I really would like to see Romney explaining to Republican voters that his plan is different than Obama’s because his didn’t cut Medicare. It might even work. It would just be hilarious.
Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Chait’
The blogs discuss whether or not Mitt Romney’s 2012 prospects have been passed by the health care reform so similar to his own in Massachusetts:
Marc Ambinder makes the case that the conventional wisdom on the left that health care reform’s passage has killed Romney’s 2012 candidacy is a reflection of “anchor bias — the same type of bias that consigned the Democratic majority to history the day after Scott Brown won Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat in Massachusetts.” Ambinder continues:
Romney is a serious, sober guy. Just read his book. It’s half a cliche campaign book, and half a really learned and well-thought-out disquisition on the problems facing American today. If the fundamental divide in the party is between the lambs being led to slaughter wing — the bleating, noisy wing — and the wing that seeks a solutions-oriented leader, Romney has a case to make.
Actually, I think Ambinder has this backwards. Right now, Romney looks fine — he has money, name recognition, decent polling, and the like. What you have to do is project how the current dynamic is going to play in 2012. At the moment, Republican leaders are trying to demonize the Affordable Care Act, so they have little incentive to point out that it’s basically Romneycare plus cost controls. But in the context of the 2012 race, with the Affordable Care Act settled into law and a contested GOP primary going on, there will be lots of Republicans playing up the comparisons between Romneycare and Obamacare. Romney appears political viable right now because most Republican voters have not been exposed to the Romneycare-Obamacare comparison — or if they have, it’s been made by advocates of the latter, rather than by Republicans who they trust. When the attacks come, Romney just has no convincing reply…
[But] I’d like to see Romney win the nomination, because he’s intelligent, competent, and has some decent moral instincts buried somewhere beneath a thick coat of pandering demagoguery. I just don’t see it happening.
The passage of Obamacare is going to make life harder for Mitt Romney in 2012. Which makes the White House pretty happy. Romney isn’t the world’s most skilled politician, but he’s one of the more credible challengers Republicans can muster. If the passage of health-care reform wounds his candidacy without killing it off entirely, that’s a big win for the Obama administration: It means Romney takes up some, but not enough, of the sensible Republican vote, making it even likelier that someone totally unelectable wins the nomination…
The White House thinks that 2012 is where they can deal a serious blow to the Fox Newsification of the Republican Party. But that only works if someone from the Fox News wings of the party wins the nomination (and, of course, if Obama really trounces that person)
Jonathan Chait responds to Klein:
From Obama’s perspective, the crazier the Republican nominee, the better. Better Tim Pawlenty than Mitt Romney, and better Sarah Palin than Tim Pawlenty.
The broader liberal calculation is different. It’s almost certainly true that liberals will want Obama to win reelection. But we have to balance that desire against minimizing the downside in case he doesn’t.
I’m sorry but he says he’s running against an all-powerful central government, but he backed the indefinite, open-ended, unlimited, “Double Gitmo!” executive powers seized by Bush and Cheney? He set up a mini-version of Obamacare and now wants to lead a party that wants to repeal Obamacare? Worse for him, Obama is now shrewdly embracing Romney…
And how do you get past the problem that no one likes him and no one rightly trusts him? And that he’s a Mormon running for the nomination of a Southern evangelical organization?
Palin is the one to beat. She’s the real identity of the current GOP – and as fake as the rest of them (though nowhere near as fake as Romney, but, then, who is?).
Meanwhile, David Harsanyi chips in from the Denver Post in a piece being promoted by the National Review (which has been notably quiet on this issue):
“Overall, ours is a model that works,” Romney explained. “We solved our problem at the state level. Like it or not, it was a state solution. Why is it that President Obama is stepping in and saying ‘one size fits all’ “?
Federalism is a good argument that has nothing to do with health care reform models, as Romney knows well. Here’s what he should have said years ago:
“Everyone makes mistakes. Heck, I made a huge one. My plan, first hijacked by state liberals and now copied by Barack Obama, has created a fiscal nightmare in my state… I am here to extract my name from that botched experiment by repealing its ugly stepson Obamacare so Americans work together to pass genuine, common sense, market-based reform.”
Then again, it is entirely possible Romney genuinely believes his health care model works.
In which case, his position just doesn’t cut it.
My two cents: Projections are inherently flawed – and long-term political projections are akin to predicting the weather in a particular days several years away: Sometimes, rules of thumb work (“March goes in like a lion and out like a lamb” to “Opposition parties do well in the first mid-terms after a presidential election.”), but you can’t count on them. Looking at the fundamentals is more important than looking at current trends. (“November is usually cold,” does better than “It’s gotten hotter in 5 successive days this April!”) But even projections based on the fundamentals don’t always hold.
As I read the fundamentals: Whether the Obama administration embraces Romney or not, I don’t see how he can win the Republican nomination for the reasons that Chait raised (when his Republicans opponents tar him with supporting Obamacare, it will stick) – added to the complications that Sullivan harps on (a Mormon running to lead an evangelical party). If Romney wins the Republican nomination, his flip-flopping on health care would only solidify the image of him as a pandering demagogue with no real principles. Still, he’s the Republican I’d most like to see win the nomination on the off-chance the Republicans are able to win in 2012. The fundamentals there look very weak for any Republican though unless unemployment is rising in 2012.
[Image by Paul Chenowith licensed under Creative Commons.]
Jonathan Chait riffing off of Representative Paul Ryan:
Liberals do not believe in equality of outcome in most spheres of life. There are myriad punishments for the losers of the free market that liberals can accept: less money, less vacation time, lower social status, more uncomfortable, dangerous, or physically draining work. But the denial of medical treatment should not be among those punishments.
I hate to quote this much from anyone, but Jonathan Chait’s entire post is brilliant and you should read his entire piece. But for future reference, and so I can always find it, these three paragraphs are what I wish I had written:
The latest Republican gambit, put forward by John McCain (who has become a pure stalking horse for the party leadership) is to demand that no change to Medicare be permitted through budget reconciliation. This means that the very difficult task of getting a majority of both Houses to approve a Medicare cut would become the nearly-impossible task of getting a majority of the House plus a supermajority of the Senate to do the same. Of course, Republicans as well as Democrats have used reconciliation numerous times to wring savings out of Medicare. But this proposal is not just the usual staggering hypocrisy. The immediate purpose is to render Obama’s health care reform impossible. But the long term effect would be to render any Republican reform impossible. How do Republicans propose to fulfill their vision of government when any forty Senators can block a dime of Medicare cuts? Don’t they ever aspire to govern?
In the lonely center of this howling vortex stands the Obama administration, diligently pushing its morally decent technocratic improvements. For this, the salons of establishment thought have given the administration little but grief. Sunday’sWashington Post editorial offers a fair summary of the response from the center. The editorial does allow that Obama’s plan would be ever so slightly preferable to the status quo. The Post editorial page is disappointed that Obama agreed to delay a tax on high-cost health care plans, and to replace the lost short-term revenue with a tax on the rich: “We think that it is not asking too much,” demands the editorial, “given the dire fiscal straits, for Washington to show that it can swallow distasteful medicine while, and not after, it passes out the candy.” Centrist critics have habitually used terms like “candy” and “dessert” to describe the provision of medical care to those currently suffer physical or financial ruin by the lack thereof. It is one of the most morally decrepit metaphors I have ever come across.
As Harold Pollack notes, Obama has successfully fought, over the opposition of lobbyists and Congress, to include numerous delivery reforms, such as an Independent Medicare Advisory Commission, bundled payments, and numerous other cutting edge steps. Centrists give these reforms little or no credit — after all, because they are untried, they have no record and the Congressional Budget Office can’t calculate their potential savings. The CBO can credit things like the excise tax, but the centrists give that little weight as well — after all, Obama agreed to delay the tax in order to let labor contracts adjust. He replaced the lost revenue by extending the Medicare tax to capital income earned by the affluent. But tax revenue from the affluent somehow counts less, too. The Postdismissively calls this “the politically easier option of extending the Medicare tax to unearned income of the wealthy,” as if raising taxes on the most powerful and well-connected people in America, in an atmosphere where one party opposes any taxes on the rich with theological fervor, is the kind of solution that’s just sitting there for the taking.
Last week, Derek Thompson made a point countering the man he calls “the wonderful Hendrick Hertzberg” of The New Yorker. Hertzberg had claimed that the health care bill is “Ideologically and substantively… centrist. It has Republicans, and Republicanism, in its family tree.” Thompson counters this:
So health reform adheres to the Republican platonic ideal, even if no flesh-and-bone Republicans vote for it? Maybe. Or maybe it doesn’t adhere to Republicanism at all because it’s garnishing a decidedly liberal goal with conservative touches. Maybe saying “it’s already bipartisan” is like a steakhouse saying its filet mignon is vegetarian, because it’s served with quite a lot of carrots.
He uses Representative Paul Ryan’s principled dissent from Obama’s health care reform as the counterexample disproving Hertzberg’s claim.
But this doesn’t really acknowledge Hertzberg’s point – also made here and throughout the liberal opinionosphere. Obama’s health reform bill has more in common with previous Republican attempts to reform health care than with previous Democratic ones. It seems like a genuine attempt to fuse the ends Republicans focused on and the methods they used with the social justice issues Democrats were concerned with. The Republican opposition has been far from principled – as they have used every populist and procedural and inside tactic to block this. They have defended Medicare; they have attacked Medicare; they have attacked every cost-cutting measure and then railed against the bill for failing to cut costs (which it still manages to do); they have claimed it is radical while at the same time claiming it doesn’t go far enough. Ideology seemed to have little to do with this knee-jerk response – and the rhetoric attacking it had very little to do with the bill itself. Aside from the widely debunked death panels and such, there is the constant claim that this bill will increase the deficit and represent a “government takeover of 1/6th of the economy.” The government takeover claim is so ridiculous as the bill would leave most of the health insurance market untouched (including those portions already controlled by the government to popular acclaim such as Medicare.) And yet the “government takeover” line has proven so effective that Republicans have started to brand everything as “government takeovers.” (Net neutrality legislation is now the “government takeover of the Internet” according to John McCain.)
But Thompson (who I often enjoy reading – he’s a good and often fair commentator) wants to find some good faith disagreements. There are some. Republicans tend to favor less government involvement. When the Democrats proposed an intrusive regulatory system, they proposed something similar to Obama’s plan. Now that Obama has proposed this, they demand – if we are to accept Paul Ryan as their representative as Thompson does – that the government pull back from health care entirely and dismantle Medicare and other such programs. Except you wouldn’t know that from what most of them say. They are out there attacking this bill for cutting Medicare. They are attacking the bill as a sellout to the insurance industry. They are attacking the bill with everything they can think of. Which is why it is hard to give credence to any principled reason for the unanimous Republican opposition.
There are reasons to oppose this bill – and some people do so for principled reasons. Paul Ryan is likely one (though as was evident when Ezra Klein interviewed him) he often stoops to disingenuous talking points to do so.
Some people have fundamental disagreements that prevent them from supporting Obama’s moderate, centrist, tinkering health care reforms. Paul Ryan objects now to measures that increase the deficit (it bears repeating that he voted for all the Bush measures that exploded the deficit.) But he also objects to measures that decrease the deficit while increasing the role and size of government too. And he likes to keep claiming that this health care bill will increase the deficit, not because he thinks it does, but because it increases the size of government. This isn’t a principled objection. This is a political calculation that harping on the deficit plays into people’s anxieties about government overreach.
In other words, contra Derek Thompson, Paul Ryan is a man who decided to become a vegetarian when Obama became the chef. The other Republicans meanwhile are demanding the kitchen using animals for food while simultaneously defending the right of every elderly individual to have bacon cheeseburgers. Obama’s health reform would be a well-balanced meal – with some vegetables, some steak, and some tofu, a nice salad, a fruit dish and a scoop of ice cream for desert. It’s a mish-mash with something for everyone except the pure carnivores and vegetarians which no one is claiming is vegetarian – only that it’s got something for everyone. That’s bipartisanship.
P.S. Has it occurred to anyone (I’m sure it has) how Paul Ryan became a star?
Then Obama singled Rep. Ryan out at the Republican Congressional Retreat saying that Ryan “stud[ied] this stuff and [took] it pretty seriously” and that he had “made a serious proposal” to cut the deficit.
Then Ryan made a point to Obama during the bipartisan summit that was about the only one Obama didn’t demolish (which most pro-Ryan partisans took as gleeful confirmation that their man could do no wrong.)
Ryan’s star in the Republican Party has been rising – seemingly because he was singled out by Obama for praise, and because Obama didn’t go after some of the figures Ryan used in a later event even though pundits after the fact were able to do so easily. Ryan seems principled and telegenic. However, his ideas are so radical, only a tiny portion of Americans would agree with them.
I wonder if the White House doesn’t see Ryan as the perfect face for the good and principled side of the Republican Party, as opposed to the ugly partisan one Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin don.
[Image not subject to copyright.]
Leon Wieseltier launched a graceless and rather paranoid ad hominem attack on Andrew Sullivan in the latest issue of The New Republic – accusing him of being an anti-Semite. The New Republic is my favorite magazine – but since reading this piece, I’m considering unsubscribing. It would bother me that any magazine would give itself as a platform for such an article, and is even worse that it is one I feel ownership over (as I have been a regular reader for some 12 years and a subscriber for 5, from the moment I graduated college.) Wieseltier further attacks my religion (Catholicism) as “a regress to polytheistic crudity” and seemingly marks the magazine as meant for Jews rather than Christians – saying that “readers of The New Republic” would clearly see what was wrong with Sullivan’s writings – just as they saw what was wrong with the concept of the Trinity. (Perhaps this was meant lightly. It’s a bit hard to tell as he levels such ridiculous charges.) I don’t consider myself the type of person who would cancel a subscription over offensive content – but it angers that the magazine would run a piece with so few redeeming features and such serious unsubstantiated charges.
Sullivan’s main and heartfelt response to the piece is here. He also points out the context to one of his quotes, including email correspondence with the current editor of The New Republic, Franklin Foer. Other comments and a roundup of outside opinion from Sullivan here, here, here, here, and here. The Atlantic Wire has a more complete roundup.
Let me – as briefly as I can – make one point that I haven’t seen made. Most of Wieseltier’s piece concerns all sorts of damning positions Sullivan has taken: being moved by the Palestinian suffering in the Gaza attack, Sullivan’s anger at the Netanyahu government for refusing any substantial concessions to his government’s main patron, and the fact that Sullivan cites the respected Middle East scholar Stephen Walt “frequently and deferentially” when Walt was one of the authors of The Israel Lobby for which Wieseltier believes he should be shunned. About the only item cited by Wieseltier that could be construed as stereotyping of Jews is a Sullivan response to an article in the very self-consciously Jewish and right-wing Commentary on why Jews don’t like Palin because they’re educated, elitist, socially liberal, etc., but should support Palin because she has what Rubin considers the most important thing right: she opposes “the administration’s effort to put ‘daylight’ between the U.S. and Israel.” Sullivan begins his most anti-Semitic piece by quoting Jonathan Chait (of The New Republic) who puts Rubin’s piece in context elsewhere in his post:
The complaint of the Jewish Republican is a small but hardy feature of our political discourse. The complaint runs as follows: Jews are foolishly ignoring their self-interest by voting for Democrats on the basis of sentimental concerns (secularism, concern for the poor) rather than pursuing their true self interest (maximal hawkishness on the Middle East, low tax rates on the rich) as represented by the GOP.
Sullivan replies to Chait:
I worry about elements of proto-fascism becoming mainstream in the GOP.
But there is something particularly disturbing about the way in which neoconservatives, in their alliance with the Christianist heartland, increasingly argue for a strong and unchecked charismatic leader in the Palin/Bush mold, a disdain for reason in political life and a yearning for what Rubin calls an “instinctual skill set” in a leader…
Most American Jews, of course, retain a respect for learning, compassion for the other, and support for minorities (Jews, for example, are the ethnic group most sympathetic to gay rights.) But the Goldfarb-Krauthammer wing – that celebrates and believes in government torture, endorses the pulverization of Gazans with glee, and wants to attack Iran – is something else.
Something much darker.
Wieseltier’s response entirely ignores the blatant stereotyping that Jennifer Rubin uses as the basis for her article as well as Chait’s easy categorization of “Jewish Republicans” who identify their “true self interest” as “maximal hawkishness on the Middle East.” Wieseltier instead goes after Sullivan:
I was not aware that [Goldfarb and Krauthammer] comprise a “wing” of American Jewry, or that American Jewry has “wings.” What sets them apart from their more enlightened brethren is the unacceptability of their politics to Sullivan. That is his criterion for dividing the American Jewish community into good Jews and bad Jews–a practice with a sordid history.
It is really quite something that the above cite is the closest Wieseltier gets to Sullivan “hating on” Jews. No fair-minded observer could believe that is what is going on. Sullivan posts a quote from DiA today that seems to offer a more reasonable explanation: that Sullivan is “pigeonholing” political actors which DiA acknowledges that “we all do this to some extent,” including Wieseltier himself.
However, I want to take a minute to defend discussing the religion’s effect on politics in exactly the way Wieseltier is accusing Sullivan of, as today, most people’s religious and political identities have become fused. One’s religion – whether it be evangelical Christianity, Judaism, Catholicism, Methodist, Islam, Buddhism, or whatever else – is a profound influence on one’s outlook on the world and as such must be a matter for public debate and discussion. Andrew Greeley for example makes this case with reference to Catholicism in The Catholic Myth. He describes the profound effect growing up steeped in any mythology has on how any one sees the world, how it shapes our imagination and how we see how the world works.
Yet Leon Wieseltier either maintains that this type of thinking is out of bounds or that Charles Krauthammer’s specifically aren’t based on his Jewishness:
Moreover, Krauthammer argues for his views; the premises of his analysis are coldly clear, and may be engaged analytically, and when necessary refuted. Unlike Sullivan, he does not present feelings as ideas…[T]he grounds of Krauthammer’s opinions are no more to be found in, or reduced to, his Jewishness than the grounds of the contrary opinions–the contentions of dovish Jews who denounce torture, and oppose Israeli abuses in the Gaza war, and insist upon a diplomatic solution to the threat of an Iranian nuclear capability–are to be found in, or reduced to, their Jewishness. All these “wings” are fervent Jews and friends of Israel. There are many “Jewish” answers to these questions. We all want the Torah on our side. And the truth is that the Torah has almost nothing to do with it. [my emphasis]
Parsing the bolded sentence closely, you can see how hedged it really is – how Wieseltier’s actual point seems to be that there are multiple interpretations of Judaism and none should be called Judaism definitively. Which of course Sullivan does not – which Wieseltier acknowledges. But the clear intention of this passage is to claim that Sullivan is stereotyping Jews and reducing their political opinions by connecting them to Judaism. Specifically, he is offended that Krauthammer’s opinions are associated with his “Jewishness” when they are instead based on logical premises.
Yet this Jay Nordlinger profile of Charles Krauthammer in the National Review seems to offer Krauthammer himself refuting precisely these points. [Full access only to subscribers. However, someone posted the whole thing at the rightwingforum.]
Of Israel, Krauthammer has long been a leading student, defender, and explainer. Asked the bald question of whether Israel will survive, he says, “If it doesn’t, I think it will mark the beginning of the terminal decay of Western civilization.” He notes that he is not a believer. But he quotes from the Bible, where God tells Abraham — actually, Abram, at that point — “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee.” It is interesting, if only as a historical matter, that those nations that have been kind to the Jews have flourished, and those that have not, have not. Krauthammer points to Spain, after 1492. “And we don’t even have to look at Germany, though that’s an obvious example.” Krauthammer believes that Israel needs two things to survive: the will to live, and the support of the United States. He believes that Israel has demonstrated a very great will to live, especially in its defeat of the “second intifada.” And he has “great faith in the goodness of America,” a goodness that will not let Israel go to the dogs. Europe could do all sorts of things to bedevil and imperil Israel: impose economic sanctions, prosecute Israeli soldiers, etc. But the key is America. And “if we ever reach a point where we become indifferent to Israel, that will mark a great turn in the soul of our country.”
Many Jews, particularly American ones, are nervous or scornful about the support that American evangelicals have shown for Israel. They say that this support is double-edged, or bad news, or embarrassing. Krauthammer will have none of it. “I embrace their support unequivocally and with gratitude. And when I speak to Jewish groups, whether it’s on the agenda or not, I make a point of scolding them. I say, ‘You may not want to hear this, and you may not have me back, but I’m going to tell you something: It is disgraceful, un-American, un-Jewish, ungrateful, the way you treat people who are so good to the Jewish people. We are almost alone in the world. And here we have 50 million Americans who willingly and enthusiastically support us. You’re going to throw them away, for what? Because of your prejudice.’ Oh, I give ’em hell.” [my emhpases]
So, let me be clear: Wieseltier claims that “the ground of Krauthammer’s opinions” shouldn’t be “found in, or reduced to, his Jewishness” because Krauthammer’s views are actually based on his cold and clear rational analysis of the world and that he doesn’t present “feelings as ideas.” To claim otherwise for Wieseltier is evidence of anti-Semitism. Yet a recent profile of Krauthammer attributes to him the rather debatable view that “as a historical matter, that those nations that have been kind to the Jews have flourished, and those that have not, have not” as Krauthammer “quotes from the Bible, where God tells Abraham — actually, Abram, at that point — ‘I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee.’ ” Krauthammer then brags that he scolds Jews who disdain people like Palin, saying: “It is disgraceful, un-American, un-Jewish, ungrateful, the way you treat people who are so good to the Jewish people. We are almost alone in the world.” In each instance, Krauthammer explicitly grounds his view of history and of foreign policy and national security in his Jewishness – and appeals to his audience to be properly “Jewish” and be grateful for the support Israel receives. Yet – Wieseltier accuses Sullivan of “demand[ing] Jews behave apologetically in America” and “defends” Krauthammer’s ideas as not being related to his “Jewishness.” Absolutely ridiculous.
Wieseltier owes Andrew Sullivan an apology. And The New Republic owes its readers a retraction.
One thing I had noticed but not managed to fit into my post on why Republicans didn’t want to go to the health care summit that they had been demanding was how perfectly Obama’s proposed summit fit into “the Obama method.” Jonathan Chait makes the point I would have:
Obama knows perfectly well that the Republicans have no serious proposals to address the main problems of the health care system and have no interest (or political room, given their crazy base) in handing him a victory of any substance. Obama is bringing them in to discuss health care so he can expose this reality.
I’m not saying this is some kind of genius maneuver. I’m not even saying it will work. (I wouldn’t bet against it, though.) I’m just saying that this — not starting over, and not pleading for bipartisan cover — is what Obama is trying to accomplish.
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Luntz’s latest memo advising Republicans on how to fight financial reform, obtained by Sam Stein, is a classic of the genre. The unstated argument of the memo is that, being determined to oppose legislation that most Americans support, Republicans should simply pretend they are arguing against something completely different.
This is depressingly and utterly predictable given what happened with the health care debate (government takeover! government-mandated abortion! death panels!) and with the national security debate and on net neutrality and on a range of issues.
Jonathan Chait over at his blog on The New Republic:
Pretty much everything you need to know about President Obama and the budget deficit is contained within this chart:
As I see it, he has two options. First, he can bow out of the primary, campaign energetically for Rubio in November, and hope the party moves to the center far enough for him to run again at some future date. Second, he can make the case that the party has gotten too extreme for him — a legitimate case, as Crist is genuinely moderate on most of the key issues — and run for Senate as an independent or as a Democrat. Neither option is particularly easy, though the second seems easier than the first.
And now it looks like Crist just might be thinking along the same lines. Apparently he plans to join President Obama for his political appearance this week in Tampa.