Commentary Magazine


Topic: Tom Price

The Climb-Down?

Perhaps a mini climb-down has begun by the Obami. After all, they encountered a “firestorm” of criticism from Jewish groups and a bipartisan selection (although many more Republicans) of elected officials and candidates. Rep. Steve Israel is the latest Democrat to weigh in, declaring: “Israel is a close friend and ally and our relationship is based on mutual interests and benefits. We need to reaffirm the American-Israeli relationship as Vice President Biden did at Tel Aviv University last week. The Administration, to the extent that it has disagreements with Israel on policy matters, should find way to do so in private and do what they can to defuse this situation.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand issued a more mild statement, but one expressing concern nevertheless: “The close bond between the United States and Israel remains unbreakable, and America will continue to show unyielding support for Israel’s security. While the timing of the East Jerusalem housing announcement was regrettable, it must not cloud the most critical foreign policy issue facing both counties — Iran’s nuclear threat. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I am focused on strengthening international pressure on Iran’s regime to derail its pursuit of nuclear weapons.”

Republican Tom Price also issued a stern statement imploring Obama to stop “condemning our allies and started aggressively cracking down on those who sponsor terrorist groups and are ruthlessly pursuing nuclear weapons.”

So maybe someone in the administration took all that in and decided that allowing David Axelrod to play Chicago bully on the Sunday talk shows was not a good idea. As this report explains:

The Obama administration pledged Monday that Israel remained a US ally as congressional rivals rallied behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a feud over the construction of settlements. …

“Israel is a strategic ally of the US and will continue to be so,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters. “Our commitment to Israel’s security remains unshakeable.”

He also declined to comment on Netanyahu’s remarks to his Likud Party that construction would go ahead, saying that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was waiting for a “formal” reply to a tense telephone call on Friday.

“When she outlined what she thought appropriate actions would be to the prime minister, she asked for a response by the Israeli government. We wait for the response,” Crowley said.

Without prompting from reporters, Crowley criticized unnamed Palestinians for their remarks on Israel’s reopening of a landmark synagogue in Jerusalem’s walled Old City that had been destroyed in fighting 62 years ago.

Message received? Well, if so, then who’s running our Middle East policy and how did things escalate to this level? Certainly, a climb-down is preferable to continued escalation, but after a week of this, the Obami amateur hour leaves Israel, the Palestinians, Obama’s domestic supporters, the American Jewish community, and every nation looking on (some with horror, others with delight) baffled. If there is a game plan here or a set of permanent concerns and interests at play, it’s hard to discern. In the feckless and reckless Obama foreign policy, uncertainty is the order of the day. Allies should be forewarned: they may be on thin ice at any time. And our foes? Well, they must marvel that the U.S. is so cavalier with its friends and so willing to adopt the rhetoric and positions of its enemies. And for those nations on the fence, why would they have confidence in the U.S. administration? Being a “friend” of the U.S. is a dicey business these days.

Perhaps a mini climb-down has begun by the Obami. After all, they encountered a “firestorm” of criticism from Jewish groups and a bipartisan selection (although many more Republicans) of elected officials and candidates. Rep. Steve Israel is the latest Democrat to weigh in, declaring: “Israel is a close friend and ally and our relationship is based on mutual interests and benefits. We need to reaffirm the American-Israeli relationship as Vice President Biden did at Tel Aviv University last week. The Administration, to the extent that it has disagreements with Israel on policy matters, should find way to do so in private and do what they can to defuse this situation.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand issued a more mild statement, but one expressing concern nevertheless: “The close bond between the United States and Israel remains unbreakable, and America will continue to show unyielding support for Israel’s security. While the timing of the East Jerusalem housing announcement was regrettable, it must not cloud the most critical foreign policy issue facing both counties — Iran’s nuclear threat. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I am focused on strengthening international pressure on Iran’s regime to derail its pursuit of nuclear weapons.”

Republican Tom Price also issued a stern statement imploring Obama to stop “condemning our allies and started aggressively cracking down on those who sponsor terrorist groups and are ruthlessly pursuing nuclear weapons.”

So maybe someone in the administration took all that in and decided that allowing David Axelrod to play Chicago bully on the Sunday talk shows was not a good idea. As this report explains:

The Obama administration pledged Monday that Israel remained a US ally as congressional rivals rallied behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a feud over the construction of settlements. …

“Israel is a strategic ally of the US and will continue to be so,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters. “Our commitment to Israel’s security remains unshakeable.”

He also declined to comment on Netanyahu’s remarks to his Likud Party that construction would go ahead, saying that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was waiting for a “formal” reply to a tense telephone call on Friday.

“When she outlined what she thought appropriate actions would be to the prime minister, she asked for a response by the Israeli government. We wait for the response,” Crowley said.

Without prompting from reporters, Crowley criticized unnamed Palestinians for their remarks on Israel’s reopening of a landmark synagogue in Jerusalem’s walled Old City that had been destroyed in fighting 62 years ago.

Message received? Well, if so, then who’s running our Middle East policy and how did things escalate to this level? Certainly, a climb-down is preferable to continued escalation, but after a week of this, the Obami amateur hour leaves Israel, the Palestinians, Obama’s domestic supporters, the American Jewish community, and every nation looking on (some with horror, others with delight) baffled. If there is a game plan here or a set of permanent concerns and interests at play, it’s hard to discern. In the feckless and reckless Obama foreign policy, uncertainty is the order of the day. Allies should be forewarned: they may be on thin ice at any time. And our foes? Well, they must marvel that the U.S. is so cavalier with its friends and so willing to adopt the rhetoric and positions of its enemies. And for those nations on the fence, why would they have confidence in the U.S. administration? Being a “friend” of the U.S. is a dicey business these days.

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Moving on from ObamaCare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Less




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