Tags: Barack Obama

Obama Backer Soros Declares America Needs “to go through a certain de-Nazification process”


It’s subscriber-only, but Martin Peretz notes that Barack Obama backer George Soros has made a reference explicitly comparing the Bush administration to Nazi Germany, and declaring that the country has to go through a “de-Nazification” process. (Hat tip, Instapundit.)

Another summary:

Last week at Davos, Soros made the likes of Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn look downright patriotic.  The New York Post writes that after asserting that the United States is recognizing the error it made in Iraq, Soros said, “To what extent it recognizes the mistake will determine its future.”  Soros went on to say that Turkey and Japan still suffer from reluctance to admit to their dark moments in history, and contrasted that reluctance to Germany’s rejection of its Nazi-era past. “America needs to follow the policies it has introduced in Germany,” Soros stated. “We have to go through a certain de-Nazification process.”

There was a time when this stirred outrage, but now it just seems depressing. Because we know Obama will not feel the need to distance himself. We know no Democrat on Capitol Hill will feel compelled to say, “I strongly disagree with the policies of the Bush administration, but comparing them to the Nazis is out of line and beyond the pale.” We know that very, very few lefties will feel insulted or outraged that the country as a whole has been compared to Nazi Germany. We know that some lefty believing himself smart or funny will insist that Bush isn’t as smart as Hitler.

Any fear of demonstrating Godwin’s law got obliterated a long time ago.

Naturally, the lament at the Huffington Post is that “Neocons” are trashing him and the need for a “political purge” in America.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Chatting With Governor Romney


Saturday morning his time and Saturday afternoon my time, I had the chance to talk briefly with Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts and candidate for the Republican nomination for president in 2008. The following is not quite an exact quote, as my tape recorder picked a most convenient time to die on me; it’s the best transcription my finger speed could achieve.


Jim: Technically my beat at the Hillary Spot is the Democratic primary… Do you have any thoughts on the dynamics of what’s going on in the opposition party?


Gov. Romney: Well, I’m not a political pundit, I don’t make it a practice to strategize on the developments in Democratic party – or my own party, for that matter. Right now I’m focus on my own message and policy initiatives… I will say that it sure looks to me like Hillary Clinton is far and away most likely to receive nomination.


Jim: So at this time in the previous cycle, the flavor of the month was Howard Dean, Dr. “I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for” and “YEAARRRRGH.” This year, it seems to be Obama. Is this a sign that the mood of the country has shifted, that anger has been tried and rejected as a way to galvanize support?


Gov. Romney: This has been my first occasion to travel around the country, but what I have seen is that Americans want to less talk and less bickering and more progress and action. We face some extraordinary challenges as a nation – health care, our schools are falling behind the rest of the world’s, too much of our paychecks are going to taxes. Americans see that Washington bickers and points fingers, and they want to see some action and solutions.


Jim: I know elected officials don’t always like hypotheticals, but I think you’ll like this one. You win the presidency in 2008, and in January 2009, right after you’re sworn in, the leaders of the House and Senate say, ‘to honor your mandate, we will pass any three pieces of legislation you like. Beyond that, we’ll fight you tooth and nail.’ What would those three pieces of legislation be?


Gov. Romney: I’m going outlining over the next year my policy prescriptions for a whole series of matters. It’s tough to say what my first three pieces of legislation would be, or if I could only pass three, which those would be. My priorities are several: first to win the battle against the jihad. Second to help the country become more competitive; I want us to reach standards so that they exceed those of Asia. [I believe the governor was referring to education and economic productivity.]


I want to help solve our domestic weaknesses – the failure of health care, failure of our schools. And I want to make us independent of foreign oil. I want to be an action oriented president, and the president can focus on more than one topic at a time.


Jim: I’m glad you spoke at the National Review Institute summit, even though I wasn’t able to attend. I presume you saw the comments on the Corner by Rich Lowry, that you should have addressed Iraq more. Any reaction?


Gov. Romney: Well, he’s correct that I didn’t talk a great deal about Iraq; I wanted to concentrate on Iran. You have different speeches for different audiences. I had spoken about Iraq before, and in fact I spoke about Iraq a great deal yesterday.

Jim: Was it a fair criticism?

Gov. Romney: All criticism is fair; it represents the viewpoint of the author it is true that in my address I  didn’t speak much about Iraq. But I have in other speeches. Next week, I’ll be speaking at the Detroit Economic Club, where I won’t be speaking about Iraq or Iran there, I’ll be speaking about the economy. I spoke a great deal about Iran at the Herzliya Conference in Israel. In any given speech, you can’t speak on all important topics.  I can understand that Rich felt I should have spoken more about Iraq.

Jim: I’m happy that I’ve got work covering a campaign starting in early 2007, but I can imagine not everyone is thrilled by the fact that we’re having, in effect, a 23-month election cycle, and a 13-month primary (at least), which is much longer than in the past. What does the longer cycle change for a campaign like yours?

Gov. Romney: Not having been a part of previous cycles as a candidate, it’s hard to judge, but I was speaking to George Stephanopoulos by phone earlier this week and he mentioned that he was hired as the first staff member of Clinton campaign in would have been October of this year of that cycle. [In other words, Steph was hired in October 1991.] It gives you a sense of how the process has changed just in that short period of time. The bad news is that a campaign needs lots of money, more money for airplane fares, more money for staff. But it is fun, because with a longer campaign, you get to meet a lot of people.

Jim: What’s your goal in the coming months, before, say, the first debate in April?

Gov. Romney: At this first stage you listen as much as you speak. There are lot of questions asked, lots of discussions, one on one, and I use these occasions to describe my views about the future of this country and about where we’re going to be. 

Jim: What’s been the greatest challenge of the campaign so far?

Gov. Romney: Hmm. It’s gone very well so far, I think the challenge might be that I’m having a hard time answering that question. I think it’s important to hire the right team, and I’ve been very successful so far. Our financial team is strong so far, I think you saw that we raised $6.5 million on our first day. We have a good ground team in each of early primary states, and a good national team. The question will be, can the candidate keep up?

Romney was preparing to speak at a Lincoln Day dinner in Louisville, Kentucky, and then heading on to meetings in Cincinnati.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Energy Corporation Announces Newest Hire: Democratic Presidential Candidate


I’m not sure if this is an ethical boo-boo, but it’s undeniably odd. How often does a presidential candidate go out and get a job as a consultant for an energy company?

Needless to say, if this were Dick Cheney, it would be considered ipso-facto evidence of corruption on the part of everyone involved.

Because it’s Tom Vilsack, no one will care.

Presidential candidate and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack will be a consultant on renewable energy and the environment to MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., Vilsack and company officials said Thursday.

“Essentially, I am going to do research and provide input to policymakers in the holding company on issues involving renewable energy,” Vilsack said.

A subsidiary of the holding company, MidAmerican Energy Co., is the largest utility in Iowa.

Vilsack will be paid by the holding company’s shareholders and not its customers, he and company officials stressed. Vilsack said he will not do any lobbying of lawmakers. “I am expressly not a lobbyist,” he said.

If you’re a former governor, and you’re looking for some high-end consulting work, does running for president boost your asking price?

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Hillary: You’re Either With Us or Against Us - In Fundraising


Is it just me, or is Hillary’s message to her donors — “NO money to anybody else. You cannot play both sides of the street” — sound kind of like President George W. Bush’s message after 9/11? “You’re either with us or against us”?

Have we entered some sort of Bizarro World where shades of gray, neutrality, and nuance are permitted in nations’ stances in the war on terror, but not among donors in the Democratic primary?

Then again, apparently she believes we should talk to Hezbollah, “to understand better what we can do to defeat those who are aiming their hatred, their extremism and their weapons at us.” I’m sure the AIPAC crowd loved that line of thinking.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Gore running? Maybe not


Well, the comment earlier in the week from former Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile seemed to hint it was a possibility, but Al Gore is shutting down his political action committees. That doesn’t seem like the thing you do if you’re getting ready to run for president.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Hillary Tries Reaching Out To Lefty Blogs; Gets Hand Bitten


I had missed this fascinating little tiff between Hillary’s campaign and some liberal bloggers. BlogPI did the legwork, and offers details:

While I am quite sure I did not locate every ad on every blog, the initial buy was worth at least $17,026 across at least 45 blogs. The buy comprised political blogs almost exclusively, liberal blogs overwhelmingly, and primarily those with a national reach. Nearly every liberal blog above 50,000 impressions per week picked up a blogad, though a few did not (as we’ll see below) and at least a few regional and small-traffic blogs also were included. The campaign bought some Premium ads (which are guaranteed to be the top ads visible) on liberal sites but generally stuck with the Standard ads, and went with the bargain buys on each of the conservative blogs included. And how many conservative blogs was that? I counted just four: Hugh Hewitt, Power Line, Captain’s Quarters and Wizbang Politics (i.e. not the front page), each worth between 550,000 and 150,000 impressions per week for a total $1,150.

You figure one of the reasons the Hillary campaign hired Peter Daou as their Blog Guy was because he was willing to try to garner traffic and attention in unexpected ways. He tried advertising on a few right-of-center blogs in order to generate attention to her first webchat. As a result, the left-of-center blogs who didn’t get ads were livid.


Blog PI’s William Beutler took those bloggers to task.

And to editorialize for a moment, there is something unseemly about complaining that an advertiser did not buy ads on one’s site. Daou and the Clinton team are under no obligation to buy ads on anybody’s site. Yes, Marsh is a member of the netroots in good standing — she has worked for the SEIU and MyDD to cover a labor dispute in Las Vegas — but the same is true of dozens of other bloggers whom Clinton missed on the first round. As Daou said to me, it’s impossible to buy on every site. And at least as of this morning, Marsh has made no acknowledgment of her inclusion in the next phase of the Clinton ad buy.

If it’s not exactly extortion, it does betray the kind of myopic egocentrism that establishment Democrats use — sometimes as an excuse, sometimes not — to keep the netroots at bay.

I realize I’m the wrong guy to assess the thinking of left-of-center bloggers. It’s not just the obvious ideological gap between their views and mine; I think even more it’s a temperament gap. Hillary’s choice to spend $1,150 on advertising on four conservative sites is taken as the latest outrage, the latest sign of her betrayal, the latest reason she can’t be trusted, etc.


If I’m Hillary Clinton, dealing with the lefty netroots looks like a lose-lose. If I ignore them, I’m arrogant. If I reach out to them, all of my efforts to win them over will always leave someone out who will then interpret it as a deliberate slight, an exclusion that reveals my flaws and biases, and bang the drum that I’m attempting to corrupt the ones I’ve reached out to.


What the Democratic party has with their netroot bloggers is hundreds of people all kvetching at the same time, “Why aren’t they listening to me? Jeez, it’s so obvious! God! What is wrong with these people?! These morons don’t know how to run a campaign! Their latest decision doesn’t appeal to me, so obviously it’s a failure! God, what a bunch of out-of-touch inside-the-beltway elitists they are!”


In other blogger news, the new staff blogger of the John Edwards campaign just wrote, flat-out, that the Duke Lacrosse players were guilty. No “alleged,” no “I think,” just asserted that that was the case, which seems to be a pretty clear-cut basis for a libel suit.


Don’t worry. I’m sure that comment will go over well in North Carolina.


UPDATE: Two other bits of blogging news. Rudy’s web guy Patrick Ruffini evaluates the web sites of Obama, Hillary, Edwards (and in an earlier post, Biden) here.


And obviously, many bloggers aren’t enthused about John McCain’s views on campaign finance reform, and what McCain-Feingold wrought. The good folks at the Center For Individual Freedom have set up a new blog, $traight Talk, that focuses on whether McCain will partake in the presidential public financing system (that sets up limits on spending) after McCain has spent the past decade putting up all kinds of obstacles for people who wish to donate to the candidate of their choice.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Word on the Lefty Blogs Is That Wes Clark Is Running


So sometime in January 2004, NR editor Rich Lowry called up the then-freelancing yours truly and offered the assignment of writing a profile on retired general Wesley Clark for the magazine.


I jumped on the chance, relentlessly harangued every potential source I could, talked to every former colleague of Clark that I could, bought and read Clark’s autobiography, etc.


Unfortunately, before the piece could find a home in the pages of the magazine, Clark’s campaign imploded. He was an also-ran, old news; the piece was bumped to NRO – always a fine outlet, but there’s something to be said for an article deemed worthy of killing trees.


One of my favorite paragraphs: 

Interviews with a wide variety of current and retired military officials reveal that Clark was disliked by only three groups: Those whom ranked above him in the chain of command whom he ignored, his peers at the same rank whom he lied to, and those serving beneath him whom he micromanaged. Other than that, everyone liked him.

Anyway – today, the word on the lefty blogs is Clark is running again.


So, Rich, you want that profile now?


Anyway – one of the reasons I’m quite pleased with that article is that it persuaded a favorite lefty friend that not only did she not want Clark to be president, she didn’t want him near anyone she cared about.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Hillary, Edwards Make Their Pitch to AIPAC Tonight


Cue the Monday Night Football theme. (Er, Thursday.) “Clinton. Edwards. The whack at AIPAC! The onslaught at the Marriott! Time to square off in Times Square!”

Okay, it won’t really be a debate. But both Democratic candidates will be addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee tonight. The two are not scheduled to cross paths tonight, but it is possible. And one wonders if Hillary will be tempted to take a shot at Edwards in his speech, after his remarks on the Sunday before Martin Luther King day…

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

The Obama Critique Takes Shape


A little while back, after my here’s-what’s-likeable-about-the-GOP-frontrunners post, a reader e-mailed in and asked what, if anything, positive I would say about the Democratic frontrunners. Here’s what I wrote back about Obama: 

I’m still learning about the Illinois Senator; so far my assessment is that he seems like a good man who might not make a good president. I saw in an interview last year him talking about losing a political race early in his career; he said he learned from the experience that losing a race is not the end of the world, and so he doesn’t really fear “losing.” I think this comes across in his speeches, his interviews, etc.; he is pleasant, respectful, but not craven or desperate for votes. He seems very relaxed and at home with who he is; he won’t pull a Clinton, Gore or Kerry and try to be who his audience wants him to be. I think his “I want to unite us” rhetoric is genuine; I don’t think there’s another Democrat out there so gracious or respectful to his opponents. (See his feeling of “shame” after learning his campaign literature called pro-lifers “extremists.”) Another interesting thing is the degree to which he’s been in [a version of the pubic] spotlight and under scrutiny for so much of his adult life; first black editor of Harvard Law Review, etc. He’s been a trailblazer, and I’m sure that comes with its own pressures. 

Like I said, good man; I’m a little wary of how he will handle the pressures of the office, leadership in a national crisis, etc.

And in recent days, bit by bit, we’re seeing the case against Obama take shape. The short version: Good man – maybe even an exceptionally decent man – but not a bold man, and far from a proven leader. If his appeal is that he is a ‘fresh face,’ that is another way of saying, ‘people don’t know much about him’, which is selling point for a cipher.


Two righty voices recently assessed Obama’s books. First, the often-must-read Andrew Ferguson
He’s appalled at the budget deficit, for example, and he’s determined to fix it. But beyond that — well, let him explain the details.  “We know what to do,’’ he writes. “We can cut and consolidate nonessential programs. We can rein in spending on health care costs. We can eliminate tax credits that have outlived their usefulness and close loopholes that let corporations get away with paying no taxes.’’  

The book is filled with passages that follow the same pattern: belaboring the obvious on the assumption that no one has ever had dared speak such bromides before, and then concluding the discussion with a rear-guard blast at those cynical politicians who “refuse to make the tough choices.’’


Rather than make his own tough choices, the 45-year-old Democrat prefers to float on a high level of abstraction. This, indeed, is how he is able to appeal to all segments of his party as well as large numbers of independents and even many conservatives and Republicans.

Dean Barnett, writing about Obama’s first book, ‘Dreams From My Father,” at

What struck me about this book is how modest an effort it was for a future politician. Throughout the book, we get the picture of Obama as a supremely talented but ultimately passive guy. Stuff just seems to happen to him. Some of this is really interesting stuff, like being born to parents who each went through multiple spouses and left Obama with half-siblings scattered across the earth. But it’s almost a little disconcerting that Obama didn’t trace his path from Hawaii to Occidental College to Harvard Law to managing editor of the Law Review.  One thing that was crystal clear from his book that Obama has a unique ability to serve as a vessel for the ambitions and dreams of others. Whether it was his grandparents or his mother or his far-flung African family, they all had a lot invested in their hopes for “Barry.” Suffused in the book was the unstated fact that Obama has an innate characteristic that makes others project their dreams onto him. …Having read Obama’s first book, I’m convinced that this trait has been the key to his political success to date. Others invest their hopes in him, and he rides their investment to victory. In many ways Obama is a pedestrian and orthodox politician; no grand plans or displays of leadership have marked his public life. His ideology is the most hackneyed form of liberalism, the kind that stopped being progressive over a generation ago. 

In some ways, Obama almost seems like an accidental presidential candidate. His Senate seat was almost bequeathed to him; his top-tier presidential status was definitely bequeathed to him. On paper, there is nothing that this man has done that would make you say, “He should be president.”

Peggy Noonan, spotting this back in December:

He has obvious appeal. I asked a Young Democrat college student why he liked him. After all, I said, he has little experience. That’s part of what I like, he said. “He’s not an insider, he’s not just a D.C. politician.”


He is uncompromised by a past, it is true. He is also unburdened by a record, unworn by achievement, unwearied by long labors.  What does he believe? What does he stand for? This is, after all, the central question. When it is pointed out that he has had almost–almost–two years in the U.S. Senate, and before that was an obscure state legislator in Illinois, his supporters compare him to Lincoln. But Lincoln had become a national voice on the great issue of the day, slavery. He rose with a reason. Sen. Obama’s rise is not about a stand or an issue or a question; it is about Sen. Obama. People project their hopes on him, he says.  He’s exactly right. Just so we all know it’s projection.

Finally, this criticism was bound to be noted by some of his rivals, and yesterday, Joe Biden, assessing his rival’s position on Iraq:

“I don’t recall hearing a word from Barack about a plan or a tactic.”

I much prefer a candidate whose persona is that of a nice guy to the alternatives, and whose keywords are respect and manners over, say, ”YEARRRRGH!” But at some point, a leader has to actually make decisions, and those decisions will inevitably upset somebody.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Joe Biden: The Bruiser of the Democratic Primary


I fear that if Joe Biden gets any rougher (or more blunt, in stating that which many Democrats believe to be true but do not wish to address) in his assessments of his rivals, Rich and Kathryn may ask him to become a blogger at the Hillary Spot.

In the New York Observer:

“From the part of Hillary’s proposal, the part that really baffles me is, ‘We’re going to teach the Iraqis a lesson.’ We’re not going to equip them? O.K. Cap our troops and withdraw support from the Iraqis? That’s a real good idea.” The result of Mrs. Clinton’s position on Iraq, Mr. Biden says, would be “nothing but disaster.” … 

“Are they going to turn to Hillary Clinton?” Biden asked, lowering his voice to a hush to explain why Mrs. Clinton won’t win the election. “Everyone in the world knows her,” he said. “Her husband has used every single legitimate tool in his behalf to lock people in, shut people down. Legitimate. And she can’t break out of 30 percent for a choice for Democrats? Where do you want to be? Do you want to be in a place where 100 percent of the Democrats know you? They’ve looked at you for the last three years. And four out of 10 is the max you can get?” 

Mr. Biden is equally skeptical—albeit in a slightly more backhanded way—about Mr. Obama. “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” he said. “I mean, that’s a storybook, man.” But—and the “but” was clearly inevitable—he doubts whether American voters are going to elect “a one-term, a guy who has served for four years in the Senate,” and added: “I don’t recall hearing a word from Barack about a plan or a tactic.”

Everybody’s oohing and gasping over Biden’s “clean” and “nice-looking” comments, but the “he has no plans or tactics” will actually be a bigger factor as this race advances.

After reading Biden’s thoughts on Edwards, I cannot wait for the first debate:

“I don’t think John Edwards knows what the heck he is talking about,” Mr. Biden said, when asked about Mr. Edwards’ advocacy of the immediate withdrawal of about 40,000 American troops from Iraq.

“John Edwards wants you and all the Democrats to think, ‘I want us out of there,’ but when you come back and you say, ‘O.K., John’”—here, the word “John” became an accusatory, mocking refrain—“‘what about the chaos that will ensue? Do we have any interest, John, left in the region?’ Well, John will have to answer yes or no. If he says yes, what are they? What are those interests, John? How do you protect those interests, John, if you are completely withdrawn? Are you withdrawn from the region, John? Are you withdrawn from Iraq, John? In what period? So all this stuff is like so much Fluffernutter out there. So for me, what I think you have to do is have a strategic notion. And they may have it—they are just smart enough not to enunciate it.”

At a New York event, as reported by the Huffington Post:

“The more people learn about them (Obama and Hillary) and how they handle the pressure, the more their support will evaporate.”

Good for Biden. He was always going to be the tall, balding, verbose guy in the debates; now he’s going to be the sarcastic guy who’s got the guts to address his opponents’ flaws openly.

(For fans of Joss Whedon, Biden is now playing the role of Cordelia, Anya, or Jayne from Firefly: The character who says aloud what every character is thinking, but is too polite to mention.)

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Gallup Polls Democrats on Feelings About Hillary, Obama, Edwards


Gallup asked 504 Democrats and Democratic leaners to compare their assessments of Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Barack Obama.

Best Public Speaker? Clinton 41, Edwards 11, Obama 44. (Closer than I thought.)

Most likeable? Clinton 31, Edwards 24, Obama 41.

Most qualified? Clinton 61, Edwards 21, Obama 13.

(Does this mean we’ll see the “Obama’s a good and likeable man, but not qualified to be president” charge coming from the Hillary campaign?)

Best chance to beat the Republican? Hillary 44, Edwards 27, Obama 21.

(Way lower than I expected for Obama.)

Would perform the best in debates? Hillary 57, Edwards 10, Obama 29.

Best in a crisis? Hillary 54, Edwards 20, Obama 20.         

Is the strongest leader? Hillary 59, Edwards 15, Obama 22.

In most of these categories, Hillary performs much better than I expected, and Obama underperforms.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Are New York Times Columnists Souring on Hillary Clinton?


In the past few days, Frank Rich and Maureen Dowd have whacked away at Hillary Rodham Clinton in their columns. Of course, thanks to TimesSelect, no one will ever hear about it. But there’s some interesting tea-leaves to read here. The Washington Post has taken a few whacks at Barack Obama since the beginning of the year; are these columns signalling that Hillary is not the preferred choice for the Democratic nomination within the offices of the New York Times?

I’ll keep the excerpts brief, lest I be accused of undermining the Great Wall of TimesSelect. Dowd:

The Achilles’ heel of “The Warrior,” as she is known, is the war. She expressed outrage about Iraq, but ended up sounding like a mother whose teenage son has not cleaned up his room: “The president has said this is going to be left to his successor … and I think it’s the height of irresponsibility, and I really resent it.”

She uttered the most irritating and disingenuous nine words in politics: “If we had known then what we know now. …”

 And Frank Rich:

This is how she explains her vote to authorize the war: “I would never have expected any president, if we knew then what we know now, to come to ask for a vote. There would not have been a vote, and I certainly would not have voted for it.” John Kerry could not have said it worse himself…

Compounding this problem for Mrs. Clinton is that the theatrics of her fledgling campaign are already echoing the content: they are so overscripted and focus-group bland that they underline rather than combat the perennial criticism that she is a cautious triangulator too willing to trim convictions for political gain. Last week she conducted three online Web chats that she billed as opportunities for voters to see her “in an unfiltered way.” Surely she was kidding. Everything was filtered, from the phony living-room set to the appearance of a “campaign blogger” who wasn’t blogging to the softball questions and canned responses. Even the rare query touching on a nominally controversial topic, gay civil rights, avoided any mention of the word marriage, let alone Bill Clinton’s enactment of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

I realize snark and sniping are the bread and butter of these columnists, but one can’t help but wonder if the opinion-shapers at the Times are wondering if they really want to be writing about another Clinton presidency for the next four to eight years, or would prefer a fresh face…

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Oddly, Teens Were Less Interested in Reading ‘It Takes a Village’


You know you’re not dealing with a normal presidential campaign when community leaders and seniors at a high school choose to read from your book at “Read-In” public events at high schools and churches.

Somehow I don’t think the public readings of The Audacity of Hope will be followed by Edwards’ Homes: The Blueprints of Our Lives or Huckabee’s Quit Digging Your Grave with a Knife and Fork.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Donna Brazile Speculates Gore Will Announce Presidential Bid on Oscar Night


It’s only speculation from a former employee, but perhaps it is informed speculation:

Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama are the hot early front-runners, while 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry has already bowed out.

But could former Vice President Al Gore be waiting to make a dramatic entrance into the 2008 presidential race, especially if he wins an Oscar next month?
His former campaign manager, Donna Brazile, strongly implied that possibility while speaking at Moravian College in Bethlehem Tuesday night.

’’Wait till Oscar night,’’ Brazile told an audience of about 100 people at Haupert Student Union. ‘’I tell people: ‘I’m dating. I haven’t fallen in love yet.’ On Oscar night, if Al Gore has slimmed down 25 or 30 pounds, Lord knows.’’

’’An Inconvenient Truth,’’ a film built around Gore’s presentation on the effects of global warming, is one of the Oscar nominees for best documentary feature.

I have figured that as Hillary, Obama, Edwards and Richardson are signing on staff, setting up campaigns, raising money, building relationships with donors and interest groups, etc., that because we hadn’t heard much from Gore yet, he was unlikely to jump in late. But then again, an announcement at the Oscars would suddenly create enormous buzz.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

I Feel Like I’ve Written This Headline Before, But Biden’s In


Biden’s in. In a delightful change from the standard pattern, he’s declaring that he’s just plain running for president, not “forming an exploratory committee” kabuki.

From certain comments by the senator, one might wonder whether he would be happy to be someone else’s running mate:

A 34-year Senate veteran known for his foreign policy expertise and somewhat windy oratory, Biden acknowledged his campaign would generate little of the buzz surrounding the celebrity candidates New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.

Even he was moved by his colleagues’ trailblazing candidacies, Biden said.

“There’s good reason to be excited,” he said. “You have the first woman running who is qualified, and a very attractive African-American who has demonstrated crossover appeal. I got involved in politics 40 years ago during the civil rights movement, so yes, it’s an exciting thing.”

And just think – he would lock up all three of Delaware’s electoral votes, on par with Dick Cheney securing Wyoming’s.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Dealing With the Claim of a ‘Right’ to Health Care (And Housing)


Jim, a Hillary Spot reader in uniform, makes a more basic point about the recent commonplace rhetoric that health care is a “right.”

The basic problem I have with socialized medicine is a philosophical one.  In effect, universal health care makes health care a right.  In fact, John Kerry called it a right in 2004 (and went unchallenged as usual).  A simple question for the supporters of this: At what point did health care become a right?  Our basic inalienable rights (free speech, owning guns, etc.) do not impose on others.  You can exercise these rights without imposition.  Once we concede the premise that health care (or education, a nice place to live, transportation, etc.) are rights, we are headed down a path where anything can be declared a right if enough people want it. Or are we already there?  Want a right? Put it to a vote.

You guys are arguing about implementation and money-schemes when it’s the idea that needs to be discredited.  Forced servitude and extortion are a few words that come to mind.

Here’s the bad news, Jim. Looking at those comments responding to Hillary Clinton’s question on Yahoo, it appears we’re already more than halfway there. A big chunk of the American people don’t care what it takes to get them “free” health care; they believe they’re entitled, and that somebody else ought to pay for it.

I’ve been hesitant to blog about one of my recent rant-inspiring topics — real estate — but we can see the outlines of this mentality in this area, as well. (The thirty second version of my rant: There’s a bubble, and it’s popping. Housing prices went way up in recent years, partially due to a speculative market, partially due to “flippers”, partially because real estate looked safe because of the dot-com crash, and partially because lenders made loans to people that they shouldn’t have. Many buyers bought a lot more house than they could afford, using all manner of potentially dangerous agreements – interest-only mortgages, adjustable rate mortgages, little or no down payments (the typical down payment of a first-time home buyer in 2006 was 2 percent!) etc. Now the supply of housing is increasing dramatically, as demand shrinks. (Those who face foreclosure will not be getting approved for new mortgages for new purchases anytime soon.) You know what that does to prices; but many speculative real estate investors went into the game convinced that prices could only go up.)

Anyway – so significant number of Americans are going to find themselves in financial dire straits because they bought an overvalued house as the market was going up, they can’t keep up with their monthly mortgage payments, and now cannot resell it for enough to even break even.

So what is Washington doing?

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., says he is working on legislation to prevent an “unprecedented” wave of subprime foreclosures and to give homeowners a grace period so they can get back on their feet. “This is a homeownership crisis of unprecedented proportions,” Sen. Dodd told a group of mayors. He is planning to hold hearings soon, possibly in two weeks. The committee chairman indicated that the legislation might include a rescue fund. “That is a possibility, but it would have to be paid back,” he told reporters. Sen. Dodd also told reporters that he wants to move quickly on GSE legislation to strengthen regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and pass a bill in the next two months. He said the Senate government-sponsored enterprise bill will be a “little different” from the House bill. And he declined to take a position on raising the GSE loan limits. “I have to be careful about jumping into that,” Sen. Dodd said after speaking to the mayors. “I want to talk with my colleagues first.”

A rescue fund, “but it would have to be paid back.” Dodd is seriously considering having the federal government loan money to people whose primary problem is that they can’t pay back the loan (mortgage) they already took out. (Fluuuuush! That’s the sound of our tax dollars going into this rescue fund.)

Take care of me, Big Government! Save me from the consequences of my own decisions and actions!

Sad to say, I can see this being a big issue on the campaign trail in the coming two years. We’ll be hearing a great deal about these poor home buyers who took out loans with rediculously risky terms, and who had NO IDEA that the house they were buying could drop in value.

Conservatives have a much harder task in persuading the public of the value of our ideas; there is always someone out there willing to promise a policy that will no longer hold individuals responsible for their actions.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Quinnipiac finds Hillary ahead in Ohio; Giuliani leads among Republicans


Quinnipiac polled Ohio voters.

Sen. Hillary Clinton holds a three-to-one lead over any Democrat and has a razor-thin lead over leading Republican presidential candidates in the key state of Ohio, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

In general election matchups, the independent Quinnipiac University poll finds:

Sen. Clinton squeaks by Arizona Sen. John McCain 46 – 42 percent;

Clinton inches by former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani 46 – 43 percent;

Clinton tops former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney 52 – 31 percent;

McCain edges Illinois Sen. Barack Obama 41 – 38 percent;

Former Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards edges McCain 44 – 41 percent.

Giuliani leads McCain 30 – 22 percent among Ohio Republicans.  Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich gets 11 percent and Romney gets 4 percent.

Among Ohio Democrats, 38 percent pick Clinton, followed by 13 percent for Obama, 11 percent for Edwards and 6 percent for former Vice President Al Gore.

“Those who say Sen. Hillary Clinton can’t win the White House because she can’t win a key swing state like Ohio might rethink their assumption,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “While it’s a long way – 21 months – to Election Day, these numbers indicate that at this point she is very competitive in Ohio.”

To be honest, Mr. Brown, I’m a bit skeptical of any conclusions drawn from 3 or 4 point leads this far out. The only matchup with a statistically significant gap is the Hillary-Romney matchup, and Mitt has much lower name recognition. The nominees of both parties will have something approaching 100 percent name recognition by Election Day 2008.

In other news:

Among the top contenders, Sen. Clinton has by far the largest bloc of voters who don’t like her, with a 49 – 38 percent favorability.  By comparison, Obama’s favorability is 35 – 12 percent, but 52 percent say they don’t know enough to form an opinion.   Edwards gets a 46 – 24 percent favorability.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

A Few More Details On Stately Edwards Manor


Judging by this thread on RedState, John Edwards’ new house is going to generate a lot of talk – it’s just so ostentatious. One could easily imagine your average rapper or NBA star showing off all the rooms and features on an episode of “Cribs.” It’s the details that illustrate the opulence of this dream home. From the News and Observer:

The main living section of the house is 10,778 square feet and has a tax value of $3.1 million, according to tax records. It has five bedrooms, 6 ½ baths and a library. A second wing of the house is connected by a heated enclosed walkway, valued at $192,664, and is lined with family and political photographs.

 The second wing, called “The Barn” by the family, has 6,336 square feet and includes a lounge and offices that are 70 percent complete. It has a current tax value of $567,403. It also has a basketball court, which is 60 percent complete and valued at $300,960; a racquetball court, 70 percent complete and valued at $41,000; and a pool, according to tax records.
 (I was unaware, until today, that Edwards’ old house in Raleigh was in a neighborhood called “Country Club Hills.” I kid you not. The Edwards also currently have an oceanside vacation home in a gated community. The gate, I presume, is to keep one of the Americas out of the other one.) As one commenter on the RedState thread noted, “Man, that’s gonna cost him a ton in carbon offsets.” Speaking of candidates and real estate, Pataki’s campaign headquarters in New Hampshire is available on Craigslist. Looks like a great space for some latecomer to the race. 

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

A Long, But Interesting, Discussion of Health Care Policy With Readers


Wow. Here I was, thinking health-care policy was this dry, wonky topic about premiums, and I’m greeted with an avalanche of e-mail. (And very few of it was people complaining and looking for health advice.) A great deal of reader response has been eye-opening personal experience with our Byzantine system from the supplier side, and the various ways that government attempts to “fix” the problem have made it worse.


John points out that the current system is light-years away from anything resembling the free market: 

I had to quickly scan your Hillaryspot column on Health care, and you seem to be suffering under a delusion that American physicians are free to set their fees, and will be paid accordingly.  I can assure you that we physicians are not free to do anything of the sort.  We can not pass on costs, we can not compete by lowering prices, we can not even charge what supplies may cost us, if they happen to be over the set fees.  Medicare has set the fees, and just about every insurance company and managed care contract has keyed off of Medicare.  Feel sorry for that poor old person, so decide to see him for half price?  Congratulations, you are guilty of Medicare fraud.


Physicians may not give the same service for less than the Medicare mandated fee if those physicians have agreed to be a Medicare provider. It is even illegal to waive a copay.  As for trying to charge higher fees for costs, just because your malpractice went up 100% last year?  You may try to increase your fee schedule, but it will just be written off by the payors, and it is, of course, illegal to attempt to recover anything over the schedule.


We have had this degree of socialization for years.  I am disappointed that even on NRO that this is not better known.  There is no free market, nor will there be, for physician services.


In PA, where I practice, malpractice has driven many physicians away from the state, and will likely continue to do so.  When I began practice in 1983, I paid about $3500  for my premium.  This year it is north of $20,000, even with the state helping out to some degree.  In the 1980’s, about 50% of physicians who went to medical school in PA stayed here to practice.  This past year, retention is at 4%.  In addition to malpractice premiums skyrocketing, reimbursements are regional.  If you set up practice 30 miles from where I am, and get into Ohio or NY, your fee base could be 30-40% better than it would be in PA, for exactly the same service. 

Just a foretaste of central planning run amok.  I liken it to having congress decide that NOAA had become so good at forecasting weather, that they could save heating and A/C costs by running every thermostat in the country from Washington according to their long-range forecasts.  In order to make sure that they had good control, laws would be passed making it mandatory to nail shut your windows and outlawing fans.  Such is the state of health care in this country, and it doesn’t look much better in the future unless we can somehow wrest back the thermostats.

Michael offers his firsthand experiences:

I am an Emergency Room Physician and hence am qualified to make a few observations.  The first point is in regards to financing so-called universal health care.  It is plainly immoral to force one individual to pay for another’s health care.  That is however, the basis for all universal health care schemes.  As soon as 51% of the populace figures out how to force the other 49% to pay for their health care “universal health care” suddenly becomes politically viable.  And you will note that progressive taxation schemes are invariably used to pay for it.


Next, it should be noted that “preventive” health care is practically a joke.  There are very few diseases that can actually be prevented.  Most that can be are already covered by free or nearly free programs such as immunization, most of the rest are lifestyle related.  It is entirely a myth that preventive measures would, for example, help avoid ER visits, the top eleven reasons for going to the ER have no relation to any sort of preventive measures whatsoever.


Lastly, the idea that providing people with free care through the government or a national health insurance program would help control costs is ridiculous.  The people who get the free care now are the ones who constantly abuse the system.  In the course of my day my patient population consists of about 70% Medicaid “beneficiaries” and illegal immigrants.  These patients pay nothing to access the health care system, yet approximately 90% of them are in the ER with a trivial or non emergent complaint.  But Hey! It’s free! 


Giving another 46 million people, only 55% of whom are U.S. citizens, free health care is a just a great idea all right.Move health care financing to a free market basis, do something about malpractice, reward charity care and make people responsible for their own health care decisions, only then will you solve the “health care crisis” in a moral fashion.

(When a member of the military writes in, I usually make a note to say, ‘thank you for your service. Maybe I ought to do so for the medical personnel write in. Then again, I’ll have to thank everybody who writes in – cops, firemen, accountants…) 

Warren, who also has a medical background, thinks Bush’s latest proposal may be a key step:

The cure is gradually falling into place now; over time employees are having their Cadillac style medical policies replaced by an affordable Ford version.
In the State of the Union speech GWB actually provided the solution that will be phased in.

Health insurance under some dollar amount will be exempt from income tax to everyone. Anything more provided by an employer will be taxed as income. In addition, there must be a Federal mandate that stripped down basic health insurance policies with the exact same policy wording can be offered across state lines.


That is today’s problem. Insurance companies have arranged for every state to have different health insurance mandates. Once there is a Federal requirement that the same basic stripped down health insurance policy must be available everywhere, Insurance companies can quantify their costs and will make them available on a nationwide basis at an affordable cost.

Richard has some optimism:

As I understand it, new drug pipelines are slowing down.  That being the case, might it be that within the next few years the vast majority of drugs that Americans take regularly are, or can be generic. (If not the exact drug, then one that is close enough)   If that is the case, is prescription drug coverage only necessary for catastrophic cases.  If we can get 90% of the drugs we need inexpensively, there is no need for insurance to cover them.  It is only necessary for rare cases that demand new or rarely used (and hence expensive) drugs.  If we can we get good enough drugs for blood pressure, cholesterol, birth control, stomach acid and a few others in generic form nowadays, and if they can be made for for a few cents a pill it’s worth asking if we need insurance for anything other than rare diseases or diseases for which good medicines have yet to be found.  Perhaps antibiotics are the joker here.  As drug resistant strains of germs and disease rise, the new antibiotics we are forced to use become expensive.

At the moment, we all want the newest drug, even if it’s only marginally better (and possibly not that).  System-wide, that’s not reasonable.

I loved the parallel that inspired this idea from Drennan:

How about this: A National Health Care Plan that simply says that insurance companies may offer policies across state lines, that they must offer a choice among 1) catastrophic care 2) basic care 3) enhanced basic 4) super-enhanced basic and 5) pay per view.  If this sounds familiar, it should,  It is based on the offerings from Comcast and my telephone company.  The government will stay out of what these categories consist of–it’s up to the Insurance companies and the market.  If they want to offer special pricing for bundling these categories, fine.  Competition should do wonders for the market.  People need only 1) and 2).  If they want to go to Chiropractors, Massage Therapists and Naturopaths and have their birth control pills paid for, they’ll have to go for one of the enhanced plans. 

I suppose, however, that getting government to stay out of it is beyond the ability of our political system.

Or combine them. “I’ll take HBO, muscle relaxants, recreational Cipro, the NFL Dish package, and emergency care.”


Jim points out “another costly result of the explosion of malpractice suits that you mentioned: Out of fear of being sued for malpractice for overlooking (1) an alternate (albeit unlikely) diagnosis and/or (2) a test that might reveal another (previously undiscovered but unlikely) condition, doctors now feel constrained to order up pretty much any and every test in the book that might be tangentially related to the problem at hand. In other words, CYA. Ka-ching, ka-ching.” 

Jill points out how some states’ regulations – particularly, the Certificate of Need – can really gum up the works:

Certificate of Need (CON) has had a broad impact on health care providers and markets for over three decades.  CON is based on the premise that governments can do a better job of matching supply and demand than the health care marketplace.   

In a CON state, with few exceptions, you can’t acquire or replace any facility or equipment, and offer new or add to existing health service with CON approval.  If the need for a service, facility, piece of equipment is not in the annual state plan, you can’t apply for it until there is a need found according to the state’s need methodology.  Hospitals, EDs, beds, ORs, CTs, linear accelerators, MRI, cardiac cath, hospice, Medicare certified home health agency, nursing home, you name it are regulated by CON.  CONs work by county – if you want to move CON asset within county, CON application.  If you want to move a CON asset from one county to another, no can do.  If you have a chronically underperforming CON asset, your underperformance will be included in the mathematical need methodology, and could be outcome determinative – no new need in the annual plan.  The market – what’s that?

Phillip notes something that’s been nagging at me – more and more Americans’ views on health care is “give me the very best care available, and give it to me for free,” at the exact moment when so many of us are… well, carrying around a spare tire. And/or a minivan.

In answer to the above question:  EAT RIGHT AND GET ENOUGH EXERCISE.  Also get married before you get pregnant.  Finish high school.  Get a job.

 Sounds rather simple.  But I wonder how much of our health care costs are related to “life-style” choices which bring about ill health rather than the “accidental” illness, either through true accident, accident of genetics (ALL the males in my family had some sort of heart disease before they turned 50.  I got the message through some measure of careful diet, exercise, and luck, and managed to make past that milestone without incident), or accident of age (average life expectancy is increasing and our bodies just fall apart at some time).  Car insurance is based on your history – the more accidents you have, the more you pay.  Life insurance is likewise – the older you get the more you pay.  Unfortunately, health insurance typically isn’t.  Yes, it may be on the individual level.  But at group levels, it’s averaged out over the history of the group.  And if it goes universal, it will be truly averaged out.  Somehow, I don’t want to waste my tax dollars of subsidizing someone else’s bad habits.  The thought of paying for quadruple bypass surgery on a 40 year old 50 lbs overweight smoker makes me sick.  Think I’ll go to the doctor.

Chris reveals another complication of having somebody else – i.e., the government – pay for checkups.

The concept that if you pay for people to get their teeth cleaned now so they don’t have to get a root canal later really doesn’t work.  I had an Uncle who was a Dentist in East St Louis, most of his work was welfare (Medicare/Medicaid) and he had about a 60-70% no show rate on appointments.  It turned out to be a vicious cycle; to cover costs he would have to triple book every appointment and at some point during the day all three people would show up, thus long waiting times, etc.   

If you pay for it yourself you know you will get billed if you don’t show, so those little conflicts (like the cat being sick) have a lower priority than if you aren’t paying yourself and there is no consequence of not showing.

Finally, many readers note that my reader’s comment about Cuba having a lower infant mortality rate is dodgy at best and a lie at worst. 


Cuba has lower infant mortality because pre-term babies are considered “stillborn” and not infants. Also Castro gets to edit the numbers. (I mean seriously, Cuba?) See here.


Vaccination is low because people chose not to have their kids vaccinated. This is not an cost issue, its way more complicated and the cost doesn’t go down if we share the bill. I live in Japan. Semi-socialized vaccines. Except mumps, for that they hang a sign on your door. Better?

(Yeah, but then the government will start regulating the mumps-door-sign market, and a single sign will cost $800 and there will be a three-week waiting list…)



Since when do we take self-reported numbers from totalitarian societies seriously?  If Cuba truly had a better health care system, you would think we would have Americans flocking to the sunny Cuban shores for their healthcare instead of Cubans trying to get here. 

Fascinating stuff, and I thank my well-informed readers. At this point, I’m going to put the topic aside for a bit – this is the Hillary Spot, not just the Health Care Policy Spot – but I’m sure we’ll be coming back to this, when some other candidate unveils their health care proposals.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

More on Health Care Policy, and Trying To Not Be Boring


Hillary Spot reader Keith asked a respectful question:

I’ll be honest- I do not consider myself a conservative but I find it important to read political points of view from all sides.  And forgive me for souding ill-informed but I don’t ever here any “conservative” plan for providing universal basic healthcare.  I understand that it would be too costly (and unnecessary)to provide laser eye surgery for everyone.  It’s probably not possible to offer everyone the most advanced and expensive cancer treatments, either.  But given that the US, by comparison with other wealthy nations, provides relatively poor basic care (prenatal, vaccinations, etc…-according to US census data, we have a higher infant mortality rate than Cuba), what could be the conservative argument against providing a basic level of universal healthcare? If the issue is cost it seems to me that providing basic universal healthcare might actually be even cheaper in the long run. 

Keith has a point that health care is not an issue that generally gets conservatives revved and fired-up. I came up with three points/ideas/concepts.

Part of our problem may be the sense that when health care is “paid for” by someone else – your employer, the government, etc., there’s little incentive to eliminate unnecessary tests, procedures, etc. (Somebody once explained it that when you’re buying something for yourself with your own money, your top priority is value. When you’re buying something for yourself with someone else’s money, price matters much less, your top priority is quality. When you’re buying something for someone else with your money, you’re usually very concerned with price and are willing to compromise on quality; and when you’re buying something for someone else with someone else’s money, you’re not too worried about value, quality, or price. P.J. O’Rourke noted that 99 percent of all government spending is in that last category.) Much of health care spending is using somebody else’s money to take care of yourself. 

One of my readers, Jim, put it this way:

My wife works in health-care. Biggest reason for expense: right now there is every incentive for her team to provide every conceivable service, even if the client is nearly dead. Since the clients or their families don’t pay directly, they want as much as they can get; since the therapist gets paid, they want to provide as much as possible, and no one ever says “Uhhh, is this helping?” The government has rules, but they know how to fulfill the requirements easily.

Programs like Medical Savings Accounts, etc., are, admittedly, comparably small-time solutions compared to grand, sweeping, single-payer overhauls. But if the procedures are being paid for by Joe Patient, instead of the insurance company, or his or employer, or Medicaid or Medicare or some single-payer government system, there’s greater incentive to say, “is this test/procedure/treatment necessary, or are there alternatives (preferably cheaper ones)?” As it is now, neither the doctor nor the patient has much incentive to look for treatment options that are cost-effective as well as effective - we don’t want anyone not healing or not healthy, obviously. But we also can’t act as if money is no object.

Second point – an issue completely missing from Obama’s address – malpractice insurance.  (Jay Nordlinger follows this endlessly depressing topic, and here is one of his best articles on “Tort Hell” in West Virginia.) Two generations ago, suing your doctor was pretty rare, I’ll bet.

Today every doctor knows that every procedure, every diagnosis, and every decision could be the trigger for a long and expensive lawsuit. There’s a reason that lawyers are derisively nicknamed “ambulance-chasers.”  We want patients who have legitimate cases against doctors to find justice, but the medical system is bending under the weight of an exploding rate of lawsuits and efforts to force an out-of-court settlement. When somebody wins a million-dollar settlement, the doctor doesn’t pay, his insurance company does. His insurance company then passes on the cost to all of the doctors they cover, who pass it on to their patients.

My third point is that when the public discusses what their health insurance ought to cover, they ought to remember that insurance is supposed to be about management of risk. Insurance policies are all about spreading risk across a broad group of people. If I run a car insurance company, I’m “gambling” that not all of my policyholders will total their car in a given year; I’m betting that only a few will, and what I collect in premiums will cover both their new cars and my operating costs and hopefully a profit. But your average insurance is designed to cover the unexpected – accidents, mostly – not the regular costs of owning and operating a car.

Over the years, our expectations of health insurance have changed dramatically. It’s no longer to cover the (hopefully) one-time-only costs if I’m in that car accident and I break my legs; now people expect their health insurance to cover contraception, regular checkups, Viagra, etc. — things that are not once-in-a-great while-expenses, but regular month-to-month expenses. (Er, in the case of Viagra, perhaps even more frequently.) This would be like having your car insurance cover filling up your tank.  On paper, it would/could/should be possible for either the government or the private sector to offer low-income citizens a low-premium health insurance plan that would only cover catastrophic cases – i.e., cancer, car accidents, etc. But your average regular month-to-month costs would be out of pocket…  

Hillary Spot reader Andrew made the case that not only is paperwork one-quarter the cost of health care, but that various lawmaking efforts to improve health care keep adding another layer of paperwork:

It is in fact possible that a quarter of all medical costs is paperwork. The problem is that almost nobody in America directly pays for his own health care (incidentally, that’s the main cause of high medical costs). And when somebody else (who is not even there) pays he surely wants a lot of paperwork. Be it Medicare, Medicaid or insurance companies and HMOs. On top of that there’s a lot of CYA paperwork in case John Edwards or one of his numerous colleagues files a malpractice lawsuit. And on top of that top there’s more paperwork to comply with HIPAA, COBRA and other acts of collective wisdom from our beloved Congress. A typical health care organization has a special “compliance department” or something like that with the sole mission of ensuring that all the government mandates are complied with (and that copious notes are taken). Oh, did I mention all the paperwork for the IRS?

On a related note, Hillary asked Yahoo users, “Based on your own family’s experience, what do you think we should do to improve health care in America?” The answers seem likely to make you weep. The dominant tone is, “I don’t know how to fix it, but give me free health care, I deserve it.”

A typical answer: “Make good health care affordable to everyone. Maybe charge for it on a sliding scale, but everyone can participate regardless of income. Health care should not be a privilege in this country it should be a right.” No word on how, just a demand that the potential future President “make” this the case.

Another answer: “I believe Canada has a better way. They say that people wait longer, and maybe some privileges are lost, but isn’t that a small price to pay for everyone having care?”

Canada has a great system, until you need a procedure that the system doesn’t cover because it’s too obscure. Also, it’s doing a… lousy (not my first word choice) job of keeping up with demand; in “America Alone,” Mark Steyn has a hilariously grim story of an expectant mother flown all over Canada because no hospital in the nearest two provinces had an open bed. Government-run health care: It will be like the DMV with surgery! 

The Canadian system is extraordinarily popular… among Americans who don’t have to use it. Similarly, one can shorten the title, “Canadian health care critic” to simply “Canadian.” 

Answer after answer demands, “lower the cost,” no word on how. Another laments, “I have been without a job, or at a job with no benefits and it is terrible to think that I either have to pay for my root canal or my rent, it is not fair to anyone to have to make such a decision.” Indeed, it is not fair. Apparently it is fairer for the state to force you and I to pay for this person’s root canal.


There is only one sure-fire way to lower the cost, and this goes back to that irrepressible law of supply and demand. If there were a lot more doctors and health care providers, there would be competition for patients, and doctors would have an incentive to lower their prices to attract more patients. (Obviously, this doesn’t work for emergency care, where you need the nearest ER doctor or surgeon ASAP.) Most proposals on the right side of the aisle have aimed at bringing market forces into the health care system. Inevitably, detractors accuse the right of kneeling at the altar of the free market, not caring about patients, sinister profit motives, blah blah blah, but the whole point of bringing the free market – competition – into health care is to expand choices for patients, and to bring costs down.


Hillary Spot reader Forbes, by the way, dismantled the sound-bite from Ron Wyden:

“For the money Americans spent on health care last year, we could have hired a group of skilled physicians, paid each one of them $200,000 to care for just seven families, and guaranteed every single American quality, affordable health care.”

So everyone else [involved in health care who isn’t a physician] works for free — nurses, x-ray techs, pharmacists, etc. (and hospital stays will be free). Isn’t that a reversal of your formula, 1950s medicine at 21st century prices? This just proves politicians are unsuited to solving complex problems–as if they really were philosopher kings–for he’s proposed that each family spend $28,500 per year on health care. What’s the median household income in America?

How is that affordable health care? A plan? That’s a non-starter, for it doesn’t even begin to understand how health care is provided–or how markets work when the incentives are all on the demand side. If your family had to spend $28,500 each year on health care, how much more health care would you be “consuming”?

In defense of Wyden, I think his sound-bite was simply designed to illustrate how much is spent on health care in this country every year. But yes, at the slightest scrutiny, the instinctive “Every doctor covers seven families? Boy, that sounds great!” reaction is revealed as hilariously shortsighted.

UPDATE: Hillary Spot reader Jaime writes in, “I agree with most of your arguments but you failed to address Keith’s central question: would providing a basic level of healthcare (vaccines and the like) drive down the costs of healthcare in the long run? A fluoride prophylaxis every 6 months is cheaper than a root canal later on. And so forth.”

Really short answer: I don’t know. Probably depends on how one defines “basic.” Vaccines are not terribly controversial; I could easily see Americans agreeing to publicly fund the cost of vaccines.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson


Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

Subscribe to National Review