October 16, 2009
As the Senate Finance Committee passed its version of Health care reform this week, lead responsibility for getting the legislation through Congress shifts from Sen. Max Baucus to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Will he somehow be able to craft a coherent, comprehensive package that lives up to everyone's diverse expectations and yet meets the bottom-line criteria of budgeteers? It's a pretty tall order. The only Republican committee member to vote in support of Obama's plan was Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, from Maine. She has been waffling on the health care issue for several months, and her explanation for voting in favor of the Democrats' bill was not very convincing. See Washington Post.
All across the nation, television viewers are being bombarded by advertisements on both sides of the health care issue. On the air waves, Glenn Beck, Keith Olberman, Sean Hannity, Rachel Maddow are all raging against the other side, and hardly any moderate voices are heard prominently. Anyone who hoped for some kind of consensus to emerge through the course of debates on Capitol Hill was sorely mistaken.
Here in the Shenandoah Valley, a "Hands Off My Health Care" rally was held in Waynesboro this morning, part of a multi-city bus caravan that is sponsored by Americans For Prosperity. Steve Kijak was there, and took several photos as well. In spite of the gloomy weather, about sixty high-spirited citizens (mostly near or past retirement age) showed up to voice their objections to the Democrats' health care proposals. The featured attraction was former Senator George Allen, who spoke with gusto about the evils that would come about under Obamacare. Unlike some other critics, however, Allen offered some very worthwhile reform proposals centered around the basic ideas of thrift (e.g., health savings accounts) and consumer choice (e.g., allowing insurance companies to sell policies across state lines). Many consider such virtues old fashioned, but I couldn't agree more with him. Next, the Republican candidate for attorney general, State Senator Ken Cuccinelli, talked about the legal and constitutional issues raised by Obamacare. Before the rally began, I was unsure of what to expect, but I came away very pleased with the tone and the convincing, rational arguments made by the speakers.
After the speeches were over, I got to meet Sen. Cuccinelli for the first time, and complimented him for talking about the constitutional issues that I have lectured about in my classes, such as the Tenth Amendment. (I always take pains to present both sides of issues in class, and do not preach any particular ideology.) I mentioned the book by Thomas Woods and Kevin Gutzman that I recently bought, Who Killed the Constitution? Overall, I was impressed by Cuccinelli's knowledge and clear style of delivery. He faces a tough election battle against Democrat Steve Shannon.
According to bloomberg.com, former Senator Tom Daschle said that senior citizens should get out of the habit of thinking that every affliction that comes with old age should be treated medically, but rather just accept their declining physical condition. Does that sound harsh to you? Well, if the Federal government takes over health care and continues its downhill slide in terms of fiscal responsibility, that kind of advice will be the only real choice.
In their debate earlier this week, Bob McDonnell looked and sounded poised and knowledgeable, while Creigh Deeds came across as awkward and desperate. Deeds should have known better than to declare that his opponent "lied," a rhetorical hand-grenade that he failed to substantiate. Deeds failed to focus sharply enough on some of McDonnell's weak points, such as reliance on privatization of roads and liquor stores as a way to raise revenue without tax hikes. McDonnell is not only well-versed about the issues, with solid policy proposals, he has demonstrated a political astuteness that will serve him very well in the governor's mansion, should he be elected. Clearly, he ready to serve as governor, and Deeds is not.
Has it been seven days since President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize? Yes, it has. On Face the Nation last Sunday, Bob Schieffer said that this award will diminish the Nobel Prize, which seems pretty clear to me. As part of the "mainstream media," Schieffer made it clear he is sympathetic to Obama but fears -- rightly -- that the prize will be an albatross on Obama's shoulders, making the "International Community" look silly and validating the xenophobia of the right wing. Given how sensitive this moment is for Obama, who is pondering his options in Afghanistan, the Nobel Prize may have the effect of making it harder for him to retreat, even though he probably should.
I agree with Daniel Drezner, who was "laughing at the morons on the Norwegian Nobel Committee who made this decision to cheapen an already devalued prize." It's pretty obvious that the prize was a repudiation of Bush II, pure and simple, just as the 2008 election was.