Commentary Magazine


Topic: conservative media

Santorum’s Conservative Media Problem

There’s been a trend this week of prominent conservative women writers warning about Rick Santorum’s out-of-mainstream social views. They’ve all touched on a similar concern: Santorum’s past comments on social issues are so extreme that they likely render him unelectable.

This is alarming enough on its own. But the increasingly vocal criticism from right-leaning female pundits also indicates another problem on the horizon for Santorum: can he rely on the conservative media, particularly the women, to have his back on social issues in a general election?

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There’s been a trend this week of prominent conservative women writers warning about Rick Santorum’s out-of-mainstream social views. They’ve all touched on a similar concern: Santorum’s past comments on social issues are so extreme that they likely render him unelectable.

This is alarming enough on its own. But the increasingly vocal criticism from right-leaning female pundits also indicates another problem on the horizon for Santorum: can he rely on the conservative media, particularly the women, to have his back on social issues in a general election?

If Santorum secures the nomination, the mainstream media and Democrats will do their best to turn the election into a referendum on birth control and traditional gender roles. At that point it would be up to conservative journalists and commentators to stand up and defend Santorum on these issues. And as of right now, it doesn’t sound like there’d be many women in his corner.

But it’s not just female writers. The conservative media as a whole seems to have little desire to rehash the culture wars. There are plenty of pundits who will vigorously defend Santorum’s pro-life stance. But how many of them want to get into a brawl with the left over why birth control is harmful to society, or why gay marriage is akin to bestiality?

Then there’s the newer generation of conservative journalists and bloggers, which tends to lean more libertarian on social issues. They don’t have the same influence as TV pundits and columnists, but they’re still an integral part of the election coverage. Will they come out and defend Santorum’s comments about how the separation of church and state makes him “want to vomit”? How about his declaration that Satan is responsible for corrupting U.S. society?

It’s hard to imagine many who would. And that’s a serious problem Santorum needs to be prepared to deal with if he ends up securing the nomination.

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Wow, She’s Good at Manipulating the Media. Who Knew?

Howard Kurtz – no kidding — has recently discovered that Sarah Palin is a shrewd manipulator of the media. Next up: Dems’ loss of the midterms is a problem for the Obama strategy! It’s hard to comprehend how slow Kurtz and the rest of the non-conservative media have been in coming around to this realization:

I’m starting to believe the detractors are wrong and that Palin is executing a shrewd strategy that has catapulted her past potential rivals, co-opting the same media establishment she loves to denigrate. Even her recent hints about running for president—if indeed she’s willing to subject herself to constant journalistic scrutiny—are designed to stoke interest in her now that midterm madness has faded. …

Those gatekeepers—the infamous lamestream media—are obsessed with Palin, trumpeting her every tweet. They do so even when she’s slamming Politico or Katie Couric or, my personal favorite, “impotent and limp” reporters who use anonymous sources. They can’t help themselves; she’s a helluva story. She drives ratings and Web traffic in an age when every reporter’s page views can be measured. Each side enables the other.

As commonplace as these observations have been in conservative media and among right-leaning pundits, the dean of media conventional wisdom has apparently just pieced this together.

Palin’s ability to promote herself is, of course, different from her ability to convince Americans to vote for her. But here, too, Kurtz is on the case, quoting John Ellis, a political analyst and cousin of George W. Bush:

“‘She’s too stupid’ is what the Establishment GOP really thinks about Sarah Palin. ‘Good-looking,’ but a ‘ditz.’ This is unfertile ground, since Palin can turn the argument on a dime and say: ‘They drive the country into bankruptcy, they underwrite Fannie and Freddie, they bail out Goldman Sachs, they fight wars they don’t want to win, they say enforcing the immigration laws is silly and they call me stupid! I’ll give you a choice: You can have their smarts or my stupidity, which one do you want?’” …

If the smart guys have failed, if the credentialed creative class has messed things up, it opens the door for a plain-spoken populist ready to refudiate the old order.

Sort of like saying that after two years of Obama, voters “may be primed to hear a critique of the shortcomings of Ivy League–educated elites.”

Listen, these people missed the significance of the Tea Party movement for months. They assumed that health care was a great political coup for Obama. So you shouldn’t be surprised that it’s taken them two years to get a clue about the political smarts of Sarah Palin.

Howard Kurtz – no kidding — has recently discovered that Sarah Palin is a shrewd manipulator of the media. Next up: Dems’ loss of the midterms is a problem for the Obama strategy! It’s hard to comprehend how slow Kurtz and the rest of the non-conservative media have been in coming around to this realization:

I’m starting to believe the detractors are wrong and that Palin is executing a shrewd strategy that has catapulted her past potential rivals, co-opting the same media establishment she loves to denigrate. Even her recent hints about running for president—if indeed she’s willing to subject herself to constant journalistic scrutiny—are designed to stoke interest in her now that midterm madness has faded. …

Those gatekeepers—the infamous lamestream media—are obsessed with Palin, trumpeting her every tweet. They do so even when she’s slamming Politico or Katie Couric or, my personal favorite, “impotent and limp” reporters who use anonymous sources. They can’t help themselves; she’s a helluva story. She drives ratings and Web traffic in an age when every reporter’s page views can be measured. Each side enables the other.

As commonplace as these observations have been in conservative media and among right-leaning pundits, the dean of media conventional wisdom has apparently just pieced this together.

Palin’s ability to promote herself is, of course, different from her ability to convince Americans to vote for her. But here, too, Kurtz is on the case, quoting John Ellis, a political analyst and cousin of George W. Bush:

“‘She’s too stupid’ is what the Establishment GOP really thinks about Sarah Palin. ‘Good-looking,’ but a ‘ditz.’ This is unfertile ground, since Palin can turn the argument on a dime and say: ‘They drive the country into bankruptcy, they underwrite Fannie and Freddie, they bail out Goldman Sachs, they fight wars they don’t want to win, they say enforcing the immigration laws is silly and they call me stupid! I’ll give you a choice: You can have their smarts or my stupidity, which one do you want?’” …

If the smart guys have failed, if the credentialed creative class has messed things up, it opens the door for a plain-spoken populist ready to refudiate the old order.

Sort of like saying that after two years of Obama, voters “may be primed to hear a critique of the shortcomings of Ivy League–educated elites.”

Listen, these people missed the significance of the Tea Party movement for months. They assumed that health care was a great political coup for Obama. So you shouldn’t be surprised that it’s taken them two years to get a clue about the political smarts of Sarah Palin.

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Watching DOJ

Judicial Watch continues to document the New Black Panther Party scandal, which was first reported by conservative media and now has attracted mainstream coverage. (But not the Gray Lady, which may have a tough time explaining to her readers next year why House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith is issuing all those subpoenas. Imagine tuning into Mad Men for the first time after a couple of seasons; you see the dilemma — at some point, there’s no use trying to catch up.)

In the latest batch of disclosures, Judicial Watch tells us:

[I]t has obtained documents from the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) that provide new evidence that top political appointees at the DOJ were intimately involved in the decision to dismiss the voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense (NBPP). These new documents, which include internal DOJ email correspondence, directly contradict sworn testimony by Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, who testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that no political leadership was involved in the decision. The new documents were obtained last week by Judicial Watch pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit (Judicial Watch v. Department of Justice (No.10-851)).

You mean Perez gave false testimony to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights? Oh yes: Read More

Judicial Watch continues to document the New Black Panther Party scandal, which was first reported by conservative media and now has attracted mainstream coverage. (But not the Gray Lady, which may have a tough time explaining to her readers next year why House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith is issuing all those subpoenas. Imagine tuning into Mad Men for the first time after a couple of seasons; you see the dilemma — at some point, there’s no use trying to catch up.)

In the latest batch of disclosures, Judicial Watch tells us:

[I]t has obtained documents from the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) that provide new evidence that top political appointees at the DOJ were intimately involved in the decision to dismiss the voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense (NBPP). These new documents, which include internal DOJ email correspondence, directly contradict sworn testimony by Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, who testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that no political leadership was involved in the decision. The new documents were obtained last week by Judicial Watch pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit (Judicial Watch v. Department of Justice (No.10-851)).

You mean Perez gave false testimony to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights? Oh yes:

The new documents include a series of emails between two political appointees: former Democratic election lawyer and current Deputy Associate Attorney General Sam Hirsch and Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli. Both DOJ officials were involved in detailed discussions regarding the NBPP decision. …

Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas Perez testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that no political appointees were involved in the NBPP decision. Perez suggested that the dispute was merely “a case of career people disagreeing with career people.”

In fact, political appointee Sam Hirsch sent an April 30, 2009, email to Steven Rosenbaum (then-Acting Assistant Deputy Attorney General in the Civil Rights) thanking Rosenbaum for “doing everything you’re doing to make sure that this case is properly resolved.” The next day, the DOJ began to reverse course on its NBPP voter intimidation lawsuit.

We’re going to see where the e-mail trail leads. There will be several storylines. First, how far will the scandal go? The administration may try to “amputate” at the assistant attorney general level (Perez), but evidence already revealed suggests that the associate attorney general level (the #3 position) can’t escape. But of course, the key question will be whether Eric Holder himself will be shoved off the stage. (We are going to get that frank discussion on race he’s been pining for regardless.)

Second, we’ll see how much interference Democrats are willing to run for the White House. The administration’s toady commissioner Michael Yaki tried his best to derail the commission’s investigation but wound up only embarrassing himself as the evidence gushed forth. Will House Democrats be in the mood to follow that path — or is this a fine opportunity to display their “independence” from the White House?

And finally, we’ll find out how much the administration has learned and how beholden it is to liberal activists. The Obama team has two options: (1) admit fault, repudiate a race-specific view of civil rights enforcement (e.g., only whites can be defendants), come clean, and let heads roll; or (2) fight tooth and nail, keep stonewalling, and reassure the NAACP and other liberal civil rights groups that they will stick with the left-leaning party line (i.e., civil rights laws are there to protect only “traditional” victims).

This issue is not remotely the biggest headache the administration will have to face in the next two years, but it sure will be revealing. And quite entertaining, I suspect.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

If you give the liberal newspapers 11 months, they will eventually catch up with conservative media.

If you give Jonathan Chait a lifetime, he never will. Refusal to pursue voter-intimidation cases against nonwhite people, he says, is a “tiny matter.” (Does he know that it’s not just Fox that’s covering the scandal but the Washington Post too?)

If they gave grades for charm, Nancy Pelosi would be failing: “While trying to mend ties between her caucus and the White House, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi turned her ire toward her Senate colleagues on Thursday, blaming Senate delays in passing the Democratic agenda for the disappointing jobs picture heading into the midterm elections.”

If you keep hoping for Peter Beinart to write something that is factually supported and more than an ad hominem attack on conservatives, you’ll be disappointed. He says Republicans think you have to be Christian to be American. Or something. No, don’t read the whole thing. Or any of it.

If you think liberals aren’t angst-ridden, think again. Greg Sargent complains about Robert Gibbs’s comment on losing the House: “[I]t’s pretty clear now that Dems have good reason to be furious about Gibbs’s misstep. It has forced a days-long media process story about whether they’re going to lose the House and about tensions between them and the White House. This is happening just when Dems are trying to turn the spotlight away from themselves and onto Republicans in order to persuade voters that this fall’s elections represent a choice between competing governing philosophies.”

If you also thought it was bizarre that Obama was invoking race to explain why al-Qaeda kills Africans, you are in good company. Charles Krauthammer: “I found a more interesting element in the interview when he said al-Qaeda doesn’t respect African life. I mean, it doesn’t respect Indonesian life, Pakistani life, Iraqi life, American life. Of course it doesn’t respect African life, but it’s not because of race. It doesn’t respect anyone or any organization, any people who won’t accept the extreme interpretation of Islam and the bringing on of one rule under sharia.”

If Republicans are doing this well in fundraising, you have to think they’re going to do very well in November. (That sure was the pattern for Democrats in 2008.) “Republicans are outraising Democrats in nearly a dozen open Senate races, increasing their hopes of significantly narrowing the Democrats’ majority in November.”

If you like a good news story: “A judge had resentenced a 70-year-old civil rights lawyer to 10 years in prison for letting a jailed Egyptian sheik communicate with his radical followers. Federal Judge John Koeltl sentenced Lynne Stewart in Manhattan after she pleaded with him to reimpose the two-year, four-month sentence he had originally given her in 2006.” You might want to avert your eyes from the photo, however.

 

If you give the liberal newspapers 11 months, they will eventually catch up with conservative media.

If you give Jonathan Chait a lifetime, he never will. Refusal to pursue voter-intimidation cases against nonwhite people, he says, is a “tiny matter.” (Does he know that it’s not just Fox that’s covering the scandal but the Washington Post too?)

If they gave grades for charm, Nancy Pelosi would be failing: “While trying to mend ties between her caucus and the White House, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi turned her ire toward her Senate colleagues on Thursday, blaming Senate delays in passing the Democratic agenda for the disappointing jobs picture heading into the midterm elections.”

If you keep hoping for Peter Beinart to write something that is factually supported and more than an ad hominem attack on conservatives, you’ll be disappointed. He says Republicans think you have to be Christian to be American. Or something. No, don’t read the whole thing. Or any of it.

If you think liberals aren’t angst-ridden, think again. Greg Sargent complains about Robert Gibbs’s comment on losing the House: “[I]t’s pretty clear now that Dems have good reason to be furious about Gibbs’s misstep. It has forced a days-long media process story about whether they’re going to lose the House and about tensions between them and the White House. This is happening just when Dems are trying to turn the spotlight away from themselves and onto Republicans in order to persuade voters that this fall’s elections represent a choice between competing governing philosophies.”

If you also thought it was bizarre that Obama was invoking race to explain why al-Qaeda kills Africans, you are in good company. Charles Krauthammer: “I found a more interesting element in the interview when he said al-Qaeda doesn’t respect African life. I mean, it doesn’t respect Indonesian life, Pakistani life, Iraqi life, American life. Of course it doesn’t respect African life, but it’s not because of race. It doesn’t respect anyone or any organization, any people who won’t accept the extreme interpretation of Islam and the bringing on of one rule under sharia.”

If Republicans are doing this well in fundraising, you have to think they’re going to do very well in November. (That sure was the pattern for Democrats in 2008.) “Republicans are outraising Democrats in nearly a dozen open Senate races, increasing their hopes of significantly narrowing the Democrats’ majority in November.”

If you like a good news story: “A judge had resentenced a 70-year-old civil rights lawyer to 10 years in prison for letting a jailed Egyptian sheik communicate with his radical followers. Federal Judge John Koeltl sentenced Lynne Stewart in Manhattan after she pleaded with him to reimpose the two-year, four-month sentence he had originally given her in 2006.” You might want to avert your eyes from the photo, however.

 

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The Reconciliation Jig Is Nearly Up

For a week or so now, Republicans and the conservative media have been hammering away on a procedural point, which is, in fact, vital to the whole reconcilition gambit being pushed by the Obama-Reid-Pelosi troika: the president will have a bill to sign once the House passes the Senate version, making any reconciliation process irrelevant and potentially moot if the Democrats then declare “victory” and end the process. Today the senate parliamentarian agreed:

The Senate Parliamentarian has ruled that President Barack Obama must sign Congress’ original health care reform bill before the Senate can act on a companion reconciliation package, senior GOP sources said Thursday.The Senate Parliamentarian’s Office was responding to questions posed by the Republican leadership. The answers were provided verbally, sources said.

So there you have it, House Democrats. Once you vote for the Senate bill, Obama will sign it, the Left will declare victory, and who knows if reconcilliation will ever happen. This confirms that the Democratic leadership has once again been hiding the ball and not leveling with either their own members or with the public about the procedural aspects of the bill. It will certainly not help to calm the nerves of House Democrats, who already suspect the “fix” is in and that they are being trapped into voting for the noxious Senate bill — Cornhusker Kickback and all.

For a week or so now, Republicans and the conservative media have been hammering away on a procedural point, which is, in fact, vital to the whole reconcilition gambit being pushed by the Obama-Reid-Pelosi troika: the president will have a bill to sign once the House passes the Senate version, making any reconciliation process irrelevant and potentially moot if the Democrats then declare “victory” and end the process. Today the senate parliamentarian agreed:

The Senate Parliamentarian has ruled that President Barack Obama must sign Congress’ original health care reform bill before the Senate can act on a companion reconciliation package, senior GOP sources said Thursday.The Senate Parliamentarian’s Office was responding to questions posed by the Republican leadership. The answers were provided verbally, sources said.

So there you have it, House Democrats. Once you vote for the Senate bill, Obama will sign it, the Left will declare victory, and who knows if reconcilliation will ever happen. This confirms that the Democratic leadership has once again been hiding the ball and not leveling with either their own members or with the public about the procedural aspects of the bill. It will certainly not help to calm the nerves of House Democrats, who already suspect the “fix” is in and that they are being trapped into voting for the noxious Senate bill — Cornhusker Kickback and all.

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Another Plagiarist at the New York Times

What could be worse for the Gray Lady than yet another plagiarist? They have had their cheating problems, of course. Jayson Blair fabricated stories. Maureen Dowd fabricated excuses. And now they have another. To make matters worse, their archrival, the irritatingly successful Wall Street Journal (owned by the dark prince of conservative media, Rupert Murdoch), ratted out the New York Times phony:

On Friday, Feb. 12, Robert Thomson, the editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal wrote Times executive editor Bill Keller to inform him of “apparent plagiarism in The New York Times.”

In the letter, Mr. Thomson cites six examples of material where he believes Times reporter Zachery Kouwe plagiarized Journal reporter Amir Efrati from a story that was published on Feb. 5.

The Times fessed up, but avoided the “P” word:

In a number of business articles in The Times over the past year, and in posts on the DealBook blog on NYTimes.com, a Times reporter appears to have improperly appropriated wording and passages published by other news organizations.

The reporter, Zachery Kouwe, reused language from The Wall Street Journal, Reuters and other sources without attribution or acknowledgment.

The Times concedes that this is a serious matter and says cryptically that it “remains under investigation.” But why should anything happen to the literary kleptomaniac, Kouwe? Nothing happened to Dowd. She came up with a silly excuse that not even Clark Hoyt would buy. She’s still there, churning out (up?) bile twice a week. And then there is the ongoing question as to how such august publications as the Times, the Washington Post, and the New Republic attract the likes of Blair, Janet Cooke, Stephen Glass, and their ilk. It seems as though between the fakes and the “avoiding the news that’s bad for the Left” problem, these outfits have a bit of a quality-control issue.

In any case, Mr. Kouwe, I think, has a handy argument in his favor should he be fired: why is Dowd still there if plagiarism is such a big deal at the Times?

What could be worse for the Gray Lady than yet another plagiarist? They have had their cheating problems, of course. Jayson Blair fabricated stories. Maureen Dowd fabricated excuses. And now they have another. To make matters worse, their archrival, the irritatingly successful Wall Street Journal (owned by the dark prince of conservative media, Rupert Murdoch), ratted out the New York Times phony:

On Friday, Feb. 12, Robert Thomson, the editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal wrote Times executive editor Bill Keller to inform him of “apparent plagiarism in The New York Times.”

In the letter, Mr. Thomson cites six examples of material where he believes Times reporter Zachery Kouwe plagiarized Journal reporter Amir Efrati from a story that was published on Feb. 5.

The Times fessed up, but avoided the “P” word:

In a number of business articles in The Times over the past year, and in posts on the DealBook blog on NYTimes.com, a Times reporter appears to have improperly appropriated wording and passages published by other news organizations.

The reporter, Zachery Kouwe, reused language from The Wall Street Journal, Reuters and other sources without attribution or acknowledgment.

The Times concedes that this is a serious matter and says cryptically that it “remains under investigation.” But why should anything happen to the literary kleptomaniac, Kouwe? Nothing happened to Dowd. She came up with a silly excuse that not even Clark Hoyt would buy. She’s still there, churning out (up?) bile twice a week. And then there is the ongoing question as to how such august publications as the Times, the Washington Post, and the New Republic attract the likes of Blair, Janet Cooke, Stephen Glass, and their ilk. It seems as though between the fakes and the “avoiding the news that’s bad for the Left” problem, these outfits have a bit of a quality-control issue.

In any case, Mr. Kouwe, I think, has a handy argument in his favor should he be fired: why is Dowd still there if plagiarism is such a big deal at the Times?

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Re: The Culture of Corruption

Pete, your focus on the fundamental corruption at the heart of the Senate bill is, I think, exactly right and that corruption rather extraordinary. In the days after the Senate cloture vote on the health-care bill, you would think the mainstream media would be touting the bill’s benefits and focusing on the huge “win” for the president. But instead the buzz in both the mainstream and conservative media has not been about the merits of the “historic” legislation but about the backroom deals necessary to achieve its passage, which its sponsors assure us will usher in a wonderful era of improved health-care access and care.

We’re going to remember for years to come the names of the deals, just as surely as did the infamous Bridge to Nowhere become part of the political vocabulary: Louisiana Purchase, Cornhusker Kickback, U Con, Bayh Off, Handout Montana, and Gator Aid. Vermont and Massachusetts got billions more in Medicare funding. Sen. Roland Burris managed to slip in some funding for none other than ACORN, under the guise of improving minority community health. The scope and number of the deals are breathtaking, but it goes beyond the unseemliness of the average pork-barrel bill.

After all, this is not merely a transportation appropriations bill where the whole point is to dole out federal monies and the “game” is for each lawmaker to grab as much of the pie as possible for his own constituents. That might be distasteful to legislative purists and raise doubts as to whether all the money is being wisely spent. But it’s just about spreading the largess. In a case of transportation pork, one district gets a bike path and another doesn’t get the highway off-ramp, but neither district probably needed the project anyway.

In the case of health care, however, the bill rests on the premise that we are improving access to care and working toward a healthier society, reducing the problem of haves and have-nots. For decades that is how health-care “reform” has been sold by liberals.

But instead, what we “get” for health-care sweetheart deals is a new regime of rationed care, which will primarily impact the elderly. The nauseating plethora of backroom deals and special carve-outs for this or that state in health-care “reform,” therefore, is more egregious, and thus more politically toxic.

A central feature of this bill is the $500B cuts in Medicare funding, including slashing the popular Medicare Advantage plan and the imposition of a newly beefed-up Medicare Advisory Board, which will be empowered to devise new ways of cutting payments to doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, and other health-care providers. In the absence of any real reform measures, the only feasible way to control costs is limiting care—i.e., rationing. Medicare already denies medical claims at double the rate of many large private insurers. And with $500B or so less to work with, many more Medicare claims will be denied.

This is what the Cornhusker Kickback and the rest of the bribe-a-thon are enabling. The Senate bill spared voters in a few states the harshest impact of the new care-depriving regime so that the same regime could be foisted on the entire country. Connecticut voters get $600 million in additional Medicaid benefits, Vermont voters get $10B in health-care centers, and hospitals in North Dakota and Iowa get richer Medicare reimbursement rates. Those deals made possible reduced rates of reimbursement and Medicare funding for the rest of the country, rates so paltry and unacceptable to a few key senators that they had to use all their pull to spare their own states. If it is unacceptable for them, why must the rest of the country live with it?

The colorfully named backroom deals may well induce a fiery public backlash, complicating the bill’s passage and negating any political benefit derived by its proponents. Voters will discover not only the ugly side of secret deals; they may also figure out that the moral justification for health care has been jettisoned by those who used their clout to squeeze care for millions of voters while sparing themselves the worst of that backlash.

Pete, your focus on the fundamental corruption at the heart of the Senate bill is, I think, exactly right and that corruption rather extraordinary. In the days after the Senate cloture vote on the health-care bill, you would think the mainstream media would be touting the bill’s benefits and focusing on the huge “win” for the president. But instead the buzz in both the mainstream and conservative media has not been about the merits of the “historic” legislation but about the backroom deals necessary to achieve its passage, which its sponsors assure us will usher in a wonderful era of improved health-care access and care.

We’re going to remember for years to come the names of the deals, just as surely as did the infamous Bridge to Nowhere become part of the political vocabulary: Louisiana Purchase, Cornhusker Kickback, U Con, Bayh Off, Handout Montana, and Gator Aid. Vermont and Massachusetts got billions more in Medicare funding. Sen. Roland Burris managed to slip in some funding for none other than ACORN, under the guise of improving minority community health. The scope and number of the deals are breathtaking, but it goes beyond the unseemliness of the average pork-barrel bill.

After all, this is not merely a transportation appropriations bill where the whole point is to dole out federal monies and the “game” is for each lawmaker to grab as much of the pie as possible for his own constituents. That might be distasteful to legislative purists and raise doubts as to whether all the money is being wisely spent. But it’s just about spreading the largess. In a case of transportation pork, one district gets a bike path and another doesn’t get the highway off-ramp, but neither district probably needed the project anyway.

In the case of health care, however, the bill rests on the premise that we are improving access to care and working toward a healthier society, reducing the problem of haves and have-nots. For decades that is how health-care “reform” has been sold by liberals.

But instead, what we “get” for health-care sweetheart deals is a new regime of rationed care, which will primarily impact the elderly. The nauseating plethora of backroom deals and special carve-outs for this or that state in health-care “reform,” therefore, is more egregious, and thus more politically toxic.

A central feature of this bill is the $500B cuts in Medicare funding, including slashing the popular Medicare Advantage plan and the imposition of a newly beefed-up Medicare Advisory Board, which will be empowered to devise new ways of cutting payments to doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, and other health-care providers. In the absence of any real reform measures, the only feasible way to control costs is limiting care—i.e., rationing. Medicare already denies medical claims at double the rate of many large private insurers. And with $500B or so less to work with, many more Medicare claims will be denied.

This is what the Cornhusker Kickback and the rest of the bribe-a-thon are enabling. The Senate bill spared voters in a few states the harshest impact of the new care-depriving regime so that the same regime could be foisted on the entire country. Connecticut voters get $600 million in additional Medicaid benefits, Vermont voters get $10B in health-care centers, and hospitals in North Dakota and Iowa get richer Medicare reimbursement rates. Those deals made possible reduced rates of reimbursement and Medicare funding for the rest of the country, rates so paltry and unacceptable to a few key senators that they had to use all their pull to spare their own states. If it is unacceptable for them, why must the rest of the country live with it?

The colorfully named backroom deals may well induce a fiery public backlash, complicating the bill’s passage and negating any political benefit derived by its proponents. Voters will discover not only the ugly side of secret deals; they may also figure out that the moral justification for health care has been jettisoned by those who used their clout to squeeze care for millions of voters while sparing themselves the worst of that backlash.

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Huckabee an Unlikely VP

Since Mike Huckabee’s surprise showing on Tuesday, talk about a McCain-Huckabee ticket has neared the level of legitimate speculation. The thinking is that Huckabee victories in southern states like Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, and Georgia, demonstrate the value of an Evangelical-friendly name on a GOP ticket.

When this idea was floated on Fox News Tuesday night, Karl Rove, in his new talking head role, dismissed it immediately—with good reason. Christianity Today reports that evangelical voters are now more concerned with national security than with social issues such as abortion. (Pat Robertson’s endorsement of Giuliani made that clear.) John McCain’s vision of the enemy as a threat to the American way of life is comfortably close to the Evangelical vision of jihad as a threat to Christianity. Somewhat shockingly, unlike some of the conservative media, Evangelicals can prioritize. John McCain has said many times (including, once, to me) that he’s looking for a strong national security vice president. He’d have an impossible time defending his choice of the man who didn’t know of the existence of the NIE on Iran. The compulsion to over-strategize in speculating about the McCain campaign has grown directly out of the Limbaugh-right’s insistence that McCain is embattled within the party. And in a national election, few evangelicals are going to pull the lever for Hillary or Obama over him. But if, after running almost entirely on national security, he hitched himself to a foreign policy ignoramus like Huckabee, he may first face detractors en masse.

Since Mike Huckabee’s surprise showing on Tuesday, talk about a McCain-Huckabee ticket has neared the level of legitimate speculation. The thinking is that Huckabee victories in southern states like Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, and Georgia, demonstrate the value of an Evangelical-friendly name on a GOP ticket.

When this idea was floated on Fox News Tuesday night, Karl Rove, in his new talking head role, dismissed it immediately—with good reason. Christianity Today reports that evangelical voters are now more concerned with national security than with social issues such as abortion. (Pat Robertson’s endorsement of Giuliani made that clear.) John McCain’s vision of the enemy as a threat to the American way of life is comfortably close to the Evangelical vision of jihad as a threat to Christianity. Somewhat shockingly, unlike some of the conservative media, Evangelicals can prioritize. John McCain has said many times (including, once, to me) that he’s looking for a strong national security vice president. He’d have an impossible time defending his choice of the man who didn’t know of the existence of the NIE on Iran. The compulsion to over-strategize in speculating about the McCain campaign has grown directly out of the Limbaugh-right’s insistence that McCain is embattled within the party. And in a national election, few evangelicals are going to pull the lever for Hillary or Obama over him. But if, after running almost entirely on national security, he hitched himself to a foreign policy ignoramus like Huckabee, he may first face detractors en masse.

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