The Republicans’ Self-Inflicted Defeat, Part 1

I’m often warned against (mis-)underestimating the Republican Party. I mean sure, they’re at least partially a pack of deranged extremists, and maybe those are the elements that command true media attention. But the party leadership, the ones that truly matter, well they’re a more reasonable bunch, right?

We may now be forgiven for concluding otherwise. Though I’m not one to set much stock by the Iowa Straw Poll — any vote where Ron Paul ends up second is probably not a good predictor of future events — apparently Tim Pawlenty is. Citing his third place finish, he just dropped out of the race.

That’s one moderate, electable candidate felled by radical theocrat Michele Bachmann. Who’s next?

Update: Wonkette nails it.

Make-believe Republican candidate Tim Pawlenty ended his candidacy today in a desperate bid to convince voters he had been running for the GOP nomination.


  1. I was really surprised by this, because I thought third place against Bachmann and Paul was actually a really good result for Pawlenty – much better than I’d expected.

    Who’s next? Who’s next?
    Huntsman is the next to go / And (who knows) maybe Rick Sant-o /
    We’ll try to stay serene and calm / when Michelle Bachman gets the nom… ination.

  2. Did you really just paraphrase Tom Lehrer? I think I love you.

  3. Nothing really matters until New Hampshire. I like seeing Paul in high position though. I would LOVE to see him in a debate with Obama.

  4. Me too! A professor of constitutional law against a guy who’s pretty sure he’s operating under the Articles of Confederation. Fun.

  5. How often does Constitutional law come up in the general election debates? I would say…never? But broad policy discussions in the midst of an evironment where the electorate is becoming increasingly aware that President Obama seems to be revealing himself as a Reagan Democrat? That could be extremely interesting. More than anything I think the foreign policy questions would allow Paul to run roughshod on the President.

  6. What do you think the “Obamacare” debate is?

  7. The courts are settling the constitutionality of that now.

    By next summer it will be a dead issue.

  8. Not so (the cert process is a slow one), and even if it was, the GOP’s neo-tentherism writ large is a constitutional issue.

  9. And yet it is highly unlikely to come up. General elections are remarkably boring for the unwillingness of candidates to engage in difficult conversations. The President will be no different.

  10. This is a pointless debate. Suffice it to say that constitutional issues have *routinely* come up in past presidential debates — habeas? — and my money’s on this one coming up in the next cycle, unless the Court kicks itself into gear and issues a decision before the election.

    (Which they won’t. They’d have to take cert. in the next few months, schedule argument by late winter, and decide before the summer recess.)

  11. If Obama spends the whole general election arguing the Constituionality of the mandate – and then it gets struck down (even if it’s after the election) he looks like a dummy. I doubt he will want to talk about it that much, especially when it benefits him more to see the mandate struck down.

  12. Care to explain how it benefits him to see it struck down?

    1. I think i’ve explained it here before but it’s pretty simple really. The President wants universal healthcare. That is his stated long-term goal. The individual mandate was a compromise position with the Right. If it is struck down then the conversation swings back to public vs. private in a more pure form.The President can have a new conversation where he states the true intent of creating single-payer. This would be a more pure battle between liberalism and conservatism and one would think the president would have a loud voice in that discussion. The public would then decide and we can put this to bed.

      Of course, I know which way the public would go so maybe i’m a bit biased.

      1. Mike,
        The President doesn’t want universal healthcare – if he did, it would have remained in the bill. As a matter of fact, no Democratic Party “leader” wants universal healthcare. Just as the deficit bill was what Obama really wanted, so the Affordable Care Act was what the President really wanted. To pretend otherwise is to ignore both the actions of the President during its legislation, and the larger forces that have co-opted both Parties.

        1. Obama, Pelosi and Reid are all on record as stating that universal healthcare is the end-goal. Now whether or not those were truthful statements or simply political posturing is subject to debate.

          1. Obama, Pelosi and Reid are all on record…

            I believe it is customary to supply references at this point, just to be sure of what they said.

              1. Do you happen to have anything that is not quotemined out of all recognition?

                1. I don’t really see how much more clear it would be. Obama states that he is in favor of universal healthcare. Frank’s quote is very similar to quotes made by the other members of Congress who believe that the public option was the first step towards universal coverage. They assumed that when it was offered people would be flocking to it in droves and see the light on government-provided healthcare.

                  That hasn’t happened.

              2. Beat me to it, Lanfranc! The one clip from 2009 cuts off right before Obama explicitly rejects your pet theory. The remainder are either from Barney Frank or Pelosi — neither of whom, my aides inform me, is Barack Obama — or descriptions of a plan to which you can show no modern successor.

                1. Here’s the whole quote:

                  “”I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer universal health care program. I see no reason why the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, spending 14 percent of its gross national product on health care, cannot provide basic health insurance to everybody. And that’s what Jim is talking about when he says everybody in, nobody out. A single-payer health care plan, a universal health care plan. That’s what I’d like to see. But as all of you know, we may not get there immediately. Because first we’ve got to take back the White House, we’ve got to take back the Senate, and we’ve got to take back the House.”

                    1. I never said he hadn’t nuanced his position. I said that his goal is universal healthcare. I don’t believe that has changed. I think he is taking incremental steps.

                      But I find it interesting the way that true-blue liberals are running away from the mere suggestion. You guys support universal coverage, don’t you? So why are you hiding from it?

                    2. Hey, I already have universal health care, so in the end, I don’t really care that much. I’m just not convinced that these categorical statements accurately reflect the President’s position on the issue – especially not when they’re based on 8 years old heavily quotemined statements made God knows where.

                    3. So you honestly believe that the President, in the privacy of his own thoughts, wouldn’t prefer there to be single-payer?

                    4. Being neither a mindreader nor a pundit, I really don’t think I have any business speculating on what happens in the privacy of the President’s thoughts.

                    5. But you can also simply read his quote above where he specifically says he supports single-payer. I don’t think that opinion has changed. He’s just become more realistic about how hard it will be.

            1. I’m not going to dig for the other ones. I’ve posted them here before.

              1. Good luck with that! Liking the idea of universal healthcare, remember, is not the same of wanting to GET there by single-payer.

                And it hasn’t happened because you guys killed the public option by convincing the public it was Nazi fascism/socialism or some such, without permitting any debate on the merits.

                1. The public option is available and yet no one is signing up. McArdle has documented this and I know I’ve shared it here. It’s not surprising. My in-laws (both of whom have a PhD) spent MONTHS trying to figure out Medicare when they turned 65. It’s an extremely complicated system that no one in their right mind would willing tackle.

                  1. Well, if your in-laws don’t want complicated systems, maybe they should indeed consider supporting a single-payer system.

                    You get a doctor’s appointment, you go get treated, and then you go home. That’s it. Doesn’t get much more uncomplicated than that.

                    1. Interestingly – that is EXACTLY how my private insurance works.

                    2. Yeah. Right up until the time when your insurance company decides to challenge a treatment, or decides it has really paid more than enough for you over your lifetime, or you lose your job, or something else bad happens. Then things might get a little more complicated.

                    3. So the government will never challenge a treatment?

                      I am on record as supporting gap coverage for the unemployed.

                2. That’s Medicare. Which people sign up for and use in droves, your anecdote about some guys you know notwithstanding.

                  1. Most employer-provided insurance plans stop at 65. You know that…right?

  13. Mike: How often does Constitutional law come up in the general election debates? I would say…never?

    It seems to me the Republicans talk about the Constitution all the time. But I guess you could argue what they say does not have much to do with the law.

    1. What you all forget is that there are moderators in those debates and they usually do a pretty good job of focusing on substance in the questioning.

  14. Mike, you’re confusing your terminology. Universal health care is the end and just means that everyone has insurance. Single payer/public option are means to that end.

    1. Ames – we both know what 2003 Obama meant.

    2. You’re right, we do. He meant what he said — “universal coverage” — not “single payer.”

      1. Why would someone feel the need to go on record as saying, “I support everyone having medical coverage?”

        That’s sort of a no-brainer for politicians, especially if you are a Democrat.

        No, he was clarifying his support for single-payer. And he sort of proves it here:

      2. If he doesn’t mean ‘single-payer’ then why does he keep saying ‘single-payer’?

      3. That video is from an event in 2003.

        Seriously dude, really?

        Also, “support” is different from “has serious, immediate, or even long-term plans to get there.” I support the notion of me having kids, but I sure as Hell won’t bring it up on a first date. I support getting rid of the electoral college altogether, but I’ve taken no steps to have that realized.

        What you want to prove is that there’s a slippery slope from the current bill to single-payer. To get there, you posit that (1) Obama’s goals in 2003 remain unchanged and (2) undiluted by the sort of pragmatism that would actually prevent him from advocating for it in the near future, (3) that he knew the Supreme Court would strike down “ObamaCare,” (4) that his response would be to push single-payer on a public that bristled at the public option (thanks to your truly shocking rabble-rousing) and (5) that he thinks he’d win that fight.

        Do you really expect us to swallow that implausible line of events?

        1. Can we at least get it out of the way that contrary to your claim, he DID mean single-payer (since he said that phrase repeatedly)?

          Also – he said that in order to get there Democrats need to take Congress and the WH. That sounds like a little more than a fantasy. It sounds like he is laying out steps for how to get there.

          As for any theories I have – I never said that his plan remains unchanged. What I said was that I think it would benefit the cause of the Left to let the madate die and then push for true universal coverage. And this isn’t concern trolling. My honest belief is that the public always respects a straight-forward approach more than backdoor nonsense. That’s why the Right is pretty honest about our longterm goals on abortion. To pretend otherwise weakens credibility.

          As for the President’s actual plans, personally I think he has found his own leadership to be so poor that he has privately abandoned all hope of real HC reform. He will defend his accomplishments in an effort to get re-elected and then I doubt we will hear about it again in his presidency.

        2. He said “single payer” repeatedly — in 2003.

          In 2003, I wanted to be a theoretical physicist.

          1. In 2003 he was a politician. In 2011 he is still a politician. But regardless, you intentionally tried to skew the meaning of his comments in 2003 because you missed the part where he said ‘single-payer’ repeatedly. Just admit you were wrong. Humility is good for the soul.

          2. I refer you to my immediately prior comment, which reads:

            He said “single payer” repeatedly — in 2003.

            Now, can you admit that peoples’ minds sometimes change in the space of eight years, especially when that time is punctuated by major life events, like going from unheard-of backbencher to the President of the United States? Sometimes as the product of a genuine change of heart?

            For example, you should’ve seen my hair in 2003.

            1. I guess that is as close as I’ll get to an admission of error so I’ll take it.

              Well of course I understand that people’s opinions change which is why I’m quite sure I cautioned you about the unbridled optimism of your youth back in 2008.

              As I said, my belief is that Obama still wants single-payer but now knows it won’t happen on his watch because he did such a terible job on the first go-round. He’s tempered his expectations to accept the crappy bill he got and he’ll do his best at selling it next year and call it ‘progress’.

              1. …because he did such a terible job on the first go-round.

                Even if Obama didn’t get everythng he wanted, the “crappy bill” is still the largest health care reform since Johnson. I think he can be pretty satisfied, all things considered.

                1. Large doesn’t equal good.

                  1. I’m not sure what your point is there, but Obama got a lot of the things done that he was aiming for. Even if some other parts weren’t possible at the time, that doesn’t mean he, and the Democrats, should be dissatisfied with what they actually got.

              2. And, it’s hard to say he didn’t do the absolute best he could’ve done, given the immovable objects plunked into his way by Republicans more interested in kicking him out of office than doing something good for the country.

                1. Bush was interested in fixing SS. How did that work out? Politics are hard.

                2. Yeah, I’ve heard your sob story. The difference is, we were right. I rather see the past six years as vindication. Tying SS to the very economy Bush subsequently destroyed wouldn’t have been a model of prudence.

                  1. So then you don’t believe that SS needs to be reformed?

                    1. Not in the manner proposed by Mr. Bush, no I don’t.

                    2. So then where was the counter-proposal by the Left?

                    3. If I recall, SS reform was as much killed by Republicans (Frist?) as by Democrats. Just no-one liked the damn plan, and the public sense was that it wasn’t a crisis at the time.

                    4. Plenty of Democrats voted against HCR. Are we really going to go there?

                    5. But leadership wanted to bring it to a vote, and did. That’s precisely what did NOT happen, ever, with social security reform.

                      Yeah, there were some Democrats who were against HCR, too. But that’st he import of having ideological diversity in one’s party. It’s been a while since you guys have had the same, so, probably understandable that you can’t recognize it.

                    6. A lot of those Democrats probably voted against because the HCR didn’t go far enough, not because they were against it as such.

                  2. The GOP was delighted to have the vote on HCR – believe me.

                    1. Obviously. Screeching about its “socialism” deprived them of any need to generate policy ideas of their own in advance of the midterms.

                    2. And what was the reason that the Left didn’t provide a counter-proposal on SS?

  15. Mke: So the government will never challenge a treatment?

    It doesn’t really work like that, because the health care sector (with the exception of a few private hospitals) are effectively a part of the government. So hospitals and most other providers don’t have to be reimbursed on a treatment-by-treatment basis; rather, they get a yearly budget which allows them to establish a certain capacity based on projections of patient numbers. So individual patients never get involved in the finances at all, except of course to pay for some prescription medicine and such.

    Of course, what can happen is that a hospital runs over capacity, in which case they’ll have to either exceed their budget (not popular), ask patients to go to another hospital with available capacity, or in less serious cases wait until there’s capacity available again. But life-threatening conditions will always be treated with no questions asked, and several other types of conditions are covered by a statutory guarantee of treatment within a certain period of time.

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