View Full Version : "The Coming Liberal Suicide"

Art Read
08-21-2009, 08:09 AM
Hey... I didn't say it:) But I figure it'd piss enough of you to actually read this. Genuinely curious to hear your thoughts about what he says....


The Coming Liberal Suicide
by John Avlon

- As Democrats blast Obama over the public option, they risk destroying the policy they’ve been hoping for for years. John Avlon on the party’s fatal mistake.

- Liberals revolt against a Democratic president’s pragmatism. Self-defeating stupidity ensues.

We’ve seen this movie before. Here’s a highlight soundbite: “The idea of all or nothing has been pursued now for nearly three decades. No one has benefitted from that.”
That was Jimmy Carter back in 1979, proposing phased-in health-care reform, creating insurance for catastrophic illness. He was opposed by Ted Kennedy and the unions who wanted to hold out for a Canadian-style single-payer system on the grounds that Carter’s plan was “too inequitable.” There were 18 million uninsured Americans then. Now there are 46 million.

In a half-century of failed health-care reforms, liberal cannibalism has been as much to blame for defeats as fear-mongering from the far right. But still some liberals are pursuing an all-or-nothing approach to health-care reform, with 60 House Democrats sending a letter to Obama HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stating that any health-care legislation “MUST contain a public option.” “Democrats drawing a line in the sand against conservatives in their own party?” Rachel Maddow intoned, “Pinch me, I’m dreaming.”

Time for a wake-up call. With all the hate-filled hyperbole festering around the summer’s health-care debate (Hitler references now seem to appear almost daily), it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that there is essentially one substantive sticking point separating the center from the left: the public option. That’s the proposal that is acting as the thin-edge of the wedge in conservatives’ apparently effective argument that health-care reform represents a slippery slope toward socialism.

Remove that plank and replace it with a nonprofit cooperative based on local models that have existed in the heartland for decades—as a bipartisan group of senators has proposed—and the reasonable edge of the opposition evaporates along with most of the cost.
The creation of a nonprofit co-op—run by its members—would cost an estimated $6 billion in startup seed capital from the government. In contrast, the public-insurance option—run by a new government bureaucracy—would cost between $500 billion and $1 trillion in taxpayer dollars. If you take the president’s pledge that any health-care overhaul will be deficit neutral seriously—or if you can read a poll or balance a checkbook—you’ll quickly see that the difference isn’t trivial. It’s a fight about adding another trillion dollars to the deficit.
There are just two problems with this common ground compromise alternative: the far left and the far right.

Liberals are arguing that without the public option there is essentially no health-care reform. That’s absurd—President Obama was right when he said this weekend that the public option was “one sliver” of health-care reform. A nonprofit co-op is another means to the end of offering uninsured individuals and families an alternative to private insurance companies as a way to increase competition and drive down costs. The reason liberals are kicking back so hard against it is that it does not achieve their desired ideological end—a step toward the Canadian-style single-payer system that Ted Kennedy and Co. held out for three decades ago.

In the run to the ramparts, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) went on with CNN’s Campbell Brown in the first wave of the pushback, arguing that liberals had already compromised and wouldn’t go any further even at the president’s request. “No one can say that we're not willing to compromise. …We did that on single-payer.” But that’s a concession to reality, not to Republicans or Blue Dog Democrats. The single-payer plan may be the fondest wish for the far left but it’s a non-starter in the rest of the nation. That’s why the RNC is already at work trying to paint even the co-op as government-run health care. Republicans want to keep the boogeyman of socialized medicine alive as long as they can. They want to run against the public option because they know it is a fight they can win. If Obama embraced a proposal like medical-malpractice reform, performing a bit of political judo, they wouldn’t know what to do.

But the fact that even the rumor of single-payer is being used to derail a health-care overhaul at large is lost on the left. Witness New York Rep. Anthony Weiner, who took to the airwaves to argue that not only would health-care reform without the public option fail to pass the Democratic House, but that getting insurance companies out of the health-care business entirely was his ultimate goal. A combination of horror and hilarity ensued. Here’s an exchange from MSNBC’s Morning Joe:

Scarborough: You are making the point of the people at the town-hall meetings who say this is Barack Obama’s opportunity to get rid of private health care and turn it completely over to the government. I’m sitting here stunned, saying ‘Oh My God, you’re making the point of the health-care protesters.’

Weiner: If Barack Obama doesn’t want to do it, I want to do it.

On Hardball later in the day, Weiner channeled his inner Karl Rove, arguing that ramming health-care reform through on a narrow party-line vote with a public option was not only doable but desirable, saying, “I think we can do it with 51 in the Senate.” When Chris Matthews asked him if “the government will still function if you try to jam this through with 51 votes,” Weiner answered, “I think it will.” That’s a pretty slim reed to try to hang the fate of an administration. It’s the mark of ideologically irresponsible liberals like Bella Abzug, who legendary centrist Democrat New York Sen. Pat Moynihan once described as “those who want to ruin if they cannot rule.”

The source of this disconnect can be found in this statistic, courtesy of Michael Barone: Of the 21 top Democratic House leadership members and chairmen, five come from districts carried by John McCain, but the average vote in the other 16 districts was 71 percent to 27 percent for Obama. Like Los Angeles’ Maxine Waters and New York’s Anthony Weiner, they are ideologically and geographically insulated from the skepticism generating from the great middle of the country.
It’s a mistake that the architect of Medicaid and Medicare, Lyndon Johnson, never made. A Southern Democrat—sometimes derided by liberals as an “Eisenhower Democrat” when he was Majority Leader of the Senate—understood the need for bipartisan support for any major social reforms: His Medicare bill received the support of 70 House Republicans and 16 Senate Republicans. Even Newt Gingrich got it—his Welfare reforms gained the support of 101 Democrats at the high-water mark of the second Republican Revolution.

Liberals are in deep denial about the source of the president’s falling poll numbers during this summer’s health-care debate. They think the problem—perceptions of arrogant over-reaching liberalism—is the cure. It’s the same self-serving mistake that the extremes always make. President Obama needs to depolarize the health-care debate. He got off-message because he got off-center. Embracing a bipartisan bill that replaces the public option with a nonprofit co-op will not “muddy” the debate but help clarify it. It will not be a retreat but a way forward.

Lyndon Johnson once joked that “the difference between liberals and cannibals is that cannibals don’t eat their friends and family members.” In half-century-long history of failed health-care reforms from Harry Truman on down, liberal cannibalism has been as much to blame for defeats as fear-mongering from the far right. The perfect cannot be the enemy of the good. The goal is to decrease costs and increase coverage. If today’s liberals don’t understand the lesson of their own political history and insist on attacking their president, they will have the failure of this health-care reform on their hands.


John P. Avlon is the author of Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics. He writes a weekly column for The Daily Beast. Previously, he served as chief speechwriter for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and was a columnist and associate editor for The New York Sun.

08-21-2009, 08:30 AM
I think the US needs Obama more than he needs you. Certainly from an international perspective this is true. You really don't need another failure because your political system has been bought by private interests.

Art Read
08-21-2009, 08:39 AM
Well. That was "thoughtful" response... Did you bother to read this any more carefully than the article I posted yesterday about crime and accidental death adjusted life expectancies?

Milo Christensen
08-21-2009, 08:47 AM
Co-ops are very appealing to crunchy conservatives like me. Remember when the Blues were the other name for a co-op - a mutual health insurance company? Where are all the mutuals now? The march of demutualization across the country, with mutual after mutual converting to a shareholder owned company is one of the few trends that correlates strongly with the dramatic increases in health care insurance premiums. Remember that for demutualization to take place a majority of members of the mutual insurance society had to vote for demutualization. When given a choice between continuing a mutual - a co-op - members voted to go private again and again and again. Demutualization has run it's course and now we're going to try it again?

Cuyahoga Chuck
08-21-2009, 09:22 AM
John P. Avlon is the author of Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics. He writes a weekly column for The Daily Beast. Previously, he served as chief speechwriter for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and was a columnist and associate editor for The New York Sun.

Hey, Art, can't you come up with somebody we've heard of? This guy has ZIP for credentials.

Art Read
08-21-2009, 09:27 AM
Ok.... How's this? She's got LOT'S of "credentials"...:D


Pull the Plug on ObamaCare
It's the best cure for what ails the Obama presidency.

Looking back, this must have been the White House health-care strategy:

Health care as a subject is extraordinarily sticky, messy and confusing. It's inherently complicated, and it's personal. There are land mines all over the place. Don't make the mistake the Clintons made and create a plan that gets picked apart, shot down, and injures the standing of the president. Instead, push it off on Congress. Let them come up with a dozen plans. It will keep them busy. It will convince them yet again of their importance and autonomy. It will allow them to vent, and perhaps even exhaust, their animal spirits. Various items and elements within each bill will get picked off by the public. Fine, that's to be expected. The bills may in fact yield a target-rich environment. Fine again. Maybe health care's foes will get lost in the din and run out of ammo. Maybe they'll exhaust their animal spirits, too.

Summer will pass, the fight confined to the public versus Congress. And at the end, in the fall, the beauty part: The president swoops in and saves the day, forcing together an ultimate and more moderate plan that doesn't contain the more controversial elements but does constitute a successful first step toward universal health care.

That's not what happened.

It all got hotter, quicker than the White House expected. The many plans of Congress congealed in the public mind into one plan, and the one plan became a poison pool. The president is now immersed in it.

Here's another thing that didn't work. (I write as if health-care reform or insurance reform or whatever it's called this week is already a loss, a historic botch, because it is. Even if the White House wins, they lose, because the cost in terms of public trust and faith was too high.)

Every big idea that works is marked by simplicity, by clarity. You can understand it when you hear it, and you can explain it to people. Social Security: Retired workers receive a public pension to help them through old age. Medicare: People over 65 can receive taxpayer-funded health care. Welfare: If you have no money and cannot support yourself, we will help as you get back on your feet.

These things are clear. I understand them. You understand them. The president's health-care plan is not clear, and I mean that not only in the sense of "he hasn't told us his plan." I mean it in terms of the voodoo phrases, this gobbledygook, this secret language of government that no one understands—"single payer," "public option," "insurance marketplace exchange." No one understands what this stuff means, nobody normal.

And when normal people don't know what the words mean, they don't say to themselves, "I may not understand, but my trusty government surely does, and will treat me and mine with respect." They think, "I can't get what these people are talking about. They must be trying to get one past me. So I'll vote no."

In a more beautiful world, the whole health-care chapter could become, for the president, that helpful thing, the teachable moment. The president the past month has been taught a lot by the American people. It's all there in the polls. He could still step back, rethink, say it didn't work, promise to return with something better.

When presidents make clear, with modesty and even some chagrin, that they have made a mistake but that they've learned a lesson and won't be making it again, the American people tend to respond with sympathy. It is our tradition and our impulse.

Such admissions are not a sign of weakness. John F. Kennedy knew this after the Bay of Pigs. He didn't blame his Republican predecessor, Dwight Eisenhower, or the agencies that had begun the invasion's tentative planning under Ike. JFK made it clear he'd learned a great deal, which increased confidence in his leadership. His personal popularity rose so high that he later wryly noted that the more mistakes he made, the more popular he became.

I suspect the American people would appreciate seeing Barack Obama learn from this, and keep going. He's their president. He will be for the next few difficult years, which will no doubt contain moments he will have to lead us through. They also probably wouldn't mind seeing a wry, modest, very human and self-critical stance from a new president who doesn't strut and doesn't swagger but does have a level of 1950s cool, Old Vegas cool, of supreme and confident smoothness that one wouldn't mind seeing ruffled a bit by that old ruffler, reality. Critics of George W. Bush will say here, "Did he ever show wry self-criticism?" No, he didn't. And that's why it ended so well for him.

Modern presidents are always afraid to show anything so human as modesty or doubt. They're afraid of the endless cable-news loop of "I think I was wrong, I think I misjudged, I didn't get it right." They're afraid of death by soundbite. Which is understandable. But they should get over it, especially when it comes to a bit of self-criticism, and even a bit of self-doubt. Modesty is one of the prevailing moods of the moment, it's part of where the American people are and have been since at least a year ago when the economy tanked. We all lived through the abundance, made investments, not only financial ones, that turned out good or bad, made mistakes of judgment, and are wondering about the past decade, and its mistakes, and our part in its mistakes.

It shouldn't become a wallow, but there's nothing wrong with self-reflection and trying to learn from everything we did that was wrong, and right. It wouldn't be so bad to see a president echo this.

A final factor contributed to the mess of the health-care debate, and that the White House might ponder it. Looking back, what a lucky man President Clinton was to have—to help bring about after his own health-care fiasco—a Congress controlled by the opposite party. What a great and historic team Mr. Clinton and Newt Gingrich were, a popular Democratic president and a determined GOP leader with a solid majority. Welfare reform, a balanced budget, and a sense the public could have that not much crazy would happen and some serious progress might be made. If Mr. Clinton pressed too hard, Mr. Gingrich would push back. If Mr. Gingrich pressed too hard Mr. Clinton pushed back. Two gifted, often perplexing and always controversial Boomers who didn't even like each other, and yet you look back now and realize: Good things happened there.

Right now Mr. Obama's gift is his curse, a Congress dominated by his party. While the country worries about the economy and two wars, the Democrats of Congress are preoccupied with the idea that this is their moment, now is their time, health care now, "Never let a good crisis go to waste," the only blazingly memorable phrase to be uttered in the new era.

It's not especially pleasurable to see history held hostage to ideological vanity, but it's not the first time. And if they keep it up, they'll help solve the president's problem. He'll have a Republican congress soon enough.

Milo Christensen
08-21-2009, 09:38 AM
You're quite correct that the demutualization process was very heavily skewed against the members. Such an interesting correlation between that process and the dramatic rise in health insurance premiums. The only thing that correlates better to the rise in health care costs is the dramatic increase in the number of doctors. But an excessive number of doctors practicing specialties has long been known to be counter productive to cost containment.

08-21-2009, 10:02 AM
Art, do you have anything by Dave Barry?

Art Read
08-21-2009, 10:09 AM
"The disagreements come from the 'benchmark' issues: subsidization of low income people, individual and corporate mandates for coverage, and lastly, the 'public' option."

__________________________________________________ ______

I tend to agree more with the first writer. The real "wedge issue" remains the public option. While there may be quite strong resistance to the mandated coverage, "all in" solution to pre-existing conditions, recision and "portability", I think with the public option off the table, this bill WOULD pass with at least some, "nervous" Republican support. And I think the "real" town hall protesters would applaud. (Well... a lot of them anyway...)

Art Read
08-21-2009, 10:16 AM
"Art, do you have anything by Dave Barry?"


Here you go, Lee:


August 05, 2009

My thoughts are, we put this guy in charge of it. http://gizmodo.com/5330885/seriously-incredible-water-slide-jump-please-be-real?autoplay=true

Posted by Dave on August 05, 2009 at 08:24 PM | Permalink


And this:

Sunday, March 29, 1987
The burgeoning Iran-contra scandal is truly an issue about which we, as a nation, need to concern ourselves, because
(Secret Note To Readers: Not really! The hell with the Iran-contra affair! Let it burgeon! I'm just trying to win a journalism prize, here. Don't tell anybody! I'll explain later. Shhhh.)

when we look at the Iran-contra scandal, and for that matter the mounting national health-care crisis, we can see that these are, in total, two issues, each requiring a number of paragraphs in which we will comment, in hopes that

( . . . we can win a journalism prize. Ideally a Pulitzer. That's the object, in journalism. At certain times each year, we journalists do almost nothing except apply for the Pulitzers and several dozen other major prizes. During these times you could walk right into most newsrooms and commit a multiple ax murder naked, and it wouldn't get reported in the paper, because the reporters and editors would all be too busy filling out prize applications. "Hey!" they'd yell at you. "Watch it! You're getting blood on my application!")

we can possibly, through carefully analyzing these important issues -- the Iran-contra scandal, the mounting national health-care crisis, and (while we are at it), the federal budget deficit -- through analyzing these issues and mulling them over and fretting about them and chewing on them until we have reduced them to soft, spit-covered gobs of information that you, the readers, can
( . . . pretty much ignore. It's OK! Don't be ashamed! We here in journalism are fully aware that most of you skip right over stories that look like they might involve major issues, which you can identify because they always have incomprehensible headlines like "House Parley Panel Links Nato Tax Hike To Hondurans In Syrian Arms Deal." Sometimes we'll do a whole series with more total words than the Brothers Karamazov and headlines like: "The World Mulch Crisis: A Time To Act." You readers don't bother to wade through these stories, and you feel vaguely guilty about this. Which is stupid. You're not supposed to read them. We journalists don't read them. We use modern computers to generate them solely for the purpose of entering them for journalism prizes. We're thinking about putting the following helpful advisory over them: "Caution! Journalism Prize Entry! Do Not Read!")
gain, through a better understanding of these very important issues -- the Iran-contra scandal; the health-care crisis (which as you may be aware is both national AND mounting); the federal budget deficit; and yes, let's come right out and say it, the Strategic Defense Initiative -- you readers can gain a better understanding of them, and thus we might come to an enhanced awareness of what they may or may not mean in terms of
( . . . whether or not I can win a Pulitzer Prize. That's the one I'm gunning for. You get $1,000 cash, plus all the job offers the mailperson can carry. Unfortunately, the only category I'd be eligible for is called "Distinguished Social Commentary," which is a real problem, because of the kinds of issues I generally write about. "This isn't Distinguished Social Commentary!" the Pulitzer judges would say. "This is about goat boogers!" So today I'm trying to class up my act a little by writing about prize-winning issues. OK? Sorry.)
how we, as a nation, can, through a deeper realization of the significance of these four vital issues -- health care in Iran, the strategic federal deficit, mounting the contras, and one other one which slips my mind at the moment, although I think it's the one that's burgeoning -- how we can, as a nation, through Distinguished Social Commentary such as this, gain the kind of perspective and foresight required to understand
( . . . a guy like noted conservative columnist George Will. You see him, on all those TV shows where he is always commenting on world events in that snotty smartass way of his, with his lips pursed together like he just accidentally licked the plumbing in a bus-station restroom, and you quite naturally say to yourself, as millions have before you: "Why doesn't somebody just take this little dweeb and stick his bow tie up his nose? Huh?" And the answer is: Because a long time ago, for reasons nobody remembers anymore, George Will won a Pulitzer Prize. And now he gets to be famous and rich and respected for ever and ever. That's all I want! Is that so much to ask?!)
what we, and I am talking about we as a nation, need to have in order to deeply understand all the issues listed somewhere earlier in this column. And although I am only one person, one lone Distinguished Social Commentator crying in the wilderness, without so much as a bow tie, I am nevertheless committed to doing whatever I can to deepen and widen and broaden and lengthen the national understanding of these issues in any way that I can, and that includes sharing the $1,000 with the judges.

Art Read
08-21-2009, 10:27 AM
I suspect the Republican "leaders" may have as hard a time keep all their ducks in a row as the Democrats are having. Especially if Obama goes and gets "all reasonable" on 'em! A lot of Republicans have "vulnerable" districts too.

As for the "public option", I, and apparently, MANY others have a hard time believing that such a beast, once created, could ever be controlled. And we are less than sanguine about a "benign" federal government ever keeping their sticky fingers off it!

Art Read
08-21-2009, 11:12 AM
One may be philosophically opposed to certain mandatory public policies/programs and still participate in, and benefit from them to serve their own, new and unsought for personal financial interests. That does NOT preclude them from arguing against FURTHER unsound policy.

Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid are fiscally unsustainable. One can reasonably suspect that "single payer" is, in reality, a deceptive attempt to prop up these ultimately doomed programs with the infusion of a huge, new pool of mandatory participants paying in to a broken system.

Cuyahoga Chuck
08-21-2009, 12:48 PM
One may be philosophically opposed to certain mandatory public policies/programs and still participate in, and benefit from them to serve their own, new and unsought for personal financial interests. That does NOT preclude them from arguing against FURTHER unsound policy.


One could do that but it would take one who is a gold-plated cynic.
Sentiments like that are common among right-wingers. They suck on every federal tit they can get hold of while lambasting the very agency that makes the goodies available.

John Smith
08-21-2009, 01:02 PM
Predictions from the right should be given great weight. They've got such a good track record.

There was all the nasty **** that would happen if Clinton's '93 budget passed. Remember all those miserable years?:rolleyes:

More recently, we knew where Saddam's weapons were, we'd be greeted with flowers (didn't tell us they'd be exploding flowers), "mission accomplished", we kept making "good progress", You're doing a heck of job, Brownie", the medal of freedom to "slam dunk" Tennant, we're in the "last throes", etc.....

One hell of a record.:rolleyes: