Friday, February 27, 2009

 

Open Thread

Time to be a blog and thread-up! 

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Learning To Live With Govt. Health Care?

The Manhattan Institute's David Gratzer outlines where conservative should make their stand on what appears inevitable -- a health-care system run by the government (or at least parallel with the current system).  

Gratzer rightly notest that ground has seriously shifted on the issue in the fifteen years since Clintoncare blew up in Bill and Hillary's faces.  The odds of something getting through a Democratic Congress and a president who clearly won more than 50 percent of the popular vote are much greater. Given that, here's what Republicans should try: 
First, draw a line in the sand. If there is any lesson to be learned from the economic-stimulus package, it’s this: A few votes count. The key for Republicans will be to make those votes actually amount to something more than trimming at the edges.

[SNIP] 

Republicans can compromise on some things; they can’t allow new public programs for everyone.

Second, remind Americans of why we care. No one would deny that America’s health-care system is unsatisfying. But acknowledging the obvious doesn’t necessarily mean that a sweeping White House plan is the right approach. Democrats may care about this issue, but their passion blinds them: They understate the deep problems with Medicaid and Medicare; they are eager to embrace expensive new entitlements; they dismiss the incredible shortcomings of socialized medicine in countries like Canada.

[SNIP]

Third, provide alternatives. Americans want solutions, not just criticisms. We need to point Americans to the road less traveled in health reform: individual choice and competition. It’s possible to allow the unemployed and the self-employed more options in health insurance, not by expanding Washington’s reach, but by allowing people to purchase health plans across state lines. We favor better quality of care, not through the creation of a government committee, but by empowering patients with better information.
Conservatives and Republicans must decide pretty soon whether the best way to expend their energy is screaming and yelling to little avail -- and have no input on the final result -- or try to create the least-awful legislation by demanding a seat at the table. 
  

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RAG on NPR

Your humble blogger ventures back into the "Tell Me More" Barbershop. Rather surprising consensus on the notorious New York Post chimp-troversy.  

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

 

Yo, Dial It Back, Bro!

Michael Steele is a friend of mine. I've known him for many years. I'm all for his attempt to modernize the Republican Party and do what is necessary to attract younger voters and minorities. 

Mike, this ain't the way to do it -- following idiotic Curtis Sliwa's tortured comments, characterizing Bobby Jindal as the "slumdog millionaire, governor" and giving out some "slum love."  What's next, calling Clarence Thomas his "Ghetto Superstar"?    

Why even pay attention to anything coming out of Sliwa's mouth? The man still wears a jacket/cap combination from 30 years ago, for cripes sake! The Guardian Angels were a great symbol of a late-70's New York that was so out-of-control that a volunteer group arose to augment an undermanned/outgunned police force.  

They haven't been needed in that regard for at least a decade.  

But Sliwa -- who's now in his 50s -- dresses as if nothing has changed.

That aside, Steele has to forget about "dropping" "cool" lingo. Yes, go with your instincts with regard to building the party and working on a cohesive message, but this is one embrace of pop culture that Republicans can do without emulating.  

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Paging Piyush

After a universally panned speech, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is suddenly in danger of becoming the second GOP figure taken down by the satirical power of 30 Rock and its related stars.  In quick need of a pre-2012 reboot, here's a modest proposal that the Pelican State chief executive might want to pursue to recalibrate a possible presidential path:

1. Drop the "Bobby"; embrace the "Piyush". Obama realized in college that there would never be a president "Barry." He accepted who he was -- a multicultural boy living in a multicultural world. The rest is history (that there had never been a president "Barack" either is irrelevant to this discussion).

You need to realize that it makes more sense for a "Piyush" to succeed a "Barack" than a "Bobby." (Don't let yourself be out-weird-named by a "Mitt").

2. Have an affair: At the very least lie about having an affair. You need something of an edge.

Living in Louisiana presents you with myriad opportunities, AND dangers. Governors are expected to be larger than life. They're expected to have girlfriends, gambling problems, conflicts-of-interest, etc. Heck, this is the state that featured a campaign slogan of "Vote for the Crook:  It's important." (Appropriately enough crook Edwin Edwards beat racist David Duke and later went to prison for a variety of corruption offenses.)

An affair would give Jindal a hint of danger. Any subsequent pleas for forgiveness from his wife, the public (and the Catholic Church) would mark him as a vulnerable, principled man with human failings. (Oh, the other woman should probably not be too blonde/blue-eyed -- preferably Creole; this *is* still the South, after all.)

3. Pick a fight with a slightly effete goody-two-shoes Republican former governor who might be your biggest rival for the "competent, can-get-things-done" part of the Republican base (not naming any names). Paint him as slightly out of touch, pseudo-intellectual, squishy Northern governor from Massachusetts -- who tried to impose universal health care! You, on the other hand, helped reform Louisiana's health care system -- at least the hospital care portion. Go after him!

4. Go after Yukon Sarah Palin. Admit your own flaws (see above), while painting Alaska governor as being out-of-touch, practicing Addams Family Values -- and being a little too close to Russia (if you know what I mean). If Vladimir Putin wants to bring back the Evil Empire, you should hold the Diva of Nome fully responsible. Make sure that you don't  make this personal.  You can't appear to be beating up on a woman.  Make this a national security issue.  Just subtly point out that no foreign nation that you can see from your back yard has become more dangerous on your watch (for these purposes, ignore any recent problems in Mexico).

5. Become Jon Stewart's sidekick on The Daily Show. Stewart will help feel your pain -- even though he doesn't share your politics.  He got very bad reviews hosting the 2008 Academy Awards.  This year, the slot was given to an Aussie song-and-dance man-cum-mutant -actor.  Yet, he remains at the top of his game.  Does he let that unfortunate setback eat away at him? Absolutely not. He pokes fun at himself!

Governor, your path to the White House is clear.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

 

Final Crisis (Right.)

The word "crisis" appeared seven times in President Obama's address to the nation. And, as nearly everyone knows, the Chinese character for "crisis" is the combination of two others -- "danger" and "opportunity."  

Obama used those two aspects of the word to maximum effect.  Boy, did he ever. 

The danger in the current circumstances is rather obvious. However, cognizant of some criticism that his recent statements could be seen as "talking down the economy," Obama pulled back on the cataclysmic rhetoric.

But he is nonetheless seizing the opportunity.  His program isn't just another "new age"-type middling attempt to help the country "get back on its feet" economically in the short term. Instead, he's outlining a vision of government that is either bold or radical, depending on one's perspective.  Whether it is able to fulfill all of its aims and promises, however, remains to be seen. 

What isn't questionable is that this is a darn expensive proposition. 

One thing that need not really be said, Barack Obama can give a good performance.  He commands whatever stage he takes.  The House chamber was alive Monday night.  Though often filled with the usual partisan standing ovations, there was remarkably little of the bitterness that has characterized State of the Union-type addresses of recent years. The contempt that Republicans had for Bill Clinton or Democrats had for George W. Bush was remarkably absent -- even though Obama's program is as ideologically transformative as anything. 

In this very narrow way, perhaps it is too soon to say that the president's attempt at bipartisanship is dead.  There was more of a sense of collegiality between Republican and Democrat than in previous years.

During the '90s, Bill Clinton used the mantra "Medicaid, Medicare, education, environment" as the programmatic bulwark to block Republican plans to overhaul the budget.  Obama has gone the opposite route: Energy, health care and education are the magic words with which Obama plans to bring a long-term "change" to the nation. And, it won't be cheap.  

The word "invest" (or some variation thereof) appears 13 times.  By this word, Obama means "spend":  Spend money on housing (already proposed in the foreclosure plan).  Spend money on different levels of education. The latest universality goal for government now appears to be college.

We have made college affordable for nearly seven million more students. And we have provided the resources necessary to prevent painful cuts and teacher layoffs that would set back our children's progress.

Seven million more going to college -- because it is as evidently important for as many Americans as possible to have college degrees.  As important as it is to maximize the number of Americans owning their own home?  Hmmm...what could possibly go wrong? 

Speaking of universality, we will also be investing in health care -- with the ultimate goal of some form of universal coverage. Again, given what the drive for universal home ownership has given us, what could possibly go wrong?

And, of course, "investing" in energy  -- preferably "green" energy that weens the country away from oil-dependence and also battles global warming. 

Yet, with all of this investment, we are also supposed to believe that the deficit can be halved within three years (by the end of Obama's first term) -- in order to protect our children's future (in essence, another "investment"):   

And that is the responsibility to ensure that we do not pass on to them a debt they cannot pay. With the deficit we inherited, the cost of the crisis we face, and the long-term challenges we must meet, it has never been more important to ensure that as our economy recovers, we do what it takes to bring this deficit down.

Yet, the only enhanced revenue (beyond that which is currently law) he expects to have comes from, 1) allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire and, 2) drawing down forces from Iraq. Keep in mind that the latter of those two options is, of course, dependent on the circumstances -- as is the expanded deployment into Afghanistan.   

It is quite easy to be seduced by President Obama's soaring rhetoric. He is a confident man trying to rally a nation to his ideas.  But, while "hope" made for a great campaign slogan, it can't make money appear out of nowhere.  Obama says that "the day of reckoning" is here.

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