Saturday, February 15, 2014

Cruising the Web

Kimberley Strassel describes how my senator, Kay Hagan, has been changing her profile every month as she tries to wring a few political benefits from all the bad news about Obamacare. And when all that has failed, she is now trying to change the subject and return to standard war on women blathering.
Kay Hagan is hardly the only vulnerable Senate Democrat engaged in reinvention. Democrats have been cycling through damage-control approaches at the speed of light. Whether or not they can hit on one that sticks may decide not just control of the Senate, but potentially the fate of ObamaCare. The problem for North Carolina voters, however, is they've got to be wondering just which Kay Hagan they'd be electing.
So Kathleen Sebelius met with President Obama 18 times in the months leading up to the roll-out of Obamacare and talked even more times with his aides and they never got around to discussing any problems with the website? Sure. They're either lying or all so incompetent that there should have been mass resignations.

The supposedly evil Koch brothers are 58th in political donations. Of the top ten donors six are unions. But, somehow, giving to Republicans makes the Koch brothers, 58th in the nation, the most evil political force anyone can imagine.

The National Journal ponders how Hillary Clinton's political presence is both blocking and masking how weak the Democratic Party's farm team is.

Charles C. W. Cooke writes a very thoughtful column praising John Boehner and Mitch McConnell from their conservative critics who would rather they tilt at windmills instead of operate in the realm of reality.
Still, all of that notwithstanding, many conservatives have of late demonstrated a worrying tendency to believe that the virtue of their grievances and the legitimacy of their pursuits must automatically translate into political victory — and that if these do not, that this is the fault of the leadership of the Republican party. I appreciate that this is difficult for some to hear, but I would venture that the opposite is the case. In my estimation, the only thing of which Mitch McConnell and John Boehner have been guilty in the past few years is to have worked tirelessly within political reality and to have reacted sensitively to the hands that they were dealt. The hysterical epithets and acronyms, the witless talk of the amorphous “Establishment,” and the lucrative fundraising e-mails all to one side, there is little that either man could have done differently while their party controlled just one half of one branch of government.

Insofar as last year’s shutdown served a purpose at all, it was to reveal how fragile is the GOP’s hand, how extraordinarily determined to stand firm was Harry Reid, and how tricky it is to play offense from a position of weakness. Budgets and continuing resolutions, remember, still need the agreement of the Senate and of the president — both of which are staunchly opposed to the Republicans’ agenda — and they rise or fall by the say-so of the public. In October 2013 at least, it was the Democratic party that enjoyed popular support, not Republicans. This is to the discredit of the American electorate, certainly, but that being the case does not render it untrue. Scream all you like about veterans’ memorials being closed and children’s cancer treatment being canceled and the executive branch being capricious and petty; these things did little to change the dynamic. Instead, the Republican party’s popularity dropped to record lows, its members started to fracture into inchoate subgroups, and the media’s attention was taken away from the most profitable story Republicans have enjoyed in a decade: Obamacare. One can regret that President Obama and Harry Reid behaved as they did, as I do. One can regret that the American people were not more upset with the White House’s peevish and indulgent behavior, as I do. One can regret that the present economic malaise has not caused more of a backlash, as I do. But one cannot deny reality.

As during last October’s shutdown, much of the current griping from the right is predicated upon a false dichotomy of precisely the sort that those of a Burkean disposition are supposed to abhor. When a progressive stands up and compares the status quo to his best intentions — or suggests that anybody who disagrees with his preferred tactics must be against his aims, too — conservatives rightly roll their eyes and sigh knowingly. Alas, of late a number of us have fallen into precisely the same trap as tends to ensnare our friends on the Left — comparing difficult reality to promised (often wholly imagined) future victories, and celebrating how brave we are for opposing the way things currently are without outlining a workable means of changing it.
Now that so many people who had bought their insurance on the individual market have lost that insurance because their policies didn't meet HHS's specifications, some Democrats want to add in an additional policy that would be more like a catastrophic policy. And the White House is reportedly interested in the idea.
Now, some insurers and a pair of Senate Democrats are trying to change the law permanently so that individuals and small businesses can buy so-called copper plans. The plans likely would have lower premiums, but purchasers would pay more of their ordinary health costs upfront. Greater coverage would kick in for serious, unforeseen health episodes that would require, for example, a hospital stay.

Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Warner of Virginia, both Democrats facing close re-election races this year, are sponsoring legislation that would allow people to buy copper plans on the exchanges. Moreover, insurance-industry officials have been talking up the idea with federal officials, though it is unclear whether the administration could make the change through regulations.
Once again, these are decisions that might have been handy to have made before people got kicked off their policies. I guess that Begich and Warner must really be blanching at their internal polls and want to claim that they've offered something to ameliorate the situation.

James Taranto has a lot of fun ridiculing Ron Fournier's fatigue with defending Obamacare.
Fournier adopts a tone of naiveté that is implausible for a nearly 30-year veteran of political reporting. Politicians politicizing policy? Say it ain't so! But it seems to us that this is a case in which naiveté is a mask for cynicism....

Fournier wants to assure his readers that his intentions in defending ObamaCare have been good. We have no reason to think they haven't been. But Fournier never acknowledges having made an error of judgment. If he's ended up looking foolish, he seems to think it's President Obama's fault for making a botch of the whole enterprise by being political and overreaching and incompetent. Those are fair criticisms of the president, but some of us have been making them for a long time. And can anyone seriously claim that ObamaCare would have been a smashing success if only it had been competently managed?
Hawaii reports that it has cost $56,819 to sign up each individual Obamacare enrollee on their exchange. And the bad news continues from there.

Jonah Goldberg contemplates the banality of NBC's excuses for communism and Soviet history.
In America, we constantly, almost obsessively, wrestle with the “legacy of slavery.” That speaks well of us. But what does it say that so few care that the Soviet Union was built — literally — on the legacy of slavery? The founding fathers of the Russian Revolution — Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky — started “small,” merely throwing hundreds of thousands of people into kontslagerya (concentration camps).

By the time Western intellectuals and youthful folksingers like Pete Seeger were lavishing praise on the Soviet Union as the greatest experiment in the world, Joseph Stalin was corralling millions of his own people into slavery. Not metaphorical slavery, but real slavery complete with systematized torture, rape, and starvation. Watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, you’d have no idea that from the Moscow metro system to, literally, the roads to Sochi, the Soviet Union — the supposed epitome of modernity and “scientific socialism” — was built on a mountain of broken lives and unremembered corpses.

“To eat your own children is a barbarian act.” So read posters distributed by Soviet authorities in the Ukraine, where 6 to 8 million people were forcibly starved to death so that the socialist Stalin could sell every speck of grain to the West, including seed stock for the next year’s harvest and food for the farmers themselves. The posters were the Soviet response to the cannibalism they orchestrated.

If it is conventional wisdom that the Nazi Holocaust was worse than the Soviet Terror, you would at least think earning the silver in the Devil’s Olympics would earn something more than feckless wordsmithery and smug eye-rolling from journalists and intellectuals. Imagine if instead of Sochi these games were in Germany, and suppose the organizers floated out the swastika while NBC talked of the “pivotal experiment” of Nazism. Imagine the controversy.

But when the hammer and sickle float by, there’s no outrage. There is only the evil of banality.

Doug Ross illustrates "Stuff Bush Didn't Do."