Debate of the Week With Insight From the Right

Joe Klein and a number of liberal bloggers are at it again. I haven’t commented so far on this dispute because I really don’t see the point in sorting out all the cross accusations of who said what when. For those who do, Klein’s response to the latest attacks is here, and a couple of responses from bloggers are here and here.

The amount of comments on this in the blogosphere greatly outweigh the importance, but there are some of interest. Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice finds that such conflict isn’t limited to the left, but is a part of modern life:

And bloggers, candidates and journalists who are seemingly fighting rear-action battles to keep things the way they were or roll the clock back will be disappointed. There IS a new media mix and political cultural style in America. The U.S. isn’t going to go back to the 50s, 60s, or 70s.

So the anger, rage and tone problem is not limited to just the left. It’s on the right. Al Gore’s new book offers pages of specific instances. You can also see it on the center (in November co-bloggers here were at war with each other for a while). These are angry times where many voters — particularly those who were not part of the “base” during an era of an administration that had government of the base, by the base and for the base — feel shut out. Those in the center often are targets of anger — rejected by the right (for being too much to the left) and by the left (for being too right). Or for being wusses who won’t definitely join one side.

Changing a position is considered untrustworthy (unless you’re Mitt Romney).

So there is anger and name calling on the left, right and in the center.

And, honestly: to each his own.

The most interesting, even if not always accurate, insights came from the right. David Frum‘s initial theory was a little extreme (although true in a handful of cases):

My own working theory till now has been that the anti-Klein sentiment exposes the tyrannical impulses of the American Left. Being a left-leaning journalist is not sufficient, comrade! We demand total unquestioning obedience! You are guilty of deviationism and individualism: Go practice self-criticism until you are prepared to submit to the perfect correctness of the thoughts of Chairman Kos!

The looney left is capable of attacking as Frum describes, but they represent a minority, and their attacks wouldn’t have reached the prominence in the liberal blogosphere that the attacks on Klein have. Frum reviews Klein’s post and develops a new theory. First he quotes Klein, with emphasis from Frum:

[T]he smart stuff [in the left-wing blogs] is being drowned out by a fierce, bullying, often witless tone of intolerance that has overtaken the left-wing sector of the blogosphere. Anyone who doesn’t move in lockstep with the most extreme voices is savaged and ridiculed—especially people like me who often agree with the liberal position but sometimes disagree and are therefore considered traitorously unreliable.


Paris Has been Liberated!


Prison life just didn’t agree with Paris Hilton, who was released after only a couple of days in jail. Apparently the food sucked, and there was no where decent to shop. The party scene didn’t meet her standards either.

All those days in jail weren’t a total loss. Paris gets a new ankle bracelet–artist rendition above. She must also stay at home for another 40 days, totally messing up her party plans.

Mitt Romney’s Null Set State of Mind

After the last Republican debate there’s been plenty of talk both about Romney’s misuse of the term “null set” and of his ignorance of the facts on Iraq. Sometimes the pressure of coming up with an answer during a debate might lead to a candidate saying something they might not otherwise say. Brian Buetler did some research and found this quote from May 8 showing that this was not the first time for either mistake:

HANNITY: It’s interesting. Because you talk about — very frankly and openly — some of the differences you have with the president about the war and maybe some of the specificity in terms of what he would do….

If you had to make the decision, based on what we know now, if you were the president there, do you think you would have done the same thing?

M. ROMNEY: Well, it’s a setting that’s almost a null set. Which is, if we knew that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, and if he had complied with the United Nations resolutions to allow IAEA inspectors into his country, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. [Bold italics mine]

Someone on Romney’s staff needs to keep a closer watch on what this guy says. It’s bad enough when he says something this absurd on Hannity, but at there the bulk of people watching will vote Republican, and have no idea as to what really happened in the run up to the war. Allowing Romney to make the same mistake during a debate has led to many more people seeing Romney make such a statement.

Someone Explain to Rudy That The Human Body Is Not Like a House or Car

Rudy Giuliani has some strange ideas on health care. He regularly resorts to demagoguery in calling Democratic proposals, which are very similar to those enacted in states under Republican Governors, as “socialized medicine.” While he might not support getting government out of health care in issues such as use of medicinal marijuana, he does support reducing the benefits people receive from health insurance, whether from government or from employers. During the last Republican debate, Giuliani said:

Health insurance should become like homeowners insurance or like car insurance: You don’t cover everything in your homeowners policy. If you have a slight accident in your house, if you need to refill your oil in your car, you don’t cover that with insurance. But that is covered in many of the insurance policies because they’re government dominated and they’re employer dominated.

As US News reports, and Cato-at-Liberty confirms, libertarians like this idea. They find this idea similar to that advocated by Arnold Kling:

The health coverage most Americans have is what I call “insulation,” not insurance. Rather than insuring them against risk, most families’ health plans insulate them from paying for most healthcare bills, large and small. Real insurance, such as fire insurance, provides protection against rare, severe risk. Real insurance is characterized by low premiums, infrequent claims, and large claims. American health insurance—including employer-provided insurance and Medicare—is the opposite. Families typically are paid claims several times per year, often for small amounts. Premiums are high—the cost of providing insulation often exceeds $10,000 per year per family. However, most families pay these premiums only indirectly, through taxes and reduced take-home pay from employers. . . . Insulation relieves the patient of the stress of making decisions about treatment. The patient also does not have to worry about shopping around for the best price. The problem with insulation is that it is not a sustainable form of healthcare finance.”

While I am very sympathetic to libertarian goals which promote greater liberty in general, libertarians often allow ideology to blind them from making an accurate assessment of the situation. There are situations where government action can be beneficial without excessively restricting our liberty.

Despite Giuliani’s analogy, health care is not like fixing up a house or car for many reasons and making people pay more of their health care costs out of their own pocket is a poor solution. While most people who own cars or homes have to periodically pay for upkeep, health care costs are not as evenly distributed. Some people develop problems requiring far more medical care than others over their lives. As nobody can predict their future health care needs, one purpose of health insurance is to spread out this risk. It is far better for everyone to have predictable insurance costs than to face the types of medical bills which results in a tremendous number of people going bankrupt every year.

While insurance does partially insulate patients about making decisions about treatment, this is often beneficial. Health care decisions require far more knowledge than it takes to compare prices for a home or auto repair. Decisions on health care based on price may turn out to be poor decisions in the long term. As we find with Medical Savings Accounts, when patients are making decisions motivated primarily by price, they tend to put off preventative care and treatment of chronic medical problems. The routine care for chronic diseases is far more expensive than changing oil periodically, and for the average person such care is only affordable with health insurance.

It is far more cost effective in the long run to treat chronic problems such as diabetes and hypertension early, than to pay for bypass surgery, renal dialyses, and post-stroke care if these conditions are not adequately treated. Here we see a major difference between the health care policies of Rudy Giuliani and the Democrats. It is not that the Democrats are supporting socialized medicine, but that the Democratic candidates realize that making treatment of chronic diseases more affordable is beneficial for everyone. Polls show widespread support for increased government involvement to make such health care affordable, but few will go along with Rudy Giuliani’s ideas of paying more out of their own pocket.

McCain Republican For Obama

Barack Obama has an unexpected admirer in the McCain camp, according to The Gaggle:

Barack Obama cultivates an image as a politician whose appeal reaches across party lines. But even he might be surprised to learn that one of his biggest admirers works for GOP Sen. John McCain–a Republican rival for the presidency in 2008. Mark McKinnon, a senior media adviser to McCain–who led George W. Bush’s ad efforts in 2000 and 2004, and remains one of the sitting president’s closest friends–has told the McCain campaign that he would quit if Obama wins the Democratic nomination.

McKinnon, a lifelong Democrat until he decided to team up with Bush, developed a bond with McCain over their shared belief in the need to remain committed to the troops in Iraq. McKinnon helped organize McCain’s last book tour and has traveled extensively with the senator, offering media advice to the candidate for much of the last year. But he wrote a memo to the campaign in January, explaining that he would quit if the general election pitted McCain against Obama. McKinnon wrote that while he opposed Obama’s policies, especially on Iraq, he felt that the Illinois senator–as an African-American politician–has a unique potential to change the country. Therefore, McKinnon argued, he wanted no part in any efforts to tear down Obama’s candidacy. (McKinnon, who has previously told friends he was inspired by Obama’s autobiography, refused to comment on the memo, as did Brian Jones, McCain’s communications director; Obama’s campaign said that the senator had never met McKinnon.)