Commentary Magazine


Topic: Lamar Alexander

Won’t Get Out of the STARTing Gate

Obama is quite pleased with his START agreement and sees this as evidence of his reset with the Russians. But there are serious questions — about the linkage to our missile defense programs and about modernization of our nuclear stockpile. It seems there just aren’t the votes in the U.S. Senate now to ratify the deal:

The new nuclear arms reduction treaty signed last week is unlikely to be ratified by the Senate this year, a GOP leader suggested Monday evening.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), the third-ranking GOP member of the Senate, said that it would take longer than the end of the year to get together the 67 votes necessary to ratify the nuclear arms treaty President Barack Obama signed last week with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

“No, not this year. That’s my view,” Alexander said during an appearance on Fox News when asked if the Senate would ratify the treaty this year.

“We have a lot of questions,” he said. “We need to get the right answers and then it might get 67 votes.”

And if there aren’t the votes this year, I’ll go out on a limb and predict there certainly won’t be the votes next year. So the shining “achievement” of the Obami’s year-long suck-uppery to the Russians is an unratifiable agreement and the Russian refusal to agree to more than pin-prick sanctions against Iran. Alas, our Eastern European allies were thrown under the bus for precious little.

Obama is quite pleased with his START agreement and sees this as evidence of his reset with the Russians. But there are serious questions — about the linkage to our missile defense programs and about modernization of our nuclear stockpile. It seems there just aren’t the votes in the U.S. Senate now to ratify the deal:

The new nuclear arms reduction treaty signed last week is unlikely to be ratified by the Senate this year, a GOP leader suggested Monday evening.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), the third-ranking GOP member of the Senate, said that it would take longer than the end of the year to get together the 67 votes necessary to ratify the nuclear arms treaty President Barack Obama signed last week with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

“No, not this year. That’s my view,” Alexander said during an appearance on Fox News when asked if the Senate would ratify the treaty this year.

“We have a lot of questions,” he said. “We need to get the right answers and then it might get 67 votes.”

And if there aren’t the votes this year, I’ll go out on a limb and predict there certainly won’t be the votes next year. So the shining “achievement” of the Obami’s year-long suck-uppery to the Russians is an unratifiable agreement and the Russian refusal to agree to more than pin-prick sanctions against Iran. Alas, our Eastern European allies were thrown under the bus for precious little.

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Health-Care Larceny

In a perfectly crafted paragraph, Michael Gerson sums up where we are on health-care “reform” (more about that later):

The most visible Democratic domestic priority of the past 40 years must be smuggled into law, lest too many Americans notice. Politicians claiming the idealism of saints have adopted the tactics of burglars. Victory, if it comes, will seem less like a parade than a heist.

Why the need for the lawlessness? Because the president has failed to persuade the country of its merits, and he and Nancy Pelosi have their hands full trying to wrestle the final House Democrats to the mat.

The bill is in no meaningful sense “reform,” which was the premise of the entire undertaking. For example, it was going to slow the increase in premiums. But even the AP acknowledges, “Premiums are likely to keep going up even if the health care bill passes, experts say. If cost controls work as advertised, annual increases would level off with time. But don’t look for a rollback. Instead, the main reason premiums would be more affordable is that new government tax credits would help cover the cost for millions of people.” Hmm. This was precisely the point Sen. Lamar Alexander and Rep. Paul Ryan made at the health-care summit.

And what about budget neutrality or entitlement “reform”? Gerson says that’s not happening:

The problem here is not only accounting tricks and the assumption of unprecedented courage on the part of future Congresses when it comes to Medicare cuts — though these are bad enough. The main source of irresponsibility is that the revenue-gaining measures in the health bill — particularly Medicare cuts and taxing “Cadillac” health plans — would be used to create a new entitlement instead of repairing an existing one. …

The unfunded liability of America’s current entitlements is more than $100 trillion. Medicare will eventually require a massive infusion of cash under a congressional entitlement fix. Both the Congressional Budget Office and the Medicare actuary have pressed the point that Medicare savings can be used to pay future Medicare benefits or to finance new spending outside Medicare — not both. When the entitlement crisis arrives, Obama will have already spent much of the resources required to meet it, leaving growth-killing new taxes as the main remaining option.

So you can see why we’re down to parliamentary larceny. It’s probably what we should have expected from a bunch of Chicago pols. But it’s certainly not very hope-n-changey. It’s probably not even constitutional.

In a perfectly crafted paragraph, Michael Gerson sums up where we are on health-care “reform” (more about that later):

The most visible Democratic domestic priority of the past 40 years must be smuggled into law, lest too many Americans notice. Politicians claiming the idealism of saints have adopted the tactics of burglars. Victory, if it comes, will seem less like a parade than a heist.

Why the need for the lawlessness? Because the president has failed to persuade the country of its merits, and he and Nancy Pelosi have their hands full trying to wrestle the final House Democrats to the mat.

The bill is in no meaningful sense “reform,” which was the premise of the entire undertaking. For example, it was going to slow the increase in premiums. But even the AP acknowledges, “Premiums are likely to keep going up even if the health care bill passes, experts say. If cost controls work as advertised, annual increases would level off with time. But don’t look for a rollback. Instead, the main reason premiums would be more affordable is that new government tax credits would help cover the cost for millions of people.” Hmm. This was precisely the point Sen. Lamar Alexander and Rep. Paul Ryan made at the health-care summit.

And what about budget neutrality or entitlement “reform”? Gerson says that’s not happening:

The problem here is not only accounting tricks and the assumption of unprecedented courage on the part of future Congresses when it comes to Medicare cuts — though these are bad enough. The main source of irresponsibility is that the revenue-gaining measures in the health bill — particularly Medicare cuts and taxing “Cadillac” health plans — would be used to create a new entitlement instead of repairing an existing one. …

The unfunded liability of America’s current entitlements is more than $100 trillion. Medicare will eventually require a massive infusion of cash under a congressional entitlement fix. Both the Congressional Budget Office and the Medicare actuary have pressed the point that Medicare savings can be used to pay future Medicare benefits or to finance new spending outside Medicare — not both. When the entitlement crisis arrives, Obama will have already spent much of the resources required to meet it, leaving growth-killing new taxes as the main remaining option.

So you can see why we’re down to parliamentary larceny. It’s probably what we should have expected from a bunch of Chicago pols. But it’s certainly not very hope-n-changey. It’s probably not even constitutional.

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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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LIVE BLOG: Senator Alexander Wins

If there was a discrete moment that summed up the problem for Obama with this forum it was his exchange with Lamar Alexander, followed by the home runs by Reps. Dave Camp and Paul Ryan on the cost issue. On issues that can be clearly fact-checked and Obama isn’t willing to concede the obvious (his plan requires more expensive plans), the president simply can’t “win” the point. And the public generally gets the idea that he’s playing fast and loose with the facts.

Well, he is.

If there was a discrete moment that summed up the problem for Obama with this forum it was his exchange with Lamar Alexander, followed by the home runs by Reps. Dave Camp and Paul Ryan on the cost issue. On issues that can be clearly fact-checked and Obama isn’t willing to concede the obvious (his plan requires more expensive plans), the president simply can’t “win” the point. And the public generally gets the idea that he’s playing fast and loose with the facts.

Well, he is.

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LIVE BLOG: Some More on Obama’s Performance

John, I think Obama is suffering from three factors. First, the expectations for him, based on a good deal of media puffery, are  that he should dominate these events. When he doesn’t and looks like a beleagured professor or a midlevel executive whose employees are refusing to get on the same page, the disappointment is greater than for a mere mortal politician.

Second, he has the Democrats on his side, and the Republicans have Paul Ryan, Dave Camp, Lamar Alexander, and John Boehner (who is now doing a fine job drilling down on costs, abortion subsidies, and a leaner health-care plan). And it isn’t just me. Republicans are frankly delighted by some of the media reaction. (David Gergen from earlier today on Obama: “He doesn’t have a strong Democratic team behind him.” Wolf Blizter: “It looks like the Republicans certainly showed up ready to play.”)

Third, the event is too long and there are too many popular, substantive points to be raised by the Republicans for this to be the “game changer” Obama needed. Whoever came up with this idea at the White House is no doubt squirming.

John, I think Obama is suffering from three factors. First, the expectations for him, based on a good deal of media puffery, are  that he should dominate these events. When he doesn’t and looks like a beleagured professor or a midlevel executive whose employees are refusing to get on the same page, the disappointment is greater than for a mere mortal politician.

Second, he has the Democrats on his side, and the Republicans have Paul Ryan, Dave Camp, Lamar Alexander, and John Boehner (who is now doing a fine job drilling down on costs, abortion subsidies, and a leaner health-care plan). And it isn’t just me. Republicans are frankly delighted by some of the media reaction. (David Gergen from earlier today on Obama: “He doesn’t have a strong Democratic team behind him.” Wolf Blizter: “It looks like the Republicans certainly showed up ready to play.”)

Third, the event is too long and there are too many popular, substantive points to be raised by the Republicans for this to be the “game changer” Obama needed. Whoever came up with this idea at the White House is no doubt squirming.

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LIVE BLOG: Obama — Not That Impressive a Spokesman

Barack Obama tends to be pretty strong in settings like this. But you can see the chinks in his armor, even in the “summit” setting. He gets prickly from time to time (you could see it in his exchange with Senator Alexander). He tends toward solipsism (his opening statement was about him, about his children, about his youth). And he’s strikingly arrogant, constantly putting himself in the position to deem what is a “legitimate” and what is an “illegitimate” argument. We also saw that same arrogance in his explanation of the uneven time allotted to people for speaking. He justifies it because, we were all delighted to learn, “I’m the president”: Obama decided not to count his speaking time against the time allotted to the Democratic side, which is silly. But we also saw Obama’s arrogance in his insistence that he is right and that Lamar Alexander is wrong about whether ObamaCare would increase premiums. As Jen Rubin and James Capretta demonstrate — and as Representative Dave Camp and Senator Jon Kyl argued during the session — it is Obama who was in error. President Obama is the best spokesman Democrats have. But the truth is that these days he’s not all that impressive.

Barack Obama tends to be pretty strong in settings like this. But you can see the chinks in his armor, even in the “summit” setting. He gets prickly from time to time (you could see it in his exchange with Senator Alexander). He tends toward solipsism (his opening statement was about him, about his children, about his youth). And he’s strikingly arrogant, constantly putting himself in the position to deem what is a “legitimate” and what is an “illegitimate” argument. We also saw that same arrogance in his explanation of the uneven time allotted to people for speaking. He justifies it because, we were all delighted to learn, “I’m the president”: Obama decided not to count his speaking time against the time allotted to the Democratic side, which is silly. But we also saw Obama’s arrogance in his insistence that he is right and that Lamar Alexander is wrong about whether ObamaCare would increase premiums. As Jen Rubin and James Capretta demonstrate — and as Representative Dave Camp and Senator Jon Kyl argued during the session — it is Obama who was in error. President Obama is the best spokesman Democrats have. But the truth is that these days he’s not all that impressive.

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LIVE BLOG: Senator Reid Speaks

Compared to Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi was the model of bipartisan cheer. Harry Reid scolds Lamar Alexander, saying that the Republicans aren’t entitled to their own facts. No clue which particular facts he is so aggrieved about. And he, too, is back to the sob stories. Reid defends the use of reconciliation, saying it’s been used before. I think every moment spent defending the process of jamming through a bill on partisan lines is probably a lost one for the Democrats. One basic observation: Reid seems awfully mad and grumpy. Maybe there are some more bad poll numbers from his Senate race.

Compared to Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi was the model of bipartisan cheer. Harry Reid scolds Lamar Alexander, saying that the Republicans aren’t entitled to their own facts. No clue which particular facts he is so aggrieved about. And he, too, is back to the sob stories. Reid defends the use of reconciliation, saying it’s been used before. I think every moment spent defending the process of jamming through a bill on partisan lines is probably a lost one for the Democrats. One basic observation: Reid seems awfully mad and grumpy. Maybe there are some more bad poll numbers from his Senate race.

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LIVE BLOG: Sen. Lamar Alexander for the GOP

The Republicans wisely chose Sen. Lamar Alexander to respond. He is polite and restrained but forceful, telling Obama that voters in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts rejected the approach to health care that Democrats passed last year. He explains that we need to “start from a clean sheet.” He reminds everyone that Obama is seeking to slash Medicare and raise half a trillion in new taxes. He notes that when those taxes are passed through insurance companies, premiums will go up. He is methodically explaining the most objectionable features of Obama’s plan, including the “sweetheart” deals. All in all, a good moment for the GOP.

The Republicans wisely chose Sen. Lamar Alexander to respond. He is polite and restrained but forceful, telling Obama that voters in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts rejected the approach to health care that Democrats passed last year. He explains that we need to “start from a clean sheet.” He reminds everyone that Obama is seeking to slash Medicare and raise half a trillion in new taxes. He notes that when those taxes are passed through insurance companies, premiums will go up. He is methodically explaining the most objectionable features of Obama’s plan, including the “sweetheart” deals. All in all, a good moment for the GOP.

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Time to Throw Holder Under the Bus?

Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Sen. Evan Bayh, perhaps hearing footsteps back home in an election year, said of the KSM trial that it “sounded good in theory way back when but, in practice, it just was not the right thing to do.” When pressed by Chris Wallace, he stated he would not vote for the $200 million or so needed for a civilian trial for KSM. He was not alone in criticizing the administration:

Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin argued these are the wrong decisions.  “We should have learned from the mistakes we made in the past.  We shouldn’t be Mirandizing foreign terrorists.  We should send them to military tribunals.  $200 million is about four times the startup cost of Guantanamo in the first place.”

Similarly, Republican Senator Lamar Alexander accused Attorney General Holder of “doing a better job of interrogating CIA employees than he is of interrogating terrorists.”

“He’s not making a distinction between enemy combatants, the terrorists who are flying into Detroit, blowing up plans, and American citizens who are committing a crime,” he added.

Alexander went so far as to call for Holder to step down.

Meanwhile, the administration’s official flack did not exactly give a ringing endorsement of either the KSM trial or of Holder himself. Appearing on CNN, Robert Gibbs would only say:

“He will be brought to justice, and he will likely be executed for the heinous crimes he has committed. … That you can be sure of.”

But he dodged repeated questions by CNN host John King about whether the administration might shift the venue back from federal court in New York to a military court, finally saying that “The attorney general believes the best place to try him is in an American courtroom,” but not committing to that option…

“We are talking with the authorities in New York,” Gibbs said. “We understand their logistical concerns. We have been discussing that with them.”

So this is all the attorney general’s idea, you see. Not exactly the “buck stops here” sort of decision-making we were assured we’d get from Obama. But aside from the lack of presidential accountability and candor (who believes Holder made this monumentally dumb decision with no input from the White House?), it does leave open the potential for a serious revision in personnel and policy.

There is wide consensus that the decision to try KSM in federal court in New York was a blunder. Suddenly, the wonders of military commissions have been rediscovered. The handling of the Christmas Day bomber is likewise the subject of broad criticism. Who is at the center of these and a host of other ill-advised decisions on the war on terror? Well, the president, of course, but he’s not going anywhere for three years. His attorney general, however, has had quite a run and is fast becoming a liability for the administration. What better way to pivot and restore some bipartisan credibility than to throw Holder under the proverbial bus?

We’ve learned that it takes a lot to get fired by Obama. But if anyone has earned that fate, it is Holder. His departure would earn praise from conservatives at a time when Obama is struggling to demonstrate some bipartisanship. It would suggest that there is hope yet for this administration to steer back toward the Center of the political spectrum and away from the netroot agenda that has proven utterly unworkable and politically toxic.

Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Sen. Evan Bayh, perhaps hearing footsteps back home in an election year, said of the KSM trial that it “sounded good in theory way back when but, in practice, it just was not the right thing to do.” When pressed by Chris Wallace, he stated he would not vote for the $200 million or so needed for a civilian trial for KSM. He was not alone in criticizing the administration:

Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin argued these are the wrong decisions.  “We should have learned from the mistakes we made in the past.  We shouldn’t be Mirandizing foreign terrorists.  We should send them to military tribunals.  $200 million is about four times the startup cost of Guantanamo in the first place.”

Similarly, Republican Senator Lamar Alexander accused Attorney General Holder of “doing a better job of interrogating CIA employees than he is of interrogating terrorists.”

“He’s not making a distinction between enemy combatants, the terrorists who are flying into Detroit, blowing up plans, and American citizens who are committing a crime,” he added.

Alexander went so far as to call for Holder to step down.

Meanwhile, the administration’s official flack did not exactly give a ringing endorsement of either the KSM trial or of Holder himself. Appearing on CNN, Robert Gibbs would only say:

“He will be brought to justice, and he will likely be executed for the heinous crimes he has committed. … That you can be sure of.”

But he dodged repeated questions by CNN host John King about whether the administration might shift the venue back from federal court in New York to a military court, finally saying that “The attorney general believes the best place to try him is in an American courtroom,” but not committing to that option…

“We are talking with the authorities in New York,” Gibbs said. “We understand their logistical concerns. We have been discussing that with them.”

So this is all the attorney general’s idea, you see. Not exactly the “buck stops here” sort of decision-making we were assured we’d get from Obama. But aside from the lack of presidential accountability and candor (who believes Holder made this monumentally dumb decision with no input from the White House?), it does leave open the potential for a serious revision in personnel and policy.

There is wide consensus that the decision to try KSM in federal court in New York was a blunder. Suddenly, the wonders of military commissions have been rediscovered. The handling of the Christmas Day bomber is likewise the subject of broad criticism. Who is at the center of these and a host of other ill-advised decisions on the war on terror? Well, the president, of course, but he’s not going anywhere for three years. His attorney general, however, has had quite a run and is fast becoming a liability for the administration. What better way to pivot and restore some bipartisan credibility than to throw Holder under the proverbial bus?

We’ve learned that it takes a lot to get fired by Obama. But if anyone has earned that fate, it is Holder. His departure would earn praise from conservatives at a time when Obama is struggling to demonstrate some bipartisanship. It would suggest that there is hope yet for this administration to steer back toward the Center of the political spectrum and away from the netroot agenda that has proven utterly unworkable and politically toxic.

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The Crisis Bullies Are Losing

For months we’ve heard the Democrats rail against opponents of ObamaCare as “defenders of the status quo.” The current system is “unsustainable” or “unacceptable,” we were told, and those dirty dog Republicans want to keep things the way they are. Republicans denied the charge. “No, we want change too!” they retorted. “Who’s in favor of the status quo? Not us!” Well, now it turns out that the public likes the status quo better than what’s coming out of Congress.

As Megan McArdle observes:

You can argue that voters aren’t educated enough and that you can generate good poll numbers for individual components of the plan, but that’s not really relevant. You can generate support for nearly any program, if you poll it without mentioning the associated costs. When voters think about the health care plan, they’re not thinking public option + medicare advantage cuts + etc.  They’re making a judgment about what the entire package will mean. And the entire package has risks as well as benefits:  higher taxes, less generous health coverage for the majority of Americans who already have it.

In other words, the Democrats’ schemes for massive taxes, Medicare cuts, and government “advisory” boards (think about the mammogram guidelines) are going to make things worse for those who have care, without doing anything on the bend-the-cost-curve side. Americans’ support for the existing health-care system is at an all-time high. Why? They realize they might lose it and are scared that what is coming is going to be worse for them specifically and the country generally.

Backers of a government takeover of health care have been trying, not unlike the environmental hysterics, to tell us that we are in a dire crisis. For if one is in a crisis, something must be done. And in a crisis, one tends to be predisposed to accept all sorts of eye-popping power grabs and unbelievable statistics, because it’s a crisis after all. Alas, the public isn’t buying it. It sure doesn’t seem like a health-care crisis to most Americans. The vast majority of voters have insurance and like it. So the bullies holler louder. Now Harry Reid says that those who object are like those who defended slavery and Jim Crow. (That’s when the status quo really was unacceptable.)

What’s coming out of ObamaCare supporters sounds to ordinary voters not soothing or helpful but very expensive, scary, and most of all, arrogant. As Sen. Lamar Alexander explained:

“This bill is historic in its arrogance—arrogance that we in Congress are wise enough to take this complex health system, that is 17 percent of our economy and serves 300 million Americans, and think we can write a 2,000-page bill and change it all. … It’s arrogant to dump 15 million low-income Americans into a medical ghetto called Medicaid that none of us or any of our families would ever want to join.”

So perhaps it’s time to defend the status quo. The crisis mongers and bullies insist we must reinvent the entire health-care system. They are wrong, of course. The current system is not perfect, but the alternative is far worse. The president says we can keep the insurance we have? Yes, if the monstrous government takeover plan is defeated. That would suit most voters just fine.

For months we’ve heard the Democrats rail against opponents of ObamaCare as “defenders of the status quo.” The current system is “unsustainable” or “unacceptable,” we were told, and those dirty dog Republicans want to keep things the way they are. Republicans denied the charge. “No, we want change too!” they retorted. “Who’s in favor of the status quo? Not us!” Well, now it turns out that the public likes the status quo better than what’s coming out of Congress.

As Megan McArdle observes:

You can argue that voters aren’t educated enough and that you can generate good poll numbers for individual components of the plan, but that’s not really relevant. You can generate support for nearly any program, if you poll it without mentioning the associated costs. When voters think about the health care plan, they’re not thinking public option + medicare advantage cuts + etc.  They’re making a judgment about what the entire package will mean. And the entire package has risks as well as benefits:  higher taxes, less generous health coverage for the majority of Americans who already have it.

In other words, the Democrats’ schemes for massive taxes, Medicare cuts, and government “advisory” boards (think about the mammogram guidelines) are going to make things worse for those who have care, without doing anything on the bend-the-cost-curve side. Americans’ support for the existing health-care system is at an all-time high. Why? They realize they might lose it and are scared that what is coming is going to be worse for them specifically and the country generally.

Backers of a government takeover of health care have been trying, not unlike the environmental hysterics, to tell us that we are in a dire crisis. For if one is in a crisis, something must be done. And in a crisis, one tends to be predisposed to accept all sorts of eye-popping power grabs and unbelievable statistics, because it’s a crisis after all. Alas, the public isn’t buying it. It sure doesn’t seem like a health-care crisis to most Americans. The vast majority of voters have insurance and like it. So the bullies holler louder. Now Harry Reid says that those who object are like those who defended slavery and Jim Crow. (That’s when the status quo really was unacceptable.)

What’s coming out of ObamaCare supporters sounds to ordinary voters not soothing or helpful but very expensive, scary, and most of all, arrogant. As Sen. Lamar Alexander explained:

“This bill is historic in its arrogance—arrogance that we in Congress are wise enough to take this complex health system, that is 17 percent of our economy and serves 300 million Americans, and think we can write a 2,000-page bill and change it all. … It’s arrogant to dump 15 million low-income Americans into a medical ghetto called Medicaid that none of us or any of our families would ever want to join.”

So perhaps it’s time to defend the status quo. The crisis mongers and bullies insist we must reinvent the entire health-care system. They are wrong, of course. The current system is not perfect, but the alternative is far worse. The president says we can keep the insurance we have? Yes, if the monstrous government takeover plan is defeated. That would suit most voters just fine.

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Just as It Was Intended

It seems that trying to ram through the U.S. Senate an enormous, highly controversial, and very expensive piece of legislation isn’t as easy as one would think. This report explains that health-care reform is sputtering along:

On the third day of a divisive debate, Democrats threatened to keep the Senate in session through the Christmas holiday if necessary to pass a healthcare reform bill that President Barack Obama has made his top domestic priority.

The U.S. Senate debate on a sweeping healthcare overhaul stumbled toward gridlock on Wednesday, with frustrated Democrats considering new procedural moves after Republicans blocked votes on the first amendments.

This, of course, is nothing new for the “greatest deliberative body in the world.” The Republicans aren’t impressed with Democrats’ demand for speed. (“‘They expect to have a right to weigh in,’ Republican Senator Lamar Alexander told reporters. ‘The Senate is a place where we have generally unlimited debate, generally unlimited amendments, so we’re just getting started on this bill.'”) And Sen. Judd Gregg has a guide to parliamentary options to help his colleagues select which procedures they’d like to employ.

There is nothing in the least improper nor surprising about this. Democrats imagined they could craft a bill in secret, disregard the building public opposition, and ignore the minority party. They are finding out it’s not so easy given the Senate’s rules. The Senate is playing its historic and constitutionally appropriate role in slowing down a legislative freight train.

After all, if the bill is so wonderful, more debate and discussion can only work to its sponsors’ advantage, right? Well, there’s the rub. Democrats are freaking out, quite plainly, because with each passing week and month, the chances that this monstrosity will pass diminish.

It seems that trying to ram through the U.S. Senate an enormous, highly controversial, and very expensive piece of legislation isn’t as easy as one would think. This report explains that health-care reform is sputtering along:

On the third day of a divisive debate, Democrats threatened to keep the Senate in session through the Christmas holiday if necessary to pass a healthcare reform bill that President Barack Obama has made his top domestic priority.

The U.S. Senate debate on a sweeping healthcare overhaul stumbled toward gridlock on Wednesday, with frustrated Democrats considering new procedural moves after Republicans blocked votes on the first amendments.

This, of course, is nothing new for the “greatest deliberative body in the world.” The Republicans aren’t impressed with Democrats’ demand for speed. (“‘They expect to have a right to weigh in,’ Republican Senator Lamar Alexander told reporters. ‘The Senate is a place where we have generally unlimited debate, generally unlimited amendments, so we’re just getting started on this bill.'”) And Sen. Judd Gregg has a guide to parliamentary options to help his colleagues select which procedures they’d like to employ.

There is nothing in the least improper nor surprising about this. Democrats imagined they could craft a bill in secret, disregard the building public opposition, and ignore the minority party. They are finding out it’s not so easy given the Senate’s rules. The Senate is playing its historic and constitutionally appropriate role in slowing down a legislative freight train.

After all, if the bill is so wonderful, more debate and discussion can only work to its sponsors’ advantage, right? Well, there’s the rub. Democrats are freaking out, quite plainly, because with each passing week and month, the chances that this monstrosity will pass diminish.

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