Commentary Magazine


Topic: Jim DeMint

Clintonistas Rub It In

I suppose the Clintonistas are entitled to gloat. They said Obama wasn’t ready for prime time. They tried to argue that “experience” mattered and that “change” was a cotton-candy campaign slogan. But the Democrats didn’t listen. And now Obama is running the party into the ground. So it shouldn’t surprise us that up pops James Carville, Clinton confidant extraordinaire, to rub it in:

Veteran Democratic strategist James Carville said Monday that if President Obama is unable to push a health-care bill through the Congress it will be his Waterloo.

Carville echoed the term used by Republican Sen. Jim Demint, of South Carolina, who last summer made the comparison between the health-care fight and the decisive 1815 battle in modern-day Belgium that broke the French army under Napoleon Bonaparte.

“If the bill loses, it proves Senator DeMint right. It will, I think, by and large, be a lot of the president’s Waterloo, and I think a lot of Democrats realize that,” Carville said, speaking on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Nor was he willing to indulge in the Obami spin that the votes are there for the president’s wildly unpopular health-care scheme. Carville, on Nancy Pelosi’s vote-counting, pronounced: “I’m glad to hear that she’s confident. I guess she knows more about where our votes are than anybody else. … But the math is pretty daunting. I don’t think it’s impossible but it’s going to be difficult. This is going to be a real, real fight.” The only thing he didn’t slip in was a mention of that 3 a.m. phone call.

One can speculate that the Clintons are enjoying a bit of an I-told-you-so jag. But in all that glee, Bill and Hillary should recall that they didn’t get HillaryCare through either and that they lost to this guy. But it does suggest that there are those in the Democratic party — call them “realists” — who have figured out that Obama is on the verge of a humiliating defeat. They know that the spin about “getting the votes before bringing the bill to the floor” doesn’t mean that the votes are gettable, only that the bill could very well never come to a vote on the House floor.

If Obama suffers a massive defeat and can’t figure out a fallback plan to disguise the defeat, Hillary Clinton, Evan Bayh, and perhaps a few others may be contemplating how to position themselves, you know, just in case there’s a popular groundswell of Democratic support for a different candidate in 2012. We’re a long way from that, however. First we have to see if Obama and Pelosi know something no one else does, and if not, whether they can come up with an escape plan that doesn’t look like an escape plan. But in the meantime, the Clintonistas sure are having a good time of it.

I suppose the Clintonistas are entitled to gloat. They said Obama wasn’t ready for prime time. They tried to argue that “experience” mattered and that “change” was a cotton-candy campaign slogan. But the Democrats didn’t listen. And now Obama is running the party into the ground. So it shouldn’t surprise us that up pops James Carville, Clinton confidant extraordinaire, to rub it in:

Veteran Democratic strategist James Carville said Monday that if President Obama is unable to push a health-care bill through the Congress it will be his Waterloo.

Carville echoed the term used by Republican Sen. Jim Demint, of South Carolina, who last summer made the comparison between the health-care fight and the decisive 1815 battle in modern-day Belgium that broke the French army under Napoleon Bonaparte.

“If the bill loses, it proves Senator DeMint right. It will, I think, by and large, be a lot of the president’s Waterloo, and I think a lot of Democrats realize that,” Carville said, speaking on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Nor was he willing to indulge in the Obami spin that the votes are there for the president’s wildly unpopular health-care scheme. Carville, on Nancy Pelosi’s vote-counting, pronounced: “I’m glad to hear that she’s confident. I guess she knows more about where our votes are than anybody else. … But the math is pretty daunting. I don’t think it’s impossible but it’s going to be difficult. This is going to be a real, real fight.” The only thing he didn’t slip in was a mention of that 3 a.m. phone call.

One can speculate that the Clintons are enjoying a bit of an I-told-you-so jag. But in all that glee, Bill and Hillary should recall that they didn’t get HillaryCare through either and that they lost to this guy. But it does suggest that there are those in the Democratic party — call them “realists” — who have figured out that Obama is on the verge of a humiliating defeat. They know that the spin about “getting the votes before bringing the bill to the floor” doesn’t mean that the votes are gettable, only that the bill could very well never come to a vote on the House floor.

If Obama suffers a massive defeat and can’t figure out a fallback plan to disguise the defeat, Hillary Clinton, Evan Bayh, and perhaps a few others may be contemplating how to position themselves, you know, just in case there’s a popular groundswell of Democratic support for a different candidate in 2012. We’re a long way from that, however. First we have to see if Obama and Pelosi know something no one else does, and if not, whether they can come up with an escape plan that doesn’t look like an escape plan. But in the meantime, the Clintonistas sure are having a good time of it.

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Turning the Tables

Michael Gerson echoes what many of us observed yesterday:

President Obama, as usual, was fluent, professorial and occasionally prickly. Some are impressed by the president’s informed, academic manner. Others (myself included) find an annoying condescension in Obama’s never-ending seminar. All the students — I mean elected legislators — were informed if their arguments were “legitimate” or not. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was arrogantly instructed that the “election’s over.”

There was a stature gap in the room, but not between Obama and the Republicans (as at the House Republican retreat). The stature gap was between Obama and his fellow Democrats. I would bet against any legislative team that includes Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who turned in a nasty, embarrassing performance.

As Gerson notes, Republicans got the tone right. What is great fun and inspiring for the base on talk radio doesn’t necessarily do the trick in a nationally televised summit facing the President of the United States. Republicans took that to heart and conducted themselves with poise, decorum, and a certain policy sophistication we don’t always see on display. They didn’t need to beat Obama in the who-can-be-the-more-ponderous-wonk department. They needed to show they were not the know-nothings Obama had painted them to be. And in that, they succeeded handsomely. Or as David Gergen put it, the Republicans “intellectually had their best day in years.”

Nor is it so easy, as it becomes obvious that nothing has changed, to pretend there is broad-based support for Obama’s approach. It wasn’t just the poll numbers that Republicans recited at every chance. As Jake Tapper reported:

Unfortunately for President Obama, the bipartisan agreement is outside Blair House where today’s health care summit is taking place, and the agreement is among liberal and conservative protestors arguing for different reason that the Democrats’ current health care reform proposal isn’t the correct prescription. Conservatives argue that it’s too much government intrusion and socialism. Liberals argue that the various leading Democratic proposals don’t go far enough.

It took Obama and the inept duo of Reid and Pelosi to shove Dennis Kucinich, Jane Hamsher, Jim DeMint, and Olympia Snowe (who refused to show up yesterday) all on the same side of the debate – that is, in opposition to his monstrous plan. And it took the health-care summit to reveal that the rigid, unpleasant ones are not the members of “the party of no.” David Brooks observes:

The Republican leaders, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, were smart enough to stand back and let Senator Lamar Alexander lead the way, which he did genially and intelligently. While Alexander was speaking, Reid and Pelosi wouldn’t even deign to look at him. … f you thought Republicans were a bunch of naysayers who don’t know or care about health care, then this was not the event for you. They more than held their own.

Obama then essentially failed to pin the blame on the Republicans, who generally seemed a bit more reasonable and genial than Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and company.  (Political Rule No. 1: Get inept opponents.) As Gerson sums up: “The whole exercise, in short, was an ambush. But the quarry, it seems, got away.” And with it, mostly likely, did the Democrats’ dream of passing ObamaCare.

Michael Gerson echoes what many of us observed yesterday:

President Obama, as usual, was fluent, professorial and occasionally prickly. Some are impressed by the president’s informed, academic manner. Others (myself included) find an annoying condescension in Obama’s never-ending seminar. All the students — I mean elected legislators — were informed if their arguments were “legitimate” or not. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was arrogantly instructed that the “election’s over.”

There was a stature gap in the room, but not between Obama and the Republicans (as at the House Republican retreat). The stature gap was between Obama and his fellow Democrats. I would bet against any legislative team that includes Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who turned in a nasty, embarrassing performance.

As Gerson notes, Republicans got the tone right. What is great fun and inspiring for the base on talk radio doesn’t necessarily do the trick in a nationally televised summit facing the President of the United States. Republicans took that to heart and conducted themselves with poise, decorum, and a certain policy sophistication we don’t always see on display. They didn’t need to beat Obama in the who-can-be-the-more-ponderous-wonk department. They needed to show they were not the know-nothings Obama had painted them to be. And in that, they succeeded handsomely. Or as David Gergen put it, the Republicans “intellectually had their best day in years.”

Nor is it so easy, as it becomes obvious that nothing has changed, to pretend there is broad-based support for Obama’s approach. It wasn’t just the poll numbers that Republicans recited at every chance. As Jake Tapper reported:

Unfortunately for President Obama, the bipartisan agreement is outside Blair House where today’s health care summit is taking place, and the agreement is among liberal and conservative protestors arguing for different reason that the Democrats’ current health care reform proposal isn’t the correct prescription. Conservatives argue that it’s too much government intrusion and socialism. Liberals argue that the various leading Democratic proposals don’t go far enough.

It took Obama and the inept duo of Reid and Pelosi to shove Dennis Kucinich, Jane Hamsher, Jim DeMint, and Olympia Snowe (who refused to show up yesterday) all on the same side of the debate – that is, in opposition to his monstrous plan. And it took the health-care summit to reveal that the rigid, unpleasant ones are not the members of “the party of no.” David Brooks observes:

The Republican leaders, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, were smart enough to stand back and let Senator Lamar Alexander lead the way, which he did genially and intelligently. While Alexander was speaking, Reid and Pelosi wouldn’t even deign to look at him. … f you thought Republicans were a bunch of naysayers who don’t know or care about health care, then this was not the event for you. They more than held their own.

Obama then essentially failed to pin the blame on the Republicans, who generally seemed a bit more reasonable and genial than Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and company.  (Political Rule No. 1: Get inept opponents.) As Gerson sums up: “The whole exercise, in short, was an ambush. But the quarry, it seems, got away.” And with it, mostly likely, did the Democrats’ dream of passing ObamaCare.

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Moving on from ObamaCare

The Wall Street Journal editors crack: “Progressives of the world are demanding that the House stage a Pickett’s charge and pass the Senate’s Christmas Eve bill, as if it were all merely a matter of political will.” But alas, there is the matter of the votes. And there is no majority in or out of Congress for a massive health-care bill of the type Obama spent a year pushing. The editors dryly observe, “The real problem is that ObamaCare is a deeply unpopular bill—even in Massachusetts.”

So what’s next? Some Democrats actually would rather do nothing. Move on to jobs. Let the public cool down. Don’t remind the voters of why they hate closed-door deal makers. You can see their point. But it is not as if something couldn’t be done. And now, with ObamaCare finally at death’s door, alternative proposals could actually get some consideration:

An incremental reform could use targeted individual tax credits to help the uninsured buy coverage immediately—while gradually shifting the tax code away from its current bias for workplace insurance only, without cannibalizing people’s current coverage. States could be encouraged to experiment with Medicaid block grants, or to set up “exchanges” in which insurers would be held accountable but also compete to offer the benefit mix that consumers find most valuable.

And then there is tort reform, which to everyone — other than trial lawyers — makes eminent sense and can eliminate excess cost without adversely affecting care.

Republicans who have circulated numerous market-oriented proposals might actually get a hearing now. Reps. Paul Ryan and Tom Price and Sen. Jim DeMint, among others, had conservative plans that never got consideration as long as the Congress was fixated on an uber scheme with government in command of the health-care system. Ironically, it may be the Republicans who now want to let the public hear their ideas and the Democrats who’d rather lick their wounds and change the topic.

Whether an alternative, focused set of proposals emerge or not, remains to be seen. The Washington establishment is stunned and it will take some time, I suspect, for everyone to recover their bearings. However things progress from here, we should keep one thing in mind: As in medicine, the first rule of legislation should be “do no harm.” A great deal of harm has been averted and for that we should all be very grateful.

The Wall Street Journal editors crack: “Progressives of the world are demanding that the House stage a Pickett’s charge and pass the Senate’s Christmas Eve bill, as if it were all merely a matter of political will.” But alas, there is the matter of the votes. And there is no majority in or out of Congress for a massive health-care bill of the type Obama spent a year pushing. The editors dryly observe, “The real problem is that ObamaCare is a deeply unpopular bill—even in Massachusetts.”

So what’s next? Some Democrats actually would rather do nothing. Move on to jobs. Let the public cool down. Don’t remind the voters of why they hate closed-door deal makers. You can see their point. But it is not as if something couldn’t be done. And now, with ObamaCare finally at death’s door, alternative proposals could actually get some consideration:

An incremental reform could use targeted individual tax credits to help the uninsured buy coverage immediately—while gradually shifting the tax code away from its current bias for workplace insurance only, without cannibalizing people’s current coverage. States could be encouraged to experiment with Medicaid block grants, or to set up “exchanges” in which insurers would be held accountable but also compete to offer the benefit mix that consumers find most valuable.

And then there is tort reform, which to everyone — other than trial lawyers — makes eminent sense and can eliminate excess cost without adversely affecting care.

Republicans who have circulated numerous market-oriented proposals might actually get a hearing now. Reps. Paul Ryan and Tom Price and Sen. Jim DeMint, among others, had conservative plans that never got consideration as long as the Congress was fixated on an uber scheme with government in command of the health-care system. Ironically, it may be the Republicans who now want to let the public hear their ideas and the Democrats who’d rather lick their wounds and change the topic.

Whether an alternative, focused set of proposals emerge or not, remains to be seen. The Washington establishment is stunned and it will take some time, I suspect, for everyone to recover their bearings. However things progress from here, we should keep one thing in mind: As in medicine, the first rule of legislation should be “do no harm.” A great deal of harm has been averted and for that we should all be very grateful.

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When You Mess Up This Badly, There Are No Good Options

How badly did Obama mess up? Really badly, says David Brooks:

Instead of building trust in government, the Democrats have magnified distrust. The country already believed Washington is out of touch with its core concerns. So while most families were concerned about jobs, Democrats in Washington spent nine months arguing about health care. The country was already tired of self-serving back-room deals, so the Democrats negotiated a series of dirty deals with the pharmaceutical industry, the unions and certain senators. Americans already felt Washington doesn’t understand their fears and insecurities. So at the moment when economic insecurity was at its peak, the Democrats in Washington added another layer of insecurity by threatening to change everything at once.

Instead of building a new majority, the Democrats have set off a distrust insurrection (which is not the same as a conservative insurrection). Republicans are enraged. Independents are furious. Democrats are disheartened. Health care reform is brutally unpopular. Even voters in Massachusetts decided it was time to send a message.

Brooks writes “Democrats,” but you can plug in “Obama.” These were Obama’s decisions — either affirmatively or by ceding the decision-making to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. It might sound less harsh to avoid using his name, but we should be clear whose fault this is. Hard to imagine that someone like Obama – who could be such a fine editor of a liberal magazine – could have made that many bad calls and been so out of touch with the American electorate’s inherent conservatism and aversion to statism. Maybe being a fine editor or a sophisticated conversationalist or living in Indonesia has nothing to do with being a good president. (Note to file: There is no correlation between Ivy League credentials and prowess as a chief executive.)

Brooks gives Obama … er, Democrats … some advice: take what he calls the Weak and Feckless Approach to health care. Admit they messed up. Say they heard the public. And get out of Dodge with a face-saving, small-beans plan. “Perhaps we will use federal money to support a series of state reform efforts — like the one in Massachusetts — which are closer to the people, ” says Brooks. Yes, that sounds just unbelievably lame. But that’s what they’re reduced to. There is no support for grandiose ObamaCare. There hasn’t been support in the country for some time, and finally the lawmakers are listening.

I personally like the temper-tantrum option, which Brooks calls the Incoherent and Internecine Approach: “This would involve settling on no coherent policy but just blaming each other for cowardice and stupidity for the next month.” It would be fun to watch, and there’s at least a grain of truth in it. Obama is to blame. Pelosi is to blame. Reid is to blame. Greedy Ben Nelson is to blame. And then the Democrats will tell us that the voters are to blame, the tiny Republican minority is to blame, and of course the cabal of Bill Kristol–Jane Hamsher–Howard Dean–MoveOn.org–Club for Growth–Jim DeMint–Mitch McConnell–etc. is to blame. In short, the Right and the Left and Independents are the villains — because they all opposed the bill. Well, that does suggest that the bill was so flawed that it could engender no support. But that sort of discussion is what makes the Incoherent and Internecine Approach so enticing.

Surveying all that and observing the unraveling of support on Capitol Hill for ObamaCare, one must agree with Brooks that there are no good options here for the Obami. Sometimes the number and magnitude of a politician’s errors are so great that all that’s left for him to do is take his lumps, express contrition, and move on. (The Humble Pie Approach?) Unfortunately, that’s the last thing this president is inclined to favor.

How badly did Obama mess up? Really badly, says David Brooks:

Instead of building trust in government, the Democrats have magnified distrust. The country already believed Washington is out of touch with its core concerns. So while most families were concerned about jobs, Democrats in Washington spent nine months arguing about health care. The country was already tired of self-serving back-room deals, so the Democrats negotiated a series of dirty deals with the pharmaceutical industry, the unions and certain senators. Americans already felt Washington doesn’t understand their fears and insecurities. So at the moment when economic insecurity was at its peak, the Democrats in Washington added another layer of insecurity by threatening to change everything at once.

Instead of building a new majority, the Democrats have set off a distrust insurrection (which is not the same as a conservative insurrection). Republicans are enraged. Independents are furious. Democrats are disheartened. Health care reform is brutally unpopular. Even voters in Massachusetts decided it was time to send a message.

Brooks writes “Democrats,” but you can plug in “Obama.” These were Obama’s decisions — either affirmatively or by ceding the decision-making to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. It might sound less harsh to avoid using his name, but we should be clear whose fault this is. Hard to imagine that someone like Obama – who could be such a fine editor of a liberal magazine – could have made that many bad calls and been so out of touch with the American electorate’s inherent conservatism and aversion to statism. Maybe being a fine editor or a sophisticated conversationalist or living in Indonesia has nothing to do with being a good president. (Note to file: There is no correlation between Ivy League credentials and prowess as a chief executive.)

Brooks gives Obama … er, Democrats … some advice: take what he calls the Weak and Feckless Approach to health care. Admit they messed up. Say they heard the public. And get out of Dodge with a face-saving, small-beans plan. “Perhaps we will use federal money to support a series of state reform efforts — like the one in Massachusetts — which are closer to the people, ” says Brooks. Yes, that sounds just unbelievably lame. But that’s what they’re reduced to. There is no support for grandiose ObamaCare. There hasn’t been support in the country for some time, and finally the lawmakers are listening.

I personally like the temper-tantrum option, which Brooks calls the Incoherent and Internecine Approach: “This would involve settling on no coherent policy but just blaming each other for cowardice and stupidity for the next month.” It would be fun to watch, and there’s at least a grain of truth in it. Obama is to blame. Pelosi is to blame. Reid is to blame. Greedy Ben Nelson is to blame. And then the Democrats will tell us that the voters are to blame, the tiny Republican minority is to blame, and of course the cabal of Bill Kristol–Jane Hamsher–Howard Dean–MoveOn.org–Club for Growth–Jim DeMint–Mitch McConnell–etc. is to blame. In short, the Right and the Left and Independents are the villains — because they all opposed the bill. Well, that does suggest that the bill was so flawed that it could engender no support. But that sort of discussion is what makes the Incoherent and Internecine Approach so enticing.

Surveying all that and observing the unraveling of support on Capitol Hill for ObamaCare, one must agree with Brooks that there are no good options here for the Obami. Sometimes the number and magnitude of a politician’s errors are so great that all that’s left for him to do is take his lumps, express contrition, and move on. (The Humble Pie Approach?) Unfortunately, that’s the last thing this president is inclined to favor.

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The Opposition Coalition

Conservatives will most likely nod in agreement with this critique of the Senate’s health-care plan:

The last thing the American middle class needs right now is a big new tax on health insurance plans. … But the U.S. Senate wants to further impoverish the American middle class. As many as 30 million working people will pay a massive new tax in the first five years of the Senate health care reform plan. …

The tax would apply to one-fifth of all employers in 2013, the first year that health reform takes effect. More and more people would get hit each year after that. The threshold for taxable plans is indexed for inflation, which doesn’t rise as fast as health care costs.

Here’s an example of how it would work for federal workers covered by the Blue Cross/Blue Shield standard plan. Single people in the plan will immediately pay an average of about $1,600 more per year for 10 years. Families will get hit in the third year, paying an average of about $2,000 more per year for 10 years.

By 2022, the Blue Cross/Blue Shield standard family plan will cost $5,500 in taxes per worker. Single people could pay as much as $3,500 per worker.

Middle-class families in private and public sector jobs, union and non-union alike, will be hit hard by this tax on health care benefits.

Yuval Levin? Sen. Jim DeMint? No, it’s Teamster president James Hoffa. Nevertheless, the President Obama is bent on adopting the Senate tax scheme. The result, as Hoffa and conservative critics of the plan have observed, will be a repudiation of the president’s pledge not to tax those making less than $200,ooo. Democrats, who fancy themselves as the protectors of “working” Americans, are understandably nervous about the president’s desire to impose a heavy tax on their constituents:

“We did in our house bill something that protects middle class Americans from having to pay more for health insurance and health insurance reform,” Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., a member of the House leadership, said Wednesday. “So far we want to stay to that principle.” House members “have been very clear on that issue and working with the president to stick to what he said when he was campaigning for president, we’re trying to make sure this does not affect middle class Americans,” Becerra said.

So far they want to stay to that principle? Well that doesn’t sound like Hoffa’s members are going to be able to count on Becerra and his colleagues. And if the Democrats do follow the president’s lead, a political firestorm may well ensue.

What’s at risk here is an unraveling of the Democratic coalition that elected Obama and the Democratic majority. Union members, elite urbanites (who will get slammed with new taxes), high-tech entrepreneurs (who get a new employer mandate), young voters (who will have to buy insurance plans they don’t want), and older voters (whose Medicare benefits will be slashed) may find common cause with fiscal conservatives, libertarians, and, yes, those angry Tea Party protesters, who all find ObamaCare objectionable. Obama, Pelosi, and Reid seem determined to ignore all these groups. For the sake of passing a “historic” bill and out of fear of appearing inept, they seem bent on passing something their own core political supporters find highly objectionable. Do they really imagine they can do so with no adverse political consequences?

Conservatives will most likely nod in agreement with this critique of the Senate’s health-care plan:

The last thing the American middle class needs right now is a big new tax on health insurance plans. … But the U.S. Senate wants to further impoverish the American middle class. As many as 30 million working people will pay a massive new tax in the first five years of the Senate health care reform plan. …

The tax would apply to one-fifth of all employers in 2013, the first year that health reform takes effect. More and more people would get hit each year after that. The threshold for taxable plans is indexed for inflation, which doesn’t rise as fast as health care costs.

Here’s an example of how it would work for federal workers covered by the Blue Cross/Blue Shield standard plan. Single people in the plan will immediately pay an average of about $1,600 more per year for 10 years. Families will get hit in the third year, paying an average of about $2,000 more per year for 10 years.

By 2022, the Blue Cross/Blue Shield standard family plan will cost $5,500 in taxes per worker. Single people could pay as much as $3,500 per worker.

Middle-class families in private and public sector jobs, union and non-union alike, will be hit hard by this tax on health care benefits.

Yuval Levin? Sen. Jim DeMint? No, it’s Teamster president James Hoffa. Nevertheless, the President Obama is bent on adopting the Senate tax scheme. The result, as Hoffa and conservative critics of the plan have observed, will be a repudiation of the president’s pledge not to tax those making less than $200,ooo. Democrats, who fancy themselves as the protectors of “working” Americans, are understandably nervous about the president’s desire to impose a heavy tax on their constituents:

“We did in our house bill something that protects middle class Americans from having to pay more for health insurance and health insurance reform,” Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., a member of the House leadership, said Wednesday. “So far we want to stay to that principle.” House members “have been very clear on that issue and working with the president to stick to what he said when he was campaigning for president, we’re trying to make sure this does not affect middle class Americans,” Becerra said.

So far they want to stay to that principle? Well that doesn’t sound like Hoffa’s members are going to be able to count on Becerra and his colleagues. And if the Democrats do follow the president’s lead, a political firestorm may well ensue.

What’s at risk here is an unraveling of the Democratic coalition that elected Obama and the Democratic majority. Union members, elite urbanites (who will get slammed with new taxes), high-tech entrepreneurs (who get a new employer mandate), young voters (who will have to buy insurance plans they don’t want), and older voters (whose Medicare benefits will be slashed) may find common cause with fiscal conservatives, libertarians, and, yes, those angry Tea Party protesters, who all find ObamaCare objectionable. Obama, Pelosi, and Reid seem determined to ignore all these groups. For the sake of passing a “historic” bill and out of fear of appearing inept, they seem bent on passing something their own core political supporters find highly objectionable. Do they really imagine they can do so with no adverse political consequences?

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Ben Nelson: Confused or Lying?

“I think it was a mistake to take health care on as opposed to continuing to spend the time on the economy.” Jim DeMint? Eric Cantor? Nope — it comes from the senator who cast the 60th vote, Ben Nelson. One is tempted to ask if he’s joking, for certainly it was within his power to make sure that health-care “reform” was put aside in favor of pro-growth, pro-jobs programs. But then Nelson also says that the Cornhusker Kickback was not about getting special treatment for his state. And he says that what really nailed down his vote was the elimination of the public option and the prevention of abortion subsidies. Except the bill doesn’t satisfy the latter condition and only offers a meaningless accounting gimmick to segregate funding, as well as an “opt-out” provision for states otherwise not required by law to fund abortions. As this Heritage Foundation analysis put it:

In the House bill, by virtue of the Stupak-Pitts amendment, there is a genuine firewall between federal funding and abortion coverage. In the Senate bill, by virtue of the agreement between Senate Majority leader Harry Reid and Senator Nelson, there is no such firewall; the bill allows federal taxpayer funding for abortion. For the pro-life advocates on both sides of the aisle, the Reid-Nelson language falls far short of the House language.

One wonders if Nelson is dim or thinks we are. He could have reordered the president’s priorities. He could have agreed to put his state on exactly the same footing as the others without a kickback. He could have insisted on the Stupak-Pitts abortion language. He did none of these things. But he wants to get a pass from the voters and be praised because he “took a bad bill and made it better.” Actually, he’s helping to pass a very bad bill. He may be genuinely confused, but the voters are not.

“I think it was a mistake to take health care on as opposed to continuing to spend the time on the economy.” Jim DeMint? Eric Cantor? Nope — it comes from the senator who cast the 60th vote, Ben Nelson. One is tempted to ask if he’s joking, for certainly it was within his power to make sure that health-care “reform” was put aside in favor of pro-growth, pro-jobs programs. But then Nelson also says that the Cornhusker Kickback was not about getting special treatment for his state. And he says that what really nailed down his vote was the elimination of the public option and the prevention of abortion subsidies. Except the bill doesn’t satisfy the latter condition and only offers a meaningless accounting gimmick to segregate funding, as well as an “opt-out” provision for states otherwise not required by law to fund abortions. As this Heritage Foundation analysis put it:

In the House bill, by virtue of the Stupak-Pitts amendment, there is a genuine firewall between federal funding and abortion coverage. In the Senate bill, by virtue of the agreement between Senate Majority leader Harry Reid and Senator Nelson, there is no such firewall; the bill allows federal taxpayer funding for abortion. For the pro-life advocates on both sides of the aisle, the Reid-Nelson language falls far short of the House language.

One wonders if Nelson is dim or thinks we are. He could have reordered the president’s priorities. He could have agreed to put his state on exactly the same footing as the others without a kickback. He could have insisted on the Stupak-Pitts abortion language. He did none of these things. But he wants to get a pass from the voters and be praised because he “took a bad bill and made it better.” Actually, he’s helping to pass a very bad bill. He may be genuinely confused, but the voters are not.

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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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ObamaCare Loses Brooks

It’s one thing to have Howard Dean holler (he hollers even in print, it seems) to “kill the bill.” It’s quite another to have David Brooks, after the most reasoned balancing of pro’s and con’s and much heartfelt agonizing, say “kill the bill.” Well, he didn’t say it that way, but he’s figured out that it’s worse than doing nothing:

If you pass a health care bill without systemic incentives reform, you set up a political vortex in which the few good parts of the bill will get stripped out and the expensive and wasteful parts will be entrenched. Defenders say we can’t do real reform because the politics won’t allow it. The truth is the reverse. Unless you get the fundamental incentives right, the politics will be terrible forever and ever.

That means “kill the bill.” He’s got the reasons why we should. There’s no real health-care reform in all those pages. He says that “it will cause national health care spending to increase faster,” and it will increase demand but not the supply of health care in the short run, causing prices to skyrocket. He knows that “you can’t centrally regulate 17 percent of the U.S. economy without a raft of unintended consequences.” Medical innovation will get creamed. And there’s no hope for real cost control after this thing passes. His logic is impeccable.

So why doesn’t the White House agree? The president was supposed to be an evidence-driven, nonideological sort with a philosophical bent. Lots of smart people told us so. Well, truth be told, the White House never really cared about what was in the bill. The Obami never told us what they wanted, because they didn’t really know or didn’t think it mattered. They only wanted a bill. Their real interest was twofold: get a huge political win and plant the sapling for a European-style social-welfare state that couldn’t be ripped out once planted.

Maybe the Obami were right and they can get the Congress to pass a very bad bill that everyone – from Brooks to Howard Dean to Jim DeMint to ordinary voters to MoveOn.org to talk-radio hosts — has figured out really stinks. But it’s getting harder to do so with a straight face.

It’s one thing to have Howard Dean holler (he hollers even in print, it seems) to “kill the bill.” It’s quite another to have David Brooks, after the most reasoned balancing of pro’s and con’s and much heartfelt agonizing, say “kill the bill.” Well, he didn’t say it that way, but he’s figured out that it’s worse than doing nothing:

If you pass a health care bill without systemic incentives reform, you set up a political vortex in which the few good parts of the bill will get stripped out and the expensive and wasteful parts will be entrenched. Defenders say we can’t do real reform because the politics won’t allow it. The truth is the reverse. Unless you get the fundamental incentives right, the politics will be terrible forever and ever.

That means “kill the bill.” He’s got the reasons why we should. There’s no real health-care reform in all those pages. He says that “it will cause national health care spending to increase faster,” and it will increase demand but not the supply of health care in the short run, causing prices to skyrocket. He knows that “you can’t centrally regulate 17 percent of the U.S. economy without a raft of unintended consequences.” Medical innovation will get creamed. And there’s no hope for real cost control after this thing passes. His logic is impeccable.

So why doesn’t the White House agree? The president was supposed to be an evidence-driven, nonideological sort with a philosophical bent. Lots of smart people told us so. Well, truth be told, the White House never really cared about what was in the bill. The Obami never told us what they wanted, because they didn’t really know or didn’t think it mattered. They only wanted a bill. Their real interest was twofold: get a huge political win and plant the sapling for a European-style social-welfare state that couldn’t be ripped out once planted.

Maybe the Obami were right and they can get the Congress to pass a very bad bill that everyone – from Brooks to Howard Dean to Jim DeMint to ordinary voters to MoveOn.org to talk-radio hosts — has figured out really stinks. But it’s getting harder to do so with a straight face.

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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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McCain Blogger Call

John McCain held another blogger call today, starting off with a jab at Barack Obama on Iraq. Citing Obama’s recent statement that U.S. troops might have to re-enter after he withdrew them because Al Qaeda “might establish a base,” McCain stressed that Al Qaeda already “has a base” and that General Petraeus has identified Iraq as the “central battleground” in the war against terrorism.

I asked how he regarded the Democrats’ abandonment of free trade and to expand on his thoughts on the passing of William F. Buckley, Jr. On trade, he stated that “the far Left is driving the debate” and gave a spirited defense of the benefits of free trade, which he termed “a fundamental requirement of American policy.” On Buckley, he declared that he was “a trailblazer” and “a true conservative leader” and “one of the nicest, one of the [most] decent people” he knew.

In response to other questions he enthusiastically stated he would continue town hall meetings and keep the media “on the bus” even after he wraps up the nomination. As for Obama, he demurred when asked if he would attack Obama’s experience, saying rather he would explain his own experience and point out the “very, very significant differences” on policy issues. Asked about George Will’s column today blasting him on campaign finance reform he diplomatically complimented Will as a great conservative writer, but said they would have to “agree to disagree” on campaign reform. However, he acknowledged (as Will pointed out) that he had refused to shake former FEC Commissioner Brad Smith’s hand because, he alleged, Smith had “savaged me and attacked my character.” (His tone was calm, but there could be no mistaking his animosity toward Smith.)

On other topics he wholeheartedly supported a proposal by Senator Jim DeMint to enact a one-year ban on earmarks, expressed “grave concern” about the progress of the Six Party talks (and said the New York Philharmonic trip was “fine,” but he wished people from the “world’s largest gulag” could have attended the concert instead of 1400 hand-picked guests), and said that President Bush could help the GOP’s chances and conservatives more generally by staying the course in Iraq and Afghanistan, maintaining pressure on Iran and vetoing any spending bill with an earmark. On Iraq, he explained that we could have a long-term presence there, but was “absolutely” confident that military victory could be achieved during his term as president. For good measure he also passed a “pop quiz’ on the difference between the YouTube and MySpace websites.

Over all, he seemed feisty and engaged, but careful in tone to stress the upcoming election would be conducted with respect. In short, he seems raring to start the general election battle.

John McCain held another blogger call today, starting off with a jab at Barack Obama on Iraq. Citing Obama’s recent statement that U.S. troops might have to re-enter after he withdrew them because Al Qaeda “might establish a base,” McCain stressed that Al Qaeda already “has a base” and that General Petraeus has identified Iraq as the “central battleground” in the war against terrorism.

I asked how he regarded the Democrats’ abandonment of free trade and to expand on his thoughts on the passing of William F. Buckley, Jr. On trade, he stated that “the far Left is driving the debate” and gave a spirited defense of the benefits of free trade, which he termed “a fundamental requirement of American policy.” On Buckley, he declared that he was “a trailblazer” and “a true conservative leader” and “one of the nicest, one of the [most] decent people” he knew.

In response to other questions he enthusiastically stated he would continue town hall meetings and keep the media “on the bus” even after he wraps up the nomination. As for Obama, he demurred when asked if he would attack Obama’s experience, saying rather he would explain his own experience and point out the “very, very significant differences” on policy issues. Asked about George Will’s column today blasting him on campaign finance reform he diplomatically complimented Will as a great conservative writer, but said they would have to “agree to disagree” on campaign reform. However, he acknowledged (as Will pointed out) that he had refused to shake former FEC Commissioner Brad Smith’s hand because, he alleged, Smith had “savaged me and attacked my character.” (His tone was calm, but there could be no mistaking his animosity toward Smith.)

On other topics he wholeheartedly supported a proposal by Senator Jim DeMint to enact a one-year ban on earmarks, expressed “grave concern” about the progress of the Six Party talks (and said the New York Philharmonic trip was “fine,” but he wished people from the “world’s largest gulag” could have attended the concert instead of 1400 hand-picked guests), and said that President Bush could help the GOP’s chances and conservatives more generally by staying the course in Iraq and Afghanistan, maintaining pressure on Iran and vetoing any spending bill with an earmark. On Iraq, he explained that we could have a long-term presence there, but was “absolutely” confident that military victory could be achieved during his term as president. For good measure he also passed a “pop quiz’ on the difference between the YouTube and MySpace websites.

Over all, he seemed feisty and engaged, but careful in tone to stress the upcoming election would be conducted with respect. In short, he seems raring to start the general election battle.

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