Source: Robert Borosage's OurFuture.org
March 22, 2010
David Frum is a conservative, former Bush speech-writer. He has the quaint
view that Republicans in office should provide leadership, not zealotry. In
this post, he describes the "crushing legislative defeat" conservatives have
suffered on health care.
by DAVID FRUM
March 21st, 2010
Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative
defeat since the 1960s.
It's hard to exaggerate the magnitude of the disaster. Conservatives may
cheer themselves that they'll compensate for today's expected vote with a
big win in the November 2010 elections. But:
(1) It's a good bet that conservatives are over-optimistic about November -
by then the economy will have improved and the immediate goodies in the
healthcare bill will be reaching key voting blocs.
(2) So what? Legislative majorities come and go. This healthcare bill is
forever. A win in November is very poor compensation for this debacle now.
So far, I think a lot of conservatives will agree with me. Now comes the
A huge part of the blame for today's disaster attaches to conservatives and
At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision: unlike, say,
Democrats in 2001 when President Bush proposed his first tax cut, we would
make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise,
nothing. We were going for all the marbles. This would be Obama's Waterloo -
just as healthcare was Clinton's in 1994.
Only, the hardliners overlooked a few key facts: Obama was elected with 53%
of the vote, not Clinton's 42%. The liberal block within the Democratic
congressional caucus is bigger and stronger than it was in 1993-94. And of
course the Democrats also remember their history, and also remember the
consequences of their 1994 failure.
This time, when we went for all the marbles, we ended with none.
Could a deal have been reached? Who knows? But we do know that the gap
between this plan and traditional Republican ideas is not very big. The
Obama plan has a broad family resemblance to Mitt Romney's Massachusetts
plan. It builds on ideas developed at the Heritage Foundation in the early
1990s that formed the basis for Republican counter-proposals to Clintoncare
Barack Obama badly wanted Republican votes for his plan. Could we have
leveraged his desire to align the plan more closely with conservative views?
To finance it without redistributive taxes on productive enterprise -
without weighing so heavily on small business - without expanding Medicaid?
Too late now. They are all the law.
No illusions please: This bill will not be repealed. Even if Republicans
scored a 1994 style landslide in November, how many votes could we muster to
re-open the "doughnut hole" and charge seniors more for prescription drugs?
How many votes to re-allow insurers to rescind policies when they discover a
pre-existing condition? How many votes to banish 25 year olds from their
parents' insurance coverage? And even if the votes were there - would
President Obama sign such a repeal?
We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they
led us to abject and irreversible defeat.
There were leaders who knew better, who would have liked to deal. But they
were trapped. Conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio had whipped the
Republican voting base into such a frenzy that deal-making was rendered
impossible. How do you negotiate with somebody who wants to murder your
grandmother? Or - more exactly - with somebody whom your voters have been
persuaded to believe wants to murder their grandmother?
I've been on a soapbox for months now about the harm that our overheated
talk is doing to us. Yes it mobilizes supporters - but by mobilizing them
with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made
it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead.
The real leaders are on TV and radio, and they have very different
imperatives from people in government. Talk radio thrives on confrontation
and recrimination. When Rush Limbaugh said that he wanted President Obama to
fail, he was intelligently explaining his own interests. What he omitted to
say - but what is equally true - is that he also wants Republicans to fail.
If Republicans succeed - if they govern successfully in office and negotiate
attractive compromises out of office - Rush's listeners get less angry. And
if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads
for Sleepnumber beds.
So today's defeat for free-market economics and Republican values is a huge
win for the conservative entertainment industry. Their listeners and viewers
will now be even more enraged, even more frustrated, even more disappointed
in everybody except the responsibility-free talkers on television and radio.
For them, it's mission accomplished. For the cause they purport to
represent, it's Waterloo all right: ours.
The Source of Obama's Trouble
By BOB HERBERT
NY Times Op-Ed: March 8, 2010
The Obama administration and Democrats in general are in trouble because
they are not urgently and effectively addressing the issue that most
Americans want them to: the frightening economic insecurity that has put a
chokehold on millions of American families.
The economy shed 36,000 jobs last month, and that was trumpeted in the press
as good news. Well, after your house has burned down I suppose it's good
news that the flames may finally be flickering out. But once you realize
that it will take 11 million or more new jobs to get us back to where we
were when the recession began, you begin to understand that we're not really
making any headway at all.
It's also widely known by now that the official employment statistics
drastically understate the problem. Once we take off the statistical
rose-colored glasses, we're left with the awful reality of millions upon
millions of Americans who have lost - or are losing - their jobs, their
homes, their small businesses, and their hopes for a brighter future.
Instead of focusing with unwavering intensity on this increasingly tragic
situation, making it their top domestic priority, President Obama and the
Democrats on Capitol Hill have spent astonishing amounts of time and energy,
and most of their political capital, on an obsessive quest to pass a health
Health care reform is important. But what the public has wanted and still
badly needs above all else from Mr. Obama and the Democrats are bold efforts
to put people back to work. A major employment rebound is the only real way
to alleviate the deep economic anxiety that has gripped so many Americans.
Unaddressed, that anxiety inevitably evolves into dread and then anger.
But while the nation is desperate for jobs, jobs, jobs, the Democrats have
spent most of the Obama era chanting health care, health care, health care.
The talk inside the Beltway, that super-incestuous, egomaniacal,
reality-free zone, is that President Obama and the Democrats have a
messaging or public relations problem. We're being told - and even worse,
Mr. Obama and the Democrats are being told - that their narrative is not
getting through. In other words, the wonderfulness of all that they've done
is somehow not being recognized by the slow-to-catch-on masses.
That's just silly. People are upset because they are mired in economic
distress and are losing faith that their elected representatives are looking
out for their best interests. They've watched with increasing anger as their
government has been hijacked by the economic elite. They know that the big
banks that were bailed out by taxpayers can borrow money at an interest rate
of near zero while at the same time charging credit-card holders usurious
rates of 20 to 30 percent.
They know that the financial fat cats are fighting the creation of a truly
independent Consumer Financial Protection Agency. They know that while
ordinary Americans are kept out of the corridors of power, the elites with
their lobbyists and lawyers and campaign contributions have a voice in every
important decision that is made.
It's not the message that's a problem for Mr. Obama and the Democrats, it's
the all-too-clear reality. People know that the government that is supposed
to be looking out for ordinary people - for working people and the poor - is
not doing nearly enough about an employment crisis that is lowering
standards of living and hollowing out the American dream.
This is not just a short-term crisis. There are many communities across the
country in which the effective jobless rate is higher than 50 percent. Many
state and local governments are grappling with disastrous revenue shortfalls
that are forcing cuts in services and layoffs, and threatening the viability
of even a modest national economic recovery.
A University of Michigan survey of consumer sentiment in February found that
60 percent of American consumers expect to receive no income gains at all in
the year ahead, the worst finding in that category in the history of the
The Republican Party has nothing in the way of solutions to Americans'
economic plight. It is committed only to the demented policy of trying to
ensure that President Obama and the Democrats fail.
But the fact that the Republicans are pathetic and destructive is no reason
for the Democrats to shirk their obligation to fight powerfully and
relentlessly for the economic well-being of all Americans. There are now six
people in the employment market for every available job. There is a
staggering backlog of discouraged workers who would show up tomorrow if
there were a job to be had.
The many millions of new jobs needed to make a real dent in the employment
crisis are not going to materialize by themselves. Mr. Obama and the
Democrats don't seem to understand that.