Saturday, February 09, 2008

Obama's best night

Lopsided wins in Nebraska, Washington State, and to a lesser degree, in Louisiana gave Obama the hat-trick tonight. And his speech--bearing the confidence and assertiveness of a convention nomination acceptance speech--was I think his best of the season, being relatively policy-specific, gracious of his opponents to a degree, while also being confrontational and challenging of them, all but throwing down the gauntlet to McCain regarding the war, foreign policy, and taxes. But his most welcome (and for the Democrats throughout this campaign the most weirdly neglected) remarks tonight were his rhetorical, we-need-to-get-rid-of "Scooter Libby justice, Brownie incompetence, and Karl Rove politics" punches. Where has this rhetoric been all primary season? It's long past time Democrats made the country remember the failures of Katrina, the calculated partisanship of Karl Rove, and the name of Scooter Libby. Even if the media villagers would prefer that we did not.


Republican voters in Washington State, Kansas, and Louisiana must not have teevee or get the Internets, or else they would know this race is supposed to be over and that John McCain will be their nominee.

And how much sense does it make for James Dobson to NOW back Huckabee? I suppose the continued presence, up till Thursday, of Mitt Romney might have had some influence on Dobson's delay or hesitancy. But for the sake of the theocon crowd, Dobson's endorsement is probably much too little, much too late.

Mittless Nation

This op-ed from Gail Collins in today's NYT is pretty special:

Other than repeatedly offering to give up any civil liberty the Bush administration felt it might need, Romney never talked all that much about the war on terror as a candidate. He was more interested in denouncing illegal immigration. Until he got to Michigan, where he became Friend of the Workers Mitt. If that primary had gone on any longer, he’d have been picketing with the writers’ union.

John McCain was the happy beneficiary of Romney’s sudden retreat on Thursday, yet he could barely bring himself to mumble something about his former opponent’s “energetic and dedicated campaign” which is a polite way of saying the guy would toss an old lady in front of a tractor-trailer to get what he wanted.

Congrats, Mitt. You didn't win many votes, but you won a degree of contempt that, while difficult to fathom, is nonetheless well-earned.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

No More Mittens For You

Mitt bows out, ungracefully.

We won't have the Mittster to kick around anymore.

Wonder whether this will pressure Huckleberry to drop out as well?

No More Super For You

Lieberman has his superdelegate status revoked.

He wasn't using it anyway.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


As the first results began coming in last night, I concluded that Obama was basically done. With the exception of Georgia, which was called for him early, I was surprised to see Hillary, rather quickly, win in Oklahoma. As the second wave of primary results started to come in, it was evident that Hillary was racking up large leads in NY, NJ, Massachusetts (again, surprisingly, given the Obama's endorsements), Tennessee, and Missouri. All over but the shoutin', it appeared. Obama would need a surprise come from behind win in California, at least, to maintain any sense of momentum.

But as the third wave of results came up, it showed Obama balancing Hillary's earlier double digit wins with similarly styled margins in albeit smaller states like North Dakota, Idaho, Minnesota, Colorado, Utah and Kansas.

Finally, as the first results for California and Arizona were arriving, one of Hillary's big margin states--Missouri--was tightening. What earlier had been a Hillary margin of almost twenty points had shrunk to one, with Obama favored precincts still out. But then the one point margin widened again to three, and after Obama's speech, I finally turned in to bed.

Only this morning did I learn that Obama had pulled out the narrow win in Missouri, ending Super Tuesday with more states won than Hillary. Now it also appears that Obama took more delegates to go along with those states. And there are rumors that Hillary is coming up short on cash with Obama comfortably in the black (no pun intended). Even more surprisingly, despite Hillary's popular vote blow-out margins in NY, California, Massachusetts and New Jersey, Obama managed to nearly tie her popular vote totals.

Now the campaign returns to a more spread out schedule, which should be favorable to Obama's apparent organizational prowess and overall likeability.

This means that this race will continue to be the most competitive we have seen in some time. While I believe this is overall a positive occurence, I also must admit it introduces a much greater level of uncertainty and unpredictability into the process. For all practical purposes, in modern times, we simply haven't been here before. And should Obama win the nomination, the fall campaign would be another trip through unchartered waters. Obama will bring change whether he seeks it or not.


Count me among those who think that a prolonged primary/caucus nomination battle is good for Democrats and good for democracy.

Across the country people are voting. And many of them are voting for Democrats. This could be good practice for the fall. If nothing else, contested primaries provide a means of comparing voter interest across and within elections.

While it's possible to read too much into these results, let's look at Missouri, a state frequently identified as a "bellweather".

In the Show Me State, a little over 800,000 people voted for the two leading Democrats; about 550,000 voted for the three leading Republicans. In a state George W. Bush carried twice, this can't be a bad sign.

Next week brings Virginia and Maryland to the chase. The week after adds Wisconsin. March and April bring the states of Ohio and Pennsylvania, respectively. Democratic turnout there, particularly in the former state which has also gone GOP the last two cycles, could be an indicator of how the nominee will fair in the Buckeye State come November.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Actually, It's More Like Our Not Talking To Cuba/North Korea/Iran Policy

Via Andrew Sullivan:

"The candidates that can't face Fox, can't face Al Qaeda." - Roger Ailes, the Fox News CEO.

And debating on Faux would be appeasement.

I Think Health Care Mandates Are A Really Bad Idea (updated below)

I'll admit I'm older now (41) and I have a federal job that pays pretty well and which provides health insurance coverage, so I'm not nearly as gung ho for universal health insurance as I once was, particularly since while there are many millions at any particular moment who lack coverage, it isn't clear how many of these could afford coverage on their own and seek not to purchase it, or what proportion of the uninsured is only uninsured on a temporary basis.

In any event, requiring employers to cover their employees (the 1993 Clinton plan as I understood it) and requiring individuals to do so (the current Edwards-Clinton plan as I understand it) even if subsidies are provided strikes me as just really bad politics*, and probably not all that good of policy either in terms of the share of the population that would be insured as a result of the extra billions spent.

At a time when Republicans in the White House and in Congress have made significant inroads towards coercive government activity on behalf of "national security" it seems a really terrible idea to add to that with a coercive economic policy initiative, particularly when, in terms of the share of the population to be affected, is not especially large.

*(h/t Andrew Sullivan)

Update: I've now read through some of the recent Krugman Obama-Clinton-Health Care columns that have apparently attracted so much attention. Part of the problem going on with this debate is, from what I can tell, that Krugman and his admirers on this issue aren't clear as to what the specific health care problem is they want the candidates to address. Is the problem availability/affordability? This is what I have always considered the main problem--people don't have and can't afford adequate health insurance and are left untreated or bankrupt in emergencies, or aren't getting the preventative care they need that might alleviate some of these emergencies. You might call this a sort of quality-of-life approach.

But this isn't apparently what drives Krugman's concern with health care reform. In yesterday's column he says this:

But the big difference is mandates: the Clinton plan requires that everyone have insurance; the Obama plan doesn’t.

Mr. Obama claims that people will buy insurance if it becomes affordable. Unfortunately, the evidence says otherwise.

After all, we already have programs that make health insurance free or very cheap to many low-income Americans, without requiring that they sign up. And many of those eligible fail, for whatever reason, to enroll.

So, Krugman candidly admits that the issue is not affordability/availability. The problem is...well, I'm not sure. He does say that:

An Obama-type plan would also face the problem of healthy people who decide to take their chances or don’t sign up until they develop medical problems, thereby raising premiums for everyone else.

This makes it seem as if Krugman, who is after all, an economist by training, is more properly concerned about fairness and equity issues and with the particular problem of having so-called "free riders" who are healthy and thus won't pay for coverage. This leaves the insurance pool to cover the sickest, most costly people. Krugman also notes that Clinton's current plan is only slightly more expensive than Obama's.

But the cost issue is pertinant only because of what Krugman notes is the gap in coverage offered by the two approaches--Clinton's plan is said to cover twice the number of uninsured as Obama's.

Maybe Krugman, being an economist, is singularly concerned about the relative efficiencies of the candidates' plans. And all else being equal, his support for Clinton's plan on this basis would be reasonable.

But if Krugman's real concern is health care finance-coverage efficiency, the efficiency with which the narrowing or elimination of the current gap in coverage between the insured and uninsured is accomplished would seem to be the least of the country's health care problems.

Having read, and usually agreed with, much of what Krugman has had to say in his columns through the years, I suspect that Krugman's real interest here is in under-cutting the current employer-private insurance-for-profit system. Whether he does so on the basis of some idea of rational economics or political ideology I don't know.

I did find this statement in another NYT article (not written by Krugman) interesting in this regard:

If the government is able to undercut private insurers on price — by forgoing profit, reducing overhead, and maximizing economies of scale — it theoretically could put the private system out of business and become the de facto insurer for the nation.

Maybe this is Krugman's wish, if not aim. But I don't think it's necessarily the best or only proper goal of a governmental role in health care. Either way, Krugman and those who echo his concerns should be more clear about what they see as the health insurance-care "crisis". Is the issue efficiency or affordability? If it is affordability, the implicit conclusion from Krugman's argument is that we are much of the way there already. If it is about overall economic efficiency of health care production and delivery, than any solution to the uninsured would amount to a band-aided stop-gap, mostly irrelevant to the issue. And if the real goal--economic or political--is a complete overhaul of the health care system, than they need to make the case why this should be pursued.

Update II: Well, I think Krugman lays it all out on the table here:

Now, if I had my way I’d just go to single-payer, Medicare for All. But that’s politically impossible, at least for now. What had me hopeful was that the Democratic candidates seemed to be offering a more feasible path that could work politically: regulation, subsidies, mandates, plus public-private competition that could eventually lead to single-payer.

This is pretty candid of him. He deserves credit for being this blunt about it. But he shouldn't be surprised to experience some push-back when he is.

Update III: This is an interesting twist (and also provides some context to David Brooks' column today).

Monday, February 04, 2008

Why People Hate Congress

Probably because of all the problems the country faces and the various inequalities and injustices abounding, they choose to devote their investigative power to things like this.

And this.