Patterico's Pontifications

2/24/2010

ObamaCare: Plan B — for backbiting

Filed under: General — Karl @ 11:48 pm

[Posted by Karl]

The night before the Potemkin summit on ObamaCare, a story appears in the Wall Street Journal:

President Barack Obama will use a bipartisan summit Thursday to push for sweeping health-care legislation, but if that fails to generate enough support the White House has prepared the outlines of a more modest plan.

His leading alternate approach would provide health insurance to perhaps 15 million Americans, about half what the comprehensive bill would cover, according to two people familiar with the planning.

Reporters like Jake Tapper have mentioned a fallback position, but have not made it a story of its own. It apparently bothered the Obama adminsitration enough to launch some damage control through Ezra Klein:

Plan B has been around for awhile. In August, discussions raged in the White House over whether to pare back the bill. The comprehensive folks won the argument, but people also drew up plans for how you could pare back the bill, if it came to that. More thinking was done on this in the aftermath of the Massachusetts election, when Rahm Emanuel and some of the political folks again argued for retreating to a more modest bill. As you’d expect, these conversations included proposals for how that smaller bill would look.

At this point, I could quote some White House sources swearing up and down that that’s all this is. A vestigial document that’s being blown out of proportion by a conservative paper interested in an agenda-setting story. They’re furious over this story. None of the quotes are sourced to the White House — not even anonymously — raising questions that the whole thing is sabotage. But it hardly matters. There’s no Plan B at this point in the game, and most everyone knows it.

Klein does raise an interesting point about the sourcing to anonymous “officials.” So maybe the paragraph that should leap out in the WSJ story is this one:

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel didn’t devise the smaller policy, the official said. But Mr. Emanuel argued that it wasn’t feasible to pass a comprehensive bill and counseled a lesser version, according to several people familiar with the conversations. Others argued that Democrats were going to take a political hit by voting for a health-care bill no matter what, and they should opt for a sweeping measure whose benefits would be easier to highlight.

Why did a source feel compelled to tell the WSJ’s Laura Meckler that Rahm did not “devise” the smaller policy? Maybe because Rahm is under siege:

[T]the White House chief of staff and his allies have sought to defend Emanuel against a growing chorus of critics who blame him for nearly everything that has gone wrong in Obama’s first year.

One of the more surprising details to emerge from this back and forth is that Emanuel’s allies are letting it be known around town that he never wanted to make it the administration’s top priority for Year One. That may come as a surprise to Democrats on the Hill who’ve been lobbied relentlessly by Emanuel to get a bill done — and fast.

“There are some at the White House and elsewhere who clearly want Rahm’s head, and he needs to defend himself,” said an Emanuel friend, speaking on condition of anonymity. “That’s why there’s a CYA operation going on.”

Emanuel’s aides say that he’s focused on passing health care reform and maintain that he’s not spending any more time than usual spinning or working the press. But since the shocking victory of Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts last month, which some Democrats blamed on Emanuel, they have been swamped with press interest, with at least four major profiles of the colorful former Illinois congressman in the works.

That’s four in addition to the recent Dana Milbank piece in the WaPo that gushed over Rahm, while slamming a number of his colleagues:

Obama’s problem is that his other confidants — particularly Valerie Jarrett and Robert Gibbs, and, to a lesser extent, David Axelrod — are part of the Cult of Obama. In love with the president, they believe he is a transformational figure who needn’t dirty his hands in politics.

***

Obama’s greatest mistake was failing to listen to Emanuel on health care. Early on, Emanuel argued for a smaller bill with popular items, such as expanding health coverage for children and young adults, that could win some Republican support. He opposed the public option as a needless distraction.

The president disregarded that strategy and sided with Capitol Hill liberals who hoped to ram a larger, less popular bill through Congress with Democratic votes only. The result was, as the world now knows, disastrous.

But “Capitol Hill liberals” does not fully cover it. We know (again courtesy of the WSJ’s Laura Meckler, by wild coincidence) that this was an Emanuel-Axelrod dispute. Given this backdrop, the story may be “sabotage” — but it could still be an inside job.

–Karl

Max Blumenthal Has a Nasty Little Booger

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:07 pm

A follow-up to last night’s post, which was titled Max Blumenthal Is a Nasty Little Booger:

Oh, but there’s no serious point being made here, is there? This is just pointless mockery of someone on the other side of the political spectrum. Right?

Indeed. And that is the serious point.

The video comes via Andrew Breitbart, who says: “Max Blumenthal, this is what you do for a living. I can do it too.”

See, when Blumenthal is not writing screeds accusing people of racism that later have to be corrected, his main purpose in life seems to be filming conservatives and cutting the footage to suit his narrative. That’s why he filmed himself being confronting by Breitbart (which we liked but which Blumenthal painted as Breitbart being overly aggressive) . . . but omitted the part where he got owned by Larry O’Connor (who used nothing but facts that Blumenthal couldn’t spin away).

Breitbart is saying: you want to embarrass us? Fine. Two can play that game.

But there is a difference, Andrew. You’re not being dishonest.

Blumenthal did pick his nose like a cretin.

P.S. The second hour of Larry O’Connor’s “Stage Right” radio show last night was delightful. In it, Larry recounted the backstory to that encounter that he and Breitbart had with Max Blumenthal. Click here and (if you’re short on time) forward to the second hour. Start at about 66:00. Trust me. I was smiling and laughing for a good 15 minutes or more.

Thompson and Reid Talk About Abuse

Filed under: Politics — DRJ @ 7:45 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Fred Thompson tweeted this response to Majority Leader Harry Reid’s recent claim on the Senate floor that “men, when they’re out of work, tend to become abusive:”

“Reid: Jobless men = domestic abuse. Is he saying we should be worried about Mrs. Reid after the November elections?”

Reid’s spokesman labeled Thompson’s tweet “despicable,” adding:

“While Fred Thompson may think he was being funny, it is unfortunate and disappointing that so many on the right would make light of domestic abuse,” Manley said, according to Politico. “As someone who witnessed it firsthand as a child, Sen. Reid does not find the issue funny.”

Reid has spoken many times about his parents, Harry and Inez Reid, and the hardship of their lives in Searchlight, Nevada. This New York Times’ article dated 5/28/2001 is an example:

“Little in Mr. Reid’s early years prepared him for his current job, except his ambition to succeed. He was born in 1939 in a wood shack with a tin roof in Searchlight, Nev., a desert mining camp with 200 residents. He was the third of four boys born to Harry Reid, a hard-drinking gold miner, and Inez Reid, who took in wash, most of it from the town’s 13 brothels.

He spent his days sitting in the dark with his father, and to this day keeps a miner’s lamp in his office. ”I went down in the mines with my dad to keep him company,” he said. ”He worked alone.” From smoking, drinking and mining, his father developed silicosis. ”He coughed at night,” Mr. Reid said. ”I thought everybody coughed at night.”

Conversation was not easy. ”I was trying to get a conversation going with my dad about smoking,” Mr. Reid said. ”And I said, ‘Hey, Pop, how many cigarettes do you smoke a day?’ And he said, ‘As many as I can get.’ So that was the end of our conversation.”

His father was also depressed, and one day in 1972, he killed himself in bed with a shotgun.”

I’ve never heard Reid say there was abuse in his family or elsewhere in his childhood, but I’m not a Nevadan so perhaps he has spoken of it before. However, if this is something new, it’s a shame he decided to air it at this late date and for such minor personal gain.

— DRJ

ObamaCare: Pre-”summit” update

Filed under: General — Karl @ 5:31 pm

[Posted by Karl]

The pre-game coverage of tomorrow’s staged “summit” on ObamaCare starts with edgy comments from Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad:

Conrad, who has been open to reconciliation as long as the fixes are limited, said the order must be reversed. The House must pass the Senate bill first — before either chamber considers the reconciliation package, he said.

“I don’t know of any way, I don’t know of any way where you can have a reconciliation bill pass before the bill that it is meant to reconcile passes,” said Conrad, who would be a central figure on the Senate floor if Democrats embark on the complicated process. “I don’t know how you would deal with the scoring. I don’t know how I could look you in the eye and say this package reduces the deficit. It’s kind of got the cart before the horse.”

When reminded that House Democrats don’t want to do health care in that order, Conrad said bluntly: “Fine, then it’s dead.”

Conrad went on to say that he refused make any promises or symbolic gestures to House members to assure them that the Senate would address their concerns in a reconciliation bill.

FDL’s Jon Walker suggests this is a death sentence for the effort:

I simply do not believe Nancy Pelosi can ever whip the votes to pass the current Senate bill unchanged. Even with a solemn promise from Democratic senators that they would support reconciliation, I don’t believe it is possible.

Voting on the Senate bill first would require House Democrats to vote for the Cornhusker kickback, the extremely toxic excise tax, and the Nelson abortion language that Bart Stupak has called unacceptable. That vote would be bad politics even if the reconciliation fix did happen later–and there is no reason to trust that it would. The House Democrats simply don’t–and shouldn’t–trust the Senate Democrats. Also, the reconciliation fixes Obama outlined are small, and unlikely to make the unpopular Senate bill any more popular.

If (and that is a big “if”) Conrad is correct and Pelosi is wrong, the Senate bill and reconciliation sidecar strategy are really dead. I can’t see them passing the House and Democrats need to switch to a plan B.

The general expectation is that the lefties in the House Democratic caucus would cave when push comes to shove, and that the focus is really on about 15-20 votes in the middle. But if the lefties were going to cave easily, they could have done so and moved to final passage before Scott Brown got elected.

How does this basic dispute between Democrats get solved by a bit of televised political theater aimed primarily at trying to make the GOP look like the villains of the drama? The only possible way it does is if Pres. Obama somehow makes the GOP look so bad as to erase all of the distrust among Democrats (a distrust that extends far beyond ObamaCare to the 289 other unpassed House bills this session). But 77% of adults already think there won’t be a deal. Moreover, a majority opposes reconciliation and the vast majority — including nearly half of all Democrats — want Congress to start over or stop working on the issue. Obama can try to make himself look bipartisan, but most people think the Democrats should give up more ground to achieve bipartisanship. It seems unlikely that tomorrow’s dog-and-pony show will produce a seismic shift among the public or Democrats.

None of which will stop the Democrats from trying to push on, of course. But it may be that a “blame the GOP summit” will end up being used by Democrats looking to defend themselves against their base if it turns out that their Holy Grail has again slipped through their fingers.

–Karl

A Sea Change for America

Filed under: Obama,Politics — DRJ @ 1:32 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Yesterday, Hot Air featured a Dartmouth student’s blog post that explains why there could be a 60 seat swing in the House of Representatives this November. Both the Hot Air post and the student’s blog post are worth reading — proving once again that it’s not who you are but the merit of your arguments that matter on the internet.

Anecdotal evidence of this transformation also appears in today’s New York Times The Caucus blog:

“For the first time since 1984, Representative Rick Boucher of Virginia will face a serious Republican challenge, possibly jeopardizing his 28-year Democratic stronghold on the Appalachian district and sending his office into campaign mode earlier than ever before.

Republican Morgan Griffith, the majority leader of the state House of Delegates, made his campaign official Tuesday as state Republicans went live with RetireRick.com, a Web site highlighting Mr. Boucher’s early support for President Obama and the administration’s policies. Already, two Web advertisements slam Mr. Boucher for his support of the auto bailouts and the House cap-and trade-bill.

“Rick Boucher went to Washington 27 years ago to fight for us,” one post reads. “How’s he doing lately? Is he fighting for southwest Virginia, or for the agenda of President Obama?”

Barack Obama said change was coming and if these early indications are correct, he was right. Americans are united once again … united against his policies.

— DRJ

New home sales hit record low… unexpectedly!

Filed under: General — Karl @ 10:38 am

[Posted by Karl]

Yes, Reuters says the magic word:

Sales of newly built single-family homes unexpectedly fell to a record low in January, according to government data on Wednesday that hinted at potential trouble for the fragile housing market recovery.

Potential trouble? Really? Today’s figure is the worst since they started keeping records in 1963. As Daily Finance’s Joseph Lazarro notes:

[H]istorically, increases in home sales are strongly correlated with greater demand and an economic expansion — and decreases are linked to the opposite. However, government statisticians also caution that the new home sales figures contain a margin of error and are subject to revisions. Further, economists note that it typically takes three to five months to detect a trend, so investors should not read too much into data from one month.

Unfortunately, new home sales also dropped “unexpectedly” in December. That followed November, when new homes plunged “unexpectedly” to the lowest level since April. Indeed, new home sales have been trending downward steadily since August.

In related news, the Mortgage Bankers Association says that mortgage applications declined by a seasonally-adjusted rate of 8.5% last week. Michael Fratantoni, MBA’s Vice President of Research and Economics, attempts to place the blame on the snowpocalypse that gripped the East Coast. Similarly, the Associated Press pre-emptively blamed the weather for the latest drop in consumer confidence, which also turned out to be “unexpectedly” bad. But there were no blizzards in August, when the housing market started falling. Unemployment increased and remains persistently high. Very little of that has to do with the weather. As John Carney notes:

The story-book recovery was dependent on a recovery of the consumer and a decline in the saving rate. If consumers lost some of their apprehension about future income prospects and future employment, they might begin to spend more on both retail goods and to purchase homes again. Anticipating this return of the consumer, businesses would increase capital spending and inventory.

We got the last part, but not the first part, raising the possibility that the recovery on the business side will falter, sending the country into a double-dip recesssion. That this malaise is occurring despite the extension and expansion of the homebuyers’ tax credit suggests that Americans are casting a vote of no confidence in Obamanomics.

–Karl

Robert Gibbs: I Am Afraid Stephen Colbert Might Show Up Obama

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:41 am

Extraordinary.

At TIME’s Swampland blog, Michael Scherer relates a conversation he had with White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs about Obama’s appearances on Leno and Letterman. Gibbs said: “It was two of the easiest decisions that we had to make. Tons of people are watching it, and different types of people.” This exchange followed:

So I asked the natural follow up, “Do you want to do the Daily Show?” Gibbs did not hesitate.

“I think the President would love to, just maybe not Colbert.” He went on to explain: “I have yet to see a politician best Stephen Colbert in an interview on his show,” Gibbs said, laughing. “I mean, he’s really, really good.”

Eric Boehlert: Lying Scum

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:41 am

Eric Boehlert, the World’s Most Dishonest Person™, has a post called Will Breitbart, O’Keefe, and Giles Come Clean About the ACORN Pimp Hoax?

In it, Boehlert implies through slippery phrasing that James O’Keefe never pretended to be a pimp. And he accuses Hannah Giles of lying, while providing zero evidence.

Eric Boehlert is lying scum.

The post opens:

Just so everybody’s clear, the pimp story has been debunked. James O’Keefe never wore his pimp costume into ACORN offices last summer as part of the right-wing sting. The outfit was used as a prop to attack the community organizing group.

Boehlert continues throughout to refer to “the pimp story” as having been debunked, saying things like: “the pimp story was bogus.” As Boehlert well knows, many readers will interpret this as a claim that O’Keefe never even posed as a pimp, much less dressed as one. By explicitly referring to the clothing, but then repeatedly asserting the unraveling of “the phony pimp story” or “the pimp spoof,” Boehlert hopes to advance the false impression (which has been explicitly asserted by Brad Friedman) that O’Keefe never even claimed to be a pimp inside the ACORN offices, but instead merely claimed to be Giles’s boyfriend rescuing her from the pimp.

Any sentient being who has examined the evidence understands that there are two pimps in play in the tapes: the abusive one Hannah is escaping, and O’Keefe, who is setting up a house where Giles and several underage girls will turn tricks and give the money to O’Keefe for a future Congressional campaign.

That’s posing as a pimp. But Friedman has claimed O’Keefe never did, and Boehlert (smarter and slipperier) is suggesting the same to his gullible HuffPo readers.

Boehlert even complains, with zero evidence, that Hannah Giles lied:

[T]he pimp revelation does raise all sorts of questions about the ethics and accuracy of Breitbart, O’Keefe, and Giles and indicate that the hoax should send up a red flag among journalists. . . .

If the trio’s willing to obfuscate about clothing, then reporters and pundits need to use extreme caution when dealing with any claim they make in the future.

. . . it’s time for Breitbart, O’Keefe, and Giles to come clean about the ACORN pimp hoax and their role in spreading it.

On a separate page, I examine Boehlert’s evidence for claiming that Breitbart and O’Keefe engaged in a “pimp hoax.” For here, suffice it to say that calling the evidence “thin” would be kind.

But Boehlert offers absolutely no evidence that Giles ever claimed, suggested, or even hinted that O’Keefe dressed as a pimp in the ACORN offices (which is a huge red herring of a non-issue anyway).

That’s OK. When you’re a lefty hack doing the bidding of George Soros, you don’t need evidence to try to destroy the reputation of a young woman.


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