Wednesday, May 27, 2015


On the op-ed page of The New York Times, Peter Wehner, who's worked in a couple of Republican White Houses, tendentiously makes the case that it's Democrats and not Republicans who have become ideological extremists, all based on a comparison of the Obama and Clinton presidencies. Wehner does demonstrate that there's been a drift leftward, though not a particularly extreme one, especially given where the country is right now on most of the issues he discusses. (If the Obama administration is more tolerant on, say, drug legalization, that's hardly an example of getting ahead of the public.)

But then there's this:
While Mr. Clinton ended one entitlement program (Aid to Families With Dependent Children), Mr. Obama is responsible for creating the Affordable Care Act, the largest new entitlement since the Great Society. He is the first president to essentially nationalize health care.
Really? That's an example of Democrats' drift to the left since the nineties -- the fact that President Obama got a national health care plan enacted?

Did no one at the Times gently remind Wehner that there were, um, efforts made toward enacting a similar national health care program when Bill Clinton was president? Really, it was in all the papers. It was a big deal at the time. A good editor might have saved Wehner from this embarrassing memory lapse -- unless, of course, Wehner's memory is intact and he's hoping his readers won't remember. But he's too honorable a gentleman to pull a stunt like that, right?


UPDATE: Ed Kilgore gives Wehner's op-ed the thorough debunking it deserves.


Victor said...

The Editors should also have reminded him that that notorious Socialist, Richard M. Nixon, also proposed a national health care policy.

aimai said...

Why do they even farm this crap out to propagandists? Can't they get actual journalists to write on the important topics of the day? Whether a party, or a President, has a rightward or leftward drift is irrelevant even to the next election. What matters is what policies they are advocating and how well it ends up jumping with what the electorate wants. Any attempt to pigeonhole candidates or policies merely by their position on a spectrum is a waste of time and a rather obvious effort at "tarring" the candidate with some loaded language (or rather, language that appears loaded and terrifying to the user).

Ed Crotty said...

Medicare Part D under Bush?? That was not a new entitlement? BS. Op-Eds are generally just Lies told by "Experts".

flipyrwhig said...

Furthermore, "Obamacare" is pretty clearly in a rightward/free-market-friendly direction from what Clinton proposed. I don't fault that because without the insurance companies buying in they could have killed the whole thing dead (like they did under Clinton), but that's the reality: what passed under Obama was much less structured like an "entitlement" than what was proposed under Clinton.

BKT said...

I was going to say what Ed Crotty did. However, maybe the Medicare Prescription Drug and Modernization Act was forgotten because Republicans prefer not to remember arguably the worst "entitlement" program ever enacted.

After all, it was such a terrible idea they had to hold the vote open for over 3 hours and lie to their own Republican Congressmen about the costs to get it passed. They actually understated those costs by over $140 Billion to get their own people to buy in. Former US Comptroller General David M. Walker called it "probably the most fiscally irresponsible piece of legislation since the 1960s... because we promise way more than we can afford to keep."

Yastreblyansky said...

Tendentious is the word! And what FlipYrWhig said: It was the least left national health insurance program ever seriously proposed in the US, which is why it passed. Nothing against it, either, I'm really glad we did it, and look forward to its acquiring a more progressive character in the fullness of time, but the bill does not in any sense "nationalize health care", essentially or otherwise. It's a lie.

I don't believe the Times fact checks these things at all. David Brooks, on the in-house part of the page, doesn't even rate a professional proofreading.

Professor Chaos said...

You can tell what a huge lefty Barack Obama is by the fact be passed a healthcare law proposed by the Heritage Foundation!

Yastreblyansky said...

@Professor Chaos, I'm sure you mean well, but the ACA is not one of the plans proposed by Heritage in the late 80s and early 90s (to counter Hillary Clinton's original proposal). The Heritage plans were meant to eliminate the employers' responsibility to provide health insurance through a universal individual mandate; the ACA is meant to require employers to cover the vast majority of workers with decent plans, with an individual mandate only for freelancers and workers in very small companies. It also hugely expands Medicaid, something the Heritage folks would regard with horror, and regulates insurance companies and health care providers in ways that conservatives cannot accept.

Obamacare is not up to the international standard of universal health care programs, but it is a million or so times better than anything out of Heritage. (Nixon's proposal was much closer to Obama's but I don't believe he pushed it seriously until the end, when he was trying to distract the Democrats from impeaching him, and in any case it never made it out of committee.)

For more see the definitive statement by Scott Lemieux.