Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 7, 2009

Re: What We Know About the Health-Care Bill

John, what we also know is that this bill is so flawed and so potentially toxic with all but committed liberals that now at least 34 moderate and conservative Democrats have jumped ship. Republican leaders can claim with some credibility that there is an impressive bipartisan opposition to the bill — every Republican and a chunk of the Democratic caucus that isn’t moved by the offer to go “where giants have walked,” as Nancy Pelosi is spinning it.

On that list are two of the Virginia Four — the most endangered Democrats in a state that just elected a Republican governor by an 18-point margin. And others in at-risk seats, from Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) to John Adler ( D-N.J.) to John Barrow ( D-Ga.), are also “no” votes, scrambling to get as far from the political backlash as they can.

One would think such a historic and noble action, as the Democrats have styled it, would enjoy robust support from the full spectrum of the House Democratic caucus. But in this case, only those who occupy safe seats (or think they do) can be corralled. If Pelosi gets her 218 votes, it will be unprecedented. It is fair to say that never will a piece of legislation this sweeping (and damaging) have been passed over the opposition of so much of the electorate and on the votes of such a narrow ideological slice of the governing class.

John, what we also know is that this bill is so flawed and so potentially toxic with all but committed liberals that now at least 34 moderate and conservative Democrats have jumped ship. Republican leaders can claim with some credibility that there is an impressive bipartisan opposition to the bill — every Republican and a chunk of the Democratic caucus that isn’t moved by the offer to go “where giants have walked,” as Nancy Pelosi is spinning it.

On that list are two of the Virginia Four — the most endangered Democrats in a state that just elected a Republican governor by an 18-point margin. And others in at-risk seats, from Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) to John Adler ( D-N.J.) to John Barrow ( D-Ga.), are also “no” votes, scrambling to get as far from the political backlash as they can.

One would think such a historic and noble action, as the Democrats have styled it, would enjoy robust support from the full spectrum of the House Democratic caucus. But in this case, only those who occupy safe seats (or think they do) can be corralled. If Pelosi gets her 218 votes, it will be unprecedented. It is fair to say that never will a piece of legislation this sweeping (and damaging) have been passed over the opposition of so much of the electorate and on the votes of such a narrow ideological slice of the governing class.

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What We Know About the Health-Care Bill

What we know about the health-care bill poised to pass on a party-line vote in the House of Representatives is this:

  • The bill’s cost may run as high as $3 trillion. Let me repeat that. Three trillion dollars.
  • A desperate effort to find some means of defraying that cost makes significant tax increases on the middle class necessary, and will bring back the disastrous problem of “bracket creep”—the phenomenon that held sway during the high-tax 1970s when a salary increase would cause someone to earn less money because he would be jumped into a new bracket.
  • It will feature a complete reordering of American health care. The problem is that we have no idea whether the reordering will do anything to repair the jerry-rigged system we have rather than introducing more confusion, more expense, and more unanticipated consequences—as has been the case with most reforms over the past 25 years. This remarkable summary by James Capretta tells the ultimate cautionary tale in this regard: “There’s no prospect that the federal government will become more nimble overnight at managing the vast and complex health sector in the United States. To control costs in health care, the federal government will do what it always does — it will set prices. In time, that will have the predictable result of driving out willing suppliers of services, leading to queues and access problems. Call it centrally-planned rationing of care.”
  • The entire effort is disingenuous in any case. The so-called “public option”—the poll-driven euphemism for health insurance run by the federal government — is the goal driving all liberal health-care-reform ideas. It is the camel’s nose in the tent. It is not a slippery slope to national health care—it is an artificial Alpine ski range that has been built and then iced over for the purpose of hurtling us into it. Only the desire to pass a bill and call whatever is passed “revolutionary” caused the Obama White House and some in the Senate to take their eyes off the prize for a little while.

If some version of the House bill actually becomes law next year, it will happen for two reasons. First, this is what Democrats generally believe, and when a party is in power, it will generally work to pass measures that consort with its ideological leanings. Second, Democrats will find themselves with a choice that isn’t much of a choice—to vote for something they think is noble, or to vote against it cravenly because they see what an electoral disaster it might represent for them. In such a circumstance, the choice to act nobly will always prevail, because there’s no way to be sure the craven move will have a positive effect.

Thus, at least, if this horror comes to pass, it will be the result of deep ideological conviction. And that deep ideological conviction may well be their undoing.  In which case, they will go down having done something they think is good. Which is nice for them, even as it may prove to be a disaster from which we are going to spend a very, very long time working to extricate ourselves.

What we know about the health-care bill poised to pass on a party-line vote in the House of Representatives is this:

  • The bill’s cost may run as high as $3 trillion. Let me repeat that. Three trillion dollars.
  • A desperate effort to find some means of defraying that cost makes significant tax increases on the middle class necessary, and will bring back the disastrous problem of “bracket creep”—the phenomenon that held sway during the high-tax 1970s when a salary increase would cause someone to earn less money because he would be jumped into a new bracket.
  • It will feature a complete reordering of American health care. The problem is that we have no idea whether the reordering will do anything to repair the jerry-rigged system we have rather than introducing more confusion, more expense, and more unanticipated consequences—as has been the case with most reforms over the past 25 years. This remarkable summary by James Capretta tells the ultimate cautionary tale in this regard: “There’s no prospect that the federal government will become more nimble overnight at managing the vast and complex health sector in the United States. To control costs in health care, the federal government will do what it always does — it will set prices. In time, that will have the predictable result of driving out willing suppliers of services, leading to queues and access problems. Call it centrally-planned rationing of care.”
  • The entire effort is disingenuous in any case. The so-called “public option”—the poll-driven euphemism for health insurance run by the federal government — is the goal driving all liberal health-care-reform ideas. It is the camel’s nose in the tent. It is not a slippery slope to national health care—it is an artificial Alpine ski range that has been built and then iced over for the purpose of hurtling us into it. Only the desire to pass a bill and call whatever is passed “revolutionary” caused the Obama White House and some in the Senate to take their eyes off the prize for a little while.

If some version of the House bill actually becomes law next year, it will happen for two reasons. First, this is what Democrats generally believe, and when a party is in power, it will generally work to pass measures that consort with its ideological leanings. Second, Democrats will find themselves with a choice that isn’t much of a choice—to vote for something they think is noble, or to vote against it cravenly because they see what an electoral disaster it might represent for them. In such a circumstance, the choice to act nobly will always prevail, because there’s no way to be sure the craven move will have a positive effect.

Thus, at least, if this horror comes to pass, it will be the result of deep ideological conviction. And that deep ideological conviction may well be their undoing.  In which case, they will go down having done something they think is good. Which is nice for them, even as it may prove to be a disaster from which we are going to spend a very, very long time working to extricate ourselves.

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Mr. Zelaya, the Bus, and Elections

Manuel Zelaya is peeved. The deal to restore him to the presidency is no deal at all. This report explains that while the Obami told him there would be a vote on his reinstatement, those voting aren’t interested in scheduling the vote:

U.S. officials had hoped that Honduras’s Congress would reinstate Mr. Zelaya until his term ends in January in order to secure widespread international recognition for the election. But as days passed, it became clear Honduras’ Congress was in no mood for a quick return of the controversial leader. It put off a vote and said it would wait for decisions on the legality of Mr. Zelaya’s restitution from the country’s Supreme Court and other institutions. … If Mr. Zelaya’s return does come to a vote in Congress, he is likely to lose. He would be facing the same legislators who on June 28 voted overwhelmingly to replace him.

Zelaya might see Van Jones or the other discarded and inconvenient lunatics previously tossed under the Obama bus. Perhaps he was not the strongman Obama thought he was.

There is, it seems, a problem with elections for the Obami. They don’t object very strenuously to the rigged and stolen ones (Iran), and they have a very hard time accepting the fair and open ones (Honduras). They don’t like the ones resulting in leaders who don’t knuckle under to American persuasion (Israel). But they care a whole lot about Fiji. Yeah, Fiji.

Maybe Chicago pols have issues with elections, but they might do well to follow some basic rules. First, if it is a democracy with a free and vigorous media, butt out. Second, when an election is a fraud run by despots, don’t bestow legitimacy on it. Is it really so hard?

Manuel Zelaya is peeved. The deal to restore him to the presidency is no deal at all. This report explains that while the Obami told him there would be a vote on his reinstatement, those voting aren’t interested in scheduling the vote:

U.S. officials had hoped that Honduras’s Congress would reinstate Mr. Zelaya until his term ends in January in order to secure widespread international recognition for the election. But as days passed, it became clear Honduras’ Congress was in no mood for a quick return of the controversial leader. It put off a vote and said it would wait for decisions on the legality of Mr. Zelaya’s restitution from the country’s Supreme Court and other institutions. … If Mr. Zelaya’s return does come to a vote in Congress, he is likely to lose. He would be facing the same legislators who on June 28 voted overwhelmingly to replace him.

Zelaya might see Van Jones or the other discarded and inconvenient lunatics previously tossed under the Obama bus. Perhaps he was not the strongman Obama thought he was.

There is, it seems, a problem with elections for the Obami. They don’t object very strenuously to the rigged and stolen ones (Iran), and they have a very hard time accepting the fair and open ones (Honduras). They don’t like the ones resulting in leaders who don’t knuckle under to American persuasion (Israel). But they care a whole lot about Fiji. Yeah, Fiji.

Maybe Chicago pols have issues with elections, but they might do well to follow some basic rules. First, if it is a democracy with a free and vigorous media, butt out. Second, when an election is a fraud run by despots, don’t bestow legitimacy on it. Is it really so hard?

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Playing Dumb

There is something both pathetic and infuriating about the head-scratching and obfuscation going on in the wake of the Ft. Hood massacre. “What could be the motive?” mull the chin strokers in the Washington Post forum. The editors caution that we shouldn’t be “jumping to conclusions” about the role of Major Hasan’s Muslim beliefs and then they proceed to tip-toe around the facts:

One of the most obvious questions as investigations go forward is whether the FBI or military authorities missed an opportunity to prevent Maj. Hasan from acting. The Associated Press reported that the suspect came to the attention of law enforcement at least six months ago because of Internet postings that praised suicide bombers. Other reports said that he had been counseled because of poor performance while training as a psychiatrist, that he had been resisting a deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan, and that he had been trying to leave the military. Were disgruntlement and threatening behavior taken seriously enough?

But puleez. The Post’s own report tells us:

Six months ago, investigators came across Internet postings, allegedly by Hasan, that indicated sympathy for suicide bombers and empathized with the plight of Muslim civilians killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a federal official briefed on the situation. The official, and another source, said investigators never confirmed whether Hasan was the author of the postings and did not pursue the matter.

Didn’t pursue the matter?

And then we learn: “Friends and acquaintances said Hasan had been increasingly agitated over the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he reportedly said the U.S. ‘war on terror’ was a ‘war on Muslims.’ Officials have seized Hasan’s computer to determine his role in the blog posts and other writings.” It seems he even had a PowerPoint presentation. (“Val Finnell, a classmate of Hasan’s at the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda a few years ago, recalled a presentation that ‘started out with a semblance of a health issue but his PowerPoint turned into his view that the war was against Muslims. He brought that up throughout the year.”)

Listen, ignoring reality and feigning indifference to the views and behavior of Major Hasan is how we wound up with 13 dead and 30 wounded, right? Perhaps we should be candid for once. The American people can figure this one out — and those who continue to play dumb will earn only their contempt.

There is something both pathetic and infuriating about the head-scratching and obfuscation going on in the wake of the Ft. Hood massacre. “What could be the motive?” mull the chin strokers in the Washington Post forum. The editors caution that we shouldn’t be “jumping to conclusions” about the role of Major Hasan’s Muslim beliefs and then they proceed to tip-toe around the facts:

One of the most obvious questions as investigations go forward is whether the FBI or military authorities missed an opportunity to prevent Maj. Hasan from acting. The Associated Press reported that the suspect came to the attention of law enforcement at least six months ago because of Internet postings that praised suicide bombers. Other reports said that he had been counseled because of poor performance while training as a psychiatrist, that he had been resisting a deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan, and that he had been trying to leave the military. Were disgruntlement and threatening behavior taken seriously enough?

But puleez. The Post’s own report tells us:

Six months ago, investigators came across Internet postings, allegedly by Hasan, that indicated sympathy for suicide bombers and empathized with the plight of Muslim civilians killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a federal official briefed on the situation. The official, and another source, said investigators never confirmed whether Hasan was the author of the postings and did not pursue the matter.

Didn’t pursue the matter?

And then we learn: “Friends and acquaintances said Hasan had been increasingly agitated over the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he reportedly said the U.S. ‘war on terror’ was a ‘war on Muslims.’ Officials have seized Hasan’s computer to determine his role in the blog posts and other writings.” It seems he even had a PowerPoint presentation. (“Val Finnell, a classmate of Hasan’s at the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda a few years ago, recalled a presentation that ‘started out with a semblance of a health issue but his PowerPoint turned into his view that the war was against Muslims. He brought that up throughout the year.”)

Listen, ignoring reality and feigning indifference to the views and behavior of Major Hasan is how we wound up with 13 dead and 30 wounded, right? Perhaps we should be candid for once. The American people can figure this one out — and those who continue to play dumb will earn only their contempt.

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Can We Stop Yet?

Succinctly put, as former Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams has, the Obami’s Middle East policy is a “complete failure.” It is rare indeed that a diplomatic foray can be so unhelpful and destructive that it manages to “offend and demoralize” both sides. But give it to the “smart diplomacy” set — they did it. This was, as Abrams says, largely the result of the inane notion that Bibi Netanyahu could either be pushed from office or pushed to adopt an absolute, unworkable settlement freeze, which would in turn prompt the Palestinians to recognize the Jewish state and give birth to a final-status agreement.

Virtually everything about the gambit was wrong and ill-advised. Netanyahu was not to be pushed from office. Netanyahu’s skillfully calibrated resistance rallied public support while Obama’s sunk in single digits among the Israeli people. The Palestinians’ fondness for rejectionism and obstructionism was exacerbated. The elephants in the room — terrorism and Hamas — remained and undermined hopes of a grand deal. Yes, other than that, it is a splendid idea.

While the Obami were more obnoxious toward our ally Israel and more destructive than other administrations, they were not alone, as Abrams points out, in their obsession with the “peace process” — a series of endless conferences, meetings, press conferences, visits, etc. that bears no relation to real conditions and that, even in the most skillful hands, has no chance of success. There is no there there. There is no solution waiting to be uncovered. The Palestinians presently don’t have the institutions, the will, the political authority, or the mindset to make a comprehensive peace deal with the Jewish state and to live up to it if they did.

Abrams suggests everyone get real and that, like the Zionist settlers decades ago, the Palestinians get on with building a viable society that one day will be ready for statehood. That would entail the helpful and much overdue recognition by the administration that this is a conflict for which there is no current solution. The obsession with finding a solution where there is none has diminished the president’s standing, undermined the credibility of the foreign policy team more generally, and of course distracted us from the real and central problem in the region — Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons.

It is therefore critical not only for the Palestinians to move on, but for the Obami to do so as well. The obsessive compulsion to meet and to cajole, to shuttle and to confer, is diminishing the administration’s illusion of competence and credibility on a daily basis. They should stop before they get to the point where it is painfully obvious they have an acute shortage of both. And unlike a peace deal, we’re nearly there.

Succinctly put, as former Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams has, the Obami’s Middle East policy is a “complete failure.” It is rare indeed that a diplomatic foray can be so unhelpful and destructive that it manages to “offend and demoralize” both sides. But give it to the “smart diplomacy” set — they did it. This was, as Abrams says, largely the result of the inane notion that Bibi Netanyahu could either be pushed from office or pushed to adopt an absolute, unworkable settlement freeze, which would in turn prompt the Palestinians to recognize the Jewish state and give birth to a final-status agreement.

Virtually everything about the gambit was wrong and ill-advised. Netanyahu was not to be pushed from office. Netanyahu’s skillfully calibrated resistance rallied public support while Obama’s sunk in single digits among the Israeli people. The Palestinians’ fondness for rejectionism and obstructionism was exacerbated. The elephants in the room — terrorism and Hamas — remained and undermined hopes of a grand deal. Yes, other than that, it is a splendid idea.

While the Obami were more obnoxious toward our ally Israel and more destructive than other administrations, they were not alone, as Abrams points out, in their obsession with the “peace process” — a series of endless conferences, meetings, press conferences, visits, etc. that bears no relation to real conditions and that, even in the most skillful hands, has no chance of success. There is no there there. There is no solution waiting to be uncovered. The Palestinians presently don’t have the institutions, the will, the political authority, or the mindset to make a comprehensive peace deal with the Jewish state and to live up to it if they did.

Abrams suggests everyone get real and that, like the Zionist settlers decades ago, the Palestinians get on with building a viable society that one day will be ready for statehood. That would entail the helpful and much overdue recognition by the administration that this is a conflict for which there is no current solution. The obsession with finding a solution where there is none has diminished the president’s standing, undermined the credibility of the foreign policy team more generally, and of course distracted us from the real and central problem in the region — Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons.

It is therefore critical not only for the Palestinians to move on, but for the Obami to do so as well. The obsessive compulsion to meet and to cajole, to shuttle and to confer, is diminishing the administration’s illusion of competence and credibility on a daily basis. They should stop before they get to the point where it is painfully obvious they have an acute shortage of both. And unlike a peace deal, we’re nearly there.

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What if They Can’t Find 218?

Today, four days after her party took a drubbing in two high-profile states, Nancy Pelosi will try her best to strong-arm 218 of her members to vote for a massive tax hike and a draconian Medicare cut in the midst of the worst unemployment statistics in over a quarter century. It is a measure of their ideological fervor that the Democratic leadership would contemplate such a move. They have, of course, convinced themselves that this is “smart” politics. Well, only in the sense that Obama’s diplomacy is “smart diplomacy.” In other words, not in the least.

The Democrats’ narrative of 1994 is based on the premise that doing nothing sank the party. It wasn’t ideological overreach or scandal. No, it was the failure to pass a health-care bill that lacked public support that turned voters against them. It sounds a bit nutty, and it is. It is the sort of historical justification that politicians grab on to so they can convince themselves that what they’re doing, despite all available evidence (e.g., polls, election returns, their own party members’ pleas), makes perfect sense.

The confluence of events — Obama’s sinking poll numbers, the low approval of Congress itself, the New Jersey and Virginia election returns, the skyrocketing unemployment,  and the birth of an effective grass-roots populist movement — would suggest that Pelosi should pause and regroup. But the motive here is not simply to avoid the loss of a cherished dream nurtured over decades (i.e., to take over health care). And it is not simply to keep the liberal base engaged and supportive (financially and otherwise). It would, in a very real sense, be a political humiliation for both Pelosi and the president to admit error and to turn back.

For almost a year they have insisted that we have a health-care crisis. For months they have vilified opponents as know-nothings and stooges. To give up now would mean a repetition of the moment of the Copenhagen Olympics bid — to the nth degree. Their own party and the country at large would collectively grimace and whisper to one another, “They really are winging it, aren’t they?” Yes, they are.

The Democrats are now in a lose-lose bind of their own making. Pass the bill and suffer the wrath of the voters. Or don’t pass the bill and suffer untold embarrassment. At such moments a crafty politician would stall. We’ll see how crafty Pelosi is.

Today, four days after her party took a drubbing in two high-profile states, Nancy Pelosi will try her best to strong-arm 218 of her members to vote for a massive tax hike and a draconian Medicare cut in the midst of the worst unemployment statistics in over a quarter century. It is a measure of their ideological fervor that the Democratic leadership would contemplate such a move. They have, of course, convinced themselves that this is “smart” politics. Well, only in the sense that Obama’s diplomacy is “smart diplomacy.” In other words, not in the least.

The Democrats’ narrative of 1994 is based on the premise that doing nothing sank the party. It wasn’t ideological overreach or scandal. No, it was the failure to pass a health-care bill that lacked public support that turned voters against them. It sounds a bit nutty, and it is. It is the sort of historical justification that politicians grab on to so they can convince themselves that what they’re doing, despite all available evidence (e.g., polls, election returns, their own party members’ pleas), makes perfect sense.

The confluence of events — Obama’s sinking poll numbers, the low approval of Congress itself, the New Jersey and Virginia election returns, the skyrocketing unemployment,  and the birth of an effective grass-roots populist movement — would suggest that Pelosi should pause and regroup. But the motive here is not simply to avoid the loss of a cherished dream nurtured over decades (i.e., to take over health care). And it is not simply to keep the liberal base engaged and supportive (financially and otherwise). It would, in a very real sense, be a political humiliation for both Pelosi and the president to admit error and to turn back.

For almost a year they have insisted that we have a health-care crisis. For months they have vilified opponents as know-nothings and stooges. To give up now would mean a repetition of the moment of the Copenhagen Olympics bid — to the nth degree. Their own party and the country at large would collectively grimace and whisper to one another, “They really are winging it, aren’t they?” Yes, they are.

The Democrats are now in a lose-lose bind of their own making. Pass the bill and suffer the wrath of the voters. Or don’t pass the bill and suffer untold embarrassment. At such moments a crafty politician would stall. We’ll see how crafty Pelosi is.

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Something Is Missing

Marc Ambinder, ever the willing recipient of White House spin, ponders, “Is Barack Obama’s cool style of governing fundamentally incompatible with the furnace of modern politics?” This is a variation on the “We are not worthy” sort of punditry, which looks to put blame on the mere mortals who don’t quite get the wonderfulness of the president.

But let’s be blunt, the affected “cool” of the president is getting rather creepy as a style of governance. (Mickey Kaus cops to discovering much the same phenomenon.) This was on display in an unfortunate and highly visible way this week. As Linda and others have pointed out, the president’s bizarrely inappropriate remarks after learning of the Foot Hood massacre left one puzzled, if not downright troubled. He not only didn’t seem to grasp the gravity of the situation; he didn’t seem emotionally connected to the appalling events.

In this regard he is quite different from George W. Bush, who, for all the criticism of his verbal abilities, delivered some of the most moving oratory (on the rubble heap in New York City, at the National Cathedral on November 14, etc.) in recent memory and never failed to impart a sense of his own emotional presence. Tears were often just beneath the surface, and sometimes not even concealed from view. It was not done for affect, nor as a ploy for sympathy. It was simply who he was, and the country could sense his innate decency and his tender affection for his fellow countrymen.

Now there is apt criticism of the Oprah-ization of politics. And thanks to Bill Clinton, much mockery is rightly made of politicians who put on great shows of emotion. Still, there is a place for empathy and genuine displays of  kindness and sweetness by our leaders. When, as in the much remembered presidential debate, Michael Dukakis failed to register human emotion when given a hypothetical involving his wife’s rape and murder, the country flinched. What’s wrong with him? Yes, we expect our leaders, at a bare minimum, to reflect and exemplify values and traits that we would seek in friends — loyalty, kindness, and righteous indignation.

There is a price to be paid for those who don’t grasp this. A president who fails to bond with the American people, who holds himself above or beyond them, is not a president who will enjoy a reservoir of affection and support in return, especially when the political winds are no longer at his back. Sometimes it simply doesn’t pay to be cool.

Marc Ambinder, ever the willing recipient of White House spin, ponders, “Is Barack Obama’s cool style of governing fundamentally incompatible with the furnace of modern politics?” This is a variation on the “We are not worthy” sort of punditry, which looks to put blame on the mere mortals who don’t quite get the wonderfulness of the president.

But let’s be blunt, the affected “cool” of the president is getting rather creepy as a style of governance. (Mickey Kaus cops to discovering much the same phenomenon.) This was on display in an unfortunate and highly visible way this week. As Linda and others have pointed out, the president’s bizarrely inappropriate remarks after learning of the Foot Hood massacre left one puzzled, if not downright troubled. He not only didn’t seem to grasp the gravity of the situation; he didn’t seem emotionally connected to the appalling events.

In this regard he is quite different from George W. Bush, who, for all the criticism of his verbal abilities, delivered some of the most moving oratory (on the rubble heap in New York City, at the National Cathedral on November 14, etc.) in recent memory and never failed to impart a sense of his own emotional presence. Tears were often just beneath the surface, and sometimes not even concealed from view. It was not done for affect, nor as a ploy for sympathy. It was simply who he was, and the country could sense his innate decency and his tender affection for his fellow countrymen.

Now there is apt criticism of the Oprah-ization of politics. And thanks to Bill Clinton, much mockery is rightly made of politicians who put on great shows of emotion. Still, there is a place for empathy and genuine displays of  kindness and sweetness by our leaders. When, as in the much remembered presidential debate, Michael Dukakis failed to register human emotion when given a hypothetical involving his wife’s rape and murder, the country flinched. What’s wrong with him? Yes, we expect our leaders, at a bare minimum, to reflect and exemplify values and traits that we would seek in friends — loyalty, kindness, and righteous indignation.

There is a price to be paid for those who don’t grasp this. A president who fails to bond with the American people, who holds himself above or beyond them, is not a president who will enjoy a reservoir of affection and support in return, especially when the political winds are no longer at his back. Sometimes it simply doesn’t pay to be cool.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Martin Feldstein writes on PelosiCare’s requirement that insurers immediately cover individuals without regard to their medical condition: “In short, for those who are now privately insured through employers or by direct purchase, there would be substantial incentives to become uninsured until they become sick. The resulting rise in the cost to insurance companies as the insured population becomes sicker would raise the average premium, strengthening that incentive.” In other words: private insurers are crippled, fewer people feel compelled to insure themselves, and the subsidized public option becomes the only viable insurer.

The AMA feels the heat: “The American Medical Association’s much-touted endorsement of the House health care reform bill has triggered a revolt among some members who want the endorsement withdrawn.”

Freshmen congressmen get in line for a lifeboat seeking escape from the S.S. PelosiCare.

Pelosi struggled to get 218 on board. It seems that 10.2 percent unemployment figure was “making that job harder.” Because it really is outrageous to vote for a mammoth tax bill with unemployment at a 26-year high, right?

We spotted him: the most endangered New Jersey Democrat bails on PelosiCare. ( h/t Jim Geraghty)

James Taranto: “It is far from an original observation that with unemployment at 10% and the voters just having rebuked their party, it requires amazing hubris and insensitivity for the president and the Democratic leadership to push ahead with this. But the situation is not necessarily hopeless. There may be enough Democrats with enough sense to put a stop to this.”

Cesar Conda puts it simply: “According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics figures released today, the U.S. economy has lost 2.8 million jobs since President Obama signed the ‘stimulus’ package into law on February 17. So where are all the jobs that the Administration claims were ‘saved’ or ‘created’?”

And voters really don’t want PelosiCare. More than 50 percent oppose, less than 44 perfect favor it, according to Pollster.com’s survey average.

Obama calls the unemployment rate “sobering.” But not sobering enough to dissuade him from the health-care takeover, the cap-and-trade energy tax, and the Bush tax-cut repeal.

James Jones and Dennis Ross apparently disagree on Middle East policy. Perhaps the one in favor of the failed engagement gambit and the counterproductive settlement freeze should resign.

The mainstream media remain baffled about the motives for the Fort Hood slaughter. It is moments like these in which average people realize Washington and media sophisticates are completely out to lunch.

Chris Matthews plays dumb as well. He is playing, right?

Eric Cantor exercises some adult leadership and decries Tea Party Holocaust imagery and Obama-Hitler comparisons. And no, it’s not a sufficient response to say the Left was just as bad.

Martin Feldstein writes on PelosiCare’s requirement that insurers immediately cover individuals without regard to their medical condition: “In short, for those who are now privately insured through employers or by direct purchase, there would be substantial incentives to become uninsured until they become sick. The resulting rise in the cost to insurance companies as the insured population becomes sicker would raise the average premium, strengthening that incentive.” In other words: private insurers are crippled, fewer people feel compelled to insure themselves, and the subsidized public option becomes the only viable insurer.

The AMA feels the heat: “The American Medical Association’s much-touted endorsement of the House health care reform bill has triggered a revolt among some members who want the endorsement withdrawn.”

Freshmen congressmen get in line for a lifeboat seeking escape from the S.S. PelosiCare.

Pelosi struggled to get 218 on board. It seems that 10.2 percent unemployment figure was “making that job harder.” Because it really is outrageous to vote for a mammoth tax bill with unemployment at a 26-year high, right?

We spotted him: the most endangered New Jersey Democrat bails on PelosiCare. ( h/t Jim Geraghty)

James Taranto: “It is far from an original observation that with unemployment at 10% and the voters just having rebuked their party, it requires amazing hubris and insensitivity for the president and the Democratic leadership to push ahead with this. But the situation is not necessarily hopeless. There may be enough Democrats with enough sense to put a stop to this.”

Cesar Conda puts it simply: “According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics figures released today, the U.S. economy has lost 2.8 million jobs since President Obama signed the ‘stimulus’ package into law on February 17. So where are all the jobs that the Administration claims were ‘saved’ or ‘created’?”

And voters really don’t want PelosiCare. More than 50 percent oppose, less than 44 perfect favor it, according to Pollster.com’s survey average.

Obama calls the unemployment rate “sobering.” But not sobering enough to dissuade him from the health-care takeover, the cap-and-trade energy tax, and the Bush tax-cut repeal.

James Jones and Dennis Ross apparently disagree on Middle East policy. Perhaps the one in favor of the failed engagement gambit and the counterproductive settlement freeze should resign.

The mainstream media remain baffled about the motives for the Fort Hood slaughter. It is moments like these in which average people realize Washington and media sophisticates are completely out to lunch.

Chris Matthews plays dumb as well. He is playing, right?

Eric Cantor exercises some adult leadership and decries Tea Party Holocaust imagery and Obama-Hitler comparisons. And no, it’s not a sufficient response to say the Left was just as bad.

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