Michael Gerson, writing in the Washington Post, absolutely nails the magnitude of the debacle the Obama administration has suffered and the reason:
Sometimes a president does not have a communications problem. Sometimes a president has a reality problem.
President Obama’s speech to the nation on Syria was premised on the denial of reality. He claimed that the Russian/Syrian initiative resulted from the “credible threat of U.S. military action.” In fact, it filled a vacuum of presidential credibility. Obama had been isolated within the G-20 and abandoned by our closest ally, Britain. Americans overwhelmingly disapproved of a military strike for which the president clearly had no stomach. Obama was on the verge of the most devastating congressional foreign policy repudiation since the Senate voted 49-35 against entering the League of Nations in 1920.
This president’s biggest problem, other than a total lack of leadership ability, has been reality all along. He’s always believed he simply has to speak and others will follow. Yet, in reality he’s done precisely what Gerson claims he’s done – isolate himself and the US. He has no close relationships internationally. Our closest ally in everything we’ve done for centuries has abandoned us. His credibility in the Middle East is hovering close to zero. His “reset” policy with Russia has been a disaster. And he remains reactive and indecisive at place in history that calls for decisiveness and leadership. Consequently another nation is moving to take that lead he’s abandoned.
Vladimir Putin offered Obama an escape, which he gratefully took. But there are implicit costs. A U.S. military strike — something Putin thought inevitable just a few weeks ago — is off. Russia’s Syrian client, Bashar al-Assad, stays in power. The Syrian opposition is effectively hung out to dry. Russia gains a position of influence in the Middle East it has not held since Anwar Sadat threw the Soviets out of Egypt. This allows Moscow to supply proxies such as Syria and Iran with weapons while positioning itself as the defender of international law and peace. Iran sees that the United States is a reluctant power, with a timid and polarized legislature, that can easily be deflected from action by transparent maneuvers.
Other than this, ’twas a famous victory.
Speaking of credibility, to watch the spin-meisters attempt to call this a “famous victory” shreds what little they may still enjoy. No one grounded in reality and at all concerned with their credibility would declare this any sort of a ‘victory’ for the US.
But hey we had a speech …
The resulting message was boldly mixed. Assad is a moral monster — who is now our partner in negotiations. The consequences would be terrible “if we fail to act” — which now seems the most likely course. America “doesn’t do pinpricks” — especially when it does not do anything. “The burdens of leadership are often heavy” — unless they are not assumed.
And here we are. A shrunken giant, leaderless and adrift. “Led” by an incompetent with coming negotiations headed by another incompetent (Kerry), both of whom have been badly played by the Russians and the Syrians. There’s no reason to believe they won’t come out on the short end of this deal either.
As for the planned, then unplanned, then delayed, then put on indefinite hold strike that Kerry claims is the reason Syria came to the table – Charles Krauthammer lays that out for you:
That “strike Syria, maybe” speech begins with a heart-rending account of children consigned to a terrible death by a monster dropping poison gas. It proceeds to explain why such behavior must be punished. It culminates with the argument that the proper response — the most effective way to uphold fundamental norms, indeed human decency — is a flea bite: something “limited,” “targeted” or, as so memorably described by Secretary of State John Kerry, “unbelievably small.”
“Unbelievably small”. Likely had ’em shaking in their boots in Damascus.
Krauthammer also sums up the “deal” Obama et. al. are now trying to claim was their idea all along (not that anyone but the most gullible or partisan or both are buying that):
The hinge of the entire Russian strategy is saving the Assad regime. That’s the very purpose of the “Russian proposal.” Imagine that some supposed arms-control protocol is worked out. The inspectors have to be vetted by Assad, protected by Assad, convoyed by Assad, directed by Assad to every destination. Negotiation, inspection, identification, accounting, transport and safety would require constant cooperation with the regime, and thus acknowledgment of its sovereignty and legitimacy.
So much for Obama’s repeated insistence that Assad must go. Indeed, Putin has openly demandedthat any negotiation be conditioned on a U.S. commitment to forswear the use of force against Assad. On Thursday, Assad repeated that demand, warning that without an American pledge not to attack and not to arm the rebels, his government would agree to nothing.
This would abolish the very possibility of America tilting the order of battle in a Syrian war that Assad is now winning thanks to Russian arms, Iranian advisers and Lebanese Hezbollah shock troops. Putin thus assures the survival of his Syrian client and the continued ascendancy of the anti-Western Iranian bloc.
And what does America get? Obama saves face.
Indeed … some deal.
All of that said, it may end up being the “best” deal we could hope for given the ineptness and incompetence of this administration. Back to Gerson:
I am relieved that President Obama was given a reprieve from a devastating rejection by Congress, which would have wounded the presidency itself. We should hope (against hope) that a negotiation with Putin, Assad and the U.N. Security Council to establish international control of the world’s third-largest chemical weapons stockpile in the middle of a civil war is successful. And Congress should seek ways to strengthen Obama’s hand in negotiations.
But this remains a sad moment for the United States. We have seen a Putin power play, based on a Kerry gaffe, leading to a face-saving presidential retreat — and this was apparently the best of the available options.
Pretty bad when this is the best outcome one could hope for … a degree of face saving for a less that satisfactory president who still doesn’t realize how badly he was bested.
But that shouldn’t come as a particular surprise for anyone who has watched this economist turn into a political hack over the years.
To be a modern Republican in good standing, you have to believe — or pretend to believe — in two miracle cures for whatever ails the economy: more tax cuts for the rich and more drilling for oil. And with prices at the pump on the rise, so is the chant of “Drill, baby, drill.” More and more, Republicans are telling us that gasoline would be cheap and jobs plentiful if only we would stop protecting the environment and let energy companies do whatever they want.
You’ll not see such a broad field of strawmen erected in such a short paragraph for quite some time.
Anyone know any Republicans who are calling for “more tax cuts for the rich” (as I recall, Republicans are saying no tax increases for anyone)? That’s the first strawman.
Second? Not a single “Republican” I know is claiming that we should “stop protecting the environment” and “let energy companies do whatever they want”. I defy Krugman to produce them. Instead what I see are those that want more drilling point out that the technology exists to do it safely and in an environmentally friendly way and thus there’s no real reason to stop it other than ideology. Nor do I know of any who oppose the pursuit of alternative fuels. They just are realistic about the fact that none of those being pursued are anywhere yet ready for prime time, unlike our President. So they naturally look to what we have as the main staple of our economy’s energy demand now and in the near future.
It’s called “common sense” for the Krugman’s of the world who seem to have not been blessed with much of it.
As for jobs and cheaper gas, you should be able to ask an economist if increased supply of a commodity would have the effect of downward pressure on cost and expect to get an honest answer – unless it’s this guy.
Oh, and you’d also expect an economist to understand that if you expand production of any such commodity which is labor intensive, you’re going to create a lot of jobs. You may expect that, but you too can read this so-called economist’s words. When the choice is between political hackery and economic integrity, guess which he chooses?
Charles Krauthammer lays out a little ground truth about why “drill, baby, drill” hasn’t been able to have the effect it might have had if allowed. Yes, “allowed”:
President Obama incessantly claims energy open-mindedness, insisting that his policy is “all of the above.” Except, of course, for drilling:
●off the Mid-Atlantic coast (as Virginia, for example, wants);
●off the Florida Gulf Coast (instead, the Castro brothers will drill near there);
●in the broader Gulf of Mexico (where drilling in 2012 is expected to drop 30 percent below pre-moratorium forecasts);
●in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (more than half the size of England, the drilling footprint being the size of Dulles International Airport);
●on federal lands in the Rockies (where leases are down 70 percent since Obama took office).
But the event that drove home the extent of Obama’s antipathy to nearby, abundant, available oil was his veto of the Keystone pipeline, after the most extensive environmental vetting of any pipeline in U.S. history. It gave the game away because the case for Keystone is so obvious and overwhelming. Vetoing it gratuitously prolongs our dependence on outside powers, kills thousands of shovel-ready jobs, forfeits a major strategic resource to China, damages relations with our closest ally, and sends billions of oil dollars to Hugo Chavez, Vladimir Putin and already obscenely wealthy sheiks.
The opportunity to see gas at a lower price, plentiful jobs created and supply increased have been squandered by this administration and Krugman, as if channeling our President, is trying to pass this failure off on the GOP. He’s essentially trying too claim the laws of supply and demand have been suspended.
The irony here is that these claims come just as events are confirming what everyone who did the math already knew, namely, that U.S. energy policy has very little effect either on oil prices or on overall U.S. employment. For the truth is that we’re already having a hydrocarbon boom, with U.S. oil and gas production rising and U.S. fuel imports dropping. If there were any truth to drill-here-drill-now, this boom should have yielded substantially lower gasoline prices and lots of new jobs. Predictably, however, it has done neither.
Again, a half-truth. The boom is a boomlet compared to what it might have been had Obama and his merry permit slow-walkers gotten out of the way. The only thing that has saved Obama is the boom on state and private land. What Krugman won’t say is it is most likely true that had that boom not materialized on non-Federal land, gas prices would be even higher. And so would unemployment. Don’t forget the tens of thousands of jobs lost due to the Obama administration’s Gulf “permatorium”.
Krauthammer points out what should have been obvious to an economist but are inconvenient truths to a political hack:
“The American people aren’t stupid,” Obama said (Feb. 23), mocking “Drill, baby, drill.” The “only solution,” he averred in yet another major energy speech last week, is that “we start using less — that lowers the demand, prices come down.” Yet five paragraphs later he claimed that regardless of “how much oil we produce at home . . .that’s not going to set the price of gas worldwide.”
So: Decreasing U.S. demand will lower oil prices, but increasing U.S. supply will not? This is ridiculous. Either both do or neither does. Does Obama read his own speeches?
Obama says of drilling: “That’s not a plan.” Of course it’s a plan. We import nearly half of our oil, thereby exporting enormous amounts of U.S. wealth. Almost 60 percent of our trade deficit — $332 billion out of $560 billion — is shipped overseas to buy crude.
Drill here and you stanch the hemorrhage. You keep those dollars within the U.S. economy, repatriating not just wealth but jobs and denying them to foreign unfriendlies. Drilling is the single most important thing we can do to spur growth at home while strengthening our hand abroad.
It is truly wondrous to me how poorly Krugman comes off in these sorts of debates. He concludes his hack job with:
And intellectual bankruptcy, I’m sorry to say, is a problem that no amount of drilling and fracking can solve.
The irony is so thick you could cut it with a knife.
I tend to agree with Charles Krauthammer’s immediate reaction after Obama’s speech last night:
Krauthammer astutely picked up on Obama’s use of the poll tested word “balanced” and it’s appeal to the middle. Unless you haven’t been following these negotiations at all, it might have had some effect. But his explanation or how he defined “balanced” is pretty political. First his claim is you can only define balanced one way – his way. Secondly, you can only achieve balance one way – again, his way. Of course neither is true. However, assuming you buy into his “my way or the highway” definition, he then tells you why the Republicans – the only group who have actually offered and voted on a plan ironically called “cut, cap and balance” – are working for the corporate jet owners (anyone tired of that line yet?).
Obama specifically calls for “compromise” yet then tells us he won’t accept a short term increase in the debt ceiling. He calls it “kicking the can down the road”. What it would actually mean is kicking this can into next year – an election year. So he obviously doesn’t feel inclined to “compromise” on what would obviously hurt him politically.
What I’d have also like to have heard is why Obama voted against a debt ceiling increase when he had a chance and now that Republicans are against it it’s the wrong thing to do. Some have said that he ought to have admitted he was wrong and the GOP is wrong now. I’m sorry, but I don’t think he was wrong then and I do think he’s wrong now.
Moving on, here’s a bit of misdirection in the Obama speech:
We all want a government that lives within its means, but there are still things we need to pay for as a country -– things like new roads and bridges; weather satellites and food inspection; services to veterans and medical research.
But? But that’s not what we’re talking about is it? This is the usual political spin – talk about what the public will lose that the politician is sure the public finds valuable – at a local level it is usually firefighters, police and teachers. Never talk about reducing bureaucracy, or the costly and wasteful redundancy, inefficiency or pure bloat found in government. Nope, pretend it takes government of this size to inspect food. And pretend only government has any hand in “medical research” and without that we’re all going to be left to die from preventable conditions.
And of course, the “compromise” being sought, the “balance” desired is really aimed at the ideological agenda item Democrats have been attempting for years – tax the rich:
And keep in mind that under a balanced approach, the 98 percent of Americans who make under $250,000 would see no tax increases at all. None. In fact, I want to extend the payroll tax cut for working families. What we’re talking about under a balanced approach is asking Americans whose incomes have gone up the most over the last decade – millionaires and billionaires – to share in the sacrifice everyone else has to make.
I won’t bore you again with the percentage the “rich” contribute now as their ‘share’ contributes to the profligacy that Obama would like to extend. But they already carry the lion’s share of the income tax burden. Obama want’s more because he claims they can afford it. Here’s a newsflash for the politicians – you don’t get to decide who can afford what, instead you need to find a way to live within the means provided by the present revenue stream, not claim you should have more. Obviously giving politicians “more” always ends up in the same place – “more” debt.
“Balance” has nothing to do with the approach, it has to do with the result. And that should include massive spending cuts. If any “sacrifice” is to be made, it should be made by government, not the people. Even Obama admits that there is only one class of citizen responsible for this mess:
Because neither party is blameless for the decisions that led to this problem, both parties have a responsibility to solve it.
That’s right. The only totally true statement in the entire speech. Note it wasn’t the “corporate jet owners” who got us in this condition, it was the politicians. So the only "sacrifice” I see necessary is politicians sacrificing their spending, not the public. It’s time both parties realize the spending spree is over. At least one of them seems to have gotten that message. They’re actually offering solutions that concentrate in the necessary area – spending cuts.
This is a problem of and by politicians. It’s fairly simple to understand – they’ve used their powers to ignore spending limits and now they’ve found themselves in deep, deep trouble. One side’s solution is to cut back on the spending and balance future spending to revenue and paying down the horrendous debt they’ve piled up. The other’s solution is to continue to try to put a claim on the earnings of others so they don’t have to cut as much and, frankly, can continue to spend on programs we can’t afford. Obama has been very clear on this saying on at least two occasions that savings in defense spending could be spent on other programs – such as food stamps.
Compromise? The reason we’re in this position now is we’ve compromised for decades and run up a debt that is now threatening our very well-being. This hasn’t been done by the “rich”. It hasn’t been done by the “corporate jet owners”. It hasn’t been done by anyone but compromising politicians eager to use their power to spend to buy votes.
While we may survive this particular crisis, the problem remains systemic and only promises repeats unless someone or some party actually takes a stand, says “enough” and actually enacts enforceable laws which won’t allow this to happen again.
“Balance” and “compromise” are two poll tested words that Obama is sure will appeal to the big middle and, he hopes, will sway them to his class warfare agenda and tax increases which will enable Obama to push this past his re-election attempt in 2012. He is the consummate can kicker – he just wants to kick the can further down the road than does the GOP (who also has political motives behind their “short term debt limit increase” plan).
Bottom line – stipulated there are all sorts of politics being played here, but … the GOP needs to stand firm on its principle that this crisis isn’t a problem created by too little revenue, but instead one created by profligate spending, none more profligate than that in which this particular administration has engaged. Therefore, the solution – the balanced solution – is to reduce spending (and that includes debt service) to revenue levels, not the other way around.
That’s the only “compromise” I’m interested in seeing.
What a mess. Watching the political world in the light of the Tucson tragedy has been disheartening and disgusting.
While the President’s speech last night was fine, the venue was awful. And T-shirts? Really? It wasn’t a pep rally, but it seemed like one (I’m primarily talking about crowd reaction). What a more somber Oval Office speech wasn’t proper enough?
And this Sarah Palin thing. Am I ever tired of Sarah Palin. That said, I’m even more tired of the left’s obsession with Sarah Palin. Now she’s in hot water in some oversensitive and uninformed quarters of the left for the use of the term “blood libel”, which apparently has been claimed as a “Jews only” term.
Nonsense. That’s like saying “holocaust” can’t be used except in reference to the horrific Nazi pogrom of WWII. When you have fools on the left, like Jane Fonda, accusing Palin of having “blood on her hands” (talk about irony), then “blood libel” seems more than an appropriate term for the accusations.
I think Charles Krauthammer said it best (via Daily Caller):
“[T]he fact is that even the ADL, the Anti-Defamation League in expressing a mild rebuke to Palin for using this admitted itself in its statement that the term ‘blood libel’ has become part of English parlance to refer to someone falsely accused,” Krauthammer said. “Let’s step back for a second. Here we have a brilliant, intelligent, articulate, beautiful, wife, mother and congresswoman fighting for her life, in a hospital in Tucson, and we’re having a national debate over whether the term ‘blood libel’ can be used appropriately in a non-Jewish context? Have we completely lost our minds?”
Apparently some of us have. Krauthammer also notes that given the unfounded and obvious political attacks by the left on Sarah Palin, she had every right to defend herself. However, when she finally issued her defense, the left had already been soundly “refudiated”:
“I found her speech unobjectionable, unremarkable but unnecessary,” he said. “Of course, anybody who is attacked as she was has the right to defend herself in public. However, it wasn’t as if others hadn’t counteracted the calumny about her and others being responsible in some way for the massacre in Tucson. By the time she had the video on her website, the debate was over. The left, which had launched the accusation, had been completely defeated, ‘refudiated’ if you like, and disgraced over this. There wasn’t a shred of evidence and the battle was over. I mean, it was a rout to make the Pickett’s Charge look like a draw.”
Palin is the left’s favorite target (there I go with that violent rhetoric again) and sometimes it’s just best – especially when it has been convincingly done – to let others fight the fight. That said, it most likely wouldn’t matter a whole bunch. She could just sigh loudly and someone on the left would object to her using more air than others.
I think what Krauthammer is trying to get across is if we’re serious about mourning those lost in Tucson and paying tribute to them, political attacks on others shouldn’t be occurring to begin with.
That said, the “politicization” horse left the gate long ago on this one. In fact, almost immediately after the shooting in Tucson, some on the left were already accusing Palin of being responsible. Then after stirring it all up, they had the temerity to accuse her of “it’s always all about Sarah”.
harles Krauthammer issues the same sort warning we’ve been issuing here for some time:
Nor should Republicans over interpret their Tuesday mandate. They received none. They were merely rewarded for acting as the people’s proxy in saying no to Obama’s overreaching liberalism. As one wag put it, this wasn’t an election so much as a restraining order.
The Republicans won by default. And their prize is nothing more than a two-year lease on the House. The building was available because the previous occupant had been evicted for arrogant misbehavior and, by rule, alas, the House cannot be left vacant.
Yes I know I harp on this a lot. But it is the key for the GOP if they want to continue gaining seats in 2012.
An incredible election night by any measure. The obvious question that pundits will be concentrating on is “what does it mean”?
Well I think there is consensus on both sides that it doesn’t mean that the voters love Republicans. Even establishment Republicans are acknowledging that fact. And Marco Rubio made that clear in his acceptance speech where he called this a “second chance” not an embrace of the GOP.
So that leaves us with a number of other options to consider. What needs to be kept in mind is this is the third consecutive wave election and in each case the party holding the White House suffered losses. That’s unprecedented. And this particular midterm is the largest shift of seats since 1936 (update: House numbers now have a projected 242 seats on the GOP side, a net of +64 – historic or as one Democrat strategist said, a defeat for Democrats of “biblical proportion”). So one meme that isn’t going to fly is this election is “no big deal”. Democrats got spanked and got spanked hard. They have a lot of work to do to win back voters.
Another thing that seems to be a developing narrative is that this is a repudiation of the Obama agenda. I think that’s true to an extent. The biggest driver of the dissatisfaction with Democrats is the health care law as indicated by polls. And they are certainly mad about the deficit spending. But as Charles Krauthammer said last night, “this isn’t a failure of communication by the Democrats, this is a failure of policy”. So it would seem that at least part of the vote was a repudiation of the president despite claims by some on the left that its only about the economy.
That said, part of it is also about the economy. Historically the party in power doesn’t do well in a down economy. So that too must be factored in to the formula. While much of that is beyond government’s control, that which it could impact was perceived as poorly done. Very poorly done. That exacerbated the loss. And, with the focus on health care reform, most Americans thought that the legislative priorities were wrong as well. Voters have historically turned to the GOP to handle economic matters. But this is still no mandate for the GOP.
Finally voter anger hasn’t gone anywhere, it’s just taking a breather. Again, watch the direction of the country polls over the coming two years. It’s an interesting set up in DC now. Democrats actually would have been better off if the Senate had gone to the Republicans. They still control it and the Presidency and that leaves the onus on them as we head toward 2012. It also gives the GOP a free hand to pass whatever it wants in the House, regardless of where it goes, if anywhere, and make the case that they tried to reform what the people wanted reformed and Democrats (in the Senate and the President) stood in their way (reverse the “obstructionists” claim).
I think, after last night, that 2012 is definitely in play. It will be interesting to see how both parties react. I’m eagerly awaiting the Obama presser at 1 pm today when we’ll hear the first reaction from the President. But as always with him, judge him by his actions, not his words. His words have become empty rhetoric that many times doesn’t support what he ends up doing.
Charles Krauthammer seems to think so. Looking down the road, with trillions and trillions of dollars in deficit spending by government building the debt to unprecedented heights, common sense says we, as a country, have got to either cut spending drastically, increase taxes drastically or a combination of both. But the word “drastically” remains common to any solution. Krauthammer describes a national sales tax as a VAT (a VAT isn’t the same as a national sales tax, but for the purposes of this discussion, understand that’s what he’s actually talking about – a consumption tax). He calls it the “ultimate cash cow” and Democrats are hungrily eyeing it – in fact they’re hungrily eyeing every potential revenue source. When Nancy Pelosi was asked about a consumption tax, she replied “everything is on the table.” They understand how fiscally unsustainable their present course is, but are committed to it for a reason – and it has to do with a matter of philosophy as Krauthammer lays out:
Obama set out to be a consequential president, one on the order of Ronald Reagan. With the VAT, Obama’s triumph will be complete. He will have succeeded in reversing Reaganism. Liberals have long complained that Reagan’s strategy was to starve the (governmental) beast in order to shrink it: First, cut taxes; then, ultimately, you have to reduce government spending.
Obama’s strategy is exactly the opposite: Expand the beast, and then feed it. Spend first — which then forces taxation. Now that, with the institution of universal health care, we are becoming the full entitlement state, the beast will have to be fed.
And the VAT is the only trough in creation large enough.
As a substitute for the income tax, the VAT would be a splendid idea. Taxing consumption makes infinitely more sense than taxing work. But to feed the liberal social-democratic project, the VAT must be added on top of the income tax.
Step 1 – expand government. Step 2 – say “you’ve got them (the government programs), you like them (an assumption played large), now you have to pay for them” and expand taxation. One of the utilities of passing this huge new entitlement first is to justify step 2. The reverse Reagan, as Krauthammer points out.
You remember the advocates of the Fair Tax don’t you? They too wanted a national sales tax – but as a replacement for the individual income tax and as a way to abolish the IRS. Unlike that, the new tax would be imposed on top of the individual income tax and, most likely, the IRS would be further expanded (more than just the 16,000 agents to monitor and enforce your health insurance compliance) to oversee the collection of these taxes.
So look for the “crisis” to hit within a few years. Government will continue to build the unsustainability case even while they continue on their purposefully unsustainable course. And, once the “crisis” (blamed, of course, on the previous administration(s)) is at the proper level of manufactured fear and panic, they’ll attempt to push through a nominally small national consumption tax (2 or 3%). If they succeed, game over. Just like the income tax (which history tells us the proponents never thought would rise above 2%), they’ll incrementally raise that tax over the intervening years as they continue the fan the “crisis” flames – a crisis of their own making. The desire would be to raise that tax to the 15 or 20% range (like Europe) to pay for the welfare state they’ll continue to try to expand. And, of course, as is their history, they’d even overspend on that. The fiscal crisis would remain, the GDP would tank, productivity would fall off terribly as more and more money is taken out of the private economy and we’d eventually find ourselves in much the same financial shape we are in now with no way to recover.
Yes, that’s conjecture – but it is based in history and precedent. Name a government entitlement that isn’t in the red or headed into the red. Entitlement spending dwarfs discretionary spending and continues to grow and consume more and more of the government’s budget as a percentage. This health care debacle will be no different. And as that proves out to be a money pit, the government is going to have to find new streams of revenue. Some sort of new taxation is absolutely inevitable, and I’m in agreement that the easiest to implement and immediately collect on is some sort of national consumption tax. And if and when they ever pass that, the road to our fiscal ruin will finally be fully paved.
Leave it to Joe Biden to name it and Charles Krauthammer to recognize it:
I think he is the man who, perhaps without intending, has given historical context to this presidency. After all, Obama sees himself as a successor to FDR and Truman, so now we have the historical procession: the New Deal, the Square Deal, and the “Big F**n Deal.”
Hereafter forever known as the BFD. And more literally than anyone can imagine.
As I tried to point out yesterday, those inside the beltway like Marc Ambinder and Charles Krauthammer, who think these visceral and grassroots displays of anger at elected officials aren’t understood by the American people and will blowback against the protesters are simply wrong. And now polling supports the point. From USA Today/Gallup:
In a survey of 1,000 adults taken Tuesday, 34% say demonstrations at the hometown sessions have made them more sympathetic to the protesters’ views; 21% say they are less sympathetic.
Independents by 2-to-1, 35%-16%, say they are more sympathetic to the protesters now.
The findings are unwelcome news for President Obama and Democratic congressional leaders, who have scrambled to respond to the protests and in some cases even to be heard. From Pennsylvania to Texas, those who oppose plans to overhaul the health care system have asked aggressive questions and staged noisy demonstrations.
That highlighted sentence is the one that should be worrying Democrats. We know that Republicans are going to be mostly sympathetic to the demonstrators. And we know that Democrats are going to mostly condemn the protesters. As we all know, the electoral war is fought in the middle with the winner being the side that attracts the most independents.
The question is, why are independents more sympathetic to protesters now than they were? Usually sympathy is a sign of some level of agreement with those with whom someone sympathizes.
If, as I assert, this is about more than just health care (health care is the excuse to confront the lawmakers but the reason is broader and deeper – profligate spending, more power, more government control) and it is there that the indies are finding common ground with the protesters, 2010 could be a tough election season for Democrats. The poll seems to reinforce my assertion:
A 57% majority of those surveyed, including six in 10 independents, say a major factor behind the protests are concerns that average citizens had well before the meetings took place; 48% say efforts by activists to create organized opposition to the health care bills are a major factor.
If that’s not bad enough, check out the most recent Pew poll:
Of those who had heard at least a little about the meetings, 61% say they think the way people have been protesting is appropriate; 34% say they see the protests as inappropriate.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed the change in how Democratic lawmakers are now characterizing the townhalls, but they’ve gone from calling them a “mob”, “un-American” and likening them to the KKK to saying they are quintessentially American and “important”, “refreshing” and “invigorating”. That last descriptor was used by Nancy Pelosi, I believe, who has completely changed her tune.
But of course, that isn’t defusing the protests (which are continuing to build momentum) nor is it necessarily helping Democratic lawmakers look better (especially when you have the likes of Shelia Jackson Lee showing her concern for what her constituents have to say by taking phone calls while they’re talking to her).
There’s an anger out there and it’s real. And beltway pundits and Democrats had better take off their DC goggles and look reality right in the face. They ignore this at their own risk. They need to understand that “respect” is something to be earned, and “civility” comes afterward. But when lawmakers lie to constituents and wave away their concerns by parroting talking points that their constituents know are baloney, they can expect to be treated rudely and with incivility. Why? Because nothing is more rude than treating those on whom your job depends as annoyances, calling them names and making it obvious that party loyalty means more than the wishes of the constituency. It’s a sure ticket to early retirement.
Charles Krauthammer nails it today in an editorial in the Washington Post (and not just because he and I agree that something called “health care reform” is going to pass):
Yes, Obama’s aura has diminished, in part because of overweening overexposure. But by year’s end he will emerge with something he can call health-care reform. The Democrats in Congress will pass it because they must. Otherwise, they’ll have slain their own savior in his first year in office.
That’s party politics (which we’ve come to learn from both parties, usually means putting the party first and the country second). They are not going to be responsible for killing the presidency of a Democrat. But they’re also not going to pass anything like what they started out to pass.
So what will it be?
But that bill will look nothing like the massive reform Obama originally intended. The beginning of the retreat was signaled by Obama’s curious reference — made five times — to “health-insurance reform” during his July 22 news conference.
Thus the beginning of the campaign to demonize the insurance companies as “the villains”. And it is going to be a long and loud campaign until the “something” is passed.
Reforming the health-care system is dead. Cause of death? Blunt trauma administered not by Republicans, not even by Blue Dog Democrats, but by the green eyeshades at the Congressional Budget Office.
Krauthammer have a slight disagreement on this. Not that the CBO is the primary entity that put a lance through the heart of “health-care system” reform – and that is what Obama referenced repeatedly and, when you talk about type of care and changing the behavior of doctors, is obviously more than “insurance reform”.
Our disagreement stems from my belief that health-care system reformation isn’t at all dead, it’s just delayed. One things the Democrats are adept at is incrementalism. They’ve worked diligently for decades to expand relatively modest programs into huge, wasteful bureaucratic monstrosities that hand out money – at least that which finally works its way through the bureaucracy – like a political party handing out “walking around money”.
This, unfortunately will be no different. And even more unfortunately something on which the Democrats can begin their incremental construction will be law by this fall.