Thursday, December 24, 2009
Are Republicans More Principled Than Democrats?
Ordinarily I’d say that commitment to principle, or its absence, is bi-partisan, that Republicans are neither more virtuous nor more concerned with the public interest than Democrats (or, obviously, vice versa), but a glaringly obvious yet under-remarked aspect of Harry Reid’s recent “Cash for Cloture” auction for health care votes calls that assumption into question: all of the bribes financial inducements were taken by Democrats.
First there was the “Louisiana Purchase,” $100 million in extra Medicaid money for the Bayou State, requested by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.). Then came the “Cornhusker Kickback,” another $100 million in extra Medicaid money, this time for Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.). This was followed by word that Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) had written into the legislation $100 million meant for a medical center in his state. This one was quickly dubbed the “U Con.”
Earlier, when GOP staff member mistakenly thought the medical center was destined for Indiana rather than Connecticut, they named it the “Bayh Off” for Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.). For Democratic leaders, this created an appearance problem
Only “appearance”? Oh well. The list goes on: Indeed, the proliferation of deals has outpaced the ability of Capitol Hill cynics to name them. Gator Aid: Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) inserted a grandfather clause that would allow Floridians to preserve their pricey Medicare Advantage program. Handout Montana: Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) secured Medicare coverage for anybody exposed to asbestos -- as long as they worked in a mine in Libby, Mont.
Iowa Pork and Omaha Prime Cuts: Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) won more Medicare money for low-volume hospitals of the sort commonly found in Iowa, while Nebraska’s Nelson won a “carve out” provision that would reduce fees for Mutual of Omaha and other Nebraska insurers. Meanwhile, Sens. Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad, both North Dakota Democrats, would enjoy a provision bringing higher Medicare payments to hospitals and doctors in “frontier counties” of states such as -- let’s see here -- North Dakota!
Hawaii, with two Democratic senators, would get richer payments to hospitals that treat many uninsured people. Michigan, home of two other Democrats, would earn higher Medicare payments and some reduced fees for Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Vermont’s Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) held out for larger Medicaid payments for his state (neighboring Massachusetts would get some, too).
There are probably even more bribes deal sweeteners that we don’t know about, yet, or that haven’t been made yet but will. Indeed, Fox News reports this morning that Sen. Cornhusker Kickback Nelson: said Tuesday that three other senators have told him they want to bargain for the same kind of special treatment. “Three senators came up to me just now on the (Senate) floor, and said, ‘Now we understand what you did. We’ll be seeking this funding too’,” Nelson said.
All the known (and presumably these three unknown future) bribes deals involve Democrats. But it defies belief that Obama and Reid did not offer equally generous bribes concessions to Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, and even Lindsey Graham and other Republicans. Remember, Reid needed 60 votes to ram his partisan bill through the Senate, but they didn’t every one have to be Democratic votes.
According to Harry Reid, every Senator who was worth his or her salt got something. “I don’t know if there is a senator that doesn’t have something in this bill that was important to them,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) reasoned when asked at a news conference Monday about the cash-for-cloture accusation. “And if they don’t have something in it important to them, then it doesn’t speak well of them.”
Presumably Reid means every Democratic Senator, since no Republicans voted for cloture. As a Virginian, I wonder what my Senators, Jim Webb and Mark Warner, got. Does their silence about the bribes goodies for Virginia they secured mean they are embarrassed because they gave their votes away for free, meaning they liked the Reid bill so much they didn’t have to be bribed induced to vote for it? Or are they embarrassed to admit their votes were for sale? Or perhaps they are embarrassed for having sold too cheaply? I assume we’ll find out.
But, to return to my initial questions, why did no Republican succumb to the temptations that surely were offered? It can’t be simple political self-interest, since Snowe, Collins, and perhaps some other Republicans would have benefitted politically by a show of bi-partisanship. I hesitate even to suggest it, but could it be that devotion to principle is not randomly distributed between the parties after all?
Iowa Senator Tom Harkin calls the bribes “catering to self-interest” of wavering Democratic Senators no big deal. "Harkin dismissed deals dubbed vote-buying by GOP senators as “small stuff” that distracted Americans from the primary focus of the overhaul bill. We have to keep our eyes on what we’re trying to do here. We’re trying to cross a demarcation line,” Harkin told “Early Show” co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez. “On one side is health care as a privilege, on the other side is health care as a right. With these votes, with the vote that we’ll take before Christmas, we will cross that line finally and say that health care is a right of all Americans.”
I actually agree with Harkin: the Democrats did cross the line.
Obama Has Failed His Words
by Jonah Goldberg
On his own terms, President Obama is a failure. During the presidential campaign, he fought hammer and tongs with Hillary Clinton over the best way to govern. Clinton, casting herself as a battle-scarred political veteran, argued that diligence, dedicated detail work and working the system were essential for success. Obama, donning the mantle of a redeemer descending from divine heights, argued that his soaring rhetoric was more than "just words"; it was a way out of the poisonous, partisan gridlock of yesteryear. Early on, in New Hampshire, he proclaimed that his "rival in this race is not other candidates. It's cynicism."
Occasionally the Obama-Clinton argument was explicit (such as when they sparred over who was more important to the Civil Rights Act -- Martin Luther King Jr. or Lyndon Johnson), but it was always there, implicit in everything from their body language and stagecraft to position papers and platforms.
The great irony of it all is that it seems they were both wrong. Obama's rhetoric in fact looks to be the best way to achieve a Clintonian agenda. But a Clintonian agenda is the worst possible way to live up to Obama's rhetoric.
From his 2004 DNC keynote speech onward, Obama rejected the partisan divide. He earned points by insisting that invidious descriptions of political opponents were deleterious to civic health and distracted us from the fact that "we are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America."
In a speech following a June primary victory, Obama said he was "absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children ... this was the moment -- this was the time -- when we came together to remake this great nation."
So, does anyone feel like Americans are coming together? Obama the outsider hasn't changed the way Washington works; he's worked Washington in a way that only an outsider with no respect for the place would dare.
Consider his signature domestic priority: health care reform. After a year of working on it, his progressive base is either profoundly disappointed with him or seethingly angry. His Republican and conservative opponents are not only furious, they are emboldened. And independents -- who've been deserting the Democrats in polls and off-year elections -- are simply disgusted with the whole spectacle. Most important, an administration that once preened over its people-power roots can't even claim that Americans like what he's doing.
The bill does have its supporters: inside-the-Beltway pundits and Capitol Hill deal-makers, the pharmaceutical industry and the supposedly rapacious insurance companies (don't take my word for it, just ask Howard Dean -- or your stockbroker).
Under the Clintonian paradigm of governance, Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson's parlaying of his pro-life objections to the Senate bill into a windfall for his state and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' leveraging of his socialist principles for billions in special deals would be dramatic twists in a conventional story of LBJ-style arm-twisting.
But Clintonian means cannot further Obamaian ends. For the last year, Obama's party has made a mockery of everything Obama was supposed to represent. The tone has gotten worse as his communications staff spent the year demonizing Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Fox News. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer called opponents of their health proposals "un-American." Over the weekend, Rhode Island's Sheldon Whitehouse insisted that Senate opposition is being driven in part by "Aryan support groups."
Everywhere you look, the sizzle doesn't match the steak. He won the Nobel Peace Prize as he (rightly) sent even more men off to war. He promised that the oceans would stop rising but delivered a nonbinding something-or-other in Copenhagen.
In his special health care address to Congress in September, he said, "I am not the first president to take up (the cause of health care reform), but I am determined to be the last." Those were just words, and everyone, including Obama, knew it. Indeed, the only grounds for supporting the bill, according to progressives, is that it is a "first step" or a "starter house" that they'll build on for years, even generations, to come. In other words, the health care debate is not only not going to end, it's going to get uglier for as far as the eye can see.
But here's the point: Obama's rhetorical audacity breeds cynicism, because utopianism always comes up short. Obama has many victories ahead of him, but his cause is already lost.
"Shut up" is a favorite Democrat talking point
"This is not an administration that takes bad news well," Jennifer Rubin wrote on Commentary's blog, referring to Robert Gibbs' fit when asked to explain the Gallup poll showing the president taking on water, sinking into the high-to-mid 40s, and losing ground fast. Neither apparently does much of the left, which, faced with cratering numbers for both the health care proposals and for global warming, responded with all of the rational discourse and respect for debate and dissenting opinion that has made them so widely beloved.
First, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who emerged in the health care debate as the leading Republican anti-bill spokesman, was widely portrayed as sorry old coot acting from "bitterness," and who squandered his chance to establish a legacy by opposing the bill out of spite. He was a maverick, not an ex-Democrat, and his ally Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., fared even worse.
He was described as a "putz" by Jonathan Alter, as "the L-word" and as "Joe the Bummer" by Chris Matthews. He was also described as a traitor to Judaism by various bloggers -- by Jonathan Chait as the one Jew in the world too clueless to know what he's doing, and by Ezra Klein as a potential mass murderer, "willing to cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in order to settle an old electoral score." Paul Krugman wanted him "hung in effigy," and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., urged he be "recalled" from office, though by whom was uncertain. Unfortunately, there is no provision in Connecticut law for recalls (much less for lynching) so they will have to wait for their chances in 2012.
In related news, Rep. Alan Grayson, Lunatic-Fla., known mainly for saying the Republicans' health plans called for asking the sick to "die quickly" and for telling former Vice President Cheney to "shut the f--k up," sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking the Department of Justice to investigate, fine, and perhaps send to jail for five years a Florida activist who reacted to his behavior by setting up a fundraising Web site called "mycongressmanisnuts.com." He complained that the blogger was "senseless and juvenile." "Just five years?" queried blogger Ed Morrissey. "Why doesn't Grayson just demand that Holder chop off her head?"
Then there was global warming, or the First Church of Al, where Al Gore sought refuge after the Florida recount and rapidly built a cult following. This was largely by warning that the Earth was in such danger from fossil fuel usage that in order to fight it he was compelled to jet all over the world spreading the message, and run up monstrous utility bills in his three or more homes.
When this cause was imperiled by e-mails showing that the global warming police had doctored the data -- and film showing Obama flying into a snowstorm on his trip to the summit at Copenhagen, Denmark, and then flying back into an even more extravagant blizzard in Washington -- certain members of the pundit-industrial complex responded by asking that news that impugned their consensus should be -- you guessed it -- suppressed.
ThinkProgress blogger Matt Yglesias complained that CNN ran a show called "Global Warming: Fact or Fiction" without taking sides on the side of the "Goracle," or saying that what he called the global warming "deniers" were totally out of their minds. He then said the news media -- along with the rest of what he called the elite of the country -- had a moral duty to the rest of humanity to censor their output, so that opinion contesting the "global climate-warming consensus" would never again see the light of the day.
At the New Republic, Ed Kilgore was in total agreement, blaming the mainstream press for being browbeaten by right-wing fanatics into thinking they ought to air different opinions, and even cover all of the news. Morals in this case seem to equal suppression. "Yglesias is right," he concluded. "This is one area of public policy where 'respect for contrary views' and 'editorial balance' are misplaced."
What a good thing Democrats are the party of logic and reason. They might tell their critics to "Shut the f--k up."
Ala. Dem defects to GOP over health care, policy: "A U.S. House Democrat who opposes the health care overhaul announced Tuesday he is defecting to the GOP, another blow to Democrats ahead of the midterm elections. U.S. Rep. Parker Griffith spoke to reporters at his home in northern Alabama, a region that relies heavily on defense and aerospace jobs. ‘I believe our nation is at a crossroads and I can no longer align myself with a party that continues to pursue legislation that is bad for our country, hurts our economy, and drives us further and further into debt,’ Griffith said as his wife Virginia stood by his side.”
Griffith party switch: Will other Dems follow suit?: "Alabama Rep. Parker Griffith’s surprise switch of parties on Tuesday shows how quickly electoral dynamics are shifting under the weight of massive social and economic policy gambits in Washington. In fact, Mr. Griffith’s defection could put pressure on other conservative and even moderate Democrats, especially in the Deep South, to jump ship to save their seats. They’ve been encountering backlash from the public against a Democrat-controlled progressive agenda in Washington. Griffith took over the seat of retiring congressman Robert ‘Bud’ Cramer (D) last year. Now, the freshman lawmaker is angry about being marginalized in the Democratic power structure. An oncologist, Griffith voted against healthcare reform, as well as against the stimulus package and cap-and-trade legislation.”
Obama, left behind: "Boy, this ‘Obama Derangement Syndrome’ really has gotten out of hand. Why, just this past week the decreasingly popular president has been called a ‘bald-faced liar,’ ‘an executive who can’t bring himself to lead,’ and even an ‘Uncle Tom.’ And that’s just by liberals. The progressive crack-up, before Obama even reaches the end of his first year, has been an awesome and occasionally humorous sight to see.”
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Posted by JR at 1:40 AM