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“Four Words”

Monday, January 18, 2010  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

The Monday morning column from Clark Judge:

Four Words
By Clark S. Judge, managing director, White House Writers Group, Inc. ( <> )

With the Democrats looking about to lose Ted Kennedy’s senate seat, a single line near the end of a front-page story in Sunday’s New York Times should send chills through the White House’s top echelons.

The story’s headline announces “Election Tests Staying Power of Democrats.” Most of the focus is on why the Massachusetts race is slipping away. Allowing for the Times’ bias, the reporter gets it right. Spending, taxes, deficits, government intrusion into the economy including the health overhaul: dismay at these policies among Independents nationally and in the Bay State is the cause of Mr. Obama’s dive in the polls and why the Democrats may drop Kennedy’s seat on Tuesday. Surely by now these observations cannot come as news to anyone, but, then, the Times is playing catch up to The Wall Street Journal and Fox News, which have been on the case for months.

But the line that should unsettle the White House hints at emerging divisions in the most inside of inside Washington political teams. It reads, “Still, some Democrats are wondering if Mr. Obama would be in a better position now if he had embraced a less ambitious health care proposal, as some aides urged….”
[# More #]

To date the staff of the Obama White House has been admirably loyal to their man. Leaks have supported, not undermined, the president and his agenda. Yes, everyone inside surely felt a rising desperation as Mr. Obama’s poll numbers fell. It cannot have been easy these last couple of weeks to read that, for this stage of a presidency, he was the least popular president on record. But they have not broken ranks in backing their man and his message. All have done their duty as presidential aides — until the Times’ story.

Now someone, maybe several someones, has cracked. You can almost hear the interviews: “Oh, I urged him right from the first”, or “We wouldn’t be in this mess if he had only listened to me”, or “I TOLD senior staff we had to focus on the economy”, or “Those guys at the top don’t listen to anyone… they talk about openness, but the Republicans have at least that one right, they’re as closed as any administration in history.”

It comes down to a switch from “we” to “me”, as in, “Don’t blame me”, or “It’s his mistake, not mine”, or “You’re on your own now, buddy. I’m protecting my spot in the sun, not yours.”

This is not to deny that another approach to price inflation in the health care sector would have been better. Embracing 1930s-style social democracy in the first decade of the 21st century was surpassingly foolish. It was as if the president and his aides had learned nothing from the global experience with social democracy over the last eight decades. The analyses that showed their plan leading to rationing, increased price inflation, declining quality and innovation, and a further crushing burden on the federal budget merely echoed the findings from social democratic experiments in sector after sector-including health care-around the world.

And it was not as if we lacked for alternatives that would have freed markets to drive costs down and quality up, as happens routinely elsewhere in our economy, and required minimal political capital to pass.

These alternatives include:
? Equalizing the tax treatment of individuals and companies, so individuals are not penalized for buying insurance on their own and can decide the policies best for themselves;
? Allowing expanded health savings accounts, to increase individual choice in health care options, including accounting for costs;
? Introducing real competition by saying that a health plan licensed for sale in one state may be sold in all;
? Repeal of laws that discourage doctors from becoming health care entrepreneurs, freeing them to seek more efficient ways to provide more effective care;
? Reforming the medical liability system, driving the cost of predatory lawsuits from the system;
? Ending state certificate-of-need rules for hospital construction and other rules that restrict competition within the health care sector.

Over the last several decades, economists at places such as Hoover, Pacific Research Institute, and the Manhattan Institute developed these market-freeing proposals. But it is doubtful that anyone in the Obama White House actually knows of or understands them.

Be that as it may, every president deserves better than aides whispering around Washington, “Not my fault.” No matter how tomorrow’s voting turns out, the kitchen is only starting to get warm. As a former presidential aide myself, I wonder, what will they do when it really heats up?

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The Obamacare Union Carve-Out and Thomas P.M. Barnett on Haitian Relief

Saturday, January 16, 2010  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Comparing Martha Coakley to a box of rocks is unfair to the box, and the “Schilling is another Yankees fan” gaffe should persuade even the most ardent Democrat that Coakley is not one of the regular folks. The lame attempt to pass Coakley’s ignorance of the Red Sox legend off as a joke won’t work either, as the Powerline transcript makes clear. But the real reason for Democrats, Independents and Republicans to support Scott Brown is to kill off Obamacare.

Voters could indeed decide the fate of Obamacare in the Massachusetts senate election. Barney Frank has declared that a Brown victory will kill the bill, another reason to contribute to Brown’s campaign today. As part of the debate, analysts and especially economists should begin to examine the unions’ sweetheart deal that carves out their members’ health care benefits from the burden of Obamacare’s 40% excise tax on so-called “Cadillac plans.”

Not only does this carve-out outrageously treat nearly identically-situated Americans differently –same income, same health plan, but the union member is spared an enormous tax burden and the non-union member or his company pay it– the impact of the exemption will be of far more consequence and a far greater advantage to organized labor than even the very controversial “card check” proposal. Imagine the extraordinary advantage that will fall to companies like GM –already a government car company– when it doesn’t have to pay any of the tax but non-unionized car companies do have to pay it. The same advantage will roll through the economy, with every unionized business benefitting and every non-union company in effect paying a premium for staying non-union. Even long time opponents of unionization will have to reconsider their stance given the cost advantage now open to companies providing their health insurance through collective bargaining.

Democratic senators like Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln and the so-called Blue Dogs in the House, already in deep trouble in their home states because of Obamacare’s massive unpopularity, are now stuck supporting an enormous give-away to organized labor, one that penalizes every other citizen. The Obama-Pelosi-Reid negotiators managed to take a very bad bill and make it far worse.

Pray that Brown wins and Barney Frank is right. Obamacare is a disaster on many levels and it just got much worse.

I interviewed Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett on yesterday’s program —the transcript is here. Barnett is the author of The Pentagon’s New Map and Great Powers, and he and his company devote a great deal of time and thought to third world development and disaster recovery. If you are concerned with the aftermath of the earthquake and a long-lasting recovery for Haiti, read both books.

Finally, here are four organizations at work in Haiti today that could use your help:

The Haitian-American Friendship Foundation


Martha Coakley: Catholics “Probably Shouldn’t Work In Emergency Rooms”

Friday, January 15, 2010  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Listen to Democrat Martha Coakley display the stunning indifference to religious freedom that marks the extremist when it comes to the abortion issue. The radio host Ken Pittman is pressing Coakley on the “right of conscience” provisions which the nation’s bishops are this very weekend urging their parishioners to demand from Congress so that Catholic hospitals and Catholic health care professionals do not have to violate their faith and assist with abortion. Coakley dismisses that concern, and in doing so, hopefully seals for the Catholics in Massachusetts that she has no time for their concerns or the concerns of their Church. “You can have religious freedom,” Coakley says, but “you probably shouldn’t work in an emergency room.”

On yesterday’s program Mark Steyn noted Coakley’s incredible lack of smarts, and it is painfully obvious in this exchange as it has been in many others that she is a very dim bulb, and an intolerant extremist to boot. Barbara Boxer might be cheering Coakley on so that someone else finally wins the “dumbest senator” award, but will Massachusetts voters really send such an embarrassment to the U.S. Senate?

The late poll showing Scott Brown ahead in the Bay State was taken before this latest in a string of Coakley pratfalls. Bill Clinton is flying in to try and resurrect Coakley’s fortunes, but Massachusetts voters, while very liberal, aren’t stupid, and they are increasingly likely to give Scott Brown a chance to represent Massachusetts while waiting for the democratic Party to give them a nominee who isn’t an intemperate, intolerant clown. Byron York provides some details on the emerging democratic spin on their incompetent candidate.

You can help Scott Brown with a late donation or with some volunteer efforts via his website here.


Really, if you are still even remotely thinking about voting for the spectacularly risible Coakley, read this very serious indictment of her abuse of her prosecutorial powers from the Wall Street Journal’s Dorothy Rabinowitz.

The Weekend Reads: Haiti, Steyn, the MA Senate Race, and the Halperin-Heilmann Obama Slam

Friday, January 15, 2010  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Here are four experienced, effective Christian relief organizations at work in Haiti.

Here’s the transcript of my conversation with Mark Steyn from Thursday’s show which covers Haiti, the new book Game Change, and the Massachusetts senate race.

To help Scott Brown via a volunteer effort or a last minute donation, visit his website.

Visit theHughniverse to comment on the Haitian relief efforts.

Cadmium questions should be addressed to Liz McNulty.

And here’s my review of Game Change:

Game Change” by Mark Halperin and John Heilmann is an entertaining book. However, it could have a been a great one had the authors not decided merely to hint at and tiptoe around the biggest untold stories of President Obama’s long march to the presidency. It is hard to figure out why the authors went so soft on some aspects of the president’s biography and campaign when they relentlessly pilloried him on other character issues throughout the book. Perhaps the duo from central MSM-Lefty casting wanting to try and maintain some favor inside Team Obama by treading oh so lightly on the president’s most sensitive spots, but the collective impact of their thousands cuts at the president and his team nevertheless deliver a devastating impact in that it arrives from obvious friendlies interested in trying to make everyone involved in Campaign 2008 look very bad other than Obama.

Halperin and Heilmann use brass knuckles on everyone, but they tried -unsuccessfully– not to leave many marks on Obama. The bloodiest pulp is John Edwards, and not far behind the at-one-point-feared-to-be-suicidal-by-his-staff candidate is his wife, “St. Elizabeth,” described this way by the authors: “an abusive, intrusive, paranoid condescending crazywoman.” (p.127) And a shopping addict to boot, guilty of “filling her house with unopened boxes containing items she’d bought online.” (p. 139). [# More #]

Hillary is portrayed as a head case, and a more prolific potty-mouth than ten Nixons. Bill is a cauldron of neuroses and jealousies. The account of George W. Bush, “43,” calling “42” to assure and console him that the incumbent knows his predecessor wasn’t a racist is priceless. (p. 227). The details the authors provide about “the burning speculation about Bill’s putative priapism” make the Enquirer seem tame. From the name given to Ron Burkle’s Boeing 757 to the details of allegations concerning Bill’s relationships with Belinda Stronach, Julie Tauber McMahon and Gina Gershon (pp. 47-49), the sex lives of the former president and current Secretary of State are used to push books, and the country should hope that the heads of state with whom Mrs. Clinton will be meeting in the next three years put the book’s salaciousness down to the needs of a couple of old media reporters-turned-gossip columnists to sell some hard covers while there is still a market.

Halperin and Heilmann despise the center-right media, and reflexively twitch out the tired slams at “the right wing freak show” and the “flying monkeys of talk radio,” even as they serve up big scoops of innuendo. However, there’s no original reporting about the president’s past drug use, his ties to Tony Rezko and William Ayers, and his relationship with Jeremiah Wright. They never dig into the details of any of these episodes, but communicate clearly that they believe these associations to have been legitimate targets of first Hillary and then John McCain. All of these attacks and more originated from Team Clinton, by the way, not the right wing. Indeed Hillaryland’s obsession with the president’s past drug use appears again and again in the book, and these and other charges the former first lady made are wilder by far than anything heard on center-right media. (“In getting ready for that night [a debate] Hillary casually mentioned to her aides that she’d heard that Obama’s mother was a communist.” p. 239). Halperin and Heilmann blame old Syd Blumenthal for mainlining the most salacious stuff into Hillary’s veins, but it is the authors -not talk radio-who have dressed up all these charges and more about Obama and landed them on the New York Times’ best seller list.

The portrait of the president is really an effort in poison-pen pointillism, where hundreds and hundreds of razor sharp paragraphs combine to create a deeply disquieting picture of the new president. President Obama is presented as insecure and needy of reassurance (p. 25), self-important, cynical and megalomaniacal (pp 30-31), petulant and spoiled (p. 111), touchy and vain (p. 112), hypocritical (p. 119), overweening (p. 184) and deceptive (p. 120.) Hillary and Bill are used as mouthpieces for the conclusions that President Obama is an empty-suit elitist both vindictive and small. (p. 231, p. 241 and p. 267), but it is Halperin and Heilmann who are the hit men, delivering the private judgments and accusations to the public.

Obama’s team is an extension of their boss, willing to do “whatever it takes” according to Hillary, including playing the race card (p. 265), a regular obsession with Bill (p. 198) who considered Obama to be “an off-the-rack Chicago politician” who had “figured out how to have it both ways-appearing to be above bare-knuckled tactics while his team practiced them with a vengeance.” (p. 155).

Obama’s brain trust is cast as reptilian, especially Axelrod, “a master of the dark arts of negative campaigning.” (p. 119). At one key point in the campaign “David Axelrod likened Hillary to Freddy Kruger, and that made Obama laugh. ‘My God, these people never die,’ Barrack said.” (p. 229.)

The only parties that come off worse than the president and his supporting cast are the MSM, in the tank for Obama throughout the campaign, unwilling to ask even basic questions about Rezko and Ayers, the drug use or Jeremiah Wright. “How extreme was the infatuation of the press corps with Obama?” the authors have Bill Clinton asking rhetorically on p. 228. You can read the president’s very vulgar answer to his own question, but suffice it to say-a lot. “The Clintons talked about Obama’s drug use with some regularity in private, citing it as another example of the willful failure of the press to vet Obama” runs another complaint, this one on p. 161. Halperin and Heilemann deliver a scathing indictment of everything the press didn’t do in their coverage of the campaign. Though using the words of principals rather than themselves to blister their Manhattan-Beltway media elite colleagues, Halperin and Heilmann leave no line out of the indictment of the shabby professionalism of their increasingly irrelevant brethren in the newsrooms. There are so many stories in Game Change that never made it into the daily coverage of the campaign that the press assigned to the contest could fairly be judged to have all been rookies -or simply star struck. Hillary uses the term “cultlike” to describe Obama followers at one point (p. 265), concluding they had “drunk the Kool-Aid,” a charge that could have been leveled at the MSM given all the stories about Obama that went unreported throughout 2007 and 2008. )Hillary also believes that Obama cheated in Iowa by importing voters, a charge repeated by Bill on p. 179.)

Game Change leaves the reader feeling soiled by the tackiness of all involved, and very troubled that the MSM is simply out of the business of reporting. The biggest surprise of many? Not that Obama had a source inside the negotiations that led to the bankruptcy of Lehman, or that Joe Biden had no idea who Sarah Palin was when she was named VP, or any of the many other jolts.

The biggest surprise is that, try as they might, Obama fanboys Halperin and Heilmann couldn’t protect the president’s carefully constructed image from the consequences of reporting accurately even the least damaging stories from Campaign 2008. Imagine the impact if the authors had actually looked into the Rezko ties or the Ayers’ relationship, much less the Wright-Obama relationship, the president’s past law practice, his academic performance or any of the still unknown questions about the 44rth president of the United States.

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