Commentary Magazine


Topic: Ben Nelson

The Consequences of Being the 60th Health-Care Vote

Senate Democrats from less-than-pristine Blue States are banking that their constituents won’t mind that they voted with their party leadership for a controversial health-care power grab. But that may be a bad bet:

A new poll suggests that Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) seriously endangered his political prospects by becoming the decisive 60th vote allowing health care legislation to pass through the Senate. The Rasmussen survey shows Nelson, who isn’t up for re-election until 2012, badly trailing Gov. Dave Heineman by 31 points in a hypothetical matchup, 61 to 30 percent. A 55 percent majority of Nebraska voters now hold an unfavorable view of the two-term senator, with 40 percent viewing him favorably. The health care bill is currently very unpopular in Nebraska, according to the Rasmussen poll. Nearly two-thirds of voters (64 percent) oppose the legislation while just 17 percent approve.

Now of course each and every Democratic senator is the 60th vote, so this poll should cause some heartburn for Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid and his troops. Somehow the White House and their more liberal colleagues convinced the so-called moderate Democrats that they could vote with the liberal pack, and their skeptical constituents would eventually come to appreciate their “historic” vote. But that seems not to be the case. What if, in the next few weeks, other polls mirroring this result appear in state after state? Do the lawmakers still plunge ahead with the conference committee and once again vote for a hugely unpopular measure?

Nor should Blue State senators rest easy. Their handiwork is under attack as well, as this report makes clear:

The governors of the nation’s two largest Democratic states are leveling sharp criticism at the Senate health care bill, claiming that it would leave their already financially strapped states even deeper in the hole. New York Democratic Gov. David Paterson and California GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger are urging congressional leaders to rework the Medicaid financing in the Senate-passed bill, warning that under that version their states will be crushed by billions in new costs.

In their rush for a “historic deal,” Blue State senators paid little or no attention to the details of what they were foisting on their own states. You can imagine what New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s general election opponent will have to say about this in November:

The problem is that New York and California, both of which already have expansive Medicaid programs, will pay a higher share of the new expansion costs than many other states that have traditionally limited coverage. “The inequity built into the bill puts hardship on states and would put them in the position of making cuts to providers,” said Susan Van Meter, vice president of federal relations for the Healthcare Association of New York State.

So where does that leave embattled senators and congressmen? Congress might “pivot” in many ways in January: to sanctions on Iran; hearings on our anti-terrorist policies; and a real pro-jobs agenda to encourage rather than retard the hiring of new workers. It might be beneficial for the country and for the political outlook of incumbent lawmakers to turn their attention to these very urgent issues rather than an artificially created “health-care crisis.” ObamaCare has become a political poltergeist, and lawmakers would do well to race to find something else to occupy their time. Especially those who don’t have the luxury, as Nelson does, of several more years before facing the angry voters.

Senate Democrats from less-than-pristine Blue States are banking that their constituents won’t mind that they voted with their party leadership for a controversial health-care power grab. But that may be a bad bet:

A new poll suggests that Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) seriously endangered his political prospects by becoming the decisive 60th vote allowing health care legislation to pass through the Senate. The Rasmussen survey shows Nelson, who isn’t up for re-election until 2012, badly trailing Gov. Dave Heineman by 31 points in a hypothetical matchup, 61 to 30 percent. A 55 percent majority of Nebraska voters now hold an unfavorable view of the two-term senator, with 40 percent viewing him favorably. The health care bill is currently very unpopular in Nebraska, according to the Rasmussen poll. Nearly two-thirds of voters (64 percent) oppose the legislation while just 17 percent approve.

Now of course each and every Democratic senator is the 60th vote, so this poll should cause some heartburn for Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid and his troops. Somehow the White House and their more liberal colleagues convinced the so-called moderate Democrats that they could vote with the liberal pack, and their skeptical constituents would eventually come to appreciate their “historic” vote. But that seems not to be the case. What if, in the next few weeks, other polls mirroring this result appear in state after state? Do the lawmakers still plunge ahead with the conference committee and once again vote for a hugely unpopular measure?

Nor should Blue State senators rest easy. Their handiwork is under attack as well, as this report makes clear:

The governors of the nation’s two largest Democratic states are leveling sharp criticism at the Senate health care bill, claiming that it would leave their already financially strapped states even deeper in the hole. New York Democratic Gov. David Paterson and California GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger are urging congressional leaders to rework the Medicaid financing in the Senate-passed bill, warning that under that version their states will be crushed by billions in new costs.

In their rush for a “historic deal,” Blue State senators paid little or no attention to the details of what they were foisting on their own states. You can imagine what New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s general election opponent will have to say about this in November:

The problem is that New York and California, both of which already have expansive Medicaid programs, will pay a higher share of the new expansion costs than many other states that have traditionally limited coverage. “The inequity built into the bill puts hardship on states and would put them in the position of making cuts to providers,” said Susan Van Meter, vice president of federal relations for the Healthcare Association of New York State.

So where does that leave embattled senators and congressmen? Congress might “pivot” in many ways in January: to sanctions on Iran; hearings on our anti-terrorist policies; and a real pro-jobs agenda to encourage rather than retard the hiring of new workers. It might be beneficial for the country and for the political outlook of incumbent lawmakers to turn their attention to these very urgent issues rather than an artificially created “health-care crisis.” ObamaCare has become a political poltergeist, and lawmakers would do well to race to find something else to occupy their time. Especially those who don’t have the luxury, as Nelson does, of several more years before facing the angry voters.

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No Partisan, Controversial Legislation for Them!

Senate Democrats are crying out  for help:

Bruised by the health care debate and worried about what 2010 will bring, moderate Senate Democrats are urging the White House to give up now on any effort to pass a cap-and-trade bill next year. “I am communicating that in every way I know how,” says Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), one of at least half a dozen Democrats who’ve told the White House or their own leaders that it’s time to jettison the centerpiece of their party’s plan to curb global warming.

So if health care is so toxic, why did they all cast the decisive votes in its favor? It seems as though it has unnerved those Democrats who were essential to its passage, before it has even become law. But you have to marvel at the lack of self-awareness:

“I’d just as soon see that set aside until we work through the economy,” said Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.). ?“What we don’t want to do is have anything get in the way of working to resolve the problems with the economy.”

Because we wouldn’t want a massive tax-and-spend plan unsettling a sixth of the economy to pass before we get the economy back on track, right? Oh, wait. No, Nelson sold his vote already on that one.

But on the bright side, the persistent lack of enthusiasm for the Democrats’ handiwork has now perhaps stymied the rest of the Obama agenda. Suddenly, they realize the peril of passing highly controversial legislation on party-line votes: “After the tough health care fight, Democratic leadership believes a climate bill must pass with significant bipartisan support or risk leaving the party open to attack during the midterm elections.” Because if you pass something with little public enthusiasm, job-killing taxes and no support from the minority the voters might get really, really mad.

If you think this has the air of unreality, as if the last weeks of hyper-partisan, hurry-up-and-pass-partisan-health-care-”reform” never occured, you are right. We can only hope that in the weeks that follow Democrats can listen to their own rhetoric and rethink not only cap-and-trade but the legislation which has now spooked their most vulnerable lawmakers. It isn’t too late to dump ObamaCare, you know.

Senate Democrats are crying out  for help:

Bruised by the health care debate and worried about what 2010 will bring, moderate Senate Democrats are urging the White House to give up now on any effort to pass a cap-and-trade bill next year. “I am communicating that in every way I know how,” says Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), one of at least half a dozen Democrats who’ve told the White House or their own leaders that it’s time to jettison the centerpiece of their party’s plan to curb global warming.

So if health care is so toxic, why did they all cast the decisive votes in its favor? It seems as though it has unnerved those Democrats who were essential to its passage, before it has even become law. But you have to marvel at the lack of self-awareness:

“I’d just as soon see that set aside until we work through the economy,” said Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.). ?“What we don’t want to do is have anything get in the way of working to resolve the problems with the economy.”

Because we wouldn’t want a massive tax-and-spend plan unsettling a sixth of the economy to pass before we get the economy back on track, right? Oh, wait. No, Nelson sold his vote already on that one.

But on the bright side, the persistent lack of enthusiasm for the Democrats’ handiwork has now perhaps stymied the rest of the Obama agenda. Suddenly, they realize the peril of passing highly controversial legislation on party-line votes: “After the tough health care fight, Democratic leadership believes a climate bill must pass with significant bipartisan support or risk leaving the party open to attack during the midterm elections.” Because if you pass something with little public enthusiasm, job-killing taxes and no support from the minority the voters might get really, really mad.

If you think this has the air of unreality, as if the last weeks of hyper-partisan, hurry-up-and-pass-partisan-health-care-”reform” never occured, you are right. We can only hope that in the weeks that follow Democrats can listen to their own rhetoric and rethink not only cap-and-trade but the legislation which has now spooked their most vulnerable lawmakers. It isn’t too late to dump ObamaCare, you know.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Good for the Senate. The nomination of lefty extremist Dawn Johnsen for the Office of Legal Counsel and two other nominations were returned to the White House. One of those is Mary Smith, nominated to head the tax division. She is not a tax lawyer, has never practiced tax law, and has never even taken continuing legal education in the subject area. But she is a Native American who worked on multiple Democratic campaigns. Perhaps we can finally begin to de-politicize the Justice Department.

Nebraska Gov. David Heineman blasts Sen. Ben Nelson. “The reason he’s in hot water right now is that he’s not listening to Nebraskans – it’s very unusual for him. . . I am shocked.” Sounds like the stump speech for Nelson’s 2012 opponent. But Michael Gerson suggests that Nelson is a sweet man who doesn’t understand what he agreed to on abortion subsidies. Maybe once he finds out, his mind can be changed.

Smart advice on the John Kerry trip to Tehran: “The Kerry mission would also look like a panicky effort to persuade the Ayatollah Ali Khamanei to accept the increasingly plaintive U.S. offers of engagement. Mr. Obama has set the end of this month as his latest deadline for progress on nuclear talks before he says he’ll seek tougher sanctions against Iran at the U.N. . .  The regime would probably exploit the visit for its own domestic purposes, perhaps adding to its P.R. coup by releasing to Mr. Kerry the three hapless American hikers it has promised to put on trial for having ‘suspicious aims’ as they wandered across the border with Iraq.”

Give the military option a chance, suggests Alan Kuperman from the pages of the New York Times: “Incentives and sanctions will not work, but air strikes could degrade and deter Iran’s bomb program at relatively little cost or risk, and therefore are worth a try. They should be precision attacks, aimed only at nuclear facilities, to remind Iran of the many other valuable sites that could be bombed if it were foolish enough to retaliate. . . Postponing military action merely provides Iran a window to expand, disperse and harden its nuclear facilities against attack. The sooner the United States takes action, the better.”

The U.S. launches a successful strike in Yemen, but Major Nadal Hassan’s favorite iman survives. So why is it that we are releasing Guantanamo detainees to a country so stocked with terrorists?

And although the Obami seem not to want to recognize it, we are in a war: “A Nigerian man, claiming to be linked to al-Qaeda, allegedly tried to set off an incendiary device aboard a transatlantic airplane Friday as it descended toward Detroit’s airport in what the White House called an attempted act of terrorism.” This would be the second domestic terrorist attack (Hassan, the first) this year. Oh, and the suspect claims he was given assistance in Yemen.

J Street Board member Hannah Rosenthal, now the Obami’s “anti-semitism czar(ina)” takes a shot at Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren for criticizing her J Street pals.

Jewish organizations respond with surprising vehemence. (Could the days of gritting their teeth over outrageous administration statements may be finally at an end?) The administration responds with a statement: “The Department of State values its close relationship with Ambassador Michael Oren and his staff at the Embassy of Israel in Washington. The United States and Israel enjoy extraordinarily close ties based on shared values, interests, and history, as well as the deep bonds between the Israeli people and the American people.” And so forth. So what about Rosenthal — if she is out of step with those she ostensibly serves (the Obama administration, not the J Street gang) what is she doing there?

Sen. Mark Warner insists he wants to be a radical centrist. But he keeps voting for Obama’s leftwing agenda including the government takeover of healthcare so he’s not doing much to differentiate himself from the run-of-mill liberal Democrats. Virginia voters have figured it out: “An automated poll conducted by SurveyUSA shows that Warner’s approval rating has fallen among independents and Republicans since January.”

Good for the Senate. The nomination of lefty extremist Dawn Johnsen for the Office of Legal Counsel and two other nominations were returned to the White House. One of those is Mary Smith, nominated to head the tax division. She is not a tax lawyer, has never practiced tax law, and has never even taken continuing legal education in the subject area. But she is a Native American who worked on multiple Democratic campaigns. Perhaps we can finally begin to de-politicize the Justice Department.

Nebraska Gov. David Heineman blasts Sen. Ben Nelson. “The reason he’s in hot water right now is that he’s not listening to Nebraskans – it’s very unusual for him. . . I am shocked.” Sounds like the stump speech for Nelson’s 2012 opponent. But Michael Gerson suggests that Nelson is a sweet man who doesn’t understand what he agreed to on abortion subsidies. Maybe once he finds out, his mind can be changed.

Smart advice on the John Kerry trip to Tehran: “The Kerry mission would also look like a panicky effort to persuade the Ayatollah Ali Khamanei to accept the increasingly plaintive U.S. offers of engagement. Mr. Obama has set the end of this month as his latest deadline for progress on nuclear talks before he says he’ll seek tougher sanctions against Iran at the U.N. . .  The regime would probably exploit the visit for its own domestic purposes, perhaps adding to its P.R. coup by releasing to Mr. Kerry the three hapless American hikers it has promised to put on trial for having ‘suspicious aims’ as they wandered across the border with Iraq.”

Give the military option a chance, suggests Alan Kuperman from the pages of the New York Times: “Incentives and sanctions will not work, but air strikes could degrade and deter Iran’s bomb program at relatively little cost or risk, and therefore are worth a try. They should be precision attacks, aimed only at nuclear facilities, to remind Iran of the many other valuable sites that could be bombed if it were foolish enough to retaliate. . . Postponing military action merely provides Iran a window to expand, disperse and harden its nuclear facilities against attack. The sooner the United States takes action, the better.”

The U.S. launches a successful strike in Yemen, but Major Nadal Hassan’s favorite iman survives. So why is it that we are releasing Guantanamo detainees to a country so stocked with terrorists?

And although the Obami seem not to want to recognize it, we are in a war: “A Nigerian man, claiming to be linked to al-Qaeda, allegedly tried to set off an incendiary device aboard a transatlantic airplane Friday as it descended toward Detroit’s airport in what the White House called an attempted act of terrorism.” This would be the second domestic terrorist attack (Hassan, the first) this year. Oh, and the suspect claims he was given assistance in Yemen.

J Street Board member Hannah Rosenthal, now the Obami’s “anti-semitism czar(ina)” takes a shot at Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren for criticizing her J Street pals.

Jewish organizations respond with surprising vehemence. (Could the days of gritting their teeth over outrageous administration statements may be finally at an end?) The administration responds with a statement: “The Department of State values its close relationship with Ambassador Michael Oren and his staff at the Embassy of Israel in Washington. The United States and Israel enjoy extraordinarily close ties based on shared values, interests, and history, as well as the deep bonds between the Israeli people and the American people.” And so forth. So what about Rosenthal — if she is out of step with those she ostensibly serves (the Obama administration, not the J Street gang) what is she doing there?

Sen. Mark Warner insists he wants to be a radical centrist. But he keeps voting for Obama’s leftwing agenda including the government takeover of healthcare so he’s not doing much to differentiate himself from the run-of-mill liberal Democrats. Virginia voters have figured it out: “An automated poll conducted by SurveyUSA shows that Warner’s approval rating has fallen among independents and Republicans since January.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Wow: “Republicans are stepping up their efforts to persuade more House Democrats to switch parties and are zeroing in on a second-term Pennsylvanian who is not ruling out such a move.” And this is when the Democrats have a 258-seat . . . er. . . make that 257-seat  majority.

RealClearPolitics average on ObamaCare: 38.4 percent approve and 51 disapprove. So, are Democrats going to run on this in 2010 as their signature achievement? Might explain why there are potential defections.

Voters would rather their representatives be doing something else: “Voters, as they have all year, rate cutting the federal deficit in half by the end of his first term as President Obama’s number one budget priority. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 42% put deficit cutting in first place, followed by 22% who say health care reform is most important.”

Do we think she means it? “The Senate’s healthcare bill is fatally flawed, a senior Democrat atop a powerful committee said on Wednesday. Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), the chairwoman of the House Rules Committee and co-chairwoman of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, said that the Senate’s bill is so flawed that it’s unlikely to be resolved in conference with the bill to have passed the House.”

Well, liberal journalists seem nervous: “Yet for all the justifiable celebrations of this achievement, it’s fast becoming clear—as it should have always been—that Democrats are still a long way from home free when it comes to the final enactment of health-care reform into law. That ironing out of the differences between the House and Senate incarnations of the bill is going to be no easy thing.” And the key stumbling block may well be abortion. Can Nancy Pelosi find votes to make up for Re. Bart Stupak and pro-life Democrats unwilling to roll over as Sen. Ben Nelson did? We’ll find out.

The bill is so bad it renders Sen. Chuck Schumer mute: “Mayor Bloomberg and Gov. Paterson both slammed the Senate bill Monday, charging it would cost the city more than $500 million and rip a $1 billion-a-year hole in the state budget. Schumer, a veteran streetfighter for federal cash, has been suddenly recast as a defender of Washington—and a deal he helped cut that shafts New York. ‘He’s being uncharacteristically quiet in part because the numbers don’t look that good,’ said Baruch College political scientist Doug Muzzio. . . [Schumer] bristled at criticism that he stood by as other states won sweetheart deals.” Well, how come Nebraska got more than New York then?

Seems like there might be some legal challenges to the Cash for Cloture deals.

Not making this up: Grover Norquist and Jane Hamsher are demanding an investigation into Rahm Emanuel’s dealings with Freddie Mac. See, Obama is bringing people together.

Wow: “Republicans are stepping up their efforts to persuade more House Democrats to switch parties and are zeroing in on a second-term Pennsylvanian who is not ruling out such a move.” And this is when the Democrats have a 258-seat . . . er. . . make that 257-seat  majority.

RealClearPolitics average on ObamaCare: 38.4 percent approve and 51 disapprove. So, are Democrats going to run on this in 2010 as their signature achievement? Might explain why there are potential defections.

Voters would rather their representatives be doing something else: “Voters, as they have all year, rate cutting the federal deficit in half by the end of his first term as President Obama’s number one budget priority. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 42% put deficit cutting in first place, followed by 22% who say health care reform is most important.”

Do we think she means it? “The Senate’s healthcare bill is fatally flawed, a senior Democrat atop a powerful committee said on Wednesday. Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), the chairwoman of the House Rules Committee and co-chairwoman of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, said that the Senate’s bill is so flawed that it’s unlikely to be resolved in conference with the bill to have passed the House.”

Well, liberal journalists seem nervous: “Yet for all the justifiable celebrations of this achievement, it’s fast becoming clear—as it should have always been—that Democrats are still a long way from home free when it comes to the final enactment of health-care reform into law. That ironing out of the differences between the House and Senate incarnations of the bill is going to be no easy thing.” And the key stumbling block may well be abortion. Can Nancy Pelosi find votes to make up for Re. Bart Stupak and pro-life Democrats unwilling to roll over as Sen. Ben Nelson did? We’ll find out.

The bill is so bad it renders Sen. Chuck Schumer mute: “Mayor Bloomberg and Gov. Paterson both slammed the Senate bill Monday, charging it would cost the city more than $500 million and rip a $1 billion-a-year hole in the state budget. Schumer, a veteran streetfighter for federal cash, has been suddenly recast as a defender of Washington—and a deal he helped cut that shafts New York. ‘He’s being uncharacteristically quiet in part because the numbers don’t look that good,’ said Baruch College political scientist Doug Muzzio. . . [Schumer] bristled at criticism that he stood by as other states won sweetheart deals.” Well, how come Nebraska got more than New York then?

Seems like there might be some legal challenges to the Cash for Cloture deals.

Not making this up: Grover Norquist and Jane Hamsher are demanding an investigation into Rahm Emanuel’s dealings with Freddie Mac. See, Obama is bringing people together.

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No Chair When the Music Stops

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger expressed doubt and concern on Monday about the Senate health-care reform bill. National media haven’t given this nearly the coverage they awarded his expressions of support for the overall ObamaCare effort in July and October. But under the mainstream media’s radar, the Governator was going soft on the Democrats’ health-care reform as early as last week, and the reason for his shifting posture is the cost to California.

Schwarzenegger’s prior attempt at health-care reform in California makes a superb cautionary tale. The 2006 proposal, advanced by Democrats in Sacramento and substantially endorsed by the governor, was eerily similar to the U.S. Senate bill to be voted on this week. It incorporated an individual mandate to purchase health insurance; increased employer costs through either insurance premiums for workers or a tax penalty; vague and open-ended bureaucratic measures to control costs; expanded enrollment in Medicaid/Medi-Cal; and subsidies to those with incomes up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level who would be required by law to buy insurance.

There was no question this plan would cost more. Even friendly analysts concluded that it would add between $6.8 and $9.4 billion in state costs, while causing private health expenses to rise by 9.9 percent per year and employer costs to rise by 8.8 percent per year. California, the analysts pointed out, has 12 times as many “uninsured workers under 65” as Massachusetts; the Bay State’s solutions would be overwhelmed by sheer numbers in the Golden State.

Yet, until the housing-market collapse stopped California’s decade-long spending spree in its tracks, state Democrats were pushing their health-care reform proposal vigorously — with the support of the Republican governor. A CATO Institute analysis pinpointed why: the state Democrats’ plan relied heavily on federal matching funds. A bit of comically transparent budgetary sleight-of-hand would have enabled California to shift most of its additional costs to the other 49 states.

The bill in the U.S. Senate this month, however, will impose on California all the inevitable costs of mandating universal “insurance coverage” in California, and then some. California doesn’t have the advantage of recalcitrant Democratic senators whose votes need to be bought with Medicaid-funding relief, as Ben Nelson’s (NE) and Mary Landrieu’s (LA) were. California’s senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, are some of the “safest” party-line voters in Congress. The result is a case of unpleasant consequences that must be humorous to those who don’t live in the Golden State.

The game of “musical health care costs” is only just starting across America. Senators Nelson and Landrieu think they have already grabbed their states’ seats for when the music stops. But the impact on the states — especially an unequal impact — may well be the spike on which the Democrats’ plan is ultimately impaled. Federalism, uniquely strong in America, has not yet had its say on this topic.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger expressed doubt and concern on Monday about the Senate health-care reform bill. National media haven’t given this nearly the coverage they awarded his expressions of support for the overall ObamaCare effort in July and October. But under the mainstream media’s radar, the Governator was going soft on the Democrats’ health-care reform as early as last week, and the reason for his shifting posture is the cost to California.

Schwarzenegger’s prior attempt at health-care reform in California makes a superb cautionary tale. The 2006 proposal, advanced by Democrats in Sacramento and substantially endorsed by the governor, was eerily similar to the U.S. Senate bill to be voted on this week. It incorporated an individual mandate to purchase health insurance; increased employer costs through either insurance premiums for workers or a tax penalty; vague and open-ended bureaucratic measures to control costs; expanded enrollment in Medicaid/Medi-Cal; and subsidies to those with incomes up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level who would be required by law to buy insurance.

There was no question this plan would cost more. Even friendly analysts concluded that it would add between $6.8 and $9.4 billion in state costs, while causing private health expenses to rise by 9.9 percent per year and employer costs to rise by 8.8 percent per year. California, the analysts pointed out, has 12 times as many “uninsured workers under 65” as Massachusetts; the Bay State’s solutions would be overwhelmed by sheer numbers in the Golden State.

Yet, until the housing-market collapse stopped California’s decade-long spending spree in its tracks, state Democrats were pushing their health-care reform proposal vigorously — with the support of the Republican governor. A CATO Institute analysis pinpointed why: the state Democrats’ plan relied heavily on federal matching funds. A bit of comically transparent budgetary sleight-of-hand would have enabled California to shift most of its additional costs to the other 49 states.

The bill in the U.S. Senate this month, however, will impose on California all the inevitable costs of mandating universal “insurance coverage” in California, and then some. California doesn’t have the advantage of recalcitrant Democratic senators whose votes need to be bought with Medicaid-funding relief, as Ben Nelson’s (NE) and Mary Landrieu’s (LA) were. California’s senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, are some of the “safest” party-line voters in Congress. The result is a case of unpleasant consequences that must be humorous to those who don’t live in the Golden State.

The game of “musical health care costs” is only just starting across America. Senators Nelson and Landrieu think they have already grabbed their states’ seats for when the music stops. But the impact on the states — especially an unequal impact — may well be the spike on which the Democrats’ plan is ultimately impaled. Federalism, uniquely strong in America, has not yet had its say on this topic.

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The Cornhusker Highjack and the Constitution

Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska was handsomely bribed to vote for cloture on the health-care bill. While most states will have to pick up much of the tab for new enrollees in Medicaid beginning in 2017, Nebraska will not. Instead, the federal government will pay for that state’s increased costs.

Such bribery has a long history in Congress, but so far as I know (and I’d be delighted to hear of other, earlier instances), bribes always came in the form of highways, post offices, bridges to nowhere, and other infrastructure, or in offers of higher office for the person being bribed. They were not in the form of a special deal allowing a particular, not impoverished state to have a lower share of costs in an ongoing federal program. There are, of course, plenty of the old-fashioned sorts of bribes in this bill. Connecticut will get a new hospital at federal expense, for instance.

But is it constitutional for the federal government to give some states a better deal on a national program than it does other states? It is not obviously unconstitutional, as, say, having a lower federal income tax rate for Nebraska would be, since Art. I, Sec. 8, requires that “all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.” However, one could argue that Nebraskans will be getting what amounts to a rebate on federal taxes through the back door of lower state taxes.

Another constitutional provision, in Art. IV, Sec. 2, provides that the “Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in Several States.” But this clause has always been interpreted to apply to state action vis-à-vis citizens of other states, forbidding them to discriminate against nonresidents, such as forbidding nonresidents to be admitted to the state bar. The privileges and immunities clause in the Fourteenth Amendment applies specifically to states.

Yet another provision, in Art. I, Sec. 9, requires that “No Preference shall be given by any Regulation of Commerce or Revenue to the Ports of one State over those of another.” The health-care bill’s constitutional underpinning is the commerce clause of Art. I, Sec. 8, giving Congress the power to “regulate Commerce with foreign Nations and among the several States.” Narrowly interpreted, the ports clause is simply a limitation on that power, forbidding the federal government from, say, requiring that all imports of steel flow through the port of Charleston. More broadly interpreted, it can be construed to forbid the federal government from using its powers under the commerce clause to discriminate among the states.

How would the Supreme Court rule here? Well, first one has to ask who would have standing to sue. Individuals almost certainly would not under the first two arguments above, as an individual’s interest is too small. But states might well have standing to sue with regard to the ports clause. How a state so suing would fare is anyone’s guess. A strict constructionist would throw the case out of court. Nebraska, after all, doesn’t have any ports in the 18th-century sense (although it does have a navy). But it is not too great a stretch to say that the bribe that Nelson received violates the clear spirit of the ports clause — that powers under the commerce clause must be applied equally in all states. It was just this type of reasoning that led the Supreme Court to rule in the 1920s that tapping a telephone line required a search warrant under the Fourth Amendment, which, of course, nowhere mentions telephones.

Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska was handsomely bribed to vote for cloture on the health-care bill. While most states will have to pick up much of the tab for new enrollees in Medicaid beginning in 2017, Nebraska will not. Instead, the federal government will pay for that state’s increased costs.

Such bribery has a long history in Congress, but so far as I know (and I’d be delighted to hear of other, earlier instances), bribes always came in the form of highways, post offices, bridges to nowhere, and other infrastructure, or in offers of higher office for the person being bribed. They were not in the form of a special deal allowing a particular, not impoverished state to have a lower share of costs in an ongoing federal program. There are, of course, plenty of the old-fashioned sorts of bribes in this bill. Connecticut will get a new hospital at federal expense, for instance.

But is it constitutional for the federal government to give some states a better deal on a national program than it does other states? It is not obviously unconstitutional, as, say, having a lower federal income tax rate for Nebraska would be, since Art. I, Sec. 8, requires that “all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.” However, one could argue that Nebraskans will be getting what amounts to a rebate on federal taxes through the back door of lower state taxes.

Another constitutional provision, in Art. IV, Sec. 2, provides that the “Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in Several States.” But this clause has always been interpreted to apply to state action vis-à-vis citizens of other states, forbidding them to discriminate against nonresidents, such as forbidding nonresidents to be admitted to the state bar. The privileges and immunities clause in the Fourteenth Amendment applies specifically to states.

Yet another provision, in Art. I, Sec. 9, requires that “No Preference shall be given by any Regulation of Commerce or Revenue to the Ports of one State over those of another.” The health-care bill’s constitutional underpinning is the commerce clause of Art. I, Sec. 8, giving Congress the power to “regulate Commerce with foreign Nations and among the several States.” Narrowly interpreted, the ports clause is simply a limitation on that power, forbidding the federal government from, say, requiring that all imports of steel flow through the port of Charleston. More broadly interpreted, it can be construed to forbid the federal government from using its powers under the commerce clause to discriminate among the states.

How would the Supreme Court rule here? Well, first one has to ask who would have standing to sue. Individuals almost certainly would not under the first two arguments above, as an individual’s interest is too small. But states might well have standing to sue with regard to the ports clause. How a state so suing would fare is anyone’s guess. A strict constructionist would throw the case out of court. Nebraska, after all, doesn’t have any ports in the 18th-century sense (although it does have a navy). But it is not too great a stretch to say that the bribe that Nelson received violates the clear spirit of the ports clause — that powers under the commerce clause must be applied equally in all states. It was just this type of reasoning that led the Supreme Court to rule in the 1920s that tapping a telephone line required a search warrant under the Fourth Amendment, which, of course, nowhere mentions telephones.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Another Red State senator with a potential re-election problem: “Incumbent Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan may have a serious problem on his hands if Republicans recruit Governor John Hoeven to run for the U.S. Senate in North Dakota next year. The first Rasmussen Reports Election 2010 telephone survey of likely voters in North Dakota finds the popular Republican governor leading Dorgan by 22 points — 58% to 36%.”

Harry Reid says any senator who didn’t get a “deal” is a sucker. Well, he didn’t quite say it that way — but almost: “I don’t know if there’s a senator who doesn’t have something in this bill that’s important to them. … And if they don’t have something in it that’s important to them, then it’s doesn’t speak well for them.” Next we’ll be hearing that the Cornhusker Kickback is “golden.”

James Pinkerton explains: “It’s not sausage-making, it’s three-card-monte-playing. … But the whole point of three-card-monte is not to build an enduring monument of some kind–the point is to get the money away from the rubes. Or, in this case, the votes away from the voters. We’ll see in 11 months how this game plays out.”

Sen. Ben Nelson is convinced that the backlash against him is “all orchestrated.” Yes, the outrage from the right-to-life community, the governor, and the local branch of Americans for Prosperity is quite “orchestrated,” and they will be equally united when he comes up for re-election.

Three of her top two reasons for opposing ObamaCare: “1. Forces you to pay up to 8% of your income to private insurance corporations — whether you want to or not. 2. If you refuse to buy the insurance, you’ll have to pay penalties of up to 2% of your annual income to the IRS. … 5. Paid for by taxes on the middle class insurance plan you have right now through your employer, causing them to cut back benefits and increase co-pays.” Jane Hamsher or Dana Perino?

CBS headline: “Democrats Worry of Dismal Mid-Term.” Democratic pollster Celinda Lake says, “Our voters are less enthusiastic than Republicans and independents.” And that was before the 1 a.m. Senate health-care vote.

In Virginia, which Obama won in 2008 by 5 percentage points, voters disapprove of his performance by a 54 to 44 percent margin. Only 30 percent of white voters approve of his performance.

Isn’t it delusional to think a bill that more than 60 percent of voters disfavor is going to help the party that passed it on a strict party-line vote? “Slumping in the polls and struggling to pass climate and financial legislation, President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders are counting on an historic health care victory to buoy their electoral prospects in 2010. … Last week’s Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll not only showed a substantial majority opposed to the plan, but for the first time, it showed a plurality favoring the status quo over passage.”

Independents disapprove of Obama’s performance by a lot — more than a dozen points on average.

Many of them may be in agreement with Michael Goodwin: “I now regard his campaign as a sly bait-and-switch operation, promising one thing and delivering another. Shame on me. Equally surprising, he has become an insufferable bore. The grace notes and charm have vanished, with peevishness and petty spite his default emotions. His rhetorical gifts now serve his loathsome habit of fear-mongering.”

Another Red State senator with a potential re-election problem: “Incumbent Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan may have a serious problem on his hands if Republicans recruit Governor John Hoeven to run for the U.S. Senate in North Dakota next year. The first Rasmussen Reports Election 2010 telephone survey of likely voters in North Dakota finds the popular Republican governor leading Dorgan by 22 points — 58% to 36%.”

Harry Reid says any senator who didn’t get a “deal” is a sucker. Well, he didn’t quite say it that way — but almost: “I don’t know if there’s a senator who doesn’t have something in this bill that’s important to them. … And if they don’t have something in it that’s important to them, then it’s doesn’t speak well for them.” Next we’ll be hearing that the Cornhusker Kickback is “golden.”

James Pinkerton explains: “It’s not sausage-making, it’s three-card-monte-playing. … But the whole point of three-card-monte is not to build an enduring monument of some kind–the point is to get the money away from the rubes. Or, in this case, the votes away from the voters. We’ll see in 11 months how this game plays out.”

Sen. Ben Nelson is convinced that the backlash against him is “all orchestrated.” Yes, the outrage from the right-to-life community, the governor, and the local branch of Americans for Prosperity is quite “orchestrated,” and they will be equally united when he comes up for re-election.

Three of her top two reasons for opposing ObamaCare: “1. Forces you to pay up to 8% of your income to private insurance corporations — whether you want to or not. 2. If you refuse to buy the insurance, you’ll have to pay penalties of up to 2% of your annual income to the IRS. … 5. Paid for by taxes on the middle class insurance plan you have right now through your employer, causing them to cut back benefits and increase co-pays.” Jane Hamsher or Dana Perino?

CBS headline: “Democrats Worry of Dismal Mid-Term.” Democratic pollster Celinda Lake says, “Our voters are less enthusiastic than Republicans and independents.” And that was before the 1 a.m. Senate health-care vote.

In Virginia, which Obama won in 2008 by 5 percentage points, voters disapprove of his performance by a 54 to 44 percent margin. Only 30 percent of white voters approve of his performance.

Isn’t it delusional to think a bill that more than 60 percent of voters disfavor is going to help the party that passed it on a strict party-line vote? “Slumping in the polls and struggling to pass climate and financial legislation, President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders are counting on an historic health care victory to buoy their electoral prospects in 2010. … Last week’s Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll not only showed a substantial majority opposed to the plan, but for the first time, it showed a plurality favoring the status quo over passage.”

Independents disapprove of Obama’s performance by a lot — more than a dozen points on average.

Many of them may be in agreement with Michael Goodwin: “I now regard his campaign as a sly bait-and-switch operation, promising one thing and delivering another. Shame on me. Equally surprising, he has become an insufferable bore. The grace notes and charm have vanished, with peevishness and petty spite his default emotions. His rhetorical gifts now serve his loathsome habit of fear-mongering.”

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Is He Joking?

Chris Cillizza, a political writer for the Washington Post, compiles a list of the winners and losers in the health-care deal. Perhaps it’s a typo or the effect of staying up too late to follow a secretive middle-of-the-night vote, but he puts Sen. Ben Nelson in the winner column, waxing lyrical that the “Nebraska senator played the legislative process like a virtuoso, not only getting stricter language about abortion funding included in the final bill but also scoring another huge plum — the promise of full federal funding for the expansion of Medicaid in the Cornhusker State.” He must be joking, right?

The right-to-life community is up in arms and is likely to abandon Nelson. His other main constituency in Nebraska, which stuck with him in the past, the Chamber of Commerce,  now could well do the same. His “deal” is now labeled the Cornhusker Kickback, a symbol of corruption in a secretive legislative process. Nelson’s inability to answer simple questions about his rather lamely constructed agreement suggests that he either didn’t understand what he negotiated or is embarrassed to admit it.

I’ll go out on a limb and predict that this will be his last term in the Senate and that Republicans will be tripping over themselves to oppose him when he is up for re-election in 2012. Remember, more than 60 percent of his constituents are opposed to the bill, which he had the power to stop.

This is a winner? Well, it’s true he’ll keep his seat longer than some of his Democratic colleagues.

Chris Cillizza, a political writer for the Washington Post, compiles a list of the winners and losers in the health-care deal. Perhaps it’s a typo or the effect of staying up too late to follow a secretive middle-of-the-night vote, but he puts Sen. Ben Nelson in the winner column, waxing lyrical that the “Nebraska senator played the legislative process like a virtuoso, not only getting stricter language about abortion funding included in the final bill but also scoring another huge plum — the promise of full federal funding for the expansion of Medicaid in the Cornhusker State.” He must be joking, right?

The right-to-life community is up in arms and is likely to abandon Nelson. His other main constituency in Nebraska, which stuck with him in the past, the Chamber of Commerce,  now could well do the same. His “deal” is now labeled the Cornhusker Kickback, a symbol of corruption in a secretive legislative process. Nelson’s inability to answer simple questions about his rather lamely constructed agreement suggests that he either didn’t understand what he negotiated or is embarrassed to admit it.

I’ll go out on a limb and predict that this will be his last term in the Senate and that Republicans will be tripping over themselves to oppose him when he is up for re-election in 2012. Remember, more than 60 percent of his constituents are opposed to the bill, which he had the power to stop.

This is a winner? Well, it’s true he’ll keep his seat longer than some of his Democratic colleagues.

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So Much for New Politics

On Sunday, the New York Times fessed up:

Nasty charges of bribery. Senators cut off mid-speech. Accusations of politics put over patriotism. Talk of double-crosses. A nonagenarian forced out after midnight for multiple procedural votes.In the heart of the holiday season, Senate Republicans and Democrats are at one another’s throats as the health care overhaul reaches its climactic votes, one of which is set for 1 a.m. Monday. A year that began with hopes of new post-partisanship has indeed produced change: Things have gotten worse.

Well, yes they have. How did we get to this point? Well, for starters, Obama, who ran on his determination to transcend partisan divisions, remained a passive and aloof figure when it came to the drafting and the details, allowing partisan passions to run wild. His sole concern was winning, not building a broad-based coalition for revolutionary legislation. Indeed, he contributed to partisan furies by labeling opponents as confused and misinformed and by repeating a series of partisan and baseless accusations against Republicans (the principal one — that they had “no alternative” — was easily disproved by the plethora of conservative plans and proposals). Obama had a reason for proceeding in this way — he wanted to rely on the muscle of large Democratic majorities to obtain the most liberal bill he could get. On Sunday John McCain explained:

There’s been a change. It’s more partisan. It’s more bitterly divided than it’s been. I have never been asked to engage in a single serious negotiation on any issue, nor has any other Republican. Now they’ve brought single Republicans down to try to pick off one or two Republicans so you can call it, quote, bipartisan. There’s never been serious across-the-table negotiations on any serious issue that I have engaged in with — I and others have engaged in with other administrations, both Republican and Democrat.

And if comity and Obama’s own credibility were sacrificed along the way, well, that’s simply what a Chicago pol must do to win.

It’s not a pretty picture, as even the Times must concede:

On Sunday, Republicans did not mince words when characterizing provisions put in the health care bill to attract the final votes for passage, particularly that of Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska. Some suggested that special Nebraska considerations in the bill amounted to bribery and corruption. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that it was reflective of “seedy Chicago politics.”

“In order to try to get the 60 votes, there has been basically a pay to play approach to this, and it’s just repulsive,” [Sen. John] Cornyn said.

Now some say that bipartisanship is overrated. But Obama wasn’t one of them. He got himself elected, in large part, because he promised to rise about the naked partisanship that had alienated so many voters. No Blue and Red States, just the United States of America and all that. So the question remains whether having jettisoned that tone and approach to politics, the president and his party will face any consequences. It’s not hard to imagine that once the dreamy idealism of young voters, the optimism of independents (who had grown disgusted with politics as normal), and the self-delusion of some Republicans (convinced that Obama was a man of reason, not of bare-knuckle politics) are drained away, the Democrats will face a motivation deficit in 2010 and perhaps beyond.

Having adopted the worst qualities of his hyper-partisan predecessors, Obama has left the “outsider” and “change” message by the wayside. We’ll see if his opponents are savvy enough to grab it and run for daylight.

On Sunday, the New York Times fessed up:

Nasty charges of bribery. Senators cut off mid-speech. Accusations of politics put over patriotism. Talk of double-crosses. A nonagenarian forced out after midnight for multiple procedural votes.In the heart of the holiday season, Senate Republicans and Democrats are at one another’s throats as the health care overhaul reaches its climactic votes, one of which is set for 1 a.m. Monday. A year that began with hopes of new post-partisanship has indeed produced change: Things have gotten worse.

Well, yes they have. How did we get to this point? Well, for starters, Obama, who ran on his determination to transcend partisan divisions, remained a passive and aloof figure when it came to the drafting and the details, allowing partisan passions to run wild. His sole concern was winning, not building a broad-based coalition for revolutionary legislation. Indeed, he contributed to partisan furies by labeling opponents as confused and misinformed and by repeating a series of partisan and baseless accusations against Republicans (the principal one — that they had “no alternative” — was easily disproved by the plethora of conservative plans and proposals). Obama had a reason for proceeding in this way — he wanted to rely on the muscle of large Democratic majorities to obtain the most liberal bill he could get. On Sunday John McCain explained:

There’s been a change. It’s more partisan. It’s more bitterly divided than it’s been. I have never been asked to engage in a single serious negotiation on any issue, nor has any other Republican. Now they’ve brought single Republicans down to try to pick off one or two Republicans so you can call it, quote, bipartisan. There’s never been serious across-the-table negotiations on any serious issue that I have engaged in with — I and others have engaged in with other administrations, both Republican and Democrat.

And if comity and Obama’s own credibility were sacrificed along the way, well, that’s simply what a Chicago pol must do to win.

It’s not a pretty picture, as even the Times must concede:

On Sunday, Republicans did not mince words when characterizing provisions put in the health care bill to attract the final votes for passage, particularly that of Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska. Some suggested that special Nebraska considerations in the bill amounted to bribery and corruption. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that it was reflective of “seedy Chicago politics.”

“In order to try to get the 60 votes, there has been basically a pay to play approach to this, and it’s just repulsive,” [Sen. John] Cornyn said.

Now some say that bipartisanship is overrated. But Obama wasn’t one of them. He got himself elected, in large part, because he promised to rise about the naked partisanship that had alienated so many voters. No Blue and Red States, just the United States of America and all that. So the question remains whether having jettisoned that tone and approach to politics, the president and his party will face any consequences. It’s not hard to imagine that once the dreamy idealism of young voters, the optimism of independents (who had grown disgusted with politics as normal), and the self-delusion of some Republicans (convinced that Obama was a man of reason, not of bare-knuckle politics) are drained away, the Democrats will face a motivation deficit in 2010 and perhaps beyond.

Having adopted the worst qualities of his hyper-partisan predecessors, Obama has left the “outsider” and “change” message by the wayside. We’ll see if his opponents are savvy enough to grab it and run for daylight.

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When the Chips Are Down, All Democrats Are Liberals

The Senate is moving slowly toward the first cloture vote around 1:00 a.m. on Monday, heading to a final vote on the health-care bill Thursday evening. At this juncture the most realistic avenue for upsetting the freight train is Rep. Bart Stupak, who unlike Sen. Ben Nelson, was not snookered (willingly or otherwise) into abandoning his pro-life constituents. As others have pointed out, Nebraska pro-life voters like voters in every state will, under the Harry Reid “compromise,” have their tax dollars go toward subsidizing abortions in states that choose not to “opt out” of abortion coverage.

There are several noteworthy aspects to all of this. First, we have heard a lot in the last year from some snooty ostensibly-conservative pundits who would like to rearrange the conservative coalition and dump social conservatives overboard. However, the health-care bill is as good an example as we will find as to why this is politically idiotic. Here we see that it is social conservatives who remain the last men and women standing against liberal economic- and social-engineering projects. The numbers may just not be there for Stupak to disrupt the juggernaut, but it is instructive that the final battle is likely to be over abortion subsidies, not taxes or any other economic issue. Perhaps it’s not a good idea for conservatives to tell some of their most stalwart allies to get lost.

Second, the Obama tax pledge — no tax hikes on families making less than $250, 000 — has been eviscerated by the bill. There are no less than seven categories of taxes on the supposedly non-rich and they are not insignificant. Union members with generous benefits, so-called “Cadillac” plans, are going to get smacked with new excise takes –unless of course they lose those generous benefits. This reality is not enough to sway supposedly moderate and conservative Democrats (and can we acknowledge when the chips are down they are all liberals?) to vote “no” when it comes to cloture, but it will certainly come up in the 2010 elections. (Five Democrats, including Nelson, voted to take the under-$250,000 tax provisions out, but their defense of the taxpayers evaporates when it matters.) Taxes are now a front-and-center issue in the run up to the 2010 election.

Third, we are spending of at least $871B (maybe $2.5 trillion over ten years) and raising about $500 billion in taxes. Nevertheless, we will still have, by the CBO’s estimate, some 23 million non-elderly uninsured residents. Insurance companies are no doubt doing the jig with the realization that the government is herding new customers their way. But that’s a huge transfer of wealth for not really solving the problem of the uninsured. We go from 83 percent of the population insured to 94 percent by taking money away from seniors’ Medicare funding and everyone else’s pockets.

We will, if this passes, see a massive sell-job by the administration and Congress to tout this “historic achievement.” But the American people may well recoil in horror. They are going to be taxed and bossed around, have their benefits disrupted and see what happens when government gurus begin to dictate what care they will receive. And it will be crystal clear who, when the chips are down, tried to stop the largest big-government power grab and tax-a-thon in decades and who rolled over. The opponents of those Democrats who rolled over will have a plethora of material for their campaign ads.

The Senate is moving slowly toward the first cloture vote around 1:00 a.m. on Monday, heading to a final vote on the health-care bill Thursday evening. At this juncture the most realistic avenue for upsetting the freight train is Rep. Bart Stupak, who unlike Sen. Ben Nelson, was not snookered (willingly or otherwise) into abandoning his pro-life constituents. As others have pointed out, Nebraska pro-life voters like voters in every state will, under the Harry Reid “compromise,” have their tax dollars go toward subsidizing abortions in states that choose not to “opt out” of abortion coverage.

There are several noteworthy aspects to all of this. First, we have heard a lot in the last year from some snooty ostensibly-conservative pundits who would like to rearrange the conservative coalition and dump social conservatives overboard. However, the health-care bill is as good an example as we will find as to why this is politically idiotic. Here we see that it is social conservatives who remain the last men and women standing against liberal economic- and social-engineering projects. The numbers may just not be there for Stupak to disrupt the juggernaut, but it is instructive that the final battle is likely to be over abortion subsidies, not taxes or any other economic issue. Perhaps it’s not a good idea for conservatives to tell some of their most stalwart allies to get lost.

Second, the Obama tax pledge — no tax hikes on families making less than $250, 000 — has been eviscerated by the bill. There are no less than seven categories of taxes on the supposedly non-rich and they are not insignificant. Union members with generous benefits, so-called “Cadillac” plans, are going to get smacked with new excise takes –unless of course they lose those generous benefits. This reality is not enough to sway supposedly moderate and conservative Democrats (and can we acknowledge when the chips are down they are all liberals?) to vote “no” when it comes to cloture, but it will certainly come up in the 2010 elections. (Five Democrats, including Nelson, voted to take the under-$250,000 tax provisions out, but their defense of the taxpayers evaporates when it matters.) Taxes are now a front-and-center issue in the run up to the 2010 election.

Third, we are spending of at least $871B (maybe $2.5 trillion over ten years) and raising about $500 billion in taxes. Nevertheless, we will still have, by the CBO’s estimate, some 23 million non-elderly uninsured residents. Insurance companies are no doubt doing the jig with the realization that the government is herding new customers their way. But that’s a huge transfer of wealth for not really solving the problem of the uninsured. We go from 83 percent of the population insured to 94 percent by taking money away from seniors’ Medicare funding and everyone else’s pockets.

We will, if this passes, see a massive sell-job by the administration and Congress to tout this “historic achievement.” But the American people may well recoil in horror. They are going to be taxed and bossed around, have their benefits disrupted and see what happens when government gurus begin to dictate what care they will receive. And it will be crystal clear who, when the chips are down, tried to stop the largest big-government power grab and tax-a-thon in decades and who rolled over. The opponents of those Democrats who rolled over will have a plethora of material for their campaign ads.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Obama tells us that we are “bearing witness”? Hard to see how that differs from enabling a murderous regime to avoid scrutiny: “At the height of Iran’s bloody civil unrest this year, a young doctor named Ramin Pourandarjani defied his superiors. He refused to sign death certificates at a Tehran prison that he said were falsified to cover up murder. He testified to a parliamentary committee that jailers were torturing and raping protesters, his family says. He told friends and family he feared for his life. And on Nov. 10, the 26-year-old doctor was found dead in the military clinic where he lived and worked.” 

The editorially liberal Seattle Times says “no” to ObamaCare: “The public option is in then out; the Medicare buy-in for 55-year-olds is in, then out. When the congressional dance stops, the Senate may have 60 votes, but for what? It will satisfy neither Obama’s frugal promise nor progressives’ lavish hopes. Already the Democratic Party’s former chairman, Howard Dean, says the bill is not worth passing in this form.”

You can see why the Daily Kos kids feel betrayed: “Senate Democratic leaders say last-minute changes to the health care bill include giving nonprofit health insurance companies an exemption from the excise tax on insurers, a revision pushed by Sen. Carl Levin, who is a major recipient of campaign contributions form mega nonprofit Blue Cross Blue Shield.”

On the Right, they are mad too. I think he means Ben Nelson: “Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oka.) said it is ‘absolutely fictitious’ that there is an anti-abortion provision in the Senate Democrats’ reworked healthcare reform bill. ‘The negotiations, whoever did them, threw unborn babies under the bus,’ Coburn said.” From Sen. Richard Burr: “You have to compliment Ben Nelson for playing the price is right. . This isn’t the Louisiana Purchase. This is the Nebraska windfall.” Well, Nelson couldn’t have thought he’d keep his conservative supporters, right?

Huffington Post or National Review? “With unemployment at 10%, the idea that you can pass a bill whose only merit is that ‘liberals hate it’ just because the media will eat it up and print your talking points in the process is so cynical and short-sighted it’s hard to comprehend anyone would pursue it. It reflects a total insensitivity to the rage that is brewing on the popular front, which is manifest in every single poll out there.”

Headline from the Washington Post or Washington Times? “Health-care debate wearing on Democrats’ unity, popularity.”

Frank Rich or Rich Lowry? “Though the American left and right don’t agree on much, they are both now coalescing around the suspicion that Obama’s brilliant presidential campaign was as hollow as Tiger’s public image — a marketing scam designed to camouflage either his covert anti-American radicalism (as the right sees it) or spineless timidity (as the left sees it).”

James Carafano sums up the Obami’s spending priorities: “The White House priority is to push through a symbolic deal at Copenhagen which will justify spending hundreds-of-billions, cost up to two million American jobs and won’t actually really make us safe from the dangers of climate change…but they say we can’t afford spending two percent of the defense budget on missile defense which would provide real protection to a 13 trillion dollar economy.” Yup.

The Walpin scandal bubbles up to the surface of the mainstream media: “Congressional Republicans raised new concerns this week about the Obama administration’s firing of Gerald Walpin, who served as inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service. GOP lawmakers said White House visitors logs contradict statements made by the former chairman of CNCS, the agency that oversees AmeriCorps.”

Robert Wexler’s pro-Obami spin on the settlement-freeze debacle is too much even for Lestlie Gelb, who asks incredulously “So the Administration never asked Israel for freeze across the board — West Bank, East Jerusalem — on every and all kind of settlement activity?”

Kathleen Parker has figured out that Obama has a “grandiosity” problem, “an inflated self-confidence and a sense of power exceeding one’s means.” So he is reduced to passing a shlock health-care bill: “Thus, the man who was going to remain above the political fray has revealed himself as pluperfectly political, ready to settle for the very kind of mandate (without the public option) that he opposed as a candidate challenging Hillary Clinton. Rather than inspiring confidence, he has inspired a groundswell of disapproval and a populist uprising that may allow Republicans to clean House come November. In the meantime, left and right finally have discovered a common foe. Too bad for the country that his name is Obama.” And too bad so many pundits flacked for him during the campaign.

Obama tells us that we are “bearing witness”? Hard to see how that differs from enabling a murderous regime to avoid scrutiny: “At the height of Iran’s bloody civil unrest this year, a young doctor named Ramin Pourandarjani defied his superiors. He refused to sign death certificates at a Tehran prison that he said were falsified to cover up murder. He testified to a parliamentary committee that jailers were torturing and raping protesters, his family says. He told friends and family he feared for his life. And on Nov. 10, the 26-year-old doctor was found dead in the military clinic where he lived and worked.” 

The editorially liberal Seattle Times says “no” to ObamaCare: “The public option is in then out; the Medicare buy-in for 55-year-olds is in, then out. When the congressional dance stops, the Senate may have 60 votes, but for what? It will satisfy neither Obama’s frugal promise nor progressives’ lavish hopes. Already the Democratic Party’s former chairman, Howard Dean, says the bill is not worth passing in this form.”

You can see why the Daily Kos kids feel betrayed: “Senate Democratic leaders say last-minute changes to the health care bill include giving nonprofit health insurance companies an exemption from the excise tax on insurers, a revision pushed by Sen. Carl Levin, who is a major recipient of campaign contributions form mega nonprofit Blue Cross Blue Shield.”

On the Right, they are mad too. I think he means Ben Nelson: “Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oka.) said it is ‘absolutely fictitious’ that there is an anti-abortion provision in the Senate Democrats’ reworked healthcare reform bill. ‘The negotiations, whoever did them, threw unborn babies under the bus,’ Coburn said.” From Sen. Richard Burr: “You have to compliment Ben Nelson for playing the price is right. . This isn’t the Louisiana Purchase. This is the Nebraska windfall.” Well, Nelson couldn’t have thought he’d keep his conservative supporters, right?

Huffington Post or National Review? “With unemployment at 10%, the idea that you can pass a bill whose only merit is that ‘liberals hate it’ just because the media will eat it up and print your talking points in the process is so cynical and short-sighted it’s hard to comprehend anyone would pursue it. It reflects a total insensitivity to the rage that is brewing on the popular front, which is manifest in every single poll out there.”

Headline from the Washington Post or Washington Times? “Health-care debate wearing on Democrats’ unity, popularity.”

Frank Rich or Rich Lowry? “Though the American left and right don’t agree on much, they are both now coalescing around the suspicion that Obama’s brilliant presidential campaign was as hollow as Tiger’s public image — a marketing scam designed to camouflage either his covert anti-American radicalism (as the right sees it) or spineless timidity (as the left sees it).”

James Carafano sums up the Obami’s spending priorities: “The White House priority is to push through a symbolic deal at Copenhagen which will justify spending hundreds-of-billions, cost up to two million American jobs and won’t actually really make us safe from the dangers of climate change…but they say we can’t afford spending two percent of the defense budget on missile defense which would provide real protection to a 13 trillion dollar economy.” Yup.

The Walpin scandal bubbles up to the surface of the mainstream media: “Congressional Republicans raised new concerns this week about the Obama administration’s firing of Gerald Walpin, who served as inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service. GOP lawmakers said White House visitors logs contradict statements made by the former chairman of CNCS, the agency that oversees AmeriCorps.”

Robert Wexler’s pro-Obami spin on the settlement-freeze debacle is too much even for Lestlie Gelb, who asks incredulously “So the Administration never asked Israel for freeze across the board — West Bank, East Jerusalem — on every and all kind of settlement activity?”

Kathleen Parker has figured out that Obama has a “grandiosity” problem, “an inflated self-confidence and a sense of power exceeding one’s means.” So he is reduced to passing a shlock health-care bill: “Thus, the man who was going to remain above the political fray has revealed himself as pluperfectly political, ready to settle for the very kind of mandate (without the public option) that he opposed as a candidate challenging Hillary Clinton. Rather than inspiring confidence, he has inspired a groundswell of disapproval and a populist uprising that may allow Republicans to clean House come November. In the meantime, left and right finally have discovered a common foe. Too bad for the country that his name is Obama.” And too bad so many pundits flacked for him during the campaign.

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A Snow Job

Saturday night there had been a promising report. Promising, if you agree with the ever-growing “kill the bill” crowd, which includes everyone but the Democratic congressional leadership and the White House:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid led a marathon negotiating session Friday with Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) in a hectic bid to persuade the last holdout to sign onto the health-care reform bill ahead of a key deadline Saturday morning. . . Nelson left a meeting in Reid’s office, telling reporters, “There’s no deal.”

The sanest statement to come out of Capitol Hill this week had been from Nelson, who declared: “Harry has some time frames he is thinking about. . . But I don’t have a deadline. To me, you have to get it right.” That suggested that Nelson was either a cagey negotiator intent on maximizing his leverage or that he was bent on upsetting the entire apple cart, pushing through the Christmas deadline, and forcing Congress to face the voters. It turns out he was the former.

As morning dawned in snow-blanketed D.C. news reports buzzed that Nelson had come around. Nothing like some Medicaid funding to buy off the Nebraska holdout. The so-called manager’s amendment with the abortion language and nearly four hundred more pages of other decisive language appeared early Saturday morning, but still with no CBO scoring. Aides and activists are scrambling to read and understand the language. It appears as though states will be allowed to opt out of coverage for abortion services (provided they aren’t otherwise legally required to fund abortions). However, taxpayer money will still be used to subsidize those purchasing insurance that covers abortion services in states that don’t opt out. If so, Nelson has abandoned his pro-life allies.

Aside from all the details and the mind-numbing irresponsibility of the entire undertaking, it is the legislative maneuvering which is most striking. The process suggests just how afraid of the voters the Democrats must be. If the timing plays out as planned, a final cloture vote may come in the middle of the night on Monday. Now, if they can’t vote in broad daylight on a weekday after allowing the public to view the bill for a few days, then really, how awful must it be?

UPDATE: Nelson sold out his pro-life allies but Rep. Bart Stupak may not do the same.

Saturday night there had been a promising report. Promising, if you agree with the ever-growing “kill the bill” crowd, which includes everyone but the Democratic congressional leadership and the White House:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid led a marathon negotiating session Friday with Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) in a hectic bid to persuade the last holdout to sign onto the health-care reform bill ahead of a key deadline Saturday morning. . . Nelson left a meeting in Reid’s office, telling reporters, “There’s no deal.”

The sanest statement to come out of Capitol Hill this week had been from Nelson, who declared: “Harry has some time frames he is thinking about. . . But I don’t have a deadline. To me, you have to get it right.” That suggested that Nelson was either a cagey negotiator intent on maximizing his leverage or that he was bent on upsetting the entire apple cart, pushing through the Christmas deadline, and forcing Congress to face the voters. It turns out he was the former.

As morning dawned in snow-blanketed D.C. news reports buzzed that Nelson had come around. Nothing like some Medicaid funding to buy off the Nebraska holdout. The so-called manager’s amendment with the abortion language and nearly four hundred more pages of other decisive language appeared early Saturday morning, but still with no CBO scoring. Aides and activists are scrambling to read and understand the language. It appears as though states will be allowed to opt out of coverage for abortion services (provided they aren’t otherwise legally required to fund abortions). However, taxpayer money will still be used to subsidize those purchasing insurance that covers abortion services in states that don’t opt out. If so, Nelson has abandoned his pro-life allies.

Aside from all the details and the mind-numbing irresponsibility of the entire undertaking, it is the legislative maneuvering which is most striking. The process suggests just how afraid of the voters the Democrats must be. If the timing plays out as planned, a final cloture vote may come in the middle of the night on Monday. Now, if they can’t vote in broad daylight on a weekday after allowing the public to view the bill for a few days, then really, how awful must it be?

UPDATE: Nelson sold out his pro-life allies but Rep. Bart Stupak may not do the same.

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After Inevitability Goes, What Then?

It seems that things are not exactly on track with the Obama health-care-gotta-get-it-done-before-Christmas express train. Politico notes:

With the clock ticking down on health care reform, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has until Saturday to strike a 60-vote compromise if Democrats hope to meet a Christmas Eve deadline — but the obstacles kept piling up Thursday.

Reid still had no legislative text and no cost analysis to release. One of the final moderate holdouts, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), rejected compromise language on abortion funding and said he’s doubtful a bill can pass by Christmas. Two powerful unions blasted the bill. House Democrats threatened to undo the Senate bill during a conference committee. And a Democratic war over the bill raged on the Internet and cable news.

The stampede mentality has been momentarily disrupted by the resistance of Ben Nelson. Time, of course, is the kryptonite of health-care reform, the one phenomenon that disrupts the hype and pressure on lawmakers to vote on something, anything, and do it right now. It forces lawmakers to reflect and to worry (Sixty percent of the voters in my state oppose this?), and it reveals that the only thing ReidCare has going for it is an illusion of urgency.

Sen. Robert Casey confirmed the degree to which Democrats are dependent on a Cinderella-like haste to get it done before the clock strikes. Otherwise, everyone might realize what’s in the bill and that the Democratic leaders have little more than artificially induced fear on their side (“We’ll lose if we do nothing!”), as well as their members’ longing to get home for the holidays. As Casey remarked, “If we are going to get a bill out of the Senate, which will be very close to getting a bill enacted, we have to do it in 2009. … Some might not think so, but what I would worry about is losing momentum.” Because all they have is momentum, and once it’s gone, so too might be an ill-conceived and hugely unpopular bill.

Part of the danger here for ObamaCare supporters is that once the inevitability is gone, the senators will start to examine what’s in the bill. Then they might start pulling on the loose thread, the increasingly obvious irritant to both the Right and Left: the individual mandate. Rich Lowry explains the mutual disdain for this provision:

The right hates the governmental fiat and thinks — given the regulations and taxes that add to the cost of insurance — the mandate’s a bad deal. As one wag said of the bill, “First, it transforms insurance into a product that few rational people would buy. Second, it forces them to buy it.” The left hates that the insurance companies get the proceeds.

The Left thinks it makes Obama the “tax collector for the insurance-industrial complex”; the Right thinks it shreds the Constitution. How long before someone on either side can resist the urge to pull on this string, thereby unraveling the deal? With the Daily Kos and Rich Lowry cheering them on, some senators might actually bring an amendment to take it out.

So as Reid loses inevitability, and gives the Left and the Right time to think about their newfound mutual interests, some clever lawmaker might force the Senate to consider a key question: why are we forcing people to buy something they don’t want from companies they don’t like?

It seems that things are not exactly on track with the Obama health-care-gotta-get-it-done-before-Christmas express train. Politico notes:

With the clock ticking down on health care reform, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has until Saturday to strike a 60-vote compromise if Democrats hope to meet a Christmas Eve deadline — but the obstacles kept piling up Thursday.

Reid still had no legislative text and no cost analysis to release. One of the final moderate holdouts, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), rejected compromise language on abortion funding and said he’s doubtful a bill can pass by Christmas. Two powerful unions blasted the bill. House Democrats threatened to undo the Senate bill during a conference committee. And a Democratic war over the bill raged on the Internet and cable news.

The stampede mentality has been momentarily disrupted by the resistance of Ben Nelson. Time, of course, is the kryptonite of health-care reform, the one phenomenon that disrupts the hype and pressure on lawmakers to vote on something, anything, and do it right now. It forces lawmakers to reflect and to worry (Sixty percent of the voters in my state oppose this?), and it reveals that the only thing ReidCare has going for it is an illusion of urgency.

Sen. Robert Casey confirmed the degree to which Democrats are dependent on a Cinderella-like haste to get it done before the clock strikes. Otherwise, everyone might realize what’s in the bill and that the Democratic leaders have little more than artificially induced fear on their side (“We’ll lose if we do nothing!”), as well as their members’ longing to get home for the holidays. As Casey remarked, “If we are going to get a bill out of the Senate, which will be very close to getting a bill enacted, we have to do it in 2009. … Some might not think so, but what I would worry about is losing momentum.” Because all they have is momentum, and once it’s gone, so too might be an ill-conceived and hugely unpopular bill.

Part of the danger here for ObamaCare supporters is that once the inevitability is gone, the senators will start to examine what’s in the bill. Then they might start pulling on the loose thread, the increasingly obvious irritant to both the Right and Left: the individual mandate. Rich Lowry explains the mutual disdain for this provision:

The right hates the governmental fiat and thinks — given the regulations and taxes that add to the cost of insurance — the mandate’s a bad deal. As one wag said of the bill, “First, it transforms insurance into a product that few rational people would buy. Second, it forces them to buy it.” The left hates that the insurance companies get the proceeds.

The Left thinks it makes Obama the “tax collector for the insurance-industrial complex”; the Right thinks it shreds the Constitution. How long before someone on either side can resist the urge to pull on this string, thereby unraveling the deal? With the Daily Kos and Rich Lowry cheering them on, some senators might actually bring an amendment to take it out.

So as Reid loses inevitability, and gives the Left and the Right time to think about their newfound mutual interests, some clever lawmaker might force the Senate to consider a key question: why are we forcing people to buy something they don’t want from companies they don’t like?

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Liberals in Revolt, Looking for Allies

The Left is having a meltdown. They might yet get nationalized health care, but they’re beside themselves with fury. As this report sums up:

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean is mounting a campaign of sorts against the initiative in its current form. MSNBC host Keith Olbermann has declared, “This is not health. This is not care. This is certainly not reform.” Liberal blogs such as Daily Kos are blasting the Senate bill, especially since it dropped a government-run “public option” and killed a plan to expand Medicare. Liberal House members are venting their fury at senators who are lukewarm on the revamp, especially Connecticut independent Joe Lieberman and Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson. Labor unions are protesting proposed taxes on high-value insurance policies.

On one hand, there’s reason to view all this with a great deal of skepticism. We haven’t seen, with the possible exception of Sen. Bernie Sanders, any indication that the Left will submarine the bill in the Senate. And virtually everyone suspects that whatever does get through the Senate will be jammed down the throats of House Democrats. They’ve shown no inclination to resist Nancy Pelosi on any significant vote.

However, there is reason for the White House and Democratic lawmakers to be very, very nervous. They need these angry liberals to support them, give money, and turn out to vote in 2010. The “angry Left” is useful to Democratic pols – so long as the Left’s anger is directed at others – and gets liberals to the polls for establishment Democrats. Should the liberal base stay home in a huff, the bleak 2010 picture will get bleaker.

What to do? Well, the White House and Democratic congressional leaders are convinced it will all work out in the end if the reviled health-care bill passes. Everyone — the Left included — will learn to love it, they keep telling themselves. Perhaps. But maybe there’s a strange convergence of interests. The Left wants to kill the bill. Conservatives want to kill the bill. Red State Democrats don’t really want to vote on the bill. What all these diverse groups need to do, then, is, well, kill the bill.

But then Democrats will need to look for someone to blame. (You don’t suppose they could blame George W. Bush? He’s come in so handy for so long, and on this one he almost surely wouldn’t mind.) Perhaps the Democrats should have held tight on the public option and let Sen. Joe Lieberman sink it. Come to think of it, that would have made a whole lot of people very happy. And it might have saved a lot of Democratic seats in 2010. Ah, well.

The Left is having a meltdown. They might yet get nationalized health care, but they’re beside themselves with fury. As this report sums up:

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean is mounting a campaign of sorts against the initiative in its current form. MSNBC host Keith Olbermann has declared, “This is not health. This is not care. This is certainly not reform.” Liberal blogs such as Daily Kos are blasting the Senate bill, especially since it dropped a government-run “public option” and killed a plan to expand Medicare. Liberal House members are venting their fury at senators who are lukewarm on the revamp, especially Connecticut independent Joe Lieberman and Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson. Labor unions are protesting proposed taxes on high-value insurance policies.

On one hand, there’s reason to view all this with a great deal of skepticism. We haven’t seen, with the possible exception of Sen. Bernie Sanders, any indication that the Left will submarine the bill in the Senate. And virtually everyone suspects that whatever does get through the Senate will be jammed down the throats of House Democrats. They’ve shown no inclination to resist Nancy Pelosi on any significant vote.

However, there is reason for the White House and Democratic lawmakers to be very, very nervous. They need these angry liberals to support them, give money, and turn out to vote in 2010. The “angry Left” is useful to Democratic pols – so long as the Left’s anger is directed at others – and gets liberals to the polls for establishment Democrats. Should the liberal base stay home in a huff, the bleak 2010 picture will get bleaker.

What to do? Well, the White House and Democratic congressional leaders are convinced it will all work out in the end if the reviled health-care bill passes. Everyone — the Left included — will learn to love it, they keep telling themselves. Perhaps. But maybe there’s a strange convergence of interests. The Left wants to kill the bill. Conservatives want to kill the bill. Red State Democrats don’t really want to vote on the bill. What all these diverse groups need to do, then, is, well, kill the bill.

But then Democrats will need to look for someone to blame. (You don’t suppose they could blame George W. Bush? He’s come in so handy for so long, and on this one he almost surely wouldn’t mind.) Perhaps the Democrats should have held tight on the public option and let Sen. Joe Lieberman sink it. Come to think of it, that would have made a whole lot of people very happy. And it might have saved a lot of Democratic seats in 2010. Ah, well.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Sen. Ben Nelson, holding firm for now, “on Thursday rejected a proposed compromise related to abortion coverage, but Democratic leaders said that they remain confident that the matter would be resolved and that the chamber could still push an overhaul of the health-care system to final passage by Christmas.” And what about the other concerns Nelson says he has?

An informative report on the middle-class workers who will be impacted by the Senate’s “Cadillac tax” on  generous health-care plans explains: “A senior Democratic House aide said this week that the choice by the Senate to pay for health care reform with an excise tax that could hit middle-class workers, as opposed to the choice of the House to tax the highest earners, represents a fundamental philosophical difference between the two chambers that could endanger the entire bill if it is a part of the final conference report.”

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights takes time out from bird-dogging the Justice Department on the New Black Panther case to write a letter to the president and Senate chiding them for including illegal racial preferences for medical schools in the health-care bill. “No matter how well-intentioned, utilizing racial preferences with the hop of alleviating health care disparities is inadvisable both as a matter of policy and as a matter of law.”

The Washington Times has the low-down on the firing of AmeriCorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin, in which “we get a glimpse of the tangled web of interests and embarrassments of Obama allies on which the firing of Mr. Walpin put a kibosh. In logic if not in law, this raises the specter of obstruction of justice.”

Mark McKinnon on how quickly the 2012 GOP field has changed: “What is most interesting, comparing the list today with the one a year ago, is who has fallen off it or otherwise lost altitude. Mark Sanford and John Ensign, once bright lights, have been doomed by the ancient curse of infidelity. Jon Huntsman got detailed to China. Bobby Jindal gave a painful speech which reminded voters of Kenneth from 30 Rock. And Mike Huckabee’s chances took a serious blow when a prisoner he freed as Arkansas governor allegedly shot and killed four policemen before being gunned down himself.” Could it possibly be that it’s just too early to start talking about 2012?

Republican congressional candidates in the suburbs are already running against Nancy Pelosi. With an approval rating like hers, you can understand why.

Another sterling Obama nominee: “President Obama’s recent nominee for ambassador to El Salvador was forced to withdraw her nomination to another diplomatic post a decade ago following concerns about ties to Cuba, raising red flags as her name heads to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee once again for approval. … The selection has started to draw some attention given that former President Clinton nominated her for ambassador to the Dominican Republic in 1998, only to see the nomination fizzle after the foreign relations panel questioned her over her past relationship with someone who had apparently caught the attention of the FBI.” According to one source, Cuban intelligence had tried to recruit her through her boyfriend.

The mysteries of science: “There are 20 million bubbles in a bottle of champagne and every one of them alters the taste, scent and fluid dynamics of the sparkling wine, say researchers studying the chemistry of carbonation and the physics of fizz.” Read the whole thing and lap up … er … savor slowly: “Each exploding bubble sprays hundreds of droplets of concentrated compounds into the air, wreathing anyone drinking it in a fragrant mist, mass spectroscopy studies show.” But don’t tell the EPA : it’s all about carbon dioxide.

Sen. Ben Nelson, holding firm for now, “on Thursday rejected a proposed compromise related to abortion coverage, but Democratic leaders said that they remain confident that the matter would be resolved and that the chamber could still push an overhaul of the health-care system to final passage by Christmas.” And what about the other concerns Nelson says he has?

An informative report on the middle-class workers who will be impacted by the Senate’s “Cadillac tax” on  generous health-care plans explains: “A senior Democratic House aide said this week that the choice by the Senate to pay for health care reform with an excise tax that could hit middle-class workers, as opposed to the choice of the House to tax the highest earners, represents a fundamental philosophical difference between the two chambers that could endanger the entire bill if it is a part of the final conference report.”

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights takes time out from bird-dogging the Justice Department on the New Black Panther case to write a letter to the president and Senate chiding them for including illegal racial preferences for medical schools in the health-care bill. “No matter how well-intentioned, utilizing racial preferences with the hop of alleviating health care disparities is inadvisable both as a matter of policy and as a matter of law.”

The Washington Times has the low-down on the firing of AmeriCorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin, in which “we get a glimpse of the tangled web of interests and embarrassments of Obama allies on which the firing of Mr. Walpin put a kibosh. In logic if not in law, this raises the specter of obstruction of justice.”

Mark McKinnon on how quickly the 2012 GOP field has changed: “What is most interesting, comparing the list today with the one a year ago, is who has fallen off it or otherwise lost altitude. Mark Sanford and John Ensign, once bright lights, have been doomed by the ancient curse of infidelity. Jon Huntsman got detailed to China. Bobby Jindal gave a painful speech which reminded voters of Kenneth from 30 Rock. And Mike Huckabee’s chances took a serious blow when a prisoner he freed as Arkansas governor allegedly shot and killed four policemen before being gunned down himself.” Could it possibly be that it’s just too early to start talking about 2012?

Republican congressional candidates in the suburbs are already running against Nancy Pelosi. With an approval rating like hers, you can understand why.

Another sterling Obama nominee: “President Obama’s recent nominee for ambassador to El Salvador was forced to withdraw her nomination to another diplomatic post a decade ago following concerns about ties to Cuba, raising red flags as her name heads to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee once again for approval. … The selection has started to draw some attention given that former President Clinton nominated her for ambassador to the Dominican Republic in 1998, only to see the nomination fizzle after the foreign relations panel questioned her over her past relationship with someone who had apparently caught the attention of the FBI.” According to one source, Cuban intelligence had tried to recruit her through her boyfriend.

The mysteries of science: “There are 20 million bubbles in a bottle of champagne and every one of them alters the taste, scent and fluid dynamics of the sparkling wine, say researchers studying the chemistry of carbonation and the physics of fizz.” Read the whole thing and lap up … er … savor slowly: “Each exploding bubble sprays hundreds of droplets of concentrated compounds into the air, wreathing anyone drinking it in a fragrant mist, mass spectroscopy studies show.” But don’t tell the EPA : it’s all about carbon dioxide.

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You Have to Kill It First — and Then Make a Deal

Matthew Dowd tries to make the case on health-care reform that “passage of a bill by the Democrats at this point will be politically damaging to both the president and congressional Democrats. Conversely, defeat of the legislation is much more likely to hurt Republicans in Congress.” But his reasoning collapses on itself.

If, as he argues, Democrats will suffer by passage of a bill that is overwhelmingly unpopular and rightly suspected to hike taxes, increase the deficit, and worsen care, then Republicans will be rewarded not hurt for helping to stop the freight train. Moreover, Dodd’s advice –”a health-care bill that draws real bipartisan support” — depends on the defeat of ObamaCare. Not until the current bill in all its horridness is killed will Democrats be willing to compromise on a more limited set of commonsense reforms.

And that suggests a way out for the Red State Democrats, including Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, and a few others who have found significant aspects of the Reid bill unacceptable. Recall that Senators Evan Bayh, Maria Cantwell, Amy Klobuchar, Lincoln, and Nelson all voted to strip out taxes on those making less than $200,000. And Nelson and Webb voted against the nearly $500B in Medicare costs. Nelson objects to the abortion subsidy. (And right-to-life groups remain unimpressed with Reid’s “compromise.”)  So it’s within their power and that of some of their colleagues, who’ll certainly face the wrath of voters if they vote for this monstrous bill, to offer that alternative after refusing to vote for cloture.

That’s how compromise and bipartisan deals get made. Only when the narrow majority get the idea that they can’t run roughshod over the rest by rushing to a vote and cutting off debate is there room for dealing. Only then can a bill emerge that will spare a growing list of vulnerable Democrats — including Harry Reid — from extinguishing their own political careers. But first, in the words of Howard Dean, they have to kill the bill.

Matthew Dowd tries to make the case on health-care reform that “passage of a bill by the Democrats at this point will be politically damaging to both the president and congressional Democrats. Conversely, defeat of the legislation is much more likely to hurt Republicans in Congress.” But his reasoning collapses on itself.

If, as he argues, Democrats will suffer by passage of a bill that is overwhelmingly unpopular and rightly suspected to hike taxes, increase the deficit, and worsen care, then Republicans will be rewarded not hurt for helping to stop the freight train. Moreover, Dodd’s advice –”a health-care bill that draws real bipartisan support” — depends on the defeat of ObamaCare. Not until the current bill in all its horridness is killed will Democrats be willing to compromise on a more limited set of commonsense reforms.

And that suggests a way out for the Red State Democrats, including Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, and a few others who have found significant aspects of the Reid bill unacceptable. Recall that Senators Evan Bayh, Maria Cantwell, Amy Klobuchar, Lincoln, and Nelson all voted to strip out taxes on those making less than $200,000. And Nelson and Webb voted against the nearly $500B in Medicare costs. Nelson objects to the abortion subsidy. (And right-to-life groups remain unimpressed with Reid’s “compromise.”)  So it’s within their power and that of some of their colleagues, who’ll certainly face the wrath of voters if they vote for this monstrous bill, to offer that alternative after refusing to vote for cloture.

That’s how compromise and bipartisan deals get made. Only when the narrow majority get the idea that they can’t run roughshod over the rest by rushing to a vote and cutting off debate is there room for dealing. Only then can a bill emerge that will spare a growing list of vulnerable Democrats — including Harry Reid — from extinguishing their own political careers. But first, in the words of Howard Dean, they have to kill the bill.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

ObamaCare is really unpopular in Nebraska, and Sen. Ben Nelson is getting lots of calls to vote “no.” In his home state, 67 percent oppose and 26 percent favor, and 61 percent say they’d be less likely to vote for Nelson if he supported it. Will Nelson vote for it anyway?

Yuval Levin makes the case that “when it comes to the health-care bill the Senate is working on, [which] is really quite appalling now, and should be so not only to conservatives. In essence, what’s left of the bill compels universal participation in a system that everyone agrees is a failure without reforming that system, and even exacerbates its foremost problem — the problem of exploding costs.”

Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos (h/t Political Wire) now objects to forcing all Americans to buy insurance plans they may not like from those greedy, monopolistic insurance companies. The solution: “So here’s the deal — a progressive should step up with an amendment to strip out the mandate. He should get a non-Wall Street Republican to join him, be it Tom Coburn or Jim DeMint, one or more of those guys. And then force a roll call vote on the issue.” Game on!

S.E. Cupp on her pick for person of the year: “Attorney General Eric Holder. … In five or ten years, when we are all facing the disastrous consequences of his systematic dismantling of our national security, he will be a person who changed the course of world events. President Obama will be culpable as well, of course, for overseeing a horrific chapter in our national history, but it will be Holder who is responsible for compromising our intelligence and interrogation program at the CIA and trying terrorists as common criminals while the world watched and our enemies laughed.”

Another poll, another thumbs down on ObamaCare. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey: 32 percent approve and 47 percent disapprove. By a 44 to 41 percent margin, voters say they prefer the status quo. Obama’s own performance rating has suffered an 8-point decline since September and now is at 47 approval/46 disapproval. And the kicker: 57 percent say the Iraq war was somewhat or very successful.

The poll analysis: ” ‘For Democrats, the red flags are flying at full mast,’ said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducts the survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff. ‘What we don’t know for certain is: Have we reached a bottoming-out point?’ The biggest worry for Democrats is that the findings could set the stage for gains by Republican candidates in next year’s elections.” And Obama seems to have lost his charm: “Fifty percent now feel positively about him, six points lower than in October and an 18-point drop since his early weeks in office.”

Wait until they find out about the tax hits: “Those tax hits include a mandate of up to $750 a year for Americans who fail to purchase health insurance; new levies on small businesses (many of which file individual tax returns) that don’t offer health care to employees; new tax penalties on health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts; and higher taxes on medical spending, including restrictions on medical itemized deductions, as well as taxes on cosmetic surgery. A Senate Finance Committee minority staff report finds that by 2019 more than 42 million individuals and families—or 25% of all tax returns under $200,000—will on average see their taxes go up because of the Senate bill. And that’s after government subsidies.”

And when they start breaking the Senate rules, you know it’s desperation time.

Jamie Fly is among those who suspect that the administration is not all that enamored of Iran sanctions. “[The] administration’s efforts to gut the legislation and its sensitivity about the supposedly robust international coalition they like to tout as a product of their willingness to talk to Tehran raises questions about how serious they and their ‘partners’ are about stopping Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon.”

ObamaCare is really unpopular in Nebraska, and Sen. Ben Nelson is getting lots of calls to vote “no.” In his home state, 67 percent oppose and 26 percent favor, and 61 percent say they’d be less likely to vote for Nelson if he supported it. Will Nelson vote for it anyway?

Yuval Levin makes the case that “when it comes to the health-care bill the Senate is working on, [which] is really quite appalling now, and should be so not only to conservatives. In essence, what’s left of the bill compels universal participation in a system that everyone agrees is a failure without reforming that system, and even exacerbates its foremost problem — the problem of exploding costs.”

Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos (h/t Political Wire) now objects to forcing all Americans to buy insurance plans they may not like from those greedy, monopolistic insurance companies. The solution: “So here’s the deal — a progressive should step up with an amendment to strip out the mandate. He should get a non-Wall Street Republican to join him, be it Tom Coburn or Jim DeMint, one or more of those guys. And then force a roll call vote on the issue.” Game on!

S.E. Cupp on her pick for person of the year: “Attorney General Eric Holder. … In five or ten years, when we are all facing the disastrous consequences of his systematic dismantling of our national security, he will be a person who changed the course of world events. President Obama will be culpable as well, of course, for overseeing a horrific chapter in our national history, but it will be Holder who is responsible for compromising our intelligence and interrogation program at the CIA and trying terrorists as common criminals while the world watched and our enemies laughed.”

Another poll, another thumbs down on ObamaCare. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey: 32 percent approve and 47 percent disapprove. By a 44 to 41 percent margin, voters say they prefer the status quo. Obama’s own performance rating has suffered an 8-point decline since September and now is at 47 approval/46 disapproval. And the kicker: 57 percent say the Iraq war was somewhat or very successful.

The poll analysis: ” ‘For Democrats, the red flags are flying at full mast,’ said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducts the survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff. ‘What we don’t know for certain is: Have we reached a bottoming-out point?’ The biggest worry for Democrats is that the findings could set the stage for gains by Republican candidates in next year’s elections.” And Obama seems to have lost his charm: “Fifty percent now feel positively about him, six points lower than in October and an 18-point drop since his early weeks in office.”

Wait until they find out about the tax hits: “Those tax hits include a mandate of up to $750 a year for Americans who fail to purchase health insurance; new levies on small businesses (many of which file individual tax returns) that don’t offer health care to employees; new tax penalties on health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts; and higher taxes on medical spending, including restrictions on medical itemized deductions, as well as taxes on cosmetic surgery. A Senate Finance Committee minority staff report finds that by 2019 more than 42 million individuals and families—or 25% of all tax returns under $200,000—will on average see their taxes go up because of the Senate bill. And that’s after government subsidies.”

And when they start breaking the Senate rules, you know it’s desperation time.

Jamie Fly is among those who suspect that the administration is not all that enamored of Iran sanctions. “[The] administration’s efforts to gut the legislation and its sensitivity about the supposedly robust international coalition they like to tout as a product of their willingness to talk to Tehran raises questions about how serious they and their ‘partners’ are about stopping Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon.”

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Blowing Up ReidCare

It’s out. It was in, and everyone tried to keep a straight face for several days. But Sens. Joe Lieberman, Bill Nelson, and Ben Nelson would not play along. So the Medicare buy-in may is getting yanked as quickly as it was inserted into the madcap race for a health-care deal, any deal. The New York Times reports:

After a tense 90-minute meeting on Monday evening, Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and chairman of the Finance Committee, was asked if Democrats were likely to jettison the Medicare proposal. “It’s looking like that’s the case,” Mr. Baucus said, indicating that the provision might be scrapped as a way of “getting support from 60 senators.”

So another harebrained Harry Reid scheme implodes. But what do they want to pass now? After all “not the public option” and “not Medicare buy-in” are not exactly the stuff of legislation. They need, because a few centrists insist on it, something that is semi-coherent and that actually might allow the Democrats to face the voters, who currently disfavor ObamaCare by a huge margin.

Really, what’s left after they take out the public option and the Medicare buy-in? A GOP leadership aide put it this way: “$500 billion in Medicare cuts, $400 billion in tax increases, raises premiums, raises costs, onerous regulations, individual mandates, employer mandate,  and expensive subsidies.” So what’s not to like? Well, just about everything. Perhaps, in a moment of clarity, everyone will go home, think this through clearly, and come back with a list of a few discrete reforms that will have bipartisan support. Then they can declare victory. Makes too much sense. Instead the Democratic leadership seems hell-bent on coming up with the umpteenth version of ObamaCare no matter how unpopular it may be with the public and making vulnerable members walk the plank. Seems crazy, huh? It is.

It’s out. It was in, and everyone tried to keep a straight face for several days. But Sens. Joe Lieberman, Bill Nelson, and Ben Nelson would not play along. So the Medicare buy-in may is getting yanked as quickly as it was inserted into the madcap race for a health-care deal, any deal. The New York Times reports:

After a tense 90-minute meeting on Monday evening, Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and chairman of the Finance Committee, was asked if Democrats were likely to jettison the Medicare proposal. “It’s looking like that’s the case,” Mr. Baucus said, indicating that the provision might be scrapped as a way of “getting support from 60 senators.”

So another harebrained Harry Reid scheme implodes. But what do they want to pass now? After all “not the public option” and “not Medicare buy-in” are not exactly the stuff of legislation. They need, because a few centrists insist on it, something that is semi-coherent and that actually might allow the Democrats to face the voters, who currently disfavor ObamaCare by a huge margin.

Really, what’s left after they take out the public option and the Medicare buy-in? A GOP leadership aide put it this way: “$500 billion in Medicare cuts, $400 billion in tax increases, raises premiums, raises costs, onerous regulations, individual mandates, employer mandate,  and expensive subsidies.” So what’s not to like? Well, just about everything. Perhaps, in a moment of clarity, everyone will go home, think this through clearly, and come back with a list of a few discrete reforms that will have bipartisan support. Then they can declare victory. Makes too much sense. Instead the Democratic leadership seems hell-bent on coming up with the umpteenth version of ObamaCare no matter how unpopular it may be with the public and making vulnerable members walk the plank. Seems crazy, huh? It is.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Harry Reid seems to say, “Never mind”: “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is prepared to give in to demands from centrists in order to pass the health-care legislation before Christmas, senators say.Reid indicated at the Democratic Conference meeting on Monday that he would drop a controversial Medicare buy-in provision, which was offered as a replacement to the government-run health insurance option, to win the votes of Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.).” All that’s missing is what’s in the deal.

Seems like the public doesn’t want any kind of plan. The RealClearPolitics average shows that 38 percent approve of ObamaCare and 53.3 percent disapprove.

Tevi Troy pulls off a Chanukah miracle — getting the White House to cough up 150 more invites to the White House Chanukah party.

The New York Post (h/t Ben Smith) reports that “Marc Mukasey, the son of Bush administration Attorney General Michael Mukasey, is mulling mounting a challenge to Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.” Bet we’d have some fun debates on the KSM trial.

Another inconvenient poll: “With world leaders debating how to address climate change in Copenhagen and the U.S. Senate poised to take up a climate bill in the coming months, a new CBS News/New York Times poll finds that just 37 percent of Americans believe the issue should be a priority for government leaders. That’s a significant drop from April of 2007, when 52 percent of those surveyed said the issue should be a high priority.” Apparently, these people want jobs and economic prosperity: “A clear majority – 61 percent – say stimulating the economy should come first. Only 29 percent say protecting the environment is more important.”

The Marx Brothers hold a climate-control conference.

And the scientific clown show continues: Al Gore’s prediction of an ice-free north polar cap in five years isn’t supported by any facts. “The climatologist whose work Mr Gore was relying upon dropped the former Vice-President in the water with an icy blast. ‘It’s unclear to me how this figure was arrived at,’ Dr. [Wieslav] Maslowski said. ‘I would never try to estimate likelihood at anything as exact as this.’ ” Gore says it’s close enough for made-up science — er — for scaring the public  — er — for what he’s doing.

“Cramdown” mortgage legislation is also going down for the count. Almost like there isn’t a majority for extreme antibusiness regulation.

Bill McGurn thinks actions count more than words: “In wartime, people soon tire of lofty words that do not seem borne out by events. In September 2001, with the twin towers still smoldering and the Pentagon wounded, President Bush delivered a war address to a joint session of Congress (which I had no part in, so am free to praise) that ranks with the best of FDR. Whether that speech ever receives its full due depends in part on how this war ends. The same goes for President Obama. At West Point and Oslo, he spoke to the challenge of defending our freedom against hard men with no moral limit on what they are willing to do to crush it. The irony is that whether these fine speeches are remembered by history depends on a word he didn’t use in either one: victory.”

Harry Reid seems to say, “Never mind”: “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is prepared to give in to demands from centrists in order to pass the health-care legislation before Christmas, senators say.Reid indicated at the Democratic Conference meeting on Monday that he would drop a controversial Medicare buy-in provision, which was offered as a replacement to the government-run health insurance option, to win the votes of Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.).” All that’s missing is what’s in the deal.

Seems like the public doesn’t want any kind of plan. The RealClearPolitics average shows that 38 percent approve of ObamaCare and 53.3 percent disapprove.

Tevi Troy pulls off a Chanukah miracle — getting the White House to cough up 150 more invites to the White House Chanukah party.

The New York Post (h/t Ben Smith) reports that “Marc Mukasey, the son of Bush administration Attorney General Michael Mukasey, is mulling mounting a challenge to Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.” Bet we’d have some fun debates on the KSM trial.

Another inconvenient poll: “With world leaders debating how to address climate change in Copenhagen and the U.S. Senate poised to take up a climate bill in the coming months, a new CBS News/New York Times poll finds that just 37 percent of Americans believe the issue should be a priority for government leaders. That’s a significant drop from April of 2007, when 52 percent of those surveyed said the issue should be a high priority.” Apparently, these people want jobs and economic prosperity: “A clear majority – 61 percent – say stimulating the economy should come first. Only 29 percent say protecting the environment is more important.”

The Marx Brothers hold a climate-control conference.

And the scientific clown show continues: Al Gore’s prediction of an ice-free north polar cap in five years isn’t supported by any facts. “The climatologist whose work Mr Gore was relying upon dropped the former Vice-President in the water with an icy blast. ‘It’s unclear to me how this figure was arrived at,’ Dr. [Wieslav] Maslowski said. ‘I would never try to estimate likelihood at anything as exact as this.’ ” Gore says it’s close enough for made-up science — er — for scaring the public  — er — for what he’s doing.

“Cramdown” mortgage legislation is also going down for the count. Almost like there isn’t a majority for extreme antibusiness regulation.

Bill McGurn thinks actions count more than words: “In wartime, people soon tire of lofty words that do not seem borne out by events. In September 2001, with the twin towers still smoldering and the Pentagon wounded, President Bush delivered a war address to a joint session of Congress (which I had no part in, so am free to praise) that ranks with the best of FDR. Whether that speech ever receives its full due depends in part on how this war ends. The same goes for President Obama. At West Point and Oslo, he spoke to the challenge of defending our freedom against hard men with no moral limit on what they are willing to do to crush it. The irony is that whether these fine speeches are remembered by history depends on a word he didn’t use in either one: victory.”

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Can the Obama Administration Afford Any More Missteps?

As problems continue to mount and the president’s approval ratings continue to sink — the latest Rasmussen poll has Obama’s approval rating down to 44 percent, a new low — there are a lot of different, and damaging, story lines developing around the Obama administration. You can add a lack of basic competence to the list.

To take just one example from yesterday: on NBC’s Meet the Press, White House economic adviser Christina Romer was asked if the recession was over. Her first answer was that according to the “official definition … I think we have, at least in terms of GDP, reached that point” — before she then added qualifiers, inviting a follow-up question. When Romer was then asked, “So in your mind, this recession is not over,” she answered, “Of course not. We have — you know, for, for the people on Main Street and throughout this country, they are still suffering. The unemployment rate is still 10 percent.”

Now compare that answer with what Lawrence Summers, director of the National Economic Council, said on ABC’s This Week: “Today, everybody agrees that the recession is over, and the question is what the pace of the expansion is going to be.” (Apparently “everybody” does not include Summers’s colleague Christina Romer.)

This is what is known as sending mixed messages; to have it done by two of the Obama administration’s leading economic spokespersons on a basic economic issue makes it all the more harmful.

The dazzling intellect and multitasking mastery of those who inhabit Obama’s World seem to be producing something less than was advertised. You can add to this the much more serious misplay by Harry Reid on his Medicare buy-in “compromise,” which has been soundly rejected by Senators Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson, two key votes Majority Leader Reid needs if he hopes to pass health-care legislation. Reid’s effort to portray health care as “inevitable” — and his effort to pressure Lieberman into supporting legislation that the Connecticut senator clearly finds unacceptable — has not only failed; it has badly backfired. And as if determined to make a bad tactical mistake even worse, Reid’s aides are now trashing Lieberman as a person who broke his word. That is something that strikes me as not only untrue — I have worked with Senator Lieberman over the years and always found him to be a man of integrity — but bordering on insane. Why do they want to attack the character of a man whose vote they presumably still need?

Governing involves missteps; that is an inherent by-product of exercising power and needs to be factored in when judging an administration. Still, add these incidents to others and you have a picture emerging of an administration and a party that are not only overmatched by events but that also look downright pitiable at times. This is the kind of thing, especially so early in the life of an administration, that can easily become a proxy for a wider inability to govern. Come 2010, voters are likely to extract a cost for this.

As problems continue to mount and the president’s approval ratings continue to sink — the latest Rasmussen poll has Obama’s approval rating down to 44 percent, a new low — there are a lot of different, and damaging, story lines developing around the Obama administration. You can add a lack of basic competence to the list.

To take just one example from yesterday: on NBC’s Meet the Press, White House economic adviser Christina Romer was asked if the recession was over. Her first answer was that according to the “official definition … I think we have, at least in terms of GDP, reached that point” — before she then added qualifiers, inviting a follow-up question. When Romer was then asked, “So in your mind, this recession is not over,” she answered, “Of course not. We have — you know, for, for the people on Main Street and throughout this country, they are still suffering. The unemployment rate is still 10 percent.”

Now compare that answer with what Lawrence Summers, director of the National Economic Council, said on ABC’s This Week: “Today, everybody agrees that the recession is over, and the question is what the pace of the expansion is going to be.” (Apparently “everybody” does not include Summers’s colleague Christina Romer.)

This is what is known as sending mixed messages; to have it done by two of the Obama administration’s leading economic spokespersons on a basic economic issue makes it all the more harmful.

The dazzling intellect and multitasking mastery of those who inhabit Obama’s World seem to be producing something less than was advertised. You can add to this the much more serious misplay by Harry Reid on his Medicare buy-in “compromise,” which has been soundly rejected by Senators Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson, two key votes Majority Leader Reid needs if he hopes to pass health-care legislation. Reid’s effort to portray health care as “inevitable” — and his effort to pressure Lieberman into supporting legislation that the Connecticut senator clearly finds unacceptable — has not only failed; it has badly backfired. And as if determined to make a bad tactical mistake even worse, Reid’s aides are now trashing Lieberman as a person who broke his word. That is something that strikes me as not only untrue — I have worked with Senator Lieberman over the years and always found him to be a man of integrity — but bordering on insane. Why do they want to attack the character of a man whose vote they presumably still need?

Governing involves missteps; that is an inherent by-product of exercising power and needs to be factored in when judging an administration. Still, add these incidents to others and you have a picture emerging of an administration and a party that are not only overmatched by events but that also look downright pitiable at times. This is the kind of thing, especially so early in the life of an administration, that can easily become a proxy for a wider inability to govern. Come 2010, voters are likely to extract a cost for this.

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