With the Senate Finance Committee’s bill’s passage, the health care reform debate moves on to talks of reconciling that bill with the others produced by the House and Senate. Reports have come out that in the House, a robust public option may require only 8 more votes to pass…and many speculate that a somewhat less robust public option could pass both House and Senate. As each day passes, Democrats appear to be speaking a bit more positively about their chances for success…and each weekly poll shows an uptick in public support for some form of government-run health insurance, which no doubt contributes to the Democrats’ optimism.
So. What is a Republican to do?
Launch a fruitless counter-offensive, that will be hindered by the fact that, over time, Americans are becoming more knowledgeable about the subject of health care?
Launch their own campaign to pass an important bill in some other policy area of their choosing?
Join in health care talks, so at least when the bill passes they can try to claim they were involved, and not simply obstructing?
Keep quiet on policy issues, meanwhile starting their campaigns for re-election back in their home states and districts?
No. No. No. Definitely not.
They’ll do what they have found so effective in the past…they’ll try to distract.
AFGHANISTAN: After a brief hiatus, former Vice President Dick Cheney has again emerged…to question President Obama’s “war credentials” and to claim that we are “less safe,” despite all reports and studies to the contrary. In his latest effort to both criticize and distract, Cheney accused the president of “dithering” and of hurting the troops while helping the enemy: “Make no mistake. Signals of indecision out of Washington hurt our allies and embolden our adversaries.“ Perhaps the former veep is simply unfamiliar and uncomfortable with gathering information from generals and experts, in an attempt to make good decisions based on a thorough understanding of the situation, instead of making quick decisions based only on gut feelings and prayer. Who better to respond to Cheney’s claims than National Security Network Senior Adviser Gen. Paul Eaton (Ret.): “The record is clear: Dick Cheney and the Bush administration were incompetent war fighters. They ignored Afghanistan for 7 years with a crude approach to counter-insurgency warfare best illustrated by: 1. Deny it. 2. Ignore it. 3. Bomb it. While our intelligence agencies called the region the greatest threat to America, the Bush White House under-resourced our military efforts, shifted attention to Iraq, and failed to bring to justice the masterminds of September 11. The only time Cheney and his cabal of foreign policy ‘experts’ have anything to say is when they feel compelled to protect this failed legacy. While President Obama is tasked with cleaning up the considerable mess they left behind, they continue to defend torture or rewrite a legacy of indifference on Afghanistan. Simply put, Mr. Cheney sees history throughout extremely myopic and partisan eyes.“ Cheney’s statements also resulted in a rather entertaining exchange between MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell and Joe Scarborough:
THE ECONOMY: When they’re not claiming that the stimulus has failed, while simultaneously taking credit for its successes (latest example in a growing trend here, courtesy of Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.)), Republicans are either criticizing Obama for failing to impose strict new regulations on banks and Wall Street…or they are criticizing Obama’s efforts to impose strict new regulations on banks and Wall Street. Representative Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) has proposed an amendment to the House Financial Services Committee’s new Consumer Protection bill…that would allow federal bank regulators (who many have claimed are a bit too friendly with the Wall Street institutions) to “veto” any of the protections in the bill if they thought the protections might threaten the “safety and soundness” of the financial institutions. Translated into normal people-speak: Hensarling thinks that risky schemes, if they provide a bank/institution’s a lot of money, should be allowed…customer protection be damned. Hensarling said: “The safety and soundness of the system, taxpayer protection, ought to trump the ability to ban financial products. And let’s face it, I understand the chairman said that this new CFPA would not have the ability to set goals, but if you control the product mix, if you can ban products, if you can modify their terms, of what some have estimated could be as much as 10 to 15 percent of our economy, then yes, I conclude you can adversely impact the safety and soundness of these institutions.” Again…this distraction is not likely to be successful: the American people are less likely to support a legislator saying we ought to protect banks’ ability to make profit at our expense…and more likely to support a president who is about to bail out small businesses, and to restrict the salaries and compensation of bailed-out CEO’s.
IMMIGRATION: When in doubt, the GOP loves to fall back on an old standard: xenophobia. It’s perhaps odd that there are some within the Republican Party (hint: her name rhymes with Lishelle Mockman) claiming that the U.S. Census is some insidious attempt for President Obama to gather all of your precious personal data…and there are other Republicans, like Senator David Vitter (R-LA) and Senator Bob Bennett (R-UT), who now want the Census to ask EVEN MORE questions. Specifically…they want to add questions regarding citizenship and legal residency status. Opponents claim that this would dramatically reduce participation in the Census…and that THAT is perhaps the true goal of the amendment’s proponents. Perhaps the GOP thinks that because Obama has taken few steps to address immigration issues, that the issue is ripe for creating distraction and dissent…they are neglecting, of course, that all polls show that “immigration” is pretty low on a lot of Americans’ lists of “political priority,” and that current studies show that the recession has resulted in fewer and fewer people even trying to come into our country. It’s also ironic…that the GOP would choose Hispanic Heritage Month, when the media is flooded with positive stories about America’s Latino community and their contributions to our country, as the right time to try to play off of some people’s bigotry towards Hispanics.
RANDOM WINGNUTTERY: Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) thought it wise to insert himself into the merry little war between the White House and FOX News. For those who’ve not been following this story, it began with a statement from a White House advisor, insisting that FOX News contained no actual “news” and was instead serving as a media outlet for GOP talking points. This was, of course, an unnecessary point to make, seeing as most people already know this to be true about FOX…and those who don’t, will never accept it as true because they never watch anything EXCEPT FOX. The gauntlet having been thrown, the debate has resulted in a series of back-and-forth retorts amount to little more that “Yuh-huh!” and “Nuh-uh!“ Anyone with any political savvy or simple good sense would know not to become embroiled in such a fray….enter Senator Alexander. From the Senate floor, Alexander cautioned the President against forming some sort of “enemies list” containing the names of political opponents, and organizations like FOX News. Of course…there is absolutely no evidence that the President has any such list, nor that he is intending to formulate such a list…which is why many, such as Nashville journalist and blogger Jeff Woods, did not take long to criticize Alexander’s “advice” to the President. Instead of rushing to FOX’s defense, Lamar may want to do what the rest of his party is doing…distancing themselves from the network, and other rabidly conservative outlets. Here’s Lamar’s speech, just for laughs:
It’s easy to see why these tactics will prove less effective than in times past: America’s attention right now is squarely on health care…and the GOP is partly responsible for that. In stirring up the right to believe that the health care issue is a “struggle to save America from communism/fascism/tyranny“…in scaring seniors into believing that “the government is trying to kill you“…in telling recession-weary Americans that regulating/reforming insurance companies will spell “financial doom” for small businesses and families…the Republican Party has convinced the American people of something that Democrats also wished for our citizens to realize: our nation’s health care system’s problems are INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT. By not listening to the American people, and not realizing that the overwhelming majority of people think health care reform is absolutely necessary and needs to happen RIGHT NOW, Republicans don’t seem to realize that we are locked into this one, particular battle until it is concluded…and little else will draw our attention away.