Can Obama Win Back Independents Without Further Alienating the Left?

One should always be wary of highly partisan people who make sweeping post-election predictions about future elections (cf. Carville, James, 40 More Years: How the Democrats Will Rule the Next Generation, copyright 2009.) But while John Podhoretz’s essay “The Liberal Crisis” has a whiff of wishful thinking to it, his predictions are far more limited, and grounded in analysis of election results in the past half century.

Does Barack Obama now look like a loser? It would be foolish to write Obama’s political epitaph, though it would be even more foolish to assume that his 2008 performance before the national electorate offers much in the way of guidance about how he will fare a second time. A recent president whose election results most closely compare with his is George H. W. Bush, who won 53.4 percent in 1988 (slightly better, in fact, than Obama’s 2008 tally) and had, moreover, a 91 percent approval rating in March 1991. Twenty months later, in November 1992, Bush went on to secure a shockingly low 38 percent of the vote.

Obama is certainly in political peril. In 2008 he won independent voters by 17 points in 2008; on November 2, independents preferred Republicans by eight points, an unprecedented 25-point shift. The percentage of the electorate that called itself Democratic shrank by 9 percent (from 39 percent in 2008 to 36 percent this year). Republicans’ participation grew from 32 percent to 36 percent—proportionately, a 12 percent gain. Let us assume that Obama succeeds in changing the trend line in 2012 by bringing back half the independents his party lost in 2010 and increasing Democratic participation by a percentage point or two over Republicans. If he does so, he will not suffer the kind of defeat his party did in November. But he will still lose.

My “wishful thinking” reference above is based on the fact that much of Podhoretz’s essay focuses on the possibility that Obama will face a significant challenger from his left in 2012.  (Russ Feingold? C’mon…) But I think Podhoretz is correct in arguing that Obama’s need to protect his left flank may keep from tacking toward the center as deftly as Clinton did after the Republican midterm tsunami during Clinton’s first term.

Ever since Obama took office, leftists have issued complaints against him that, to the non-leftist ear, sound insane.They claim he has been too moderate, too compromising, too much of a technocrat. They say the $863 billion stimulus was too small by half—an assertion impossible to prove, and pointless in any case, since the stimulus that did become law was as large as the political system in Washington controlled entirely by Democrats could stomach. Liberals were and are angry that Obama gave up the so-called public option on health care, when he had no choice but to do so to win Democratic support to get the bill through the Senate.

In point of fact, Obama has done everything in his power to advance the most unshakably leftist agenda since Johnson’s time, and possibly since the days of Franklin Roosevelt—with remarkable results. He should be celebrated by liberals and the left, not criticized by them, and certainly not abandoned by them.


Jennifer Rubin Decamps from De Contentions

Jennifer Rubin

One of the two hardest-working, conservative, female bloggers (how’s that for a micro-niche?) packed up her pixels and migrated to a new cyber-home this week, where she’ll have a chance to build a much bigger audience.

There are two group blogs that I visit every every day:  “Contentions” at Commentary Magazine’s website, and “The Corner” at National Review Online.  Each site has a handful of steady conservative bloggers who, collectively, can be counted on to serve up something topical and thought-provoking on a daily basis.  Each has been dominated by a prolific female blogger: Jennifer Rubin at Contentions and Kathryn Lopez (“K-Lo”) at The Corner.  Their writing is informed and shaped in part by their religious backgrounds (Jewish and Catholic, respectively).

Rubin in particular amazes me with her output.  I struggle to post on my blog more than once or twice a week, and every post seems to turn into a three hour project.  Yes, I have a full-time job, whereas blogging is her full-time job.  But Rubin can write faster than I can type — she posts substantial, well-researched essays several times a day. I’ve quoted her at length several times, including here and here.


On the Washington Post homepage today I noticed a link reading “New blog: Right Turn by Jennifer Rubin.”  How about that, I thought — there’s another blogger named Jennifer Rubin, and it looks like she may be a righty.  But of  course it’s the same person… somehow I had missed her farewell post at Contentions on Tuesday.  She now joins George Will and Charles Krauthammer as another good reason to check in on the WaPo regularly.  The difference is, those guys produce one (Krauthammer) or two (Will) columns a week.  Rubin has posted 20 times since her inaugural missive on Tuesday.

I’ll always have a fond spot in my heart for K-Lo as well.  This blog’s first significant traffic spike came at her expense. If she noticed me at the time, I hope she’s not still upset.

Conservatives Rally Behind Olbermann, Sort Of

Olbermann, from Wikimedia Commons

Like the good Christian I aspire to be, I try to respect people with opposing points of view.  Like the sinner I am, I make exceptions.  One of those is Keith Olbermann, he of the permasmirk and the infantile nightly “Worse, Worser and Worst Person in the World”. With his smarmy delivery and sanctimonious preening on behalf of left-wing positions, the man almost literally makes my skin crawl.

So I confess I immediately felt a frisson of delight at the news that he had been suspended indefinitely for violating MSNBC policy.  But despite charges of hypocrisy, even by liberal commentators, that label is more accurately applied to MSNBC itself than to its $30 million headliner.

Interestingly, Olbermann is getting significant support from the right flank of the blogosphere. In The Corner, Andy McCarthy adds his name to a list of conservatives who already had opined that Olbermann was getting a raw deal:

I’m with K-Lo, Jonah [Kathryn Lopez and Jonah Goldberg of NRO], Bill [Kristol of the Weekly Standard], and other lovers of free speech. If this hadn’t happened, and we didn’t know about NBC’s cockamamie policy, wouldn’t you have assumed that Keith Olbermann donated money to left-wing candidates? I certainly would have — if I had cared enough to give it a second of thought. …

Why … should MSNBC’s sparse viewership, which tunes in because it adores Olbermann and lefty pols, be deprived of their Keith-fix just because, besides promoting lefty pols, he supports them financially?

One of two things must be going on. Possibility no. 1: NBC News really is clueless: i.e., they actually believe, when they put Olbermann on “news” shows with other “objective, non-partisan journalists” like Chris Matthews, that we don’t realize opinion is being masqueraded as news — and thus they’re worried that Olbermann’s political contributions risk revealing the charade. Since it is a charade anyone who cares is already on to, consider the more likely possibility no. 2: as usual, there’s more to the story than we’re hearing.

A cynic might argue that conservatives are sticking up for Olbermann because his existence on the left provides protective cover for Fox News on the right.  In fact, a cynic has argued that.  Rachel Maddow:

“Let this incident lay to rest forever the facile, never-true-anyway, bull-pucky, lazy conflation of Fox News and what the rest of us do for a living,” she said. “I know everybody likes to say, ‘Oh, that’s cable news, it’s all the same. Fox and MSNBC, mirror images of each other.’ Let this lay that to rest forever. Hosts on Fox News raise money for Republican candidates. They endorse them explicitly, they use their Fox News profile to headline fundraisers. Heck, there are multiple people being paid by Fox News now to essentially run for office as Republican candidates….They can do that because there’s no rule against that as Fox. They’re run as a political operation; we’re not.”

Sorry Rachel, but what it lays to rest is the conceit that MSNBC is any less partisan than Fox.  Even at liberal Tina Brown’s “Daily Beast” site, Howie Kurtz points out the real hypocrisy:

On Election Night, Olbermann anchored the channel’s coverage, along with Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, and Lawrence O’Donnell. There was no attempt to add a conservative pundit for balance.

It’s not that I have any use for Fox News either, by the way.  Set aside the clownish Glenn Beck and the blowhards Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly.  From what little I’ve watched of Fox’s sub-marquee journalists, they seem to do a serviceable job of presenting news from a conservative perspective, thereby providing an alternative to the overwhelmingly liberal mainstream media.  But I would have more respect for Fox if it owned up to its political leanings, rather than trumpeting  that Fox is “the only fair and balanced network” where “we report, you decide.”

“Mourning in America”: A Brilliant Inversion of Reagan’s Classic Campaign Ad

From John Steele Gordon at Commentary comes the helpful suggestion to watch the Great Communicator’s version first.  “Morning in America” is one of the iconic ads that the Reagan re-election campaign deployed against the uninspiring VP of a failed president, en route to winning 49 states.  I voted against Reagan twice, but now believe him to be by far the greatest president of my lifetime.  If you have any fond memories of the man at all, this will help stir them.

Now an apparently new group called Citizens for the Republic — named after Reagan’s political action committee — has adapted Reagan’s message to the current era, as “Mourning in America”:

The more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger tone is what makes the ad so effective.  It’s astonishing to consider just how much havoc Obama has created in our economy in less than two years.

A recent summation by James Taranto indulges in a bit more anger, but holds out hope for a new morning:

By now it should be clear that the only new idea Obama introduced into American politics was the idea of Obama: Obama the voice of a new generation, Obama the brilliant technocrat, Obama the postracial leader.

The reality of Obama has been quite the opposite. The fresh-faced young leader has governed according to stale old ideas. The dazzling intellect has proved inadequate to basic managerial challenges. We haven’t even been able to enjoy the achievement of having elected a black president, because so many of Obama’s supporters (though not Obama himself, to his credit) won’t shut up about how every criticism of the president and his policies is “racist.”

Yet in America’s current predicament, there is ample reason for optimism. We’d like to think that the failure of Obama’s policies will discredit the bad economic ideas on which they’re based, that his incompetence will discredit the notion that the cognitive elite should run the lives of everyone else, and that the phony charges of racism will discredit the long-outdated assumption of white guilt, at last bringing America close to the ideal of a colorblind society.

This is not to deny that the Obama presidency has been ruinous. But sometimes the costliest mistakes are those from which we learn the most.

Stumbling Toward a Middle Ground on the So-Called “Ground Zero Mosque”

From Urban Infidel

The controversy over the bigger-than-a-mosque Islamic center proposed on a site chosen for its proximity to Ground Zero bears an unappealing resemblance to the abortion issue.

Lots of principled and meritorious arguments advanced on both sides.  A high ratio of heat to light. Fierce disagreements over terminology:  pro-choice or pro-abortion, mosque or community center, at Ground Zero or near it. A debate dominated by absolutist rhetoric, drowning out anybody seeking a middle ground. (My own position on abortion can be summed up by a headline on my blog: “Abortion Should Be Safe and Legal — But It Stops a Beating Heart.”)

Thinking of the current debate in the context of abortion gives me some sympathy for President Obama’s ham-handed attempt to have it both ways: He supports the mosque.  No, he just means it’s legal.  (In the category of things that feel like other things, Obama’s handling of the GZ mosque resembles the even more problematic Obama approach to Afghanistan: We’re surging… but only for a year.)

A friend and former ink-stained co-worker launched a new blog this week, focused thus far on the mosque controversy.  He and I come down on different sides of the argument, but I liked this passage:

The important thing is not one viewpoint triumphing over another. It’s restoring reasoned and reasonable conversations about stuff that really matters, and making sure that discourse douses the flamers who seek only to divide and exploit.

So in the interests of reasoned discourse, I want to acknowledge that religious freedom is one of the core, foundational values of this country, and Americans rightly have a visceral reaction to anything that smacks of religious intolerance.

But religious freedom is not the only thing at stake here. The analogy of the Pope asking the Carmelite nuns to move their convent out of Auschwitz is a good one — however good the sisters’ intentions were, their presence there was offensive to people who had survived a monstrous atrocity.

The controversy threatens to obscure the crucial distinction between Islam and Islamofascism.  In a lengthy essay at Pajamas Media titled “A Message to Conservatives: Is Islam Really our Enemy?”, Ron Radosh strongly makes the case that it is not:

Unlike those in the conservative movement who believe Islam is the enemy, I argue that there are real moderate Muslims, who need to be encouraged and supported in waging the fight within Islam against the uses of the Quran for radical purposes. These Muslims exist. We must support them, and not fall into the trap of backing imposters and charlatans who claim they are moderates, and who use our gullibility to pull the wool over our eyes, and who gain our monetary and political backing for what in reality are nefarious purposes dangerous to our national security.

But to view all Muslims as per se extremists is to give up this fight in advance, and to push real moderates into the hands of the extremists. If all Muslims are our enemy, we give credibility to the radical Islamofascists,  who claim that their view of the Quran is the only true one, and if one is a real Muslim, they must join Bin Laden and the other radicals in their holy Jihad against the West.

This could be read as a strong argument in favor of welcoming the GZ Mosque, but Radosh doesn’t take it there.  He does provide an excellent overview of the spectrum of conservative thinking on the matter — worthy and otherwise.  (Why oh why does Pamela Geller have to be one of the most prominent voices against the mosque?)

Both sides of the controversy cite the First Amendment — freedom of religion vs. freedom of speech — but appealing to the Constitution is missing the point.  Nobody — no serious person — is suggesting the government should forbid the project.  What I and millions of other Americans (including many moderate Muslims) want is for the developers to find a new site.

And that’s exactly what the developers will do, if they are truly serious about wanting to build bridges.  As James Taranto pointed out, “If the intent of the Ground Zero mosque is ‘to bring Muslims and non-Muslims together,’ it is already a failure on its own terms.”  Reasonable people can disagree about who to blame for that failure, but the fact that the project is divisive is indisputable.

A Message to Conservatives: Is Islam Really our Enemy?

As GOP Looks for Leaders and Ideas, It Should Consider “Opportunity Conservatism”

K-Lo in The Corner linked the other day to a year-0ld National Review article about a potential next-generation GOP leader, Ted Cruz, the former Solicitor General of Texas.  Turns out he’s Princeton Class of 1992, for those of you who care about such things.  He needs some better photos, but I like the way he sounds.  From the article:

Cruz has no problem diagnosing what’s wrong with his party. For starters, he hates how the GOP “systematically undervalues” the importance of communication. “We heard a number of times Republicans speaking about Barack Obama and almost derisively saying, ‘Well, he gives a good speech’ — as if that were a moral failing, evidence that he must be superficial if he can give a good speech,” Cruz says. “I think what we misunderstand is that the ability to persuade and inspire is the single most important tool any public leader has. If you think about what was Ronald Reagan’s greatest moment of leadership, I would suggest it was standing at the Brandenburg Gate, saying ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.’ That was a speech!”

“One thing Republicans do that I think is disastrous is that many conservatives try and beat their chest and say, We are so terribly conservative — Attila the Hun, he was a squish! [But] what Reagan did was say, ‘The values I’m talking about are commonsense American values that have been part of this country for over 200 years. They’re the values that have been in every small town and every small business throughout this country.’ And he connected with people.”

Cruz makes the case for what he calls “opportunity conservatism”: “The vision of ‘opportunity conservatives’ is simple and direct: policies that enhance opportunity, that further personal responsibility and the chance to realize the American dream, are good for the polity. Policies that limit options, constrain opportunity, and develop dependency are not.”

Cruz hasn’t even made it through his first primary election yet, so it’s perhaps premature to predict how far he will go in politics. But, in keeping with his own political vision, it’s probably safe to say that Cruz is a conservative with a lot of opportunities ahead of him.

And he said the bit about limiting options and developing dependency before anybody had even heard the term “Obamacare”.

Dear Census-Taker: I’m a Conservative, Liberal, Subversive, Patriotic American

It’s Census time, and there’s a nefarious conservative plot afoot to undermine the gummint by subverting the racial purity of the decennial enumeration. The idea is to answer the racial question by ignoring the familiar black/white/Asian categories, selecting “Other,” and writing in “American.”

How do I know it’s a conservative plot?  Well, it’s been discussed at length in The Corner.  Taranto posted on his Facebook page that he “was American before it was cool,” and backed it up with a link to his article at the time of the 2000 census, where he advocated essentially the same thing.   There’s even a menacing quote from uber-conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia: “In the eyes of government, we are just one race here. It is American.”

So it must be a conservative plot — except the Web Goddess doesn’t see it that way.  When I first mentioned the idea to her, she said it appeals to her from a liberal perspective.  The twist she suggests is to move back one step further and answer the race question with “Other – human.” There’s a logic to that, but it passes up an opportunity to make a patriotic statement.  If some future World Government takes a census, I’ll answer “human” on that one.

Another idea is for anyone who was born and raised in this country to answer “Native American” — but the Census folks seem to have anticipated this.  If you look at the form reproduced above, the category is labeled “American Indian or Alaska Native” — there is no Native American box to check.

One thing that’s clear is that you shouldn’t lie, as “native American” Hans A. von Spakovsky writes:

Congress has directed through a federal law that anyone who “refuses or willfully neglects…to answer, to the best of his knowledge, any of the questions” on the Census form can be fined $100 (13 U.S.C. § 221).  If you deliberately give a false answer, you can be fined up to $500.  Although there are not a lot of reported prosecutions, this statutory requirement has been upheld by the courts as constitutional.

So the standard I have to meet is answering “to the best of [my] knowledge.”  OK, here are some samples of my knowledge:

  • I know that data on race helps fuel the racial grievance industry. (I do not know of any counterbalancing, non-pernicious use for racial data.)
  • I know that any moral justification there may once have been for Affirmative Action (and other forms of race-based discrimination) has disappeared with the election of a black president.  Equality of opportunity should be the standard, not equality of outcome.
  • I know the approach the Census takes to racial identity is utterly ridiculous and inconsistent.  Start with the question itself, as reproduced above.  Note that one of the choices offered under “Other Asian” is “Pakistani.” In the words of Mark Krikorian, who touched off the debate in The Corner:

    If “Pakistani” — a political/religious identity invented in 1934 — is a “race,” then “American” is a race.

    (“Invented” is the correct term, btw. There is no ethnic Paki tribe – the word started out as an acronym. But I digress.)

  • I know more than 20 million people chose “American” as their race in the 2000 Census — making it the third-ranking choice, after “German” and “African American.”  Here’s the data from the U.S. Census’s “Ancestry” page.  (Yes, I know that race, ethnicity and ancestry all mean different things, but the Census seems to use the terms interchangeably.)  And here’s a more user-friendly version of the Census spreadsheet — I’ve eliminated empty-category noise and sorted by top answers. It turns out that “English” outpolls “Mexican,” although if you lump in “Mexicano” and “Mexican-American,” the Mexicans surge ahead. “Human” doesn’t show up, it must be lumped in with “Not Reported.”

So it turns out that to the best of my knowledge, I’m an American.  Who’s with me?


Channeling His Inner Neocon: Did the Nobel Speech Launch the Obama Doctrine?

US troops in Afghanistan (AFP/Getty)

US troops in Afghanistan (AFP/Getty)

I may have been too quick to sneer yesterday at President Obama’s appearance in Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace Prize.

The prize itself is still ridiculous, of course.  (And don’t get me started on the statue.)  But in addition to the obvious point that the honor is unearned, the president has faced critics from his left who believe the recent escalation of Mr. Obama’s War is inconsistent with the prize.

Seeking to answer those critics, Obama used his acceptance speech to issue a ringing declaration of American exceptionalism (although he would not use that term).

In the last 24 hours, I’ve watched one conservative after another find things to praise in the speech.  Neo-neocon (not an Obama fan) called it “the most robust defense of American military action I’ve ever heard him give,” and quoted this passage (my emphasis):

But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason…

But the world must remember that it was not simply international institutions — not just treaties and declarations — that brought stability to a post-World War II world. Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms.

In a post in The Corner titled “Obama the Neocon,” Michael Ledeen said:

It’s “only a speech,” to be sure.  And there things I wish he hadn’t said, or said differently.  But it’s a very different sort of speech, and it contained many words that are downright neoconnish:

America will always be a voice for those aspirations that are universal. We will bear witness to the quiet dignity of reformers like Aung Sang Suu Kyi; to the bravery of Zimbabweans who cast their ballots in the face of beatings; to the hundreds of thousands who have marched silently through the streets of Iran. It is telling that the leaders of these governments fear the aspirations of their own people more than the power of any other nation. And it is the responsibility of all free people and free nations to make clear that these movements — these movements of hope and history — they have us on their side.

It sure sounds like President Obama just endorsed the Green Movement in Iran.

In a roundup titled “Conservative Praise for Obama Speech,” Politico notes the endorsement of former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich:

It’s already being called the “Obama Doctrine” – a notion that foreign policy is a struggle of good and evil, that American exceptionalism has blunted the force of tyranny in the world, and that U.S. military can be a force for good and even harnessed to humanitarian ends.

“I think having a liberal president who goes to Oslo on behalf of a peace prize and reminds the committee that they would not be free, they wouldn’t be able to have a peace prize, without having [the ability to use] force,” Gingrich said. “I thought in some ways it’s a very historic speech.”

The conservative other conservatives love to hate, Kathleen Parker, wrote in the Washington Post:

The speech was a signal moment in the evolution and maturation of Obama from ambivalent aspirant to reluctant leader.

Rising to the occasion, he managed to redeem himself at a low point in his popularity by reminding Americans of what is best about themselves.

At Contentions, Jennifer Rubin (really not an Obama fan):

But this speech is perhaps the closest he has come to throwing the American antiwar Left under the bus. America will defend itself. There is evil in the world. And yes, we are at war with religious fanatics:

Most dangerously, we see it in the way that religion is used to justify the murder of innocents by those who have distorted and defiled the great religion of Islam, and who attacked my country from Afghanistan. These extremists are not the first to kill in the name of God; the cruelties of the Crusades are amply recorded. But they remind us that no Holy War can ever be a just war.

For if you truly believe that you are carrying out divine will, then there is no need for restraint – no need to spare the pregnant mother, or the medic, or even a person of one’s own faith. Such a warped view of religion is not just incompatible with the concept of peace, but the purpose of faith – for the one rule that lies at the heart of every major religion is that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

It is not at all what the netroot crowd that lifted him to the presidency had in mind. It seems that reality may be dawning, however dimly, on the White House.

I could go on and on. (I guess I already have.)  I expect in the future I will continue to have more criticism than praise for Mr. Obama. But while I am always proud to be an American, today I am proud of my President.


Count One Lackluster Vote for Corzine

Back in July I wrote that I probably was going to vote for Democrat Jon Corzine for Governor in New Jersey, and that he probably would lose, making me a red state voter turning blue in a blue state turning red.  But a funny thing happened on the way to November — the race tightened up.

(I planned to upload a graph showing the tightening survey results, but the @#$^& WordPress upload function isn’t working, again.  The troubleshooting tips start with “reinstall WordPress”, and the reinstall process starts with the instruction to back up your database and files, along with a link to the handy 27-step backup process.  Not today.  So: imagine a red line well above  a blue line at the left of the graph, converging into a red/blue/red/blue dance at the right. Or I suppose you could look at the actual graph at Real Clear Politics.)

Where was I?

Republican Chris Christie lost his chance at my vote when he pledged to veto any legislation enabling same-sex marriage, and to support a state constitutional amendment to the same end.  But it’s one thing to cast a protest vote for the Democrat in what looks to be a lopsided race.  When I realized my vote actually might be meaningful, I had to take another look.

Ex-prosecutor Christie pledges tax cuts and clean government in a corrupt, high-tax state, and I’ll count that as a silver lining if he wins.  But there’s no guarantee he would actually be effective at cutting taxes and fighting corruption, whereas he undoubtedly would follow through on his anti-gay veto threat.

Republicans apparently will sweep the races in Virginia, New York City and NY-23, and a GOP victory in New Jersey would add to the perception of an anti-Obamanomics backlash.  Another silver lining, if it happens.  But I reluctantly hope Corzine wins, and I did my part today.

“Every Republican in Congress Supports Reform” is a Stronger Message Than “No”

Mitch McConnellI usually have little patience for people on either the right or the left who claim that only the other side plays politics, or only the other side has this attribute or that one.  (Earth to fellow conservatives:  Ann Coulter is every bit as much of a self-caricature as Michael Moore or Senator Unfunny Franken.  Maybe more so.)

But sometimes it seems like only the Democrats know how to win an argument by framing the issue strategically.  For example, there is no controversy about the established historical fact that Saddam Hussein actually used weapons of mass destruction (chemical weapons) not just against the Iranians in the Iran-Iraq War, but also against his own Kurdish citizens in Halabja.  I can’t help thinking that the Bush Administration would have enjoyed more support for the Iraq War if Bush and every senior Republican had insisted, in every interview and public statement from 2003 through 2006, that the only proper way to frame the debate was to consider whether Saddam still had WMD.

But I digress.  (Even before I get started!)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — who has always struck me as a fairly reasonable guy, at least by the standards of partisan Congressional leaders — today calls out the other side for dishonest framing of the healthcare debate, in a USA Today op-ed (emphasis added):

Listening to [Congressional Democratic leaders], you would think Republicans haven’t been part of the health care debate at all. I understand the tactic. It’s an old political trick to accuse one’s opponents of being against something very worthwhile when what they’re really against are the specifics that you’re proposing.

In this debate, though, proponents of the administration’s health care plan have turned this old strategy into something of an Olympic sport.

The simple fact is, every Republican in Congress supports reform.

Health care costs are too high, and too many Americans lack health insurance. I have said so in just about every one of those 50 speeches and in dozens of interviews. And every other Senate Republican is on record favoring common-sense reforms for a system that needs them — ideas such as medical liability reform and equalizing the tax treatment for businesses and individuals who buy insurance.

Republicans are also on record about what we don’t favor, and that’s a 1,500-page bill that includes a lot of things Americans didn’t ask for and very little of what they did.

An intellectual case can be made that conserve-atives should proudly embrace the Democrats’ derisive description of the GOP as “the party of no.”  (Bill Buckley standing athwart history yelling Stop, and all that.)  But “no” is intrinsically… well… negative.  I fear the Republicans may have lost the healthcare battle simply by letting the issue be framed, improperly, as healthcare “reform.”

Huck_Finn_Travelling_by_RailRather than let themselves be tarred as the enemies of reform, the Republicans should propose a different enemy, and McConnell hints at it above when he uses the term “medical liability reform.”  The more precise term is “tort reform,” and the “enemy” is John Edwards and every other legal charlatan who has ever struck it rich by repeatedly rolling the dice in hopes of getting a third of an unjust award from an inflamed jury.

Oh, and the reference above to “tarred”?  That comes from the Early American practice of tarring and feathering.  No, dammit, it’s not racial code — and opposing the President’s proposal is not racism just because the President is black.