Sunday, July 26, 2009


It doesn't matter what the subject is -- anytime a writer chooses to intro their article with a Billy Kristol reference, nothing good can ever come from it.

Bill Kristol, a powerhouse policy guru for Republicans, often has a tin ear for politics. A week before the presidential election last year he predicted John McCain would “win huge.” In May, he said President Barack Obama had decided to nominate Governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan to the Supreme Court, and he’s been a cheerleader for Sarah Palin.

Mr. Kristol was prescient, however, 16 years ago in advising Republicans that defeating President Bill Clinton’s health care overhaul would be devastating for the Democrats. He’s making the same case today, imploring Republicans to “go for the kill” on the Obama health care initiative.

He’s right again. A defeat would be a killer for Democrats. The trademark of Mr. Obama’s first year in office would be failure; the reputations of the president and his celebrated White House staff would be decimated.

The occasions of being "right" have everything to do with the usual stopped-clock syndrome, and nothing at all to do with having a principled argument in good faith. Kristol exemplifies the utter worst in American political analysis -- a legacy hack who would have trouble picking the winner in a Harlem Globetrotters game. The only reason he was "right" in 1994 is because his betting pattern happened to pay off that time.

And let's face it -- even when they're successful, there's rarely much downside to betting against Democrats. They're bad at being the minority party, but they're even worse at being the majority party. When was the last time these people found the occasion, discipline, and intestinal fortitude to break out of the usual circular-firing-squad formation?

That's not a rhetorical question; I seriously cannot recall the last time they had this sort of electoral mandate and legislative advantage, yet they have no idea what to do with it. They are continuously flummoxed by the simplest obstructionist clowning from the Republicans, who have nothing to lose by being obstructionist clowns, because they know that the Democrats will fail to do anything meaningful about it.

Same with people such as Kristol. When has he ever had to deal with any consequences for being wrong, for failing to bring any insight to a discussion, for being tendentious and intellectually dishonest to a comical degree? Until people stop bringing him on as a commentator, or publishing his water-carrying jabber as if it should be taken seriously, what incentive is there for him to stop?

Kristol has never even bothered with the pretense of displaying more than a surface knowledge of any given subject. He has never attempted to hide his role as a purely partisan strategist. This has never mattered to the corporate media outlets that continue to request his services. Perhaps we can see a pattern here, if we choose to look closely enough. Just incompetence is never a reason to lose one's media gig, so too is it axiomatic that cost arguments are only relevant in certain issues, primary among those being health care.

The so-called public option — some form of government-run plan to compete with private insurers — will only be a fallback in the event private insurers fail to meet the goals, and will probably be in the form of health cooperatives or another mechanism. Liberals simply will have to accept that they lack the votes for a full-fledged public option.

Raising revenue — in the neighborhood of $300 billion over the next decade — may be the toughest nut. The House Ways and Means Committee’s millionaire’s surcharge plan is dead; at most, only a much smaller tax on the rich will fly. More likely will be some amalgam, including a tax on the most generous health insurance plans or the insurers that offer them, that would be part of the $200 billion in tax measures on the Senate Finance Committee’s table. Fears of a budget-busting bill are misplaced. Neither the politics nor the procedures will permit that.

Cost controls, so great in theory, will bite and will require politicians to take on special interests. The Blue Dogs, for all their talk of bills being too expensive, start off demanding more expansive health care for rural areas.

Sigh. Where to start? First, "liberals" do not lack the votes, at least along party lines. Big-tent wanking aside, the Blue Dog assholes take advantage of their all-liberals-are-Democrats-but-not-all-Democrats-are-liberals cred and use it to constantly force their party to negotiate at gunpoint. And they never seem to have to concede a thing; the party is content to let them pad their districts with useless boondoggles in exchange for a constantly fraying party loyalty. Like Billy Kristol, they never seem to have to pay any meaningful consequences for their actions, so there is no incentive for them to change.

Secondly, the issue of "cost" is both a shame and a shibboleth. We sunk $2 trillion into Iraq in just six years, yet there's just no way to maybe one-sixth of that in a decade, not to mention the lost productivity costs that would be offset by a genuine health-care initiative, as opposed to the industry-written handjob that the Democrats will eventually sign off on? We've spent over a trillion in the past year bailing out the thieves who turned the world's financial sector into a giant casino, yet refuse to cover their own losses.

And why precisely is this health-care cost estimate what it is? Look at what we're paying for now even when we have insurance -- increasing deductibles and co-pays, more people getting kicked off for pre-existing conditions, and on and on. So someone ends up paying thirty bucks for a Tylenol at the hospital, and people put their houses up for hock if their kid breaks a leg or gets ill, all so the executive salaries and bonuses of the HMO/pharma/insurance can stay in the eight- or nine-figure range. It is a most insidious version of the usual upward wealth-transfer that afflicts just about all our systems these days, every bit the highway robbery as what passes for our financial system.

They like to tell you that politics is the "art of the possible", but it should be obvious by now that it's really just the art of figuring out what you're willing to put up with.


The Vile Scribbler said...

Until people stop bringing him on as a commentator, or publishing his water-carrying jabber as if it should be taken seriously, what incentive is there for him to stop?

And right on cue, there he is on The Daily Show yet again. Last time was the day after the election, I think. Pretty soon he'll be challenging John McCain's record number of appearances!

"Oooh, but Jon totally caught him saying something stupid!" Yeah? And? I suppose the 9,768th time will be the charm, huh?

Heywood J. said...

Oh yeah. It was like I had subconsciously just known or something. I tune in to TDS Monday night, and Stewart announces that Kristol is coming on, and holy shit, why? Being able to set my watch by the network news entities' shenanigans is one thing, but Stewart is another.

But Stewart does seem to have that intrinsic flaw in that he actually is a nice guy, and is thus inclined to give even the most noxious people a forum, so long as they are genial enough and can take a good poke. So Kristol on Monday, John Bolton on Wednesday, hell, maybe Newt Gingrich next week. Why not Jerry Corsi or Orly Taitz while we're at it?

The choir-preaching is at least more -- far more -- fact-based than its Faux counterparts, But the thing is that the most effective way to get rid of these intellectually dishonest creeps is to simply ignore them or poke fun at them at arm's length, rather than bring them on to be refuted over and over again in front of a self-selecting audience, in increasingly truncated interview segments.