Obama Playbook: How To Smear Opponents, Divide the Country, and Raise More Money

(AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

“That pattern involves taking provocative executive actions on sensitive, divisive issues to isolate people he detests, knowing it will invite a sharp response, and then using the response to scare his own base voters into thinking they are under assault when in fact they are on the offensive.”

Yuval Levin‘s post at The Corner is bracing, and revealing, noteworthy not only because of the insights expressed here, but as an example of what team NRO does best: the most lucid writing on these matters you’ll find anywhere.

From Legalization by Edict:

“…the notion that the president can respond to a failure to get Congress to adopt his preferred course on a prominent and divisive public issue by just acting on his own as if a law he desires had been enacted has basically nothing to do with our system of government.

In one sense, the approach the president is said to be contemplating does fit into a pattern of his use of executive power. That pattern involves taking provocative executive actions on sensitive, divisive issues to isolate people he detests, knowing it will invite a sharp response, and then using the response to scare his own base voters into thinking they are under assault when in fact they are on the offensive. That’s how moving to compel nuns to buy contraception and abortive drugs for their employees became “they’re trying to take away your birth control.” This strategy needlessly divides the country and brings out the worst instincts of people on all sides, but it has obvious benefits for the administration and its allies. Liberals get both the substantive action and the political benefit of calling their opponents radicals and getting their supporters worked up. Obama’s legalization of millions would surely draw a response that could then be depicted as evidence of Republican hostility to immigrants, rather than of Republican hostility to illegal executive overreach that tries to make highly significant policy changes outside the bounds of our constitutional order.

But while the legalization now being talked about fits into that pattern in a sense, the sheer scope of its overreach would put it in a different category as a practical matter…(read more)

The Corner

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry: ‘The Republican Party is becoming the party of ideas again’


And it’s amazing how quickly and quietly it’s happened

Don’t get your hopes up. This guy says more insulting and bizarre things about conservatives and Republicans, on a word-by-word basis, than we normally see from writers that describe themselves as “right-of-center”. Why? Because the markers on the field are different in western Europe than they are here.

When Pascal mentions “innovative conservative policy ideas” that he supports, I shudder to think. Watch closely as he agrees with the Left about how Republicans are perceived. Because, you know, their critics are right. About how dumb Republicans are. And spends most of the article exploring different ways to call them stupid. Until, you know, recently. Sorta.

In France, a “conservative thinker” is probably somewhere in the range of a ‘big ideas’ Hillary Clinton-wing-of-the-party policy wonk here. Just a guess. Perhaps my judgement is too hasty. Let’s give Pascal the benefit of the doubt. He is writing for The Week, so, here goes…

From across the pond, in ParisPascal-Emmanuel Gobry writes:

Perhaps the worst sin of the GOP during the Obama era has been the party’s lack of interest in serious, innovative policy.

Thanks to the notion that opposing the White House was enough of an agenda, and the inchoate enthusiasm of the Tea Party, the GOP, it seemed, was great at sound and fury but had no ideas. Anything the GOP did manage to propose was either an old idea from the ’80s, just plain awful, or (most often) both.

“…but basically their sense was that the problem was that Republicans are dumb. Republican politicians would never take on innovative policy ideas because their base is made up of a bunch of backward troglodytes and their paymasters are robber barons only interested in tax cuts…”

If this narrative seems familiar, it’s because left-of-center pundits have been hammering these ideas for years. And they were right.

“…And in any case, to be a Republican is to have little interest in new ideas — or ideas, period…”

But now, these same pundits are conspicuously silent about how the trend is reversing — and fast.

Read the rest of this entry »

[BOOKS] Where Does the Left vs. Right Fight Come From?

A review of Yuval Levin’s Book The Great Debate

bookworldoutlook_0011386190441-197x300 Jon Bishop writes:  We too often assume that the left and right divide began with the eruptions of the ’60s or with the presidency of FDR. It is in fact much older — ancient, even, for it is not out of the question to assume that Greece and Rome faced similar questions. So Yuval Levin, with his The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left, has done modern American political discourse an incredible service by reminding us to always consider the historical context.

[The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left at Amazon]

Levin takes the reader on a guided tour of the Enlightenment-drenched late 18th century and demonstrates how Burke and Paine, who serve as Levin’s representatives for conservative liberalism and progressive liberalism, respectively, adapted the thinking of the age to their approach to political questions. He draws from both their letters and published works — which make for great reading, by the way. Both, after all, were wonderful rhetoricians.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Reality of It


Yuval Levin wryly notes:  This New York Times story about how “New York’s professional and cultural elite” are being hurt by Obamacare must have made for rough reading at the White House. Forcing their most devoted supporters to confront the reality of their policies can’t be a good idea for the Democrats. It can lead to paragraphs like this one in the Times:

It is not lost on many of the professionals that they are exactly the sort of people — liberal, concerned with social justice — who supported the Obama health plan in the first place. Ms. Meinwald, the lawyer, said she was a lifelong Democrat who still supported better health care for all, but had she known what was in store for her, she would have voted for Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney laughing

That very paragraph, though, in its careless equation of liberalism with concern for social justice, points the way out of the crisis of confidence—just ignore reality. The very end of the story puts it best:

It is an uncomfortable position for many members of the creative classes to be in.

“We are the Obama people,” said Camille Sweeney, a New York writer and member of the Authors Guild. Her insurance is being canceled, and she is dismayed that neither her pediatrician nor her general practitioner appears to be on the exchange plans. What to do has become a hot topic on Facebook and at dinner parties frequented by her fellow writers and artists.

“I’m for it,” she said. “But what is the reality of it?”

Answer first, question second. This would be funny if it weren’t so sad and serious.

The Corner – NRO

Pressing the Panic Button?


Yuval Levin  writes:  As usual, it’s hard to tell just what’s going on inside the administration regarding Obamacare, but I don’t think we can really take the steps announced by HHS yesterday as anything but a bright, red, flashing warning light about the internal expectations regarding January.

Some of what they announced is frankly bizarre and slightly crazy. Beside extending the high-risk pool program (which isn’t nuts, just a strong indication that they’re not ready for January at this very late stage), they are asking insurers to pay claims for consumers who haven’t paid their premiums, to treat out-of-network doctors and hospitals as though they were in-network, and to pay for prescription drugs not actually covered by the plans they offer.

The administration is trying to present this as a set of perfectly ordinary kind of transition measures that insurers normally make available to new customers, and some of the more reliable members of their amen chorus on Obamacare have echoed that. But that’s not what this looks like to me, and a few conversations today suggest it’s not what it looks like to the insurers.

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The Silence of the Liberals

Image by © Larry George/Corbis

Image by © Larry George/Corbis

Obamacare is inimical to their values, too

Christopher DeMuth writes: Obamacare may or may not survive its inauspicious beginnings. It has become dangerously unpopular and accident-prone and faces a minefield of difficulties. Still, the Obama administration has a plausible strategy: to titrate the program’s numerous taxes, subsidies, mandates, and restrictions so as to forestall immediate legislative or electoral reversal, thereby entrenching its basic structure for tightening as future circumstances permit.

But the drama has made one thing clear: Obamacare will never achieve its promise of affordable health care for all paid for with improved efficiencies in health insurance and medical care. The initial troubles and compromises have revealed that the program improves “access” mainly by herding millions of people and firms into insurance they do not want or need. A great many will simply refuse, having little to fear for the time being, with the result that government expenditures will be far higher than projected. It is equally clear that the variety and quality of medical care will be seriously restricted for all concerned.

Collaterally, Obamacare is introducing a new form of government​—​improvisational government, characterized by continuous ad hoc revisions of statutory law by executive decree. This is a reversion to a primitive form that long antedates our Constitution and rule-of-law traditions. Transported to the modern world, it leaves the private sector in a state of constant uncertainty and subjection.

These developments have produced a strong partisan reaction. Republicans are commiserating with individuals who have lost their health insurance or seen their rates increase, and are introducing tactical bills to stay unpopular program elements. Obamacare was a partisan enactment and was designed, clumsily, in such a way as to generate identifiable victims​—​so the partisan response was inevitable and is, up to a point, serving a worthy function of public education.

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Drained of Legitimacy: Liberalism in Crisis

Michael Gerson writes: For liberals, it is a cruel twist of history that Harry Truman’s dream of universal health coverage, carried forward by generations of committed Democrats, should fall to the Obama administration for its fulfillment.Barack Obama seems to have adopted this cause in January 2007 as a lastminute speech insert. “We needed something to say,” one adviser told Politico. “I can’t tell you how little thought was given to that thought other than it sounded good.” Eventually, the Affordable Care Act was passed by a partisan vote, draining the law of legitimacy outside the Democratic Party. Over the next three years, Obama proved incapable of explaining Obamacare’s virtues and its popularity fell. Then its implementation was entrusted to a Cabinet secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, who gratuitously alienated religious groups and massively bungled the law’s rollout.

Obamacare is a multiyear, multifaceted fiasco. It is a case study in how to alienate a country you intend to help. And it could become an intellectual crisis for modern liberalism.

The “glitches” are shockingly serious systemic failures, which were caused, in part, by a political calculation. Read the rest of this entry »

EXACTLY: Urban Institute ‘Delay of the Individual Mandate Would ‘Seriously Disrupt’ Obamacare’

Supporters of the law, of course, consider this a bad thing. But for opponents of the law, it’s the reason Republicans should target the individual mandate.

Obama-Obamacare-SignatureIn July, 22 House Democrats joined House Republicans in passing a bill to delay Obamacare’s requirement that all Americans purchase health insurance by one year, a measure that would save $35 billion. The individual mandate, which Barack Obama opposed during the 2008 Democratic primaries, has never been popular. And the Obama administration’s decision to delay the employer mandate by one year handed opponents of the individual mandate an obvious argument to make: If you’re going give corporations and big businesses a special break, shouldn’t families and individuals get a reprieve, too? Read the rest of this entry »