Friday, August 21, 2009

Joe Klein: GOP Nihilists

Joe Klein argues in Time that the Republican party has been taken over by political nihilists.

To be sure, there are honorable conservatives, trying to do the right thing. There is a legitimate, if wildly improbable, fear that Obama's plan will start a process that will end with a health-care system entirely controlled by the government. There are conservatives — Senator Lamar Alexander, Representative Mike Pence, among many others — who make their arguments based on facts. But they have been overwhelmed by nihilists and hypocrites more interested in destroying the opposition and gaining power than in the public weal. The philosophically supple party that existed as recently as George H.W. Bush's presidency has been obliterated. The party's putative intellectuals — people like the Weekly Standard's William Kristol — are prosaic tacticians who make precious few substantive arguments but oppose health-care reform mostly because passage would help Barack Obama's political prospects.

A striking example of the prevailing cravenness was Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia, who has authored end-of-life counseling provisions and told the Washington Post that comparing such counseling to euthanasia was nuts — but then quickly retreated when he realized that he had sided with the reality-based community against his Rush Limbaugh-led party. Mitt Romney, the Republican front-runner for President according to most polls, actually created a universal-health-care plan in Massachusetts that looks very much like the proposed Obamacare, but he spends much of his time trying to fudge the similarities and was AWOL on the "death panels." Why are these men so reluctant to be rational in public?

Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin have done similar flip-flops on end-of-life counseling, first publicly supporting it and now opposing it. As New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd quipped about this reversal, "Consistency was long ago sent to a death panel in Palin world." It also seems to have suffered a similar fate in the Republican party.

--Ballard Burgher


Scott said...

Klein wrote: “There is a legitimate, if wildly improbable, fear that Obama’s plan will start a process that will end with a health-care system entirely controlled by the government.”


But this isn’t “wildly improbable” at all. Whether one supports single-payer healthcare or not, the entire idea behind the public option was to work towards such a goal.

The idea came from Jacob Hacker and Roger Hickey (both of whom are advocates of single-payer) and they shopped it to the Obama, Clinton, and Edwards campaigns in 2008. The whole idea was that a public option was politically palatable — while a single-payer plan was not.

TAPPED had an interesting piece about the history of the public option the other day. No reason to deny what its purpose is, Mr. Klein. It’s not a “wildly improbable” fear. It’s precisely what the public option was designed to do.

Ballard Burgher said...

Thanks for your comment, Scott. Interesting notion that single-payer advocates Hacker and Hickey agree with the Right that the public option is the first step toward "government run health care."

Read the piece in the Saturday NYT on the public option in San Francisco by Dow, Dube and Colla.

They report that a public option has not crowded out private plans in San Francisco. That could be read as evidence to the contrary of the notion of the public option as stealth "government run health care" whatever the intentions of Hacker and Hickey.


BTW, do you have a link to the TAPPED piece you refer to?