National Review's Rich Lowry writes of health care reform: "If the bill becomes law, it will suffer a legitimacy gap that will make it vulnerable to repeal." But Lowry's reasons why health care reform will lack "legitimacy" don't make much sense -- and at least one is clearly dishonest.
First, Lowry notes the bill "will have passed on strictly partisan votes. ...Support from the minority party would show that it has the kind of broad, sustainable base of support it now lacks as the spawn of a heedless ideological bender." Lowry overstates the extent to which a lack of bipartisan support in Congress makes legislation appear illegitimate, particularly after the fact. No Republicans voted for Bill Clinton's 1993 budget -- a fact that, in the following years, undermined Republicans more than the budget. And the Senate vote to authorize President Bush to use force in Iraq won the support of several Democrats -- but I don't see many people pointing to that vote as a great moment in Senate history.
Next, Lowry writes:
Two, its skids were greased with rotten deals. Democrats hope to eliminate the special provisions that have tarred the bill in a separate package of "fixes." Regardless, the bill wouldn't exist in its current form if key senators hadn't been bought off with hundreds of billions of dollars in legislative bribes. That taint can't be undone.
Those weren't "bribes." They were "negotiations." That's what happens in legislative bodies in order to secure sufficient votes for passage. I'm quite certain Rich Lowry is not prepared to argue against the legitimacy of any legislation that is passed after individual members hold out for the inclusion of provisions they favor. "Bribes" are different things entirely, and they are illegal.
Three, a parliamentary trick is necessary to its final passage. Because Democrats no longer have 60 votes for the bill in the Senate, they have to pass their fixes under "reconciliation," short-circuiting the normal amendment process.
First, "the bill" has already passed the Senate. The "normal amendment process" is what happens before a bill passes. Reconciliation is a means of tweaking legislation that has already passed. Nothing is being "short circuited" -- the bill already went through the "normal amendment process" before it passed the Senate, winning 60 votes to overcome a filibuster in the process. And reconciliation isn't a "parliamentary trick," it's a part of the rules. When Rich Lowry loses a hand of poker, does he complain that his adversary's full house defeated his pair of 4s only because of a "trick"? Does he think a batter who reaches base via a walk does so by illegitimate trickery?
Next, Lowry insists "the bill has been sold under deliberately false pretenses. ...Obama insists that it will cut the deficit, bend the cost curve down, and reduce premiums, when it's likely to do the opposite on all three counts."
Lowry must be using some definition of "deliberately false" that I'm unfamiliar with -- one that requires neither intent nor falsity. See, the Congressional Budget Office says health care reform will reduce deficits -- that's a big part of why Barack Obama says health care reform will reduce deficits. But in Rich Lowry's fantasy world, it's "deliberately false" to rely on the CBO's projections. You should, instead, accept Rich Lowry's completely unsubstantiated assertions.
Now, it's pretty much inconceivable that Rich Lowry is unaware of CBO's projections. So when Lowry writes that it is "deliberately false" to say something that is consistent with CBO's projections, one of two things must be true: Either Rich Lowry knows that Barack Obama knows that CBO is wrong, or Rich Lowry is being deliberately dishonest.
National Review's web site leads with a column by Heritage Foundation's Michael Franc opposing the use of reconciliation to pass changes to health care reform. Unfortunately, Franc's column is deeply disingenuous, from the one-word headline ("Unprecedented") that manages to be false despite its brevity to the closing sentence, in which Franc demonstrates that his objection to the use of the tactic is utterly unprincipled.
Franc begins by referring to reconciliation as "arcane," which is a spectacularly loaded term to describe a legislative tactic that has been used to pass some of the highest-profile legislation of the past quarter century, including welfare reform and George W. Bush's tax cuts. Franc goes on:
Senator Reid ... argues that the reconciliation process has been used many times over the last three decades - usually, he claims, at the instigation of Republicans.
"He claims"? Well, is it true? Yes! It is true: "16 of 21 reconciliation bills were Republican." But using the loaded word "claims," Franc falsely implies that Reid wasn't telling the truth. Franc later claims he cannot detect any "pattern" in the use of reconciliation. He should check in with Joshua Tucker.
The Congressional Research Service reports that 19 reconciliation measures have been enacted into law since the procedure's first use in the twilight of the Carter administration. It was attempted, but failed, a couple of times more. Reconciliation has been used for virtually all imaginable scenarios - save one: There is no precedent for using it to enact a once-in-a-generation rewrite of the relationship between Americans and their government that appeals exclusively to one side of the aisle.
Do I really need to point out that this is because "once-in-a-generation" legislation doesn't come along very often? How many times does Franc expect a legislative practice that has been around for little more than 30 years to have been used to enact "once-in-a-generation" legislation?
More broadly, Franc is setting conditions that just don't matter. Reconciliation has never* been used on the third Sunday of the fifth month of the year, either, but who cares? That isn't a legitimate reason not hold a reconciliation vote on May 16; it's just trivia. Likewise, Franc's complaint that the legislation "appeals exclusively to one side of the aisle" is meaningless. There is nothing in Senate rules or in logic that deems legislation that Senate Republicans don't support less legitimate than legislation Senate Republicans do support. Nothing.
Also worth noting: Republicans have used reconciliation to pass measures that lacked meaningful Democratic support.
Even the current Senate concurs that reconciliation ought not to be used for such mega-bills. Last April, 67 senators - including 26 Democrats and then-Republican Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania - supported a resolution to prohibit reconciliation from being used to advance that other mega-bill lurking out there, the cap-and-trade climate-control bill.
Our custom has always been to subject such bigger-than-life bills to a rigorous vetting process that allows affected parties to scrutinize the pros and cons and examine alternatives before ultimately arriving at a broad and bipartisan consensus.
That might be interesting, if anybody was talking about passing the entire health insurance reform package through reconciliation. But nobody is. The Senate has already passed reform, and done so without using reconciliation. Reconciliation is being contemplated as a means of passing a much smaller package of changes to that legislation. So invoking the specter of "bigger than life bills" is irrelevant and misleading. And there's basically no chance Franc doesn't realize as much.
Eventually, Franc acknowledges that Republicans passed a 2003 tax cut package that was "was too much for the Democrats" via reconciliation. But that, Franc writes, was OK, because Republicans did well in the next elections:
This time, the political fallout was quite different. President Bush and his fellow Republicans actually prospered at the polls in the 2004 presidential election.
Reconciliation can yield political dividends, it seems. But only when it's used to force through controversial and consequential tax cuts.
So it seems Franc's opposition to the use of reconciliation for health care isn't actually about any principle; he doesn't really think it matters if legislation passed through reconciliation "appeals exclusively to one side of the aisle."
* As far as I know.
Last Thursday, Reuters reported that January, like November and the last decade, was quite warm:
"January, according to satellite (data), was the hottest January we've ever seen," said Nicholls of Monash University's School of Geography and Environmental Science in Melbourne.
"Last November was the hottest November we've ever seen, November-January as a whole is the hottest November-January the world has seen," he said of the satellite data record since 1979.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in December that 2000-2009 was the hottest decade since records began in 1850, and that 2009 would likely be the fifth warmest year on record. WMO data show that eight out of the 10 hottest years on record have all been since 2000.
Strangely, though, this report cannot be found on National Review's "Planet Gore" blog, where they think that a snowy Moscow winter is evidence that global warming is a hoax. I'm sure National Review's obsessive global warming denialists just missed teh Reuters report.
It snowed in Moscow -- Moscow, mind you, not Havana -- and so National Review's Greg Pollowitz was compelled to make a crack about global warming:
I can only assume conservative journalists are compelled to take some sort of oath never to let facts or science get in the way of a bad joke.
UPDATE: A reminder:
National Review editor Rich Lowry claims it was liberals who said President Clinton's first-term approach to economic and budgetary woes wouldn't work:
Obama is not the first president to take office amid a deteriorating budgetary picture. So did Bill Clinton in 1992. He responded by jettisoning the $200 billion "investment" program he promised in the campaign and adopting a deficit-reduction program in its stead. He caterwauled privately about losing his political soul, and his left-wing supporters predicted economic gloom. A decade of rollicking good times ensued.
I can understand why Lowry wants to hug Bill Clinton's economic policies -- they helped slash the deficit and create an economic boom, while conservative presidents have run up massive deficits. But if Lowry wants us to believe that liberals were the ones who opposed Clinton's successful economic policies, maybe he can explain why Clinton's 1993 budget passed without a single Republican vote?
The reason, of course, is that conservatives (wrongly) predicted that Clinton's policies would result in "economic gloom."
Kasich didn't keep his word; he is currently running for governor of Ohio as a Republican.
Of course, Republican members of Congress weren't the only conservatives predicting "economic gloom" as a result of Clinton's stewardship of the economy. It was also conservative media like ... National Review.
On September 18, 1993, National Journal described two prominent conservative magazines' coverage of Clinton's economic policies:
The cover of a package of National Review articles sent free to new subscribers is headlined "Is America Heading for a Clinton Economic Apocalypse?" An illustration features a quartet of hooded horse riders: Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton in the middle, flanked by Vice President Albert Gore Jr. and budget director Leon E. Panetta. Both the Review and the Spectator preach a free-market gospel of the timeless virtues of low tax rates and minimal bureauracy. Contrary views aren't brooked; the Spectator's September issue set the tone with a "Dead Wrong" editorial by Tyrell that began and ended with the argument that "everything" Clinton believes about the economy "is wrong."
And in August of 1993, William F. Buckley wrote in a column in the Miami Herald:
Economist Stephen Moore brings a different perspective to the question. He writes (in National Review): "In voting on Bill Clinton's economic plan, Democrats must choose whether to torpedo the Clinton presidency or the U.S. economy. It is generally assumed that they will dutifully opt for the latter."
And now, National Review editor Rich Lowry writes -- under the headline "The Budget Poseur" -- that it was the liberals who predicted that Clinton's economic policies wouldn't work.
In comments before and during President Obama's first State of the Union address, several media conservatives have accused him of being arrogant. Fox Business Networks' John Stossel said that he wanted Obama to apologize for being arrogant during his speech and John Hood stated on National Review's The Corner blog that Obama's "cadence and rhythm" "come across as flippant and arrogant."
National Review's John Hood thinks Barack Obama is arrogant:
Da-da-da-da, Da-da-da-dum [John Hood]
Ugh. We're only a couple of minutes into the president's address, and the cadence and rhythm of his speaking voice is already grating. They come across as flippant and arrogant. Hasn't anyone ever told him that?
After Anti-Defamation League (ADL) national director Abraham Foxman criticized Rush Limbaugh for his January 20 statement that "a lot of those people on Wall Street are Jewish. So I wonder if there's starting to be some buyer's remorse there" -- remarks Limbaugh later lied to defend -- the right-wing media has rushed to defend Limbaugh and to attack Foxman. Foxman has been smeared as a "terrible Jew" and a "plague on his people," and described as a "disgusting, craven little twerp."
National Review's Kathryn Jean Lopez unleashes a vicious smear of Massachusetts Senate Candidate Martha Coakley, suggesting under the header "It's a Good Thing for Martha Coakley That There Are No Catholics in Massachusetts" that Coakley said Catholics shouldn't work in emergency rooms:
The radio host, Ken Pittman, pointed out that complex legal principle that "In the emergency room you still have your religious freedom."
Coakley agrees that "The law says that people are allowed to have that." But, making clear her view - the attorney general who wants to be the next senator from Massachusetts - she declared that "You can have religious freedom, but you probably shouldn't work in an emergency room." (Listen here.)
In fact, Coakley said that if you refuse to provide legal medical services to rape victims, you probably shouldn't work in an emergency room. Lopez cut off the quote before that was clear, suggesting instead that Coakley's position is simply that Catholics shouldn't work in emergency rooms.
There is a massive difference between what Coakley said and what Kathryn Jean Lopez claims Coakley said. Just enormous. Lopez suggests Coakley's position is "Catholics need not apply"; in fact, Coakley's position is more like "people who don't want to do the job shouldn't take it." It says something about Lopez' confidence in the merits of her own position that she feels the need to dishonestly portray Coakley's.
This isn't Lopez's first fast-and-loose description of the issue this week. Here's something she wrote on Wednesday:
What Coakley and her campaign are referencing is a 2005 bill that mandated that hospitals provide emergency contraception to victims of rape. At the time, Scott Brown sponsored an amendment that sought to protect the consciences of hospitals and hospital personnel with religious objections to the medication, which sometimes works as an abortifacient.
As the Boston Globe explained last week, the amendment would have referred rape victims at a hospital that would not dispense emergency contraception to another hospital that would, at no additional cost. In an urban center like Boston, this is not akin to making emergency contraception unavailable to these women.
Set aside the callousness of Lopez' suggestion (reminiscent of Sen. Joe Lieberman's famous "short ride" comment) that it's ok to turn a rape victim away from an emergency room because there's another nearby. What's really striking about Lopez' description is what she leaves out: Not all of Massachusetts is "an urban center like Boston." For many people, there isn't another emergency room nearby. Again: it says something about Lopez' confidence in the merits of her position that she feels the need to mislead readers about its consequences.
For some reason, National Review seems to be taken seriously by the media elite, as though they were thoughtful, intellectually honest conservatives. And yet they've been peddling the conspiracy theory that Bill Ayers actually wrote Barack Obama's Dreams From My Father for more than a year.
This latest round of wishful thinking was set off by Ayers' alleged "admission" that he wrote the book -- an admission that came out of the blue while talking to a conservative blogger in line at Starbucks. If it sounds far-fetched to you that Ayers would, after all this time, blurt out a confession while standing in line for an iced latte, that's probably because you're smarter than Jonah Goldberg.
As Dave Weigel notes, there's a perfectly obvious explanation for Ayers' comment (if you assume he actually said what this blogger claims he said):
A reasonable explanation for this, if we take the heretofore-obscure blogger at her word for what Ayers said: Ayers was messing around with a conservative movement that's been after him for a decade, putting them back on the trail of a fruitless conspiracy theory.
Even AllahPundit of the right-wing web site Hot Air sees this for the nonsense that it is:
What's more amusing? The fact that he'd tease a conservative by baiting her about the right's Cashill/Andersen-fueled authorship suspicions, or the fact that the Examiner seems to think he was making an earnest, honest-to-goodness confession?
Note that this wasn't even in response to a question. He simply blurted it out as soon as the interviewer identified herself as conservative.
Still: I bet this latest, lamest conspiracy theory ends up on FOX News. The only question is whether Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity gets to it first. My money's on Hannity; he's feeling the pressure.
Over at NRO's Bench Memos, Ed Whelan speculates that there may be "Political Corruption" at the Congressional Research Service because it recently issued a report on selected opinions by Judge Sotomayor. Concluding his post, Whelan asks:
Just wondering: Has CRS ever before prepared an assessment of the record of a Supreme Court nominee?
It took me some time, but I think I figured out the answer for him. Yes.
UPDATE: Whelan has now acknowledged the existence of CRS reports on Judge Alito's opinions:
I've learned from Tony Mauro that CRS did some reports on then-Judge Alito's cases in connection with his Supreme Court nomination. A quick Google search discloses at least three such reports-one on Alito's abortion opinions, one on his "freedom of speech" opinions, and one on his environmental opinions.
But does the CRS have a "long history" of issuing these reports, as they claim? "[U]nclear," says Whelan:
According to Mauro, a CRS spokeswoman says that "CRS 'has a long history of supporting the Senate's advice and consent role' in judicial nominations with such research." Whether that means that reports like those done on Sotomayor and Alito were done previously is unclear.
From Mark Krikorian's May 27 post on the National Review Online's The Corner:
It Sticks in My Craw [Mark Krikorian]
Most e-mailers were with me on the post on the pronunciation of Judge Sotomayor's name (and a couple griped about the whole Latina/Latino thing - English dropped gender in nouns, what, 1,000 years ago?). But a couple said we should just pronounce it the way the bearer of the name prefers, including one who pronounces her name "freed" even though it's spelled "fried," like fried rice. (I think Cathy Seipp of blessed memory did the reverse - "sipe" instead of "seep.") Deferring to people's own pronunciation of their names should obviously be our first inclination, but there ought to be limits. Putting the emphasis on the final syllable of Sotomayor is unnatural in English (which is why the president stopped doing it after the first time at his press conference), unlike my correspondent's simple preference for a monophthong over a diphthong, and insisting on an unnatural pronunciation is something we shouldn't be giving in to.
For instance, in Armenian, the emphasis is on the second syllable in my surname, just as in English, but it has three syllables, not four (the "ian" is one syllable) - but that's not how you'd say it in English (the "ian" means the same thing as in English - think Washingtonian or Jeffersonian). Likewise in Russian, you put the emphasis in my name on the final syllable and turn the "o" into a schwa, and they're free to do so because that's the way it works in their language. And should we put Asian surnames first in English just because that's the way they do it in Asia? When speaking of people in Asia, okay, but not people of Asian origin here, where Mao Tse-tung would properly have been changed to Tse-tung Mao. Likewise with the Mexican practice of including your mother's maiden name as your last name, after your father's surname.
This may seem like carping, but it's not. Part of our success in assimilation has been to leave whole areas of culture up to the individual, so that newcomers have whatever cuisine or religion or so on they want, limiting the demand for conformity to a smaller field than most other places would. But one of the areas where conformity is appropriate is how your new countrymen say your name, since that's not something the rest of us can just ignore, unlike what church you go to or what you eat for lunch. And there are basically two options -- the newcomer adapts to us, or we adapt to him. And multiculturalism means there's a lot more of the latter going on than there should be.
Numerous media figures have compared President Obama and his administration to the mafia, frequently referencing films and television shows such as The Godfather, Goodfellas, and The Sopranos.