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Newsweek ^ | 11/23/03 | Joe Klein

Posted on 11/23/2003 5:54:14 AM PST by Elkiejg

Edited on 11/23/2003 6:32:20 AM PST by Admin Moderator. [history]

We have reached a moment of transcendent weirdness in American politics and perhaps a defining moment in the 2004 presidential campaign. In Washington last week, Newt Gingrich and the aarp—who battled each other over old-age entitlement spending in the 1990s—joined the White House in support of a new $400 billion Medicare prescription-drug benefit. Odder still, the Wall Street Journal's ultraconservative editorial page opposed the bill, as did ultraliberal House leader Nancy Pelosi, Ted Kennedy and most of the Democrats running for President. This, after a decade of Democrats pleading for just such a benefit and lambasting Republicans for blocking it. This, in the same week that Tom Daschle and George Bush joined forces to support the fetid enormity of a $31 billion energy bill, which was quickly dubbed the Hooters and Polluters Bill, since it funded, among many other things, construction of an energy-efficient Hooters restaurant in Shreveport, La. This, in the same week that Massachusetts moved toward legalization of gay marriage.

Confused? Overwhelmed? Appalled? Yes, yes and yes. This was an awful week for the Democrats, who are likely to lose— politically—on all fronts. And it was a shameful week—substantively—for the Bush Administration.

The political equation is obvious. The President will be able to say the Democrats opposed prescription drugs for the elderly whether the Medicare bill passes or not (just as he campaigned in 2002 saying the Democrats blocked Homeland Security because they wanted labor-protection provisions in the bill). The same is true, to a lesser extent, of the energy bill, which Senators of both parties managed to stop, perhaps temporarily, last Friday.

The President can still say, "We proposed energy 'reform'; the Dems opposed."

Not many Americans will scour the fine print. As for gay marriage, my guess is that Bush will remain above the fray. The issue is too raw—and his Vice President has taken the same position as most Democrats have. But Bush will benefit nonetheless from the anguish and agitation on the religious right, which will use the ruling to invigorate turnout among Christian conservatives.

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Front Page News; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: 2004; energybill; losers; medicare; prescriptiondrugs; rats
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First - I don't like Joe Klein -- but thought he had some good lines in this article.
1 posted on 11/23/2003 5:54:14 AM PST by Elkiejg
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To: Elkiejg
"...what will the Democrats run on? Their intellectual cupboard is bare..."

Always has been.

2 posted on 11/23/2003 6:01:12 AM PST by Cobra64 (Babes should wear Bullet Bras -
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To: Elkiejg

Because they're misled by a tool:

3 posted on 11/23/2003 6:07:04 AM PST by ChadGore (Kakkate Koi!)
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To: Elkiejg
What the Dems don't understand, what they will never understand, is that President Bush didn't get to be governor and then President by lacking political skill. George Bush out-foxed Tommy Daschle with the Homeland Security Bill before the 2002 elections to lead the Republicans back into the Senate majority.

And now he's out-foxed the Dems again. They underestimate this President at their own peril.
4 posted on 11/23/2003 6:07:07 AM PST by Wendel Wilkie
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To: Elkiejg
This is an expensive political win for Bush, but a win nonetheless. In FL, where I live, this is the kind of situation that deflates the Dems, who are overwhelmingly the retiree vote. With Bob Graham's senate seat up for grabs this can tilt the vote to the GOP nominee. Daschle and Kennedy promise a filibuster on this in the senate. That will be a political disaster for them. Go ahead and sustain a filibuster, kill the bill and further alienate AARP going into an election year. Bush and Rove really have them hogtied here.
5 posted on 11/23/2003 6:11:56 AM PST by untwist
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To: Elkiejg
The Democrats are boxed into complicated and unpopular positions because they tend to stand on principle—although the principles involved are often antiquated, peripheral and, arguably, foolish.

When discussed in the mainstream media, this line will be edited to:

The Democrats are boxed into complicated and unpopular positions because they tend to stand on principle.

with no further elaboration or discussion of context.

6 posted on 11/23/2003 6:19:01 AM PST by Protect the Bill of Rights
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To: Elkiejg
The Bush Administration is outsmarting the Democrats at every turn.

I agree, but at what price? Both of these bills are bloated budget busters that should have never gotten out of committee. The only thing I can hope for is that the Republicans never thought they would become law and just did it to box in the Democraps, but I think that's giving them too much credit.

7 posted on 11/23/2003 6:21:49 AM PST by Reagan is King
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To: untwist
This is LOSE/LOSE. The dims are not that stupid that they'll filibuster it. They will put up a little stink, Frist will cave on anything they want and the Dims will claim credit. The U.S. taxpayer will be left holding a trillion dollar bill for Granny's drugs. Granny doesn't need this bill. We don't need it. This is not Europe. (yet)

Bush is the biggest spending president in recent history. Enough is enough! He's been great on defense and taxes.. Everything else, he's no better than Ted KEnnendy.

8 posted on 11/23/2003 6:22:29 AM PST by petercooper (Proud VRWC Neanderthal)
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To: Protect the Bill of Rights
They oppose it because it's a Republican bill. That is all. If Algore was President and he proposed it, they would be for it. Politics first, winning first, above all else.

However, these are not bills that Republicans should support. Too much cost for the taxpayer. The Republicans are also playing games.

9 posted on 11/23/2003 6:30:51 AM PST by Alas Babylon!
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To: untwist
I suspect it will never become law, which is good news. What's even more good news is to see the Democrats run against seniors and managed care in an election year. This Republican and his elderly father both belong to an HMO. Guess who I will vote for next year and isn't going to be Nikita Dean!
10 posted on 11/23/2003 6:32:05 AM PST by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives On In My Heart Forever)
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To: Wendel Wilkie
No, that can't be true, because this president, despite having a Yale undergrad, and a Harvard MBA, who was a jet fighter pilot, and who was twice elected governor to one of the most populous states in the US, is stupid. He couldn't possibly out fox super geniuses like Tiny Tom and "Human Oil Slick" McAwful.
11 posted on 11/23/2003 6:39:29 AM PST by NickRails
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To: Alas Babylon!
I agree that these are not bills Republicans should support...whatever damage they do to the Dems, they do more to America. We could have 'boxed in!' the Soviets by electing communists...which is effectively what this bill is.
12 posted on 11/23/2003 6:44:26 AM PST by blanknoone
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To: untwist
while I in no way predict this will happen, it is still not beyond all possibility that if Bush gets his 60-vote majority, a "new" Medicare reform could come up in 2005 in which they say, "Oops! We underestimated the Medicare deficit. We need further [market] reforms!" and BAM! pass them.

Just saying, it's a possibility.

13 posted on 11/23/2003 6:54:12 AM PST by LS
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To: Elkiejg
Some victory! Bush assures his own re-election to spend our money even more wildly in the next four years than he did as president his first four years?

If runaway federal spending under the GOP is "victory," bring back defeat.

14 posted on 11/23/2003 6:54:42 AM PST by NoControllingLegalAuthority
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To: Reagan is King
No, I think that the GOP did think they would become law, but that in the case of Medicare, the small market reformes eventually would become a "killer virus" that would virtually end Medicare, just like Bush's teeny-tiny proposal to have 3% of SS privatized is the thread that will unravel the whole thing.

Will it be God-awful expensive in the short-run? Yep. Would it be worth it in the long run? Probably, seeing as though the system is going bust no matter what. Indeed, if one was cynical, you might just say that the GOP added the weight onto this sucker to sink it quicker, to FORCE market reforms on this system sooner.

15 posted on 11/23/2003 6:56:36 AM PST by LS
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To: Reagan is King
...but at what price?

How much should we spend to get a true (filibuster proof) majority in the senate? How much should we spend to get approval for judicial nominations that will stem the tide of ruling left from the bench?

If the Dims win, do you think the "bloated budget busters" would not get out of committee and become law? Do you think there will not be even MORE of them if the Dims win? It would be a lose-lose for Republicans. The prescription drug issue was not going to just go away if the bill had been tabled. It would have festered and been an issue that, among others, would bring about a win for Dims in 2004. I think it was worth the price.

16 posted on 11/23/2003 6:56:40 AM PST by arasina (CHRISTMAS! [just try and take my tag line away, Bloomberg])
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To: petercooper
Wrong---if the Dems dare filibuster either the Medicare or the energy bill, it will literally end them as a party. They will be viewed as no longer "standing on principle" but will be viewed, even by many lifelong Dems, as the obstructionists they are.

Moreover, for the politically shrewd, there are MANY things to like about this Medicare bill, especially the notion that it will push Medicare over the top sooner rather than later and genuine market reforms will have to be enacted. (Oh, and by that time, the GOP might just have a filibuster-proof majority.)

17 posted on 11/23/2003 6:59:18 AM PST by LS
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To: goldstategop
It will become law. Get used to it. That's not all bad: there are small market reforms built in. I always maintain that all the market needs is to be on the playing field, not an "even" playing field, and it will destroy socialism.

But another way to see this is that this bill will totally bankrupt the system, and force a REAL reform sooner rather than later, perhaps with a 60-vote GOP Senate lead.

18 posted on 11/23/2003 7:00:56 AM PST by LS
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To: Elkiejg
I think the gay marriage thing is going to be a big issue this next election cycle. Bush and the Republicans are smart to stay above the fray and let events play out. Many rank-and-file Democrats are disgusted over this issue. Even the Catholic Church here in Massachusetts have broken ranks with the party of Ted Kennedy over this issue and they are predicting that the Democrats will lose a lot of votes next year.

Contrary to what you might think, not many people in Massachusetts are very happy with this ruling.

19 posted on 11/23/2003 7:01:57 AM PST by SamAdams76 (198.4 (-101.6))
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To: Cobra64; Common Tator
I think the most insightful passage to this Klein piece is the following:
The week's events illuminate a fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans on domestic policy. The Democrats are boxed into complicated and unpopular positions because they tend to stand on principle—although the principles involved are often antiquated, peripheral and, arguably, foolish. The Republicans, by contrast, have abandoned traditional conservativism to gain political advantage (with the elderly, for instance) or to pay off their stable of corporate-welfare recipients. The Medicare bill contains large gifts to pharmaceutical manufacturers; the energy bill is a $23.5 billion bequest to traditional-energy producers, with additional billions worth of free-range pork tossed in. "This is classic machine politics, the sort of thing we used to do," said a prominent Democrat. Hence the Wall Street Journal's opposition to both bills. After all, Bush is running such huge deficits that they might imperil the prospect of endless tax cuts—and even "increase pressure to raise taxes to pay for" these new programs, the editors noted.

Now take a look at the passage in bold: yes, this is machine politics. Republicans are in a position to reward friends and punish enemies. Yet most of us came of political age during the sixties, the seventies, and the early Reagan years. In those days, Democrats controlled the Hill and the machines of patronage. We argued against that kind of politics in part because we were ideologically opposed to it (a foundation of Goldwater conservatism was restraint in spending). However, in large measure we opposed it because we weren't the ones handing out the goodies. Now we have power, and we are playing classic reward and punish politics. That's what parties that have power do.

And something else. Klein has figured out what Common Tator figured out some time ago, yet so many Republicans refuse to remember: Presidents and parties win by doing what the voters want them to do. George Bush is putting in a hideously expensive prescription drug goody for Medicare. We will pay for it out of our asses in future years. But we want it, the seniors want it, and most of the boomers who are approaching retirement want it.

Bush is giving us what we want. If he didn't give us what we wanted, Howard Dean would beat him over the head with it, and if Dean won, then he would give us what we wanted. Every time I see my fellow rightists go on about Bush spending too much, I can see why Goldwater lost his ass so bad to Johnson. Goldwater didn't get it; Johnson did. Goldwater stood on principle. Perhaps he was a visionary, but not in 1964. Goldwater lost, and Lyndon won. Why? Lyndon gave the American people what they wanted: War on Poverty, Civil Rights legislation, and the Great Society.

Now you might come back and say that Goldwater's vision triumphed in the end, when Reagan won, and I would tell you that you should step away from the crack pipe. Reagan gave the people what they wanted, higher defense spending. Yet he didn't cut back on subsidies, farm price supports, or welfare. That was all a Democratic party myth. Reagan was sharp: he understood that people wanted tax relief and higher defense and social spending. Reagan's genius was to be anything but a green eyeshade, sourpuss Republican. That kind of Republicanism that gave us Mary Louise Smith, the RNC chairman in 1974, who claimed that there was "no recession"-in the deep recession year of 1974. Reagan, on the other hand, understood that tax relief would increase tax receipts, and he was right. He also understood that voters wanted to have their cake, and eat it, too. Carter didn't understand that, neither did Mondale. The rest is history.

But Reagan did nothing to reduce spending. Nor did he abolish the Department of Education. Nor did he get the Human Life Amendment through Congress and the States and into the Constitution. That he did nothing in that regard is because he, like Bush the Younger, understood what people wanted. Bush the Elder, Goldwater, Mondale, and in all likelihood, Howard Dean, haven't quite figured that out.

We will pay for all this in the end. But we will pay for this because it is what we want. And when time comes to pay the piper, the People and the Opinion Leaders in the Press will all bitch and moan that Bush and the Republican Congress didn't Plan For the Future. They will not admit to themselves that they were "wrong" to want all these goodies. Voters never tell themselves that they were wrong.

No election was ever won by the guy who set up the Rainy Day Fund.

People like Andrew Sullivan constantly get on Bush because he is spending so much. I respect Andrew, and happen to agree with him on the issues. Yes, the Medicare bill is a budget catastrophe in search of a generation to pay for it. Yes, the Energy Bill is a pork-laden monstrosity. But I understand what Andrew appears not to understand. Bush knows that he will win by giving the electorate what it wants: guns and butter!

Now before Conservatives turn into the Stupid Party again and sit out the election in disgust, they had better figure out that it is Bush who will win the war. Howard Dean might win the war, but he is just as likely to lose it, because he lacks the ruthlessness and guile needed to defeat the likes of Bin Laden, Saddam, the Chia Pet in North Korea, and the Mullahs in Tehran. Bush is a nice guy, but he has ruthlessness and guile in spades. He's his mother's son more than he is his father's.

Is "guns and butter" the best thing for the country? No. I prefer that we focus on guns. But we haven't had a truly mass casualty attack on the Hiroshima scale yet, so much of the electorate is still living in the Nineties. For example, the decision of the Nightline staff to focus on Michael Hershey Highway instead of the President's Three Pillars speech tells you where most of the Democratic Party still is-as James Lileks remarked in his blog. Bush has to work with the political environment he's got. It's not Starship Troopers time in America quite yet. Because the nation as a unified mass hasn't been shocked into running off and joining the Mobile Infantry quite yet, Bush has to maintain a policy of foward attack while practicing Great Society politics at home. Republicans who ignore this reality are Republicans who are good for one thing: losing elections to liberal Democrats who get it.

It's either Bush or Howard Dean, and my larger purpose is to vote for the guy who is focused on winning the war at the expense of all other things, even when he has to spend money on other things to keep members of the war coalition on board. That's Bush, not Dean. Andrew should know that, as well. But he doesn't. Bush does, however, and that makes all the difference.

Be Seeing You,


20 posted on 11/23/2003 7:12:17 AM PST by section9 (Major Kusanagi says, "Click on my pic and read my blog, or eat lead!")
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