Last week was a tough week all around at National Review Online – but at last, the long-promised excerpt from THE RIGHT MAN has been posted on the NRO site. You’ll find it on the main page. All this week, I’ll be answering questions about the excerpt from anyone who’d care to ask them: Email me at AskFrum@nationalreview.com
A Better Idea for the Dems
Did you happen to hear about Senator John Breaux’s speech about universal health insurance? Addressing the U.S. Conference of Mayors on Thursday, he offered a proposal to provide tax subsidies to the uninsured to buy their own policies from commercial carriers on the open market. It’s an interesting concept – and what’s also interesting are the political possibilities the concept opens.
Right now, there are already three declared Democratic candidates for president openly campaigning against the war on terror: Howard Dean, Al Sharpton, and John Kerry. Just over the horizon is a fourth, Gary Hart.
(Hart is once again trying his old trick of talking about “new ideas” which turn out on inspection to be either not so new or not really ideas. He is vaunting himself as the candidate of homeland security on the strength of his co-chairmanship of the Hart-Rudman report on terrorism in 2000, but his own suggestions verge on the ludicrous. He’s proposing, among other things, a citizen home guard to guard ports and other facilities – as if we can defeat 21st century terrorism by bringing back World War II vintage air-raid wardens! The truth is that while there is plenty of room for a Democrat to attack President Bush on homeland security, the only way to do so effectively is to break with old Democratic shibboleths about civil liberties and immigration – something that Hart will never do. For all his talk of boldness, Hart has in practice always been the most intellectually timid of Democratic pols. Even Hillary Clinton has shown herself far more imaginative.)
In this era of renewed patriotism, these antiwar candidates can lead the Dems nowhere but to disaster. On the other hand, the only candidate who is not antiwar – Joe Lieberman – is far too moderate to excite the Democratic base or (should he somehow gain the nomination) explain to the nation why it should turn to him rather than George Bush. What the Democrats need is a candidate who is staunchly prowar who can also – and here’s the tricky part – offer big, bold initiatives at home without sounding like some kind of McGovernite economic radical. That slot has been open for a year, and John Breaux’s speech suggests that somebody may at last have worked up the nerve to try to fill it.
Speaking of Health Care
I have a prickly feeling that most of the early reports on President Bush’s State of the Union address are wrong. I suspect that the startling thing about the speech will be the length and force of the domestic-policy section. President Bush is scheduled to release a detailed healthcare plan of his own on Wednesday – and for a president who is always concerned to show that foreign policy is not causing him to forget the folks at home, this plan is a natural topic to highlight.