There are two ways to run against Barack Obama: stewardship or ideology. You can run against his record or you can run against his ideas.
The stewardship case is pretty straightforward: the worst recovery in U.S. history, 42 consecutive months of 8-plus percent unemployment, declining economic growth — all achieved at a price of an additional $5 trillion of accumulated debt.
The ideological case is also simple. Just play in toto (and therefore in context) Obama’s Roanoke riff telling small-business owners: “You didn’t build that.” Real credit for your success belongs not to you — you think you did well because of your smarts and sweat? he asked mockingly — but to government that built the infrastructure without which you would have nothing.
Play it. Then ask: Is that the governing philosophy you want for this nation?
Mitt Romney’s preferred argument, however, is stewardship. Are you better off today than you were $5 trillion ago? Look at the wreckage around you. This presidency is a failure. I’m a successful businessman. I know how to fix things. Elect me, etc. etc.
Easy peasy, but highly risky. If you run against Obama’s performance in contrast to your own competence, you stake your case on persona. Is that how you want to compete against an opponent who is not just more likable and immeasurably cooler but spending millions to paint you as an unfeeling, out-of-touch, job-killing, private-equity plutocrat?
The ideological case, on the other hand, is not just appealing to a center-right country with twice as many conservatives as liberals, it is also explanatory. It underpins the stewardship argument. Obama’s ideology — and the program that followed — explains the failure of these four years.
What program? Obama laid it out boldly in a series of major addresses during the first months of his presidency. The roots of the nation’s crisis, he declared, were systemic. Fundamental change was required. He had come to deliver it. Hence his signature legislation:
First, the $831 billion stimulus that was going to “reinvest” in America and bring unemployment below 6 percent. We know about the unemployment. And the investment? Obama loves to cite great federal projects such as the Hoover Dam and the interstate highway system. Fine. Name one thing of any note created by Obama’s Niagara of borrowed money. A modernized electric grid? Ports dredged to receive the larger ships soon to traverse a widened Panama Canal? Nothing of the sort. Solyndra, anyone?
Second, radical reform of health care that would reduce its ruinously accelerating cost: “Put simply,” he said, “our health-care problem is our deficit problem” — a financial hemorrhage drowning us in debt.
Except that Obamacare adds to spending. The Congressional Budget Office reports that Obamacare will incur $1.68 trillion of new expenditures in its first decade. To say nothing of the price of the uncertainty introduced by an impossibly complex remaking of one-sixth of the economy — discouraging hiring and expansion as trillions of investable private-sector dollars remain sidelined.
The third part of Obama’s promised transformation was energy. His cap-and-trade federal takeover was rejected by his own Democratic Senate. So the war on fossil fuels has been conducted unilaterally by bureaucratic fiat. Regulations that will kill coal. A no-brainer pipeline (Keystone) rejected lest Canadian oil sands be burned. (China will burn them instead.) A drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico that a federal judge severely criticized as illegal.
That was the program — now so unpopular that Obama barely mentions it. Obamacare got exactly two lines in this year’s State of the Union address. Seen any ads touting the stimulus? The drilling moratorium? Keystone?
Ideas matter. The 2010 election, the most ideological since 1980, saw the voters resoundingly reject a Democratic Party that was relentlessly expanding the power, spending, scope and reach of government.
It’s worse now. Those who have struggled to create a family business, a corner restaurant, a medical practice won’t take kindly to being told that their success is a result of government-built roads and bridges.
In 1988, Michael Dukakis famously said, “This election is not about ideology; it’s about competence.” He lost. If Republicans want to win, Obama’s deeply revealing, teleprompter-free you-didn’t-build-that confession of faith needs to be hung around his neck until Election Day. The third consecutive summer-of-recovery-that-never-came is attributable not just to Obama being in over his head but, even more important, to what’s in his head: a government-centered vision of the economy and society, and the policies that flow from it.
President Obama has avoided the traditional Democratic reputation for foreign policy weakness by emulating his predecessor in one narrow but important respect. Obama has not only continued George W. Bush’s global war on terrorism — whatever it is currently called — but has also expanded its scope and lethality. The legal and physical infrastructure of the conflict, from the Patriot Act to Guantanamo Bay, remains in place. The mommy party, in this instance, has become daddy with a drone and a hit list.
This has largely taken defense and foreign policy off the table in the current election. Team Romney is convinced, probably correctly, that each day devoted to national security is a day not spent talking about the economy. And criticizing the slayer of Osama bin Laden requires a more sophisticated critique than the presidential campaign — currently at the level of “Romney Hood” vs. “Obamaloney” — will bear.
But the war on terrorism does not exhaust America’s risks or responsibilities. The risks are increasing, along with doubts about our global role.
Syria’s civil war is approaching genocide as the regime shells villages and conducts mass executions. Russia has used the crisis to reassert its diplomatic influence. The United States, in Duke professor Peter Feaver’s description, has gone from “leading from behind” to “following from behind.” A strategy of stern denunciations, U.N. initiatives and minimal covert support for regime opponents has succeeded only in extending a savage conflict. And this is likely to make eventual retribution by rebels (assuming they win) bloodier, while leaving them more hostile to the United States.
In Afghanistan, the United States conveys the impression of heading rapidly for the exits in 2014 — raising the serious possibility that the Afghan army will fracture, civil war will resume and the Taliban will return to power. Responsible administration officials do their best to dispute this notion.
“We are not even imagining abandoning Afghanistan,” says Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But it doesn’t take much imagination for others: frightened shopkeepers and women in Kabul, hedging Pakistani security officials, determined Taliban warlords. They see the shipping containers packing and leaving. And they hear Obama, in his stump speech, taking credit for “winding down the war in Afghanistan” and refocusing the United States on nation-building at home.
In Iran, a strategy of tightened sanctions and nuclear talks remains fruitless. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta recently repainted America’s red line: “We will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently reaffirmed his objective: “Anyone who loves freedom and justice must strive for the annihilation of the Zionist regime.” The United States seems to be headed toward some kind of confrontation with Iran, without Obama making any apparent effort to prepare Americans. Unless it is all a disastrous, discrediting bluff.
Obama’s foreign policy team is sometimes praised for its pragmatism, realism, restraint and strategic modesty. Obama himself is said to transcend old ideological divisions. “He followed the same approach in foreign policy he often did elsewhere, which was to detach himself from two opposing camps or schools of thought, sympathize with each and insist the differences between them were less than believed,” James Mann writes in his book “The Obamians.”
But there is a point when ideological detachment becomes inconsistency and irresolution. When caution — elevated to ideology — becomes paralysis. When a foreign policy focused on avoiding errors of commission begins to make serious errors of omission. When inaction magnifies future risks and costs.
In many parts of the world, the Obama doctrine has become an exercise in kicking the can down the road, avoiding or playing down problems that will only grow more complex and dangerous with time. There have been some admirable exceptions — Libya is certainly one — but Fouad Ajami of the Hoover Institution describes the sum as a “foreign policy of strategic abdication.”
Ideology is partly responsible. Mann’s book describes an Obama foreign policy team that holds a “distinctly more modest and downbeat outlook on America’s role in the world.” Its members seem deeply impressed by America’s limitations — its fiscal constraints and challenged primacy. These beliefs tend to be self-fulfilling. They make a virtue of ceded leadership. And these convictions are reinforced by a political calculation: Who wants to make tough, perilous foreign policy choices in the middle of an election season?
But the result is relevant to the election. Obama’s doctrine of deferred decisions will leave a series of risky endgames for whoever is elected in November, even if it is Obama himself.
How Obama’s foreign policy team relates to the Vietnam War — or doesn’t
By James Mann
Published: June 23
The Washington Post
Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was seeking to describe what makes the Obama administration’s foreign policy distinct from that of its predecessors — not just the George W. Bush administration, but also the Democrats of the Bill Clinton years.
Her comments hinged on the Vietnam War. “We just don’t have that Vietnam hangover,” Rice told me in an interview last year. “It is not the framework for every decision — or any decision, for that matter. I’m sick and tired of reprising all of the traumas and the battles and the psychoses of the 1960s.”
With every president and administration, journalists and analysts embark on a quest to identify a doctrine or set of principles defining the group’s foreign policy. Are they realists? Internationalists? Neocons? Do they go it alone or lead from behind?
But to understand the Obama administration’s approach to the world, it helps to think in generational terms, not foreign policy slogans. Rice’s remarks highlight the twists and turns that the Democratic Party has taken over the past four decades, and how the interplay of three generations has shaped the Obama administration’s views on the use of force and America’s role in the world, as well as on specific challenges ranging from Afghanistan to China.
The first, eldest cadre of Democrats is the post-Vietnam generation: those foreign policy hands who started their careers in the 1960s, ’70s or ’80s. Next come the post-Cold War Democrats, who began working on foreign policy during Clinton’s administration. The third and youngest group, which I call the Obamians, is made up of post-Iraq war Democrats — the president and some of his closest aides, who did not become involved in the execution of U.S. foreign policy until 2009.
In conversations with members of all three groups, Vietnam is a recurring symbol. “The president’s conception of power is not founded on Vietnam. He’s the first president who’s not trying to justify himself in the context of that very tumultuous period,” asserted deputy national security adviser Denis McDonough, who has worked alongside Barack Obama since his first presidential campaign.
Obama is not the first Democratic leader to define himself as transcending Vietnam. At least since the 1980s, many of the party’s political candidates (think Clinton or Gary Hart) have portrayed themselves in that way. Yet in the somewhat self-serving logic of the Obamians, those earlier Democrats were still influenced by the war: They reacted against it by trying to prove that they were tough and willing to use force — that they were not like the antiwar Democrats of the Vietnam era.
In 2010, I asked a couple of Obama’s close aides about their party’s political vulnerability on national security. I had in mind the defeats of Democrats such as George McGovern and Michael Dukakis, whom Republicans portrayed as weak on defense. But the aides’ answer was surprising: “Oh yes, we call it the 2002 problem,” one of them said.
Why 2002? That was the year Democratic leaders in Congress voted to authorize Bush to use force in Iraq. The senior Democrats’ acquiescence became the Obamians’ formative foreign policy experience. In fact, in 2008 the Obama campaign attacked the more experienced Democrats of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s team by linking her to Bush’s unpopular war.
Indeed, Obama and some of his young aides can validly claim to be the first administration not affected by Vietnam. Obama is the first president in the modern era who neither served in the military nor was subject to the draft. His two immediate predecessors, Bush and Bill Clinton, were questioned during their campaigns about their draft record or military service. But Obama was 13when American troops came home, and several of his close aides were even younger. They took as a given the existence of the volunteer professional army; the military is to them a constituency, not an emotional tug.
The embodiment of the oldest generation, the initial post-Vietnam generation, was the late Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. One administration official told me that during discussions on Afghanistan, when Holbrooke talked about the lessons of Vietnam, others in the room sat there rolling their eyes. When he cooperated with a New Yorker magazine profile tracing his career from Vietnam to Afghanistan, McDonough called him to the White House and chewed him out. The comparison between Afghanistan and Vietnam was not one that Obama found helpful.
The administration has included several other members of the post-Vietnam generation, such as Vice President Biden, former White House counsel Greg Craig, former director of national intelligence Dennis Blair and former Middle East envoy George Mitchell.
During the Vietnam era, such men did not embrace the the antiwar left; most of them sought to counteract it. But in doing so, they struggled to cope with a widespread mistrust of American power and a sense of national decline. In one mid-1970sarticle in Foreign Policy magazine, Holbrooke denounced “the Vietnam-based, guilt-ridden anguish of the left” and debunked the idea “that because America has done some evil things, America itself is an evil force in the world.”
This generation took a variety of lessons from the war — above all, how an ill-considered, open-ended military intervention can lead to disaster. This constant reminder has not always been welcome among the Obamians, though, particularly when the team was deciding to send additional forces to Afghanistan or to dispatch warplanes over Libya. No surprise that the post-Vietnam generation has often been marginalized or isolated within the Obama team, with Biden a notable exception.
The post-Vietnam era came to a close in 1991 with America’s victory in the Persian Gulf War and the Soviet Union’s collapse. Soon a new generation of Democrats rose through the Clinton administration ranks at the State Department, the Pentagon and the National Security Council. They were, on the whole, more confident of American power and prosperity than the post-Vietnam Democrats. They felt little need to prove that the United States was a force for good in the world. The question preoccupying them was not whether the nation had the right and the power to send forces overseas, but whether and where this power should be used (Somalia? Bosnia? Haiti?).
After Clinton left the White House, these second-generation Democrats argued — in books, op-eds and study groups — that the party should recognize the continuing relevance of military power. “Force should never be used as a first choice, but in some cases it may need to be used sooner rather than later, particularly when innocent lives are at stake or when grave dangers are emerging,” wrote several prominent officials from the Clinton administration in a study group called the Phoenix Initiative.
The title of a book co-authored by Kurt Campbell, one of these second-generation Democrats, captured the spirit in two words: “Hard Power.”
When he came to the White House, Obama needed experienced people to fill foreign policy jobs, and the Clinton veterans were ready and waiting. Several returned to office under Obama, including Tom Donilon, now national security adviser; Antony Blinken, the vice president’s top foreign policy adviser; Michele Flournoy, Obama’s former undersecretary of defense; Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia; and James Steinberg, the former deputy secretary of state.
Over his years in office, Obama has evolved and now is running for reelection as something of a Hard Power Democrat, highlighting his prowess in the use of force. Still, generational differences persist between the Obamians and the Clinton alums. For example, Bill Clinton and his secretary of state Madeleine Albright spoke of America as the “indispensable nation.” As secretary of state under Obama, Hillary Clinton has offered similar themes. “The United States can, must and will lead in this new century,” she said in a 2010 speech.
But when Obama’s younger aides talk about America’s role in the world, there is a subtle recognition that its post-World War II dominance may not last forever. “We’re not trying to preside over America’s decline,” deputy national security adviser and Obama speechwriter Ben Rhodes observed in an interview. “What we’re trying to do is to get America another 50 years as leader.”
The distance between the Obamians and the post-Vietnam generation endures, too. In theory, the Vietnam experience is relevant to some of the problems the Obama administration confronts — for example, in negotiating with the Taliban while seeking to withdraw forces from Afghanistan.
But on the whole, the Obama Democrats don’t want to think about Vietnam. It was the preoccupation of an earlier generation, one that they see as having dominated American foreign policy for too long.
Rice recalled her exasperation when she worked for John Kerry’s presidential campaign. “What frustrated me about the 2004 campaign was, there we were, relitigating ‘Where were you in nineteen sixty-whatever?’ as the big freaking issue between Bush and Kerry — you know, ‘Did you serve, did you not serve, what did your swift boat brothers think?’ ” she said. “And I’m thinking, ‘What does that have to do with me and the world we’re living in today?’ ”
Charles Krauthammer today has one of the most succinct and coherent critiques of Barack Obama's political philosophy I have read. He argues that Obama believes that success is not so much a function of individual effort as it is enabled by the collective efforts of the state and social solidarity. In other words, dissecting some recent, brief and often quoted remarks by the president in which he said that behind most American success stories is a government investment in infrastructure and education, Krauthammer sees a dangerous misunderstanding of the individual drive and spirit that truly accounts for American exceptionalism.
I don't agree with his analysis of Obama; as I have said before, I believe the president accepts the centrality of the private sector, and his disagreements with most Republicans are more at the margins. Obama believes more in the importance of government investment to spur private investment and that government needs to be a strong referee of the free market.
But what interests me more about Krauthammer's column is not the critique of Obama, but his Tocquevillian vision of America as a land of rugged individuals, buoyed not by government but by their own wits and their ties to family, church and community.
This is the ideal America that so many of my Republican friends long for, and it is at the root of their disgust with Obama. The president, in their mind, fundamentally doesn't understand the American spirit and is sapping it with the coddling hands of big government.
There is no doubt of the appeal of Krauthammer's thinking. Making it on your own is one of America's most powerful character traits, and, thankfully it still happens. More people in the world will still pay any price, bear any burden to come to the United States to succeed. And they don't come here because we have the best government programs, they come here because they have the best chance to make a better life.
We have strayed far from the America that Tocqueville celebrated and for which conservatives yearn. But it is not only some individuals who have lost initiative and drive and learned to depend on government; many of our businesses have become masters of gaming government for their shareholders' benefit.
How far would conservatives go to remove the safety nets that help cushion the deprivations of individuals and the props that support the success of business? Many Republicans, like Mitt Romney, have no problem shredding the social safety net but say not a peep about corporate welfare. The obstacles to Mr. Krauthammer's vision are far stronger than Barack Obama, and Romney will not move us closer to utopia either.
Here’s a chance for all who think Obamacare is a socialist Big Government scheme to put their money where their ideology is: If you truly hate the Affordable Care Act, you must send back any of those rebate checks you receive from your insurance companies thanks to the new law.
This is just common sense. If you think free enterprise should be liberated from Washington’s interference, what right does Uncle Sam have to tell the insurers they owe you a better deal? Keeping those refunds will make you complicit with Leviathan.
And here’s a challenge to Mitt Romney: You are running a deceitful ad about waivers the Obama administration has yet to issue based on rules allowing governors to operate their welfare-to-work programs more effectively. Will you please stop talking about your devotion to states’ rights?
Up until now, you were the guy who said that wisdom on matters related to social programming (including health insurance) lies with state governments. Five governors, including two of your fellow Republicans, thought they had a better way to make welfare reform work. The Department of Health and Human Services responded by proposing to give states more latitude. Isn’t that what honoring the good judgment of state governments is all about?
Oh, yes, and if Romney thinks President Obama is gutting welfare reform, I anxiously await his criticism of Brian Sandoval of Nevada and Gary R. Herbert of Utah, GOP governors who requested waivers. If Romney means what he says, doesn’t he have to condemn those who asked Obama to do what Obama did?
Political commentary these days is obsessed with the triviality of this campaign. Most of it is rooted in the refusal of conservatives to be candid about the implications of how their beliefs and commitments would affect the choices they would have government make — and how they differ from the president’s.
In Romney’s case, this often requires him to invent an Obama who exists only in the imagination of his ad makers. So they take Obama’s statements, clip out relevant sentences and run ads attacking some strung-together words that have a limited connection to what the president said. In the welfare ad, Romney lies outright.
But this is part of a larger pattern on the right, illustrated most tellingly by conservative rhetoric around the Affordable Care Act. In going after Obamacare, conservatives almost never talk about the specific provisions of the law. They try to drown it in anti-government rhetoric. “Help us defeat Obamacare,” Romney said after the Supreme Court declared the law constitutional. “Help us defeat the liberal agenda that makes government too big, too intrusive, and is killing jobs across this great country.”
Well, the new law does intrude directly in the insurance market. It requires that at least 85 percent of large-group premiums and 80 percent of small-group and individual premiums be spent directly on clinical services and improving the quality of health care. Imagine the radicalism: The government is telling insurance companies that they must spend most of the money they take in on actual health care for the people and businesses paying the premiums.
If the insurers spend below those levels, they have to refund the difference. According to Health and Human Services, 12.8 million Americans will get $1.1 billion in rebates. That comes to an average rebate of $151 per household. In 12 states, the rebates will average $300 or more.
Here’s your chance, conservatives. Big, bad government is forcing those nice insurance companies to give people a break. From what you say, you see this as socialism, a case of the heavy hand of Washington meddling with the right of contract. You cannot possibly keep this money. So stand up for those oppressed insurers and give them their rebates back!
As for the waivers on welfare, Romney’s position is dispiriting. Here’s a former governor whose Massachusetts health-care plan — the one that resembles Obamacare — was made possible by federal waivers; who, like other governors, wanted flexibility to do welfare reform his way; and who has said he would roll back Obamacare through the waiver process he now assails. He’s turning away from what he claims to believe about state-level innovation for the sake of a cheap and misleading campaign point.
I’d also be curious to know whether Romney got a rebate on his health insurance premiums courtesy of Obamacare and whether he plans to return it. But given his attitude toward disclosure, we’ll probably never find out.
Whatever the Supreme Court decides in June, the fight over Obamacare has already taught us tons about the character of the president and the men who seek to replace him. Call it the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. We’ll take them in turn.
The Good. The “good” is President Obama. The decision to go big and stay big on health care has been the most revealing act of Obama’s tenure. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and former economic adviser Larry Summers both told the president early on that, given the economic disaster he walked into, his legacy would be avoiding a second Great Depression. “That’s not enough for me,” Obama replied. At another critical juncture, when health care was stalled in Congress, Rahm Emanuel urged the president to scale his plan way back. Just cover all children, Emanuel counseled. It would be an important first step. Obama said no.
The president’s foes say this means the man is on an ego trip, out to secure his place on Mount Rushmore. But there’s nothing wrong and everything admirable in the quest for worthy fame; Lincoln talked about this impulse in his earliest speeches. That’s what motivates great leaders. I’ve always thought Obama’s persistence on health care was his finest hour.
Obama came to power determined to tackle some of the biggest challenges the country faces. Any catalog of these would include being the only wealthy nation with 50 million uninsured and thus the only advanced society where serious illness routinely means financial ruin. Fixing this is the kind of thing we should want presidents to do. If Obama hadn’t aimed high on health care, his entire first term would have been devoted to cleaning up a mess he inherited. Why would anyone want that to be the outer limits of a president’s ambition?
Is Obamacare flawed? Of course. Show me anything that emerges from Congress that isn’t. We’ll be tinkering with it for the next two decades – that is, if five unelected justices (who, by the sound of the audio files, don’t fully understand how insurance markets work) don’t throw the country into turmoil by tossing it out.
Despite all the shouting, Obamacare’s signature achievement is poorly understood. The law creates a way for nonelderly Americans to get access to group health coverage outside the employment setting. The United States is the only advanced nation where this ability doesn’t exist. If the insurance exchanges get up and running, they can in time become the place where most of us get coverage that’s not tied to our jobs, with those who need help receiving subsidies. This would help the economy even as it makes America a more decent society.
The bad. The “bad” is Mitt Romney. Let’s stipulate that anyone with a serious shot at becoming president believes above all in his or her own fitness for power and thus everything else — such as steadiness and honesty, to name two virtues – becomes subordinate to ambition. Even by this standard, Romney’s choices and behavior are extreme, and his treatment of Obamacare distills his extremity to its purest essence.
Simply put, Obamacare has forced Romney to reveal how much 100-proof drivel he’ll swallow and spit out with a smile if that’s what it takes to get to the Oval Office. The man passed a great health reform in Massachusetts that inspired Obama’s and he pretends otherwise every day. I’m no purist about what it takes to win elections. But at some point the total denial of your record, your sincere views and your problem-solving instincts takes you into soul-destroying territory. If there were a health-care version of “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” Romney’s portrait offstage would be a hideous thing to behold.
The Ugly. Which brings us to Rick Santorum, who caught fire by arguing that Obamacare “is usurping your rights. It is creating a culture of dependency. Every single American will be dependent on government. . . . It magnifies all that is wrong with what this president is trying to do.” What is Santorum talking about? The freedom to go broke when you’re ill? The liberty to be denied health coverage because you have preexisting conditions? We’re “dependent on government” for roads, bridges and sewers, too. Should we stop investing in infrastructure lest we be drawn further into Barack Obama’s socialist trap?
I wish Santorum would finally tell us exactly how he and his family get health coverage themselves — the coverage he would perversely deny to millions of others “on principle.” (It can’t be easy for the former senator to arrange, when he’s got a big family and a daughter with preexisting conditions). After that, it’s fine by me if he crawls back into his cave.
As fear among Obamacare supporters (like me) spreads that the tenor of the Supreme Court’s questioning Tuesday means the White House may not have five votes to uphold the individual mandate, a few observations are in order.
First, conservatives need to be careful what they wish for. If the mandate is struck down, mark my words, we’ll end up with Medicare for all before long — once the ranks of the uninsured swell to 60 or 70 million and people are fed up. No one doubts that single payer is constitutional. As I and others have pointed out many times, the only way to push toward universal coverage via private health plans is to have a mandate that gets everyone in the pool (along with subsidies for those who need help buying basic coverage). If healthier people opt out or delay buying coverage until they are sick, premiums skyrocket because only less healthy people are buying insurance. Eventually the system implodes in a spiral of accelerating premiums. This is Insurance 101.
Second: If the mandate does go down, Obama and the Democrats will look extremely careless in retrospect for not designing the law as an INCENTIVE to buy insurance as opposed to a mandate. This is easy to do, as Paul Starr and others have noted. For example, the Bush/GOP prescription drug bill has incentives for seniors to sign up on a timely basis (or lose advantageous pricing) to get everyone in the pool, and virtually all seniors do. It’s an incentive, not a mandate. But now an easy fix to amend Obamacare to the incentive model could never pass because the GOP controls the House and Democrats don’t have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.
Third: Having said that, the fact that this easy mandate fix is available proves how the GOP actually has zero interest in expanding coverage to the uninsured. If it was just the supposed constitutional defect the GOP was “concerned” about, it’s a no-brainer to fix the law. But this is ultimately about killing expanded coverage and health security — and the presumed political benefits that would flow to the Democratic party for delivering this achievement.
In other words, today’s legal challenge is an elaborate reincarnation of the famous 1993 Bill Kristol memo that warned the GOP to stop Clintoncare at all costs, lest Democrats gain immeasurably. As the French say, “plus ca change” . . . and to judge from reports on the Court’s questioning today, lots to worry about.