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Bill Kristol

Bill Kristol

Good morning, class. Since this is the middle of the week, it’s time for a pop quiz. Not to panic! It’s a simple same/different exercise. You’re going to see two items, and all you need to do is point what’s the same between the two, and what’s different.

Ready? Here’s the first:

Insurance Plan A

  • Utilizes private insurance carriers
  • Utilizes Medicare to insure the elderly
  • Expands Medicaid to insure the poor
  • Provides subsidies to low-income individuals
  • Provides subsidies to small employers
  • Creates state-based private insurance exchanges to make insurance more accessible and more affordable to individuals and small businesses

Got it? Here’s the second:

Insurance Plan B

  • Utilizes private insurance carriers
  • Utilizes Medicare to insure the elderly
  • Expands Medicaid to insure the poor
  • Provides subsidies to low-income individuals
  • Provides subsidies to small employers
  • Creates state-based private insurance exchanges to make insurance more accessible and more affordable to individuals and small businesses

All done? Great.

Question? There is no difference between Plan A and Plan B, you say? Plan B looks like Plan A, and they both look like President Obama’s Affordable Care Act?

Very observant. And absolutely correct, up to a point.

Plan B is indeed the basic layout of ObamaCare.

But Plan A is the basic layout for the Comprehensive Health Insurance Plan (CHIP), proposed by President Richard Nixon in 1974.

But wait, you say. If the ideas are good enough to become the Affordable Care Act in 2009, why weren’t they good enough to become the law in 1974?

Excellent question! Shows good thinking skills! The main reason CHIP didn’t get passed was just that nearly every legislator in Washington was trying to jump on that particular bandwagon, but they all had their version of what a healthcare act should be. So nothing was agreed on, and so nothing got passed. And then Nixon got caught up with Watergate, so health care became less of an issue.

Question from the back of the room? If these ideas got supported by Republicans in 1974, you ask, why aren’t Republicans supporting these ideas when they’re called ObamaCare? Same basic ideas, no?

Superb question! And, yes indeed, same basic ideas. Also the same basic ideas that Willard “Mitt” Romney put into action during his one term as Governor of Massachusetts. So, just like ObamaCare is essentially Nixon’s CHIP with a few tweaks, An Act Providing Access to Affordable, Quality, Accountable Health Care, to give RomneyCare its formal title, is CHIP with a few tweaks.

So, why is it that Republicans have flailed so long and so mightily against Democratic health care plans that were basically fine-tuned versions of their own plans?

Two word answer: Bill Kristol. At least, partly.

This would be the same Bill Kristol that helped found the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) back in the 90s. Along with soon-to-be Bush administration officials like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, and a gaggle of others, like Dan Quayle and religion/morality entrepreneur Gary Bauer, Kristol felt that it was America’s right and duty to push around countries and governments we didn’t like.

The same Bill Kristol who helped sell the Bush Administration on the Iraq War, which he promised would only last two months, max.

Because to Bill Kristol, the ObamaCare fight, like the one over President Clinton’s Health Security Act before it, isn��t at all about the best way to get health care to Americans; whether their plan is better, or ours is better.

It’s simply about ideology. His side has to look like the winners. Conservatism must be seen to be superior, and so they can’t let the other side look like they’re winning anything.

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This legislative scorched-earth policy was clearly explained in a strategy paper Kristol wrote in 1993 for a freshly-hatched group called Project for a Republican Future. Notice how closely Kristol’s ideas about fighting President Clinton’s health care programs match the tactics Republicans used to fight President Obama’s health care program.

Says Kristol,

“Any Republican urge to negotiate a ‘least bad’ compromise with the Democrats, and thereby gain momentary public credit for helping the president ‘do something’ about health care, should also be resisted. . .

Its success would signal a rebirth of centralized welfare-state policy at the very moment we have begun rolling back that idea in other areas. And, not least, it would destroy the present breadth and quality of the American health care system, still the world's finest. On grounds of national policy alone, the plan should not be amended; it should be erased.

But the Clinton proposal is also a serious political threat to the Republican Party. Republicans must therefore clearly understand the political strategy implicit in the Clinton plan--and then adopt an aggressive and uncompromising counterstrategy designed to delegitimize the proposal and defeat its partisan purpose.

 . . .its passage in the short run will do nothing to hurt (and everything to help) Democratic electoral prospects in 1996. But the long-term political effects of a successful Clinton health care bill will be even worse--much worse. It will relegitimize middle-class dependence for ‘security’ on government spending and regulation. It will revive the reputation of the party that spends and regulates, the Democrats, as the generous protector of middle-class interests. And it will at the same time strike a punishing blow against Republican claims to defend the middle class by restraining government.”

Substitute the name Obama for Clinton and adjust the years, and we see the same threadbare tropes dragged out about “world’s finest healthcare system,” “government spending,” “welfare state,” and “dependence” ad nauseum.

The important point—actually the only point Kristol makes—is that if ObamaCare is passed, people will like it. And people will realize that Democrats gave them healthcare and the Republicans didn’t. Just like the Democrats give Americans a better life by passing Social Security, Medicare, and voting rights; and people liked those.

So people will like the Democrats and not the Republicans.

So they can’t let that happen.

So, just to keep this embarrassment from happening, to spare themselves the tarnish on their ideological purity, the Republicans chose to listen to their continuously discredited prophet Bill Kristol. And have spent tens of millions of our dollars on filibustering, shutdowns, and other temper tantrum-level tactics. At the expense of creating jobs or getting the economy back on track. All to try to convince Americans that the Conservative Republican Emperor really is wearing some clothes.

In some circles, the Republican Party still calls itself The Party of Lincoln.

But the Abraham Lincoln most of us know is the one who used his Second Inaugural Address to remind us

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Sounds like somebody on the Repub side could use a history lesson.

john macmurray

Mr. Kristol, meet Mr. Lincoln.

John MacMurray

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