“All populist movements lead to socialism”

A Romney rally in Hialeah:

“He’s 100 percent better than I expected,” Pedro Peraza, 57, tells me. Peraza’s son, Michael, 27, adds that he would have taken back his Gingrich vote in the primaries had he known Romney would campaign this hard.

The elder Peraza has also seen some tough times. He built a profitable business “starting with 50 bucks” selling fire protection equipment, only to see sales plummet when construction ground to a halt. “It’s been horrible,” he said. “People are afraid to put money into buildings now.”

He said he originally leaned Democrat back when he lived in New Jersey, where he volunteered for a number of Sen. Bob Mendez’s (D-NJ) local campaigns. But he swung to the right decisively when the Obama phenomenon took off in 2008.

“We know from childhood what communism looks like,” he said. “All populist movements lead to socialism.”

Therefore, the Tea Party is a socialist movement. Cuban-Americans once again showing how proudly they vote against their interests.

At last

Good news. However, note John Cornyn’s qualification at the end of this excerpt:

“We’re not mere supplicants to the executive branch, we are a coequal branch of government,” Cornyn said during discussion of his amendment in the Senate committee hearing last week. “So it is insufficient to say pretty please, Mr. President, pretty please, Mr. Attorney General, will you please tell us the legal authority by which you claim the authority to kill American citizens abroad?” (Cornyn also noted that just because he wants to see the memo doesn’t mean he’d necessarily disagree with its contents.)

Why the SCOTUS hearings have worked

For my part the hearings have been edifying. Apart from appreciating the thoughtfulness with which Sonia Sotomayor framed questions, wearying of Stephen Breyer’s singsong college professor intonations, and noting again John Roberts’ courtesy, I finally understand that health insurance and care are two different things. In this economy, you get healthcare through health insurance. That’s why the broccoli analogy is all wet.

Vaporizing insurance companies as middle men was never seriously considered by Obama and his claque; that’s why I at least have blamed him for from the beginning. I also worry that AHCA may inadvertently — if I’m not being cynical — lead us in a few years to Paul Ryan-style atomization whereby, as Claire McCaskill noted two weeks ago:

“The irony of this situation is that these are private insurance companies people will shop to buy their insurance. It’s not the government,” she told KMOX of St. Louis on Wednesday. “It’s exactly what Paul Ryan wants to do for Medicare.”

“It’s subsidized by the government — premium subsidies — which is exactly, this is the irony,” continued McCaskill, who faces a tough reelection battle this fall. “You think what Paul Ryan wants to do for seniors, you think it’s terrific. But when we want to provide private health insurance for people who don’t have insurance with subsidies from the government, you think it’s terrible.”

Even Ezra Klein, who crunches on economic data like peanuts, can’t see the millimeters that separate the AHCA and Paul Ryan’s plan:

Republicans’ long-term interests are probably best served by Democratic success. If the Affordable Care Act is repealed by the next president or rejected by the Supreme Court, Democrats will probably retrench, pursuing a strategy to expand Medicare and Medicaid on the way toward a single-payer system. That approach has, for them, two advantages that will loom quite large after the experience of the Affordable Care Act: It can be passed with 51 votes in the Senate through the budget reconciliation process, and it’s indisputably constitutional.

Conversely, if the Affordable Care Act not only survives but also succeeds, then Republicans have a good chance of exporting its private-insurers-and-exchanges model to Medicare and Medicaid, which would entrench the private health-insurance system in America.

That’s not the strategy Republicans are pursuing. Instead, they’re stuck fighting a war against a plan that they helped to conceive and, on a philosophical level, still believe in. No one has been more confounded by this turn of events than Alice Rivlin, the former White House budget director who supports the Affordable Care Act and helped Ryan design an early version of his Medicare premium-support proposal.

“I could never understand why Ryan didn’t support the exchanges in the Affordable Care Act,” Rivlin says. “In fact, I think he does, and he just doesn’t want to say so.”

But, no, I have no interest in supporting the rescinding of court decisions that keep people with preexisting medical conditions and poor twentysomethings from the rolls.

Liberal fantasies

David Frum’s latest mea culpa (he writes one every quarter, as if to remind his new audience that he’s a martyr, thank you very much) regarding how he and his power-obsessed droogs turned conservatism into a kind of necromancy is more honest than Jonathan Chait ruler-slapping the palms of liberals who merely remind each other (and Chait) that neither in foreign nor domestic policy has Barack Hussein Obama been anything than a generalist of intermittent power: the intelligent man who can do many things and who would rather do them well — like, say, killing American citizens under suspicion of terrorism — than entrust them to Bush-league incompetents.

As patient and measured as an NPR host, Chait’s article contains a handful of credible counterarguments, but I can’t bother to parse them when he writes conclusions like this: “It is odd that Bill Clinton’s imagined role as ass-kicking economic savior has become the object of such extensive liberal fantasy.” Maybe in Chait’s Beltway world, bordered on one side by David Gregory and on the other by Cokie Roberts, the reanimation of the corpse of Clinton’s agenda sends tingles up the leg of Chris Matthews but not to the rest of us who hold the former  president responsible for much of our fiduciary chaos. Must I really remind Chait again of Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, the repeal of Glass-Steagall, the sucking up to Alan Greenspan, and so on? We might still be paying for our mistakes, but in a DC culture in which malfeasance isn’t punished — it’s given an encouraging pat on the bum and promoted to work for another administration — we’ll never know. That’s partly why Occupy Wall Street commands some measure of the public imagination. We got Diane Sawyer to lead a broadcast about income inequality!

Part of my morning routine consists of reading FrumForum after digesting the last several hours’ worth of NRO-Corner posts. Reading Frum since he left Bush’s pod people White House is like gratefully inhaling rubbing alcohol after a bout of nausea. Still, anyone who cares about language and principle can’t defend books with titles like this and this.


For the what-else-is-new file: the Obama administration curtails Miranda rights for suspected domestic terror suspects:

New rules allow investigators to hold domestic-terror suspects longer than others without giving them a Miranda warning, significantly expanding exceptions to the instructions that have governed the handling of criminal suspects for more than four decades.

The move is one of the Obama administration’s most significant revisions to rules governing the investigation of terror suspects in the U.S. And it potentially opens a new political tussle over national security policy, as the administration marks another step back from pre-election criticism of unorthodox counterterror methods.

The Supreme Court’s 1966 Miranda ruling obligates law-enforcement officials to advise suspects of their rights to remain silent and to have an attorney present for questioning. A 1984 decision amended that by allowing the questioning of suspects for a limited time before issuing the warning in cases where public safety was at issue.

That exception was seen as a limited device to be used only in cases of an imminent safety threat, but the new rules give interrogators more latitude and flexibility to define what counts as an appropriate circumstance to waive Miranda rights.

A Federal Bureau of Investigation memorandum reviewed by The Wall Street Journal says the policy applies to “exceptional cases” where investigators “conclude that continued unwarned interrogation is necessary to collect valuable and timely intelligence not related to any immediate threat.” Such action would need prior approval from FBI supervisors and Justice Department lawyers, according to the memo, which was issued in December but not made public.

Game changing

A close friend who works as a low-level political appointee in a Cabinet office recommended Mark Halperin’s Game Change this weekend. “You’re on the [DC] Metro and you look around and I counted at least four different people reading it.” The jejune behavior of the McCain-Palin ticket, the nastiness of the Clintons, and the “coolness” of the Obama campaign produced excellent anecdotes, he said. While I could imagine checking this voluminous compendium of Beltway chat out of the library, I said I could not in good conscience support Halperin’s kind of reporting, which amounts to the collecting of chits, written in hackneyed prose cobbled together from sports clichés and often informed by the ethos of competitive sports too: in Halperin’s world there are only pluses, minuses, winners, and losers; there are “optics” and “perceptions”; who’s “up” and “down”;  and anonymous reporting when it’s not one of those strained “some-in-the-x-campaign-worried-that…” locutions. This is an affront to journalism.

Professor Jay Rosen addresses a lot of my qualms about political reporting in this long essay on the ways in which journalists elide their political sympathies for the sake of “balance,” prize two-sided” stories at all costs, and rely on “he said/she said reporting” without the requisite fact checking.

Oh dear.

We haven’t paid such a low percentage of our income in state and federal taxes since the days of Harry Truman, according to USA Today. Socialists like Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are responsible. What will Barack Obama do?

On Easter eggs and boilerplate

Andrew Sullivan on Barack Obama’s disgraceful, cliche-studded speech at the Human Rights Campaign dinner last night: “His major achievement – the one thing he has actually done – is invite gay families to the Easter egg-roll.”

And: “Now he’s pivoting away from his responsibility and the Democratic party’s responsibility and changing the subject to health care reform, Iraq, Afghanistan – as if gay soldiers are not already in Afghanistan being discriminated against by him.”