John Kerry: “Our Troops Are Doing Their Jobs, Now Congress Needs To Do Its Job”

Statement by Senator John Kerry from the floor of the United States Senate on the unwillingness to allow a floor vote on the troop surge resolution:

Mr. President, this new Congress comes here with a mandate, as well as a moral obligation, to find not just a new way forward in Iraq but the right way forward. That is what we owe the families; that is what we owe our fighting forces.

The mistakes of the past do not change the fact that Congress bears some responsibility for getting us into this war and must take responsibility for getting us out.

That responsibility begins with having a real bipartisan dialogue about where we go from here. The American people have spoken clearly: they want a real change of direction in Iraq – not more of the same failed strategy that has gotten us into the mess we are in today.

Mr. President, our troops on the ground in Iraq have done their duty – we have a moral and constitutional obligation to do ours. We owe the brave men and women who put their lives on the line every day an honest debate on the way forward in Iraq. We owe them a vote on the President’s senseless decision to escalate the war in Iraq by sending over 20,000 more of them into the middle of a raging civil war. And most importantly, we owe them a policy that is worthy of their sacrifice. Anything less would be a complete abdication of our most basic responsibilities as Senators.

It is incredible to me that some here would seek to obstruct debate over the most fundamental issue facing our country today. I know many on the other side of the aisle oppose this escalation – they say it every day. And the Majority Leader has given every opportunity for those who support the escalation to vote in favor of it. Yet still, many on the other side of the aisle voted against holding a real debate — and having a real vote – on Iraq. Why? Politics, plain and simple. It’s obvious the White House does not want a clear expression of disapproval for the President’s escalation, and they are doing whatever they can to avoid it.

But while some here are playing political games, American kids are being killed in Iraq — at least 3,084 so far. And just today, we learned the names four more who recently died: Sergeant Corey Aultz; Sergeant Milton Gist, Sergeant Major Michael Mettille; and Specialist Eric Sieger – and we know several others have been killed since then. How many more American are going die while we argue over process?

Mr. President, the American people aren’t interested in hearing Senators bicker while their sons and daughters are being killed in Iraq. They know that every day more brave Americans are giving their lives, more young men and women are suffering permanent disabilities, more families are having their futures taken away. (more…)

David Broder’s Smear on Democrats and The Military

As I linked to a recent David Broder column in my last post, I feel I should make it clear that finding a quote I agreed with in one column certainly does not signify any agreement with him as to other comments. Specifically, the comment which I particularly find objectionable is in this coverage of the DNC meeting:

One of the losers in the weekend oratorical marathon was retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who repeatedly invoked the West Point motto of “Duty, Honor, Country,” forgetting that few in this particular audience have much experience with, or sympathy for, the military.

Oliver Willis was there and provides a more reliable account of the event:

That’s just a boldfaced lie by Broder, no two ways about it. I happened to be in attendance at the speech in question, just a stone’s throw away from General Clark when he gave it. What David Broder is saying here is an absolute lie. The crowd in attendance stood on their feet, clapped their hands loudly and strongly time and time again when speakers – including Gen. Clark – invoked the service and sacrifice of America’s fighting men and women.

In fact, in the very speech Broder cites as his reasoning for Democrats not supporting the military, Gen. Clark asked for a moment of silence (see the video here) to reflect on the sacrifices being made by the troops currently serving. The auditorium was silent, and many bowed their heads in prayer.

John from AMERICAblog was also there:

I was at the DNC meeting this past weekend, and unlike David Broder, it wasn’t clear to me at all that the overwhelming majority of the audience had “no sympathy” for the military. In fact, General Clark was MOBBED the entire time he was there. I was due to interview him, and it took a good 20 minutes for him to walk 20 feet to our camera because the crowd wouldn’t leave him alone. And not because they didn’t feel any “empathy” for him. They loved him.

While Republicans claim to be the big supporters of the military, it is the Democrats in office who are more likely to have served. It is the Democrats who repeatedly are the ones who support benefits for veterans, often over the objections of Republicans. In contrast, it is Republicans who have sent the troops to risk their lives, without even being willing to provide adequate supplies, on a mission which cannot succeed as planned. It is also Republicans who show lack of respect for the military when they smear veterans such as John Kerry and John Murtha with their lies. Joe Conason examined Republican smears on Democrats and the true war record of Republicans in a chapter of his book Big Lies entitled Male Cheerleaders and Chicken Hawks.

The Need For Specifics on Health Care Plans

Early today I gave some of my first impressions as a physician of the Edwards health care plan. The issue of whether a candidate should even release a specific health care plan was raised by Mark Schmitt at Tapped:

The main argument, as far as I can tell, for releasing a detailed health policy proposal is simply that the people should know what you would do as president about health care. Fair enough, except let’s be honest — the minute you take the oath of office, whatever health plan you put together in the middle of a campaign will be forgotten. And that is as it should be. You now have the full resources of HHS, OMB, NIH, plus every think tank and academic expert at your disposal, and you will use them — or should. You’re not going to simply implement a plan designed by a handful of (brilliant) recent college graduates in your campaign issues shop.

Further, you will be the president, but you are not, sorry to say, The Decider, at least not on health care. To get something passed, you will have to deal with the political circumstances of that moment. Will you be able to get some Republicans on your side? Do you have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate? Will you be able to get the support of some large businesses? Will insurance companies fight any change, or are there some options they could live with? Are you able to sell the tax increase that real reform will require (and that Edwards, to his credit, was unafraid to name)? All these political circumstances will affect the shape of the actual proposal, which is why you need goals and a few non-negotiable elements, not a detailed plan.

Kevin Drum, Steve Benen, and Matthew Yglesias, also consider this question.

There certainly is a risk to providing details. The more you say, the more likely someone will get mad and not vote for you. On the other hand, I wonder if one reason voter turn out is so low is that many voters see no reason to get out to vote for a candidate who has spent the last several months campaigning but avoiding specific answers. While some voters might be lost, there are others to be gained by showing the courage to give answers–especially if they are answers the voter likes. The public will also be far more likely to back up a President who does in office what they promised on the campaign trail. This would be a true mandate–not the imaginary mandate George Bush bragged about after the 2004 election.

It is reasonable that some details may have to change considering the political realities at the time. Regardless, I want to know how a candidate views health care before I will consider voting for them. Health care is a matter which impacts the lives of people directly and therefore is of great concern to many voters. I’m sure many other share my desire to know what they are getting into before they will consider voting for a candidate. Voters deserve to know whether a candidate would push for a single payer plan or a modification of the current system. We deserve to know whether there would be mandates for businesses and/or individuals to purchase plans, as well as a rough idea as to cost. We deserve to know what types of health care plans would be offered, whether by the government or privately paid insurance. Voters who do not understand the difference between government-run health care and government-financed health care need to be reassured that the same physicians who treat them now (assuming they can afford health care) will be managing their care, as opposed to government bureaucrats as Republicans will charge.

Some see themselves more as advocates for the Democratic Party and therefore look at whether more votes would be gained or lost by providing details. In contrast, I’m considering this from the perspective of an individual who would support either party based upon their positions. Of course at the moment there’s a long list of reasons beyond health care which would make it very difficult to vote for a Republican, but it remains possible that those responsible for the party’s move to the far right might be replace by a more sane bunch in the future. For a candidate to get my vote, or contributions from me, they will need to state where they stand.

Even from a pragmatic viewpoint I do not believe Democrats can afford to promise health care reform without providing specifics. If Democrats do not define their plans, Republicans will define the plans for them. Republicans will campaign against “government take over of health care” and against “Socialized Medicine.” We will hear horror stories about plans which bear no resemblance to the plans actually being considered by Democrats. As much as Democrats risk losing votes from those who would be upset with the specifics of their plans, they will lose far more votes from those who will object to the Republican characterization as “Socialized Medicine.” (more…)

The Delusion of Republican Libertarians

With Republican policies being contrary to libertarian principles on economic issues and the war, as well as social issues where they have traditionally been at odds, some libertarians such as Brink Lindsey have suggested that the Democrats would make more natural allies. Arnold Kling disagrees, arguing at TCS Daily that Republicans make the better allies for libertarians, but in coming to this conclusion wears blinders as to the polices of Republicans and is quite uninformed as to the beliefs of many Democrats.

Kling recognizes the differences between libertarians and Republicans but pretends they are of no significance. In the past the view was that libertarians were closer to Democrats on social issues and closer to Republicans on economic policy. He acknowledges the anti-libertarian trends of Republicans on both economic issues and foreign policy but is quick to over look these differences:

In recent years, the Republicans betrayed us on economic issues. However, my sense is that many in the conservative movement are anxious to repent. On foreign policy, I think that we can gradually persuade more of them to come to their senses on the challenges of the Natural State.

While Republicans claim to support small government we have only seen the size of government grow under Republicans. They speak of supporting limited government again now that they are out of power in Congress, but return them to the majority and we will see the same support for growing government when it is under their control. Big government is even more to be feared under Republican control in light of their conservative views on social issues as Republican government becomes more intrusive in our lives.

There is also little reason to believe Republicans would behave any more sensibly on foreign policy. In rejecting liberals he claims that “They lack any vision for foreign policy” which is only a sign that he has absolutely no idea of what liberals believe. It was liberals, despite Kling’s claims of a lack of vision, who recognized that going into Iraq would be a disaster. It was liberals who wanted to concentrate on fighting al Qaeda, while Republicans attacked the wrong country and pursued a course which strengthened terrorist groups. It was liberals who started the framework for containing North Korea, and the Republicans who allowed this to fall apart. If we want to look further back, It was even liberals who first started a policy of containment of Communism, and Democrats who won two world wars.

Kling complains that, “I rarely find myself making progress in discussions with those on the Left.” It is not a surprise that he is totally unable to communicate with those on the left considering the erroneous views he has of liberals. He is like a character stuck in an Ayn Rand novel of the 1950’s who sees liberals as supporters of socialistic economic policies. While he has differences of agreement with Republicans which he is willing to ignore, he writes, “I find it even more of a challenge to deal with the Left, where their political agenda is their religion.” He returns to this claim later in writing, “The Left’s religion often comes dressed up as science. Marxism is one example. The eugenics movement of the early twentieth century is another. The Global Warming crusade is probably another.”

While his attitude is stuck in the 1950’s (and even then not very accurate), he ignores the realignment which has occurred over the last several years which has led many to see Democrats as the more libertarian of the major political parties. While his description of the left might still apply to a handful, I have no more connection to those on the far left than the Republicans do. The battles against socialism are long over and capitalism has won. The division between left and right is no longer over the old economic battles. Those of us who have moved to the left in recent years have no connection to Marxism, and many of us are stronger supporters of capitalism than the Republicans considering the GOP’s promotion of corporate welfare. Using the power of government to redistribute wealth to the ultra-wealthy is no more capitalistic than using the power of government to redistribute wealth to the poor. (more…)

Edwards Goes First on Health Care

Edwards started his campaign talking more of starting a movement and seemed to be avoiding specifics on the issues. He deserves credit for being the first candidate in this cycle to provide some specifics as to what he intends on health care. (Of course Hillary beat him by several years if we can consider her previous proposal to be her current plan). I’ve delayed commenting for a day and still cannot decide whether to give it a thumbs up or thumbs down. There are two problems in making such a decision. First, there are many areas where the posted description remains vague and more information is needed. Secondly, a problem with health care reform is that there are potential objections to any plan. There is no perfect solution, but something must be done. Before dwelling on the negatives of one plan it may be necessary to compare the plans of all the candidates, should the others also release plans, to see which provides the most good with the least negatives. Therefore I’ll refrain from making a decision on the plan for now and just comment on some aspects.

Edwards would continue to base insurance on employer coverage including a mandate to either provide coverage or pay the cost of covering them. He claims that his plan would make it easier for employers to provide coverage due to lower health care costs. There’s no mention of how much employers would have to pay or what provisions there are for smaller businesses which would have difficulty affording an added expense.

Edwards proposes to expand Medicaid and SCHIP to cover all adults under the poverty line and all children and parents under 250 percent of the poverty line (about $50,000 for a family of four). I would hope that a move towards universal coverage would also lead away from the current system where some are covered by inferior programs such as Medicaid. Unless this is accompanied by a marked increase in payment and decrease in bureaucratic hassle currently seen with Medicaid it is questionable whether all these new people with Medicaid would even be able to find physicians willing to see them.

The measure which might help the most people who are currently poorly served by the private health insurance industry would be to change to community rating require coverage regardless of preexisting conditions. This would help prevent the insurance companies from selling insurance to the healthy and avoiding coverage of those who actually need coverage. He would also require that all health plans offer preventative care. This would save money in the long run but it would be years before the savings would actually be seen and would actually increase health care costs in the short term. We cannot count on such savings to reduce the burden of paying for health care insurance by employers. (more…)