Commentary Magazine


Posts For: February 25, 2010

LIVE BLOG: “We May Be Closer Together”

Tom Harkin, the Democratic senator from Iowa, says he’s stunned to discover how Democrats and Republicans “may be closer together” than we thought. In saying this, he is echoing something Democrats, including Obama, have been saying all day. Indeed, when Republicans like John McCain and Eric Cantor disagree and say the differences are far more substantive, these are the moments that have triggered the president’s anger. Fascinating. Democrats are seeking to turn around their fortunes on health care by hugging the GOP. It’s one of the more peculiar political strategies in memory, but when you’re at 25 percent, it might be worth a shot. A long shot, but a shot. A very long shot.

Tom Harkin, the Democratic senator from Iowa, says he’s stunned to discover how Democrats and Republicans “may be closer together” than we thought. In saying this, he is echoing something Democrats, including Obama, have been saying all day. Indeed, when Republicans like John McCain and Eric Cantor disagree and say the differences are far more substantive, these are the moments that have triggered the president’s anger. Fascinating. Democrats are seeking to turn around their fortunes on health care by hugging the GOP. It’s one of the more peculiar political strategies in memory, but when you’re at 25 percent, it might be worth a shot. A long shot, but a shot. A very long shot.

Read Less

LIVE BLOG: Louise Slaughter

Thank God for the performance of Louise Slaughter, the Democratic representative, for injecting a note of reality into these proceedings — the reality being that members of Congress often grab the microphone to tell ridiculous stories about their constituents. In her case it was something about someone in her district who was wearing her sister’s dentures.

Thank God for the performance of Louise Slaughter, the Democratic representative, for injecting a note of reality into these proceedings — the reality being that members of Congress often grab the microphone to tell ridiculous stories about their constituents. In her case it was something about someone in her district who was wearing her sister’s dentures.

Read Less

LIVE BLOG: The Two Different Universes Problem

My sense of this summit is that President Obama is exactly as he always is — extremely intelligent, knowledgeable about policy details, so certain of the rightness of his views that he has no compunction about declaring the views of his antagonists to be merely politically convenient rather than substantive, startlingly condescending at moments, and even more startlingly long-winded when he gets going. As a result, he both looks good and bad in these settings — good because he’s serious and doesn’t appear to be a fanatic, and bad because of the condescension.

Then I turn to the New Republic‘s Jonathan Chait and I read this:

Most [of] the time, this is like watching Lebron James play basketball with a bunch of kids who got cut from the 7th grade basketball team. He’s treating them really nice, letting his teammates take shots and allowing the other team to try to score. Nice try on that layup, Timmy, you almost got it on. But after a couple minutes I want him to just grab the ball and dunk on these clowns already.

So here we have a sterling example of how ideological predilections, his and mine, might color our opinions here. Except for one thing: You can only think Obama is Lebron James playing 7th graders if you are already certain his opinions are right, because the best you can say about this summit so far for him is that it’s a draw, and it’s probably worse than that. And given that only 25 percent of the public wants ObamaCare, he needs to be Lebron James. And Pete Maravich. And Oscar Robertson. And Kareem. All at the same time.

My sense of this summit is that President Obama is exactly as he always is — extremely intelligent, knowledgeable about policy details, so certain of the rightness of his views that he has no compunction about declaring the views of his antagonists to be merely politically convenient rather than substantive, startlingly condescending at moments, and even more startlingly long-winded when he gets going. As a result, he both looks good and bad in these settings — good because he’s serious and doesn’t appear to be a fanatic, and bad because of the condescension.

Then I turn to the New Republic‘s Jonathan Chait and I read this:

Most [of] the time, this is like watching Lebron James play basketball with a bunch of kids who got cut from the 7th grade basketball team. He’s treating them really nice, letting his teammates take shots and allowing the other team to try to score. Nice try on that layup, Timmy, you almost got it on. But after a couple minutes I want him to just grab the ball and dunk on these clowns already.

So here we have a sterling example of how ideological predilections, his and mine, might color our opinions here. Except for one thing: You can only think Obama is Lebron James playing 7th graders if you are already certain his opinions are right, because the best you can say about this summit so far for him is that it’s a draw, and it’s probably worse than that. And given that only 25 percent of the public wants ObamaCare, he needs to be Lebron James. And Pete Maravich. And Oscar Robertson. And Kareem. All at the same time.

Read Less

LIVE BLOG: Obama Unmasked

Question: Why is the 2,400-page legislation Representative Cantor brought with him a “prop,” in the words of Mr. Obama? Answer: Because any argument the president disagrees with is “illegitimate” or a “distraction” or a “talking point” or relies on “props.” Like many others, I have watched Barack Obama quite closely for much of the last two years. And I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him more agitated and condescending. He is, in fact, imperious. One can tell he is used to being coddled for much of his life. He’s used to being referred to as the “Black Jesus” by his aides. He’s used to being told he’s God’s gift to humanity. He’s been told those things and he’s internalized them. And so when he’s challenged — especially when he’s challenged in a forceful and respectful way — he gets upset. He becomes preachy and scolding. And he becomes dismissive.

I am quite surprised by how poorly Obama is coming across. I thought this summit would be essentially worthless. In fact, it is serving quite a useful purpose. It is unmasking Barack Obama. And what we’re seeing isn’t a very pretty sight.

Question: Why is the 2,400-page legislation Representative Cantor brought with him a “prop,” in the words of Mr. Obama? Answer: Because any argument the president disagrees with is “illegitimate” or a “distraction” or a “talking point” or relies on “props.” Like many others, I have watched Barack Obama quite closely for much of the last two years. And I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him more agitated and condescending. He is, in fact, imperious. One can tell he is used to being coddled for much of his life. He’s used to being referred to as the “Black Jesus” by his aides. He’s used to being told he’s God’s gift to humanity. He’s been told those things and he’s internalized them. And so when he’s challenged — especially when he’s challenged in a forceful and respectful way — he gets upset. He becomes preachy and scolding. And he becomes dismissive.

I am quite surprised by how poorly Obama is coming across. I thought this summit would be essentially worthless. In fact, it is serving quite a useful purpose. It is unmasking Barack Obama. And what we’re seeing isn’t a very pretty sight.

Read Less

LIVE BLOG: Rope-a-Dope?

The president also seems pretty annoyed with Eric Cantor’s explanation of Republican objections to the bill, but he held his tongue and let Cantor finish. It seems as if the president may be employing a rope-a-dope strategy, letting Republicans punch themselves out, and expecting the media to report that Republicans were contentious while the Democrats were looking for ways to come together.

The president also seems pretty annoyed with Eric Cantor’s explanation of Republican objections to the bill, but he held his tongue and let Cantor finish. It seems as if the president may be employing a rope-a-dope strategy, letting Republicans punch themselves out, and expecting the media to report that Republicans were contentious while the Democrats were looking for ways to come together.

Read Less

LIVE BLOG: McCain Brings the Pain

John McCain is listing all of the “unsavory” ways that the Democrats have put things together — including the Cornhusker kickback, the Louisiana Purchase, and the $80 billion PhRMA deal. Obama tried to cut him off, but McCain would not be denied and said we should go back to the beginning to get away from the special deals that taint the current product.

Obama looked pretty annoyed, and told McCain that the election is over.

John McCain is listing all of the “unsavory” ways that the Democrats have put things together — including the Cornhusker kickback, the Louisiana Purchase, and the $80 billion PhRMA deal. Obama tried to cut him off, but McCain would not be denied and said we should go back to the beginning to get away from the special deals that taint the current product.

Obama looked pretty annoyed, and told McCain that the election is over.

Read Less

LIVE BLOG: Let’s Agree — Regulate the Insurers

President Obama has just given us a list of “where we agree” on insurance. His list included the notion that insurance companies can’t drop people, expanding the age limit for children remaining on parental coverage, ending lifetime coverage limits, and the prohibition on denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. The president recently chided Senator Kyl for saying that we don’t want to let Washington choose things as framing the question in a loaded way. Framing the question as Washington vs. the insurance companies, as the president just did, is at least equally loaded.

President Obama has just given us a list of “where we agree” on insurance. His list included the notion that insurance companies can’t drop people, expanding the age limit for children remaining on parental coverage, ending lifetime coverage limits, and the prohibition on denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. The president recently chided Senator Kyl for saying that we don’t want to let Washington choose things as framing the question in a loaded way. Framing the question as Washington vs. the insurance companies, as the president just did, is at least equally loaded.

Read Less

MJ Rosenberg’s “Smear Intifada”

MJ Rosenberg has a serious problem: He is congenitally dishonest regarding the beliefs of his political opponents. His latest drive-by is his claim that Martin Kramer advocates genocide — yes, genocide — for the Palestinians. This, he says, is because Kramer criticized the “pro-natal subsidies for Palestinians with refugee status” in the Gaza Strip, as part of a larger presentation about the links between extraordinarily high population growth and political radicalism. The “culture of martyrdom,” pointed out Kramer, “demands a constant supply of superfluous young men.”

Note, of course, that you’ll never hear Rosenberg criticize actual supporters of genocide, such as the religious and political leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah.

This kind of calumny is a specialty of Rosenberg’s. He has done it repeatedly to Jeffrey Goldberg (see here and here), and to Barry Rubin as well.

MJ Rosenberg has a serious problem: He is congenitally dishonest regarding the beliefs of his political opponents. His latest drive-by is his claim that Martin Kramer advocates genocide — yes, genocide — for the Palestinians. This, he says, is because Kramer criticized the “pro-natal subsidies for Palestinians with refugee status” in the Gaza Strip, as part of a larger presentation about the links between extraordinarily high population growth and political radicalism. The “culture of martyrdom,” pointed out Kramer, “demands a constant supply of superfluous young men.”

Note, of course, that you’ll never hear Rosenberg criticize actual supporters of genocide, such as the religious and political leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah.

This kind of calumny is a specialty of Rosenberg’s. He has done it repeatedly to Jeffrey Goldberg (see here and here), and to Barry Rubin as well.

Read Less

LIVE BLOG: Community Health Centers

Congressman Clyburn’s comments about promoting community health centers may have been the most off-point comment of the morning. Democrats and Republicans generally agree about the importance of the centers as access points in both urban and rural areas, and President Bush oversaw a significant expansion of funding for the centers, which help about 16 million people. But raising the point in this forum is unlikely to help solve some of the areas of real disagreement.

Congressman Clyburn’s comments about promoting community health centers may have been the most off-point comment of the morning. Democrats and Republicans generally agree about the importance of the centers as access points in both urban and rural areas, and President Bush oversaw a significant expansion of funding for the centers, which help about 16 million people. But raising the point in this forum is unlikely to help solve some of the areas of real disagreement.

Read Less

LIVE BLOG: “Your Plan Will Be Grandfathered In”

Obama says you won’t be forced into another program because “your plan will be grandfathered in.” That’s preposterous. Employer-sponsored plans change every year as insurers and employers grapple with how best to deal with growing costs.

Obama says you won’t be forced into another program because “your plan will be grandfathered in.” That’s preposterous. Employer-sponsored plans change every year as insurers and employers grapple with how best to deal with growing costs.

Read Less

LIVE BLOG: He Sure Did

He sure did, John. You saw the moment of hesitation when he almost said that under his scheme, people could still choose the high-deductible plan. But then he realized — you could see the wheels turning — oh no, they can’t! Obama simply doesn’t want to give Americans the choice. He knows best how everyone should insure themselves. So the federal government will set a “baseline” — the ObamaCare mandate to tell you what care you need. That will load up insurance with all sorts of required care, every type of treatment, and much additional expense. It was the moment, I think, when those still awake would say, “Hey, this really is a government takeover of insurance.” Obama, of course, was arguing just the opposite. But he either doesn’t understand or isn’t willing to admit the implications of his own policies.

He sure did, John. You saw the moment of hesitation when he almost said that under his scheme, people could still choose the high-deductible plan. But then he realized — you could see the wheels turning — oh no, they can’t! Obama simply doesn’t want to give Americans the choice. He knows best how everyone should insure themselves. So the federal government will set a “baseline” — the ObamaCare mandate to tell you what care you need. That will load up insurance with all sorts of required care, every type of treatment, and much additional expense. It was the moment, I think, when those still awake would say, “Hey, this really is a government takeover of insurance.” Obama, of course, was arguing just the opposite. But he either doesn’t understand or isn’t willing to admit the implications of his own policies.

Read Less

LIVE BLOG: Obama — Not That Impressive a Spokesman

Barack Obama tends to be pretty strong in settings like this. But you can see the chinks in his armor, even in the “summit” setting. He gets prickly from time to time (you could see it in his exchange with Senator Alexander). He tends toward solipsism (his opening statement was about him, about his children, about his youth). And he’s strikingly arrogant, constantly putting himself in the position to deem what is a “legitimate” and what is an “illegitimate” argument. We also saw that same arrogance in his explanation of the uneven time allotted to people for speaking. He justifies it because, we were all delighted to learn, “I’m the president”: Obama decided not to count his speaking time against the time allotted to the Democratic side, which is silly. But we also saw Obama’s arrogance in his insistence that he is right and that Lamar Alexander is wrong about whether ObamaCare would increase premiums. As Jen Rubin and James Capretta demonstrate — and as Representative Dave Camp and Senator Jon Kyl argued during the session — it is Obama who was in error. President Obama is the best spokesman Democrats have. But the truth is that these days he’s not all that impressive.

Barack Obama tends to be pretty strong in settings like this. But you can see the chinks in his armor, even in the “summit” setting. He gets prickly from time to time (you could see it in his exchange with Senator Alexander). He tends toward solipsism (his opening statement was about him, about his children, about his youth). And he’s strikingly arrogant, constantly putting himself in the position to deem what is a “legitimate” and what is an “illegitimate” argument. We also saw that same arrogance in his explanation of the uneven time allotted to people for speaking. He justifies it because, we were all delighted to learn, “I’m the president”: Obama decided not to count his speaking time against the time allotted to the Democratic side, which is silly. But we also saw Obama’s arrogance in his insistence that he is right and that Lamar Alexander is wrong about whether ObamaCare would increase premiums. As Jen Rubin and James Capretta demonstrate — and as Representative Dave Camp and Senator Jon Kyl argued during the session — it is Obama who was in error. President Obama is the best spokesman Democrats have. But the truth is that these days he’s not all that impressive.

Read Less

LIVE BLOG: Obama Admits It

His plan is more expensive. “So yes, I’m paying 13 percent more, but it’s for an apple, not for an orange. They’re two different plans.” There’s the hit-job commercial commercial right there. “13 percent more…13 percent more…13 percent more…” For the 280 million Americans with health-care coverage, health care is an issue because costs are increasing and the care may not be portable.

His plan is more expensive. “So yes, I’m paying 13 percent more, but it’s for an apple, not for an orange. They’re two different plans.” There’s the hit-job commercial commercial right there. “13 percent more…13 percent more…13 percent more…” For the 280 million Americans with health-care coverage, health care is an issue because costs are increasing and the care may not be portable.

Read Less

LIVE BLOG: A Telling Moment

Obama rightly saw that the Republicans had scored a key point on the cost issue. So he described it as a philosophical issue (the first time around, he said Republicans had their facts wrong) and then restated it in the most unfair and lopsided way (paraphrasing): “Do we want a minimum level of insurance, or do we want people who can’t get decent insurance agreeing to just settle for whatever they can?” Yeah, right.

Really, this is what got Obama in the hole he is in. He doesn’t take seriously the real objections of his opponents and prefers to brush them off, with intellectual dishonesty if need be. You see, there is no evidence that people can’t get “decent insurance.” In fact, lots of people, especially the young and healthy, like high-deductible, low-cost plans. These ObamaCare would outlaw. And oh, by the way, so much for the promise that everyone can keep the insurance they have.

Obama rightly saw that the Republicans had scored a key point on the cost issue. So he described it as a philosophical issue (the first time around, he said Republicans had their facts wrong) and then restated it in the most unfair and lopsided way (paraphrasing): “Do we want a minimum level of insurance, or do we want people who can’t get decent insurance agreeing to just settle for whatever they can?” Yeah, right.

Really, this is what got Obama in the hole he is in. He doesn’t take seriously the real objections of his opponents and prefers to brush them off, with intellectual dishonesty if need be. You see, there is no evidence that people can’t get “decent insurance.” In fact, lots of people, especially the young and healthy, like high-deductible, low-cost plans. These ObamaCare would outlaw. And oh, by the way, so much for the promise that everyone can keep the insurance they have.

Read Less

LIVE BLOG: Rising Star

Paul Ryan has emerged as the star of the morning by explaining the philosophical difference Republicans have with the Democrats — Republicans want to give people choice and flexibility, while Democrats want to have government make the decisions for people.

Although Democrats seem to have made a strategic decision to highlight how much the two sides seem to agree, President Obama did acknowledge that there are philosophical differences at play here.

Paul Ryan has emerged as the star of the morning by explaining the philosophical difference Republicans have with the Democrats — Republicans want to give people choice and flexibility, while Democrats want to have government make the decisions for people.

Although Democrats seem to have made a strategic decision to highlight how much the two sides seem to agree, President Obama did acknowledge that there are philosophical differences at play here.

Read Less

Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, Fashion Icon

Alleged Mossad hits are good for business, apparently:

Sales of Mossad-themed T-shirts, available by mail order, have risen tenfold since the Israeli spy agency was linked to last month’s assassination in Dubai.

Despite the fact that Israeli leaders are refusing to confirm or deny Mossad involvement, orders for the garments have flooded in over the past few weeks – from Israelis and particularly from diaspora Jews.

Eran Davidov, marketing manager of a top mail order company selling Israeli-made products, told The Irish Times they have been overwhelmed by demand since they launched a special “Show off your Mossad and Israeli pride” campaign earlier this week.

A friend e-mails: “Hamas’s marketing arm is desperately planning a retaliatory hit as a means to boost its own t-shirt sales.”

Alleged Mossad hits are good for business, apparently:

Sales of Mossad-themed T-shirts, available by mail order, have risen tenfold since the Israeli spy agency was linked to last month’s assassination in Dubai.

Despite the fact that Israeli leaders are refusing to confirm or deny Mossad involvement, orders for the garments have flooded in over the past few weeks – from Israelis and particularly from diaspora Jews.

Eran Davidov, marketing manager of a top mail order company selling Israeli-made products, told The Irish Times they have been overwhelmed by demand since they launched a special “Show off your Mossad and Israeli pride” campaign earlier this week.

A friend e-mails: “Hamas’s marketing arm is desperately planning a retaliatory hit as a means to boost its own t-shirt sales.”

Read Less

LIVE BLOG: “That’s Not the Issue”

Obama declares that government control of health care is “not the issue.” He’s right. It’s one of the issues.

Obama declares that government control of health care is “not the issue.” He’s right. It’s one of the issues.

Read Less

LIVE BLOG: Reps. Dave Camp and Paul Ryan Score a Point

Rep. Dave Camp makes precisely the point I raised with regard to premium costs. He told the president that the CBO anticipates premium costs will go up 10 to 13 percent because the plans will be richer. They will be richer, he says, because of government mandates. Camp argues that it is this approach that Republicans object to.

Rep. Paul Ryan makes the same point: if you federalize and regulate a one-size-fits-all health-care system, it will be more expensive. Ryan asks: “Do we distrust all our governors? Do we want Washington deciding how this works?” This discussion is immensely important and frankly helpful to conservatives.

Rep. Dave Camp makes precisely the point I raised with regard to premium costs. He told the president that the CBO anticipates premium costs will go up 10 to 13 percent because the plans will be richer. They will be richer, he says, because of government mandates. Camp argues that it is this approach that Republicans object to.

Rep. Paul Ryan makes the same point: if you federalize and regulate a one-size-fits-all health-care system, it will be more expensive. Ryan asks: “Do we distrust all our governors? Do we want Washington deciding how this works?” This discussion is immensely important and frankly helpful to conservatives.

Read Less

LIVE BLOG: Not So Close

Senator Baucus was being a little overly optimistic when he said that the two sides are extremely close to agreement.  There is certainly agreement when discussing generalities like expanding access or reducing costs, but the two sides are not that close on the specifics of how to get there.

Congressman Camp followed up with a list of specific disagreements Republicans have with the Democratic approach, but the president pretty much cut him off.

Senator Baucus was being a little overly optimistic when he said that the two sides are extremely close to agreement.  There is certainly agreement when discussing generalities like expanding access or reducing costs, but the two sides are not that close on the specifics of how to get there.

Congressman Camp followed up with a list of specific disagreements Republicans have with the Democratic approach, but the president pretty much cut him off.

Read Less

LIVE BLOG: A Larger Insurance Market

President Obama has asked Republicans what is the GOP objection to allowing individuals to buy into a larger insurance market. This is actually a longstanding Republican idea, and the two key proposals have been to allow individuals to purchase insurance across state lines and to create association health plans to let people band together to purchase insurance. Congressman Kline did a good job explaining the Republican position on the association health plans.

President Obama has asked Republicans what is the GOP objection to allowing individuals to buy into a larger insurance market. This is actually a longstanding Republican idea, and the two key proposals have been to allow individuals to purchase insurance across state lines and to create association health plans to let people band together to purchase insurance. Congressman Kline did a good job explaining the Republican position on the association health plans.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.