Commentary Magazine


Topic: Nebraska

Just a Notch on a Belt

Buried deep inside an angst-filled column complaining that Obama is underappreciated and overly criticized, Richard Cohen concedes what many on both the Right and Left suspect: “He wanted a health-care bill. Why? To cover the uncovered. Maybe. To rein in the insurance companies. Maybe. To lower costs. Maybe. What mattered most was getting a bill, any bill. This is not a cause. It’s a notch on a belt.” We suspect that is true in part because Obama never really told us what he wanted in the bill. He never sent a proposal to Congress. He didn’t spell out specific requirements for his plan in that game-changing (not) speech in September. Each time Congress moved ahead with one version or another, Obama praised the effort without much comment on the content. Some thought it was tactical. But maybe he never really cared what was in it.

That conclusion is reinforced by the bill’s content and timing. As for the content, it doesn’t do what the president in broadest strokes said he wanted to accomplish. James Capretta points out that this isn’t “universal” care:

The House and Senate bills would add 15 million or more people to [Medicaid’s] rolls without any guarantee whatsoever that there will be doctors and hospitals that can see them. Ironically, the very Democrats who most frequently tout “universality” as the goal are also the ones who ensure it will never actually come about by insisting that America’s lower-income families enroll in government-run insurance — with no other options. Beyond the Medicaid expansion, Obamacare is really an obligation, not a right. Every citizen would be required to sign up with a government-approved health-insurance plan or pay a tax penalty for going without coverage.

And even its proponents concede there will still be 23 million or so uninsured. Nor does the bill meet the president’s goals of deficit neutrality or cost cutting:

[T]he claim that bill lowers the deficit means that, in addition to cutting Medicare by half a trillion dollars, the Senate would also raise half a trillion in new taxes — during a recession. Only a series of accounting gimmicks — such as implementing benefits beginning in 2014 but raising taxes starting in 2010, and double-counting Medicare savings — allowed Senate majority leader Harry Reid to get a CBO cost estimate that pretends to add “not one dime” to the deficit. Medicare actuary Foster found that the Senate bill would bend the cost curve up, not down, and that the new taxes on drugs, devices, and health-insurance plans would increase prices and health-insurance costs for consumers.

But the telltale sign that Obama doesn’t really much care about the merits of the bill or any of the bill’s promised benefits is the timeline. The Heritage Foundation lays this out in detail:

2010: Physician Medicare payments decrease 21% effective March 1, 2010

2011: “Annual Fee” tax on health insurance, allocated according to share of total premiums. Begins at $2 billion in 2011, then increases to $4 billion in 2012, $7 billion in 2013, $9 billion in the years 2014, 2015, and 2016, and eventually $10 billion for 2017 and every year thereafter. Two insurers in Nebraska and one in Michigan are exempt from this tax.

2012: Medicare payment penalties for hospitals with the highest readmission rates for selected conditions.

2013: Medicare tax increased from 2.9% to 3.8% for incomes over $250,000 (joint filers) or $200,000 (all others). (This is stated as an increase of 0.9 percentage points, to only the employee’s share of the FICA tax.)

2014: Individual mandate begins: Tax penalties for not having insurance begin at $95 or 0.5% of income, whichever is higher, rising to $495 or 1% of income in 2015 and $750 or 2% of income thereafter (indexed for inflation after 2016). These penalties are per adult, half that amount per child, to a maximum of three times the per-adult amount per family. The penalty is capped at the national average premium for the “bronze” plan.

2015: Establishment of Independent Medicare Advisory Board (IMAB) to recommend cuts in Medicare benefits; these cuts will go into effect automatically unless Congress passes, and the President signs, an override bill.

2016: Individual mandate penalty rises to $750 per adult ($375 per child), maximum $2,250 per family, or 2% of family income, whichever is higher (capped at the national average premium for the “bronze” plan). After 2016, the penalty will be increased each year to adjust for inflation.

2017: Itemized deduction for out-of-pocket medical expenses is limited to expenses over 10% of AGI for those over age 65.

Bottom line: nothing but taxes and Medicare cuts begin before 2014. This is not a serious plan to address a health-care “crisis,” is it? No. It is an effort to throw something up against the wall and clean up the mess later. It won’t be proven “not to work” before Obama’s last election because it isn’t designed to really do anything, other than raise taxes, for the next four years. It is the ultimate placeholder that Obama can check off on his to-do list without the responsibility for actually solving the crisis he told us we had to fix urgently — before Christmas 2009.

It is hard, then, to quibble with Cohen. This isn’t a serious effort to reform health care. It’s lazy governance from a president who couldn’t face failure or craft a coherent bill. He and Democrats in the House and Senate imagine that the voters are too dumb to figure this out. We’ll test that proposition in November.

Buried deep inside an angst-filled column complaining that Obama is underappreciated and overly criticized, Richard Cohen concedes what many on both the Right and Left suspect: “He wanted a health-care bill. Why? To cover the uncovered. Maybe. To rein in the insurance companies. Maybe. To lower costs. Maybe. What mattered most was getting a bill, any bill. This is not a cause. It’s a notch on a belt.” We suspect that is true in part because Obama never really told us what he wanted in the bill. He never sent a proposal to Congress. He didn’t spell out specific requirements for his plan in that game-changing (not) speech in September. Each time Congress moved ahead with one version or another, Obama praised the effort without much comment on the content. Some thought it was tactical. But maybe he never really cared what was in it.

That conclusion is reinforced by the bill’s content and timing. As for the content, it doesn’t do what the president in broadest strokes said he wanted to accomplish. James Capretta points out that this isn’t “universal” care:

The House and Senate bills would add 15 million or more people to [Medicaid’s] rolls without any guarantee whatsoever that there will be doctors and hospitals that can see them. Ironically, the very Democrats who most frequently tout “universality” as the goal are also the ones who ensure it will never actually come about by insisting that America’s lower-income families enroll in government-run insurance — with no other options. Beyond the Medicaid expansion, Obamacare is really an obligation, not a right. Every citizen would be required to sign up with a government-approved health-insurance plan or pay a tax penalty for going without coverage.

And even its proponents concede there will still be 23 million or so uninsured. Nor does the bill meet the president’s goals of deficit neutrality or cost cutting:

[T]he claim that bill lowers the deficit means that, in addition to cutting Medicare by half a trillion dollars, the Senate would also raise half a trillion in new taxes — during a recession. Only a series of accounting gimmicks — such as implementing benefits beginning in 2014 but raising taxes starting in 2010, and double-counting Medicare savings — allowed Senate majority leader Harry Reid to get a CBO cost estimate that pretends to add “not one dime” to the deficit. Medicare actuary Foster found that the Senate bill would bend the cost curve up, not down, and that the new taxes on drugs, devices, and health-insurance plans would increase prices and health-insurance costs for consumers.

But the telltale sign that Obama doesn’t really much care about the merits of the bill or any of the bill’s promised benefits is the timeline. The Heritage Foundation lays this out in detail:

2010: Physician Medicare payments decrease 21% effective March 1, 2010

2011: “Annual Fee” tax on health insurance, allocated according to share of total premiums. Begins at $2 billion in 2011, then increases to $4 billion in 2012, $7 billion in 2013, $9 billion in the years 2014, 2015, and 2016, and eventually $10 billion for 2017 and every year thereafter. Two insurers in Nebraska and one in Michigan are exempt from this tax.

2012: Medicare payment penalties for hospitals with the highest readmission rates for selected conditions.

2013: Medicare tax increased from 2.9% to 3.8% for incomes over $250,000 (joint filers) or $200,000 (all others). (This is stated as an increase of 0.9 percentage points, to only the employee’s share of the FICA tax.)

2014: Individual mandate begins: Tax penalties for not having insurance begin at $95 or 0.5% of income, whichever is higher, rising to $495 or 1% of income in 2015 and $750 or 2% of income thereafter (indexed for inflation after 2016). These penalties are per adult, half that amount per child, to a maximum of three times the per-adult amount per family. The penalty is capped at the national average premium for the “bronze” plan.

2015: Establishment of Independent Medicare Advisory Board (IMAB) to recommend cuts in Medicare benefits; these cuts will go into effect automatically unless Congress passes, and the President signs, an override bill.

2016: Individual mandate penalty rises to $750 per adult ($375 per child), maximum $2,250 per family, or 2% of family income, whichever is higher (capped at the national average premium for the “bronze” plan). After 2016, the penalty will be increased each year to adjust for inflation.

2017: Itemized deduction for out-of-pocket medical expenses is limited to expenses over 10% of AGI for those over age 65.

Bottom line: nothing but taxes and Medicare cuts begin before 2014. This is not a serious plan to address a health-care “crisis,” is it? No. It is an effort to throw something up against the wall and clean up the mess later. It won’t be proven “not to work” before Obama’s last election because it isn’t designed to really do anything, other than raise taxes, for the next four years. It is the ultimate placeholder that Obama can check off on his to-do list without the responsibility for actually solving the crisis he told us we had to fix urgently — before Christmas 2009.

It is hard, then, to quibble with Cohen. This isn’t a serious effort to reform health care. It’s lazy governance from a president who couldn’t face failure or craft a coherent bill. He and Democrats in the House and Senate imagine that the voters are too dumb to figure this out. We’ll test that proposition in November.

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The Ballot Box Solution

The Wall Street Journal editors zero in on Sen. Ben Nelson’s infamous deal, the “Cornhusker Kickback,” which is going to replace the Bridge To Nowhere in legislative infamy. They explain:

Under the “Cornhusker Kickback,” the federal government will pay all of Nebraska’s new Medicaid costs forever, while taxpayers in the other 49 states will see their budgets explode as this safety-net program for the poor is expanded to one out of every five Americans.

“In addition to violating the most basic and universally held notions of what is fair and just,” the AGs wrote last week to the Democratic leadership, the Article I spending clause is limited to “general Welfare.” If Congress claims to be legitimately serving that interest by expanding the joint state-federal Medicaid program, then why is it relieving just one state of a mandate that otherwise applies to all states? In other words, serving the non-general welfare of Nebraska—for no other reason than political expediency—violates a basic Supreme Court check on the “display of arbitrary power” that was established in 1937’s Helvering v. Davis.

I am not a fan of reconstituting policy arguments as Constitutional claims, even when the legislative offense is as gross as this. At bottom, noxious legislation calls out for a legislative solution: a no vote by the other lawmakers whose constituents rightly see this as unfair and, at bottom, immoral. After all, why are Californians’ health needs not given the same consideration as Nebraskans’? And just because Sen. Feinstein and Boxer allowed Nelson to get away with a better deal in the Christmas rush doesn’t mean they and their colleagues shouldn’t take a second look. As the Journal‘s editors point out, Blue states really have reason to gripe:

In a December letter Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger lamented that ObamaCare would impose the “crushing new burden” of as much as $4 billion per year in new Medicaid spending in a state that is already deeply in the red. And in a Christmas Day op-ed in the Buffalo News, New York Governor David A. Paterson protested the almost $1 billion in new costs as well as the “unfairness of the Senate bill” when “New York already sends significantly more money to Washington than it gets back.”

There are, after all, Senate races in New York and California this year. It seems as though it would behoove Sens. Boxer and Gillibrand to defend their taxpayers’ interests. The same goes for the 53 California House members and the 29 New York representatives. Don’t at least a handful of the Democrats in those and other states object to the fact that their voters are going to be subsidizing Nebraskans only so that the latter don’t get too mad at Ben Nelson?

Perhaps the courts will find some legal infirmity with the deal. But the ultimate solution to this sort of chicanery is found at the ballot box.

The Wall Street Journal editors zero in on Sen. Ben Nelson’s infamous deal, the “Cornhusker Kickback,” which is going to replace the Bridge To Nowhere in legislative infamy. They explain:

Under the “Cornhusker Kickback,” the federal government will pay all of Nebraska’s new Medicaid costs forever, while taxpayers in the other 49 states will see their budgets explode as this safety-net program for the poor is expanded to one out of every five Americans.

“In addition to violating the most basic and universally held notions of what is fair and just,” the AGs wrote last week to the Democratic leadership, the Article I spending clause is limited to “general Welfare.” If Congress claims to be legitimately serving that interest by expanding the joint state-federal Medicaid program, then why is it relieving just one state of a mandate that otherwise applies to all states? In other words, serving the non-general welfare of Nebraska—for no other reason than political expediency—violates a basic Supreme Court check on the “display of arbitrary power” that was established in 1937’s Helvering v. Davis.

I am not a fan of reconstituting policy arguments as Constitutional claims, even when the legislative offense is as gross as this. At bottom, noxious legislation calls out for a legislative solution: a no vote by the other lawmakers whose constituents rightly see this as unfair and, at bottom, immoral. After all, why are Californians’ health needs not given the same consideration as Nebraskans’? And just because Sen. Feinstein and Boxer allowed Nelson to get away with a better deal in the Christmas rush doesn’t mean they and their colleagues shouldn’t take a second look. As the Journal‘s editors point out, Blue states really have reason to gripe:

In a December letter Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger lamented that ObamaCare would impose the “crushing new burden” of as much as $4 billion per year in new Medicaid spending in a state that is already deeply in the red. And in a Christmas Day op-ed in the Buffalo News, New York Governor David A. Paterson protested the almost $1 billion in new costs as well as the “unfairness of the Senate bill” when “New York already sends significantly more money to Washington than it gets back.”

There are, after all, Senate races in New York and California this year. It seems as though it would behoove Sens. Boxer and Gillibrand to defend their taxpayers’ interests. The same goes for the 53 California House members and the 29 New York representatives. Don’t at least a handful of the Democrats in those and other states object to the fact that their voters are going to be subsidizing Nebraskans only so that the latter don’t get too mad at Ben Nelson?

Perhaps the courts will find some legal infirmity with the deal. But the ultimate solution to this sort of chicanery is found at the ballot box.

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Justice Brandeis, Call Your Office

The Times this morning ran a story on yet another fiddle that has been uncovered from the depths of the health-reform bill that passed in the Senate on Christmas Eve. This one favors construction unions. While, under the act, most companies with fewer than 50 employees would not have to provide government-mandated health insurance or pay a tax, those in the construction business would be exempt only if they have fewer than five employees. At least the Times notes that:

The construction industry provision is receiving a second look as work begins in earnest this week to resolve differences in bills passed by the Senate and the House to remake the nation’s health care system. Other provisions sure to be scrutinized include a tax break for the Blue Cross and Blue Shield plan in Nebraska; Medicare coverage for residents of Libby, Mont., sickened by a mineral mine; extra Medicaid money for Massachusetts, Nebraska and Vermont; and a special dispensation for a handful of doctor-owned hospitals.

One would hope that the endless number of constitutionally dubious provisions, including such lulus as requiring a supermajority in the Senate to repeal certain portions of the act, will also get a second look.

Of course, it may be that these provisions end up rescuing the country from this dreadful legislation. In 1933, at the very end of his 100 days, Franklin Roosevelt signed into law the National Industrial Recovery Act. Title II of that act established one of the New Deal’s most famous agencies, the Public Works Administration (PWA), which would build across the country post offices, highways, dams, etc. But Title I of the NIRA established the National Recovery Administration (NRA). It authorized the president to regulate industry, including the establishment of cartels and monopolies, to set prices, and, in effect, oversee the entire American economy, much as today’s health bill would regulate the health-care industry.

It was a breathtaking expansion of federal power and, for a while, the NRA’s symbol — a blue eagle with a gear wheel in one claw and lightning bolts in the other — and its slogan, “We Do Our Part,” were everywhere. But two years later, the Supreme Court ruled in a famous case, Schechter Poultry  Corp v. United States, that the bill violated both the separation of powers doctrine by delegating legislative authority to the president and the commerce clause.

While the court at that point had a majority of conservative justices (two years later FDR would try to pack the court to get rid of it), the decision was unanimous. Justice Louis Brandeis, no conservative, told aides of the president, “This is the end of this business of centralization, and I want you to go back and tell the president that we’re not going to let this government centralize everything.”

Where is Justice Brandeis now that we really need him?

The Times this morning ran a story on yet another fiddle that has been uncovered from the depths of the health-reform bill that passed in the Senate on Christmas Eve. This one favors construction unions. While, under the act, most companies with fewer than 50 employees would not have to provide government-mandated health insurance or pay a tax, those in the construction business would be exempt only if they have fewer than five employees. At least the Times notes that:

The construction industry provision is receiving a second look as work begins in earnest this week to resolve differences in bills passed by the Senate and the House to remake the nation’s health care system. Other provisions sure to be scrutinized include a tax break for the Blue Cross and Blue Shield plan in Nebraska; Medicare coverage for residents of Libby, Mont., sickened by a mineral mine; extra Medicaid money for Massachusetts, Nebraska and Vermont; and a special dispensation for a handful of doctor-owned hospitals.

One would hope that the endless number of constitutionally dubious provisions, including such lulus as requiring a supermajority in the Senate to repeal certain portions of the act, will also get a second look.

Of course, it may be that these provisions end up rescuing the country from this dreadful legislation. In 1933, at the very end of his 100 days, Franklin Roosevelt signed into law the National Industrial Recovery Act. Title II of that act established one of the New Deal’s most famous agencies, the Public Works Administration (PWA), which would build across the country post offices, highways, dams, etc. But Title I of the NIRA established the National Recovery Administration (NRA). It authorized the president to regulate industry, including the establishment of cartels and monopolies, to set prices, and, in effect, oversee the entire American economy, much as today’s health bill would regulate the health-care industry.

It was a breathtaking expansion of federal power and, for a while, the NRA’s symbol — a blue eagle with a gear wheel in one claw and lightning bolts in the other — and its slogan, “We Do Our Part,” were everywhere. But two years later, the Supreme Court ruled in a famous case, Schechter Poultry  Corp v. United States, that the bill violated both the separation of powers doctrine by delegating legislative authority to the president and the commerce clause.

While the court at that point had a majority of conservative justices (two years later FDR would try to pack the court to get rid of it), the decision was unanimous. Justice Louis Brandeis, no conservative, told aides of the president, “This is the end of this business of centralization, and I want you to go back and tell the president that we’re not going to let this government centralize everything.”

Where is Justice Brandeis now that we really need him?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Time to see if the Senate Cash for Cloture deal can survive scrutiny (legal and otherwise): “Republican attorneys general in 13 states say congressional leaders must remove Nebraska’s political deal from the federal health care reform bill or face legal action, according to a letter provided to The Associated Press Wednesday. ‘We believe this provision is constitutionally flawed,’ South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster and the 12 other attorneys general wrote in the letter to be sent Wednesday night to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.”

The Obami don’t like “Islamic terrorism” or “war on terror” but they are a never-ending font of bureaucratic gibberish: “‘Pulsing it.’ ‘Pulsing the system.’ That’s the language used Tuesday by a senior Obama White House administration official to describe how the administration is scrambling to find out about the intelligence failures that led to a Nigerian suspected terrorist boarding Detroit bound Northwest Flight 253 with explosives in his underwear on Christmas Day.” Yeah, I don’t feel comforted by this either.

Sounds good in theory: “President Barack Obama on Tuesday ordered the federal government to rethink how it protects the nation’s secrets, in a move that was expected to declassify more than 400 million pages of Cold War-era documents and curb the number of government records hidden from the public.” But then why hasn’t the administration released all the Bush-era interrogation documents requested by Dick Cheney, the information on the dismissal of the New Black Panther Party voter case, and the data Congress has requested about the domestic-terror attacks on the Obami’s watch?

More people than ever hate ObamaCare — 58 percent, a new high in the Rasmussen poll, oppose it.

Because we haven’t had enough government bailouts? “The federal government said Wednesday it will take a majority ownership stake in the troubled auto lender GMAC, providing another $3.8 billion in aid to the company, which has been unable to raise from private investors the money it needs to stanch its losses. The new aid package for GMAC, coming as most large banks are repaying the government, underscores both the problems afflicting the company and its importance to the Obama administration’s efforts to revive the auto industry.” Hmm, sounds like we’re never getting our money back.

What’s wrong with a criminal-justice approach to terrorism? “By whatever name, designating Mutallab as an enemy of the United States would have provided interrogators much greater flexibility in questioning him and given him no legal right to resist. The decision to charge Mutallab as a criminal, rather than designate him as an enemy combatant, was a momentous one that in all likelihood guarantees we will gain less intelligence about how the attack was planned, who planned it, and whether others are on the way.”

They have a point: “Members of the Allied Pilots Association, the pilots’ union at American Airlines, said Wednesday that the U.S. Transportation Security Administration didn’t do enough to warn in-air flight crews of the Christmas Day terrorist threat on a Northwest Airlines flight.” But then no one was warned, so it’s not like they were treated any differently than anyone else.

Despite the White House’s best efforts, Fox News doesn’t look as though it is going away any time soon.

Time to see if the Senate Cash for Cloture deal can survive scrutiny (legal and otherwise): “Republican attorneys general in 13 states say congressional leaders must remove Nebraska’s political deal from the federal health care reform bill or face legal action, according to a letter provided to The Associated Press Wednesday. ‘We believe this provision is constitutionally flawed,’ South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster and the 12 other attorneys general wrote in the letter to be sent Wednesday night to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.”

The Obami don’t like “Islamic terrorism” or “war on terror” but they are a never-ending font of bureaucratic gibberish: “‘Pulsing it.’ ‘Pulsing the system.’ That’s the language used Tuesday by a senior Obama White House administration official to describe how the administration is scrambling to find out about the intelligence failures that led to a Nigerian suspected terrorist boarding Detroit bound Northwest Flight 253 with explosives in his underwear on Christmas Day.” Yeah, I don’t feel comforted by this either.

Sounds good in theory: “President Barack Obama on Tuesday ordered the federal government to rethink how it protects the nation’s secrets, in a move that was expected to declassify more than 400 million pages of Cold War-era documents and curb the number of government records hidden from the public.” But then why hasn’t the administration released all the Bush-era interrogation documents requested by Dick Cheney, the information on the dismissal of the New Black Panther Party voter case, and the data Congress has requested about the domestic-terror attacks on the Obami’s watch?

More people than ever hate ObamaCare — 58 percent, a new high in the Rasmussen poll, oppose it.

Because we haven’t had enough government bailouts? “The federal government said Wednesday it will take a majority ownership stake in the troubled auto lender GMAC, providing another $3.8 billion in aid to the company, which has been unable to raise from private investors the money it needs to stanch its losses. The new aid package for GMAC, coming as most large banks are repaying the government, underscores both the problems afflicting the company and its importance to the Obama administration’s efforts to revive the auto industry.” Hmm, sounds like we’re never getting our money back.

What’s wrong with a criminal-justice approach to terrorism? “By whatever name, designating Mutallab as an enemy of the United States would have provided interrogators much greater flexibility in questioning him and given him no legal right to resist. The decision to charge Mutallab as a criminal, rather than designate him as an enemy combatant, was a momentous one that in all likelihood guarantees we will gain less intelligence about how the attack was planned, who planned it, and whether others are on the way.”

They have a point: “Members of the Allied Pilots Association, the pilots’ union at American Airlines, said Wednesday that the U.S. Transportation Security Administration didn’t do enough to warn in-air flight crews of the Christmas Day terrorist threat on a Northwest Airlines flight.” But then no one was warned, so it’s not like they were treated any differently than anyone else.

Despite the White House’s best efforts, Fox News doesn’t look as though it is going away any time soon.

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The Consequences of Being the 60th Health-Care Vote

Senate Democrats from less-than-pristine Blue States are banking that their constituents won’t mind that they voted with their party leadership for a controversial health-care power grab. But that may be a bad bet:

A new poll suggests that Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) seriously endangered his political prospects by becoming the decisive 60th vote allowing health care legislation to pass through the Senate. The Rasmussen survey shows Nelson, who isn’t up for re-election until 2012, badly trailing Gov. Dave Heineman by 31 points in a hypothetical matchup, 61 to 30 percent. A 55 percent majority of Nebraska voters now hold an unfavorable view of the two-term senator, with 40 percent viewing him favorably. The health care bill is currently very unpopular in Nebraska, according to the Rasmussen poll. Nearly two-thirds of voters (64 percent) oppose the legislation while just 17 percent approve.

Now of course each and every Democratic senator is the 60th vote, so this poll should cause some heartburn for Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid and his troops. Somehow the White House and their more liberal colleagues convinced the so-called moderate Democrats that they could vote with the liberal pack, and their skeptical constituents would eventually come to appreciate their “historic” vote. But that seems not to be the case. What if, in the next few weeks, other polls mirroring this result appear in state after state? Do the lawmakers still plunge ahead with the conference committee and once again vote for a hugely unpopular measure?

Nor should Blue State senators rest easy. Their handiwork is under attack as well, as this report makes clear:

The governors of the nation’s two largest Democratic states are leveling sharp criticism at the Senate health care bill, claiming that it would leave their already financially strapped states even deeper in the hole. New York Democratic Gov. David Paterson and California GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger are urging congressional leaders to rework the Medicaid financing in the Senate-passed bill, warning that under that version their states will be crushed by billions in new costs.

In their rush for a “historic deal,” Blue State senators paid little or no attention to the details of what they were foisting on their own states. You can imagine what New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s general election opponent will have to say about this in November:

The problem is that New York and California, both of which already have expansive Medicaid programs, will pay a higher share of the new expansion costs than many other states that have traditionally limited coverage. “The inequity built into the bill puts hardship on states and would put them in the position of making cuts to providers,” said Susan Van Meter, vice president of federal relations for the Healthcare Association of New York State.

So where does that leave embattled senators and congressmen? Congress might “pivot” in many ways in January: to sanctions on Iran; hearings on our anti-terrorist policies; and a real pro-jobs agenda to encourage rather than retard the hiring of new workers. It might be beneficial for the country and for the political outlook of incumbent lawmakers to turn their attention to these very urgent issues rather than an artificially created “health-care crisis.” ObamaCare has become a political poltergeist, and lawmakers would do well to race to find something else to occupy their time. Especially those who don’t have the luxury, as Nelson does, of several more years before facing the angry voters.

Senate Democrats from less-than-pristine Blue States are banking that their constituents won’t mind that they voted with their party leadership for a controversial health-care power grab. But that may be a bad bet:

A new poll suggests that Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) seriously endangered his political prospects by becoming the decisive 60th vote allowing health care legislation to pass through the Senate. The Rasmussen survey shows Nelson, who isn’t up for re-election until 2012, badly trailing Gov. Dave Heineman by 31 points in a hypothetical matchup, 61 to 30 percent. A 55 percent majority of Nebraska voters now hold an unfavorable view of the two-term senator, with 40 percent viewing him favorably. The health care bill is currently very unpopular in Nebraska, according to the Rasmussen poll. Nearly two-thirds of voters (64 percent) oppose the legislation while just 17 percent approve.

Now of course each and every Democratic senator is the 60th vote, so this poll should cause some heartburn for Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid and his troops. Somehow the White House and their more liberal colleagues convinced the so-called moderate Democrats that they could vote with the liberal pack, and their skeptical constituents would eventually come to appreciate their “historic” vote. But that seems not to be the case. What if, in the next few weeks, other polls mirroring this result appear in state after state? Do the lawmakers still plunge ahead with the conference committee and once again vote for a hugely unpopular measure?

Nor should Blue State senators rest easy. Their handiwork is under attack as well, as this report makes clear:

The governors of the nation’s two largest Democratic states are leveling sharp criticism at the Senate health care bill, claiming that it would leave their already financially strapped states even deeper in the hole. New York Democratic Gov. David Paterson and California GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger are urging congressional leaders to rework the Medicaid financing in the Senate-passed bill, warning that under that version their states will be crushed by billions in new costs.

In their rush for a “historic deal,” Blue State senators paid little or no attention to the details of what they were foisting on their own states. You can imagine what New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s general election opponent will have to say about this in November:

The problem is that New York and California, both of which already have expansive Medicaid programs, will pay a higher share of the new expansion costs than many other states that have traditionally limited coverage. “The inequity built into the bill puts hardship on states and would put them in the position of making cuts to providers,” said Susan Van Meter, vice president of federal relations for the Healthcare Association of New York State.

So where does that leave embattled senators and congressmen? Congress might “pivot” in many ways in January: to sanctions on Iran; hearings on our anti-terrorist policies; and a real pro-jobs agenda to encourage rather than retard the hiring of new workers. It might be beneficial for the country and for the political outlook of incumbent lawmakers to turn their attention to these very urgent issues rather than an artificially created “health-care crisis.” ObamaCare has become a political poltergeist, and lawmakers would do well to race to find something else to occupy their time. Especially those who don’t have the luxury, as Nelson does, of several more years before facing the angry voters.

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No Partisan, Controversial Legislation for Them!

Senate Democrats are crying out  for help:

Bruised by the health care debate and worried about what 2010 will bring, moderate Senate Democrats are urging the White House to give up now on any effort to pass a cap-and-trade bill next year. “I am communicating that in every way I know how,” says Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), one of at least half a dozen Democrats who’ve told the White House or their own leaders that it’s time to jettison the centerpiece of their party’s plan to curb global warming.

So if health care is so toxic, why did they all cast the decisive votes in its favor? It seems as though it has unnerved those Democrats who were essential to its passage, before it has even become law. But you have to marvel at the lack of self-awareness:

“I’d just as soon see that set aside until we work through the economy,” said Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.). ?“What we don’t want to do is have anything get in the way of working to resolve the problems with the economy.”

Because we wouldn’t want a massive tax-and-spend plan unsettling a sixth of the economy to pass before we get the economy back on track, right? Oh, wait. No, Nelson sold his vote already on that one.

But on the bright side, the persistent lack of enthusiasm for the Democrats’ handiwork has now perhaps stymied the rest of the Obama agenda. Suddenly, they realize the peril of passing highly controversial legislation on party-line votes: “After the tough health care fight, Democratic leadership believes a climate bill must pass with significant bipartisan support or risk leaving the party open to attack during the midterm elections.” Because if you pass something with little public enthusiasm, job-killing taxes and no support from the minority the voters might get really, really mad.

If you think this has the air of unreality, as if the last weeks of hyper-partisan, hurry-up-and-pass-partisan-health-care-“reform” never occured, you are right. We can only hope that in the weeks that follow Democrats can listen to their own rhetoric and rethink not only cap-and-trade but the legislation which has now spooked their most vulnerable lawmakers. It isn’t too late to dump ObamaCare, you know.

Senate Democrats are crying out  for help:

Bruised by the health care debate and worried about what 2010 will bring, moderate Senate Democrats are urging the White House to give up now on any effort to pass a cap-and-trade bill next year. “I am communicating that in every way I know how,” says Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), one of at least half a dozen Democrats who’ve told the White House or their own leaders that it’s time to jettison the centerpiece of their party’s plan to curb global warming.

So if health care is so toxic, why did they all cast the decisive votes in its favor? It seems as though it has unnerved those Democrats who were essential to its passage, before it has even become law. But you have to marvel at the lack of self-awareness:

“I’d just as soon see that set aside until we work through the economy,” said Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.). ?“What we don’t want to do is have anything get in the way of working to resolve the problems with the economy.”

Because we wouldn’t want a massive tax-and-spend plan unsettling a sixth of the economy to pass before we get the economy back on track, right? Oh, wait. No, Nelson sold his vote already on that one.

But on the bright side, the persistent lack of enthusiasm for the Democrats’ handiwork has now perhaps stymied the rest of the Obama agenda. Suddenly, they realize the peril of passing highly controversial legislation on party-line votes: “After the tough health care fight, Democratic leadership believes a climate bill must pass with significant bipartisan support or risk leaving the party open to attack during the midterm elections.” Because if you pass something with little public enthusiasm, job-killing taxes and no support from the minority the voters might get really, really mad.

If you think this has the air of unreality, as if the last weeks of hyper-partisan, hurry-up-and-pass-partisan-health-care-“reform” never occured, you are right. We can only hope that in the weeks that follow Democrats can listen to their own rhetoric and rethink not only cap-and-trade but the legislation which has now spooked their most vulnerable lawmakers. It isn’t too late to dump ObamaCare, you know.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

What comes from a commander in chief who sends mixed messages? “Nearly a month after Obama unveiled his revised Afghanistan strategy, military and civilian leaders have come away with differing views of several fundamental aspects of the president’s new approach, according to more than a dozen senior administration and military officials involved in Afghanistan policy, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.”

Matthew Continetti: “There really are two Americas. There’s the America of the ‘expert’ schemers, planners, and centralizers inside the Beltway, who think they know what’s good for the people, whether the people like it or not. And there’s the America of just about everyone else. They are no doubt the ones Irving Kristol had in mind when he wrote, ‘The common people in such a democracy are not uncommonly wise, but their experience tends to make them uncommonly sensible.'” It is a good thing indeed that there are more of the latter.

David Axelrod says we will learn to love ObamaCare: “When people focus on what this bill is and not what it isn’t and recognize what an enormous landmark achievement it is, progressive achievement, you’ll see folks rallying around this and not running away from it.” Notice how they assume the public will be awed by the “landmark” quality of the bill. That’s how politicians think; ordinary people tend to focus on what legislation is actually going to do for or to them.

The Washington Post editors blast the Obami’s human-rights policy, seeking to mix economic progress with fundamental rights as “standard doctrine of the Soviet Bloc, which used to argue at every East-West conference that human rights in Czechoslovakia were superior to those in the United States, because one provided government health care that the other lacked.” Ouch. The editors rightly condemn this as a sly effort to downplay democracy, especially in the Middle East: “If the Obama administration believes that liberty is urgently needed in the homelands of al-Qaeda, Ms. Clinton still has offered no sign of it.”

Yes, in the end, all Democrats on health-care “reform” turned out to be liberals in favor of a big government power grab: “We trust voters in Nebraska, Louisiana, Indiana, Virginia and elsewhere noticed that these votes ultimately ensured the passage of a bill that will increase insurance costs, retard medical innovation and sorely damage the country’s fiscal position.” Judging from the polls, I think they are noticing.

Looks like our fellow citizens are our best defense: “Despite the billions spent since 2001 on intelligence and counterterrorism programs, sophisticated airport scanners and elaborate watch lists, it was something simpler that averted disaster on a Christmas Day flight to Detroit: alert and courageous passengers and crew members.”

New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau on the Obami’s Iran engagement policy: “The president is smoking pot or something if he thinks that being nice to these guys is going to get him anywhere.”

Respected legal scholar Randy Barnett makes the argument that the individual mandate to buy health insurance is unconstitutional: “A mandate requiring all individuals to purchase health insurance would be an unprecedented form of federal action. The government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States. . . First, it would impose a duty on individuals as members of society. Second, it would require people to purchase a specific service that would be heavily regulated by the federal government.” And if not unconstitutional, it is at the very least, enormously objectionable to a great number of Americans on both the Right and the Left.

What comes from a commander in chief who sends mixed messages? “Nearly a month after Obama unveiled his revised Afghanistan strategy, military and civilian leaders have come away with differing views of several fundamental aspects of the president’s new approach, according to more than a dozen senior administration and military officials involved in Afghanistan policy, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.”

Matthew Continetti: “There really are two Americas. There’s the America of the ‘expert’ schemers, planners, and centralizers inside the Beltway, who think they know what’s good for the people, whether the people like it or not. And there’s the America of just about everyone else. They are no doubt the ones Irving Kristol had in mind when he wrote, ‘The common people in such a democracy are not uncommonly wise, but their experience tends to make them uncommonly sensible.'” It is a good thing indeed that there are more of the latter.

David Axelrod says we will learn to love ObamaCare: “When people focus on what this bill is and not what it isn’t and recognize what an enormous landmark achievement it is, progressive achievement, you’ll see folks rallying around this and not running away from it.” Notice how they assume the public will be awed by the “landmark” quality of the bill. That’s how politicians think; ordinary people tend to focus on what legislation is actually going to do for or to them.

The Washington Post editors blast the Obami’s human-rights policy, seeking to mix economic progress with fundamental rights as “standard doctrine of the Soviet Bloc, which used to argue at every East-West conference that human rights in Czechoslovakia were superior to those in the United States, because one provided government health care that the other lacked.” Ouch. The editors rightly condemn this as a sly effort to downplay democracy, especially in the Middle East: “If the Obama administration believes that liberty is urgently needed in the homelands of al-Qaeda, Ms. Clinton still has offered no sign of it.”

Yes, in the end, all Democrats on health-care “reform” turned out to be liberals in favor of a big government power grab: “We trust voters in Nebraska, Louisiana, Indiana, Virginia and elsewhere noticed that these votes ultimately ensured the passage of a bill that will increase insurance costs, retard medical innovation and sorely damage the country’s fiscal position.” Judging from the polls, I think they are noticing.

Looks like our fellow citizens are our best defense: “Despite the billions spent since 2001 on intelligence and counterterrorism programs, sophisticated airport scanners and elaborate watch lists, it was something simpler that averted disaster on a Christmas Day flight to Detroit: alert and courageous passengers and crew members.”

New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau on the Obami’s Iran engagement policy: “The president is smoking pot or something if he thinks that being nice to these guys is going to get him anywhere.”

Respected legal scholar Randy Barnett makes the argument that the individual mandate to buy health insurance is unconstitutional: “A mandate requiring all individuals to purchase health insurance would be an unprecedented form of federal action. The government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States. . . First, it would impose a duty on individuals as members of society. Second, it would require people to purchase a specific service that would be heavily regulated by the federal government.” And if not unconstitutional, it is at the very least, enormously objectionable to a great number of Americans on both the Right and the Left.

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Bad Policy, Worse Politics

James Capretta and Yuval Levin make a key point about the health-care bill snaking its way through Congress:

This timeline of tax and spending implementation corresponds rather awkwardly to the political calendar confronting the Democrats. The new entitlement, insurance rules, and other elements of the plan will not go into effect until well after the 2010 congressional elections and even the next presidential election, but some serious tax hikes will take place by then.

Meanwhile, again to make for a palatable CBO score, the bill envisions radical cuts in Medicare beginning quite soon. For instance, steep cuts in Medicare Advantage start in 2011, which means millions of seniors will begin hearing the bad news in 2010 as their plans withdraw from the program, cut their benefits, or raise their premiums.

So how exactly does this play out in the 2010 elections? Republicans will be holding up the Medicare cuts and urging seniors to run to the polls and vote the Democrats out. The Democrats will either savage their own bill by undoing the cuts or defend it as is, while explaining that other voters should be happy because by 2014 they will get subsidized health care. (“Essentially all of the spending provisions and insurance reforms–including the individual mandate to purchase health insurance, the employer mandate to provide it, the state insurance exchanges, the federal subsidies for coverage, and the Medicaid expansion–would only go into operation in 2014.”) Gosh, who has the better argument?

Then let’s break that down on a race-by-race level. In states where voters overwhelmingly oppose ObamaCare, Republicans running against incumbents like Byron Dorgan, Blanche Lincoln, and Harry Reid will run against the taxes, mandates, fees, and corruption. Republicans running in Blue states like California will question why someone like Barbara Boxer didn’t do a “better job” and allowed Nebraska or Iowa to get Medicare carve-outs, leaving their seniors to scrounge for doctors (who won’t make ends meet on Medicare’s reduced fees) and to live without their much-loved Medicare Advantage benefits. What exactly are the Democrats going to say to voters in an off-year election who are generally older, more conservative, and more politically savvy than the masses who turn out for a presidential election? I’m sure aggrieved voters will be delighted to hear that the bill is “historic.” But that means nothing to most of them, who have insurance and whose benefits and taxes are going to be impacted in a huge government power grab.

So if the bill makes no sense on the merits, it makes even less sense politically. The only question remains whether nervous incumbents figure this out and grudgingly agree to return to the drawing board. If not, they better figure out how they are going to defend this in front of enraged voters.

James Capretta and Yuval Levin make a key point about the health-care bill snaking its way through Congress:

This timeline of tax and spending implementation corresponds rather awkwardly to the political calendar confronting the Democrats. The new entitlement, insurance rules, and other elements of the plan will not go into effect until well after the 2010 congressional elections and even the next presidential election, but some serious tax hikes will take place by then.

Meanwhile, again to make for a palatable CBO score, the bill envisions radical cuts in Medicare beginning quite soon. For instance, steep cuts in Medicare Advantage start in 2011, which means millions of seniors will begin hearing the bad news in 2010 as their plans withdraw from the program, cut their benefits, or raise their premiums.

So how exactly does this play out in the 2010 elections? Republicans will be holding up the Medicare cuts and urging seniors to run to the polls and vote the Democrats out. The Democrats will either savage their own bill by undoing the cuts or defend it as is, while explaining that other voters should be happy because by 2014 they will get subsidized health care. (“Essentially all of the spending provisions and insurance reforms–including the individual mandate to purchase health insurance, the employer mandate to provide it, the state insurance exchanges, the federal subsidies for coverage, and the Medicaid expansion–would only go into operation in 2014.”) Gosh, who has the better argument?

Then let’s break that down on a race-by-race level. In states where voters overwhelmingly oppose ObamaCare, Republicans running against incumbents like Byron Dorgan, Blanche Lincoln, and Harry Reid will run against the taxes, mandates, fees, and corruption. Republicans running in Blue states like California will question why someone like Barbara Boxer didn’t do a “better job” and allowed Nebraska or Iowa to get Medicare carve-outs, leaving their seniors to scrounge for doctors (who won’t make ends meet on Medicare’s reduced fees) and to live without their much-loved Medicare Advantage benefits. What exactly are the Democrats going to say to voters in an off-year election who are generally older, more conservative, and more politically savvy than the masses who turn out for a presidential election? I’m sure aggrieved voters will be delighted to hear that the bill is “historic.” But that means nothing to most of them, who have insurance and whose benefits and taxes are going to be impacted in a huge government power grab.

So if the bill makes no sense on the merits, it makes even less sense politically. The only question remains whether nervous incumbents figure this out and grudgingly agree to return to the drawing board. If not, they better figure out how they are going to defend this in front of enraged voters.

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Why Should They Applaud Corruption?

David Broder thinks we should be applauding a health-care bill that stinks. He nevertheless acknowledges:

Forced to bargain for every vote among the 60 in his caucus, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did what he usually does: He reduced the negotiations to his own level of transactional morality. Incapable of summoning his colleagues to statesmanship, he made the deals look as crass and parochial as many of them were — encasing a historic achievement in a wrapping of payoff and patronage. The taint has rubbed off on the bill.

But really, it is much more than that. The “taint” has not simply rubbed off on the bill; it is at the heart of it and has created separate classes of health-care recipients based on the political sway of their state’s senator. Nebraska seniors will get better health care than will those from California, whose senators didn’t manage to snag any carve-outs or extra goodies. Imagine if an amendment were introduced that all states must have the same reimbursement rates for Medicare and Medicaid and that spending for health centers and other facilities will be done by an independent commission (like the BRAC). How quickly before the deal would unravel? Well, that sounds like a fine amendment for the Senate when and if the bill returns to the Senate for a vote (provided the House isn’t forced to simply swallow the Senate version).

The Christmas recess, like the August recess, affords lawmakers the chance to hear from their constituents. There are many groups to hear from. Jeffrey Anderson reels off a list:

They’ll get to hear from people who don’t want to pay higher taxes, higher premiums, and higher overall health costs; who don’t want to lose their consumer-driven health plans; who don’t want to see colossal sums of money siphoned out of Medicare and spent on Obamacare; who don’t want a health-care system based on political cronyism (witness the shameless exemption of the longshoreman’s union from the tax on ‘Cadillac plans,’ and the survival of Medicare Advantage in Florida but not anywhere else). They’ll get to hear from people who don’t want to see a trillion dollars over 12 years be transferred from taxpayers to insurers; who don’t want to see deficits rise and the quality of care fall; and who don’t want to have the federal government inject itself into the historically and rightfully private relationship between patient and doctor.

In other words, there are constituents who hate nearly ever aspect of the bill, and lawmakers should understand there are few voters who share Broder’s view that this is acceptable, meritorious legislation.

What next, then? If Rep. Bart Stupak is serious about voting “no” on the bill with the Reid-Nelson abortion-subsidy language and has a core group who will follow him, Nancy Pelosi is going to have to go looking for votes to make up for loss of these votes. The job of ObamaCare opponents will be to make sure the bill’s noxious elements are so well known that Pelosi will run out of members willing to walk the plank. Can it be done? We’ll find out.

David Broder thinks we should be applauding a health-care bill that stinks. He nevertheless acknowledges:

Forced to bargain for every vote among the 60 in his caucus, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did what he usually does: He reduced the negotiations to his own level of transactional morality. Incapable of summoning his colleagues to statesmanship, he made the deals look as crass and parochial as many of them were — encasing a historic achievement in a wrapping of payoff and patronage. The taint has rubbed off on the bill.

But really, it is much more than that. The “taint” has not simply rubbed off on the bill; it is at the heart of it and has created separate classes of health-care recipients based on the political sway of their state’s senator. Nebraska seniors will get better health care than will those from California, whose senators didn’t manage to snag any carve-outs or extra goodies. Imagine if an amendment were introduced that all states must have the same reimbursement rates for Medicare and Medicaid and that spending for health centers and other facilities will be done by an independent commission (like the BRAC). How quickly before the deal would unravel? Well, that sounds like a fine amendment for the Senate when and if the bill returns to the Senate for a vote (provided the House isn’t forced to simply swallow the Senate version).

The Christmas recess, like the August recess, affords lawmakers the chance to hear from their constituents. There are many groups to hear from. Jeffrey Anderson reels off a list:

They’ll get to hear from people who don’t want to pay higher taxes, higher premiums, and higher overall health costs; who don’t want to lose their consumer-driven health plans; who don’t want to see colossal sums of money siphoned out of Medicare and spent on Obamacare; who don’t want a health-care system based on political cronyism (witness the shameless exemption of the longshoreman’s union from the tax on ‘Cadillac plans,’ and the survival of Medicare Advantage in Florida but not anywhere else). They’ll get to hear from people who don’t want to see a trillion dollars over 12 years be transferred from taxpayers to insurers; who don’t want to see deficits rise and the quality of care fall; and who don’t want to have the federal government inject itself into the historically and rightfully private relationship between patient and doctor.

In other words, there are constituents who hate nearly ever aspect of the bill, and lawmakers should understand there are few voters who share Broder’s view that this is acceptable, meritorious legislation.

What next, then? If Rep. Bart Stupak is serious about voting “no” on the bill with the Reid-Nelson abortion-subsidy language and has a core group who will follow him, Nancy Pelosi is going to have to go looking for votes to make up for loss of these votes. The job of ObamaCare opponents will be to make sure the bill’s noxious elements are so well known that Pelosi will run out of members willing to walk the plank. Can it be done? We’ll find out.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Good for the Senate. The nomination of lefty extremist Dawn Johnsen for the Office of Legal Counsel and two other nominations were returned to the White House. One of those is Mary Smith, nominated to head the tax division. She is not a tax lawyer, has never practiced tax law, and has never even taken continuing legal education in the subject area. But she is a Native American who worked on multiple Democratic campaigns. Perhaps we can finally begin to de-politicize the Justice Department.

Nebraska Gov. David Heineman blasts Sen. Ben Nelson. “The reason he’s in hot water right now is that he’s not listening to Nebraskans – it’s very unusual for him. . . I am shocked.” Sounds like the stump speech for Nelson’s 2012 opponent. But Michael Gerson suggests that Nelson is a sweet man who doesn’t understand what he agreed to on abortion subsidies. Maybe once he finds out, his mind can be changed.

Smart advice on the John Kerry trip to Tehran: “The Kerry mission would also look like a panicky effort to persuade the Ayatollah Ali Khamanei to accept the increasingly plaintive U.S. offers of engagement. Mr. Obama has set the end of this month as his latest deadline for progress on nuclear talks before he says he’ll seek tougher sanctions against Iran at the U.N. . .  The regime would probably exploit the visit for its own domestic purposes, perhaps adding to its P.R. coup by releasing to Mr. Kerry the three hapless American hikers it has promised to put on trial for having ‘suspicious aims’ as they wandered across the border with Iraq.”

Give the military option a chance, suggests Alan Kuperman from the pages of the New York Times: “Incentives and sanctions will not work, but air strikes could degrade and deter Iran’s bomb program at relatively little cost or risk, and therefore are worth a try. They should be precision attacks, aimed only at nuclear facilities, to remind Iran of the many other valuable sites that could be bombed if it were foolish enough to retaliate. . . Postponing military action merely provides Iran a window to expand, disperse and harden its nuclear facilities against attack. The sooner the United States takes action, the better.”

The U.S. launches a successful strike in Yemen, but Major Nadal Hassan’s favorite iman survives. So why is it that we are releasing Guantanamo detainees to a country so stocked with terrorists?

And although the Obami seem not to want to recognize it, we are in a war: “A Nigerian man, claiming to be linked to al-Qaeda, allegedly tried to set off an incendiary device aboard a transatlantic airplane Friday as it descended toward Detroit’s airport in what the White House called an attempted act of terrorism.” This would be the second domestic terrorist attack (Hassan, the first) this year. Oh, and the suspect claims he was given assistance in Yemen.

J Street Board member Hannah Rosenthal, now the Obami’s “anti-semitism czar(ina)” takes a shot at Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren for criticizing her J Street pals.

Jewish organizations respond with surprising vehemence. (Could the days of gritting their teeth over outrageous administration statements may be finally at an end?) The administration responds with a statement: “The Department of State values its close relationship with Ambassador Michael Oren and his staff at the Embassy of Israel in Washington. The United States and Israel enjoy extraordinarily close ties based on shared values, interests, and history, as well as the deep bonds between the Israeli people and the American people.” And so forth. So what about Rosenthal — if she is out of step with those she ostensibly serves (the Obama administration, not the J Street gang) what is she doing there?

Sen. Mark Warner insists he wants to be a radical centrist. But he keeps voting for Obama’s leftwing agenda including the government takeover of healthcare so he’s not doing much to differentiate himself from the run-of-mill liberal Democrats. Virginia voters have figured it out: “An automated poll conducted by SurveyUSA shows that Warner’s approval rating has fallen among independents and Republicans since January.”

Good for the Senate. The nomination of lefty extremist Dawn Johnsen for the Office of Legal Counsel and two other nominations were returned to the White House. One of those is Mary Smith, nominated to head the tax division. She is not a tax lawyer, has never practiced tax law, and has never even taken continuing legal education in the subject area. But she is a Native American who worked on multiple Democratic campaigns. Perhaps we can finally begin to de-politicize the Justice Department.

Nebraska Gov. David Heineman blasts Sen. Ben Nelson. “The reason he’s in hot water right now is that he’s not listening to Nebraskans – it’s very unusual for him. . . I am shocked.” Sounds like the stump speech for Nelson’s 2012 opponent. But Michael Gerson suggests that Nelson is a sweet man who doesn’t understand what he agreed to on abortion subsidies. Maybe once he finds out, his mind can be changed.

Smart advice on the John Kerry trip to Tehran: “The Kerry mission would also look like a panicky effort to persuade the Ayatollah Ali Khamanei to accept the increasingly plaintive U.S. offers of engagement. Mr. Obama has set the end of this month as his latest deadline for progress on nuclear talks before he says he’ll seek tougher sanctions against Iran at the U.N. . .  The regime would probably exploit the visit for its own domestic purposes, perhaps adding to its P.R. coup by releasing to Mr. Kerry the three hapless American hikers it has promised to put on trial for having ‘suspicious aims’ as they wandered across the border with Iraq.”

Give the military option a chance, suggests Alan Kuperman from the pages of the New York Times: “Incentives and sanctions will not work, but air strikes could degrade and deter Iran’s bomb program at relatively little cost or risk, and therefore are worth a try. They should be precision attacks, aimed only at nuclear facilities, to remind Iran of the many other valuable sites that could be bombed if it were foolish enough to retaliate. . . Postponing military action merely provides Iran a window to expand, disperse and harden its nuclear facilities against attack. The sooner the United States takes action, the better.”

The U.S. launches a successful strike in Yemen, but Major Nadal Hassan’s favorite iman survives. So why is it that we are releasing Guantanamo detainees to a country so stocked with terrorists?

And although the Obami seem not to want to recognize it, we are in a war: “A Nigerian man, claiming to be linked to al-Qaeda, allegedly tried to set off an incendiary device aboard a transatlantic airplane Friday as it descended toward Detroit’s airport in what the White House called an attempted act of terrorism.” This would be the second domestic terrorist attack (Hassan, the first) this year. Oh, and the suspect claims he was given assistance in Yemen.

J Street Board member Hannah Rosenthal, now the Obami’s “anti-semitism czar(ina)” takes a shot at Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren for criticizing her J Street pals.

Jewish organizations respond with surprising vehemence. (Could the days of gritting their teeth over outrageous administration statements may be finally at an end?) The administration responds with a statement: “The Department of State values its close relationship with Ambassador Michael Oren and his staff at the Embassy of Israel in Washington. The United States and Israel enjoy extraordinarily close ties based on shared values, interests, and history, as well as the deep bonds between the Israeli people and the American people.” And so forth. So what about Rosenthal — if she is out of step with those she ostensibly serves (the Obama administration, not the J Street gang) what is she doing there?

Sen. Mark Warner insists he wants to be a radical centrist. But he keeps voting for Obama’s leftwing agenda including the government takeover of healthcare so he’s not doing much to differentiate himself from the run-of-mill liberal Democrats. Virginia voters have figured it out: “An automated poll conducted by SurveyUSA shows that Warner’s approval rating has fallen among independents and Republicans since January.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Wow: “Republicans are stepping up their efforts to persuade more House Democrats to switch parties and are zeroing in on a second-term Pennsylvanian who is not ruling out such a move.” And this is when the Democrats have a 258-seat . . . er. . . make that 257-seat  majority.

RealClearPolitics average on ObamaCare: 38.4 percent approve and 51 disapprove. So, are Democrats going to run on this in 2010 as their signature achievement? Might explain why there are potential defections.

Voters would rather their representatives be doing something else: “Voters, as they have all year, rate cutting the federal deficit in half by the end of his first term as President Obama’s number one budget priority. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 42% put deficit cutting in first place, followed by 22% who say health care reform is most important.”

Do we think she means it? “The Senate’s healthcare bill is fatally flawed, a senior Democrat atop a powerful committee said on Wednesday. Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), the chairwoman of the House Rules Committee and co-chairwoman of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, said that the Senate’s bill is so flawed that it’s unlikely to be resolved in conference with the bill to have passed the House.”

Well, liberal journalists seem nervous: “Yet for all the justifiable celebrations of this achievement, it’s fast becoming clear—as it should have always been—that Democrats are still a long way from home free when it comes to the final enactment of health-care reform into law. That ironing out of the differences between the House and Senate incarnations of the bill is going to be no easy thing.” And the key stumbling block may well be abortion. Can Nancy Pelosi find votes to make up for Re. Bart Stupak and pro-life Democrats unwilling to roll over as Sen. Ben Nelson did? We’ll find out.

The bill is so bad it renders Sen. Chuck Schumer mute: “Mayor Bloomberg and Gov. Paterson both slammed the Senate bill Monday, charging it would cost the city more than $500 million and rip a $1 billion-a-year hole in the state budget. Schumer, a veteran streetfighter for federal cash, has been suddenly recast as a defender of Washington—and a deal he helped cut that shafts New York. ‘He’s being uncharacteristically quiet in part because the numbers don’t look that good,’ said Baruch College political scientist Doug Muzzio. . . [Schumer] bristled at criticism that he stood by as other states won sweetheart deals.” Well, how come Nebraska got more than New York then?

Seems like there might be some legal challenges to the Cash for Cloture deals.

Not making this up: Grover Norquist and Jane Hamsher are demanding an investigation into Rahm Emanuel’s dealings with Freddie Mac. See, Obama is bringing people together.

Wow: “Republicans are stepping up their efforts to persuade more House Democrats to switch parties and are zeroing in on a second-term Pennsylvanian who is not ruling out such a move.” And this is when the Democrats have a 258-seat . . . er. . . make that 257-seat  majority.

RealClearPolitics average on ObamaCare: 38.4 percent approve and 51 disapprove. So, are Democrats going to run on this in 2010 as their signature achievement? Might explain why there are potential defections.

Voters would rather their representatives be doing something else: “Voters, as they have all year, rate cutting the federal deficit in half by the end of his first term as President Obama’s number one budget priority. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 42% put deficit cutting in first place, followed by 22% who say health care reform is most important.”

Do we think she means it? “The Senate’s healthcare bill is fatally flawed, a senior Democrat atop a powerful committee said on Wednesday. Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), the chairwoman of the House Rules Committee and co-chairwoman of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, said that the Senate’s bill is so flawed that it’s unlikely to be resolved in conference with the bill to have passed the House.”

Well, liberal journalists seem nervous: “Yet for all the justifiable celebrations of this achievement, it’s fast becoming clear—as it should have always been—that Democrats are still a long way from home free when it comes to the final enactment of health-care reform into law. That ironing out of the differences between the House and Senate incarnations of the bill is going to be no easy thing.” And the key stumbling block may well be abortion. Can Nancy Pelosi find votes to make up for Re. Bart Stupak and pro-life Democrats unwilling to roll over as Sen. Ben Nelson did? We’ll find out.

The bill is so bad it renders Sen. Chuck Schumer mute: “Mayor Bloomberg and Gov. Paterson both slammed the Senate bill Monday, charging it would cost the city more than $500 million and rip a $1 billion-a-year hole in the state budget. Schumer, a veteran streetfighter for federal cash, has been suddenly recast as a defender of Washington—and a deal he helped cut that shafts New York. ‘He’s being uncharacteristically quiet in part because the numbers don’t look that good,’ said Baruch College political scientist Doug Muzzio. . . [Schumer] bristled at criticism that he stood by as other states won sweetheart deals.” Well, how come Nebraska got more than New York then?

Seems like there might be some legal challenges to the Cash for Cloture deals.

Not making this up: Grover Norquist and Jane Hamsher are demanding an investigation into Rahm Emanuel’s dealings with Freddie Mac. See, Obama is bringing people together.

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The Culture of Corruption

When it comes to the public outrage that will emerge based on the deals that took place to secure passage of the Senate health-care bill, the degree of tone-deafness among Democrats is nothing short of startling. Senator Tom Harkin calls it “small stuff.” House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said, “Rather than sitting here and carping about what Nelson got for Nebraska, I would say to my friends on the other side of the aisle: Let’s get together and see what we can get for South Carolina.”

And Majority Leader Harry Reid has said, “I don’t know if there is a Senator that doesn’t have something in this bill that was important to them. And if they don’t have something in it important to them, then it doesn’t speak well of them.”

These people strike me as hermetically sealed off from how most of the rest of the country view this subject. As these backroom deals become more and more widely known, anger will swell up among voters. It is bad enough to jam through a bill on a strict party-line-vote against overwhelming opposition from the public; for it to have happened only because various Members of Congress were (legally) bribed will magnify the intensity of the opposition. And for politicians to take such obvious pride in the pay-off will make things even worse. The populist, anti-Washington wave out there, which is already quite large, will only grow, and grow, and grow.

The Democrats are doing everything they can to make “the culture of corruption” a GOP campaign slogan in 2010. This week Democrats have added immeasurably to the Republican case and cause.

When it comes to the public outrage that will emerge based on the deals that took place to secure passage of the Senate health-care bill, the degree of tone-deafness among Democrats is nothing short of startling. Senator Tom Harkin calls it “small stuff.” House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said, “Rather than sitting here and carping about what Nelson got for Nebraska, I would say to my friends on the other side of the aisle: Let’s get together and see what we can get for South Carolina.”

And Majority Leader Harry Reid has said, “I don’t know if there is a Senator that doesn’t have something in this bill that was important to them. And if they don’t have something in it important to them, then it doesn’t speak well of them.”

These people strike me as hermetically sealed off from how most of the rest of the country view this subject. As these backroom deals become more and more widely known, anger will swell up among voters. It is bad enough to jam through a bill on a strict party-line-vote against overwhelming opposition from the public; for it to have happened only because various Members of Congress were (legally) bribed will magnify the intensity of the opposition. And for politicians to take such obvious pride in the pay-off will make things even worse. The populist, anti-Washington wave out there, which is already quite large, will only grow, and grow, and grow.

The Democrats are doing everything they can to make “the culture of corruption” a GOP campaign slogan in 2010. This week Democrats have added immeasurably to the Republican case and cause.

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The Cornhusker Highjack and the Constitution

Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska was handsomely bribed to vote for cloture on the health-care bill. While most states will have to pick up much of the tab for new enrollees in Medicaid beginning in 2017, Nebraska will not. Instead, the federal government will pay for that state’s increased costs.

Such bribery has a long history in Congress, but so far as I know (and I’d be delighted to hear of other, earlier instances), bribes always came in the form of highways, post offices, bridges to nowhere, and other infrastructure, or in offers of higher office for the person being bribed. They were not in the form of a special deal allowing a particular, not impoverished state to have a lower share of costs in an ongoing federal program. There are, of course, plenty of the old-fashioned sorts of bribes in this bill. Connecticut will get a new hospital at federal expense, for instance.

But is it constitutional for the federal government to give some states a better deal on a national program than it does other states? It is not obviously unconstitutional, as, say, having a lower federal income tax rate for Nebraska would be, since Art. I, Sec. 8, requires that “all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.” However, one could argue that Nebraskans will be getting what amounts to a rebate on federal taxes through the back door of lower state taxes.

Another constitutional provision, in Art. IV, Sec. 2, provides that the “Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in Several States.” But this clause has always been interpreted to apply to state action vis-à-vis citizens of other states, forbidding them to discriminate against nonresidents, such as forbidding nonresidents to be admitted to the state bar. The privileges and immunities clause in the Fourteenth Amendment applies specifically to states.

Yet another provision, in Art. I, Sec. 9, requires that “No Preference shall be given by any Regulation of Commerce or Revenue to the Ports of one State over those of another.” The health-care bill’s constitutional underpinning is the commerce clause of Art. I, Sec. 8, giving Congress the power to “regulate Commerce with foreign Nations and among the several States.” Narrowly interpreted, the ports clause is simply a limitation on that power, forbidding the federal government from, say, requiring that all imports of steel flow through the port of Charleston. More broadly interpreted, it can be construed to forbid the federal government from using its powers under the commerce clause to discriminate among the states.

How would the Supreme Court rule here? Well, first one has to ask who would have standing to sue. Individuals almost certainly would not under the first two arguments above, as an individual’s interest is too small. But states might well have standing to sue with regard to the ports clause. How a state so suing would fare is anyone’s guess. A strict constructionist would throw the case out of court. Nebraska, after all, doesn’t have any ports in the 18th-century sense (although it does have a navy). But it is not too great a stretch to say that the bribe that Nelson received violates the clear spirit of the ports clause — that powers under the commerce clause must be applied equally in all states. It was just this type of reasoning that led the Supreme Court to rule in the 1920s that tapping a telephone line required a search warrant under the Fourth Amendment, which, of course, nowhere mentions telephones.

Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska was handsomely bribed to vote for cloture on the health-care bill. While most states will have to pick up much of the tab for new enrollees in Medicaid beginning in 2017, Nebraska will not. Instead, the federal government will pay for that state’s increased costs.

Such bribery has a long history in Congress, but so far as I know (and I’d be delighted to hear of other, earlier instances), bribes always came in the form of highways, post offices, bridges to nowhere, and other infrastructure, or in offers of higher office for the person being bribed. They were not in the form of a special deal allowing a particular, not impoverished state to have a lower share of costs in an ongoing federal program. There are, of course, plenty of the old-fashioned sorts of bribes in this bill. Connecticut will get a new hospital at federal expense, for instance.

But is it constitutional for the federal government to give some states a better deal on a national program than it does other states? It is not obviously unconstitutional, as, say, having a lower federal income tax rate for Nebraska would be, since Art. I, Sec. 8, requires that “all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.” However, one could argue that Nebraskans will be getting what amounts to a rebate on federal taxes through the back door of lower state taxes.

Another constitutional provision, in Art. IV, Sec. 2, provides that the “Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in Several States.” But this clause has always been interpreted to apply to state action vis-à-vis citizens of other states, forbidding them to discriminate against nonresidents, such as forbidding nonresidents to be admitted to the state bar. The privileges and immunities clause in the Fourteenth Amendment applies specifically to states.

Yet another provision, in Art. I, Sec. 9, requires that “No Preference shall be given by any Regulation of Commerce or Revenue to the Ports of one State over those of another.” The health-care bill’s constitutional underpinning is the commerce clause of Art. I, Sec. 8, giving Congress the power to “regulate Commerce with foreign Nations and among the several States.” Narrowly interpreted, the ports clause is simply a limitation on that power, forbidding the federal government from, say, requiring that all imports of steel flow through the port of Charleston. More broadly interpreted, it can be construed to forbid the federal government from using its powers under the commerce clause to discriminate among the states.

How would the Supreme Court rule here? Well, first one has to ask who would have standing to sue. Individuals almost certainly would not under the first two arguments above, as an individual’s interest is too small. But states might well have standing to sue with regard to the ports clause. How a state so suing would fare is anyone’s guess. A strict constructionist would throw the case out of court. Nebraska, after all, doesn’t have any ports in the 18th-century sense (although it does have a navy). But it is not too great a stretch to say that the bribe that Nelson received violates the clear spirit of the ports clause — that powers under the commerce clause must be applied equally in all states. It was just this type of reasoning that led the Supreme Court to rule in the 1920s that tapping a telephone line required a search warrant under the Fourth Amendment, which, of course, nowhere mentions telephones.

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You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

It sounds like a joke, but it’s all too real. John McCormack reports: “Senator Roland Burris is claiming credit for a provision in Harry Reid’s ‘manager’s amendment,’ unveiled Saturday morning, that could funnel money to ACORN through the health care bill.” And your problem is? Really, this is a graft-athon, so it’s only fitting that the senator selected by the most notoriously corrupt governor in America (a senator, by the way, who also lied about his connection to that same governor, only to be given a stern look and a slap on the wrist by his colleagues) would insert into the bill an earmark for “the Office of Minority Health” to be voted on in the middle of night so as to deliver a goodie bag for the most notoriously corrupt organization in America. It’s as if there were a conspiracy to see if Jon Stewart can be left speechless.

McCormack explains:

Earlier this year, Congress passed and the president signed into law a ban on federal funding for ACORN, but a judge ruled that that law was unconstitutional. If a higher court reverses that ruling, ACORN may be prohibited from receiving funds through the Office of Minority Health earmark. But according to the Senate legislative aide, ACORN would still “absolutely” qualify for federal funding through the provision in the underlying Reid bill because the anti-ACORN appropriations amendment would not apply to funds provided through the health care exchanges.

A spokesman for Sen. Harkin, chairman of the HELP committee, wrote in an email that he “will look into” which organizations qualify for funding under these provisions. Spokesmen for Senators Reid and Dodd did not immediately reply to emails.

This is what comes from a legislative process as noxious as this. (It almost obscures another issue: why do we fund health care by race?) Dana Milbank dubs it the “cash for cloture” bill. Indeed, it may replace the infamous transportation bill that gave us the “Bridge to Nowhere” as the symbol par excellence of congressional graft. He explains:

Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) even disavowed Nelson’s Cornhusker Kickback. “Nebraskans are frustrated and angry that our beloved state has been thrust into the same pot with all of the other special deals that get cut here,” he reported.

The accusations must worry Democrats, for Sen. Michael Bennet (Colo.), facing a difficult 2010 reelection contest, went to the Senate floor to declare: “I’m not happy about the backroom deals.”

I think Burris isn’t likely to be worried or embarrassed. But perhaps it’s just a bit too ludicrous to defend, so the conference committee might see fit to lose the ACORN handout. I’m sure Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid can come up with an appropriate substitute to satisfy the junior senator from Illinois. Maybe a public-works project to improve and expand this structure.

It sounds like a joke, but it’s all too real. John McCormack reports: “Senator Roland Burris is claiming credit for a provision in Harry Reid’s ‘manager’s amendment,’ unveiled Saturday morning, that could funnel money to ACORN through the health care bill.” And your problem is? Really, this is a graft-athon, so it’s only fitting that the senator selected by the most notoriously corrupt governor in America (a senator, by the way, who also lied about his connection to that same governor, only to be given a stern look and a slap on the wrist by his colleagues) would insert into the bill an earmark for “the Office of Minority Health” to be voted on in the middle of night so as to deliver a goodie bag for the most notoriously corrupt organization in America. It’s as if there were a conspiracy to see if Jon Stewart can be left speechless.

McCormack explains:

Earlier this year, Congress passed and the president signed into law a ban on federal funding for ACORN, but a judge ruled that that law was unconstitutional. If a higher court reverses that ruling, ACORN may be prohibited from receiving funds through the Office of Minority Health earmark. But according to the Senate legislative aide, ACORN would still “absolutely” qualify for federal funding through the provision in the underlying Reid bill because the anti-ACORN appropriations amendment would not apply to funds provided through the health care exchanges.

A spokesman for Sen. Harkin, chairman of the HELP committee, wrote in an email that he “will look into” which organizations qualify for funding under these provisions. Spokesmen for Senators Reid and Dodd did not immediately reply to emails.

This is what comes from a legislative process as noxious as this. (It almost obscures another issue: why do we fund health care by race?) Dana Milbank dubs it the “cash for cloture” bill. Indeed, it may replace the infamous transportation bill that gave us the “Bridge to Nowhere” as the symbol par excellence of congressional graft. He explains:

Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) even disavowed Nelson’s Cornhusker Kickback. “Nebraskans are frustrated and angry that our beloved state has been thrust into the same pot with all of the other special deals that get cut here,” he reported.

The accusations must worry Democrats, for Sen. Michael Bennet (Colo.), facing a difficult 2010 reelection contest, went to the Senate floor to declare: “I’m not happy about the backroom deals.”

I think Burris isn’t likely to be worried or embarrassed. But perhaps it’s just a bit too ludicrous to defend, so the conference committee might see fit to lose the ACORN handout. I’m sure Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid can come up with an appropriate substitute to satisfy the junior senator from Illinois. Maybe a public-works project to improve and expand this structure.

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Is He Joking?

Chris Cillizza, a political writer for the Washington Post, compiles a list of the winners and losers in the health-care deal. Perhaps it’s a typo or the effect of staying up too late to follow a secretive middle-of-the-night vote, but he puts Sen. Ben Nelson in the winner column, waxing lyrical that the “Nebraska senator played the legislative process like a virtuoso, not only getting stricter language about abortion funding included in the final bill but also scoring another huge plum — the promise of full federal funding for the expansion of Medicaid in the Cornhusker State.” He must be joking, right?

The right-to-life community is up in arms and is likely to abandon Nelson. His other main constituency in Nebraska, which stuck with him in the past, the Chamber of Commerce,  now could well do the same. His “deal” is now labeled the Cornhusker Kickback, a symbol of corruption in a secretive legislative process. Nelson’s inability to answer simple questions about his rather lamely constructed agreement suggests that he either didn’t understand what he negotiated or is embarrassed to admit it.

I’ll go out on a limb and predict that this will be his last term in the Senate and that Republicans will be tripping over themselves to oppose him when he is up for re-election in 2012. Remember, more than 60 percent of his constituents are opposed to the bill, which he had the power to stop.

This is a winner? Well, it’s true he’ll keep his seat longer than some of his Democratic colleagues.

Chris Cillizza, a political writer for the Washington Post, compiles a list of the winners and losers in the health-care deal. Perhaps it’s a typo or the effect of staying up too late to follow a secretive middle-of-the-night vote, but he puts Sen. Ben Nelson in the winner column, waxing lyrical that the “Nebraska senator played the legislative process like a virtuoso, not only getting stricter language about abortion funding included in the final bill but also scoring another huge plum — the promise of full federal funding for the expansion of Medicaid in the Cornhusker State.” He must be joking, right?

The right-to-life community is up in arms and is likely to abandon Nelson. His other main constituency in Nebraska, which stuck with him in the past, the Chamber of Commerce,  now could well do the same. His “deal” is now labeled the Cornhusker Kickback, a symbol of corruption in a secretive legislative process. Nelson’s inability to answer simple questions about his rather lamely constructed agreement suggests that he either didn’t understand what he negotiated or is embarrassed to admit it.

I’ll go out on a limb and predict that this will be his last term in the Senate and that Republicans will be tripping over themselves to oppose him when he is up for re-election in 2012. Remember, more than 60 percent of his constituents are opposed to the bill, which he had the power to stop.

This is a winner? Well, it’s true he’ll keep his seat longer than some of his Democratic colleagues.

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So Much for New Politics

On Sunday, the New York Times fessed up:

Nasty charges of bribery. Senators cut off mid-speech. Accusations of politics put over patriotism. Talk of double-crosses. A nonagenarian forced out after midnight for multiple procedural votes.In the heart of the holiday season, Senate Republicans and Democrats are at one another’s throats as the health care overhaul reaches its climactic votes, one of which is set for 1 a.m. Monday. A year that began with hopes of new post-partisanship has indeed produced change: Things have gotten worse.

Well, yes they have. How did we get to this point? Well, for starters, Obama, who ran on his determination to transcend partisan divisions, remained a passive and aloof figure when it came to the drafting and the details, allowing partisan passions to run wild. His sole concern was winning, not building a broad-based coalition for revolutionary legislation. Indeed, he contributed to partisan furies by labeling opponents as confused and misinformed and by repeating a series of partisan and baseless accusations against Republicans (the principal one — that they had “no alternative” — was easily disproved by the plethora of conservative plans and proposals). Obama had a reason for proceeding in this way — he wanted to rely on the muscle of large Democratic majorities to obtain the most liberal bill he could get. On Sunday John McCain explained:

There’s been a change. It’s more partisan. It’s more bitterly divided than it’s been. I have never been asked to engage in a single serious negotiation on any issue, nor has any other Republican. Now they’ve brought single Republicans down to try to pick off one or two Republicans so you can call it, quote, bipartisan. There’s never been serious across-the-table negotiations on any serious issue that I have engaged in with — I and others have engaged in with other administrations, both Republican and Democrat.

And if comity and Obama’s own credibility were sacrificed along the way, well, that’s simply what a Chicago pol must do to win.

It’s not a pretty picture, as even the Times must concede:

On Sunday, Republicans did not mince words when characterizing provisions put in the health care bill to attract the final votes for passage, particularly that of Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska. Some suggested that special Nebraska considerations in the bill amounted to bribery and corruption. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that it was reflective of “seedy Chicago politics.”

“In order to try to get the 60 votes, there has been basically a pay to play approach to this, and it’s just repulsive,” [Sen. John] Cornyn said.

Now some say that bipartisanship is overrated. But Obama wasn’t one of them. He got himself elected, in large part, because he promised to rise about the naked partisanship that had alienated so many voters. No Blue and Red States, just the United States of America and all that. So the question remains whether having jettisoned that tone and approach to politics, the president and his party will face any consequences. It’s not hard to imagine that once the dreamy idealism of young voters, the optimism of independents (who had grown disgusted with politics as normal), and the self-delusion of some Republicans (convinced that Obama was a man of reason, not of bare-knuckle politics) are drained away, the Democrats will face a motivation deficit in 2010 and perhaps beyond.

Having adopted the worst qualities of his hyper-partisan predecessors, Obama has left the “outsider” and “change” message by the wayside. We’ll see if his opponents are savvy enough to grab it and run for daylight.

On Sunday, the New York Times fessed up:

Nasty charges of bribery. Senators cut off mid-speech. Accusations of politics put over patriotism. Talk of double-crosses. A nonagenarian forced out after midnight for multiple procedural votes.In the heart of the holiday season, Senate Republicans and Democrats are at one another’s throats as the health care overhaul reaches its climactic votes, one of which is set for 1 a.m. Monday. A year that began with hopes of new post-partisanship has indeed produced change: Things have gotten worse.

Well, yes they have. How did we get to this point? Well, for starters, Obama, who ran on his determination to transcend partisan divisions, remained a passive and aloof figure when it came to the drafting and the details, allowing partisan passions to run wild. His sole concern was winning, not building a broad-based coalition for revolutionary legislation. Indeed, he contributed to partisan furies by labeling opponents as confused and misinformed and by repeating a series of partisan and baseless accusations against Republicans (the principal one — that they had “no alternative” — was easily disproved by the plethora of conservative plans and proposals). Obama had a reason for proceeding in this way — he wanted to rely on the muscle of large Democratic majorities to obtain the most liberal bill he could get. On Sunday John McCain explained:

There’s been a change. It’s more partisan. It’s more bitterly divided than it’s been. I have never been asked to engage in a single serious negotiation on any issue, nor has any other Republican. Now they’ve brought single Republicans down to try to pick off one or two Republicans so you can call it, quote, bipartisan. There’s never been serious across-the-table negotiations on any serious issue that I have engaged in with — I and others have engaged in with other administrations, both Republican and Democrat.

And if comity and Obama’s own credibility were sacrificed along the way, well, that’s simply what a Chicago pol must do to win.

It’s not a pretty picture, as even the Times must concede:

On Sunday, Republicans did not mince words when characterizing provisions put in the health care bill to attract the final votes for passage, particularly that of Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska. Some suggested that special Nebraska considerations in the bill amounted to bribery and corruption. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that it was reflective of “seedy Chicago politics.”

“In order to try to get the 60 votes, there has been basically a pay to play approach to this, and it’s just repulsive,” [Sen. John] Cornyn said.

Now some say that bipartisanship is overrated. But Obama wasn’t one of them. He got himself elected, in large part, because he promised to rise about the naked partisanship that had alienated so many voters. No Blue and Red States, just the United States of America and all that. So the question remains whether having jettisoned that tone and approach to politics, the president and his party will face any consequences. It’s not hard to imagine that once the dreamy idealism of young voters, the optimism of independents (who had grown disgusted with politics as normal), and the self-delusion of some Republicans (convinced that Obama was a man of reason, not of bare-knuckle politics) are drained away, the Democrats will face a motivation deficit in 2010 and perhaps beyond.

Having adopted the worst qualities of his hyper-partisan predecessors, Obama has left the “outsider” and “change” message by the wayside. We’ll see if his opponents are savvy enough to grab it and run for daylight.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Bill Kristol on enjoying the festivities in Copenhagen: “Hugo Chavez, Ahmadinejad giving anti-American speeches, huge applause from the delegates, snowing during this global warming conference. And I’m glad that it has done limited damage to the U.S. economy.” Mara Liasson (emboldened perhaps by the “Free Mara!” campaign) agrees: “I think, obviously, it was a disappointment for environmentalists who wanted something binding and wanted more firm targets, but I think what this means is that a very small step has been taken, and now we’ll see if the Senate will pass this treaty.”

In the rush to pass hugely unpopular and controversial legislation, errors are made: “The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) corrected its estimate of the Senate health bill’s costs on Sunday, saying it would reduce deficits slightly less than they’d predicted.”

The bill was so awful the payoffs had to be very high: “Nelson’s might be the most blatant – a deal carved out for a single state, a permanent exemption from the state share of Medicaid expansion for Nebraska, meaning federal taxpayers have to kick in an additional $45 million in the first decade. But another Democratic holdout, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), took credit for $10 billion in new funding for community health centers, while denying it was a “sweetheart deal.”

Megan McArdle: “Democrats are on a political suicide mission; I’m not a particularly accurate prognosticator, but I think this makes it very likely that in 2010 they will lost several seats in the Senate–enough to make it damn hard to pass any more of their signature legislation–and will lose the House outright.  In the case of the House, you can attribute it to the fact that the leadership has safe seats.  But three out of four of the Democrats on the podium today are in serious danger of losing their seats. No bill this large has ever before passed on a straight party-line vote, or even anything close to a straight party-line vote.  No bill this unpopular has ever before passed on a straight party-line vote.”

When do we get “change“? “The Senate Majority Leader has decided that the last few days before Christmas are the opportune moment for a narrow majority of Democrats to stuff ObamaCare through the Senate to meet an arbitrary White House deadline. Barring some extraordinary reversal, it now seems as if they have the 60 votes they need to jump off this cliff, with one-seventh of the economy in tow. Mr. Obama promised a new era of transparent good government, yet on Saturday morning Mr. Reid threw out the 2,100-page bill that the world’s greatest deliberative body spent just 17 days debating and replaced it with a new ‘manager’s amendment’ that was stapled together in covert partisan negotiations.” Well, voters may see their chance on Election Day 2010.

Harry Reid’s precarious position with Nevada voters may get worse. Even the new Newsweek has figured out that much: “As the approval ratings of both Obama and Congress fall, Nevada’s political dynamics spell trouble for many incumbent Democrats. When you’re the majority leader, that’s seriously bad news. ‘Any politician who gets into a leadership role like that has a tough time because they have to balance the needs of their leadership role against their representation of a state,’ [Scott] Rasmussen says. Reid’s job as leader requires him to be a strict partisan even though he comes from a purple state.”

To no one’s surprise, James Webb falls in line with ObamaCare despite all his supposed “disappointment with some sections of the bill.” His Virginia constituents, who elected Bob McDonnell and are running against the Obama agenda by twenty points, are no doubt even more disappointed. That’s what the 2012 election will be all about.

Eric Cantor explains where health care will be decided: “Cantor predicts that abortion would be the key issue in the House’s debate of the Senate’s bill. Pro-life Rep. Bart Stupak (D., Mich.) ‘has outlined very clear language’ on abortion and ‘has made it clear that if it’s not included then he will vote against the bill,’  he says. ‘. . It’s unfathomable to think that pro-life Democrats would go for the Senate version. They know that the Senate’s bill is a 30-year record-breaking move to allow taxpayer dollars to fund abortion. I can’t imagine any of them supporting it.” We’ll see.

We are still “bearing witness,” I suppose: “Iran’s opposition on Sunday seized upon the death of one of the Islamic republic’s founding fathers — a revered ayatollah who was also a fierce critic of the nation’s leadership — to take to the streets in mourning. Fearing that mourners could quickly turn into antigovernment protesters, Iranian authorities tightened security across the country.”

Bill Kristol on enjoying the festivities in Copenhagen: “Hugo Chavez, Ahmadinejad giving anti-American speeches, huge applause from the delegates, snowing during this global warming conference. And I’m glad that it has done limited damage to the U.S. economy.” Mara Liasson (emboldened perhaps by the “Free Mara!” campaign) agrees: “I think, obviously, it was a disappointment for environmentalists who wanted something binding and wanted more firm targets, but I think what this means is that a very small step has been taken, and now we’ll see if the Senate will pass this treaty.”

In the rush to pass hugely unpopular and controversial legislation, errors are made: “The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) corrected its estimate of the Senate health bill’s costs on Sunday, saying it would reduce deficits slightly less than they’d predicted.”

The bill was so awful the payoffs had to be very high: “Nelson’s might be the most blatant – a deal carved out for a single state, a permanent exemption from the state share of Medicaid expansion for Nebraska, meaning federal taxpayers have to kick in an additional $45 million in the first decade. But another Democratic holdout, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), took credit for $10 billion in new funding for community health centers, while denying it was a “sweetheart deal.”

Megan McArdle: “Democrats are on a political suicide mission; I’m not a particularly accurate prognosticator, but I think this makes it very likely that in 2010 they will lost several seats in the Senate–enough to make it damn hard to pass any more of their signature legislation–and will lose the House outright.  In the case of the House, you can attribute it to the fact that the leadership has safe seats.  But three out of four of the Democrats on the podium today are in serious danger of losing their seats. No bill this large has ever before passed on a straight party-line vote, or even anything close to a straight party-line vote.  No bill this unpopular has ever before passed on a straight party-line vote.”

When do we get “change“? “The Senate Majority Leader has decided that the last few days before Christmas are the opportune moment for a narrow majority of Democrats to stuff ObamaCare through the Senate to meet an arbitrary White House deadline. Barring some extraordinary reversal, it now seems as if they have the 60 votes they need to jump off this cliff, with one-seventh of the economy in tow. Mr. Obama promised a new era of transparent good government, yet on Saturday morning Mr. Reid threw out the 2,100-page bill that the world’s greatest deliberative body spent just 17 days debating and replaced it with a new ‘manager’s amendment’ that was stapled together in covert partisan negotiations.” Well, voters may see their chance on Election Day 2010.

Harry Reid’s precarious position with Nevada voters may get worse. Even the new Newsweek has figured out that much: “As the approval ratings of both Obama and Congress fall, Nevada’s political dynamics spell trouble for many incumbent Democrats. When you’re the majority leader, that’s seriously bad news. ‘Any politician who gets into a leadership role like that has a tough time because they have to balance the needs of their leadership role against their representation of a state,’ [Scott] Rasmussen says. Reid’s job as leader requires him to be a strict partisan even though he comes from a purple state.”

To no one’s surprise, James Webb falls in line with ObamaCare despite all his supposed “disappointment with some sections of the bill.” His Virginia constituents, who elected Bob McDonnell and are running against the Obama agenda by twenty points, are no doubt even more disappointed. That’s what the 2012 election will be all about.

Eric Cantor explains where health care will be decided: “Cantor predicts that abortion would be the key issue in the House’s debate of the Senate’s bill. Pro-life Rep. Bart Stupak (D., Mich.) ‘has outlined very clear language’ on abortion and ‘has made it clear that if it’s not included then he will vote against the bill,’  he says. ‘. . It’s unfathomable to think that pro-life Democrats would go for the Senate version. They know that the Senate’s bill is a 30-year record-breaking move to allow taxpayer dollars to fund abortion. I can’t imagine any of them supporting it.” We’ll see.

We are still “bearing witness,” I suppose: “Iran’s opposition on Sunday seized upon the death of one of the Islamic republic’s founding fathers — a revered ayatollah who was also a fierce critic of the nation’s leadership — to take to the streets in mourning. Fearing that mourners could quickly turn into antigovernment protesters, Iranian authorities tightened security across the country.”

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When the Chips Are Down, All Democrats Are Liberals

The Senate is moving slowly toward the first cloture vote around 1:00 a.m. on Monday, heading to a final vote on the health-care bill Thursday evening. At this juncture the most realistic avenue for upsetting the freight train is Rep. Bart Stupak, who unlike Sen. Ben Nelson, was not snookered (willingly or otherwise) into abandoning his pro-life constituents. As others have pointed out, Nebraska pro-life voters like voters in every state will, under the Harry Reid “compromise,” have their tax dollars go toward subsidizing abortions in states that choose not to “opt out” of abortion coverage.

There are several noteworthy aspects to all of this. First, we have heard a lot in the last year from some snooty ostensibly-conservative pundits who would like to rearrange the conservative coalition and dump social conservatives overboard. However, the health-care bill is as good an example as we will find as to why this is politically idiotic. Here we see that it is social conservatives who remain the last men and women standing against liberal economic- and social-engineering projects. The numbers may just not be there for Stupak to disrupt the juggernaut, but it is instructive that the final battle is likely to be over abortion subsidies, not taxes or any other economic issue. Perhaps it’s not a good idea for conservatives to tell some of their most stalwart allies to get lost.

Second, the Obama tax pledge — no tax hikes on families making less than $250, 000 — has been eviscerated by the bill. There are no less than seven categories of taxes on the supposedly non-rich and they are not insignificant. Union members with generous benefits, so-called “Cadillac” plans, are going to get smacked with new excise takes –unless of course they lose those generous benefits. This reality is not enough to sway supposedly moderate and conservative Democrats (and can we acknowledge when the chips are down they are all liberals?) to vote “no” when it comes to cloture, but it will certainly come up in the 2010 elections. (Five Democrats, including Nelson, voted to take the under-$250,000 tax provisions out, but their defense of the taxpayers evaporates when it matters.) Taxes are now a front-and-center issue in the run up to the 2010 election.

Third, we are spending of at least $871B (maybe $2.5 trillion over ten years) and raising about $500 billion in taxes. Nevertheless, we will still have, by the CBO’s estimate, some 23 million non-elderly uninsured residents. Insurance companies are no doubt doing the jig with the realization that the government is herding new customers their way. But that’s a huge transfer of wealth for not really solving the problem of the uninsured. We go from 83 percent of the population insured to 94 percent by taking money away from seniors’ Medicare funding and everyone else’s pockets.

We will, if this passes, see a massive sell-job by the administration and Congress to tout this “historic achievement.” But the American people may well recoil in horror. They are going to be taxed and bossed around, have their benefits disrupted and see what happens when government gurus begin to dictate what care they will receive. And it will be crystal clear who, when the chips are down, tried to stop the largest big-government power grab and tax-a-thon in decades and who rolled over. The opponents of those Democrats who rolled over will have a plethora of material for their campaign ads.

The Senate is moving slowly toward the first cloture vote around 1:00 a.m. on Monday, heading to a final vote on the health-care bill Thursday evening. At this juncture the most realistic avenue for upsetting the freight train is Rep. Bart Stupak, who unlike Sen. Ben Nelson, was not snookered (willingly or otherwise) into abandoning his pro-life constituents. As others have pointed out, Nebraska pro-life voters like voters in every state will, under the Harry Reid “compromise,” have their tax dollars go toward subsidizing abortions in states that choose not to “opt out” of abortion coverage.

There are several noteworthy aspects to all of this. First, we have heard a lot in the last year from some snooty ostensibly-conservative pundits who would like to rearrange the conservative coalition and dump social conservatives overboard. However, the health-care bill is as good an example as we will find as to why this is politically idiotic. Here we see that it is social conservatives who remain the last men and women standing against liberal economic- and social-engineering projects. The numbers may just not be there for Stupak to disrupt the juggernaut, but it is instructive that the final battle is likely to be over abortion subsidies, not taxes or any other economic issue. Perhaps it’s not a good idea for conservatives to tell some of their most stalwart allies to get lost.

Second, the Obama tax pledge — no tax hikes on families making less than $250, 000 — has been eviscerated by the bill. There are no less than seven categories of taxes on the supposedly non-rich and they are not insignificant. Union members with generous benefits, so-called “Cadillac” plans, are going to get smacked with new excise takes –unless of course they lose those generous benefits. This reality is not enough to sway supposedly moderate and conservative Democrats (and can we acknowledge when the chips are down they are all liberals?) to vote “no” when it comes to cloture, but it will certainly come up in the 2010 elections. (Five Democrats, including Nelson, voted to take the under-$250,000 tax provisions out, but their defense of the taxpayers evaporates when it matters.) Taxes are now a front-and-center issue in the run up to the 2010 election.

Third, we are spending of at least $871B (maybe $2.5 trillion over ten years) and raising about $500 billion in taxes. Nevertheless, we will still have, by the CBO’s estimate, some 23 million non-elderly uninsured residents. Insurance companies are no doubt doing the jig with the realization that the government is herding new customers their way. But that’s a huge transfer of wealth for not really solving the problem of the uninsured. We go from 83 percent of the population insured to 94 percent by taking money away from seniors’ Medicare funding and everyone else’s pockets.

We will, if this passes, see a massive sell-job by the administration and Congress to tout this “historic achievement.” But the American people may well recoil in horror. They are going to be taxed and bossed around, have their benefits disrupted and see what happens when government gurus begin to dictate what care they will receive. And it will be crystal clear who, when the chips are down, tried to stop the largest big-government power grab and tax-a-thon in decades and who rolled over. The opponents of those Democrats who rolled over will have a plethora of material for their campaign ads.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Obama tells us that we are “bearing witness”? Hard to see how that differs from enabling a murderous regime to avoid scrutiny: “At the height of Iran’s bloody civil unrest this year, a young doctor named Ramin Pourandarjani defied his superiors. He refused to sign death certificates at a Tehran prison that he said were falsified to cover up murder. He testified to a parliamentary committee that jailers were torturing and raping protesters, his family says. He told friends and family he feared for his life. And on Nov. 10, the 26-year-old doctor was found dead in the military clinic where he lived and worked.” 

The editorially liberal Seattle Times says “no” to ObamaCare: “The public option is in then out; the Medicare buy-in for 55-year-olds is in, then out. When the congressional dance stops, the Senate may have 60 votes, but for what? It will satisfy neither Obama’s frugal promise nor progressives’ lavish hopes. Already the Democratic Party’s former chairman, Howard Dean, says the bill is not worth passing in this form.”

You can see why the Daily Kos kids feel betrayed: “Senate Democratic leaders say last-minute changes to the health care bill include giving nonprofit health insurance companies an exemption from the excise tax on insurers, a revision pushed by Sen. Carl Levin, who is a major recipient of campaign contributions form mega nonprofit Blue Cross Blue Shield.”

On the Right, they are mad too. I think he means Ben Nelson: “Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oka.) said it is ‘absolutely fictitious’ that there is an anti-abortion provision in the Senate Democrats’ reworked healthcare reform bill. ‘The negotiations, whoever did them, threw unborn babies under the bus,’ Coburn said.” From Sen. Richard Burr: “You have to compliment Ben Nelson for playing the price is right. . This isn’t the Louisiana Purchase. This is the Nebraska windfall.” Well, Nelson couldn’t have thought he’d keep his conservative supporters, right?

Huffington Post or National Review? “With unemployment at 10%, the idea that you can pass a bill whose only merit is that ‘liberals hate it’ just because the media will eat it up and print your talking points in the process is so cynical and short-sighted it’s hard to comprehend anyone would pursue it. It reflects a total insensitivity to the rage that is brewing on the popular front, which is manifest in every single poll out there.”

Headline from the Washington Post or Washington Times? “Health-care debate wearing on Democrats’ unity, popularity.”

Frank Rich or Rich Lowry? “Though the American left and right don’t agree on much, they are both now coalescing around the suspicion that Obama’s brilliant presidential campaign was as hollow as Tiger’s public image — a marketing scam designed to camouflage either his covert anti-American radicalism (as the right sees it) or spineless timidity (as the left sees it).”

James Carafano sums up the Obami’s spending priorities: “The White House priority is to push through a symbolic deal at Copenhagen which will justify spending hundreds-of-billions, cost up to two million American jobs and won’t actually really make us safe from the dangers of climate change…but they say we can’t afford spending two percent of the defense budget on missile defense which would provide real protection to a 13 trillion dollar economy.” Yup.

The Walpin scandal bubbles up to the surface of the mainstream media: “Congressional Republicans raised new concerns this week about the Obama administration’s firing of Gerald Walpin, who served as inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service. GOP lawmakers said White House visitors logs contradict statements made by the former chairman of CNCS, the agency that oversees AmeriCorps.”

Robert Wexler’s pro-Obami spin on the settlement-freeze debacle is too much even for Lestlie Gelb, who asks incredulously “So the Administration never asked Israel for freeze across the board — West Bank, East Jerusalem — on every and all kind of settlement activity?”

Kathleen Parker has figured out that Obama has a “grandiosity” problem, “an inflated self-confidence and a sense of power exceeding one’s means.” So he is reduced to passing a shlock health-care bill: “Thus, the man who was going to remain above the political fray has revealed himself as pluperfectly political, ready to settle for the very kind of mandate (without the public option) that he opposed as a candidate challenging Hillary Clinton. Rather than inspiring confidence, he has inspired a groundswell of disapproval and a populist uprising that may allow Republicans to clean House come November. In the meantime, left and right finally have discovered a common foe. Too bad for the country that his name is Obama.” And too bad so many pundits flacked for him during the campaign.

Obama tells us that we are “bearing witness”? Hard to see how that differs from enabling a murderous regime to avoid scrutiny: “At the height of Iran’s bloody civil unrest this year, a young doctor named Ramin Pourandarjani defied his superiors. He refused to sign death certificates at a Tehran prison that he said were falsified to cover up murder. He testified to a parliamentary committee that jailers were torturing and raping protesters, his family says. He told friends and family he feared for his life. And on Nov. 10, the 26-year-old doctor was found dead in the military clinic where he lived and worked.” 

The editorially liberal Seattle Times says “no” to ObamaCare: “The public option is in then out; the Medicare buy-in for 55-year-olds is in, then out. When the congressional dance stops, the Senate may have 60 votes, but for what? It will satisfy neither Obama’s frugal promise nor progressives’ lavish hopes. Already the Democratic Party’s former chairman, Howard Dean, says the bill is not worth passing in this form.”

You can see why the Daily Kos kids feel betrayed: “Senate Democratic leaders say last-minute changes to the health care bill include giving nonprofit health insurance companies an exemption from the excise tax on insurers, a revision pushed by Sen. Carl Levin, who is a major recipient of campaign contributions form mega nonprofit Blue Cross Blue Shield.”

On the Right, they are mad too. I think he means Ben Nelson: “Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oka.) said it is ‘absolutely fictitious’ that there is an anti-abortion provision in the Senate Democrats’ reworked healthcare reform bill. ‘The negotiations, whoever did them, threw unborn babies under the bus,’ Coburn said.” From Sen. Richard Burr: “You have to compliment Ben Nelson for playing the price is right. . This isn’t the Louisiana Purchase. This is the Nebraska windfall.” Well, Nelson couldn’t have thought he’d keep his conservative supporters, right?

Huffington Post or National Review? “With unemployment at 10%, the idea that you can pass a bill whose only merit is that ‘liberals hate it’ just because the media will eat it up and print your talking points in the process is so cynical and short-sighted it’s hard to comprehend anyone would pursue it. It reflects a total insensitivity to the rage that is brewing on the popular front, which is manifest in every single poll out there.”

Headline from the Washington Post or Washington Times? “Health-care debate wearing on Democrats’ unity, popularity.”

Frank Rich or Rich Lowry? “Though the American left and right don’t agree on much, they are both now coalescing around the suspicion that Obama’s brilliant presidential campaign was as hollow as Tiger’s public image — a marketing scam designed to camouflage either his covert anti-American radicalism (as the right sees it) or spineless timidity (as the left sees it).”

James Carafano sums up the Obami’s spending priorities: “The White House priority is to push through a symbolic deal at Copenhagen which will justify spending hundreds-of-billions, cost up to two million American jobs and won’t actually really make us safe from the dangers of climate change…but they say we can’t afford spending two percent of the defense budget on missile defense which would provide real protection to a 13 trillion dollar economy.” Yup.

The Walpin scandal bubbles up to the surface of the mainstream media: “Congressional Republicans raised new concerns this week about the Obama administration’s firing of Gerald Walpin, who served as inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service. GOP lawmakers said White House visitors logs contradict statements made by the former chairman of CNCS, the agency that oversees AmeriCorps.”

Robert Wexler’s pro-Obami spin on the settlement-freeze debacle is too much even for Lestlie Gelb, who asks incredulously “So the Administration never asked Israel for freeze across the board — West Bank, East Jerusalem — on every and all kind of settlement activity?”

Kathleen Parker has figured out that Obama has a “grandiosity” problem, “an inflated self-confidence and a sense of power exceeding one’s means.” So he is reduced to passing a shlock health-care bill: “Thus, the man who was going to remain above the political fray has revealed himself as pluperfectly political, ready to settle for the very kind of mandate (without the public option) that he opposed as a candidate challenging Hillary Clinton. Rather than inspiring confidence, he has inspired a groundswell of disapproval and a populist uprising that may allow Republicans to clean House come November. In the meantime, left and right finally have discovered a common foe. Too bad for the country that his name is Obama.” And too bad so many pundits flacked for him during the campaign.

Read Less

A Snow Job

Saturday night there had been a promising report. Promising, if you agree with the ever-growing “kill the bill” crowd, which includes everyone but the Democratic congressional leadership and the White House:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid led a marathon negotiating session Friday with Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) in a hectic bid to persuade the last holdout to sign onto the health-care reform bill ahead of a key deadline Saturday morning. . . Nelson left a meeting in Reid’s office, telling reporters, “There’s no deal.”

The sanest statement to come out of Capitol Hill this week had been from Nelson, who declared: “Harry has some time frames he is thinking about. . . But I don’t have a deadline. To me, you have to get it right.” That suggested that Nelson was either a cagey negotiator intent on maximizing his leverage or that he was bent on upsetting the entire apple cart, pushing through the Christmas deadline, and forcing Congress to face the voters. It turns out he was the former.

As morning dawned in snow-blanketed D.C. news reports buzzed that Nelson had come around. Nothing like some Medicaid funding to buy off the Nebraska holdout. The so-called manager’s amendment with the abortion language and nearly four hundred more pages of other decisive language appeared early Saturday morning, but still with no CBO scoring. Aides and activists are scrambling to read and understand the language. It appears as though states will be allowed to opt out of coverage for abortion services (provided they aren’t otherwise legally required to fund abortions). However, taxpayer money will still be used to subsidize those purchasing insurance that covers abortion services in states that don’t opt out. If so, Nelson has abandoned his pro-life allies.

Aside from all the details and the mind-numbing irresponsibility of the entire undertaking, it is the legislative maneuvering which is most striking. The process suggests just how afraid of the voters the Democrats must be. If the timing plays out as planned, a final cloture vote may come in the middle of the night on Monday. Now, if they can’t vote in broad daylight on a weekday after allowing the public to view the bill for a few days, then really, how awful must it be?

UPDATE: Nelson sold out his pro-life allies but Rep. Bart Stupak may not do the same.

Saturday night there had been a promising report. Promising, if you agree with the ever-growing “kill the bill” crowd, which includes everyone but the Democratic congressional leadership and the White House:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid led a marathon negotiating session Friday with Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) in a hectic bid to persuade the last holdout to sign onto the health-care reform bill ahead of a key deadline Saturday morning. . . Nelson left a meeting in Reid’s office, telling reporters, “There’s no deal.”

The sanest statement to come out of Capitol Hill this week had been from Nelson, who declared: “Harry has some time frames he is thinking about. . . But I don’t have a deadline. To me, you have to get it right.” That suggested that Nelson was either a cagey negotiator intent on maximizing his leverage or that he was bent on upsetting the entire apple cart, pushing through the Christmas deadline, and forcing Congress to face the voters. It turns out he was the former.

As morning dawned in snow-blanketed D.C. news reports buzzed that Nelson had come around. Nothing like some Medicaid funding to buy off the Nebraska holdout. The so-called manager’s amendment with the abortion language and nearly four hundred more pages of other decisive language appeared early Saturday morning, but still with no CBO scoring. Aides and activists are scrambling to read and understand the language. It appears as though states will be allowed to opt out of coverage for abortion services (provided they aren’t otherwise legally required to fund abortions). However, taxpayer money will still be used to subsidize those purchasing insurance that covers abortion services in states that don’t opt out. If so, Nelson has abandoned his pro-life allies.

Aside from all the details and the mind-numbing irresponsibility of the entire undertaking, it is the legislative maneuvering which is most striking. The process suggests just how afraid of the voters the Democrats must be. If the timing plays out as planned, a final cloture vote may come in the middle of the night on Monday. Now, if they can’t vote in broad daylight on a weekday after allowing the public to view the bill for a few days, then really, how awful must it be?

UPDATE: Nelson sold out his pro-life allies but Rep. Bart Stupak may not do the same.

Read Less




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