Democrats in the Senate have given some backdoor acknowledgement that the healthcare bill probably won’t be voted on this year.
Despite President Obama’s goal of signing healthcare reform legislation this year — one backed by assurances from congressional Democrats — Senate Democratic leaders Tuesday subtly acknowledged that’s not likely to happen as they started the delicate dance of walking back expectations.
Putting the legislation together has proved exceedingly difficult, and most aides now say there is virtually no way a bill can get to Obama’s desk this year.
This zombie refuses to die, but I suspect tonight’s election results will put a shotgun blast in it. Certainly the closer the 2010 elections loom, the more those healthcare disapproval ratings will matter.
Bill Quick has been pondering why the GOP establishment can look so lost:
I’ve been wondering why the suicidal wing of the GOP – the elites and others who want to turn the party into an echo of the Democrats – think that way. I finally believe I may have a glimmer.
He then summarizes the state of the disconnect between the establishment GOP and the wider world, and finished with:
It’s easy to say they don’t get it because they’re stupid, but the truth is much worse: They don’t get it because they don’t want to get it.
Your quiz for today, then, is to answer the question: Why don’t they want to get it?
The quiz answer has got to be some variation of “They’re getting what they want right now, so why change?” If it were not in their self-interest to try and perpetuate the status quo, then they wouldn’t do it, at least not again and again the way they have.
Here’s my own mental model: they are members of a separate society from the rest of America. That society consists of politicians, lobbyists, top-tier media people, A-list celebrities, and top-level bureaucrats. The GOP establishment politicians are far more loyal to the society they belong to (including the most liberal members of it) than they are the wider American society.
So they regularly and consistently do what their own tribe expects and demands, rather than what the rest of us want. They grow to see us as simplistic rubes who don’t know any better, and they talk themselves into believing that the ways of their tribe are the right ways. Anyone who thinks otherwise is just ignorant or confused.
Being chauferred around in limos and having 95% of the people you run into pay obeisance to you smooths their assimilation into the tribe and and serves to remind them every hour of ever day of their special status and the vast gulf separating them from the rest of us. They also get security in the form of big pensions, various perks from those who want to get their attention, and respect far beyond what their abilities would otherwise command.
When someone comes in who was not formerly a member of the tribe, they take special effort to initiate that person into the tribe and ensure that they know the unwritten rules of membership. This is how a Bill Frist goes from being a campaigner for limited government in his first campaign in 1994 to being a senator who helped pass a bunch of Bush welfare state programs – in only about six or eight years.
The tribe ostracizes anyone who does not take to the assimilation process, but that’s seldom necessary. The immense craving for acceptance that is a part of the typical politician’s personality profile is almost always enough to eventually suck them in.
This is perhaps an inevitable result of having a professional political class and ever-growing government.
Spending all their time in the tribe, and accustomed to being buffered and covered by the media wing of the tribe, it’s hard for them to assess when a level of dissatisfaction is reached that will seriously threaten very many members of the tribe. The tribe was caught flat-footed in 1994 and they saw several members forced into new roles or even retirement. As a whole, though, they recovered quite well. In two or three years things were back to normal. They assimilated the new members, ramped up the media control, and prepared to ride out the next such wave.
They passed a bunch of new rules to keep the outsiders in line: Campaign Finance Reform, Sarbanes-Oxley, and others. Since the nominal process they thought they controlled got a little beyond their control, they simply passed rules to give themselves more control.
That gave them the confidence that they can ride out any such episodes in the future; nothing the barbarians outside the tribe have attempted has worked to cause any real change in decades. So they’re paying lip service to the principles of the Tea Parties, but they don’t really think those barbaric outsiders can do anything that really threatens them.
Maybe they’re right. It’s up to us to prove them wrong.
From a short post about The Wire by Jonah Goldberg at The Corner:
A lot of conservatives today are too quick to think that because liberals have some affinity for Marxist sentiments that they are actual Marxists. Liberals often make the same mistakes as Marxists, but they’re not Marxists.
I suppose this is true, but it got me to wondering. So I have a question for QandO readers.
Suppose, completely hypothetically, that Obama were a hard-core Marxist who wanted to go in the direction of Marxist programs as quickly as the system in place in this country allowed him to move.
Looking at his history in office so far, do you think there are any decisions that the hypothetical Obama-the-Marxist would obviously have made differently than the real Obama? If so, which ones?
A company named Boston Dynamics has developed a robot that mimics the way a human being walks – well, at least the way a slightly tipsy human being walks:
It was built to “to test military suits used to protect soldiers in chemical warfare”, and you can read the rest here.
Seeing that tipsy walk with red tennis shoes and a droid-looking body on top was mildly creepy. I can’t believe they missed the opportunity to increase the effect by putting an Arnold Schwarzenegger mannequin head on top.
(Found on GeekPress)
I just watched a video in which House Republican Whip Eric Cantor appeared with one of his Democratic colleagues from Virginia to discuss healthcare. You can watch it here if you like.
Though I can tell you right now that there’s not much point to it. It consists virtually 100% of empty, meaningless politician-speak from both congressmen. Despite some decent attempts on the part of the interviewer to get them to answer some tough questions, they both just dodged them and mumbled platitudes about “educating voters” and “the status quo is unsustainable”.
Educating voters isn’t going to do a damn thing. Voters are sick to death of Washington telling them what to do. Democrats in Congress (and many Republicans) insist that there be a mandate to buy health insurance, and I think they have vastly underestimated the pushback they are getting right now and how much worse it would be if they actually passed it. Any bill with a ghost of chance of passing also has new taxes and new spending, and voters are (1) not fooled by any shell games claiming otherwise, and (2) profoundly sick of both taxes and spending.
Saying “the status quo is unsustainable” is pointless because it says absolutely nothing about whether any of the current proposals would make the system any more sustainable. Given the $47 trillion Medicare and Social Security already has in liabilities, creating another entitlement to increase that amount looks like the silliest possible response.
I expected such empty blathering from the Democrat. Any Democratic member of Congress is caught right now between a hard-left leadership who want government control over when people go to the bathroom and the Blue Dogs who know they’ll be looking for another job if any healthcare bill with a lot of government interference is passed. Not to mention a president who can’t seem to make up his mind on what he’s willing to settle for on healthcare, and whose only strategy is to flap his gums.
But have the Republicans learned nothing from 2006-2009? Has the Tea Party movement made no impact on them? Do they not sense the rising anti-government attitude in voters? Are they so incredibly clueless that they can’t learn the lesson from Reagan’s landslide and the 1994 takeover of Congress?
Look, you idiots: You can win big when you strongly advocate smaller government principles. When you don’t, at best you tread water, and at worst you get your butts kicked.
Watching Cantor pour out the same old politician’s blather was painful. Based on that one video, I never expect to support this guy for anything. And he’s part of the GOP leadership, supposedly the best they’ve got. Well, if he’s one of the best, they’re still as lost as they were in 2006.
I see many signs that 2010 could be a landmark year. Two months ago, I summarized Obama’s failings to that point, and since then he’s racked up scandals with his czars, seen his buddies at ACORN exposed as the criminals many of us thought they were, and had his make-nice efforts toward Iran shown to be naive and pointless.
But absent any Republican leadership on a real change in direction, none of that will make a big difference. Oh, I think the Democrats will lose a fair number of seats in the House in any case, because of depressed turnout among Democrats in marginal districts. The Republicans may well pick up three or four Senate seats too. But without a clear message concerning their desire to trim the size, cost, and intrusiveness of government, they will gain no loyalty or long-term support from those people who have finally reached their agony threshold on big government.
They’ll just drift for two years, using the same strategy that got the Democrats in the White House, which is to hope voters are so sick of the other side they will vote for a change, any change. And, of course, even if that works, they won’t do anything about reducing the size and scope of government, hoping the whole debt mess doesn’t finally reach critical mass on their watch.
With a clear message, I believe the GOP could do a rerun of 1994. But I don’t know a single person among them capable of carrying the banner for that message. It sure as heck is *not* Eric Cantor.
With ACORN’s reputation now exploding, the left will try to ensure that the shrapnel doesn’t hit Obama.
This is not a new problem, of course. It came up during the campaign because of ACORN’s vote fraud scandals. The talking point then was “Obama has never worked for ACORN”, which was technically true, but conveniently obscured several associations, including Obama conducting training sessions on leadership for ACORN.
With the new focus on ACORN, I expect this area to get some more examination. With Obama’s new car smell having faded, it might even get more traction this time. Certainly with Obama’s self-declared work as a “community organizer”, many folks who are not paying much attention will just assume that he must have some connection to a group with “Community Organizers” right there in their title. That’s pretty simplistic, and maybe even unfair, but it’s the state of play.
So we’ll probably see a new round of defense of Obama from the left, attempting to distance him from ACORN. Obama is doing his part to help them; I think I detected the beginning of a new talking point in this interview with George Stephanopoulos:
STEPHANOPOULOS: How about the funding for ACORN?
OBAMA: You know, if — frankly, it’s not really something I’ve followed closely. I didn’t even know that ACORN was getting a whole lot of federal money.[Emphasis mine]
What a great bit of misdirection! He only has to assert it, with no evidence. Absent someone digging up obscure committee hearings or memos, it will be impossible to disprove.
Of course, one could point out that Obama was a senator when some of those budget bills were passed that sent money to ACORN, which in any rational governmental system means he would have known about the money. However, he’s got the usual excuse that they don’t read what they vote for anyway. That seems to be enough for the sclerotic legacy media, so he probably won’t get challenged on his assertion.
Therefore I’m predicting some leftist will soon use that assertion as a rebuttal to someone asserting a connection between Obama and ACORN. “He doesn’t have anything to do with ACORN. Why, he didn’t even know they got federal money!”
Who will it be, and when? Place your bets.
In any contest, you have certain assets, and your strategy is to use the assets in the most efficient and effective way you can find. In war simulations, for example, you normally don’t use offensive units for defense or vice versa.
But there is a point at which that breaks down. Anyone who has played war simulation games, such as Empire or Civilization, is familiar with the “edge of defeat” problem.
When it looks like you are about to be defeated, you use whatever assets you have at hand because your choices start to go away. Some people call this the use-it-or-lose-it point. If you are defeated, your assets don’t matter anyway, so you might as well use them to try and stave off defeat, even if your odds are not very good and you are using them in normally inappropriate ways.
Addressing a joint session of Congress is one of Obama’s assets. Using it ineffectively degrades the ability to use it again. If he did one once a week, or even once a month, then those speeches would get no more attention than the weekly radio address.
Looking at last night, I couldn’t help but feel Obama used that asset ineffectively. He got some juice out of it, but not much, and even the Democrats concede that it was not a game changer.
That asset is now gone for the purposes of the healthcare debate. If he tries to pull it out before sometime next year, it will be mostly ignored. So I’ve been wondering why he decided to commit that asset, even with a speech that didn’t break any new ground or attempt to dramatically change the terms of the debate in any way I can see.
The most likely possibility is that is that Obama’s overconfidence led him to believe he could get more mileage out of the asset than he did. He may be pretty out of touch with the real source of opposition to his healthcare wishes. He may think it’s just a matter of misunderstanding, and that if we all understood what he wanted better, we would just go along with it. I hate to think he’s that out of touch, but I have to rate that the most likely explanation.
But what if he understands that the opposition has hardened? What if he knows that the bill is in trouble, and he’s caught between the liberal caucus insisting on a public option and the Blue Dogs insisting they won’t vote for it, and just doesn’t know what to do? What if he knows that he’s at the edge of defeat on this, and thinks it will be the defining contest of his presidency?
In that case, it would make complete sense to use any asset at his disposal to try and salvage a win. Using the joint session asset to make a routine speech would be scraping the bottom of the barrel, but what other assets does he have that he hasn’t already used? He used up his strong-arming on many House members over cap-and-trade. He used up his high-pressure sales option in the summer. He used up all his influence with the industry to get concession from them, both monetary and that they would not publicly fight him. (I am wondering where that $150 million pledge by PhRMA went, though.)
If Obama is half as smart as his supporters say, the joint session last night could be a sign of desperation, an indication that he knows he’s losing on this and just can’t think of any other asset to use.
The preferred metaphor for his speech is “doubling down”. But you normally double down when you think you’ve got a pretty good chance of winning. I think a “Hail Mary” metaphor might be more applicable.
If true, that doesn’t mean he’s guaranteed to lose. Sometimes the Hail Mary works. It just doesn’t work that often.
As many predicted, Van Jones has resigned. Naturally, he picked the middle of Labor Day weekend to do it. That means minimal coverage, which is somehow fitting, seeing how little the mainstream media covered the whole thing. This has been the deftest handling of an Obama appointment miscue ever; by the time Labor Day cookouts end, this will be over and the average voter will have never heard of Jones.
Of course, Jones’ take on the whole thing is drearily predictable:
“On the eve of historic fights for health care and clean energy, opponents of reform have mounted a vicious smear campaign against me,” Jones said in his resignation statement. “They are using lies and distortions to distract and divide.” [Emphasis mine]
He somehow doesn’t manage to pinpoint any specific lies or distortions. I suppose you could maintain that the whole thing about him signing a Truther petition was a distortion since he maintains that it doesn’t represent his views, but you would then need the underlying assumption that he’s a lazy radical who doesn’t bother to read what his fellow radicals write, and then fails to take responsibility for the resulting mistakes. I don’t see how that helps much.
The New York Times has yet to weigh in as best as I can tell. But they did find time late last week for this article, which contains the following:
Mark Steyn, a Canadian author and political commentator, speaking on the Rush Limbaugh show on Wednesday, accused Mr. Obama of trying to create a cult of personality, comparing him to Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il, the North Korean leader.
This was picked up and repeated by newspapers from Ireland to Las Vegas, with the usual “he’s loony” side comments. Problem is, here’s the actual quote from Mark’s guest host appearance on Rush Limbaugh that the NYT is using as a source:
Obviously we’re not talking about the cult of personality on the kind of Saddam Hussein/Kim Jong-Il scale. [Emphasis mine]
Now I suppose you could be pedantic and say, “Well, he is comparing the two, in a sense.” No, actually he’s contrasting the two, and one would hope the august journalists at the Times would know the difference, after all those “compare and contrast” essays in English class.
In my mind, this qualifies as a true smear. Instead of quoting someone, a misquoting is used that modifies the meaning of the original to make someone look bad.
As far as I can tell, this never happened with Jones. People just put up his own words and videos.
But it doesn’t matter. The word “smear” has been debased by the left, just as “fascist”, “rationing“, and plenty of others. Their post-modernist, Red Queen, multiple truths, “I knew what I meant when I said it” worldview makes that a perfectly legitimate tactic as far as they are concerned. The word “smear” now means “saying something that makes a leftist look bad” regardless of whether that something is true.
*** Update 12:38 PM CST ***
Commenter Ernest Brown notes that the NYT finally says something about Van Jones. They delicately manage to avoid Jones’ “smear” allegations, but they do include this:
Mr. Jones apologized on Wednesday for derogatory words he directed at Republican opponents of Mr. Obama’s Congressional agenda during a lecture in February, calling his remarks “inappropriate” and noting that they were made before he joined the administration.
If all you read is the NYT, then you’ll have no clue what the heck they are talking about here. You won’t hear about the extent of Jones’ vulgarity or the cheering he got from the crowd for calling Republicans a$$holes. This is some beautifully done obfuscation for the benefit of the Obama administration.
But note that his vulgar depiction of Republicans was done before he was tapped by Obama. Well, I guess that makes it all right then!
Andrew Briebart makes some pretty good points in his editorial about the “GWB43 virus”. He posits that the demonization of Bush by the left, which worked pretty well, is now being applied to any target of opportunity who dares stand up to leftist dogma and threatens to be effective at it. He quotes one of the sources of this strategy, Saul Alinsky’s infamous Rule 12:
Rule 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it and polarize it. Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (This is cruel, but very effective. Direct, personalized criticism and ridicule works.)
I never cared that much for Bush, but I certainly didn’t feel the molten hatred for him exhibited by the left. As a result, I didn’t realize just how effective Bush hatred was as a strategy until early 2008.
It was clear from very early on in the campaign that any GOP candidate would be running into the wind. The feckless Republicans didn’t help their own cause, of course, yet there wasn’t really any possibility of “running against Bush” within the GOP to try and change the party’s direction. The left, with the complicity of the media, made darn sure of that.
The only person involved who leaned that way, Sarah Palin, was subjected to the most vicious character assassination I’ve seen in my lifetime. I’m not a great fan of Palin, but that doesn’t blind me to the way she was treated. The molten hatred came out again, and it didn’t matter if it was founded on anything but rumors and emotional impressions.
Since then, Breibart lists the others who have endured the same treatment, including individuals such as Joe the Plumber and Carrie Prejean. We even saw Obama and his lackeys get into the act when they targeted Rush Limbaugh.
However, none of those were particularly effective. Oh, the left went along with the usual vitriol, but in the wider world Joe the Plumber and Carrie Prejean are more likely to be seen as victims who stood up for themselves.
Alinsky’s Rule 12 has limits. Using it too often makes it progressively less effective. The left is diluting the tactic to the point that it becomes meaningless, or even counter-productive.
Next up for Alinskyite demonization are the tea party / town hall attendees. Again, the media is all too complicit. But this attempt faces big obstacles. First, people are simply tiring of it. Plus, a large, diffuse target is not nearly as easy to demonize as a person.
According to the polls on Obama’s healthcare plan, it doesn’t seem to be working. Nancy Pelosi had to do some backtracking after calling them “un-American”. Even though leftists and media types raise the spectre of a violent mob, the most significant case of violence so far was perpetrated by bussed-in union thugs supporting the healthcare bill.
The left apparently thought they had been given a weapon with infinite ammunition. But it doesn’t work that way. If you go into your office today and accuse a particular co-worker of dishonesty, you’ll probably be taken seriously. If you do it with a different co-worker every week for a few months, you won’t.
Everyone involved starts to realize that it’s just a tactic. Then they begin to wonder why you’re doing it. Are you trying to cover up something?
Alinsky’s advice works well if leftists choose their targets carefully, and use Rule 12 about once or twice a decade. Using Rule 12 once a month isn’t going to work. Perhaps Saul should have warned them about that.
1. The left doesn’t want it. They just pretend they do. If they wanted it, they would not have tried to jam a thousand page bill through with virtually no debate, and they wouldn’t be using high-pressure sales tactics.
2. It won’t work – I. Beltway insiders are not going to have their mind changed by calmly and rationally pointing out the flaws in their bill. If their minds worked that way, they wouldn’t pass half the junk that goes through Congress.
3. It won’t work – II. If people are coming to these town halls in large numbers and mostly sitting there quietly, the spin from the media will be how everyone is quietly supportive of the “Health Insurance Reform” (or whatever the current focus-group-tested moniker is) except for a few cranks. Only if it’s abundantly obvious that the majority of the crowd is against the bill can that spin be forestalled.
4. It’s counter-productive. Incumbents really, really love it when they can appear to be listening and open even though their minds are already made up. Sitting down and calmly going over the points in the various bills gives them that facade that a deliberative process is going on when it’s not. It also takes away from the fear of losing an election they must feel if their mind is to be changed.
5. If we play Calvinball, we lose. We can’t afford to get bogged down in the details of the bill through endless talk-talk. What the protestors intuitively understand is that Congressional Democrats (and a few very foolish Republicans) are playing Calvinball. In fact, they’re world champions at it, and the rest of don’t even know how to play the game.
Case in point: I’ve seen signs at the protests that talk about how “If the plan is so great, why doesn’t it apply to Congress?” I understand and agree with the sentiment, but the last thing we want is to make that a bargaining point. I’m surprised it hasn’t yet occurred to some Democrat to float a “compromise” that supposedly “addresses the concerns of critics” with a laundry list of junk like that. This would be an obvious strategem to dampen down the protests. But it doesn’t really change anything. Since this is Calvinball, they can change the rules next year, or even during conference committee before the bill is officially passed, and get back everything they supposedly gave up.
6. We don’t want to turn discontent to cynicism. There has been latent discontent for the federal government and its incessant growth for a long, long time. We saw it with Perot and the 1994 Republican takeover. But the ones who feel that mostly have no way to express it, given the Tweedledum/Tweedledee relationship of the major parties. We’re seeing many of these people get engaged for the first time in a long time, and their long-felt anger is the motive force behind these protests. Anything that faintly smells of a sell-out would turn many of them back to their weary cynicism. We who support limited government need these people as engaged allies.
The Democrats, starting with Nancy Pelosi and her “un-American” comments are floating the idea that vociferous opposition to healthcare reform is causing a backlash. Pundits have picked that up, and some critics of reform are buying it. I was particularly surprised to see the usually-astute Charles Krauthammer doing so.
I disagree completely and current polls back that up.. This is not the time to lessen the pressure. Determination and time are the only weapons we have. Time is on our side if we can keep up the pressure.
The media is mostly against us. The Beltway collective is against us. The whole Left is against us. To counter all that, we need to have all the visibility we can muster. No violence, of course, but being rude and obnoxious to arrogant and disconnected elected representatives is not violence, no matter how the Left would like to spin it.
Maybe in the future. we can reach a point where there can be a productive debate on healthcare. I concede that the odds are against it, because the two sides are so far apart. But we don’t even want to try until the current “reform” effort is dead, the corpse has been burned, and the ashes have been scattered.