My Fault: Apologies to David Frum!

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david frum steve clemons benson twn.jpgDavid Frum and many observers think that he was excommunicated from the Cheney-dominated halls at the American Enterprise Institute because of a hard-hitting, honest appraisal of Republican self-delusion and hyperventilation over the health care battle.
If you missed Frum’s humdinger of an essay titled “Waterloo“, read it here. And here is the GOP empire’s response.
This is powerful stuff. But honestly, Frum was far more over the top about Sarah Palin whom he saw as utterly unqualified on any level to serve as President of the United States. Frum basically split then with the neocons and pugnacious nationalists who dominate Republican party politics and committed himself to reviving a healthier, smarter, less nasty, more competitive and visionary Republican Party.
So, his criticism of Republican health care goose-stepping was nothing new.
In fact, Frum was hoping to make AEI the base of his efforts to bring a new set of compelling ideas about America’s domestic and international policy portfolios to the GOP’s leadership either in 2012, or more likely as a base for a successful presidential run in 2016.
Frum’s firing had nothing to do with his article or the WSJ piece, with all due respect to Howard Kurtz.
The truth is hard to, well. . .I feel I have to reveal that the real reason for David Frum being fired is, well, “me“.
It all started with dinner and a great dog named “Benson.”
Before this mind-stretching dinner hosted by journalist and AT Kearney/Global Business Policy Council chief Martin Walker and Julia Watson, proprietor of the blog EatWashington, all was normal in the universe as Frum and I were on complete opposite ends of practically everything.
He once wrote of me as “lunkheaded” in an erudite Mark Twain-referencing critique [thankfully no longer on the internet] of something I had written about him involving the words “incipient” and “imminent.” Long story that’s not worth retelling. He wrote a piece once on the “dangers of creeping Scowcroftianism” when I was one of those in Washington responsible for perpetuating a revival of Scowcroftian writing and ideas. When we were on NPR radio shows together, he would be embracing neoconservative messianism to re-engineer the internal guts of other countries while ‘d be saying that this was like the Borg in Star Trek. I’d say that the neocons either wanted to assimilate another culture — and if that didn’t work, annihilate it.
Frum’s job was safe at AEI when we were on opposite sides.
And then Benson was there, at a great dinner — and Frum and I are both complete suckers for dogs. Like major suckers.
Before I knew it, David Frum and I were both on the floor together with Benson between us, licking us lavishly together. I sort of felt like a once-divorced spouse of David who had been brought back together by the child. That’s the power of dogs.
I did disclose our dog-bond on The Washington Note and feared that Frum would get fired then. In fact, I wrote:

I’m sharing this because I can’t keep secret any longer the fact that I had a great time with David Frum, Danielle, and the rest — and am going to be doing so again tonight.
I regret that David may get roughed up more by Bill Kristol and some of his friends at AEI for this disclosure than I will by my readers. . .or so I hope.

Silliness aside [actually it's all true], David, Danielle Crittenden, Julia Watson, Martin Walker, Moises Naim, and others had such a great evening of debate and discussion about the political scene that Frum and I began tentatively reaching out for more discussion.
I invited him to a few New America Foundation gatherings. He invited me to his holiday party — and it was there that journalists like Jamie Kirchick and Eli Lake began to see that either David was trying to bring me their direction, or I was working to make Frum a Nixonian Realist-hugger. But for the most part, the journalists there kept mum.
We did a couple of shows together for Reason Magazine with Nick Gillespie — and then we began to enjoy some high octane policy discussions over the Frum dinner table, in one of the most beautiful rooms I’ve been to in Washington. And Frum has two amazing yellow labs and a funky spaniel. Dogs!
But then just a few weeks ago, I met Frum in public for coffee at the Starbucks on Dupont Circle. I wanted to get a sense from him of how the neoconservative world was organized — and how he was going to play a role in that world in the future. My belief is that David Frum and Francis Fukuyama, separately to some degree, are the first serious rebels in the neoconservative church that reject the unprincipled power grabs by their neocon siblings and cousins.
My hunch is that some new neoconservative churches that hearken back to the original thinking, and to some degree policy modesty, of Irving Kristol will emerge and Frum and Fukuyama are potential leaders.
While we were sitting in that crowded, noisy Starbucks, I thought I saw Bill Kristol walk by. There was someone with him who definitely looked right into my eye. Then, I saw his eyes widen to the limit when he saw who my coffee mate was.
They kept walking. But then, Frum tells me “now we need to keep this quiet — you know us meeting and stuff.” I didn’t tell him that we were already “out.”
And then just a couple of weeks ago — the two guys who used to be the opposite of each other on virtually everything did a “blogging heads” episode together focused on US-Iran policy options titled “Warm and Fuzzy Edition.”
I thought Frum would be fired the next day. A short clip of the session titled “Iran Regime Change?” appeared on the New York Times online oped page, after which a friend of mine at the Wall Street Journal chuckled and said he might frazzle Paul Gigot and even the great Rupert Murdoch with an anonymous email to them of the bloggingheads link.
So, bottom line is that in the world of ideas there are occasions when policy gladiators on opposite sides learn to respect each other, engage, perhaps even modify their views — and become friends
I remember when Rahm Emmanuel made the following comment to the New Yorker‘s Ryan Lizza:

The public wants bipartisanship. We just have to try. We don’t have to succeed.

In a political/policy context, I think responsible think tank wonks also have a responsibility to reach across the aisle, or attempt to do so — as well as to ‘think’ and not rest lazily on ideological laurels.
But in contrast to Rahm’s outcome on bipartisanship, Frum and I have been succeeding — and so too have been other people in his circle and mine.
This is what the future could and should be made of.
It truly is a shame that the American Enterprise Institute didn’t realize that it could reinvent its own place and relevance in Washington with the kind of creative bridge-building and policy innovation that Frum was pushing.
I apologize to David for being the real cause of his firing — but I’m sure he’ll be fine.
And the silver lining is that we’ll probably have more time for dog dates. Benson!
– Steve Clemons

Comments

53 comments on “My Fault: Apologies to David Frum!

  1. questions says:

    http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2010/03/fluck-you-florida.html
    Nate Silver’s take on the same poll.
    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/3/28/23560/3291
    Marco Rubio apparently suggested doing away with or shrinking So. Sec., and raising the retirement age. I didn’t listen to the video, so I don’t know the details of the debate. Can’t imagine that would play well, and Crist will RUN with it, for sure.
    I have read that Kendrick Meek may actually have some chance. So we may not be stuck with Rubio. Also, I think Crist is “surging” to within 11 points or so.
    Fla. isn’t a done deal in any direction.
    As for Obama’s re-election chances, if he simply checks off a string of policy pieces on his list, and if the economy continues to improve, and if the economy continues to continue to improve… he’ll be re-elected.
    *******
    CounterPunch has a couple of interesting pieces up — on the rock concert aid to Ethiopia and aid to Haiti– by Vijay Prashad (who does nice work), on Netanyahu — by Avnery.

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  2. WigWag says:

    More about the politics of the health care reform debate:
    According to “Politico” the recently passed bill is profoundly unpopular in Florida. Only 34 percent of Florida residents are in favor of the bill while 54 percent oppose it. Two key voting blocks are especially unhappy; senior citizens oppose the bill by 65 percent to 25 percent and seniors vote in significantly higher percentages than any other group. Independents (who put Obama over the top in Florida in 2008) oppose the bill by 62 to 34 percent.
    The Mason-Dixon poll taken for the Miami Herald also showed that 15 percent more Floridians had a negative view of Obama than a positive view.
    Here’s a link to the Politico article,
    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0310/35141.html
    Support for the Democrats seems to be plunging in Florida which until now has usually been viewed as a swing state leaning only slightly Republican.
    Mark Rubio seems very likely to be the next Senator from Florida (replacing Mel Martinez). Rubio will enter the Senate not only as a Republican but also as one of the most right wing Senators in the body. He’s really to the right of Attila the Hun.
    In the gubernatorial race former conservative Republican Congressman Bill McCollum is the likely Republican nominee and Alex Sink is the likely Democratic nominee. It’s hard to see how, with Obama so unpopular, Sink could win.
    All of this is very interesting because it demonstrates the possibility that health care could actually sink Obama’s presidency.
    If (and it’s a big if) Republicans nominate a mainstream candidate like Romney, Obama could actually lose in 2012.
    If the Republican states that Obama won in 2008 return to form and vote Republican (as they almost certainly will) and if the Republican candidate wins Florida, then Obama finds himself in a real horse race.
    If that happened, the race would be decided by Ohio and one or two other swing states like Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Iowa. If it comes down to that, it will be a very uncomfortable scenario for the Obama Campaign. The reality is that whoever won Ohio would probably be the next President.
    If Romney is the nominee it throws some interesting wild cards into the Campaign. Could Romney win Massachusetts? Probably not, but he is a former Governor of Massachusetts (who ironically brought universal health care to the State)and we all know the results of the last special election for the Senate.
    Could Romney win New Jersey? It seems doubtful but a conservative Republican who actually opposes abortion rights was just elected Governor of New Jersey and if Romney selected a New Jersey Republican as his running mate (e.g. Tom Kean or Christy Whitman) while it might infuriate right wing Republican critics, it could win him New Jersey.
    Could Romney win in Michigan? Romney grew up there and his father was inordinately popular. A Romney win there seems unlikely but not out of the question.
    In short, as ironic as it sounds, it does seem that the recently passed health care reform legislation makes Obama’s reelection marginally more unlikely, not more likely.

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  3. Dan Kervick says:

    “Given the nature of our political system, there is simply no way to enact legislation that results in significant decreases in payments to the various constituent parts that make up the medical-industrial complex.”
    Agreed in part about the political system, WigWag. It’s sad, because some of the politically unacceptable paths to decreased bloat and lower costs are things we definitely know how to do. Companies slash wasteful costs and increase efficiency every day. They usually do it in response to intense competitive pressure, but it happens because key strategic decisions come from the top down.
    A lot will depend on what happens when the exchanges are set up. There is at least the potential to create a much more competitive environment for health care insurance. But the chief problem is the absence of competitive pressure at the provider level.
    If we had the political will to create significant government run components for the health care system, those government programs could begin to exert serious competitive pressure on the private sector to become more efficient.

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  4. questions says:

    should be “link”

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  5. questions says:

    http://blogs.marketwatch.com/cody/2010/03/29/what-do-these-health-care-reform-charges-at-att-and-others-mean-for-your-portfolio/
    From one marketwatch ling to another….
    Deducting subsidy payments will end. That’s all.

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  6. nadine says:

    questions, TPM is wrong when they say it doesn’t take effect until 2013. The new tax takes effect in 2011; that’s why companies must restate net income immediately per SEC rules.
    Companies get hit two ways: they lose a Federal subsidy to their retiree prescription programs that is worth up to $1300 per employee; and they lose the ability to deduct the cost off their taxes. Cf. http://www.marketwatch.com/story/deere-says-health-reform-will-hit-its-bottom-line-2010-03-25
    TPM can talk about closing loopholes and it being a “small amount of money” all they like. For a company that has many retirees and generous retiree prescription plans, it’s a huge tax hike with no warning. AT&T did not just write down 1 Billion off their their income statement for fun. Henry Waxman’s threat to intimidate the company at a Congressional hearing is pure thuggery.

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  7. nadine says:

    Given the nature of our political system, there is simply no way to enact legislation that results in significant decreases in payments to the various constituent parts that make up the medical-industrial complex.
    Yes there is. Put in market based systems where the person receiving the care gets to keep more money if he spends less. This induces him to care about prices, which induces price pressure, which induces efficiencies that lower prices. It is absurd to say that nobody can do better that a third party payer system where neither providers nor patients care what anything costs.
    A huge percentage of medical tests are done for defensive medicine, not medical reasons. You can save money by decreasing unnecessary utilization.

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  8. WigWag says:

    “WigWag, those people are already on Medicare and so would be covered no matter what. I think the issue is more about what the new law does, and that pertains to people younger than 65.” (Questions)
    Reasonable people can disagree about the consequences that the new health care bill will have on the federal budget. I’m inclined to think that the bill contains enough budgetary gimmicks to make the CBO scoring relatively meaningless; but I could easily be wrong. The whole concept of predicting the effects of a significant piece of legislation like this over a period of decades is pretty silly to begin with.
    But whatever the effect that the bill has on the federal budget, the effect of the bill on GDP is clear; an increasing percentage of U.S. GDP will be devoted to health care. There is simply no way to provide coverage to 30 million more people and expect that an increasing percentage of GDP won’t be devoted to paying for it.
    I think that this is really more about a value judgment than anything else. If the thought that 30 million Americans don’t have health care offends you, then you probably don’t mind that we will spend more on health and less on education, military affairs, foreign aid, popcorn, vacations to the Grand Canyon, retirement savings, investment and the like.
    If you don’t think that health care is a “right” that the government should guarantee than you probably think that the idea of dedicating an increasing percentage of GDP to it is a bad idea, especially if it is to be paid for collectively.
    I think the whole debate has gotten silly. The idea that there are real ways to cut significant costs in the health care system is wrong. There is little to no empirical evidence that market solutions can provide answers. The Republicans had almost a decade in power to provide market based solutions; they never did. There are virtually no modern societies in the world where there is precedence for market based solutions lowering health care costs. This stands to reason; markets work far more imperfectly when demand is price inelastic as it is for medical care.
    To take costs out of the system, someone has to make less money. Hospitals have to make less and/or doctors have to make less and/or nurses have to make less and/or pharmaceutical companies have to make less and/or insurance companies have to make less and/or nursing homes have to make less and/or physical therapists have to make less, etc. etc.
    Given the nature of our political system, there is simply no way to enact legislation that results in significant decreases in payments to the various constituent parts that make up the medical-industrial complex.
    Cost will continue to rise but demographics will eventually save us.
    Or more accurately, demographics won’t save you and me, but they should save our grandchildren.

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  9. nadine says:

    questions, latest polling on Obamacare says attitudes are not changing:
    One week after the House of Representatives passed the health care plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats, 54% of the nation’s likely voters still favor repealing the new law. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 42% oppose repeal.
    Those figures are virtually unchanged from last week. They include 44% who Strongly Favor repeal and 34% who Strongly Oppose it.
    Repeal is favored by 84% of Republicans and 59% of unaffiliated voters. Among white Democrats, 25% favor repeal, but only one percent (1%) of black Democrats share that view.
    Only 17% of all voters believe the plan will achieve one of its primary goals and reduce the cost of health care. Most (55%) believe it will have the opposite affect and increase the cost of care.
    Forty-nine percent (49%) believe the new law will reduce the quality of care. Sixty percent (60%) believe it will increase the federal budget deficit. Those numbers are consistent with expectations before the bill was passed.
    http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/current_events/healthcare/march_2010/health_care_law

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  10. questions says:

    OT, but here’s Netanyahu echoing the friends don’t let friends language….
    “”The relationship between Israel and the U.S. is one between allies and friends, and it’s a relationship based on years of tradition,” Netanyahu said. “Even if there are disagreements, these are disagreements between friends, and that’s how they will stay.”
    via Huff Po
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/29/netanyahu-obama-not-israe_n_516880.html
    Nadine, nothing I’ve read about Med. Adv. makes it seem like a good way to spend money. Taxing unearned income over 200K or 250K for couples seems fine to me. Increased premiums with means testing also seems fine to me. My premiums are not means tested, they are a flat dollar amount regardless of how difficult it is for me to pay. Welcome to the world. Health insurance is expensive, is an income transfer, a sharing of risk, a pooling of resources, a gathering of all decent humans (and then some), and it takes a realization of one’s own mortality and dependency and the worthiness of the lives of others to commit to a system of risk sharing and resource pooling. I’m all for it. We’re most of us going to get sick, and all of us going to die, and I’m tossing my money into the pool quite willingly on the hopes that I don’t have to die on an ER ramp.
    Perhaps there should be an opt out system after all. Refuse insurance and agree to receive absolutely no uncompensated treatment. But how inhumane that would be to hold someone to such a deal when he’s bleeding to death after a gunshot wound. We’d never do it. And since we’d never do it, we simply have to get everyone into the insurance pool. And we have to dump money in.
    Congressional/fed gov’t workers’ family policies are about 13K per year. There’s the basic cost for family coverage. That’s pretty much what we have to come up with. So be it.

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  11. nadine says:

    questions, the new law has half a trillion dollars in Medicare cuts, it slashes Medicare Advantage (unless you’re in Florida), and it raises Medicare premiums for well-to-do seniors. There are good reasons seniors are more opposed to it than anybody.
    You’re not supporting the real bill, you’re supporting some fantasy concocted out of Obama’s promises.

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  12. questions says:

    WigWag, those people are already on Medicare and so would be covered no matter what. I think the issue is more about what the new law does, and that pertains to people younger than 65.

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  13. nadine says:

    “Controlling medical costs between now and around 2040 (when a significant number of baby boomers will begin to die off) is a pipe dream. But things should brighten appreciably by mid century.”
    Wig, this sentence confuses health care provision with health care costs. Aging populations need lots of health care provided. But efficient provision costs less than inefficient provision at any rate of service. If you’re going to need a lot of provision, that is precisely the time you need to concentrate on efficiency. Just the opposite of what Obamacare does.

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  14. nadine says:

    questions, you have a most peculiar notion of economic thinking. Any provision can be a profit center IF YOU GET PAID FOR IT. But any provision that you are suddenly ordered to cover, for which you never got paid, is a loss center.
    Or are you suggesting that it costs negative dollars to cover the health needs of the under 26 crowd?
    The scariest part is, people who think like you wrote this bill.

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  15. WigWag says:

    Unfortunately the liklihood that the United States will be able to control medical costs in the forseeable future is near zero. Far and away the most important factor in health care spending is age and the United States population is aging relatively rapidly (although not as rapidly as it is in Europe and much of Asia.)
    Accoding the the CIA World Factbook, the median age in the United States is 36.7 years. By way of comparison, the median age in Ethiopia is 16.9 years, in Pakistan it’s 20.8 years, in Germany it’s 43.8 years and in Japan it’s 44.2 years.
    Most importantly only the first people born in the baby boom after World War II have become what we call senior citizens; but the numbers who will in the next fifteen years are about to explode.
    60 percent of all newly diagnosed malignancies are found in people 65 years or older. That same cohort shoulders 70 percent of all cancer deaths. It is important to remember that an enormous percentage of medical costs are incurred in the six months prior to death. Overall, the elderly are 10 times more likely to get cancer and 15 times more likely to die from cancer than those under the age of 65.
    The figures aren’t any better for coronary artery disease. People age 65 or older are 9 times more likely to experience a first heart attack than those younger than 65; 83 percent of all death and severe disability from heart disease occurs in people 65 and older.
    The statistics are similar for stroke, Type II diabetes, influenza and most other common causes of death.
    Controlling medical costs between now and around 2040 (when a significant number of baby boomers will begin to die off) is a pipe dream. But things should brighten appreciably by mid century.
    In the meantime, we should expect that an increasing percentage of GDP will be devoted to medical costs regardless of what reimbursement system is put in place.

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  16. Kathleen says:

    David “axis of evil” Frum pushed as hard as he could for the illegal invasion of Iraq. The man is up to his neck in the Iraqi people’s blood. Period

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  17. questions says:

    Covering kids up to 26 is PROFIT CITY!!!
    These people hardly ever make claims. They stay on policies and the parents keep paying the family coverage costs when there’s no family and it’s a gravy train for the insurance companies. They are a cheap group to insure, they are a profit center. that’s why this provision is there.
    Further, it eases pressure on small companies that hire inexperienced younger people at low wages. And it takes a lot of pressure off the wages for those young people. They can afford to work lower wage jobs while their parents subsidize their insurance the way they’ve been. No one feels the sudden loss of premium payments. Anti-inflationary, less pressure on wages, risk sharing…. What more can you ask for?!
    This provision is a smart one.
    Ask an actuary!

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  18. questions says:

    Upward pressure:
    All the mandated preventive care will raise premium costs by the dollar amount of preventive care expected per patient. If you do an annual with an internist and one specialist per year, with some lab work, figure 400 or 500 dollars. BUT, since studies have come out that annual doctor visits are utterly unnecessary for healthy people, and since people actually HATE going to the doctor for the most part, I’m guessing that most of us won’t be heading in for annual anythings. Not mammograms, not prostate checks, not ob/gyn, not cardio. So this upward pressure might be lower than it seems.
    Covering kids and vaccines via health insurance is an upward pressure, except that it means that city health departments and school clinics can scale back significantly. Money goes into insurance and comes out of city services. Might not add.
    More pricey care for currently deprived people — this is perhaps a big one, but it depends on what all those cancer-ridden uninsured people do currently. How much do they cost without insurance, and how much will they cost with insurance? This one is for the actuaries.
    It’s crucial to note that currently, sick people w/o insurance do cost society something — in terms of orphaned children, public benefits, lost work days and tax payments, use of services…. Getting them into the system might not be so horrible after all.
    And of course, healthy people w/o insurance who have sudden accidents they can’t pay for also cost the system. And keeping sufficient medical care available for them and their accidents and sudden strokes when they don’t pay in is another cost.
    There are, then, costs built in to lack of coverage. There’s already huge medical inflation, so blaming the next round solely on Obamacare is a mistake.
    And Nadine, it might be helpful in your categorical thinking to remember that Obamacare really is the Heritage/AEI market-based solution. It isn’t socialism.

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  19. questions says:

    Cost cutting measures:
    The broader risk sharing might lower per patient costs if those w/o insurance are generally a healthier lot than those with. I don’t know which is true.
    Preventive care to intervene before Type II diabetes and heart disease and high blood pressure do their thing.
    Community health centers to keep people out of the emergency room for routine care.
    Pre-natal care to keep low-weight births on the lower end of necessity.
    Early cancer intervention might lower costs.
    Some actual studies into the effectiveness of treatments so that we’re guided not by fantasy, but by outcome. Given all the backtracking we’ve been witness to vis-a-vis diagnostic tests and treatment for prostate cancer, breast cancer, hormone replacement therapy, dietary changes… it does seem like some outcome work might be a helpful guide.
    Medical loss ratios mandated and if there’s teeth in them there mandates, it might help.
    A lot less uncompensated care will take pressure off of hospitals and medical practices.
    Will this be enough? I don’t know. MRIs and CAT scans and cancer care and chronic diseases are expensive. Newer drugs are expensive. Biologics can run 20 thousand a year, cancer drugs can run 100,000 or more a course. It takes a lot of healthy people’s paying in to cover this stuff.
    Fact is, though, the current system is on an unsustainable path anyway.
    The only other option I can think of for controlling costs is to let people die on the hospital stairs and ramps. No uncompensated care ever. No cost sharing ever. Then healthy people can pay a small amount for their non-care. And as soon as they get sick, their plans will drop them, society will drop them, and they’ll die on the ramp to the ER.
    Without any change, eventually large employers would look to cutting back on benefits, and small employers would do so sooner. As soon as most of us are on the individual market, we’ll all be dying on the ramps because the hospitals won’t have the resources to cover us. There will be death spirals in insurance companies, provider networks, Medicaid…. When this happens, see the paragraph above.
    To do nothing is to invite a dystopia. To do something is to spend some money.

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  20. nadine says:

    Dan, there is not a single cost-cutting provision in the bill that I am aware of. Real cost-cutting happens through competition and price sensitivity, which has been essentially eliminated. The Feds are totally taking over the health care insurance market. If you liked what Fannie and Freddie did for the mortgage market, you’re gonna looove what Obamacare does for the health insurance market.
    The answer to “what’s in this legislation for ME?” for the vast majority is: nothing good. Higher premiums, hidden taxes (every medical device has a new tax!) and Medicare cuts up front. States going bust under expanded Medicaid unfunded mandates. The promised exchanges? Check back in 2014. Meanwhile, the health care system’s quality has nowhere to go but DOWN. This creates political vulnerability for the bill. Notice the new Republican slogan — “Repeal and Replace”.
    “The full realization that the health care reform legislation established a toehold for further government activism and reform down the road might be one of the reasons Obama was able to bring over so many progressives near the end.”
    Yup. This has occurred to both sides, you realize. This is why “Crazy Socialist Dems Go Too Far!” will also stick around as a campaign slogan.

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  21. Dan Kervick says:

    I agree with Nadine here, or at least suspect she is right. The universality and minimal coverage provisions of this legislation are going to produce strong upward price pressure on insurance policies. And I’m skeptical that the cost-cutting aspects of the legislation will be enough to offset the upward pressures. What’s worse from a political point of view is that the measures designed to bring down prices tend to kick in much later, while many of those that will tend to increase prices take effect earlier.
    Of course, we won’t know for several years how this legislation will impact long run costs, not until after the exchanges,upon which most of the hopes of cost-cutting are supposed to ride, are up and running. We probably won’t even know ten years from now, since the impact of the exchanges will be so mixed up in all of the other myriad economic and technological factors always affecting health care costs and productivity that the economic impact of the legislation will be tough to measure.
    You also have to wonder how ordinary people will like these exchanges, with their platinum, gold, silver and bronze care level distinctions, which could evolve into an unattractive class-based system of crappy bronze McHealthCare for the struggling many who don’t have employer-based plans, and platinum spa treatment for the affluent and self-employed few.
    One thing I will predict right now. By November, the Republic charge against the legislation will have opportunistically shifted from:
    *Crazy Socialist Dems Go Too Far!*
    to:
    *Dem Sellout to Health Industry Doesn’t Go Far Enough!*
    They will be much closer to the truth with the second charge.
    Maybe its true that some Democrats legislate like the laws of economics don’t exist. But some Republicans pontificate like the law of politics don’t exist. Now that a certain level of universality and minimal coverage is the law of the land, the notion that the “repeal it all” Republicans will ever have the balls to repeal these basic social guarantees doesn’t pass the laugh test. They might as well try to repeal child labor laws and women’s suffrage.
    So the whole national discussion will soon shift to the question of how best to lower the nation’s overall health care costs and increase overall quality, within the framework of a political reality in which universality and minimal standards for the healthy and sick alike are a settled public expectation, and in which the entire health care consuming public is more tightly bound together in interdependence. This legislation has set in motion a political dynamic that will be working its way through our political system for ten or twenty years, at least.
    Many of the supposed cost-cutting provisions in the law are actually more like open-ended invitations to further legislation down the road. The real action comes much later as private industry, state governments and the federal government respond in various ways to the outcome of the various studies and trial runs called for by the legislation. We can surely expect renewed calls – at the state or federal level – for public administration of various parts of the health system as the gravity of the need to cut waste, redundancy, and unnecessary profiteering from this very expensive system become even more apparent. And the new institutional framework, with its universality requirements and potentially very expensive subsidies, will increasingly encourage public understanding of health care as a collection of key public choices on a national scale, not just a multitude of localized private and corporate market decisions.
    It is understandable that, following a political battle in which health care reform was distorted by conservatives into a radical transformation of everything in the universe, the administration and supporters like Ezra Klein are now going around trying to make the point that 90% of people won’t be affected at all. But I suspect the time will come, much sooner than they expect, when that “no impact” line will no longer become a political selling point. People are going to pivot quickly from their pre-passage cry of “Don’t change the system!” to saying “Hey, what was in this legislation for ME?” Obama and company better get their answers ready. Maybe it’s just me, but the line, “We spent a year of blood and toil passing legislation that won’t affect you at all!” doesn’t sound like much of a campaign rallying cry.
    The silliest claim made in this debate was Obama’s stated ambition of being “the last” president to deal with health care. Not hardly! We’re going to be working on health care for many years to come. The full realization that the health care reform legislation established a toehold for further government activism and reform down the road might be one of the reasons Obama was able to bring over so many progressives near the end.

    Reply

  22. nadine says:

    Ezra Klein is blowing smoke out his you-know-what, playing partisan politics. Insurers have suddenly been ordered to cover kids up to 26 and conditions they didn’t cover before; overall costs are rising, so premiums will go up. It is just that simple.
    However much Obama likes to demagogue the insurers as greedy bastards, the industry averages only 3% profits, so they have no choice but to raise rates or go out of business.
    Many more than 10% of Americans will have a different insurance arrangement long before 2019 (and hey, what happened to “if you like your plan you can keep it”? Guess that statement reached its expiration date, huh), because that is what the incentives in the bill say will happen.
    Companies will dump their retirees into Medicare, their employees into the exchanges, states will go bust under the new unfunded Medicaid mandates ($2 Billion for California alone), and doctors will retire in droves, and not be replaced. This bill funds 16,000 new IRS agents, but not one doctor.
    This is not guesswork, it is merely a function of noticing the incentives in the bill. More incentives will come to light in the near future. Most of what the bill actually does has been deliberately hidden under legislative gobbletygook that nobody had enough time to untangle. The lawyers at big corporations will figure it out first; they have to, or be at risk of jail or fines if they don’t.
    This bill was written by people who think the laws of economics don’t exist. I think they don’t care. I think their thought is “Sure, this may wreak havoc in the health care system, but that’s all to the good — it will create a crisis that will allow us to put in single payer. We can’t do that as long as 85% of the people are happy with their medical care, so we need to make them unhappy.” Isn’t that what Obama promised the progressive caucus, that this was only round one?

    Reply

  23. questions says:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/26/AR2010032605600.html?hpid=topnews
    “The system will not change in a year. Even by 2014, when it is broadly implemented, life will not change for most people. This is not single-payer (though you wouldn’t know it listening to the GOP) or the ambitious Wyden-Bennett reforms. Come 2019, about 10 percent of Americans will have a different insurance arrangement than they would have had without the bill. Most of us won’t notice any difference.”
    Ezra Klein piece worth reading.

    Reply

  24. questions says:

    http://209.157.64.200/focus/f-news/2478749/posts
    Hey, Nadine, is this where you got the bit about all those people who are trying to get their free care? Great source!
    As for “reconciliation is supposed…” take it to the parliamentarian….
    Some benefits start pretty quickly, some within 6 months to allow for agency rule-writing. And some kick in slowly to allow for all of the unintended consequences you’re worried about to be planned for.
    Many people will go to a doctor between now and 2014 and the doctor will see them, write a script and send them to a pharmacy. And they’ll be shocked that they saw a doctor, got a script and went to a pharmacy — just like in the old days.
    People on Medicare will see docs who take Medicare. They’ll get their Flomax or chemo or beta blockers. They’ll get new hips and knees and kidneys. The doughnut hole will shrink a little at a time.
    People on SChip will get amoxicillin.
    People on Medicaid will get diabetes care.
    People on private insurance will get their tests and their drugs and their annuals, and their premium bills.
    And slowly, people will be added in to the medical mix. The high risk pool will help. Kos had a piece up that very nicely showed how between Medicaid expansion and small business expansion and the like, the high risk pool would end up being less burdened than it would be otherwise. NYT had a piece about insurers and employers offering reduced premiums for people who lose weight, exercise and quit smoking. More of this will happen.
    Was it, umm, Paul Ryan (I really don’t remember) who was worried about his mother-in-law’s access to Avastin? Well, Pharma is pretty happy about the bill and I’m guessing the Avastin is here to stay despite its very very questionable worth in extending life.
    Turn off the TV, leave Freeperville, cancel IBD, and go for a jog!

    Reply

  25. nadine says:

    “Nadine…if they were “shut out”…how did 200 of their amendments make it into the bill?” (Sweetness)
    Simple, Sweetness. Pelosi wanted to make the false claims of bipartisanship that you are now repeating. It’s like throwing a couple of apples onto an enormous pile of manure…doesn’t change the nature of the whole one whit.
    Reconciliation is supposed to be used for budget matters. It has been used for small things until now, mostly budget and clerical errors. Never before was it used to pass a trillion dollar spending bill.
    I don’t think you have quite absorbed what a badly designed bill this is, or what a cascade of unintended consequences it will cause. And remember, nearly all the benefits don’t start until 2014…which will be quite a shock to most of the bill’s supporters, some of whom are already showing up at doctor’s offices trying to get their free Obamacare.
    As for how many people hate the bill, that’s what the fall campaign will be about.

    Reply

  26. Sweetness says:

    Nadine…if they were “shut out”…how did 200 of their
    amendments make it into the bill? They weren’t allowed equal
    control over the process…but that’s because they had cocked
    things up and become the minority. That’s hardly novel.
    As has been pointed out millions of times now, the Rs have used
    reconciliation many, many, many times. It’s hardly revolutionary.
    And it is NOT the so-called “nuclear option” which is the
    abolition of the filibuster, as everyone who’s been paying a little
    attention knows. And yet the Rs have ridden these tired themes
    for all they’re worth.
    A majority (for widely different reasons) may have opposed the
    bill the day it was passed. But they started liking the day after it
    passed. I predict they will like it more and more and want to
    continuously improve it in the days ahead.
    Look, if the public truly hates the bill, then they will vote the Ds
    out next time and Obama will lose. The Rs will be able to repeal
    the bill, or repeal and replace, and all will be well.

    Reply

  27. nadine says:

    “Assuming the bill increases in popularity, as it appears to be doing, it will benefit the Ds. It doesn’t deprive Ds of an issue, it gives them a “this is what we did for you after 100 years of inaction and complete R opposition” to run on. Against unanimous R opposition and considerable amounts of demagoguing of the issue, the Ds still showed admirable bipartisanship by including 200 R amendments and “ideas.” (Sweetness)
    Admirable bipartisanship…after shutting the Republicans out of all meetings for a whole year, after coming up with the worst tax and spend log-rolling 2700 page wonder complete with Enron-style accounting, that we’re going to have lots of time to appreciate (did you notice AT&T taking a 1 billion dollar write-down on Friday?), esp. when our premiums all get jacked up. As they will. In open season, which begins in September.
    Not to mention the fact that a clear majority of Americans opposed this bill the day it was passed. Never before has a sweeping entitlement bill been jammed down on a narrow partisan vote using reconciliation, against the will of the majority of the people.
    We are in uncharted territory, Sweetness. Both parties will be running on the health care bill this fall.

    Reply

  28. questions says:

    Thanks again, David.
    I’ve read a little more about the SUV road rage incident. It was in Tennessee. The driver of the SUV apparently honked and pointed over and over again to the Obama bumper sticker. The driver of the sedan thought the incident was over after the bump, got out of his car to deal with the accident, left his daughter (10 years old) in the car. Then the SUV driver bumped the sedan again, this time pushing the sedan, with the girl in it…. All of this over an Obama bumper sticker — but with a twist. The driver had a history of DUI and may have been drunk. The driver was 70. His wife had just died recently.
    http://www.tennessean.com/article/20100326/NEWS01/100326048/Obama-sticker-prompts-Nashville-road-rage-incident
    When your life is going badly and all it takes to set you off is a bumper sticker, there’s a real cultural problem. It shouldn’t be anyone’s automatic reaction to get into a political rage like that and smash into a sedan with a 10 year old kid in it. The honking and multiple bumping and gesturing and then actually shoving the car with your bumper…. The guy snapped. Just like the guy who mocked the Parkinson’s patient. Just like the tea party activists in general. They’ve snapped. And Sarah Palin plays them. And Beck plays them.
    We shouldn’t be snapping.
    The bricks are flying into Repub windows now (not Cantor’s, but actual windows and actual bricks), so there seems to be something of a trend.
    My guess is that Pape’s book might be kind of informative at this point on a lower level. The right FEELS that the left has invaded territorially. The left is more of a democracy than the right. The religious difference might even be floating around with fundamentalist Christianity on the right and basic godlessness on the left (this is the rhetoric, not the reality). Territorial invasion (metaphorical, of course), by a democracy, with religious difference (also metaphorical, but certainly felt). We may be in for a rocky time if the instigators don’t chill.
    Pape notes the importance of cultural approval of the suicide bombers — turning yourself into a martyr, taping your martyrdom speech that is then played over and over, being named a glorious martyr and having monuments or days of memory named after you…. Lots of cultural approval so that you feel you’ve really DONE something. You’re efficacious in the world and you exit having added rather than subtracted. You get good feelings as you explode.
    And he notes again and again, it’s not radical Islam that does it.
    On Hezbollah (p. 128):
    “What caused the emergence of suicide terrorism in Lebanon? The most common explanation is Islamic fundamentalism. Hezbollah, so the argument goes, was founded on the basis of radical Islamic principles that gained ascendancy following the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979, and extreme devotion to radical Islam accounts for the willingness of its members to achieve person salvation through martyrdom operations. The tendency of most news stories at the time to stress the Islamic identity of the attackers encouraged the perception that Islamic fundamentalism is the root cause of suicide terrorism in Lebanon.
    “However, this is not the case. New information about the identity of the suicide attackers presents a fresh picture that casts the role of Islamic fundamentalism in a new light. I spent a year leading a team of researchers who collected detailed evidence on the ideological and other demographic characteristics of suicide terrorists. The results show that at least thirty of the forty-one attackers do not fit the description of Islamic fundamentalism. Twenty-seven were communists or socialists with no commitments to religious extremism; three were Christians. Only eight suicide attackers were affiliated with Islamic fundamentalism; the ideological affiliation of three cannot be identified.”
    Given that we’ve had one suicide attack (the plane into the IRS building) and given that in some circles, the guy is a hero, we might be in Pape territory.
    It’s crucial to make the separation between Islamic fundamentalism and suicide terror. They aren’t synonymous by any stretch of the imagination. At least according to Pape’s reading.
    There’s a worldwide trend, there’s a fashion as it were. And it’s been on the effective side at times. The more effective suicide terrorism either is or can be made to appear, the more cultural support it gets, the more incidents there will be. People are “rational” in that they don’t explode out of a sense of impotent futility. Rather, they explode because they think it will be one more step on the way to political liberation.
    Rhetoric matters. The stories we tell about power and who has it, legitimacy and who has it, the birth place of our pres, the right to rule, the rightness of rule, the right to tax and spend… all of this plays into the narrative that a potential exploder makes use of. And because instigators profit and the community reveres, individuals feel okay about transgressing the suicide prohibition.
    On the lower end, a simple road rage episode becomes freighted with politics. Simple vandalism that just happens sometimes becomes political. Eliminationism is in the air, and it feels good.
    Meanwhile, some decent-sized percentage of the tea party activists are unemployed, drawing government benefits, and hating on the government. The cognitive dissonance is impressive!

    Reply

  29. WigWag says:

    Wig…also…with regard to “enemies”…which is not really how Steve regards the opposition…if the NAF is in the realist camp, then they would be opposed to the neocon camp, not just the progressive camp. So I think the point still holds.” (Sweetness)
    Thanks for the reply, Sweetness. I’m not sure that I would say that the New America Foundation is “in the realist camp.”
    The proprietor of this blog is a realist and so is Flynt Leverett. I’m not sure that “realist” is the word I would use to describe Peter Bergen or Steve Coll or Peter Beinart. I don’t think it applies to Nick Schmidle either.
    As for Daniel Levy and Amjad Atallah, I can think of alot of words to describe them, but I don’t think any of these words would be “realist.”
    The Board of the New America Foundation is also extraordinarily diverse from a political perspective. (Unfortunately from a racial perspective it is much less diverse; it includes only one African American).
    It’s hard to conclude that NAF is “in the realist camp” when Francis Fukuyama is on the Board. When it comes to neoconservatism Fukuyama may be an apostate but he’s a neoconservative nonetheless. The brilliant Walter Russell Mead is also on the Board of NAF and we all know what he’s had to say about the realists lately, at least when it comes to Israel.
    The eloquent Kati Marton is also on the Board and I think one would be hard pressed to conclude that she’s a realist. Her husband, Richard Holbrooke, is a classic liberal internationalist (remember his role in the former Yugoslavia or his current role in Af/Pak). Marton herself, as her recent book “Enemies of the People” demonstrates, comes out of an anticommunist background. I’d be surprised if she had been a big fan of Richard Nixon’s policy of detente.
    I doubt that Liaquat Ahamed could be called a realist. A year or two ago he wrote a great book called “The Lords of Finance” that I cannot recommend too highly; it is fascinating.
    Also on the Board of NAF are the two finest journalists in the United States, Fareed Zakaria and James Fallows; are either of them realists? It doesn’t seem like it to me.
    I think the New America Foundation is a truly diverse and non-ideological organization. They seem to have a penchant for hiring smart people, which is why Steve Clemons works there. They don’t seem to have quite as much of an ax to grind as the conservative AEI or Heritage Foundation or the liberal Brookings Institution.
    As a place that welcomes open minded, thoughtful and insightful people, David Frum would fit right in.

    Reply

  30. David says:

    Enjoyed that post, questions. I do like your style. And the substance ain’t too shabby. Especially connected with this statement, based on my experiences as a youth with the apartheid South: “The line from firster-thinking a la Beck to firster action a la brick is a pretty straight and clearly drawn line.” It damned sure is.

    Reply

  31. Sweetness says:

    Wig…also…with regard to “enemies”…which is not really how Steve regards the opposition…if the NAF is in the realist camp, then they would be opposed to the neocon camp, not just the progressive camp. So I think the point still holds.

    Reply

  32. Sweetness says:

    Wig…good comment…especially this: “Conflating “realism” with
    “progressivism” is a mistake.”
    However…I was unaware that Tony Curtis was still alive and
    contributing to think tanks.
    You are indeed well informed.

    Reply

  33. WigWag says:

    Here are my comments about the New America Foundation for Sweetness and JohnG.
    There is nothing very “progressive” about the New America Foundation. Unlike many of the more famous Washington Think Tanks the New America Foundation seems rather non-partisan and non ideological to me.
    In these pages, Steve Clemons has referred to himself as a “progressive realist.” Not only is that label an oxymoron, reading Steve’s posts suggests to me that his predilections run from center-left to center-right depending on the issue. Like David Frum, Steve is a Republican by nature who has been exiled from a political party he was probably brought up in. Like David Frum, Steve’s policy preferences were once embraced by the Republican Party; now they’re excoriated by the Republican Party. Didn’t Steve cut his teeth while running an institution dedicated to the memory of the main who tortured Alger Hiss and overthrew Salvador Allende; Richard Nixon?
    Similarly, while crack cocaine realist, Flynt Leverett shares the same views as many “pretend” progressives about Iran, there is nothing progressive about Flynt Leverett. In fact, Leverett would probably laugh at the idea that some think he’s a progressive. After all, before coming to the New America Foundation his previous bosses were George W. Bush and Condi Rice. His wife, who I don’t believe is affiliated with NAF was formerly employed by AIPAC. A confluence of views about Iran between people who mistakenly think that they are progressive and a realist like Leverett doesn’t mean that they share views on any subject other than Iran.
    After all, Clemons and Leverett are both realists; one thinks the regime in Iran should be embraced by the United States and the other rooted for the regime to be overthrown. While they are both realists, neither of them is particularly progressive.
    Conflating “realism” with “progressivism” is a mistake. Take as an example one of the fathers of modern realism, George Kennan. Kennan was the father of containment who wished that the doctrine that he invented was implemented more with soft power than with hard power; this sounds pretty progressive. On the other hand, he was a self-avowed elitist who believed that democratic institutions in the United States should be curtailed in favor of a more autocratic style of government. He viewed “government of the people, by the people and for the people” with a great deal of skepticism; in this way he was far from progressive.
    Getting back to the New America Foundation, many of their leaders and staff defy easy description. The Foundation’s President, Steve Coll, has written brilliantly on Pakistan and Afghanistan. I think most people would describe him as relatively bullish on the prospects of those two countries and as a “hawk” on American intervention in that part of the world; there’s nothing “progressive” about that.
    Similarly some of NAF’s experts on health care were amongst the first to call on Obama and the left to give up on the public option. While they weren’t necessarily opposed to the public option, they made clear in their essays published on the NAF website and on interviews on radio programs like the Brian Lehrer show, that they didn’t think the public option was all that important. What’s progressive about that?
    A quick perusal of their donors makes clear that the NAF is neither Republican or Democrat or “progressive” or “conservative.”
    They get money from Rita Hauser who is a prominent New York Republican who supported George W. Bush when he ran for President the first time around and they get money from Steve Rattner, a prominent New York Democrat who Obama appointed to be his “automobile czar.”
    They get money from Google and Microsoft, but they also get money from Bernie Schwartz whose money comes from Loral Space Sciences, formerly a big defense contractor.
    They get money from George Soros’ Open Society Institute which is clearly a progressive institution, but they also get money from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. Peter G. Peterson is a conservative Republican who founded the Blackstone Group along with his billionaire former partner, Steve Schwartzman (who is also as Republican as it gets).
    They get money from the Levi Strauss Foundation, headquartered in San Francisco. This Foundation, along with an affiliated Foundation, the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Foundation, is one of the more progressive Foundations in the United States. But NAF also gets money from the Wal Mart Foundation. Is Wal Mart “progressive?”
    The New America Foundation gets money from the Ploughshares Fund which focuses on nuclear disarmament and is run by the wonderful Joe Cirincione; that’s a pretty progressive organization. But they also get money from John Whitehead. I don’t know Mr. Whitehead’s political affiliation but I do know that Whitehead is the well-respected former CEO of Goldman Sachs (before Bob Rubin).
    I think it’s fantastic that Steve Clemons and colleagues feel perfectly free to criticize Rubin and Goldman Sachs despite the fact that Whitehead is a donor. It’s a credit to both Clemons and Whitehead. Most importantly it shows that NAF, unlike AEI, has intellectual integrity. Steve is fortunate to work in an environment where he can say what he thinks; unfortunately for Frum, he learned that the same thing wasn’t true of AEI.
    One thing that I found very interesting is the fact that NAF gets money from Laurence Belfer. Laurence Belfer is the brother of Robert Belfer and the brother-in-law of Renee Belfer. Robert and Renee Belfer donated the money to name Steve Walt’s chair at Harvard long before Walt’s views on the “Israel Lobby” were know. Robert and Renee Belfer along with Laurence Belfer are ardent Zionists, big supporters of AIPAC, and actively involved with numerous Zionist causes. Their father (Arthur) now deceased gave most of the money to build both Yeshiva University and its affiliated Medical School (Albert Einstein College of Medicine) in New York.
    When Robert Belfer learned of Walt’s point of view he was outraged and embarrassed; he has publicly repudiated Walt. Despite this, Steve Clemons welcomes Walt to do guest posts at his site; as much as I don’t like Walt, I think this is very admirable. Similarly, I think it’s admirable that Laurence Belfer would donate so much money to NAF despite knowing the views on Israel expressed by many NAF employees and fellows.
    By the way, for what it’s worth, the Belfer’s money comes from an oil company founded by Arthur Belfer called Belco Petroleum. Belco petroleum was subsequently merged into Enron and I believe that both Laurence and Robert once served on Enron’s Board of Directors. Neither of them had any knowledge of the scandal; in fact they were both severely damaged by it.
    All of this is just a long way of saying that from what I can tell, the New America Foundation defies description. Unlike many of its sister organizations in the “think tank world” it can’t be described as left or right or Democratic or Republican.
    The end result of this is that by hiring David Frum, the New America Foundation would not be “keeping its enemies close” as Sweetness implied because Frum really isn’t that much more conservative than a lot of the people who work at and contribute money to NAF.
    Similarly when JohnG fears that hiring Frum would “sully NAF’s progressive reputation” he shouldn’t worry. They New America Foundation simply doesn’t have a “progressive reputation.”
    But like Frum, it does have a well deserved reputation for excellence.

    Reply

  34. Sweetness says:

    I agree, Wig. It would be a good–at least an interesting move–to hire Frum.
    At a minimum, keep your “enemies” closer.

    Reply

  35. Steve Clemons says:

    Richard — you misread my post. Frum is committed to helping develop a new set of leading “ideas” for the Republican Party which he thinks will be best positioned during the run-up to the 2016 presidential race. best, Steve Clemons

    Reply

  36. Richard Feren says:

    Um, did you suggest that Frum might have been preparing for a
    presidential run in 2016?
    I can hardly wait for people to cry, “Show us the birth certificate!”
    Because it says quite clearly on it, “Province of Ontario”.

    Reply

  37. samuelburke says:

    Frum is a cameleon steve didnt turn him….the neocons have no home in any political party they are a like a swarm of locust, they destroy the crop whereever they go.

    Reply

  38. ... says:

    kypentagon quote “The CIA should get you (twn steve) over to offer lessons to help get their human intel capacities back up.” what makes you think steve isn’t already working for the cia?

    Reply

  39. samuelburke says:

    Karen Kwiatkowski has this gem on the inimitable Mr Frum.
    “To be fair, the American Enterprise Institute apparently offered to keep him on in a non-paid capacity. My first thought was “You mean they were paying him?”
    I don’t mean to be unsympathetic. After all, David Frum has had to put up with a lot. First, he is Canadian. And you know what his fellow conservatives tend to say about Canadians, behind closed doors and, on the front pages too. And then, Frum got let go as a Bush speechwriter, after his wife let it be known that it was her fuzzy little Frumster who created that memorable bit of Amurcan warspeak “Axis of Evil.”
    This is old news, of course, and should have no bearing on David’s outstanding work at AEI, including the writing of several books. Although, it would appear from the titles and the dates, what David Frum believes, and what David Frum predicts is a good indicator of what isn’t true, and what isn’t going to happen.
    For example, after leaving the White House, he wrote a lovingly crafted novella entitled The Right Man: The Surprise Presidency of George W. Bush about how George W. Bush was both uh… a surprise and er…. right for the job. Next, in 2004 he co-wrote a peachy little book justifying American wars in the Middle East and advocating more of them, with another AEI neoconman Richard Perle. An End to Evil called for a quick end to other people’s evil through the glorious virtues of American military might, economic intimidation, and intelligence manipulations. Not surprisingly, and sadly undercutting the Perle/Frum thesis, by 2004, the collapse of American military might, as well as the U.S. ability to economically intimidate and even to manipulate intelligence was widely apparent to most Canadians, as well as the populations of the Middle East and everywhere else on the planet.
    Frum has been an eminent flack for both the National Review and AEI for most of the century, although neither organization could be legitimately accused of reporting, analysis or introspection relating to conservatism or American enterprise. Frum’s 2008 book Comeback: Conservatism That Can Win Again was kind of a flop. I haven’t read the book, but it seems as if he advocated conservative politicians to chase the tail of the dog to get votes. Well, that’s certainly politics as usual.
    Frum wrote Comeback after a short-lived stint as Rudy Giuliani’s senior foreign policy advisor. Rudy Giuliani? Who dat?
    It is certainly no tragedy that Frum is gone from both National Review and the AEI. Who cares, really? But I do think that David Frum as iconic political commentator and advocate of “the way things ought to be” is something worth considering, now that he is in the news briefly, and has lost part of his media platform.
    First, he was always way out of his league as a solid idea guy”
    http://www.lewrockwell.com/kwiatkowski/kwiatkowski246.html

    Reply

  40. questions says:

    http://www.forbes.com/2010/03/18/tea-party-ignorant-taxes-opinions-columnists-bruce-bartlett.html
    On taxes for real and taxes in the tea party mindset, link found via kos.

    Reply

  41. KYPentagon says:

    Steve,
    Your tongue in cheek post offered as humor gives us fascinating
    insights into your world and how you operate. You do things
    that most political hands would not do today. You were
    cavorting with the enemy in hopes of turning someone, and you
    did. The CIA should get you over to offer lessons to help get
    their human intel capacities back up.
    I’m not being facetious. Your skill and being able to move
    through walls, engage people on the other side – well not just
    people but the giant politicos on the other side – and get them
    to walk a new walk with you blows some of us who watch you
    away.
    I have to say that I had decided that David Frum was one of the
    great evils of the last administration. His axis of evil pithiness
    cost this country significantly.
    But I have gone back now, because of your post today, and read
    his recent writings and statements and watched your
    conversation with him on Blogging Heads. And whether you are
    right that you got him fired or not, I think that it is pretty
    fucking clear that you have helped walk one of their giants into
    your tent. Or at least towards a reasonable course. I know that
    you still have differences with each other.
    But bravo. I think you are a brilliant intel operator. And if he
    reads this, I’m somewhat flabbergasted to admit that I now
    respect David Frum in a way that I thought could never happen.
    You do a great service Mr. Clemons. Thank you Mr. Frum and
    thanks to the big dog.

    Reply

  42. questions says:

    kos reports polling data that dem intensity is up significantly, even as repub intensity is rising. The intensity issue is enormously important for voter turnout. If Obama can keep checking off legislation on his to-do list, then dem intensity will rise, and the dems may well be ok for the next several years. And if he can do it without rhetorical red meat (or tofu), that would be a whole lot more sane than if the admin goes the crazies route.
    And if the repubs keep inciting violence (the growing list of small and medium actions seems to include bricks through windows, an SUV’s ramming a car with a kid in it (this one needs more looking into to confirm its political nature), and Cantor’s tale told by an idiot (full of sound and fury signifying a random bullet) — eventually this violence will turn off the fairly mellow tea partiers around WigWag’s condo development.
    Moderate irritation at the government doesn’t walk hand in hand with suggestions to shoot on sight. The party of no vs. the party of hell no — there’s a significant difference in tone. The more Palin is unleashed, the more the independents and moderately irritated will grow uncomfortable. And the more the Frum-like beings start speaking up, the more the thought-capable repubs will start thinking.
    The line from firster-thinking a la Beck to firster action a la brick is a pretty straight and clearly drawn line.
    By the way, for those who have missed these lovely stories all over the lefty blogosphere — some guy at a tea party rally fairly viciously screamed at a guy with Parkinson’s, threw dollar bills at him as an act of “charity”, got famous, was identified, and now feels like shit. He swears it was his first and last political rally. Rallies have that effect on people sometimes.
    AND, a blogger who was inciting some of the brick throwing is on government disability aid. Somewhere in here is a tale of real anger at power shifts and acting out the anger with or without shame, depending on your ability to reflect. The incoherence of it all is astounding.
    If you’re on gov’t aid, and you suggest throwing bricks through windows when that aid that you happily accept is broadened…. When you scream at a guy who has Parkinson’s…. When you ram the bumper of a sedan because of a bumper sticker…. And even, when you claim that you, too, were targeted but the bullet was random…. And the cable stations run the claim and not the backtracking or the police report facts…. (Note that ACORN is going under, and the “pimp” O’Keefe doctored the sound and spliced in the costume part and the NYT waited til ACORN was down and out before even thinking about going back and correcting the record.)
    Facts don’t sell ads. Whoppers do. So we tell whoppers. I wonder if beta blocker scripts are up across the country!
    Our narrative powers, our ability to think through what the fuck we’re doing, our blind acceptance of deep deep self-contradiction — it’s really a sight to behold.
    And of course, the political and media embrace of populism in the name of audience share is at the root of it.

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  43. Sweetness says:

    Wig, passing health care doesn’t “take it off the table,” it puts a win in the D column–just the way the New Deal put a win in the D column.
    Assuming the bill increases in popularity, as it appears to be doing, it will benefit the Ds. It doesn’t deprive Ds of an issue, it gives them a “this is what we did for you after 100 years of inaction and complete R opposition” to run on. Against unanimous R opposition and considerable amounts of demagoguing of the issue, the Ds still showed admirable bipartisanship by including 200 R amendments and “ideas.”
    Rs, and, more importantly, R ideology suffered huge defeats after the New Deal was enacted. Ike, though an R, was elected largely based on his war time record not because Social Security was taken off the table. In fact, Ike OPENLY capitulated to the reigning liberal ideology by saying the Rs would no longer fight this ideology, but embrace it. The war had been won.
    The same is true of Medicare. Despite their absolute opposition to this bill–in fact, IN ORDER to oppose this bill more forcefully–they’re trying to position themselves (for the first time in history) as DEFENDERS of Medicare.
    The same will be true here. Almost immediately upon passage of this bill, Rs starting taking CREDIT for various “sensible” elements in the bill, asserting that there IS agreement on various aspects of it!
    As all the good things in the bill become more obvious–and fear of the unknown can no longer be used to scare people–they will be running for the hills on this issue and Ds will be in hot pursuit with all that juicy footage of Rs making ridiculous and embarrassing claims.
    Being able to keep their kids on their insurance plan until 26 will trump any theoretical and hard to prove argument about the deficit crushing future generations. Let the future take care of itself, they will say.
    The Rs were lucky in having Ike AND Adlai (twice!) But the canny old Ike wasn’t able to hand the ball to crafty old Dick and Barry was an utter failure. And this string of fumbles would have continued had LBJ not blundered into Vietnam.
    He would have won re-election or Humphrey would have–no question.
    Ike’s making peace with the New Deal worked for HIM and was good for the country. It also represented a major win for the Ds who controlled Congress for 40 years or so. But Ike was nothing like the most successful Rs who came after him, except, perhaps, and only in some ways, the resurgent Nixon (who was really handed the ball by LBJ’s fumble).
    Reagan, a reluctant and cowed HW, and GWB, all ran against the Way Of Ike. And the Rs are even more firmly set against Ike’s example than RR.
    So, unless the current crop of Rs make an about-face, it’s hard to see how Ike’s example will help them. They are so firmly and clearly on record as opposing it, they are going to have to do some fancy dancing to benefit from this social advance.

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  44. JohnG says:

    WW said:
    “The New America Foundation would be lucky to have someone of Frum’s abilities; the man is smart, articulate, creative and open-minded”
    What WW didn’t say was that David Frum, like WW, would very much like to see the use of military force against Iran, either by Israel or by Israel’s client state, the USA.
    I would hate to see the NAF sully its image as a progressive policy institution by taking on a Neocon reject.
    The Leveretts posted a spot-on commentary on the AIPAC conference:
    http://www.raceforiran.com/israel%E2%80%99s-perspective-on-iran-insights-from-the-aipac-conference
    Their conclusions are quite interesting:
    “From an Israeli perspective, three points are important. First, Israel’s political and policy elites want to eliminate Iran’s fuel-cycle capabilities in order to preserve a regional balance of power that is strongly tilted in Israel’s favor. Regional perceptions that the Islamic Republic had achieved a nuclear “breakout” capacity would begin to erode Israel’s long-standing nuclear-weapons monopoly in the Middle East, thereby chipping away at the image and reality of Israel’s strategic hegemony over its neighborhood.
    Second, the emergence of an increasingly nuclear-capable Iran might begin to constrain Israel’s own strategic and tactical choices in the region, at least on the margins. For many years now there has been a broad-based consensus within Israeli political and policymaking circles that Israel’s security requires that an Israeli government be able to use military force unilaterally in the Middle East at any time and for any purpose that it chooses. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu himself alluded to this view in his address to AIPAC yesterday. Netanyahu noted that Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, “two of history’s greatest leaders”, had “helped save the world. But they were too late to save six million of my own people.” He then declared that “the future of the Jewish state can never depend on the goodwill of even the greatest of men. Israel must always reserve the right to defend itself.” The Prime Minister went on to apply this idea directly to Iran and its nuclear program, noting that “Israel expects the international community to act swiftly and decisively to thwart this danger. But we will always reserve the right to defend ourselves.”
    In this context, it is clear that Netanyahu is not referring to self-defense against an active threat, for which Article 51 of the United Nations Charter might be invoked as a legal justification. Rather, Netanyahu is reiterating longstanding Israeli policy that Israel claims the right to initiate, at its own discretion, not just preemptive wars, but also preventive wars. From this perspective, anything which might begin to constrain Israel’s currently unconstrained freedom of military action is problematic. Thus, a nuclear-capable Iran is bad because in some circumstances its might make Israeli strategic planners and decision-makers think twice about the unilateral initiation of military conflict. (Similarly, the accumulation of more capable rockets and conventional military hardware by Hizballah in Lebanon since 2006 is a problem for Israel not because Hizballah will, some day, decide to launch massive rocket barrages against northern Israel for no reason. Rather, Hizballah’s military capabilities are a problem primarily because they constrain, at least to some degree, Israeli decision-making about initiating military confrontation in the region. This is true with regard to prospective strikes against Iranian targets—because Israeli planners must worry about Hizballah’s response. It is also true with regard to sending Israeli ground forces into Lebanon—because Hizballah, having become capable of what Tom Ricks usefully describes as a “high-intensity insurgency” campaign, can now fight the IDF to an effective standstill on the ground.)
    The third point relates to the Palestinian issue. From an Israeli perspective, keeping America focused on Iran as an urgent threat is useful in distracting Washington from working too seriously on Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. This is particularly attractive to a Prime Minister like Netanyahu, who is disinclined to take the concrete steps necessary to reach a two-state solution—whether in the near-term on settlements or in the longer-term on final status issues. Netanyahu—or any other Israeli Prime Minister with a similar view of the Palestinian issue—will always argue for prioritizing Iran over the Palestinians. An Israeli Prime Minister can always claim that his government’s bureaucratic and national security capacities—as well as his own political capital—are finite. There is simply not enough of those resources for an Israeli government to deal effectively with an “existential threat” from Iran and, at the same time, make and implement the “painful concessions” entailed in a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.
    Those who claim that the Obama Administration could use the argument that resolving the Palestinian issue would marginalize Iran to leverage greater cooperation from Israel on Arab-Israeli peacemaking miss this important reality: the Israeli government is exagerating the Iranian “threat” as a way of fending off pressure to do more on the Palestinian issue, not as a way of facilitating greater American intervention on the Palestinian issue. Moreover, this position ignores what we have frequently identified as a major weakness in the current U.S. position vis-à-vis the Islamic Republic and the Middle East more generally—at this point, the United States cannot broker negotiated settlements on the unresolved tracks of the Arab-Israeli peace process without a more positive and productive relationship with Tehran. ”

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  45. WigWag says:

    I do think Frum gets one big thing wrong. In his now famous “Waterloo” post which supposedly is one of the proximate causes of his dismissal from AEI, speaking of the passage of the health care bill Frum says,
    “Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s.”
    Here’s the link to the entire essay,
    http://www.frumforum.com/waterloo
    Actually the passage of the health care bill is a major net plus for the Republicans, but not for the idiotic reasons must Republicans believe.
    The prevailing Republican delusion is that the health care bill is wildly unpopular and that voters (especially independent voters) will punish Democrats and reward Republicans because of the vote.
    The chance that this will happen is near zero. Republicans will pick up seats in November; they may win alot of seats. But when this occurs it will be because it’s a mid term election that almost always results in gains by the Party out of power. Voters are also plenty angry at the deific (wrongly in my view), the stimulus bill and Obama’s appeasement of Wall Street. Come November, the health care bill will largely be irrelevant. Democrats won’t benefit from it and Republicans won’t win many votes because they opposed it.
    So why is the passage of the bill such big benefit for Republicans?
    Because it takes a huge issue off the table and it’s an issue that the public usually gives the Democrats better grades on than Republicans.
    Election after election, health care has been a major issue; and it’s been an issue that benefits Democrats. Now that issue is settled so the Democrats are deprived of a major incentive to attract votes.
    Would the Republicans be better off if granny and grandpa were living in poverty because social security had never been passed or are they better off politically because the Democrats don’t get to point out year after year that Republicans haven’t eliminated poverty amongst the elderly?
    Would the Republicans be better off if granny and grandpa were denied hospital care when they had their first heart attack or are they better off politically because the passage of Medicare eliminates the issue as one that Democrats can bash Republicans with?
    Immediately after the passage of most of the New Deal programs during the Roosevelt and Truman Administrations, Republicans vowed to roll back most if not all of the New Deal legislation.
    But the Republicans were lucky; a canny old General named Dwight Eisenhower made the decision to take repeal of the New Deal off the table. He insisted that the Republican Party make peace with the New Deal rather than constantly attacking it.
    What was the result?
    Republicans won 9 of the next 16 Presidential elections.
    The Republicans should be delighted that health care is now off the table. It was never their strength; the public never trusted them to fix it.
    Now that it has been fixed the Democrats have been deprived of an issue that has been immensely important to their electoral success.
    Score one for the Republicans.

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  46. Dan Kervick says:

    “Before I knew it, David Frum and I were both on the floor together with Benson between us, licking us lavishly together.”
    Sounds like more fun than a barrel of Irish priests.

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  47. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Amazing.
    “Reach across the aisle”???
    The neo-con scumbags developed foreign policies based on LIES. Outright, purposeful, costly, and deadly ….. LIES.
    Frum was part of it, and undoubtedly could blow some pretty loud whistles if he ever decided to man up. But if he had anything resembling balls or integrity, he never woulda joined the “neo-con” camp.
    Watch your back, Steve, you’re really slummin’ it.

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  48. The Pessimist says:

    Honestly, I composed this sometime last week. I wonder what Frum’s take on it would be:
    Would Republican leaning voters actually be better served by a singular cohesive party if that party simply acknowledged the reasons for the internal fragmentation currently undermining their strict and archaic narrative and allowed the party’s base issues to be “downsized?”
    They are adopting too many issues as central to their cause. The transparency of this effort is becoming more obvious to the tentative supporters of the party every day. They pay lip-service to issues that are of great importance to voters, and lash out when voters stray from the flock. They are trying to enforce discipline on a population sliding into anarchy.
    It just seems to me that they are expending too much capital in an effort to hold together a crumbling house. They are trying to maintain absolute authority over disparate groups that simply have no common cause. They are focused on total voting numbers and ignore the reality that within those numbers reside angry and unappeasable separatists.
    In simple terms the Republican leadership in Washington has failed to socially evolve. They remind me of the stern authoritarian father who ignores the changing world around him and raises his children to approach the world as it was during his own coming of age. They are introverted on an epic scale.
    Regards

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  49. Eli Rabett says:

    Buried in one of the letters is the statement that AEI is cutting way back because donations are down. Frum didn’t want to take the cut, so he got cut.

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  50. WigWag says:

    The New America Foundation would be lucky to have someone of Frum’s abilities; the man is smart, articulate, creative and open-minded. Of course none of this means that he isn’t wrong most of the time but hey, that seems to be a requirement to work at NAF (just kidding).
    Wherever Frum lands I hope we will see more blogging heads discourse between Frum and Clemons. The piece they did together a couple of weeks ago was fantastic; it was far better than the tripe that usually passes for debate among elite Washington intellectuals.
    The firing of Frum is perfectly emblematic of everything wrong with the Republican Party. If their tent is so small that there isn’t room in it for the guy who coined the term “axis of evil” than there is little hope for Republicans to rehabilitate themselves.
    Republicans should have an excellent chance to unseat Obama in 2012. But if they’ve grown so intolerant and narrow minded that they can’t help but exile Frum, their chances of beating Obama are zero.
    When it comes to Republican mistakes, Frum is going to prove to be very prescient. The Republican Party ignores him at their peril.

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  51. Jackie says:

    Frum has definitely evolved. I used to hate the guy but find him a breath of fresh air now. (That probably started when he decided Palin was unqualified).

    Reply

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