Monthly Archives: August 2009
Michael Barone recently wrote an article in which he pointed out, “there are more conservatives than Republicans and more Democrats than liberals”.
Let that soak in for a minute and then consider today’s Paul Krugman article in which he seems a bit surprised by the Obama administration’s surprise that liberals are furious with him about the goings on in the health care debate.
A backlash in the progressive base — which pushed President Obama over the top in the Democratic primary and played a major role in his general election victory — has been building for months. The fight over the public option involves real policy substance, but it’s also a proxy for broader questions about the president’s priorities and overall approach.
This is where “progressives” always go off the track. It is a large dose of hubris which allows them to convince themselves they’re a bigger group than they are, they’re a more influential group than they are and they have played a bigger role than they have.
While Krugman’s point about primary victories has some substance (activists turn out in primaries), in the general election, compared to George Bush and the economy’s one-two combo, they were a non-factor.
Rasmussen took a look at how Americans view themselves in terms of liberal, conservative and moderate. He found that those who consider themselves liberal range from 12% to 30% depending on the issue. On social issues 30% had a more liberal view, which could be the inclusion of libertarians – who normally share the progressive principles on social issues – boosting that number.
But when it came to the the issues of taxes, government spending and the regulation of private business, only 12% claim to be liberals – libertarians would and do not share liberal principles in that regard. And it is within that realm that the health care reform (and the cap-and-trade) debate is taking place.
The 12% are the hard-core “progressives” who, as I stated, think they’re a much larger group than they really are. And it is the political desires of this 12% – reflected in a Congressional leadership which is proportionately completely out of synch with the rest of the country – that is being resisted by the rest country that does not share its principles or ideals.
So there’s a growing sense among progressives that they have, as my colleague Frank Rich suggests, been punked. And that’s why the mixed signals on the public option created such an uproar.
And they’re shocked and surprised by this? Two points. One, Obama knows progressives have nowhere else to go. So in a hunt for support for this legislation, where should he make his appeal? Well not with those who have nowhere else to go. He’s going to fashion his appeal to attract those who do have an option. Politics 101 for heaven sake.
Two – they elected an entirely political creature who “punked” them from the very beginning of his candidacy. The right has neither been shocked or surprised by anything Barack Obama has done since his inauguration, although they have certainly enjoyed pointing out how Mr. Hope and Change is the consummate old-style Chicago pol. It is fun to watch the so-called “reality based” community begin to figure out they’ve bought into a fantasy. In actuality, they “punked” themselves.
So progressives are now in revolt. Mr. Obama took their trust for granted, and in the process lost it. And now he needs to win it back.
Really? Does he? See points one and two above. Winning their trust back, given the reality of the situation would most likely guarantee him a one-term presidency and Congressional Democrats an electoral shellacking in 2010. That is if he did what was necessary to actually win back their trust.
Face it, progressives – you’ve played your part, you’ve served your purpose and, in the big scheme of things, you’re a 12% constituency with no other place to go. This is big-boy politics and Obama knows he has to move away from much of what you demand to get this passed. And at this point, he’ll take just about anything that can be called health care or health insurance or whatever it’s called today. Or said more simply – the reality is politicians focus on gaining and maintaining power and they will throw anyone under the bus to do that if the situation requires it.
So lay down and take your medicine – Greyhound is ready when you are.
During the last days of the Bush administration, there was a small flurry of hope among proponents of drilling for oil and gas which is off our coast. The president lifted the ban on offshore oil drilling and Congress, understanding the politics of the moment, let their ban expire. As the Washington Examiner explains, that leaves only one obstacle to the US finally going after what is thought to be about 3 billion barrels of oil and 11 trillion cubic feet of natural gas:
So the only thing keeping U.S. firms from drilling off our own continental shelf is President Barack Obama and his secretary of the interior, Ken Salazar, who is slow-walking the approval process that must be cleared before the work can begin.
However, President Obama has managed to break 2 billion of your dollars loose to loan to Brazil to help bankroll their offshore drilling in the Atlantic. One assumes that will give Brazil a savings which will allow them pursue drilling in the Gulf of Mexico as well, since they are one of a number of nations pursuing oil and gas there:
Brazil, China, India, Norway, Spain and Russia have all signed agreements with Cuba and the Bahamas to initiate exploration and production in the Gulf of Mexico within the next two years. So the prospect of seeing Russian oil rigs 45 miles off the Florida Keys — where American oil companies are now forbidden to drill — is a very real possibility.
That “very real possibility” would see us buying oil from the Gulf from foreign oil producers when it was just as readily available to us and our own companies.
And who would you rather produced it – US companies who have proven over the years that they have the ability to recover both oil and gas safely and in an environmentally sensitive way or foreign companies 45 miles off your coast who could give a good rip one way or the other how environmentally safe their methods were?
Then there’s the recession, jobs and the government’s hunt for revenue. This seems like a natural “shovel ready” industry that wouldn’t cost the taxpayer a nickle to crank up but would benefit the economy and the tax base:
According to the American Petroleum Institute, the development of America’s coastal oil and gas resources would generate more than $1.3 trillion in new government revenue and 160,000 high-paying jobs over the next two decades.
Instead of going full bore and trying to get this program off the ground – or in this case, in the water, we’re still piddling around trying to pass legislation:
Senators Lisa Murkowski, R-Ak., and Mary Landrieu, D-La., are bipartisan co-sponsors of a bill that provides coastal states such as Florida their fair share of revenues produced by off-shore drilling and production. The same thing should be done for states on the East and West coasts. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state’s lawmakers hope to tap deposits off Santa Barbara to generate billions in royalties, and Virginia’s front-running gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell has made drilling 50 miles off that state’s coast a key component of his energy plan.
Meanwhile foreign nations are moving to exploit resources we should have been exploiting for decades.
We have a huge looming energy gap. We’re behind the curve as it stands right now. While all the politics is focused on health care reform, this need isn’t going away and only becomes worse. Instead of “slow-walking” this, Barack Obama and Ken Salazar should be fast-tracking it and getting us out in those offshore areas to grab the most productive regions first. If we don’t, we’ll be moaning about how the percentage of oil and gas we import has gone up again.
And, as usual, that will be our own negligent fault.
Whistling past the graveyard, the White House is trying to write off its recent troubles in selling health care reform to it being nothing more than the problem of – August?
Because, you know, everyone understands that August just isn’t Obama’s month.
Obama on a recent conference call with the DNCC discussing health care:
“There’s something about August going into September where everyone in Washington gets all ‘wee-weed’ up,” the president said.
He pointed to last August’s selection of then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) to join the Republican ticket as the GOP’s vice presidential nominee.
“‘Obama’s lost his mojo,’” the president said the media were saying after Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) campaign received a short-lived bump from palin.
“You remember all that?” Obama added.
I remember it. Of course this isn’t just about “Washington” getting “all ‘wee-weed’ up” . Trying to compare an election in which people stand to be sort of obliquely effected in their everyday life by the eventual winner to the passage of legislation which would directly effect their daily life, health and liberty is the first mistake. In an election a candidate is, at most, a possible threat. In the present situation what is being proposed is a direct threat and is being considered as such.
Last August, Barack Obama was an articulate and attractive unknown. Since his inauguration, he’s anything but unknown. Trying to pretend this August is at all similar to last August and Obama will get his “mojo” back because he did so previously is foolish at best.
He’s fond of saying “this isn’t about me”. In this case he’s exactly right – and that’s why his most recent forays into the heartland to sell this “reform” have had little effect. That’s also why this August and the months that follow will be nothing like those last year.
Once again the reasoning in support of a federal overhaul (and takeover) of national health care has shifted. It started out as a fiscal imperative with Pres. Obama claiming that our money woes were caused by the rising costs of health care. We were told that only government can contain administrative costs and deliver efficient, effective care. Later is was the need to control greedy insurance companies who treat their clients shoddily by denying coverage. Government run care would make sure that nobody was denied insurance, and that we would all pay basically the same rates. Of course, the infamous public option was touted as the primary tool for accomplishing this goal, carefully eliding past the “fiscal sanity” reasons for reform, which option has apparently been set out to pasture after facing fierce public resistance.
So now the reasoning shifts again. As it turns out, you all are just bad, immoral people if you don’t approve of the government taking your money and running your health care.
President Obama sought Wednesday to reframe the health care debate as “a core ethical and moral obligation,” imploring a coalition of religious leaders to help promote the plan to lower costs and expand insurance coverage for all Americans.
“I know there’s been a lot of misinformation in this debate, and there are some folks out there who are frankly bearing false witness,” Mr. Obama told a multidenominational group of pastors, rabbis and other religious leaders who support his goal to remake the nation’s health care system.
In any event, Obama’s attempt to turn this into a moral debate is not only a naked act of desperation to save his pet cause, it is also the closest to the true reason why health reform is so important to him, and the left in general, in the first place. Supporters of government-run health care are convinced that the presence of a profit motive in the delivery of health services is a bad thing and that wringing every last ounce of market incentive from the process will lead to wonderful new outcomes. And the way they are prepared to sell it is by pushing the idea that health care is a civil right.
Interestingly enough, Jonathan Alter started the ball rolling on this score just a few days before the President (it’s almost as if they are reading from the same playbook or something!):
The main reason that the bill isn’t sold as civil rights is that most Americans don’t believe there’s a “right” to health care. They see their rights as inalienable, and thus free, which health care isn’t. Serious illness is an abstraction (thankfully) for younger Americans. It’s something that happens to someone else, and if that someone else is older than 65, we know that Medicare will take care of it. Polls show that the 87 percent of Americans who have health insurance aren’t much interested in giving any new rights and entitlements to “them”—the uninsured.
But how about if you or someone you know loses a job and the them becomes “us”? The recession, which is thought to be harming the cause of reform, could be aiding it if the story were told with the proper sense of drama and fright. Since all versions of the pending bill ban discrimination by insurance companies against people with preexisting conditions, that provision isn’t controversial. Which means it gets little attention. Which means that the deep moral wrong that passage of this bill would remedy is somehow missing from the debate.
The only thing that should be unbreakable in a piece of legislation is the principle behind it. In the case of Social Security, it was the security and peace of mind that came with the knowledge of a guaranteed old-age benefit. (Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush got slam-dunked when they tried to mess with that.) In the civil-rights bills, the principle was no discrimination on the basis of an unavoidable, preexisting “condition” like race.
The core principle behind health-care reform is—or should be—a combination of Social Security insurance and civil rights. Passage would end the shameful era in our nation’s history when we discriminated against people for no other reason than that they were sick. A decade from now, we will look back in wonder that we once lived in a country where half of all personal bankruptcies were caused by illness, where Americans lacked the basic security of knowing that if they lost their jobs they wouldn’t have to sell the house to pay for the medical treatments to keep them alive. We’ll look back in wonder—that is, if we pass the bill.
Just to focus the argument, Alter is suggesting that it is a violation of individual civil rights, akin to discriminating against someone on the basis of race (wow, didn’t see that coming), to deny one insurance because one is sick. This is ludicrous on a number of levels, but that it fundamentally misunderstands the purpose of insurance is one of its worst features. Insurance is meant to protect against the expense of unknown outcomes by paying a small premium based on the statistical probability that one will suffer such an outcome. However, if one of the outcomes already exists then the insurance premium would simply be equal to the cost of treatment since the probability of payment is 1:1. In Alter’s world,and that of too many government health care supporters, insurance isn’t a risk management tool, it’s a medical discount and income redistribution tool. Which leads to the primary failure of his argument.
In briefest terms, health care cannot be a “right” because it is entirely dependent on someone else providing it to you. “Rights” do not ever involve taking from someone and giving to someone else. In order to believe otherwise, one would have to believe that doctors are actually slaves who can legally be commanded to fulfill one’s “right” to health care or suffer the consequences. The very idea is preposterous, which is why, as Alter notes, Americans have not kenned to the idea of there being a “right” to health care.
And yet, this is apparently the ground, this moral Waterloo, upon which Obama will choose to support his cause. The offensive will depend on the idea that a government health care plan is a moral obligation, and a protection of civil rights. Naturally, some imbecilic politician will assert that opposition to the plan is an immoral position, seeking to demonize (yet again) those naysayers who aren’t too keen on more government interference in their lives. After all, why not? They’ve already accused us of being, alternately, well-dressed plants for the insurance lobby and ignorant, racist hicks who just can’t stand having a black man in the White House, and look what those lines of argument achieved. I predict that this latest attack will be equally as effective.
This, at least in my mind, has never been a matter of “if”, but instead a matter of “when”. According to the Washington Post, the “when”, has occurred and according to their poll the majority of Americans are now against the war in Afghanistan.
Popularly known, even by Barack Obama, as the “good war” or the “necessary war”, the Washington Post is now saying popular sentiment has turned against it:
A majority of Americans now see the war in Afghanistan as not worth fighting, and just a quarter say more U.S. troops should be sent to the country, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Among all adults, 51 percent now say the war is not worth fighting, up six percentage points since last month and 10 since March. Less than half, 47 percent, say the war is worth its costs. Those strongly opposed (41 percent) outweigh strong proponents (31 percent).
This change of perception has been driven by the left, who previously claimed that Afghanistan was indeed the only proper war to be fighting:
Although 60 percent of Americans approve of how Obama has handled the situation in Afghanistan, his ratings among liberals have slipped, and majorities of liberals and Democrats alike now, for the first time, solidly oppose the war and are calling for a reduction in troop levels.
Overall, seven in 10 Democrats say the war has not been worth its costs, and fewer than one in five support an increase in troop levels.
Among the right, the war there is still seen as worth fighting and winning:
Republicans (70 percent say it is worth fighting) and conservatives (58 percent) remain the war’s strongest backers, and the issue provides a rare point of GOP support for Obama’s policies. A narrow majority of conservatives approve of the president’s handling of the war (52 percent), as do more than four in 10 Republicans (43 percent).
Interestingly, as the article states, this is a “rare point of GOP support for Obama’s policies”. And it pits both Obama and the GOP against the left and, I would guess, a Congress which will eventually reflect the constituency reflected in the numbers above. There’s a reason for that.
Congress is on a “dollar hunt” right now to pay for their favorite domestic agenda items. Afghanistan (and Iraq) are places where some dollars can be stolen. Popular support and money should be more than enough impetus to begin the “cut and run” mantra in earnest.
Apparently for the left, since it is no longer a blunt rhetorical instrument with which to beat George Bush over the head, Afghanistan is no longer the “good and necessary war”.
You may have seen it by now, but this simply can’t pass without comment. MSNBC has carefully used footage of a man at a Obama townhall who is carrying an AR-15 and a sidearm to charge racism and imply threats of violence against Obama (HT: Hot Air).
The weapons are legal to carry. But that’s not really the story. As you will be unable to tell in the following clip, the man carrying the guns is black.
That’s just outrageous. Watch this to see why:
Calm. Articulate. Exercising his rights. Black. And, according to the newscaster, one of a half-dozen openly carrying.
But back to the point, and you can hear it in the “analysis” after the very carefully cropped clip is shown, MSNBC and the left want so badly to make this discontent with government in general and the Democratic agenda specifically about race that they’re reduced to manufacturing “evidence” and making implications based on it.
That is just pitiful. And you know full well that all three of those drones pushing the racism line knew full well their example didn’t conform to their racist story line. However, it did give the one commentator the opportunity to bring up the “rise” in right-wing militias and the possibility that someone will try to “hurt” Obama.
When you are reduced to manipulating images to make a false point, you’re no longer a news organization, you’re a propaganda outlet. There’s a reason that MSNBC is the least watched of the cable networks.
It is from Radley Balko, via Coyote Blog on the Whole Foods boycott by “progressives” because CEO John Mackey dared to speak out against the government plan:
You see, he shared his ideas on health care reform, thinking that you, being so famously open-minded and all, might take to a few of them, or that it at least might start a conversation. I guess he felt he’d built up some cache with you, and wanted to introduce you to some new ideas. His mistake wasn’t in intentionally offending his customers. He’s a businessman who has built a huge company up from the ground. I’m sure he knows you don’t deliberately offend your customers. His mistake was assuming you all were open-minded enough consider these ideas without taking offense—that you wouldn’t throw a tantrum merely because he suggested some reforms that didn’t fall in direct line with those endorsed by your exalted Democratic leaders in Washington. In retrospect? Yeah, it was a bad move. Turns out that many of you weren’t nearly mature enough to handle it.
As a bonus quote, here’s one my favorite coyote found on a “progressive” site:
I agree with CEO John Mackey that it’s okay to make money by making your green business big. But Mackey crossed the line with an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this weekend, whose very publication put him in the company of the lunatic right-wing fringe who edit the paper’s opinion section.
The op-ed reads like a page from the Republican playbook, touting individual responsibility for one’s health. What a load of unorganic crap!
You just can’t make this stuff up.
The NY Times tells us this morning that we’re likely to get health care reform whether we want it or not.
Frankly I’m not sure why that should be a surprise to anyone. Democrats know that they have to pass something or they’ll effectively, to use Howard Dean’s phrase, “kill the presidency” of Barack Obama.
So it should come as no surprise, really, that Democrats are finally talking about whatever is necessary, to include completely ignoring Republicans, to get a bill through both houses of Congress for the president’s signature.
But the exclusion of Republicans doesn’t mean smooth sailing for Democrats. Numbers-wise they certainly have the majorities they need in both houses to pass legislation. This particular legislation, however, has become fraught with political danger. Many Democrats are very wary of it because of the demonstrated unhappiness of their constituencies and the probable 2010 impact that may have. This is especially true of more conservative Democrats, even those is primarily Democratic districts. And “Blue Dogs” who managed to win in historically red districts are terrified.
Certainly by cutting out the Republicans, they can write the legislation as they want it. But certain parts, such as the so-called “death panels” and “public option”, have little public support. And, in general, polls continue to make the point that a majority of Americans want this present attempt scratched and want Congress to “start over”.
On top of that, it appears the majority of Americans do not agree that “something” has to be passed quickly. Instead, it appears, the public wants an extended debate and believe that such a debate is just beginning.
That sets up the conflict of political interests the Democrats face. They believe, now that they’ve brought it up and the president has made it one of his signature issues, that unless they pass it (or something they can call “health care reform”) they’ll have set him up for failure. However, they are also coming to realize that passing something now despite a majority of Americans saying slow down and start over could be hazardous to their political health – and majorities.
As they finally did with George Bush and the Republicans, I believe Americans are again realizing not just the benefit but the necessity for divided government to keep both sides “honest”. Government needs a bit of competition too. And if Democrats ram health care reform legislation through, whether with our without Republican support, they’re most likely to see such “competition” become reality in 2010.
I swear I have no idea what the left is smoking, but whatever it is, it makes them blind to reality. One of the more prominent examples of this condition is Steve Benen at Washington Monthly’s “Political Animal”.
He cites Kevin Drum who remembers what the Republicans faced when they too had both houses of Congress and the Presidency:
They wanted a revolution, but instead they got NCLB. And a wimpy stem cell compromise. And Sarbanes-Oxley. And McCain-Feingold. And a huge Medicare expansion. And complete gridlock on Social Security.
Not exactly what they signed up for.
Drum goes on to sarcastically point out that Reps did get a nice tax cut and a couple nice wars, but his point was that “Washington DC is a tough place to get anything done.” And at the time, Democrats were no small part of the reason.
Benen then adds his two cents about why Republicans found DC a tough place based on some rather dubious analysis. Then he adds this:
Obama is finding that D.C. is tough place to get anything done for entirely different reasons. The White House agenda is popular, but his obstacles are almost entirely institutional hurdles — the Senate operating as if every bill demands a supermajority, the Kennedy/Byrd illnesses, and the prevalence of center-right Dems in both chambers who look askance at the progressive agenda and who the president has no real leverage over.
A) As we’ve pointed out, the belief that the White House agenda is popular is not reflected at all in polling. Why Benen and the Democrats believe this can only be categorized as “denial”.
B) The Senate rules, something Senators agree too on their own, does require every bill have a supermajority. Benen wants those rules ignored for a simple majority that he’s sure they can squeak out. I understand his desire, but pretending that the “supermajority” is some artifice that isn’t required is BS.
C) The reason for the prevalence of center-right Dems reflects a majority center-right nation. Not a “progressive” nation. And, obviously if you pay attention to the polls, they’re not the only one’s who look askance at a “progressive agenda”.
The only thing Benen and I agree on is “the president has no real leverage” and he proves it every day.
Byron York wonders where the anti-war movement has gone since GW Bush is gone. He notes that Cindy Sheehan is protesting this weekend at Martha’s Vinyard where President Obama is vacationing, but wonders if the left cares or whether the media will cover that.
As York demonstrates in his piece, the answer to both questions is probably no. I don’t think we have to think back very far to remember the caterwalling by the “anti-war” left about the war in Iraq and to a lesser degree, Afghanistan.
Now, even though the United States still has roughly 130,000 troops in Iraq, and is quickly escalating the war in Afghanistan — 68,000 troops there by the end of this year, and possibly more in 2010 — anti-war voices on the Left have fallen silent.
And, of course, Iraq will most likely have troops in that country for years to come – and not a peep from the left.
I’ve also noticed that suddenly we don’t get the nightly death toll on the network news show or the more left leaning cable channels.
And the only thing that has changed is what? Oh, yeah, that Bush guy isn’t around.
At Netroots Nation pollster Stanley Greenberg did a little sampling of the “progressive crowd”. His findings were interesting:
He asked people to list the two priorities they believed “progressive activists should be focusing their attention and efforts on the most.” The winner, by far, was “passing comprehensive health care reform.” In second place was enacting “green energy policies that address environmental concerns.”
And what about “working to end our military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan”? It was way down the list, in eighth place.
Perhaps more tellingly, Greenberg asked activists to name the issue that “you, personally, spend the most time advancing currently.” The winner, again, was health care reform. Next came “working to elect progressive candidates in the 2010 elections.” Then came a bunch of other issues. At the very bottom — last place, named by just one percent of participants — came working to end U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On a single day in January, the “anti-war” movement apparently died. The wars? Still there and still going on. It’s hard not to conclude that it was never about war for the left – instead, it was all about politics – and the unrefined but enduring hatred of one man.