Tuesday, March 23, 2010

David Frum - I'm calling BS

Former Bush speechwriter David Frum has become a bit of a darling among liberals celebrating the new health reform law.  It's all because of this article where Frum declares the health care vote the biggest defeat for the GOP in forty years and how awful it is that the Republicans "allowed" the fringe extreme to control the party and get them here.  He's right of course, but his embrace by liberals is undeserved.

First of all a quick glance at his website, the Frum Forum, tells us that he is no friend to anyone on even the slightly left.  It's chock full of articles by him and others about how awful all of us are.  The health care bill stinks, Obama is not to be trusted, our positions on foreign policy are what they are because we all hate Israel and on and on.  The usual far right crap.  OK, not unexpected - after all, he worked for Dubya.

The case could be made that he isn't a fringe Republican with his journalism credentials, membership in the American Enterprise Institute and that he initially opposed John McCain's pick of Sarah Palin as his running mate.  Of course, to do that you'd have to accept the idea that the Bush administration was mainstream GOP. 

That's where his "regrets' about how the "extreme right" took over the party falls apart.

The problem with that isn't that it isn't true, it's that he doesn't really mean it.  Frum and his ilk loved the crackpots and fruitcakes just a few years back. 

When the people he now decries were calling patriotic people who opposed the Iraq war (that gave him the opportunity to coin the phrase the Axis of EvilAmerica-hating traitors, there was no wringing of hands about extremists coming from Frum.  When groups like the debunked Swift Boaters were smearing John Kerry's military record, Frum's reaction was silent assent.  When delegates to the 2004 Republican Convention wore Purple Heart bandaids to mock Kerry's combat medals on the convention floor, there was no wailing and moaning from Frum about how awful it was that such people had the influence they had on the Republicans.  Had he ever spoken out before now about people like Rush Limbaugh and his clones and how what they were saying on the air was harming the Republican Party?  Not a word.

Nope, Frum thought Rushbo and groups that pre-dated but matched in ideas like the newer Tea Party and anti-choice crazies were just dandy back then.  Of course there is another major difference between then and now - then they were winning and in control of the federal government.  This was going to be the American Right's Thousand Year Reich, assured that they were the vanguards of a permanent Republican majority that would keep the Democratic Party irrelevant and delegated to the political wilderness for generations to come.  Their reaction to 9/11 was going to cement the GOP as the party to be trusted on defense and this would be their chance to finally dismantle FDR's New Deal. 

Now those dreams are in tatters. Conservative ideas that sounded so good to voters in the abstract ended up not working out the way they were supposed to in the real world - in fact, they crapped out big time. Democrats took back control of Congress in 2006 and the nation rejects conservative policies and supports progressive ideas now more than ever. A majority of voters not only increased the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate in 2008 but elected a Democrat President to complete the ousting of the right from power.

The Republican plans to obstruct everything the Democrats wanted to do (so they could claim the Democrats did nothing come election time)  wasn't working out too well either.  They slowed things down, even watered some bills down, but in the end they:

  • Didn't defeat the Stimulus bill.
  • Failed to turn back the nomination of Sonya Sotomayor to the Supreme Court
  • Didn't stop extensions to unemployment
  • Couldn't prevent stem cell research
...and other things they assured their supporters that they would do.

To date - after a year of lies, smears, scare stories, fact twisting - the biggest FAIL was not killing what is now the law of the land:  health care reform.

David Frum didn't write what he wrote because he's "alarmed" at the turn of the Republicans to the misinformed, know-nothing-but-what-FOX-says crackpot right.

Fess up, Frum - you wrote what you wrote because you and your party lost. And that is the only reason.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Victory, The Morning After

Today is wind-down day for a lot of us after cheering last night's passage of the history-making reforms of the health care system. Let's set aside all the problems with it and how "it's a good start" for a moment and take a second to savor this victory. Speaking for myself, after helping in my little way, I'm still waiting for what happened to settle in and to digest the fact that the first battle in our journey to true universal health care is in the win column.

First, the kudos: Remember when we are all so frustrated and saying that Democratic leadership was spineless and ineffective? We said Harry Reid was a jellyfish and worthless, Nancy Pelosi was all over the map and couldn't be trusted, and President Obama was so aloof that, even as we said otherwise, down in our guts we felt this was going to be a repeat of President Clinton's failed try to change our health care system. We cried out for an LBJ who would do the arm twisting needed to get this done and got so down on the whole thing that we gave aid and comfort to the far right when some of us said to kill the whole thing and start over - adding some of our numbers to the opposed poll numbers making it look like a majority of Americans didn't want this bill at all. I even considered bolting the party I'd been an active member of since 1972 and switching over to the Working Families Party to push the Democrats from the outside since all those years of pushing from the inside didn't look to be working.

Then a weird thing happened - we started winning.

Spineless Harry Reid produced a very servicable iron backbone, started killing Republican filibusters and got the health care bill passed in the Senate without losing a single vote from Senate Democrats and the two Independents. Even the hated Joe Lieberman voted with the majority on every vote. He marshalled the bill through the Senate so well that the final bill was passed with the same 60 votes he got to end the GOP filibusters, even though it wasn't necessary then. We were pleasantly surprised and started calling Reid a hero after that. Could it be that we could get this passed after all? On to the House!

Then came Massachusetts and the unthinkable happened - the seat of the late liberal lion and champion of health care reform, Edward Kennedy, was won in the special election to complete his term by a Republican. This was a double blow - first, "liberal" Massachusetts just replaced their favorite son liberal with a conservative. Second, we no longer had the numbers to kill a filibuster if the bill had to go back to the Senate for a final approval. What to do, what to do?

Solutions were offered: instead of passing one comprehensive bill, break it up and pass the pieces through the reconciliation process that only requires a majority vote. Or the House could just pass the Senate bill as is, which would pass it and send it to the President for his signature. Any fixes the House wanted could be passed as a second, separate bill.

The second approach finally prevailed then the screaming and shouting began - can Nancy get the votes in the House to do this? Liberals like Kucinich and DeFazio were threatening to vote no because it didn't do enough and a small contingent of anti-abortion Democrats threatened to do the same, believing that passing the Senate bill would mean the government would pay for abortions.

We now know the results of all that, how President Obama stepped up and Nancy Pelosi is being called a hero too. The Senate health care bill becomes the law of the land tomorrow when the President signs the bill.

So here we are. Is the bill a great piece of legislation that will fix all of our health care problems? No, it's a good first step and about every Democrat from the President on down gets that. They also understand that there would be no second step even to be considered if this hadn't passed, something that some of our friends on the left missed although I think even most of them got it when it was time for the House to vote. There was an interesting piece of news that was either missed or underreported during the run up to the House vote - an outfit called Upfront News reported on a poll that showed suddenly 51% of Americans supported passing the bill last night.

We will continue to fight the misinformed, deranged right. We still need at least a public option, we need to fix the anti-choice Nelson amendment that came along with the final bill and we need to keep pushing to finally bring to America what the rest of the industrialized world already has: an end to insurance-based health care and single payer, truly universal health care. Before all that, we need to push the Senate to pass the better House fixes and get that signed into law too. And we will.

But today, let's take a day off and enjoy the victory we fought so hard for. It took us a year to get here and we deserve it.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Remembrances on the near-eve of a historic vote

As we approach the final passage of the historic health care reform act and it being signed into law, I share my memories of the last time we tried this and failed.  My story isn't about the history of what happened back in the early Clinton administration when reform failed, this is more personal and perhaps more enlightening about what happened back then.

It was 1993, a year after I had transferred my job and moved my family to Oregon.   My late wife and I were following the news about the efforts to pass universal health care with great excitement and hope - not so much for ourselves as we had health coverage through my job but for members of both of our families who didn't.  We cheered the speeches for it on TV and booed those against it.  Having moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to a small town in eastern Oregon, that was about all we could do - there wasn't much opportunity for liberal activism in a conservative town who's main claim to fame was a four day rodeo. The activist part was my thing - my wife agreed with me and often went further left than me when it came to politics but going to rallies, etc. was something she didn't do but tolerated her husband doing.

One day, we got word that President Clinton's campaign for universal health care was taking buses and going on the road - and that one of the stops was going to be the small town we'd just moved to.  The tiny progressive community there was very excited and there were rumors that First Lady Hillary Clinton was on the bus.  I had the day off when the bus caravan was supposed to arrive so I decided to attend, hoping I'd return home with tales of meeting and shaking hands with Hillary Clinton.

The place the bus tour was going to use was the town National Guard armory, and everything was set and prepared for the visit.  There were chairs set before a podium for a rally, people were milling about waiting - there was even a roped-off area to the side for any protestors who might show up as well.  I chatted with some of the people there and were told stories of how one mother-to-be was worried that she'd have to give birth with no health insurance and her worries about the health of her soon-to-arrive child.  Others told me of injuries and illnesses that went untreated because they and their families just didn't have the money for a doctor.  They all spoke of how great it will be when such worries are a thing of the past and I vigorously nodded my agreement.

The hour for the buses came....and went.  Some started worrying that something had happened on purpose to the buses enroute and possibly to the buses' inhabitants.  I sort of sidled up to the advance people for the event talking on their cell phones to see if I could get some news on what happened by listening in to their side of the phone conversation.  They beat me to spreading the word - they announced to the crowd that the buses had mechanical problems and would be delayed an hour or so.

The crowd was mainly made up of people who had driven miles from rural areas and even smaller towns to be there and they groaned a bit but decided to stay on.  One hour became two, two became three and as time wore on the crowd got smaller and smaller.  In the fourth hour the buses finally arrived but the crowd was so small by then that holding the rally in the armory would have made it look like no one had ever shown up.  So, to make us all look like a bigger crowd than we were for the cameras, the rally was jammed into the lobby of the armory so we all looked like there were so many of us that we were jammed together.  The rally itself was only about 15 minutes long, with no stories from people who needed universal health care and no First Lady either.

We all know the end of that story - the Clinton universal health care plan never made it out of Congress and was never to be taken up again for the rest of President Clinton's two terms in office or George W. Bush's two terms.

Now here we are, years later, with a new Democratic President who has gotten the country to the point that we are on the very edge of passing into law the first major reform of health care in America since Lyndon Johnson signed the Medicare Act.  Now granted, what's about to be passed is not as comprehensive and far reaching as what Clinton tried to enact, he who once waved a plastic mock-up health care card during a State of the Union address promising that soon all you'd need was what he was holding to see and be treated by a doctor.  No, what's about to be passed could fairly be called more regulation of health insurance than health care reform.

However, for a compromised bill, it ain't bad either.  The people who told pollsters that they opposed it will like it just fine once it's up and running.  It's also a fine foundation to add to on the way to getting for us what most of the industrialized world already has - a single payer, truly universal health care coverage.

To Congress and the President:  The vote is scheduled right now for Sunday afternoon.  We've waited long enough and too many have died who could have been saved if they'd had the health insurance they needed to see a doctor when it was first needed. 

No more process, no more games, no more delays.  Don't let us down again.  Pass the damn bill.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Post-Oscar Thoughts

Well.  Good to know my prediction abilities are as crappy as usual.  I called it for Best Picture for 'Avatar' and who wins?

'The Hurt Locker'


My method on calling the Oscar still holds though:  'The Hurt Locker' is a war movie and old Hollywood loves that too.

Truth be told, I was happy to be wrong.  I could not stand 'Avatar' - when I watched it I thought I was watching a CGI version of 'Dances with Wolves.'

I'll be slinking off now after that lame attempt at CYA.....