Sunday, January 24, 2010

Noonan, Isaacson and Caro on Zakaria's program

It was quite a panel assembled today on Fareed Zakaria's Sunday cable program.  Mr. Zakaria typically focuses his program on foreign affairs, but today he turned his sights to the domestic political challenges of the Obama administration.

It was sort of a "Where did he go wrong and what should he do now?" theme addressed by three fine writers - Walter Isaacson, Peggy Noonan and Robert Caro

Mr. Caro asserted, "If Obama backs away from healthcare, he will have lost his ideals." 

On a personal note, I am a huge fan of Mr. Caro's work on LBJ.  (I wish he'd complete his book on the final years of Johnson's life soon.)  However, some might take exception with his reference today, to the "fifty million" Americans without health insurance, for two reasons. 

First, many tend to use interchangeably, the notion of "care and insurance" as Mr. Caro did, which obscures the debate. 

Second, the "fifty million" figure needs to be deconstructed for veracity and put it into perspective for a nation of 308 million people.  When one looks at "the number" which appears to be closer to 45 million than 50 million, and subtracts from it, the number of people falling under one of the following conditions:
  • eligible for free or heavily subsidized health insurance, but won't take it
  • takes free or heavily subsidized health insurance but reports to census takers they have no insurance
  • can well afford traditional (non-subsidized) insurance, but chooses not to buy it
  • are not American citizens
. . . one ought to reduce the 45 (or 50) million number, by at least 30 million people according to an analysis by former White House economic adviser, Keith Hennessey.  What remains, is the number of uninsured we have a duty to worry about and help, but that number approaches 15 million people, not 50 million people.

Perhaps we need not nationalize 1/6th of our economy against the wishes of most Americans to produce a policy that does nothing to lower costs.  Market reforms, tort reforms, increased patient responsibility and other measures would lower costs and improve the system.

Walter Isaacson (author of a critical but engrossing biography of Henry Kissinger) may have made the most practical prescription on today's program when he concluded, "The country is best governed and transformed from the center."

In time we'll know if Mr. Obama will heed this advice and succeed, or choose to double down on the current course.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Milwaukee's fiscal woes won't be solved by Dems' press releases

Published 1.15.2010 at

The primary reason I decided to support Scott Walker's bid for Governor last year is that he is one of the few state pols who "gets it." The "it" in this case -- is fiscal sanity.

I make no claim of neutrality, so when a Web article from the state Democratic machine came into view yesterday, I was naturally skeptical. The title alone was hair-raising, "Inmates Released, Public Safety Plans Cut: "Patchwork" Walker's Latest Hypocrisy Exposed by Political Ally"

The "Political Ally" referred to is Milwaukee County Sheriff, David A. Clarke Jr. -- another leader who also understands how to operate within his means.  My word, I wondered, what had County Executive Scott Walker done? The piece issued by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, references, "...a scathing letter to Walker" from Sheriff Clarke.

In the first place, the Sheriff's letter was addressed to several County supervisors and Mr. Walker, not solely to Mr. Walker, as the article implies.

Secondly, when the sum and substance of this piece didn't square with my own understanding of Mr. Walker's views, I looked to his Communications Director for Mr. Walker's official positions, which were described thus:

"The budget Scott presented for 2010 DID NOT include furlough days for Sheriff's deputies."

An amendment passed by the members of the County Board applied floating furlough days to everyone and it could not be line-item vetoed. The County Board are the ones that put this into Scott's budget.  

Now, the Sheriff has a series of actions he wants to take as an alternative to furlough days for deputies. Scott supports an alternative and has been working with his office for past few weeks.

Scott Walker WILL NOT and DOES NOT support the early release of inmates as part of an alternative plan. In fact, he would veto such a plan if approved by the County Board.

Instead, Scott will continue to work with the Sheriff's office to avoid the release of inmates - as well as furlough days"

Finally, I contacted Sheriff Clarke's office seeking comment on the "scathing" letter as described in the article in question, and the Sheriff responded through a representative that Sheriff Clarke,

“ not going to politicize his budget and these conversations should definitely take place between himself, the County Board and the County Executive.”

Perhaps someone forgot to tell the Dems.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Harry Reid looks foolish without our help

Published 1.11.2010 at

Wanted: Substance in media, substance in political dialogue. Will pay top dollar for content that matters. Attention-seeking primadonnas need not apply.
Harry Reid, Wikipedia

That's how one might phrase a classified ad these days, if only one could choose newsmakers and the news outlets that cover them. Today instead, we were subjected to a flow of faux racial outrage (from the right and the left), more play-by-play accounts of NBC Tonight show negotiations with Jay and Conan and a baseball player's admission of steroid use - while our nation continues to whither on almost every front imaginable.

The racial outrage is aimed at Harry Reid and his Obama quote released in a new book. But before this gaffe surfaced, think back to the storm du jour, when just over a month ago Leader Reid dropped these gems:

"Instead of joining us on the right side of history, all the Republicans can come up with is, 'slow down, stop everything, let's start over.' If you think you've heard these same excuses before, you're right,"

Then Mr. Reid continued...

"When this country belatedly recognized the wrongs of slavery, there were those who dug in their heels and said 'slow down, it's too early, things aren't bad enough.'"

Republicans were justifiably outraged at those statements. Mr. Reid had the temerity to liken the GOP to slavery sympathizers, simply because they oppose his deeply-flawed health insurance bill. His dumb-tongued indictment was almost enough grist for a formal rebuke, and yet the man wonders why bipartisanship is a bygone relic.

Now, consider the newly-outed Reid comment made during the 2008 election season that Obama possessed advantages, among them that he did not speak with a “Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."

Sensing wounded prey, some Republicans are now asking for Reid's resignation. Ridiculous. Of course there is a double standard. Of course we ought to remind everyone within earshot of that fact, but the Republican party is supposed to be the party that does not play the race card, the party that rises above silly diatribes by race card professionals found on the other side of the aisle. You know the type, that blamed Hurricane Katrina on Conservatives - I don't mean the federal rescue efforts - I mean the hurricane itself.

One can only cry wolf so often. And Joe Wilson rants don't help us, but measured, well-reasoned political rejoinders do. Neighboring Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty got it right today. When asked about the Reid bomb, Mr. Pawlenty replied plainly,

"The remarks were obviously inappropriate. They were unwise. They were dumb. Whether that rises to the level of his fellow Democratic Senators throwing him out as Senate leader is up to them."