Friday, June 25, 2010

Yin and Yang

Man, but this is a great contrast ad:

Think Progress: Van Susteren: ‘I Would Never Make The Mistake Of Debating Military Policy And Strategy’ With McCain

This week on Fox News, host Greta Van Susteren challenged Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) argument that Iraq should serve as a model for how the U.S. should stabilize Afghanistan. “But in Iraq, they at least had some form of government, you know, that was not so remotely dissimilar from our own,” Van Susteren asserted. “Afghanistan is a tribal area, where they have different tribes and different families. It’s a different — can we do that?” But McCain wouldn’t back down, suggesting that Afghanistan might be easier to pacify because violence was worse in Iraq at the height of the war there than it currently is in Afghanistan.

Last night talking with Newt Gingrich, Van Susteren scolded herself for disagreeing with McCain:

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator McCain said that I was wrong. And far be it for me to disagree with military policy and strategy with someone like Senator McCain, so I backed off. But they seem to have very different histories to me. [...]

Well, with Senator McCain’s distinguished military career and history, you know, the other option, too, is that my question was inartfully posed and that I didn’t make myself clear because I — you know, I don’t — I would never make the mistake of debating military policy and strategy with Senator McCain.

Watch it:

Van Susteren shouldn’t be so hard on herself. Although McCain appears to view an Iraq-like “surge” as a solution to every military problem, it is not entirely analogous to the current situation in Afghanistan. Indeed, as one administration official said when the White House was debating its new strategy, “We spent a lot of time discussing the fact that the only thing Iraq and Afghanistan have in common is a lot of sand.” And as the New York Times noted:

The Iraq surge worked in large part because there was powerful support in Anbar Province from the so-called Awakening. [...] But a series of intelligence reports supplied to Mr. Obama since September found no evidence in Afghanistan of anything on the scale of the Iraqi Awakening movement. What’s more, in Afghanistan the extremists, the Taliban, are natives.

Military commanders, experts, and even other conservatives have noted the “considerable” differences between pre-surge Iraq and Afghanistan today. Even Gingrich told Van Susteren last night, “Afghanistan must be probably 20 times more complex than Iraq.” “Using the Iraq strategy, may be one that may not be exactly applicable,” Charles Krauthammer said yesterday.

Given how wrong McCain has been on matters of foreign policy and national security in recent years, Van Susteren should have more faith in her ability to challenge him — and any other other lawmaker — on his views.

It wasn't easy, it wasn't quick, and it wasn't pretty, but seemingly-endless negotiations have produced a sweeping Wall Street reform package ready to be approved by both chambers.

Nearly two years after the American financial system teetered on the verge of collapse, Congressional negotiators reached agreement early Friday morning to reconcile competing versions of the biggest overhaul of financial regulations since the Great Depression.

A 20-hour marathon by members of a House-Senate conference committee to complete work on toughened financial regulations culminated at 5:39 a.m. Friday in agreements on the two most contentious parts of the financial regulatory overhaul and a host of other provisions. Along party lines, the House conferees voted 20 to 11 to approve the bill; the Senate conferees voted 7 to 5 to approve.

Members of the conference committee approved proposals to restrict trading by banks for their own benefit and requiring banks and their parent companies to segregate much of their derivatives activities into a separately capitalized subsidiary.

The timing is especially helpful for President Obama, who leaves today for Canada for a G20 meeting, and who wanted to be able to tell global leaders that the United States is poised to complete its work on financial regulatory reform. Now, he'll be able to do just that, and Obama spoke briefly to the press this morning to herald the legislative breakthrough, most notably the new consumer protection agency, and calling the larger package the "toughest" industry regulations in generations.

The NYT's report is worth reading in full, to get a sense of the changes that were made through the negotiations, most notably to the Volcker Rule. Note that while intense industry lobbying influenced the process, and produced "some specific exceptions to new regulations," by and large "the bill's financial regulations not only remained strong but in some cases gained strength."

The House and Senate are expected to bring the conference committee bill to the floor next week. Senate Republicans will very likely launch a filibuster -- they have no shame -- but leaders are confident the legislation will pass.

And in the larger context, this will add to an impressive list of historic accomplishments spanning President Obama's first 18 months in office, a list that will now include Wall Street reform, health care reform, student loan reform, economic recovery, Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, expanded civil rights protections, expanded stem-cell research, new regulation of the credit card industry, new regulation of the tobacco industry, a national service bill, and the most sweeping land-protection act in 15 years, among other things.

Taegan Goddard noted this morning, "Not since FDR has a president done so much to transform the country." That's not a hyperbolic observation in the slightest.

Marshall: Rubio's Crock-Flop

Earlier in the Florida Senate campaign, Marco Rubio pledged his support for full repeal of Health Care Reform. Now he's hedging on that, saying he thinks we should keep the ban on denial for preexisting conditions and allows kids to stay on their parents' plans until they turn 26.

In political terms, that's enough to count as your classic flip-flop. You can see the video here.

But there's a deeper substantive point, which is actually worse, but will likely get less play.

Rubio's position is something like saying on the fancy dinner out, I'm in favor of the food, but not the check. I mean, who isn't? As any policy person or health care economist will tell you, you can't ban denial for pre-existing conditions without getting coverage up towards near-universal if not quite universal terms. You can bash the health care insurers all you want. And they certainly deserve bashing. But the truth is that if you do one and not the other you get a classic adverse selection problem. Healthy people won't get coverage until they become chronically ill. Then they'll sign up. And there's no way their premiums can cover their care. Yes, that's a crude, outline explanation of the problem. But broadly speaking, that's the reality. The economics don't work, no matter how much the insurers take out in profits or waste on inefficiencies.

So basically Rubio's new open-mindedness on Health Care isn't just a flip-flop, which is a political matter, it's a crock which really matters a lot. Because there's no free lunch.

DougJ: Access kills


The most interesting part of my job is that I get to observe powerful people at close quarters. Most people in government, I find, are there because they sincerely want to do good.

This encapsulates everything that is wrong with the modern punditocracy: getting off on access to powerful people and assuming that these powerful people aren’t crooks and charlatans.

By virtue of writing for this blog, I have gotten a few (though not many) high-level pundit-types to return my emails. And it’s amazing how much they buy into the “if you met so-and-so, you’d see he’s really a good guy even if he compares Obama to Hitler every week on the Sunday shows”. For example, I was once told that I couldn’t appreciate what a decent, serious person Newt Gingrich is since I’d never toured inner-city schools with him.

I’ve never seen this kind of naivete from any group of people other than national pundits.

Marshall: Hayworth Throws in the Towel

1. I'm proud of it. 2. Who cares? 3. It's not my fault. 4. I'm sorry.

The four stages of politician grieving, J.D. Hayworth edition. He's now apologized for his 'free money from the government' informercial.

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