.”
Okay, when? I’ve read that Obama told lawmakers “that he is not contemplating reducing troop levels in the near term under any scenario.” How does that address the question of leaving Afghanistan a stable or unstable country?
This is no minor issue. And it’s also not an easily reconcilable one. Indications from the Obama administration, in fact, point to the president’s not sharing McChrystal’s opinion on the matter. Consider this exchange from Meet the Press last Sunday. David Gregory played a clip of McChrystal’s comment for U.S. ambassador to the UN Susan Rice and then asked:
GREGORY: Is the president committed to at least not leaving Afghanistan unless it is stable?
MS. RICE: The president is committed to doing what is essential to keep America safe. And obviously we have made important and substantial investments in Afghanistan. We are not talk — nobody’s talking about walking away from Afghanistan.
GREGORY: No, but will the president stay in Afghanistan as long — until it is stable?
MS. RICE: The, the president will do what is necessary to keep America safe. And that relates not only to Afghanistan, but Pakistan, where we face a very serious…
GREGORY: But you won’t commit to staying in Afghanistan until it’s stable?
MS. RICE: We’ll, we’ll commit to staying in Afghanistan as long as it takes to keep America safe, David. We have challenges and threats. . . .
GREGORY: But those could be two different things, right?
MS. RICE: They have–there are challenges and threats that face the United States that come from multiple quarters.
GREGORY: Right. But you can see, those, those could be two different things.
MS. RICE: They may or may not be two different things. I’m not going to prejudge the outcome of this review. It’s a very important step that needs to be taken to ensure that we are not just reacting and operating on autopilot. The president’s responsibility to the American people is to look at circumstances as they evolve, to make a judgment about what is necessary in the current circumstances to ensure that we are doing all that we can to prevent al-Qaeda from being in a position to attack us, whether in–from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Southeast Asia or any of the other places where we have been active and on the offensive against al-Qaeda.
Does Time fact-check? Does Joe Klein care anymore?
While the Obama administration performs an administrative signal check (“Give me that definition of ‘COIN’ again?”), Iran and NATO are moving ahead to shape the president’s decision criteria. CBS News aired a segment on Wednesday about Iran’s increasing support to the Taliban in western Afghanistan, support that includes an especially lethal type of armor-piercing explosive device. (H/t: Hot Air) An important feature of this development is that it extends Taliban effectiveness beyond the traditional stronghold of Kandahar, on the Pakistani border, and into Afghanistan’s westernmost provinces. In combination with the non-Taliban Islamist insurgents in eastern Afghanistan, the Iran-Taliban connection creates a growing menace to NATO forces from east, south, and now west of Kabul. The problem of interdicting Taliban supplies is also extended to include both Pakistan and Iran.
As Afghan insurgents gain territorial influence, NATO logistics are increasingly reliant on airlift through Central Asia. Russia played a diplomatic game with the availability of Kyrgyzstan’s Manas air base in February and could do so again at any time. Nevertheless, NATO is pressing Russia this week for greater involvement in Afghanistan, to include not only a higher volume of traffic through Kyrgyzstan but also Russian participation in the training of Afghan security forces. The NATO appeal, made by Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, can hardly avoid appearing as a desperate move by Europe, with Washington hunkered down trying to agree on its staffing terms.
President Obama has a difficult problem in Afghanistan and a tough decision to make. In key ways, his situation mirrors Bush’s in 2006: deteriorating conditions in theater, the military commander recommending a strategy change, coalition partners off devising their own plans. The magnitude of what he is facing should not be minimized, and General McChrystal has asked for a major policy commitment that certainly merits the most careful consideration.
But the situation in the “war of necessity” is changing by the day, if not by the hour. The attack on a joint U.S.-Afghan outpost in Nuristan last weekend was a combat attack, with hundreds of armed fighters using grenades and rockets against a military outpost. It was a disquieting harbinger of a shift in guerrilla tactics, from improvised roadside bombs to military-style attacks on NATO forces in garrison. Both in Afghanistan and elsewhere, American indecision motivates all the players in this drama to improvise for their own purposes in the interim. Policy is never made in a vacuum, and the longer we wait, the less latitude we will have.
The Washington Post explains why all those Democrats are on Creigh Deeds’s case:
Republican Robert F. McDonnell has taken a commanding lead over R. Creigh Deeds in the race for governor of Virginia, as momentum the Democrat had built with an attack on his opponent’s conservative social views has dissipated, according to a new Washington Post poll.
McDonnell is up 53 to 44 percent among likely voters, an increase in the same poll of 5 points since last month. The Post, with no hint of irony, explains:
Deeds’s advantage with female voters has all but disappeared and McDonnell has grown his already wide margin among independents. Deeds, a state senator from western Virginia, is widely seen by voters as running a negative campaign, a finding that might indicate his aggressive efforts to exploit McDonnell’s 20-year-old graduate thesis are turning voters away.
Gosh, the best-laid plans of the Post have gone astray. While the Post and Deeds were hung up on a 20-year-old thesis, McDonnell was making headway on issues and now leads by double digits on “every major issue facing Virginians.” There are nearly four weeks to go before the election, but it seems the Democrats were right to be worried about Deeds.
Public-employee unions are quickly becoming a major and, indeed, imminent threat to American democracy, but one that will be very difficult to correct.
It used to be that few government employees were unionized, as few governments allowed it. But in 1958, Mayor Robert F. Wagner of New York City signed an executive order allowing city workers to organize. The son of the author of the Wagner Act, still the basic federal labor-law in the United States, believed in unions. But he also believed in re-election and calculated that he would receive a lot of votes from New York City’s vast bureaucracy and teachers if he promised to let them organize. He did indeed. Other politicians made the same calculation, and other state and municipal governments followed suit. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy allowed federal workers to organize.
While union membership has been declining for more than 50 years in the private sector as the economy moved away from manufacturing and into services and high-tech industry, union membership among government employees has soared.
There are two big problems with this. The first is that both management and labor are deciding not how to divide the profits that they create by their mutual efforts, as in a corporate labor negotiation, but how much of someone else’s money (yours, to be precise) should be paid to workers. The tendency to cut a favorable deal rather than endure a protracted and difficult negotiation and possibly a disruptive strike (most public employees are barred from striking, but the laws are often enforced by a slap on the wrist) is strong. Because big salary increases might result in unfavorable publicity, it has often been the benefits that have been increased, such as allowing workers to retire with a full pension after 20 years and giving them gold-plated health insurance. (Why do you think labor unions are so opposed to taxing Cadillac health plans?) Today federal workers earn twice as much on average as their private-sector counterparts.
But as Fred Siegel and Dan DiSalvo point out in the Weekly Standard, there’s an even bigger problem than politicians being generous with other people’s money. While a union can call a strike against a company it feels has not been generous enough, it can’t fire the CEO and the company treasurer. But they can, and have, worked hard to fire politicians who don’t knuckle under, using their immense financial and manpower resources to elect others they thought would do their bidding. As a result, many politicians forget whose interests they are paid to uphold. Governor Jon Corzine of New Jersey, addressing a rally of 10,000 public workers in Trenton in 2006, the year after he was elected governor, promised them that “we will fight for a fair contract.” Of course, it was Corzine’s own administration that was negotiating with the workers.
The stronger the public-employee unions, the worse shape governments tend to be in — just ask Jon Corzine’s constituents. Democrats, the beneficiaries of $400 million in union largesse in the last election cycle, aren’t about to do anything, so it is up to Republicans to work to rein in a situation that is rapidly running out of control.
We went to see Inglourious Basterds at our local cinema in the small town of Sarlat, in southwestern France. Having seen no reviews, I hoped only to be entertained and—yes, please—scandalized by the writer-director of Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and Kill Bill, all of which revelled in the protracted dances of cruelty and death that have made Quentin Tarantino the reigning schlockmeister of the cinema.
The movie starts with a neat defeat of modernist expectation by being divided into “chapters” (in homage to Jean-Luc Godard and his 1964 film Bande à Part, or Band of Outsiders, after which Tarantino named his own production company). Chapter One begins, in print, “Once upon a time. . .” (more homage, this time to the master of the spaghetti western, director Sergio Leone, and his Once Upon a Time in the West). Then comes a title: “France 1941.” The opening shot—an exterior of a farmhouse in a landscape like the one through which my wife and I had just driven—establishes the breadth of Tarantino’s canvas, the masterliness of his mise-en-scène. A French farmer, silhouetted against blue sky, is seen chopping wood. If my memory is right, he mostly chops the chopping block and splits very few, if any, logs. Realism and portentousness fuse in this empty exercise.
Click here to read the rest of this article from the October issue of COMMENTARY.
First it was Rep. Jim Moran; now a swarm of Democrats are “pleading” with Creigh Deeds to stop the negative onslaught against his Republican opponent, Bob McDonnell, in an effort to pull his campaign out of a tailspin. Governor and DNC chairman Tim Kaine and Terry McAuliffe have joined the chorus and apparently gone public to make their case. (If Deeds loses, this also lets fellow Democrats know it wasn’t their fault.) There is this little tidbit as well in Politico’s coverage:
And in a jab at the newspaper that delivered a crucial endorsement to Deeds that helped in McAuliffe’s defeat, McAuliffe cracked that Deeds wasn’t even the most effective attack dog in the campaign. “Creigh pretty much doesn’t have to say anything because the Washington Post is out there every day doing it,” McAuliffe joked.
Indeed. Nevertheless, it was the Post‘s thesis obsession that likely encouraged Deeds to rely almost exclusively on a negative message. He’s now overdone it and, more important, failed to explain to voters what he will do about bread-and-butter issues like transportation, education, and jobs. In the final month of the campaign, we’ll see if Deeds can turn his campaign around. If not, this may go down as the campaign in which the Post went too far — and did its favorite candidate no favor.
At a gathering in Washington, D.C., a number of high-ranking military men are lashing out at the White House for trying to muzzle Gen. Stanley McChrystal, comparing him to Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, the Army chief of staff who became a hero to the Left by arguing with then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld about troop levels in Iraq. (That’s when military men who spoke truth to misguided civilian leaders got ticker-tape parades from liberals.) The comments are telling:
“We take the kids to war and ask them to take a bullet. So you won’t stop Stan from saying what he thinks is best for the mission and the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.” . . .
“McChrystal was sent to fix Afghanistan — is that to get rid of the Taliban or al-Qaeda? . . . Without the mission being defined well, you’ve left it to them to decide what to do.” . . .
“Gen. McChrystal has given an assessment of what the military strategy should be to achieve the political objective.”
The White House brought this on itself, of course. The dithering and handwringing (and the predominance of domestic-policy concerns in what should be a strategy-making process based on the substance of the commanders’ analysis) have obviously frustrated our military leadership. And the public should be equally frustrated — and appalled. Our civilian leadership is behaving in a fundamentally unserious and irresponsible manner. While it is annoying for the White House when someone points this out, it is perhaps the only way to get the White House to do its job — which is to make a timely decision on the merits. So far, they’ve failed to do so and deserve the backlash that has ensued.
In a remarkable interview with Time, CIA Director Leon Panetta reveals that the U.S. has known about the secret Qom site, built into the side of a mountain, since 2006. This raises a number of questions.
First, that 2007 National Intelligence Estimate looks absurd — and entirely disingenuous — in retrospect. The 2007 report led us to believe that the military program had been discontinued. The report was issued a year after we first knew of the facility. Sure there remained some questions (it could have been a dummy site to conceal another secret site someplace else), but we at least knew that ”the Iranians moved an anti-aircraft battery to the site, a clear sign that something important was being built there.” It is rather hard to justify, then, a report that declared with “high confidence” that any weapons program had been halted. And recall that the definition of “weapons program” included “covert uranium conversion-related and uranium enrichment-related work.” Just like Qom.
It would seem the 2007 NIE was wrong, maybe intentionally so. You would think a major intelligence failure regarding a rogue state’s nuclear capabilities — another one — would trigger demands for a full-scale investigation. So far, no one in Congress or the White House seems very perturbed that we got it so wrong.
Second, why was Obama pursuing his engagement gambit knowing what he did about Iran’s covert nuclear site? After all, “By the spring, there was little doubt left about what exactly was being constructed in the mountain (Iran has declared that the plant is not yet operational, and U.S. officials have agreed with that assessment).” This was before the June 12 election, mind you. No hint was given publicly and nothing at all was altered in our approach to the Great Leader. Well, you see, we were waiting to “put on the table when Iran finally agreed to talk to the major six powers.” Huh? We have been talking to the Iranians for years. And if they never sat down, we would have remained mute forever? It is mind-numbingly silly — unless of course the gambit was to avoid confrontation and do as little as possible to rally opinion of the “international community” against Iran.
Both the 2007 NIE report and the behavior of the Obama administration betray a concerted aversion to confronting Iran and doing what is needed to halt its nuclear ambitions. Now that Qom is revealed, the public and America’s allies have a better understanding, if they were previously confused, about Iran’s intentions. But they also have a glimpse into the thinking of the American intelligence community and now the entire Obama administration. The goal it seems has been not to pinpoint the Iranian threat so it can be removed but to conceal it so we need not even try to.
The Washington Post‘s editors deliver an indictment of the Joe Biden war-on-the-cheap alternative to Gen. Stanley McChyrstal’s counterinsurgency plan:
The White House’s Plan B would mainly amount to refusing Gen. McChrystal most of the additional U.S. troops he has requested — thereby saving the president a decision that would anger his political base. Instead of aiming to reverse the Taliban’s momentum in the next year, as Gen. McChrystal proposed, the idea would be to rapidly build the Afghan army so that it could take over the fight and to focus U.S. initiatives on defeating al-Qaeda in Pakistan.
But that’s been tried before, they remind us. It would merely “repeat the strategic errors of the Bush administration — mistakes that left the mess the new administration is facing in Afghanistan and that brought Iraq to the brink of catastrophe three years ago.”
It does seem to be an exercise in collective amnesia. Obama, Biden, and Hillary Clinton were all in the Senate during the failed light-footprint approach to Iraq and watched the surge, which they opposed, bring about the results Gen. David Petraues had predicted. All three campaigned for president as they critiqued the lack of resources devoted to the “good war.” So it surely couldn’t have escaped their notice that Biden’s counterterrorism high-tech gambit has already been shown to be defective. The Bush team — which made the right call — didn’t have the benefit of experience, but the Obama team does. They have seen this argument play out.
We therefore return to the real issue: Will the president do what is needed to win the war? The Post‘s editors sum up:
The question that remains is whether Mr. Obama will prefer the risk of defeat that the general outlined to the costs of sending tens of thousands of more American forces. The latter course does not guarantee success by any means, but the former is a proven loser.
It continues to baffle and horrify many, given what we have gone through in two wars, that this is even an open question. But in the Obama administration, historical experience, arguments on the merits, and facts count for comparatively little. If it were otherwise, McChrystal would already have his orders.
The latest spin-filled explanation for the stalemate on our Afghanistan war strategy comes from the Washington Post. You see, the civilian leadership didn’t really understand that a full counterinsurgency strategy meant, well, a full counterinsurgency strategy. We get this convoluted tale: over the objection of the noted military historian and war strategist Joe Biden, the military recommended and the president accepted in March a counterinsurgency strategy, but civilian and military leaders somehow didn’t agree on what this meant:
To senior military commanders, the sentence was unambiguous: U.S. and NATO forces would have to change the way they operate in Afghanistan. Instead of focusing on hunting and killing insurgents, the troops would have to concentrate on protecting the good Afghans from the bad ones.
And to carry out such a counterinsurgency effort the way its doctrine prescribes, the military would almost certainly need more boots on the ground.
To some civilians who participated in the strategic review, that conclusion was much less clear. Some took it as inevitable that more troops would be needed, but others thought the thrust of the new approach was to send over scores more diplomats and reconstruction experts. They figured a counterinsurgency mission could be accomplished with the forces already in country, plus the 17,000 new troops Obama had authorized in February.
Really? If so, this is a fundamental breakdown in policy formulation and communication that makes the Guantanamo debacle look like small potatoes. But perhaps this is something more basic: the president, egged on by Biden, is losing his nerve and doesn’t want to spend the money to win the war he said was critical to our national security. So now that it is apparent what it will cost and how many troops are needed, the president has flinched. And it’s now time to revisit that call made back in March. (If you don’t like the answer, go change the question, I suppose.)
Take your pick: a monumental disconnect between civilian and military leaders or a loss of will and nerve by the commander in chief. Well, the former sounds less awful, so that’s the explanation of choice. But then certainly the person responsible for coordinating policy, assembling competing views, and putting decisions before the president — that’s you, James Jones — has failed miserably. Someone should get canned, you would think.
But in the end it doesn’t matter how we got to where we are. The president has his recommendation, which reflects the unanimous view of the most expert military minds we could have assembled. The president is being told this is the way to win the war, and the alternative from General Joe Biden is a loser — as it was in Iraq. What’s he going to do now? American troops who are risking their lives don’t care that the president may have been confused about what his strategic decision entailed. They are looking for direction. America’s enemies certainly aren’t impressed by a confession of bureaucratic incompetence. And the public may once again be horrified to learn that the Obama national-security team is the most inept in history.
While the Democrats grow excited at the prospect of a trillion-dollar health-care bill, a bit of reality seeps in. This report explains:
The federal budget deficit tripled to a record $1.4 trillion for the 2009 fiscal year that ended last week, congressional analysts said Wednesday. The Congressional Budget Office estimate, while expected, is bad news for the White House and its allies in Congress as they press ahead with health care overhaul legislation that could cost $900 billion over the next decade.
There is an almost total disconnect between the real issues facing the country — a growing nuclear threat from Iran, a floundering war effort in Afghanistan, a bulging debt, a falling dollar, and near double-digit unemployment — and the focus of the Congress and the president. The Obama administration either doesn’t know what to do about the growing list of critical issues or doesn’t have the interest in addressing them. So it has manufactured a “health-care crisis” that now absorbs nearly all of Washington’s political energy.
Afghanistan is an afterthought, only climbing onto the White House to-do list once it wound up on the front pages of major newspapers. The administration is stalling on Iran, biding time and showing little if any interest in moving ahead with sanctions. And rather than focusing on job creation, the administration and Congress are supporting a tax- and mandate-stuffed health-care bill that surely will not improve the hiring environment.
The president plainly wants one thing — a massive government takeover of health care. All other priorities — straightening out our war strategy included — take a backseat. And if the public doesn’t really want what he is pushing, if the president’s agenda exacerbates the real crises (unemployment and the budget deficit), then any “victory” will prove to be an empty one. And the real crises will remain. At some point maybe we’ll get around to those.
Obama’s poll numbers are down. The generic poll advantage for Democrats has disappeared. And now we see further evidence of the impact of Obama on the political landscape: he has energized Republicans.
Public Opinion Strategies (h/t Political Wire) tells us:
In 2005, the last year following a presidential election, Republicans, Independents, and Democrats all reported roughly the same level of interest in the news. But this year, four-in-ten Republicans say they are following national political news “very closely” – up 15 points from 2005, and fully 11 points higher than their Democratic counterparts today. . . . The combination of this Republican intensity and Independents beginning to desert President Obama is starting to translate to the ballot measure for 2010.
Since 2006, Republicans labored under the political the shadow of an unpopular war and a series of bad-news stories from the Bush White House. No wonder Obama still seems to want to run against Bush. But he’s a fading memory for most voters. Obama’s liberal agenda, his increasingly discombobulated foreign policy, and the ultra-liberal Democratic Congress are an increasingly juicy target for Republicans. And now the scandals — from ACORN to Charlie Rangel to Van Jones — are the Democrats’.
To some extent this is the natural ebb and flow of politics, which renders all the chatter of “permanent” majorities and all the flailing to reinvent the minority party rather absurd. But it is also a function of the choices made by the Obama administration to govern from the Left and to try to jam through its extreme agenda as quickly as possible. The Obama administration has made itself a target for its opponents and a burden for its fellow Democrats.
The UN Security Council yesterday rejected Libya’s request to hold a special session on the Goldstone report. It nevertheless agreed to move up its Middle East meeting to October 14 and “focus on the war crimes report.” According to news reports, ”most of the council’s members were against discussing the report until the UN Human Rights Council reached a joint agreement on its recommendations on the topic.”
Think about that for a moment: Libya — which just welcomed the butcher of Lockerbie with great fanfare – is requesting a session to discuss the Goldstone report. This is what we’ve come to expect from the three-ring circus. And this is the organization, the exemplar of the “international community,” that Obama tells us holds common values and interests and is bound by a unified vision of a peaceful world. Uh, no. Not by a long shot. (One need only observe this scene to appreciate just how flummoxed the “international community” can be when some reality is introduced and the anti-Israel venom is rebutted.)
And that perhaps may be another reason the administration remains so mum. They’d rather not call too much attention to another embarrassing spasm of anti-Israel vitriol. If they just remain quiet, pawn the whole thing off on the UN Human Rights Council (on which Libya also sits), perhaps no one will remember what a farce, a dangerous and destructive one, it all is. But ignoring the Israel bashers doesn’t make them go away. It simply confirms that when inconvenient facts pop up, the Obama administration turns a blind eye.
James Capretta on the CBO’s scoring of the Baucus bill: “The cost over ten years will be advertised as only $829 billion. But after all that spending, there would still be 25 million uninsured Americans in 2019. Even so, CBO’s estimate of the Baucus plan substantially understates its true cost because it is based on key assumptions that will never hold up over time.” Over time, Capretta argues, the squawking will grow louder to lower the tax on those who don’t get insurance and to restore the draconian Medicare and Medicaid cuts so the price will soar.
Sen. Mitch McConnell points out that the “real” bill will get drafted in secret and “slashes a half-trillion dollars from seniors’ Medicare, raises taxes on American families by $400 billion, increases health care premiums, and vastly expands the role of the federal government in the personal health care decisions of every American.”
Karl Rove argues: “Passing health-care reform could be harmful to the health of congressional Democrats. Just look at how President Barack Obama’s standing has fallen as he has pushed for reform. According to Fox News surveys, the number of independents who oppose health-care reform hit 57% at the end of September, up from 33% in July. Independents are generally a quarter of the vote in off-year congressional elections.” And once voters figure out all the taxes, mandates, fines, and Medicare cuts, those numbers may look even worse for those who voted for ObamaCare.
Tevi Troy sums up: “To translate, the bill imposes a mandate for the purchase of health insurance, and gets people covered by creating subsidies and expanding Medicaid eligibility. It pays for this by cutting Medicare payments and imposing a tax on high-value insurance plans.”
Democrats are fussing about Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s candid assessment of the options (only one of which is viable) in Afghanistan. Is he really a “usurper,” as they claim? Nonsense, says Marty Peretz: “But to state an opinion is not to usurp. Or to purport. It is simply to state an opinion and, in doing so, enter into the conversation. No constitutional rule precludes generals from saying what they think.” The real problem for Democrats is that they have no credible response and no credible responder.
Democrats are tied up in knots over closing Guantanamo. Give Obama discretion to come up with a plan to check back with them, but not much more. But there is “no chance” of meeting the January deadline, according to this report. Here’s an idea: forget the whole thing.
David Ignatius is sure there’s an Obama Doctrine in the “zigs and zags” of nine months’ worth of head-spinning foreign policy. It’s lawyerly and there are rights and responsibilities and . . . wait . . . really, there is something to explain all this. Well, even if you don’t buy it, bugging out of Afghanistan won’t measure up. He concludes: “The notion that the United States can break with that mission — and opt for a more selfish counterterrorism strategy that drops the rebuilding part and seeks to assassinate America’s enemies with Predator drones from 10,000 feet — would not fit well with any reading of the Obama doctrine. That approach, to be blunt, would be lawless.” Lawless? How about “dangerous” or “foolhardy”?
Justice Scalia would like smart people to do something other than practice law: “I mean there’d be a, you know, a defense or public defender from Podunk, you know, and this woman is really brilliant, you know. Why isn’t she out inventing the automobile or, you know, doing something productive for this society?”