February 27, 2010

The Unbearable Slightness of Being Joe Klein

Hatched by Sachi

In Time Magazine, Joe Klein has a very eccentric response to the health-care summit:

[T]he tea leaves seem to indicate that Obama came out well ahead of the Republicans.

That's... unique. How does Klein score the "debate" to get that result?

[T]he President talked a lot -- actually, the President, the Congressional Democrats and Republicans each spoke an equal amount -- the Times of London found it boring and the networks turned to other programming.

Of course that ratio actually means that the Democrats talked twice as much as Republicans. But why should the number of minutes of speech, or how boring it was, determine who won the summit? The president can spout nonsense all day long (which he did) without letting the other side speak, but that doesn't mean he persuaded Americans to support ObamaCare (which he did not).

But I digress. Mr. Klein continues.

Reading between the lines, you can conclude that the Republicans had nothing very interesting, or clever, to say (and were never able to get the President's goat). And that the President was his usual, unflappable, well-informed self. You can also conclude that not much progress was made at the summit, as Karen reports here -- but that's a huge surprise, right?

Reading between what lines? The entire summit was carried on C-SPAN, and there is a lot of it now available on YouTube. If Klein actually watched the discussion, he would have known Republicans had a lot to say. For only one example, here is a six-plus-minute clip of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI, 84%) trying to break through Barack H. Obama's wall of separation between rhetoric and reality (hat tip to Power Line):



So, where did Joe Klein got the strange ideas that (a) the president routed the GOP, and (b) Republicans had little to say? What program was he watching anyway?

Perhaps this explains Joe Klein's take-away impression:

Shame on me. I was elsewhere yesterday and missed the health care summit. I'm catching up now, and the tea leaves seem to indicate that Obama came out well ahead of the Republicans. How do I know that? From Matt Drudge, of course.

As it turns out, Klein's entire sourcing for his conclusion comes from reading Drudge and the New York Times. ("All the news that fits -- our pre-existing story board!") In Klein's world, that trifling input is enough to justify his conclusions of who won and who had the better case.

So what other news did Klein pick up from his sketchy reading? Here's his take on how the GOP could have "won" instead:

I remain convinced that if the Republicans actually wanted to deal with this issue, they might have gotten some major concessions from the President -- malpractice reform, for sure; ....To get these things, however, the Republicans would have had to say yes at some point. As in, YES, I'll vote for the bill if you throw in malpractice and pay for it with the money you get from limiting deductability. That is what happens in a negotiation. That is what is supposed to happen in a democracy.

Joe Klein misses the central point: Republicans are not asking for a few concessions here and there. They, and majority of Americans for that matter, fundamentally reject and oppose a government take over of the health care system. There is a huge, unbridgeable gap between Democrats and Republicans. As Paul Ryan explains towards the end of the clip above:

The difference is this. We don't think all the answers lie in Washington regulating all of this. So the problem with the approach we are seeing that you're offering, which I do believe, Senator, is very different than what we're saying, is we don't want to sit in Washington and mandate all of these things....

We want to decentralize the system, give more power to small businesses, more power to individuals, and make insurers compete more. But if you federalize it and standardize it and mandate it, you do not achieve that.

Joe Klein might have understood this, had he actually watched the summit instead of reading the New York Times condensed and filtered version. (If he wasn't too busy retracting specious claims from earlier columns, I mean.)

But the obvious truth here is that the Republicans do not want any sort of health care bill to pass at all because they do not want to hand President Obama a victory.

Is Klein saying we Republicans don't even want our own health-insurance reform plan to pass? Or is he unaware that we have one? (Maybe the Times chose not to cover it, so Klein never heard of it.)

Republicans do not want to let Democrats use this artificial "crisis" to create a very real and irreversible nationalization of one-sixth of the American economy. Republicans (Americans!) do not want shockingly huge taxes, skyrocketing premiums, loss of choice, waiting lists, rationed care, and death panels... not even in a swap for unnamed (and never offered) "concessions" on a few things that might actually help ordinary people.

This isn't a game; we're talking about real people's lives, health, and liberty. We don't want fascism with the smiley face of tort reform and more catastrophic care policies, assuming ObamaCare's health-insurance exchange eventually decides to allow them.

Republicans actually have principles -- another point Joe Klein didn't pick up from the Times.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, February 27, 2010, at the time of 6:34 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Dick E

Andrew McCarthy has a gloomy take on the Democrats’ intentions and motives.

I for one hadn’t really connected reconciliation with Andrew’s notion that Democrats are willing to sacrifice their political futures at the altar of Big Government. Even if, as a result of their perfidy, voters banish Dems from power for 10 years or more, the devastation they have wrought will be irreversible. Unfortunately, many of them might see this as their legacy.

So is Andrew right? Is there a critical mass of Democrats who either see a higher calling or who are already convinced they are going to lose in the fall (and are thus willing to follow the ideologues)? How can we stop this? Or are we doomed?

The above hissed in response by: Dick E [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 28, 2010 12:15 AM

The following hissed in response by: GW

I realize all card carrying members of the left have a "get out of racist/discriminatory remarks" free card in their wallets, but I am still amazed that Klein is around after the outrageous low blows against Krauthammer a year or two ago. I haven't paid any attention to him since then, and now I remember why. How can he get paid for opining upon something of which he has not even watched. This joker is just mailing it in. All he has to do is pull out the well worn script - Obama is perfect, Republicans are either evil or stupid, but in any case, obsturctionists with purely partisan motivations. Funny, that is the way I described the left over Iraq - only then it was an observation, not a fantasy.

The above hissed in response by: GW [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 28, 2010 8:44 PM

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