Archive for March, 2010

Obama is showing his mettle on Israeli settlements

President Obama, in what may be his most difficult foreign policy test so far, is keeping the pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. While Netanyahu received raucous support from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee during his visit here, Israeli analysts have criticized the prime minister’s insistence on pressing more settlements. In Haaretz, Aluf Benn wrote:

The prime minister leaves America disgraced, isolated, and altogether weaker than when he came.

Instead of setting the diplomatic agenda, Netanyahu surrendered control over it. Instead of leaving the Palestinian issue aside and focusing on Iran, as he would like, Netanyahu now finds himself fighting for the legitimacy of Israeli control over East Jerusalem.

Yossi Verter wrote:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned from the United States Thursday with egg all over his face but also with a painfully sharp insight – gone are the days when the White House was considerate about the intricacies of …

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Conservatives oust David Frum for telling the truth

David Frum is a Republican, a former speechwriter for George Bush best known for crafting the phrase “axis of evil.”  But he thinks for himself, and he doesn’t always like what he sees on the Republican side of the aisle.

When he disagrees with Republicans, he criticizes them. On his blog last Sunday, he issued a harsh critique of the GOP’s strategy of refusing to negotiate on the health care bill:

Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s. . .A huge part of the blame for today’s disaster attaches to conservatives and Republicans ourselves.

At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision: unlike, say, Democrats in 2001 when President Bush proposed his first tax cut, we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles. This would be Obama’s Waterloo – just as healthcare was Clinton’s in 1994.

Only, the hardliners overlooked a few …

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GOP is culpable in violent attacks on Democrats

I’m not at all sure why legislation that extends health care benefits to all Americans would incite some people to frothing, red-faced anger. But it seems some critics of the new law are so mad they have actually turned to violence:

The pitched battle over health care has unleashed a rash of vandalism and attacks directed at politicians, with at least 10 House Democrats reporting death threats or incidents of harassment or vandalism at their district offices over the past week. . .
The vandalism began last weekend, when the House debated the health bill for final passage. In Wichita, someone broke the window of a county Democratic Party headquarters with a brick that had “No to Obama” and “No ObamyCare” written on it. Lyndsey Stauble, executive director of the Sedgwick County Democratic Party, said she went to work Saturday morning to clean up the shattered glass around her desk.
“It was surprising and alarming to know that people, when they have so many opportunities for …

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Pelosi issues a tough warning to health insurance companies

A few Democrats have expressed the fear that health insurance companies might try to ram through stiff rate hikes between now and November and blame the higher costs on the health care bill. After all, insurers  fear having their profits trimmed if they will no longer be able to dump their customers when they get sick.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a warning to health insurers who try to ram through rate hikes: Don’t do it.

Speaking to a dozen or so columnists a yesterday, Pelosi warned that insurance companies that gouge their customers won’t be allowed to participate in the new insurance exchanges that will become available. Those exchanges hold the potention for millions more customers, so insurers will want to be able to participate.

“Unless they do the right thing,they’re not going in,” Pelosi said. The new health care reform law allows the fed to regulate the insurance exchanges.

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Republican Party is stained by the racism of its fringe

WASHINGTON — A few months ago, former President Jimmy Carter was widely denounced for pointing out that racism is an element in the fiery opposition to President Obama’s policies. Carter’s critics included Democratic pollster and pundit James Carville, who insisted that polling showed no such racism.

It’s too bad Carville wasn’t on the grounds of the Capitol on Saturday, when tea party protestors hurled the N-word at two black Democrats, U.S. Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.) and U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.). A protestor spat on another black Democrat, U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.).

(As if to demonstrate that they hold a deep-seated animosity toward all minority groups, the crowd of angry protestors serenaded U.S. Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, an openly gay Democrat, with anti-gay slurs.)

Lewis said the tea-partiers —  gathered to protest sweeping legislation providing universal access to health care — reminded him of ugly anti-integration crowds in the 1950s and …

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With their mojo back, Senate Democrats move to tame Wall Street

Now that the Democrats have a bit of swagger back, Senate Democrats have picked up the pace on Wall Street reform — another issue that definitely needs to be addressed. Yesterday, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) passed a financial overhaul bill out of committee on a straight party-line vote.

Meanwhile, Treasury Sec. Tim Geithner warned bankers and other Wall Street maestros to stop fighting so hard against financial reform. That, too, is a reflection of the Democrats’ increased confidence. They are reminding bankers that can pass signifiant legislation without GOP support. From the WSJ:

The 13-10 vote in the Senate Banking Committee comes as Republicans and business groups rethink their strategy about how to shape or derail the financial bill, which some of them argue would reduce credit and potentially cost U.S. jobs. Some Republicans have faulted the White House for pressuring congressional Democrats to push forward without a bipartisan deal.

“Have things been about as …

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Does the GOP really want to run against health care reform?

There were tea-party protestors outside the Capitol yesterday yelling that Nancy Pelosi is “going to hell.” That led me to believe they have a very distorted view of what’s in the health care bill. They’ve been misled by cynical Republicans in Congress and even-more-cynical conservative talk show hosts.

If Republicans want to run against the health care reform bill in the coming Congressional campaign season, this is what they’d be for: allowing insurers to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions; forcing young adults off their parents’ health insurance; re-opening the “donut hole” that left some seniors with high prescription bills; re-instating the lifetime insurance caps for coverage of expensive, chronic medical conditions.

David Frum, former Bush speechwriter, argues that the Republicans went too far in opposing the bill:

This time, when we went for all the marbles, we ended with none.

Could a deal have been reached? Who knows? But we do know that the gap between this …

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Obama makes a deal to close Gitmo

Like many freedom-loving Americans, I’ve been disappointed by President Obama’s decision to reverse course and try several terror suspects before military commissions. I believe that showcasing the American system of justice would be a powerful answer to the tyranny and injustice of the jihadists. But politics is a messy process, requiring compromise, and Obama seems willing to compromise on that in order to close Guantanamo Bay. That’s probably a deal worth cutting.

From the WSJ:

The White House is nearing a deal with a bipartisan group of senators to close the Guantanamo Bay prison and pave the way for more detainees to be tried before military commissions, a move that would reverse a signature Obama administration security policy.

The deal would put the alleged mastermind of the attacks of September 2001, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, his fellow plotters and other top terror suspects before revamped military commissions, rather than in civilian trials as the Obama administration …

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Just like Medicare, “Obamacare” will become very popular

A modest prediction: If Democrats manage to pass health care reform, it will become a quite popular feature of the safety net within 10 years. Despite the uproar and controversy swirling about its passage, Americans will not only come to like having universal access to health care, but they’ll also forget that it was ever cause for such angst.

Why do I think so? Because that’s what happened with Medicare. When John Kennedy proposed the program, it didn’t pass. Many conservatives vigorously opposed it. The doctors fought it ferociously. The American Medical Association hired Ronald Reagan to make appearances denouncing it.

Reagan argued that “[I]f you don’t [stop Medicare] and I don’t do it, one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.” Running for the Senate in 1964, George H.W. Bush called it “socialized medicine.”

It finally passed in 1965, and …

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Catholic nuns oppose bishops, support health care reform

You gotta love those nuns. Yesterday, a coalition representing 59,000 sisters from Catholic religious orders sent a statement in support of health care reform to Capitol Hill. The letter was in direct opposition to the U.S. Conference of Bishops, which has insisted that the Senate bill currently being considered will use federal funds to pay for abortions.

That’s nonsense, of course. And the nuns say so:

We have witnessed firsthand the impact of our national health care crisis, particularly its impact on women, children and people who are poor. We see the toll on families who have delayed seeking care due to a lack of health insurance coverage or lack of funds with which to pay high deductibles and co-pays. We have counseled and prayed with men, women and children who have been denied health care coverage by insurance companies. We have witnessed early and avoidable deaths because of delayed medical treatment.

The health care bill that has been passed by the Senate and that …

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