Commentary Magazine


Topic: Brave New World

RE: President Obama, Meet Reality

Saner liberals are nervous. Ruth Marcus, who is rooting for ObamaCare to pass, can do the math. Yeah, there might be 50 votes to jam through the Senate whatever can be jammed through via reconciliation, but what about the House? She writes:

With the House down a few members, 217 votes will be needed for passage. The original House measure passed with 220 votes — with 39 Democrats defecting. But two of those yes votes are gone: John Murtha of Pennsylvania died; Robert Wexler of Florida resigned. A third, Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii, is leaving at the end of the month to run for governor. The lone Republican voting for the measure, Joseph Cao of Louisiana, is no longer on board.

Meanwhile, the president’s proposal does not include the anti-abortion language inserted in the House-passed measure by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), largely because the Senate would have difficulty fiddling with abortion language under the restrictive rules of the reconciliation process. So Stupak will be gone, and with him another five votes, perhaps more.

There are, Marcus explains, a few liberals like Dennis Kucinich to be wooed back to vote for ObamaCare this time around and some retirees who don’t care if they enrage the voters by voting for a bill they hate. But it still probably doesn’t get Obama to a majority. So Marcus frets: “My worry is that going for broke and failing will leave no time or appetite for a fallback, scaled-down plan. And the moment to do something on health care — not everything, but something significant — will have evaporated, once again.”

This is the essence of Obama: filled with grand plans and a grandiose conception of himself, but short on workable plans, legislative prowess, and strategic thinking. And underneath it all is a deep contempt for the wishes and concerns of average Americans. As Michael Gerson aptly sums up:

Americans have taken every opportunity — the town hall revolt, increasingly lopsided polling, a series of upset elections culminating in Massachusetts — to shout their second thoughts. At this point, for Democratic leaders to insist on their current approach is to insist that Americans are not only misinformed but also dimwitted. And the proposed form of this insistence — enacting health reform through the quick, dirty shove of the reconciliation process — would add coercion to arrogance.

But that, too, is quintessential Obama, the Chicago pol who never much cares what the little people think, because they and critics can be written off, delegitimized, and shouted down.

Unfortunately, with such a political persona, you generally wind up with legislative flops (e.g., the stimulus) or nothing at all. That might suit conservatives, who frankly prefer the status quo to Obama’s Brave New World of health care, but it sure must come as a blow to those who thought Obama would be a transformative president.

Saner liberals are nervous. Ruth Marcus, who is rooting for ObamaCare to pass, can do the math. Yeah, there might be 50 votes to jam through the Senate whatever can be jammed through via reconciliation, but what about the House? She writes:

With the House down a few members, 217 votes will be needed for passage. The original House measure passed with 220 votes — with 39 Democrats defecting. But two of those yes votes are gone: John Murtha of Pennsylvania died; Robert Wexler of Florida resigned. A third, Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii, is leaving at the end of the month to run for governor. The lone Republican voting for the measure, Joseph Cao of Louisiana, is no longer on board.

Meanwhile, the president’s proposal does not include the anti-abortion language inserted in the House-passed measure by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), largely because the Senate would have difficulty fiddling with abortion language under the restrictive rules of the reconciliation process. So Stupak will be gone, and with him another five votes, perhaps more.

There are, Marcus explains, a few liberals like Dennis Kucinich to be wooed back to vote for ObamaCare this time around and some retirees who don’t care if they enrage the voters by voting for a bill they hate. But it still probably doesn’t get Obama to a majority. So Marcus frets: “My worry is that going for broke and failing will leave no time or appetite for a fallback, scaled-down plan. And the moment to do something on health care — not everything, but something significant — will have evaporated, once again.”

This is the essence of Obama: filled with grand plans and a grandiose conception of himself, but short on workable plans, legislative prowess, and strategic thinking. And underneath it all is a deep contempt for the wishes and concerns of average Americans. As Michael Gerson aptly sums up:

Americans have taken every opportunity — the town hall revolt, increasingly lopsided polling, a series of upset elections culminating in Massachusetts — to shout their second thoughts. At this point, for Democratic leaders to insist on their current approach is to insist that Americans are not only misinformed but also dimwitted. And the proposed form of this insistence — enacting health reform through the quick, dirty shove of the reconciliation process — would add coercion to arrogance.

But that, too, is quintessential Obama, the Chicago pol who never much cares what the little people think, because they and critics can be written off, delegitimized, and shouted down.

Unfortunately, with such a political persona, you generally wind up with legislative flops (e.g., the stimulus) or nothing at all. That might suit conservatives, who frankly prefer the status quo to Obama’s Brave New World of health care, but it sure must come as a blow to those who thought Obama would be a transformative president.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Among the dopier things written about the health-care debate is this rant accusing the Senate Republicans of wimping out on health care. Other than running a filibuster during a snow storm. . . oh wait, they did that . . .  trying to filibuster a defense bill  . . . oh wait, they did that . . . and making every conceivable argument before voting unanimously to oppose the bill, it is hard to imagine what 40 senators could have done differently. But maybe it’s a fund-raising gambit or something.

Turns out that the savvy Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell got something for easing up on the final vote schedule: “One, come early January, they’ll be able to get a vote on giving TARP money back to the Treasury. Two, they’ll be able to get a vote on Senator Murkowski’s disapproval resolution to stop the EPA from regulating carbon emissions. Both of these votes will come before the president’s State of the Union address.”

Meanwhile Jane Hamsher does something useful: goes on Fox (where the viewers are) to call for the defeat of ObamaCare.

Jim Prevor finds restaurant regulations buried in the health-care bill: “When did we have the national debate that disclosures with our tuna-salad sandwiches from the supermarket deli are urgently required? When did we discuss that diverting resources to pastrami-on-pumpernickel is prudent — and if the health-care bill deals with such minutiae, what else is hidden in its pages? And how could any ‘leader’ worthy of the name risk voting for it before we know what is even in the bill?”

Good thing we don’t have a problem with hiring and economic growth: “Companies are alarmed at potentially costly provisions in the Senate health-care bill, many of which they hope will be scrapped during a final round of negotiations early next year.” Oh, wait, that’s right: “Across the spectrum, businesses worry that a series of new taxes and fees to pay for expanding health-care coverage will push up premiums, particularly for smaller employers.”

In the Brave New World of terrorist criminal law, Major Nadal Hasan’s lawyer crabs that his client can’t speak from his jail cell to outsiders unless an interpreter is present to hear what he is saying. Well, “isn’t Mr. Hasan, like Khalid Sheikh Muhammed, innocent until proven guilty in a court of law?”

I think this will be in a campaign ad or two: “News from the Obama re-alignment watch: Alabama Congressman Parker Griffith announced yesterday that he plans to switch parties and become a Republican. At a press conference, the oncologist-turned-politician said he could not continue to align himself with a Democratic Party pushing a health-care bill that is ‘bad for our doctors . . . bad for our patients, and . . . bad for the young men and women who are considering going into the health-care field.’ Other than that, how do you like the bill?”

Turns out that Congress stiffed the Obami on funds to convert Thomson Correctional Center into the new, domestic Guantanamo. “The federal Bureau of Prisons does not have enough money to pay Illinois for the center, which would cost about $150 million. Several weeks ago, the White House approached the House Appropriations Committee and floated the idea of adding about $200 million for the project to the military spending bill for the 2010 fiscal year, according to administration and Congressional officials.But Democratic leaders refused to include the politically charged measure in the legislation. When lawmakers approved the bill on Dec. 19, it contained no financing for Thomson.” Now they need to cut off funds for KSM’s trial.

Among the dopier things written about the health-care debate is this rant accusing the Senate Republicans of wimping out on health care. Other than running a filibuster during a snow storm. . . oh wait, they did that . . .  trying to filibuster a defense bill  . . . oh wait, they did that . . . and making every conceivable argument before voting unanimously to oppose the bill, it is hard to imagine what 40 senators could have done differently. But maybe it’s a fund-raising gambit or something.

Turns out that the savvy Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell got something for easing up on the final vote schedule: “One, come early January, they’ll be able to get a vote on giving TARP money back to the Treasury. Two, they’ll be able to get a vote on Senator Murkowski’s disapproval resolution to stop the EPA from regulating carbon emissions. Both of these votes will come before the president’s State of the Union address.”

Meanwhile Jane Hamsher does something useful: goes on Fox (where the viewers are) to call for the defeat of ObamaCare.

Jim Prevor finds restaurant regulations buried in the health-care bill: “When did we have the national debate that disclosures with our tuna-salad sandwiches from the supermarket deli are urgently required? When did we discuss that diverting resources to pastrami-on-pumpernickel is prudent — and if the health-care bill deals with such minutiae, what else is hidden in its pages? And how could any ‘leader’ worthy of the name risk voting for it before we know what is even in the bill?”

Good thing we don’t have a problem with hiring and economic growth: “Companies are alarmed at potentially costly provisions in the Senate health-care bill, many of which they hope will be scrapped during a final round of negotiations early next year.” Oh, wait, that’s right: “Across the spectrum, businesses worry that a series of new taxes and fees to pay for expanding health-care coverage will push up premiums, particularly for smaller employers.”

In the Brave New World of terrorist criminal law, Major Nadal Hasan’s lawyer crabs that his client can’t speak from his jail cell to outsiders unless an interpreter is present to hear what he is saying. Well, “isn’t Mr. Hasan, like Khalid Sheikh Muhammed, innocent until proven guilty in a court of law?”

I think this will be in a campaign ad or two: “News from the Obama re-alignment watch: Alabama Congressman Parker Griffith announced yesterday that he plans to switch parties and become a Republican. At a press conference, the oncologist-turned-politician said he could not continue to align himself with a Democratic Party pushing a health-care bill that is ‘bad for our doctors . . . bad for our patients, and . . . bad for the young men and women who are considering going into the health-care field.’ Other than that, how do you like the bill?”

Turns out that Congress stiffed the Obami on funds to convert Thomson Correctional Center into the new, domestic Guantanamo. “The federal Bureau of Prisons does not have enough money to pay Illinois for the center, which would cost about $150 million. Several weeks ago, the White House approached the House Appropriations Committee and floated the idea of adding about $200 million for the project to the military spending bill for the 2010 fiscal year, according to administration and Congressional officials.But Democratic leaders refused to include the politically charged measure in the legislation. When lawmakers approved the bill on Dec. 19, it contained no financing for Thomson.” Now they need to cut off funds for KSM’s trial.

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Constitution? This Is Health Care!

In his final floor speech before the middle-of-the-night cloture vote, Sen. Mitch McConnell declared, “It’s now clear the majority is willing to do anything to jam through a 2000-page bill before the American people or any of us has had a chance to read it — including changing the rules in the middle of the game.” And as we now comb through those 2,000 pages, it appears that “anything” is not limited to “anything the Constitution allows” or “anything that Congress has ever tried before.”

A case in point is the apparent effort by Senate Democrats to prevent future Congresses from pulling the plug on the noxious death panels … er … the Medicare Advisory Board, without a super-duper majority vote. Sen. Jim DeMint has pointed out that through a mere rule change, the Senate Democrats are trying to impose a 67-vote requirement, which will be nearly impossible to achieve, of course, to knock out the panels in a future Congress. So if for example the controversial mammogram guideline is enacted by the Medicare Advisory Board along with other “effectiveness” measures, there will be little a future Congress can do about it.

A Republican Senate adviser says: “The bill changes some Senate rules to say we can’t vote in a future Congress to repeal the IMAB (death panels). A Senate rules change would require 67 votes for cloture on the bill, but [Senate] parliamentarian decided its a “procedural change” not a “rules change” so they only need 60. … [It makes] no sense.” He says it is still possible to “find a way to kill the death panels even though the bill changes the rules to say we can’t (maybe deny them funding would work, we could change the Senate rule it creates in a later Congress with a 67 senator vote), but it’s clear the health bill changes Senate rules and needs 67 votes for cloture.” We are apparently in a Brave New World of making up Senate rules. The adviser remarks that Senate parliamentarian Alan S. Frumin “seems to be in Reid’s back pocket and is making stuff up to save the bill.”

In a brief survey of other Senate offices and some legal gurus, the initial reaction was the same: “One Congress can’t bind another.” It is at the very least dubious constitutionally and unseemly in the extreme. This is legislative bullying at its worst — rushed, nontransparent, with an anything-will-fly attitude. Once the public gets a whiff of this and the other shenanigans, one can imagine that their already negative reaction to the bill (the latest poll shows that the public disapproves by a 56 to 36 percent margin, and 72 percent don’t want any public money going to subsidize abortions) may turn to rage.

 
 

In his final floor speech before the middle-of-the-night cloture vote, Sen. Mitch McConnell declared, “It’s now clear the majority is willing to do anything to jam through a 2000-page bill before the American people or any of us has had a chance to read it — including changing the rules in the middle of the game.” And as we now comb through those 2,000 pages, it appears that “anything” is not limited to “anything the Constitution allows” or “anything that Congress has ever tried before.”

A case in point is the apparent effort by Senate Democrats to prevent future Congresses from pulling the plug on the noxious death panels … er … the Medicare Advisory Board, without a super-duper majority vote. Sen. Jim DeMint has pointed out that through a mere rule change, the Senate Democrats are trying to impose a 67-vote requirement, which will be nearly impossible to achieve, of course, to knock out the panels in a future Congress. So if for example the controversial mammogram guideline is enacted by the Medicare Advisory Board along with other “effectiveness” measures, there will be little a future Congress can do about it.

A Republican Senate adviser says: “The bill changes some Senate rules to say we can’t vote in a future Congress to repeal the IMAB (death panels). A Senate rules change would require 67 votes for cloture on the bill, but [Senate] parliamentarian decided its a “procedural change” not a “rules change” so they only need 60. … [It makes] no sense.” He says it is still possible to “find a way to kill the death panels even though the bill changes the rules to say we can’t (maybe deny them funding would work, we could change the Senate rule it creates in a later Congress with a 67 senator vote), but it’s clear the health bill changes Senate rules and needs 67 votes for cloture.” We are apparently in a Brave New World of making up Senate rules. The adviser remarks that Senate parliamentarian Alan S. Frumin “seems to be in Reid’s back pocket and is making stuff up to save the bill.”

In a brief survey of other Senate offices and some legal gurus, the initial reaction was the same: “One Congress can’t bind another.” It is at the very least dubious constitutionally and unseemly in the extreme. This is legislative bullying at its worst — rushed, nontransparent, with an anything-will-fly attitude. Once the public gets a whiff of this and the other shenanigans, one can imagine that their already negative reaction to the bill (the latest poll shows that the public disapproves by a 56 to 36 percent margin, and 72 percent don’t want any public money going to subsidize abortions) may turn to rage.

 
 

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RE: RE: No Risk, They Say?

Max, the threat that detainees transferred to the U.S. would be released by federal courts and the risk that the severe restrictions on terrorists’ access to their comrades outside prison would be lifted are two of the principal reasons why Guantanamo was selected to hold terrorists.

As to the first issue, 1993 World Trade Center bombing prosecutor Andy McCarthy explains:

Tuesday’s decision brings closer the day that federal courts will begin releasing trained terrorists to live, and plot, among us. Most (though not all) judges have been reluctant to issue such orders because the terrorists have been outside the U.S. and their admission is barred by statute. Once they are physically here, that reluctance will vanish.

In fact, indefinite detention is incompatible with normal rules of the criminal-justice system, so it is not only possible but probable that court actions will be brought to spring these people. One lower court has already issued such an order, although it was overruled on appeal. The government is not always fortunate to draw a reasonable appellate panel of judges. That is why the Obama team issued a curious promise: if a federal court releases the detainees, they will try these terrorists or whisk them back out of the country. In defiance of a court order? Even if possible, it makes a mockery of the legal system the Obama team is ostensibly defending. And in any event, it reveals that the administration realizes that the risk of release goes up when they are transferred to U.S. soil.

Second, the Richard Reid case demonstrates how little fortitude the administration has when it comes to limiting mail, visitors, and other means of spreading propaganda or assisting with plots outside the U.S. The restrictions that the government imposed on Reid were lifted after a legal challenge and a 58-day hunger strike by Reid. We can anticipate similar challenges by those who, once in the U.S., will seek judicial relief in lifting allegedly “inhumane” restrictions on them.

As to the supposed benefits that are derived from shuttering Guantanamo, I simply don’t buy that the location of the detention facility matters to anyone. The ACLU and leftists have already made clear in public statements and pleadings that they object to the indefinite detention. The terrorists themselves need no excuse to butcher Americans, and certainly didn’t when they devised the 9/11 plot. Moreover, given that the conditions under which they will be held in Illinois are far less cushy than those at Guantanamo — no gourmet menus or exercise bikes, no sunny yard to stroll in — the grievances are likely to increase. The argument will be made, with some justification, that we will be making the lives of detainees worse and their conditions less humane. And on this one, I will have to agree.

As with so much that the Obama team dream up with regard to the war on terror — trying KSM in civilian court, limiting enhanced interrogation, releasing interrogation memos, and now moving detainees to U.S. soil — the supposed gains depend on accepting the notion that we will get “credit” for tying our own hands and creating security risks for our own citizens. The president, if he were so concerned about our image, could — as he did privately with 9/11 families — talk publicly about how safe and, yes, just is the Guantanamo facility. It is the president’s job to dispel false and malicious propaganda, not to buy into it. Rebutting the unfair and false attacks on Guantanamo, rather than ushering in a Brave New World of dangerous and unpredictable litigation by terrorists, would seem to be a better use of the president’s time and energy.

Max, the threat that detainees transferred to the U.S. would be released by federal courts and the risk that the severe restrictions on terrorists’ access to their comrades outside prison would be lifted are two of the principal reasons why Guantanamo was selected to hold terrorists.

As to the first issue, 1993 World Trade Center bombing prosecutor Andy McCarthy explains:

Tuesday’s decision brings closer the day that federal courts will begin releasing trained terrorists to live, and plot, among us. Most (though not all) judges have been reluctant to issue such orders because the terrorists have been outside the U.S. and their admission is barred by statute. Once they are physically here, that reluctance will vanish.

In fact, indefinite detention is incompatible with normal rules of the criminal-justice system, so it is not only possible but probable that court actions will be brought to spring these people. One lower court has already issued such an order, although it was overruled on appeal. The government is not always fortunate to draw a reasonable appellate panel of judges. That is why the Obama team issued a curious promise: if a federal court releases the detainees, they will try these terrorists or whisk them back out of the country. In defiance of a court order? Even if possible, it makes a mockery of the legal system the Obama team is ostensibly defending. And in any event, it reveals that the administration realizes that the risk of release goes up when they are transferred to U.S. soil.

Second, the Richard Reid case demonstrates how little fortitude the administration has when it comes to limiting mail, visitors, and other means of spreading propaganda or assisting with plots outside the U.S. The restrictions that the government imposed on Reid were lifted after a legal challenge and a 58-day hunger strike by Reid. We can anticipate similar challenges by those who, once in the U.S., will seek judicial relief in lifting allegedly “inhumane” restrictions on them.

As to the supposed benefits that are derived from shuttering Guantanamo, I simply don’t buy that the location of the detention facility matters to anyone. The ACLU and leftists have already made clear in public statements and pleadings that they object to the indefinite detention. The terrorists themselves need no excuse to butcher Americans, and certainly didn’t when they devised the 9/11 plot. Moreover, given that the conditions under which they will be held in Illinois are far less cushy than those at Guantanamo — no gourmet menus or exercise bikes, no sunny yard to stroll in — the grievances are likely to increase. The argument will be made, with some justification, that we will be making the lives of detainees worse and their conditions less humane. And on this one, I will have to agree.

As with so much that the Obama team dream up with regard to the war on terror — trying KSM in civilian court, limiting enhanced interrogation, releasing interrogation memos, and now moving detainees to U.S. soil — the supposed gains depend on accepting the notion that we will get “credit” for tying our own hands and creating security risks for our own citizens. The president, if he were so concerned about our image, could — as he did privately with 9/11 families — talk publicly about how safe and, yes, just is the Guantanamo facility. It is the president’s job to dispel false and malicious propaganda, not to buy into it. Rebutting the unfair and false attacks on Guantanamo, rather than ushering in a Brave New World of dangerous and unpredictable litigation by terrorists, would seem to be a better use of the president’s time and energy.

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