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Mark Steyn deconstructs President Obama’s dissembling on health insurance

Friday, July 24, 2009
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HH: On the day after President Obama’s disastrous press conference, panned by everyone from Howard Fineman and Juan Williams to Mike Allen of Politico, and Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia, I am joined by Columnist To the World, Mark Steyn of www.steynonline.com to discuss what he did and didn’t do last night. Mark, always a pleasure, good to talk to you again.

MS: Good to talk with you, Hugh.

HH: What did you make of the President’s press conference last night?

MS: Well, I’m the umpteenth person, I think this makes it universal now, who thought it was pretty much a disaster. We’re told that this is a silver-tongued orator. He was unable, really, to come up with a compelling rationale for the millions of Americans who are now beginning to wonder what’s going to happen to their own health insurance. He was unable to come up with a compelling rationale as to why the United States federal government needs to do this now, needs to do this before the 2nd of August, or whatever he’s talking about. He simply was unable to come up with a reason, and every time he used that rather tiresome rhetorical tick of his where he goes ‘let me be clear, let me be clear’, the more he said let me be clear, the less clear he was.

HH: Now Mark Steyn, the President opened with a whopper last night. I think it’s cut number 9, which has to do with the fact that he says to the audience what he always says to the audience. Give a listen.

BHO: If you have health insurance, the reform we’re proposing will provide you with more security and more stability. It will keep government out of health care decisions, given you the option to keep your insurance if you’re happy with it.

HH: Now Mark Steyn, that’s simply not true.

MS: No.

HH: Study after study shows millions of Americans will get pushed into this awful government plan.

MS: Yes, and when you think about it, that’s a highly rational act on the part of any employer. I mean, we live now in an economy where there’s 10% unemployment. The idea that employers need to offer health insurance for their workers, when there is a government alternative in such an economy, is preposterous, and it is, it has the effect, whatever plan comes up, and this is where I don’t want to get too wonkish about it, because I think he understands that if he passes any plan, then he can do what he wants after it’s passed, because the fact of the governmentalization of health care cannot be undone. But that’s why it’s urgent for him, in effect, to just sort of stand on his head and say black is white and up is down, because if the news gets out that 88 million Americans are going, who currently like their health insurance are not going to have that, then that’s far more than any benefit of all these supposed millions of uninsured people. That’s why he has to, I hesitate to use this word about the President, but that’s why he has to basically lie, because he’s in a hurry to get this through in any form, and then do what he wants with it afterwards.

HH: Do you think is holds up? Do you think that given the obvious deception involved in telling people their health insurance as they currently have it will be left undisturbed, doesn’t the media have to eventually cover that deception?

MS: I think they do. Whether they will is unclear. I mean, I think the whole problem with American health care is not the problem of the market. Nobody knows what the market price of a broken leg is, because there are so many unnatural distorting factors that have been introduced into the market price of a broken leg, mainly by government. So his position, that this, the biggest, most dramatic change of all will leave your particular health care unchanged is quite patently absurd. And you have to be, even by the standards of mainstream journalists, you have to basically know you’re being dishonest and not confronting that when you write about it.

HH: Yesterday, I had Jonathan Alter of Newsweek on, one of my favorite lefties, but he’s a lefty. And I said you know, this is eroding, the Democrats in the Senate don’t want to sign up for this thing. And he assured me oh, don’t worry, they’re going to vote, get to the floor and then they’ll vote against it, meaning that they’ll get the filibuster killed, and allow their liberal brethren to pass…here’s what Jonathan Alter said.

JA: They’re going to do, okay, so what these guys are going to do, and they also realize that you know, if this really is, you know, Obama’s Waterloo as Jim DeMint stupidly said, I mean, he just played right into Obama’s hands with that thing, they’re not going to contribute to dealing a fatal blow to the number one priority of the president of their party. So what they will do is they will push as hard as they can in the next couple of months for some sort of, you know, at worst, a watered-down public option that maybe has a trigger in it so that you don’t get it right away, or maybe it looks a little bit more like a co-op plan like Senator Conrad is proposing, which has some merit to it, and maybe it’s a public option that’s not really called a public option, so that it’s kind of a fig leaf. And then, they will vote for cloture, and if they still can’t swallow it, they’ll do what I just said, they’ll vote against the bill on final passage. But the idea of any of these Democratic Senators you’ve mentioned actually voting to filibuster the bill is infinitesimal.

HH: That seems very cynical to me, Mark Steyn. But is Jonathan Alter right about Democrats in the Senate? They’ll try and slip this past and keep their fingers off of it?

MS: It is cynical, but it’s not necessarily untrue. There is a tremendous discipline among the Democratic Party. And we hear a lot of talk right now at the moment about oh, the blue dog Democrats are unhappy with this, or unhappy with that. What that actually boils down to in the final analysis is unclear. But it’s not likely to be as dramatic a repudiation of the President’s ambitions as everyone would like. And I think as I said earlier, that the danger here is that you can pass this thing in a diluted form, and then put all the tasty stuff back in down the road. Now that’s where the timing comes in, because a lot of states last November, and a couple of Novembers before, sort of flipped very quickly from red to blue. And a lot of those swing states are purpling very fast at the moment. That’s why the President understands he’s got to get a lot of this stuff passed unread, undiscussed, in one week, two weeks, we’ve got to do it now, we’ve got to do it now, the fierce urgency of now, as he keeps saying, because the minute people get a look at this stuff, they realize they don’t want it.

HH: I’m going to have Newt Gingrich on next hour. I’m co-sponsoring an effort with www.americansolutions.com. They’ve got a jobs growth agenda out there, including a 50% payroll cut over two years. If people want to vote for that, by the way, use your short code, text 77569, enter a Y for yes, or an N for no. But Newt always has his finger on the pulse. He’s out there now hammering on jobs, and I think this may be the President’s Achilles heel.

MS: Yes, because we’re being sold this, that it’s necessary to restore the economy to health. Now the Congressional Budget Office says the health care thing doesn’t do that. In fact, it will cost more money. And I think that’s right. People often say well look, if you look at some of these European countries, they spend less in terms of GDP per capita than the United States does. I think given the reality of a nation of three hundred million people, the idea that you can do this and for it not to be a big, bloated monstrosity is simply absurd. And the polls show that they think Obama ought to be concentrating on the economy. That’s the reality. The reality is that a lot of Western nations are in trouble because they spend too much, because they’ve got unsustainable entitlements. Italy has a debt that’s equivalent right now, I think, to 120% of GDP. That’s unsustainable, and yet Obama wants to take us down the road toward the Italian profile.

HH: Among the serial obfuscations last night was the repeated woe is me, I was elected with a $1.3 trillion dollar deficit, and a financial chaos. In fact, the panic was largely over, the deficit was a one time, it didn’t have to become structural. My question, Mark Steyn, do you think the American public understands just how misleading the President’s set up is on all these issues?

MS: Well, the thing about it, it is complicated. And these awful, appalling 1,200 page bills that nobody bothers reading, never mind the public, but the people who vote them into law, they are appalling. But what they all have in common is that they’ve got huge price tags attached to them. And I think cumulatively, people are beginning to get the message, even if they don’t understand the fine print, that Bill A is expensive, and Bill B is expensive, and Bill C is expensive. And that’s what they all have in common. And that’s the message he’s sending out every week with these gazillion dollar bills, is he’s spending your money too fast, and it’s unsustainable. And when that message gets out, that is going to resonate to some degree or another, that the President can’t spend at this rate.

HH: Very quick last question, Mark, the President waded in to the Henry Louis Gates affair, which is turning very ugly for him very quickly, as the tape of Henry Louis Gates shouting at this Cambridge cop comes out. Did he make a major error, or a small one in rushing to judgment before having the facts and evidence before him?

MS: Yes, I think the President of the United States has absolutely no business intervening in a matter for the Cambridge Police Department, and should it happen to come to that, whatever court in the city of Cambridge it comes down to. This was disgraceful by him, and he should be ashamed of himself in intervening in that in a national press conference. It’s unbecoming to the President, and it was a disgusting moment.

HH: Mark Steyn, always bracing, thank you.

End of interview.

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