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“Republicans, Conservative Democrats, the Health Care Summit, and American Exceptionalism”

Monday, March 1, 2010  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

The Monday morning column from Clark Judge:

Republicans, Conservative Democrats, the Health Care Summit, and American Exceptionalism
By Clark S. Judge, managing director, White House Writers Group ( <> ) and chairman, Pacific Research Institute ( <> ).

“Blue Dogs want health care to come up again,” said a long-time veteran of the House in a closed door briefing last Monday. “So they can vote against it.”

Many conservative Democratic members of Congress cast their ballots for the bill last time – and those who did not are widely seen as part of a Speaker Nancy Pelosi con game that gave vulnerable members a pass. Either way, all want a chance to show that they are against the bill – really and truly against it. No con no way.[# More #]

After Thursday’s presidential health care summit, it looks as though they will have their chance. The best that can be said for the summit from the Democrats’ point of view… well, actually, there is not much of anything good that can be said for it from their point of view.

Until Thursday they could plausibly argue that the Republicans had no plan, just a lot of denial. This was not because the GOP was in fact plan-less, but because most of the media had so relentlessly refused to acknowledge the existence of a GOP approach. And most of those who had acknowledge it, refused to take that approach seriously.

But on Thursday, the Republicans showed depth of knowledge, breadth of understanding, and insight about the perverse dynamics of Federal programs once those programs get out of Congress and into the field. Despite his repetition of the refrain that he had first floated in his talk to the Republican Congressional retreat, it was the President who seemed to be reciting talking points. And his party’s members had nothing but long discredited arguments and often-implausible anecdotes with which to follow on.

When you are in a predicament like that which the GOP members found themselves before Thursday – with lots to say but no one to listen – an event like the health care summit can prove a Godsend. Everyone is watching. Everyone is listening. Conspiracies of non-hearing become impossible. Such moments can redefine you, and the Republicans made the most of this one.

Thursday marked the Obama White House’s third failed attempt to use a “domestic summit” to turn around a bad situation. From beer to jobs to health care, each has proven an embarrassment to the President. If I were to offer this White House communications advice (not that I expect them to turn to me anytime soon) it would be: send out a search party, track down the fellow who keeps devising these events and forcing them onto Mr. Obama’s calendar, and dispatch him to a climate change summit with the polar bears in the melting arctic (oh, wait, the arctic is not melting, all the better, send him to the refrozen north), and tell him not to show his face any place south of the tundra until after the 2012 elections, when he can do no more harm.

The days since the summit have confirmed that health care is one issue on which the Democrats cannot catch a break. The Rasmussen presidential ratings have rediscovered their low point ( <> ). Rasmussen’s tally of likely voters strongly favorable to the president is in the 23-25 percent range. It is hard to imagine the strong favorables falling much below this level. Barring a Watergate-type scandal, a president’s core of support almost always bottoms out around 20 percent, which is where the wild things are, the diehards who stay with the man, no matter what.

Even the Olympic broke against them. An enduring theme of the administration’s criticism of health care in America has been that we have too much technology. All this new technology costs so much, they complain, never mentioning the value of the benefits. Those on the other side can point, for example, to a highly regarded study that found the value of advances in cardiac care alone to be worth a trillion dollars annually in U.S. economic output. Still, studies are abstract – and after all, they are just studies. But then the U.S. wins the gold in Olympic bobsledding for the first time in sixty-two years. And there on every American TV screen is the story of the driver, blind two years ago, with his eyesight fully restored in one day with an advanced operation, exactly the kind of procedure the Obama team has made clear they intend to write out of their health care “system”.

The current issue of The American Spectator ( includes a wonderful article on American exceptionalism by British historian Andrew Roberts. In it Roberts quotes American Enterprise Institute scholar Charles Murray saying that “the signature of American exceptionalism [is] the assumption by most Americans that they are in control of their own destiny.”

Why has there been such broadly based public opposition to Obamacare? Perhaps because, at its core, it is a denial (much more stark and consequential than the President’s comment that Greeks surely consider Greece exceptional) of this quality of the American character and the American experience. The President and the Speaker have acknowledged as much in saying that Democrats should use their supermajority to pass health care, no matter what the people say. The American people, they seem to believe, aren’t smart enough to control their own destiny.

In the next several weeks we will see if conservative Democrats in Congress will follow Mr. Obama. The health care summit demonstrated that, on this issue, at least, we can trust where Congressional Republicans stand.

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