Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Goodbye Karl Rove....Good-Riddence

NYtimes editorial in full:

The New York Times
August 14, 2007
Op-Ed Contributor
Building a Coalition, Forgetting to Rule
By DAVID FRUM

AS a political strategist, Karl Rove offered a brilliant answer to the wrong question.

The question he answered so successfully was a political one: How could Republicans win elections after Bill Clinton steered the Democrats to the center?

The question he unfortunately ignored was a policy question: What does the nation need — and how can conservatives achieve it?

Mr. Rove answered his chosen question by courting carefully selected constituencies with poll-tested promises: tax cuts for traditional conservatives; the No Child Left Behind law for suburban moderates; prescription drugs for anxious seniors; open immigration for Hispanics; faith-based programs for evangelicals and Catholics.

These programs often contradicted each other. How do you cut taxes and also create a big new prescription drug benefit? If the schools are failing to educate the nation’s poor, how does it make sense to expand that population by opening the door to even more low-wage immigration?

Instead of seeking solutions to national problems, “compassionate conservatism” started with slogans and went searching for problems to justify them. To what problem, exactly, was the faith-based initiative a solution?

This was a politics of party-building and coalition-assembly. It was a politics that aimed at winning elections. It was a politics that treated the problems of governance as secondary. But of course governance is what incumbents get judged on — and since 2004, the negative verdict on President Bush’s governance has created a lethal political environment for Republican candidates.

Inspiring rhetoric and solemn promises can do only so much for an incumbent administration. Can it win wars? Can it respond to natural disasters? Can it safeguard the nation’s borders? Can it fill positions of responsibility with worthy appointees? If it cannot do those things, not even the most sophisticated get-out-the-vote operation can save it.

This is not to say Karl Rove’s detractors have him pegged. For instance, they often accuse him of practicing “wedge politics” and fomenting “polarization.” They never seem to understand that polarization and wedge politics are very different things, indeed direct opposites.

Wedge politics unites a large constituency on one side, while splitting the coalition on the other side. In the 1970s, crime was a wedge issue: pushing white urban Democrats away from their black and liberal New Deal allies. In this strict sense, the only wedge issue Mr. Rove deployed was immigration, and he deployed it against his own side, dividing business donors from the conservative voting base.

Polarization, however, is Karl Rove’s specialty. He united his own base on one side — and united his opponents on the other. Al Gore and John Kerry each won 48 percent, the best back-to-back performance by a losing party since the 19th century. Play-to-the-base politics can be a smart strategy — so long as your base is larger than your opponents’.

But it has been apparent for many years that the Democratic base is growing faster than the Republican base. The numbers of the unmarried and the non-churchgoing are growing faster than the numbers of married and church-going Americans. The nonwhite and immigrant population is growing at a faster rate than that of white native-borns. The Democrats are the party of the top and bottom of American society; the Republicans do best in the great American middle, which is losing ground.

Mr. Rove often reminded me of a miner extracting the last nuggets from an exhausted seam. His attempts to prospect a new motherlode have led the Republican party into the immigration debacle.

In my brief service as a speechwriter inside the Bush administration, I often wondered why it was that skeptical experts on issues like immigration could never get even a hearing for their point of view. We took the self-evident brilliance of our plans so much for granted that we would not even meet, for example, with conservative academics who had the facts and figures to demonstrate the illusion of Rovian hopes for a breakthrough among Hispanic voters. We were so mesmerized by the specious analogies between 1996 and 1896 that we forgot that analogies are literary devices, not evidence.

In 2006, Republicans and conservatives paid the price for this we-know-best attitude. I fear that we will pay an even higher price in 2008.

Building coalitions is essential to political success. But it is not the same thing as political success. The point of politics is to elect governments, and political organizations are ultimately judged by the quality of government they deliver. Paradoxically, the antigovernment conservatives of the 1980s took the problems of government far more seriously than the pro-government conservatives of the 2000s.

The outlook is not, however, entirely bleak for Republicans. I notice that much of the Democratic party, and especially its activist netroots, has decided that the way to beat Rove Republicanism is by emulating it. They are practicing the politics of polarization; they are elevating “framing” above policy; they have decided that winning the next election by any means is all that matters — and never mind what happens on the day after that.

If they follow this path, they should not be surprised when they discover that it leads to the same destination.

David Frum, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of the forthcoming “Comeback: Conservatism That Can Win Again.”

clipped from www.nytimes.com

Building a Coalition, Forgetting to Rule

AS a political strategist, Karl Rove offered a brilliant answer to the wrong question.


The question he answered so successfully was a political one: How could Republicans win elections after Bill Clinton steered the Democrats to the center?

The question he unfortunately ignored was a policy question: What does the nation need — and how can conservatives achieve it?

Mr. Rove answered his chosen question by courting carefully selected constituencies with poll-tested promises: tax cuts for traditional conservatives; the No Child Left Behind law for suburban moderates; prescription drugs for anxious seniors; open immigration for Hispanics; faith-based programs for evangelicals and Catholics.
This was a politics of party-building and coalition-assembly. It was a politics that aimed at winning elections. It was a politics that treated the problems of governance as secondary.
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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Fear and Loathing in Middle America

Looks like a good read.
clipped from www.alternet.org

Fear and Loathing in Middle America



By
Sasha Abramsky, The American Prospect. Posted July 30, 2007.


Author Joe Bageant's "Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War" gets down and dirty with the hardship economics in Middle America.
Bageant grew up in a fundamentalist Christian, ultra-working-class family in a claustrophobic little Virginia town named Winchester. Then, in his own terminology, he made his escape. He moved west and made a pretty decent career for himself in the world of journalism. A few years ago, though, he felt a craving for his childhood home and, now deep into middle-age, decided to relocate once more.
Joe returned home, to a landscape dominated by rabid, demon-battling fundamentalists (including his younger brother, a fire-and-brimstone preacher); NASCAR; overpriced mobile homes; greasy food; depressing, dead-end, anti-union workplaces; and gung-ho patriots whose pick-up trucks boast bumper stickers such as "Kick their ass. Take their gas."
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Thursday, August 02, 2007

An Immoral Philosophy

Here's the entire post:

AlterNet
An Immoral Philosophy
By Paul Krugman, The New York Times
Posted on August 1, 2007, Printed on August 2, 2007
http://www.alternet.org/story/58501/

When a child is enrolled in the State Children's Health Insurance Program (Schip), the positive results can be dramatic. For example, after asthmatic children are enrolled in Schip, the frequency of their attacks declines on average by 60 percent, and their likelihood of being hospitalized for the condition declines more than 70 percent.

Regular care, in other words, makes a big difference. That's why Congressional Democrats, with support from many Republicans, are trying to expand Schip, which already provides essential medical care to millions of children, to cover millions of additional children who would otherwise lack health insurance.

But President Bush says that access to care is no problem -- "After all, you just go to an emergency room" -- and, with the support of the Republican Congressional leadership, he's declared that he'll veto any Schip expansion on "philosophical" grounds.

It must be about philosophy, because it surely isn't about cost. One of the plans Mr. Bush opposes, the one approved by an overwhelming bipartisan majority in the Senate Finance Committee, would cost less over the next five years than we'll spend in Iraq in the next four months. And it would be fully paid for by an increase in tobacco taxes.

The House plan, which would cover more children, is more expensive, but it offsets Schip costs by reducing subsidies to Medicare Advantage -- a privatization scheme that pays insurance companies to provide coverage, and costs taxpayers 12 percent more per beneficiary than traditional Medicare.

Strange to say, however, the administration, although determined to prevent any expansion of children's health care, is also dead set against any cut in Medicare Advantage payments.

So what kind of philosophy says that it's O.K. to subsidize insurance companies, but not to provide health care to children?

Well, here's what Mr. Bush said after explaining that emergency rooms provide all the health care you need: "They're going to increase the number of folks eligible through Schip; some want to lower the age for Medicare. And then all of a sudden, you begin to see a -- I wouldn't call it a plot, just a strategy -- to get more people to be a part of a federalization of health care."

Now, why should Mr. Bush fear that insuring uninsured children would lead to a further "federalization" of health care, even though nothing like that is actually in either the Senate plan or the House plan? It's not because he thinks the plans wouldn't work. It's because he's afraid that they would. That is, he fears that voters, having seen how the government can help children, would ask why it can't do the same for adults.

And there you have the core of Mr. Bush's philosophy. He wants the public to believe that government is always the problem, never the solution. But it's hard to convince people that government is always bad when they see it doing good things. So his philosophy says that the government must be prevented from solving problems, even if it can. In fact, the more good a proposed government program would do, the more fiercely it must be opposed.

This sounds like a caricature, but it isn't. The truth is that this good-is-bad philosophy has always been at the core of Republican opposition to health care reform. Thus back in 1994, William Kristol warned against passage of the Clinton health care plan "in any form," because "its success would signal the rebirth of centralized welfare-state policy at the very moment that such policy is being perceived as a failure in other areas."

But it has taken the fight over children's health insurance to bring the perversity of this philosophy fully into view.

There are arguments you can make against programs, like Social Security, that provide a safety net for adults. I can respect those arguments, even though I disagree. But denying basic health care to children whose parents lack the means to pay for it, simply because you're afraid that success in insuring children might put big government in a good light, is just morally wrong.

And the public understands that. According to a recent Georgetown University poll, 9 in 10 Americans -- including 83 percent of self-identified Republicans -- support an expansion of the children's health insurance program.

There is, it seems, more basic decency in the hearts of Americans than is dreamt of in Mr. Bush's philosophy.

clipped from www.alternet.org
An Immoral Philosophy

By
Paul Krugman, The New York Times. Posted August 1, 2007.

What kind of philosophy says that it's O.K. to subsidize insurance companies, but not to provide health care to children?

When a child is enrolled in the State Children's Health Insurance Program (Schip), the positive results can be dramatic. For example, after asthmatic children are enrolled in Schip, the frequency of their attacks declines on average by 60 percent, and their likelihood of being hospitalized for the condition declines more than 70 percent.
Regular care, in other words, makes a big difference. That's why Congressional Democrats, with support from many Republicans, are trying to expand Schip
But President Bush says that access to care is no problem -- "After all, you just go to an emergency room" -- and, with the support of the Republican Congressional leadership, he's declared that he'll veto any Schip expansion on "philosophical" grounds.
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Native of the Philadelphia "Kensington and Alleganey" northeast area. I spent 4 years in the Air Force (Titan-II missles in Tuscon Arizona). I Am currently retired, and among other adventures I spent 28 years working for AT&T in Telecommunications. I've lived in Florida for 33 years....20 years in Hollywood Fla., and 13 years North Florida. I've been married 42 years, and am a proud father of three adult offspring. All of them contributing to society in a very useful and creative manner.