Commentary Magazine


Topic: James C. Capretta

Flotsam and Jetsam

Sen. Harry Reid is doubling down on ObamaCare and will jam it through with 50 votes if he can evade all the parliamentary challenges. Republicans question whether he has the votes for reconciliation. I’m not sure Nancy Pelosi has 218 on her side. But it sure does put to rest the notion that Democrats are listening to voters after the Scott Brown debacle.

You wonder how he says it with a straight face: “President Obama warned lawmakers on both sides of the aisle Saturday not to turn the upcoming White House health-care summit into ‘political theater,’ but rather ‘to seek common ground in an effort to solve a problem that’s been with us for generations.’”

Yuval Levin and James C. Capretta observe: “Well, so much for the pivot to jobs. Late last week, the Obama administration and congressional Democrats made clear that, rather than turn to voters’ economic concerns in this winter of discontent, they want to persist in pushing the health care proposals they have championed for a year—proposals voters have rejected by every means at their disposal. … It is now clear that the ‘summit’ the president has called for February 25 is not intended to consider different approaches to health care financing, but rather to create an illusion of momentum that might just lull disoriented congressional Democrats into ramming the health care bill through the budget reconciliation process.”

John Bolton tries to explain to the Obami that “negotiation is not a policy. It is a technique.” And on Iran, it has failed.

Rick Santorum apologizes for helping to elect Arlen Specter in 2004.

Ron Paul wins the straw poll at CPAC, leading credence to the view that the gathering isn’t all that relevant. (But then again, CPAC straw polls haven’t really foreshadowed the nominee in past years.) Paul was then booed, and “CPAC organizers were plainly embarrassed by the results, which could reduce the perceived impact of a contest that was once thought to offer a window into which White House hopefuls were favored by movement conservatives.”

Well, it did accomplish one thing: Tim Pawlenty earned bipartisan bad reviews. Gail Collins: “He doesn’t seem naturally irate. People call him T-Paw, which sounds like a character in a children’s cartoon — maybe a lovable saber-toothed tiger with big feet. Or a pre-Little League game in which children who can’t hit anything with a bat are allowed to just thwack at the ball with their fists. Politicians often get into trouble when they’re trying to sound more furious than they feel.”

Dana Milbank: “Obama’s greatest mistake was failing to listen to Emanuel on health care. Early on, Emanuel argued for a smaller bill with popular items, such as expanding health coverage for children and young adults, that could win some Republican support. He opposed the public option as a needless distraction. The president disregarded that strategy and sided with Capitol Hill liberals who hoped to ram a larger, less popular bill through Congress with Democratic votes only. The result was, as the world now knows, disastrous.” And we know Emanuel’s position on this — and the KSM trial (opposed), and closing Guantanamo (opposed) — because he’s leaked it, trying to let everyone know it’s not his fault that the president is going down the tubes.

Sen. Harry Reid is doubling down on ObamaCare and will jam it through with 50 votes if he can evade all the parliamentary challenges. Republicans question whether he has the votes for reconciliation. I’m not sure Nancy Pelosi has 218 on her side. But it sure does put to rest the notion that Democrats are listening to voters after the Scott Brown debacle.

You wonder how he says it with a straight face: “President Obama warned lawmakers on both sides of the aisle Saturday not to turn the upcoming White House health-care summit into ‘political theater,’ but rather ‘to seek common ground in an effort to solve a problem that’s been with us for generations.’”

Yuval Levin and James C. Capretta observe: “Well, so much for the pivot to jobs. Late last week, the Obama administration and congressional Democrats made clear that, rather than turn to voters’ economic concerns in this winter of discontent, they want to persist in pushing the health care proposals they have championed for a year—proposals voters have rejected by every means at their disposal. … It is now clear that the ‘summit’ the president has called for February 25 is not intended to consider different approaches to health care financing, but rather to create an illusion of momentum that might just lull disoriented congressional Democrats into ramming the health care bill through the budget reconciliation process.”

John Bolton tries to explain to the Obami that “negotiation is not a policy. It is a technique.” And on Iran, it has failed.

Rick Santorum apologizes for helping to elect Arlen Specter in 2004.

Ron Paul wins the straw poll at CPAC, leading credence to the view that the gathering isn’t all that relevant. (But then again, CPAC straw polls haven’t really foreshadowed the nominee in past years.) Paul was then booed, and “CPAC organizers were plainly embarrassed by the results, which could reduce the perceived impact of a contest that was once thought to offer a window into which White House hopefuls were favored by movement conservatives.”

Well, it did accomplish one thing: Tim Pawlenty earned bipartisan bad reviews. Gail Collins: “He doesn’t seem naturally irate. People call him T-Paw, which sounds like a character in a children’s cartoon — maybe a lovable saber-toothed tiger with big feet. Or a pre-Little League game in which children who can’t hit anything with a bat are allowed to just thwack at the ball with their fists. Politicians often get into trouble when they’re trying to sound more furious than they feel.”

Dana Milbank: “Obama’s greatest mistake was failing to listen to Emanuel on health care. Early on, Emanuel argued for a smaller bill with popular items, such as expanding health coverage for children and young adults, that could win some Republican support. He opposed the public option as a needless distraction. The president disregarded that strategy and sided with Capitol Hill liberals who hoped to ram a larger, less popular bill through Congress with Democratic votes only. The result was, as the world now knows, disastrous.” And we know Emanuel’s position on this — and the KSM trial (opposed), and closing Guantanamo (opposed) — because he’s leaked it, trying to let everyone know it’s not his fault that the president is going down the tubes.

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The Next Chapter of Health-Care Reform

It is not clear whether anyone has the stomach for more health-care negotiations.  For the Democrats, it would be like revisiting the site of a traumatic auto accident. It is where the pain started, and it will only remind voters where the Democrats got off course. Republicans might just as soon move on to other issues rather than throw Democrats a lifeline. But there are good reasons, both substantive and political, to move forward.

As the Washington Post editors counsel, now that ObamaCare is “in mortal danger, President Obama should try treating the Senate Republicans the way he treats the ruling mullahs of Iran.” In other words, try to engage and give the other side every benefit of the doubt. More seriously, the Post notes that Republicans have some good ideas. (“Tort reform, freedom for state experimentation and other issues could advance Mr. Obama’s goals of increased access and decreased costs.”) In short, we might actually get a coherent, effective piece of legislation now that the monstrosity cooked up by Obama-Reid-Pelosi is kaput.

In a similar vein, James C. Capretta and Yuval Levin urge Republicans to move forward on three fronts:

First, they should seek to address the problem of insuring Americans with preexisting conditions through state-based high-risk pools, not cumbersome insurance regulations that try to outlaw basic economics.  … Second, they should propose to help doctors and patients limit some of the burden of rising costs with medical malpractice reform. … Third, they should argue that the states be given the lead role in developing more detailed reforms of how and where people get their insurance—to cover more people and slow the rise of costs. The overall goal should be to build well-functioning marketplaces in which insurers and providers compete to deliver the best value to cost-conscious consumers. The federal government should remove bureaucratic obstacles to state experimentation on this front, and offer support where possible, but not design one mammoth new program.

Well, it sounds like they and the Washington Post editors could hammer something out in an afternoon. But alas, the same crew who came up with ObamaCare would be negotiating with the Republicans, so we shouldn’t get our hopes up. Nevertheless, as a political matter, it makes sense, if not now then in a couple of months, for both Democrats and Republicans to give it a try. Democrats don’t want the last chapter of health-care reform to be the Cornhusker Kickback and the mandate to make everyone buy policies they don’t want from Big Insurance. And Republicans, who are auditioning for control of Congress, want to show what real reform looks like and how the “party of no” was another liberal fable cooked up while Democrats were trying to convince voters the choice was between ObamaCare and nothing at all. (The voters liked the “nothing at all” option better.)

It is understandable if lawmakers would rather move on. But given that there isn’t too much agreement on anything else (immigration, cap-and-trade), they might give health-care reform one more shot. They really can’t do worse than they did the first time.

It is not clear whether anyone has the stomach for more health-care negotiations.  For the Democrats, it would be like revisiting the site of a traumatic auto accident. It is where the pain started, and it will only remind voters where the Democrats got off course. Republicans might just as soon move on to other issues rather than throw Democrats a lifeline. But there are good reasons, both substantive and political, to move forward.

As the Washington Post editors counsel, now that ObamaCare is “in mortal danger, President Obama should try treating the Senate Republicans the way he treats the ruling mullahs of Iran.” In other words, try to engage and give the other side every benefit of the doubt. More seriously, the Post notes that Republicans have some good ideas. (“Tort reform, freedom for state experimentation and other issues could advance Mr. Obama’s goals of increased access and decreased costs.”) In short, we might actually get a coherent, effective piece of legislation now that the monstrosity cooked up by Obama-Reid-Pelosi is kaput.

In a similar vein, James C. Capretta and Yuval Levin urge Republicans to move forward on three fronts:

First, they should seek to address the problem of insuring Americans with preexisting conditions through state-based high-risk pools, not cumbersome insurance regulations that try to outlaw basic economics.  … Second, they should propose to help doctors and patients limit some of the burden of rising costs with medical malpractice reform. … Third, they should argue that the states be given the lead role in developing more detailed reforms of how and where people get their insurance—to cover more people and slow the rise of costs. The overall goal should be to build well-functioning marketplaces in which insurers and providers compete to deliver the best value to cost-conscious consumers. The federal government should remove bureaucratic obstacles to state experimentation on this front, and offer support where possible, but not design one mammoth new program.

Well, it sounds like they and the Washington Post editors could hammer something out in an afternoon. But alas, the same crew who came up with ObamaCare would be negotiating with the Republicans, so we shouldn’t get our hopes up. Nevertheless, as a political matter, it makes sense, if not now then in a couple of months, for both Democrats and Republicans to give it a try. Democrats don’t want the last chapter of health-care reform to be the Cornhusker Kickback and the mandate to make everyone buy policies they don’t want from Big Insurance. And Republicans, who are auditioning for control of Congress, want to show what real reform looks like and how the “party of no” was another liberal fable cooked up while Democrats were trying to convince voters the choice was between ObamaCare and nothing at all. (The voters liked the “nothing at all” option better.)

It is understandable if lawmakers would rather move on. But given that there isn’t too much agreement on anything else (immigration, cap-and-trade), they might give health-care reform one more shot. They really can’t do worse than they did the first time.

Read Less




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