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Remembering Dean Barnett

Tuesday, October 27, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Dean Barnett died a year ago today. Only a couple of weeks earlier I had spent a wonderful hour talking politics with him as I and and many others had become accustomed to as part of our more enjoyable moments.

Duane and I will be playing some Dean clips throughout today’s show, and Duane is building a Dean archive at the Hughniverse. Here’s another tribute from his pals at PunditReview.

Dean and I met only a couple of times, but we were able to became fast friends because of new media. He was generous with his time and his encouragement, especially to young people and especially to the men and women in uniform. What a great American, the The Plucky, Smart Kid With The Fatal Disease.


202-224-3121: The Switchboard for the Congress

Tuesday, October 27, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt


Please use the number 202-224-3121 to call the key Democratic senators and urge a no vote when Harry Reid attempts to bring Obamacare to the Senate floor next week or the week thereafter. The idea that Reid, Chuck Schumer and Patrick Leahy are the architects of your health care for the rest of your life should be enough to move you to action. It takes 60 votes to open debate. Urge each office you call to tell their senator to vote “no” on the cloture motion to open debate.

Start with Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas –each of whom face election in a year. Then move on to Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana who will be defeated in three years if she backs Obamacare in her increasingly conservative state, and then to Senator Ben Nelson to encourage him to continue to be a voice of moderate reasonability within the Democratic caucus. Then ask Senator Joe Lieberman to continue to be an independent voice within the caucus and to vote no on cloture.

There are others, all listed below. Call them all and e-mail them as well. Senator Reid has decided to throw the long ball on the public plan as well as on the massive cuts to Medicare and the huge tax increases. There is nothing centrist about his plan, and the only thing bipartisan about it is opposition to it.

We still don’t have the bill to read. But we have been told enough to know that it has nothing to do with the “centrist” version that emerged from the Baucus committee. Reid figures if he can get debate started, he may have to nip and tuck parts of the bill along the way, but that he will eventually get the bill that the president and Nancy Pelosi wants. If anything passes the senate, it will almost certainly sail through the House untouched to save a second trip through the cloture bound upper body.

The “escape hatch” touted by Reid is just more smoke and mirrors –the same sort of “opt out” nonsense that keeps public employee union members contributing their scarce dollars to left wing activist leadership paycheck after paycheck. California with its hard left legislature (and its bankrupt state treasury) will never “opt out” which means that the public plan will quickly become the dumping ground of the Golden State’s private and public sector employers, which will devastate the private insurance industry as it drives California even deeper under the waves. The rationing committees will get to work quickly as well to bring the costs of all American medicine down by refusing to approve crucial treatments. Read today’s Wall Street Journal story on Dr. Barry Straube, one of the key figures in your future health care as he is in charge of deciding what the government will pay for under Medicare:

In deciding what treatments Medicare will cover, Dr. Straube’s office looks at what is considered “reasonable and necessary” for beneficiaries. It is up to Dr. Straube and his staff to interpret that phrase in federal law because Congress never spelled out what it meant and industry groups don’t agree on a definition.

There will be more Dr. Straube’s in your future under Obamacare and especially under the “public option.” And that is just the beginning of the bad news. The cost of every medical device will be raised by hefty taxes imposed across the board. Taxes will be applied to many people with employer-provided health insurance. The same government that cannot produce enough H1N1 vaccine with months of warning and preparation time will be in charge of every aspect of medical care for every enrollee –voluntary or forced– in the public plan.

So now is the time to call with the simple message that you will not only vote against every Democrats’ re-election in a year, you will work against every Democrat who is on the ballot next year and will be contributing money to their opponents. Hopefully the voters in Virginia will deliver such a message next week, and if New jersey voters do the same thing with the election of Chris Christie, even tone deaf Senate Democrats may hear the message they missed in August.

The next three weeks will decide the future of American health care and not just for you but for your children and their children. Spend the time necessary to make your opinion heard.


Sen. Blanche Lincoln

DC Phone: (202) 224-4843

Local Phone: Dumas (870) 382-1023, Fayetteville (479) 251-1224, Little Rock (501) 375-2993, Jonesboro (870) 910-6896, Texarkana (870) 774-3106

Link to E-mail

Sen. Mark Pryor

DC Phone: (202) 224-2353

Local Phone: Little Rock (501) 324-6336

Link to E-mail


Sen. Michael Bennet

DC Phone: 202) 224-5444

Local Phone:
Denver Metro Office: (303) 455-7600 Toll Free: (866) 455-9866 Fax: (303) 455-8851
Colorado Springs Office: Phone: (719) 328-1100

Link to E-mail.


Sen. Joe Lieberman

DC Phone: (202) 224-4041

Local Phone: (860) 549-8463

Link to E-mail


Sen. Bill Nelson

DC Phone: (202) 224-5274

Local Phone: Orlando (407) 872-7161, Miami-Dade (305) 536-5999, Tampa (813) 225-7040, West Palm Beach (561) 514-0189, Tallahassee (850) 942-8415, Jacksonville (904) 346-4500, Broward (954) 693-4851, Fort Meyers (239) 334-7760

Link to E-mail


Sen. Evan Bayh

DC Phone: (202) 224-5623

Local Phone: Evansville (812) 465-6500, Fort Wayne (260) 426-3151, Hammond (219) 852-2763, Indianapolis (317) 554-0750, Jeffersonville (812) 218-2317, Southbend (574) 236-8302

Link to E-mail


Sen. Mary Landrieu

DC Phone: (202) 224-5824

Local Phone: Baton Rouge (225) 389-0395, Lake Charles (337) 436-6650, New Orleans (504) 589-2427, Shreveport (318) 676-3085

Link to E-mail


Sen. Jon Tester

DC Phone: (202) 224-2644

Local Phone: Billings (406) 252-0550, Bozeman (406) 586-4450, Butte (406) 723-3277, Glendive (406) 365-2391, Great Falls (406) 452-9585, Helena (406) 449-5401, Kalispell (406) 257-3360, Missoula (406) 728-3003

Link to E-mail


Sen. Ben Nelson

DC Phone: (202) 224-6551

Local Phone: Omaha (402) 391-3411, Lincoln (402) 441-4600, Scottsbluff (308) 631-7614, Kearney (308) 293-5818, South Sioux City (402) 209-3595

Link to E-mail

North Dakota

Sen. Kent Conrad

DC Phone: (202) 224-2043

Local Phone: Bismarck (701) 258-4648, Fargo (701) 232-8030, Grand Forks (701) 775-9601, Minot (701) 852-0703

Link to E-mail

Sen. Byron Dorgan

DC Phone: (202) 224-2551

Local Phone: Bismarck (701) 250-4618, Fargo (701) 239-5389, Minot (701) 852-0703, Grand Forks (701) 746-8972

Link to E-mail

South Dakota

Sen. Tim Johnson

DC Phone: (202) 224-5842

Local Phone: Aberdeen (605) 226-3440, Sioux Falls (605) 332-8896, Rapid City (605) 341-3990

Link to E-mail


Sen. James Webb

(202) 224-4024

Link to E-mail.

West Virginia

Sen. Robert C. Byrd

DC Phone: (202) 224-3954

Local Phone: Charlestown (304) 342-5855, Eastern Panhandle (304) 264-4626

Link to E-mail

David Frum

Monday, October 26, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

David Frum and I mixed it up on air tonight. The two columns I challenge him on are here and here. Frum accused me of narcissism because I treat the references to me in both of them as attacks on me. You read them and decide for yourself.

The transcript will be posted here later. The audio will be available at the Hughniverse. I invited David to continue the debate in the third hour of the show. He declined. The unwillingness to confront anger in his targets doesn’t speak well of Frum. Neither does his unwillingness to own what he writes.

“We’re From The Government and We’re Here To Tell You How You May Advertise Your Products”

Monday, October 26, 2009  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

My column today picks up where my column last week left off -pointing to the “guidance” from the Food and Drug Administration issued last week that warned all food manufacturers in America that big brother was watching their “front of package” branding and was ready to pursue penalties against any packaging claims that the FDA found not only false or misleading but also lacking in nutritional soundness. Some of America’s biggest names in the food business took quick note of the threat and suspended one campaign designed to brand their products as a “Smart Choice” for consumers. Just like that, millions of dollars of marketing effort went poof.

Not your problem, right? The sunk costs in the “Smart Choices” effort and any other similar effort cannot impact your grocery bill by even a nickel or even a penny. What’s the harm in that?

Only that the government flexed a previously unannounced power and the market shuddered and retreated a few steps. The FDA now knows all it has to do is publish a “guidance letter” and the marketplace will react.

Not only will the FDA bureaucracy be emboldened as to cereal packaging, but toward all other food packaging as well. Once the premise of the guidance letter is accepted -that it is the federal government’s business to police claims of nutritional soundness-there is not limit to the fed’s reach. Once the prevention of obesity is a sufficient reason to prosecute a package, which packages are going to be safe from government scrutiny? And if a package can be exiled, why not the product within it?

It is easy enough to understand why the food companies blinked -the plaintiffs’ bar. Just last week McDonald’s, Burger King and Friendly’s were sued for allegedly failing to warn consumers that their grilled chicken products contain a dangerous carcinogen. Imagine the attention that various products will attract from predatory plaintiffs’ lawyers if those lawyers can point to FDA “guidance” denouncing this or that bit of packaging and then assert a claim that children suffering the ill effects of obesity would not have been so burdened if the packages had just fairly informed mom of the nutritional dangers involved.

Corporate counsel in America’s largest, most successful food companies are practiced in the demands made by “consumer groups” masquerading as public advocates and by narrow issues lobbies that have confused their passions for particular food choices –the “slow food” movement, for example-with urgently necessary public policy choices backed by threats of recalls, fines and even prosecution. Within every major food company there is a regulatory compliance branch that surveys all the regimes of the fifty state governments, the international regs wherever products are sold abroad, and of course the FDA.

Now too they will be obliged to patrol the courts of 50 different states, trying to stay one step ahead of the state court lawsuits opening their products up to claims of injury due to content or inadequate warning. Lots of really obese kids out there. Someone’s got to pay the bill. Plaintiffs’ lawyers will be arriving in locust like numbers to demand payment from food producers with snazzy boxes and catchy jingles. “They made my child obese!” will be the rallying cry. “Pay up!”

The alternative to this scenario playing out is for the food industry to push back and push back hard, beginning with this guidance letter from the FDA. Challenge the FDA’s claim of authority over “Front of Packaging” (“FOP”) decisions in a free society, and ask the public to join in the effort.

Not only would manufacturers challenge the assumptions in the guidance letter, they would stand ready to fight back in court as well. They should challenge any particular application of any particular packaging regulation as in excess of the authority inherent in the regulation.

The regulation itself should also be attacked as in excess of authority the statute could confer in the first place. Not so long ago the Supreme Court ruled that the United States of Army Corps of Engineers had exceeded the authority granted it under the Clean Water Act when the Corps attempted to regulate some intermittent streams not connected to a navigable water. Agencies get carried away with heir own sense of mission, and usually because they are staffed by dedicated professional passionate about their work but less concerned with the appropriate limits on federal power in a government that values personal liberty over many other good things.

Finally, if the application of the regulation was appropriate and the regulation itself did not exceed the authority of the statute that gave it birth, then the statute, the regulation and the application would all have to be tested against the First Amendment’s robust protection of Free Speech, including commercial speech. Consumer advocates might balk at the idea that puff talk in selling is in any way protected by the First Amendment, but not only is it protected, it is as protected as all sorts of speech upon which American puts value. Increasingly this kind of commercial speech is being understood as every bit as central to our lives as political speech and artistic speech, and certainly it deserves at least as much protection as vulgar or licentious speech has garnered over the past many years.

The food industry needs to convene –right now– a gathering devoted to whether or not it will simply accept FDA-governed marketing in all aspects of its business, because that is the path the government is on. I think the manufacturers would be surprised at the support they would receive from the public in any effort to push back at federal regulators and refuse to be dictated to on such matters.

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