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On Sean Hannity’s Great American Panel Tonight, Speaking To The House GOP Retreat Tomorrow

Friday, January 29, 2010  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Carol Platt Liebau fills in for me today as I make an east coast swing. Landing at Kennedy after a red-eye when the temp is barely above 0 is a good reminder why California still has great appeal even with a collapsing economy and the worst state legislature in the land.

One of the topics scheduled for Sean’s Great American Panel tonight is the left’s attempt to censor Tim Tebow’s pro-life message. Good for CBS for resisting the latest effort by the left to not win an argument or participate in a debate but to shut either down. Tebow is an inspiring figure and a hero especially to millions of young people. It is a wonderful thing that he wants to celebrate life along with his mom. Only the abortion absolutists could see an occasion for censorship here.

Or sports writers straying from their appointed beats. Whenever that happens, it almost always ends badly for the writer (unless it is the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto), as it does in this column for Rick Telander, who seems to think that many if not most Americans would be horrified by non-Christian athletes expressing their faith. For most Americans, religious toleration is a deeply embedded practice and a civic virtue. If non-Christian athletes discuss or display their faith, I doubt very much it would be an occasion of controversy, unless the message was intentionally controversial. Even if it was, most of the public would defend their right to their own beliefs.

Most people of faith are strong proponents of religious liberty because they are very acquainted with the stories of religious persecution in almost every other part of the globe. The answer to religious intolerance is more religious speech welcomed by free and open societies, not the censorship of small minded secularists. Bravo to Tebow and his mom, and to those who support his witness. Those who oppose it have no faith in freedom and especially not in the First Amendment, both in its protections for religious belief and for free expression.


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“The Democrats’ Political Death Wish”

Friday, January 29, 2010  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

My new column looks at the Democrats’ continued belief that Obamacare is the answer –for everything from insuring everyone, fixing the deficit and salvaging their political futures.

Of course majorities believe it will damage health care, destroy Medicare, send already crushing deficits to hyperinflation land and lead to a shattering loss for the Democrats in November, but the Manhattan-Beltway Bubble (see below) keeps liberals and their MSM friends believing in the power of empty words and massive tax hikes.

Three Views on the SOTU: Steyn, Beinart, and Alter

Thursday, January 28, 2010  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

The transcript of my conversation with Mark Steyn is here.

The transcript of my conversation with Peter Beinart is here.

The transcript of my conversation with Jonathan Alter is here.

The Manhattan-Beltway Bubble seems to be intact even after the vote in Massachusetts and even after all the terrible approval numbers for the president and for Obamacare. Alter and Beinart are defending the president’s attempt to blame Bush for the deficit even though President Obama can pass any spending cut he desires, and almost any tax hike he desires, the former with bipartisan support, the latter using reconciliation, which is the tradition route for tax rate changes, though not massive policy overhauls.

In other words, the president has the power and the votes to tackle the deficit. He can tackle Social Security. He can cut Medicare spending. He can order up across the board spending cuts and not just his fake freeze,

But he’s not doing so. He’s not doing anything except talking and watching the mountain of debt get bigger and bigger. He can chose to listen to supportive voices in the MSM, but the voters know the situation and know he is doing nothing to stop the fiscal bleeding. They also have grown tired of his blaming President Bush for the panic and its aftermath, and especially for the inaction at 1600 Pennsylvania.

Here’s the key excerpt of my exchange with Steyn:

HH: Here’s another part that caught my ear, Mark Steyn, blaming Bush for the deficit, cut number 5:

BHO: By the time I took office, we had a one year deficit of over $1 trillion dollars, and projected deficits of $8 trillion dollars over the next decade. Most of this was the result of not paying for two wars, two tax cuts, and an expensive prescription drug program. On top of that, the effects of the recession put a $3 trillion dollar hole in our budget. All this was before I walked in the door.

HH: Now Mark Steyn, the prescription drug bill, the two wars, the tax cuts, were all in place by the end of 2007 when the deficit was $161 billion.

MS: Right.

HH: Today, it’s $1.35 trillion.

MS: Yeah.

HH: It’s nonsense what he’s saying.

MS: Yes, it is nonsense. I mean, this line that oh, I inherited a huge deficit, so what I’ve done is blown it up to an even larger size makes no sense anyway. But again, I think this is unbecoming in what is essentially a bit of monarchical theater. You know, Bush could very easily have said well look, he could have stood there in the 2002 State of the Union and said look, I inherited this al Qaeda mess from Bill Clinton, because he didn’t have the guts to take out the guy in Afghanistan when he could have. He could have stood there in 2003 and said well look, I inherited this unfinished Iraq business from my predecessor who just wanted to fly over and bomb the no-fly zone once in a while, and that’s unfinished business that I “inherited”. Obama will still be blaming everything on what he “inherited” in years and years to come. It’s time to man up. You’re the president. Nobody forced you to be the president. You wanted the job. Man up or get the hell out of the way. But to stand there blaming in this cheesy, tacky, finger pointing at a guy who’s been gone now for over a year just makes you look Princess Fairy Pants. It’s pathetic.

“Pathetic” is exactly what it is, and there is nothing less presidential than pathetic. The president and his Congressional allies are now going to combine Chicago-style jam-down politics with stunning indifference to public opinion, even public opinion that has rarely had as clear an expression as the Massachusetts vote. But liberal pundits are cheering him on, over the cliff.

The Zombie Health Care Bill Is Out Of Its Grave

Thursday, January 28, 2010  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Senator Jon Kyl relays reports –very reliable reports according to Kyl– that Congressional Democrats have indeed decided to use reconciliation to resurrect the remains of Obamacare, despite Massachusetts, despite the public’s continuing and still growing dislike of the bill, and despite the jam-down ultra-partisanship such a naked power play and perversion of Senate rules that such an approach entails. I will interview Kyl in the second hour, and a transcript will be posted shortly thereafter.

The only reaction to such a stunt would be amazing political fury, beginning with donations to –the NRCC fund committed to defeating the 24 most vulnerable House Democrats who supported Obamacare. Even if Harry Reid can find 50 senators on his side of the aisle to, along with Vice President Biden, vote to overrule the American public’s considered opinion about Obamacare, it would still have to make it through the House, where Nancy Pelosi’s very fragile coalition faces the prospect of a wipe out in 39 weeks if this passes.

Prior to Massachusetts Obamacare was just a terrible bill with disastrous consequences for the American health care system, especially for seniors.

If passed after Massachusetts, Obamacare would become the single most contemptuous act by a Congress towards voters in American history.

The groups and efforts like Tea Party Patriots, and AMAC’s that may have dialed back their activism since Scott Brown’s win now know they have to double and redouble their efforts.

And American health care businesses –from insurance companies to medical care devices to hospitals– are now free under the decision in Citizens United to enter the fray directly. And they should. Quickly.

Here is the audio of my conversation with Jon Kyl. Below is the transcript.

HH: Hour number two of the Hugh Hewitt Show begins with our favorite Senator, Jon Kyl, the Republican Whip in the United States Senate. Senator Kyl, lots to talk about, but first, I would like your reaction to the State of the Union last night, the tone, and specifically, you’re a Constitutional lawyer going way back. I have never seen the Supreme Court attacked in that setting before.

JK: No. Well, and I don’t know whether the practice of the Court was to sit back when Franklin Roosevelt decided he didn’t like the Court decisions, and decided to try to pack the Court. But this was very unseemly. They’re there as a guest of the Congress, and they’re kind enough to come and sit quietly and listen to every president. But to be attacked directly, and then wrongly, by someone who himself taught Constitutional law, supposedly, at the University of Chicago, is really more than poor taste. The President was wrong in the way he characterized the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case. And besides that, I don’t think it’s good form to do that in a situation where he knows the Court cannot argue back.

[# More #]

HH: Yeah, in Chief Justice Roberts’ concurrence, he points out it’s a 20 year old decision had never been taken on before. It wasn’t a century of legal precedent, and I was just shocked that it happened.

JK: And it does not prohibit, it leaves in place existing law that prohibits foreign corporations, or foreign individuals from making contributions in American campaigns.

HH: Yeah.

JK: So the President’s just wrong.

HH: Now on spending, I have been, I’ve got lefties lined up for next hour to talk about this. But when George Bush had a budget deficit in 2007, $161 billion, and that was bad, but now it’s $1.35 trillion, and this is not the great panic year, I didn’t hear anything from the President last night about being serious about this crisis.

JK: No, I mean, his only throwaway there was that he’s going to, starting next year, for no more than three years, have a freeze of a small part of the budget. It’s the discretionary non-defense, and with a bunch of other exceptions, part of the budget which would be, I don’t know, it’s a relatively small part, maybe 15-16% of the budget. And his cohorts in the U.S. Senate today rejected an amendment to enforce that, so that it’s not enforceable. We just go ahead, if we want to violate the freeze, we just spend the money. It’s not even subject to a point of order. We had a bipartisan amendment by Jeff Sessions and Claire McCaskill that would have enforced it. So it’s not serious, and as you point out, the very first months of the Obama administration provide a deficit four times as much as the one he complained about in the Bush administration.

HH: It’s remarkable, but let’s get to the news of the day. There is some talk that the Democrats are going to try reconciliation, a jam down of their bitterly divisive, and almost certainly wrong-headed health care plan. What can you tell us about this?

JK: This is kind of breaking news. As you say, we’re just hearing it. We haven’t been formally advised, but we have it on relatively good authority. And this would be what they call the nuclear option. This would be we can’t do it with 60 votes, because now we have a new Senator from Massachusetts, so we’ll do it with 51. Now it’s called the nuclear option, because it really upsets all of the tradition and precedent within the Senate which on a really big bill on the magnitude of health care, would always have strong bipartisan support, and therefore the 60 vote requirement really doesn’t matter. But here, using an arcane part of the budget that ordinarily relates to tax cuts or tax increases, it doesn’t relate to comprehensive bills with a lot of substantive provisions in them, but just changes in the tax code, usually. They’re going to try to rewrite this bill to, where it would only need 51 votes, and still accomplish most of what the bill will accomplish. Now what this will do is let the Blanche Lincolns and Ben Nelsons and Evan Bayhs and other to say oh, I can’t go along with this now. And of course, that’s exactly what their constituents want to hear. But it doesn’t matter, because their votes in effect at this point don’t count. They don’t matter. All it takes is 51 Democrats to vote for it, and it becomes law. It remains to be seen how long the process will take, and whether, and how much of the provisions of the comprehensive health care reform that we’ve been looking at can be scooped up into this legislation. But it now appears the Democrats are going to try that.

HH: Senator, just speaking politically for a moment, the members of the House who are on the brink of being washed away in Massachusetts-like tides across the country must, they have to pass this, too, don’t they?

JK: Yes, and as always, you’re way ahead of me here. I think they could theoretically get this done in the Senate, but I am not so sure in the House, because it has to pass with 51% over there, and it barely passed with 51% the first time around over there, by only 5 votes. So if three people change their vote, it wouldn’t pass. And I think there are enough Democrats now in the House who have said we could not support a bill that used the reconciliation process, that Speaker Pelosi is really going to have to hustle to round up those votes. And by the time it actually got there, where the American people figured out what an outrageous proposition this is, it may be so toxic that she can’t get the votes.

HH: Now Senator Kyl, of course activism, people have kind of quieted down. There’s some groups out there like AMAC, the Association of Mature American Citizens, and Docs 4 Patient Care, which sprung up partly in response to big D.C. groups like AARP selling out seniors. And so AMAC comes along, and the AMA selling out doctors, so Docs 4 Patient Care come along. But they’ve gone quiet after Massachusetts. I guess they have to get back in the game.

JK: They do, and in fact, there’s a group 60 , which is a counterpart to AARP, for example, I think is the sponsor of an ad that just started running maybe two days ago, featuring C. Everett Coop. If any of your listeners have seen that, it’s quite an ad. I’ve seen it. C. Everett Coop has a lot of credibility, and as the former surgeon general, and he says this would not be a good bill for me. And he said the process is all wrong, and so he says try to stop it. And I think more of these organizations need to recognize that this is far from over. In fact, they still have 59 votes, and we’re literally hanging by a thread. A lot of people think it’s over and that we won. We didn’t. They passed it in the Senate, and they can get 51 votes, so this is a big fight.

HH: What would be the consequences in terms of fallout unrelated to health care for a Senate that sees Chicago-style politics invading its 220 years of tradition?

JK: Well, they’ve now broken tradition in several respects, and they seem not to really care. It’s the issue of the moment, it’s winning the fight that’s right in front of us, and worrying about other things later. I think that the American people, however, are in a very anxious and grumpy mood right now. And if they see them try to pull this stunt, which is appears now they’re going to do, it may be the last straw. And what you saw in Massachusetts may become the nationwide revolution that you and I have kind of seen here. But it’ll be unmistakable, and Barack Obama won’t fail to see it next time.

HH: I think your colleagues like Ron Wyden and Patty Murray in Washington…

JK: Murray…

HH: …who are not on anyone’s watch list suddenly put themselves at great risk of being caught up in this tidal wave of anger.

JK: Those are two incumbent Senators that are up for re-election this November, and do not yet have opponents, or at least not ones that I’ve heard of. There are a couple of other states as well, New York, Kristen Gillibrand does not have an opponent at this point that I know of. In Wisconsin, Russ Feingold does not. Those are the kinds of places where an opponent could easily crop up if they do try to do this reconciliation or nuclear option.

HH: And just a little tall grass stuff, Senator. Does that begin in the House, then the House would take a bunch of things, or…

JK: No, it would probably begin in the Senate. I think the House wants to see that the Senate can pass it before they walk the plank. And so it would probably start in the Senate.

HH: And you would…would the Senate leadership be committed to giving the American people as much time as possible to understand what’s happening, thus using delay?

JK: No. Do you think that they would suddenly change stripes? The only good news here is that the reconciliation process itself requires a certain amount of procedural time, during which a lot of this will come out. But there are ways they can shortcut some of that, too. There is only technically, I think it’s 50 hours of debate, that is required, and then there is an automatic vote. So that’s why you don’t have the 60 votes for cloture to stop debate. Debate is automatically cut off, and then there is a majority vote. However, as I recall it, there are an unlimited number of amendments, so we could offer a lot of amendments. The problem is you could just vote on those amendments seriatim, so that if you have 300 amendments, let’s say, you just keep taking vote after vote for, you know, 48 hours or however long it takes to march through all the votes.

HH: Wow, this is going to be fascinating. When will we get a good sense of timing and calendar, and all the rest of this, Senator Kyl?

JK: It will, it’s really unclear. It has to go back to committee. Will it be just the Budget Committee, or will it be the Finance Committee, too? How long will it be in Committee? And then how does it come out to the floor? All of those things remain to be seen. It would not be a quick process, so you’ll see this begin to unfold. But the real question is the one that you asked. When will we know the real details of the legislation? And that’s something that I can’t answer at this point.

HH: Senator Jon Kyl, we’ll talk to you frequently throughout the spring. And please keep fighting the good fight for us, Senator.

JK: Thank you, Hugh.

End of interview.

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