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Bob Herbert has good points to make. Instead, he gins a demon
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WHEN MSM LIBERALS ATTACK! Bob Herbert has good points to make. Instead, he gins a demon: // link // print // previous // next //

How liberals lose/A scolding term: We’d tend to agree with the New York Times, which advocates passing the health reform bill in today’s top editorial. We do think one part of the piece helps show how liberals lose. The editors note that voters in Massachusetts support their own state’s health plan. We were struck by several scolding terms as the editors reasoned:

NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (1/28/10): A poll taken in Massachusetts after the election by The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health found that a surprising 68 percent of those who had voted said that they supported their own state’s plan, including slightly more than half of those who had voted for Mr. Brown.

Mr. Brown, who promised to block reform in Washington, voted for his state’s program in 2006 and did not campaign against it this year. Instead, he argued that since Massachusetts’ citizens already have coverage, why should they help pay to expand coverage elsewhere.

That cynical I’ve-got-mine argument doesn’t make a lot of sense—even in Massachusetts. The Senate bill would funnel additional money into the Massachusetts program and federal efforts to rein in costs should ultimately benefit all of the states.

Would that be a “cynical, I’ve got-mine argument?” We think liberals tend to lose when they adopt such above-it-all attitudes.

Immediately, the editors say that Brown’s argument didn’t make a lot of sense—that Massachusetts would make out all right financially under the reform bill’s provisions. That might make Brown’s argument wrong—but what makes the argument “cynical?” Is it cynical when voters don’t want to pay for other states, having bitten the bullet within their own? (Presumably, many Bay State voters reacted favorably to brown’s argument.) Considering another example, is it “cynical” when other states recoil against the special indulgence the bill would grant Nebraska?

Almost surely, Massachusetts voter are over-taxed, in various ways. Given the vast overspending on health care which characterizes our system, they’re almost surely being asked to pay too much for health care—for their own health care through the premiums they pay, and for that of some others through their state and federal taxes. (Presumably, much of the overspending goes to corporate and professional elites.) There’s no reason on the face of the earth why they should be happy with this.

When middle-class voters are asked to pay too much, that should of course be a progressive concern. But often, a certain type of pseudo-liberal will react to such concerns as the editors do—by scolding the voters for being “cynical,” for taking an “I’ve got mine” attitude. In these instances, pseudo-liberals put their love for cultural condescension ahead of the desire to pursue a winning politics. (A politics which is right on the merits.)

Those voter were cynical, the editors will be taken to say. “We can afford it,” Ezra Klein wrote, describing the vast level of over-spending which marks our health care system. In each case, upper-class liberals lecture to people who have much less than they. It’s a wonderful way for scolding liberals to lose. We liberals have mastered the practice.

Final general question: Is it “cynical” when some middle-class voter doesn’t want to pay for somebody else? We would have to say no, it is not. But pseudo-liberals love to scold. It’s one way we liberals lose.

What’s up with those House progressives: In that New York Times editorial, the editors recommend an approach which would surely produce storms of protest:

NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL: The most promising path forward would be for House Democrats to pass the Senate bill as is and send it to the president for his signature. That would allow the administration and Congress to pivot immediately to job creation and other economic issues. The Senate bill is not perfect, but it would expand coverage to 94 percent of all citizens and legal residents by 2019, reduce the deficit for decades to come, and create pilot programs to move the medical system toward better care at lower costs.

Rank-and-file House Democrats apparently won’t accept the Senate bill without modification. So Congressional leaders are looking for ways to commit both the House and the Senate to changes—such as better subsidies to make insurance more affordable—that could be approved through parallel “budget reconciliation” legislation that could be approved by a simple majority in both the Senate and House.

For ourselves, we’d be inclined to support that “path forward” too, assuming the political price wouldn’t be too disastrous. (It does no good to pass a plan if it generates a voter revolt which elects a Republican president and Republican Congress, thus producing the plan’s repeal.) That said: The editors are a bit vague about the reasons why many House Dems have balked at the idea of passing the Senate bill.

Why have House progressives balked at passing the Senate plan? Last week, Keith Olbermann failed to push Rep. Lynn Woolsey on this question. When Ed Schultz popped the question to Dennis Kucinich, Brother Kucinich said this:

SCHULTZ (1/19/10): Congressman, let me get back to health care just one more time here for a moment. Why won't the progressives in the House just go ahead and rubber-stamp the Senate bill so President Obama can get a legislative victory and then come back later on and introduce some other legislation that might tweak the bill down the road? Why not do that?

KUCINICH: We wouldn't be doing President Obama or the American people any favors if we rubber-stamped a bill that would cause workers to have to give back money out of their paychecks so they could pay a tax that would then be recycled into the profits of insurance companies.

SCHULTZ: So you think it's a sellout to the insurance industry?

KUCINICH: Well, I mean, that's a mild way of putting it. I think that we don't do the president any favors. We stand up for the people and we say, "Look, let's go back to the drawing board." We can support our president, but we can support him by having specific health-care initiatives that we can rally the American people on, that we can get Democrats and Republicans to agree on, and then we can move forward. But this bill? Not a chance.

SCHULTZ: Congressman, great to have you with us.

We like Kucinich here at THE HOWLER. But can Democrats possibly pass a serious bill by “going back to the drawing board?” Sometimes, we wonder two things:

Sometimes, we wonder if some “progressives” hate insurance companies so much that they would deny health care to 30 million people just to keep profits down.

Sometimes, we wonder if “progressive” House members pander completely to their union backers, in much the way that other pols cater to corporate backers.

In this news report in this morning’s Times, David Herszenhorn discusses the possibility of passing the Senate bill as is, then passing improvements through reconciliation. For us, his report moves the discussion forward. But just what’s up with those House progressives? In our experience, interviewers have rarely pushed them to explain their ultimate views.

WHEN MSM LIBERALS ATTACK [permalink]: We’ve been disappointed with Obama too. Two possible explanations sometimes come to mind:

First, he may be a bit of an upper-end guy. In 1988, he went to Harvard Law School, where he succeeded brilliantly. From that time forward, Obama’s life has largely been lived among upper-end groups. His “community organizer” days came before that—and, in all honesty, they didn’t last very long (three years). Who knows? At heart, he may be somewhat less a “man of the people” than progressives may prefer.

Then too, we sometimes think that President Obama may just be lacking experience. When Bill Clinton came to the White House, he had adjustment problems too. But Clinton had served twelve years as governor of Arkansas, working in one of the nation’s kookiest political cultures. When it comes to political fighting, he was vastly more experienced than Obama is. Experience counts in any field. Politically, Clinton had many of the skills which allowed him to start fighting back.

Why has Obama been disappointing? In the end, we can’t really say. Bob Herbert is plainly disappointed too. Unfortunately, his new column reminds us of what tends to happen when MSM liberals attack.

“Who is Barack Obama?” the fiery Timesman asks. And uh-oh! Obama may not be the most “credible” person, Herbert quickly suggests. Must we state the column’s headline? Tracking back to the days of LBJ, the fiery headline proclaims “Obama’s Credibility Gap:”

HERBERT (1/26/10): Obama’s Credibility Gap

Who is Barack Obama?

Americans are still looking for the answer, and if they don’t get it soon—or if they don’t like the answer—the president’s current political problems will look like a walk in the park.

Oof! Obama’s rhetoric cannot always be trusted,” Herbert soon says. “He is creating a credibility gap for himself.” But just how fair are Herbert’s examples? We were underwhelmed by several of the examples here. They seemed to play an old song:

HERBERT (continuing directly): Mr. Obama may be personally very appealing, but he has positioned himself all over the political map: the anti-Iraq war candidate who escalated the war in Afghanistan; the opponent of health insurance mandates who made a mandate to buy insurance the centerpiece of his plan; the president who stocked his administration with Wall Street insiders and went to the mat for the banks and big corporations, but who is now trying to present himself as a born-again populist.

Mr. Obama is in danger of being perceived as someone whose rhetoric, however skillful, cannot always be trusted. He is creating a credibility gap for himself, and if it widens much more he won’t be able to close it.

We’re disappointed with Obama too. But is there some sort of contradiction—some issue of “trust”—if you’re opposed to one war, but are willing to escalate another? Is Obama’s change on mandates an honesty issue? It might be, of course. But who knows?

Alas! This is what often happens when MSM liberals decide to attack. Once they decide they’re troubled by some Liberal Pol, they start pretending that everything said and done by that pol shows his bad, vile character. Check the highlighted gripe:

HERBERT: Mr. Obama’s campaign mantra was “change” and most of his supporters took that to mean that he would change the way business was done in Washington and that he would reverse the disastrous economic policies that favored mega-corporations and the very wealthy at the expense of the middle class and the poor.

“Tonight, more Americans are out of work, and more are working harder for less,” said Mr. Obama in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in August 2008. “More of you have lost your homes and even more are watching your home values plummet. More of you have cars you can’t afford to drive, credit card bills you can’t afford to pay, and tuition that’s beyond your reach.”

Voters watching the straight-arrow candidate delivering that speech, in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Depression, would not logically have thought that an obsessive focus on health insurance would trump job creation as the top domestic priority of an Obama administration.

But Obama campaigned on health care reform. He did so in the same convention speech from which Herbert took those quotes:

OBAMA (8/28/08): Now—now is the time to finally keep the promise of affordable, accessible health care for every single American.


If you have health care—if you have health care, my plan will lower your premiums. If you don't, you'll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves.


And—and as someone who watched my mother argue with insurance companies while she lay in bed dying of cancer, I will make certain those companies stop discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most.


Now is the time to help families with paid sick days and better family leave, because nobody in America should have to choose between keeping their job and caring for a sick child or an ailing parent.

Herbert may have preferred a different focus in the past year. But is it fair to call Obama’s pursuit of health reform “obsessive?”

Herbert points to some real problems with Obama’s tenure. But in this column, he does what MSM liberals tend to do when they start to attack: Having decided he’s peeved with Obama’s policies, he turns it into a character problem—and every stance Obama takes displays his “character flaw.”

This is similar to what MSM liberals did to Gore, starting in 1997. During that year, they decided that Gore was a big dishonest sleaze, just like Bill Clinton before him. To help us rubes reach the same conclusion, they began to gin up ludicrous incidents which “showed” Gore’s character problem. Most disastrously: In December 1997, Frank Rich and Maureen Dowd invented the ludicrous Love Story flap.

The press corps pounded the Love Story nonsense for three years, adding in ludicrous, brain-dead claims about Gore’s other LIES. Al Gore said he invented the Internet! And George Bush went to the White House.

(On February 2, we’ll post Chapter 2 at our companion site. It deals with the gruesome Love Story charade, a gong-show which helped change the world.)

Herbert asks sensible questions today—sensible questions about Obama’s devotion to the interests of working-class people. But lord! When MSM liberals start to attack, they sometimes end up seeing a demon in every thought, word and deed.