‘Hyper-ideological’

‘HYPER-IDEOLOGICAL’…. I didn’t see it myself, but reliable sources confirm that conservative David Frum was on CNN yesterday, criticizing President Obama’s handling of the health care debate. As Frum sees it, the White House was wrong to embrace the House Democrats’ bill, which he said is “hyper-ideological.”

Watching the process unfold over the last several months, I’m struck by how the majority party hasn’t been “ideological” at all. For example, from the very beginning, Democratic leaders — in both chambers and on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue — have refused to even consider a single-payer system. In the ensuing months, they’ve made concessions to Blue Dogs; they’ve encouraged the unproductive Gang of Six talks; they’ve given Max Baucus disproportionate influence over the process; they’ve acquiesced to a series of requests for unnecessary delays; and they’ve repeatedly expressed a willingness to craft a bill that garners Republican support.

If this is “hyper-ideological,” I shudder to think what David Frum considers “conciliatory.”

To be fair, Frum was specifically criticizing the House health care bill. Jonathan Cohn notes that this isn’t right, either.

[The House bill] leaves the employer system largely in place, then creates a marketplace in which people without employer coverage can choose from among a selection of private plans.

In other words, it’s nothing more than a fleshed out version of what Obama and the other Democratic candidates proposed during the presidential campaign. It’s also what Max Baucus outlined in a white paper he issued shortly after the presidential election. And Baucus is not exactly the first name that leaps to mind when you think “hyper-liberalism.”

Yes, the House bill has a public insurance plan to compete with private plans in the exchange. But the public plan itself is a compromise for lawmakers who’d prefer a true single-payer plan. And the House version is actually weaker than many proponents would prefer.

Frum’s analysis is nevertheless largely in line with his ideological ally, David Brooks, who offered a related argument yesterday. Kevin Drum offers a helpful stroll down recent memory lane.

You’d think that Obama had been working in a vacuum or something. There’s not even the briefest mention of the primary cause for all this: the deliberate decision by the Republican Party to hand over the reins to its most extreme wing and adopt a scorched earth counterattack to Obama’s entire agenda. He agreed to cut the stimulus package by $100 billion and put 40% of it into tax cuts. That cut no ice. Democrats proposed a cap-and-trade proposal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions because it uses market mechanisms instead of crude command-and-control directives — and then adopted hundreds of compromises to water it down. Didn’t matter. Max Baucus has been “negotiating” over healthcare reform with Republicans in the Senate for months and Obama has been careful not to criticize. But that turned out to be a charade. Tim Geithner’s financial bailout plan was limited and business friendly. No matter.

It’s a reminder that it’s simply impossible for Democratic policymakers to satisfy the demands of their conservative detractors. Short of the president literally becoming a Republican, there’s nothing they can do. Every concession, every compromise, every watered-down proposal is deemed an outrageous, socialistic abuse that will destroy the country.