- The Washington Times - Monday, August 3, 2009

COLD AIR

Could a national Republican Party resurgence come from the frozen climes of the North? Possibly, explains Ed Morrissey in a blog at HotAir.com, citing Minnesota political specialist Eric Ostermeier.

“It took four years of George Bush’s second term to push Republicans to a recent nadir in registration in Minnesota. It only took six months of Barack Obama to push the GOP back into parity with the DFL, the state’s Democratic Party. Eric Ostermeier at Smart Politics looks at the suddenly stronger Republican Party and draws at least one of the correct conclusions,” Mr. Morrissey writes.

“Eric explains that the change has come quickly. In four earlier polls this year, Democrats had double-digit leads on party ID in Minnesota, including as late as June, when the gap was 13 points. That’s how much ground Republicans have gained - in a month.”

“What happened? The CBO began scoring ObamaCare, and the House shoved cap-and-tax down the throats of Republicans. Even after Porkulus, people clung to the belief that Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid represented a moderate middle rather than a radical Left, and that their leadership would focus on prosperity rather than socialism. After June and July, those pretenses disappeared, even in Minnesota.”

So is this the Republican 50-state strategy?: Give Democrat leaders enough rope. Mr. Morrissey sees potential: “This shows that Republicans can beat Democrats by focusing on their overreach, and by having common-sense alternatives that support prosperity rather than destroying it. Even in Minnesota, people can learn those lessons, which says something for a state that just sent Al Franken to the Senate. If we see this trend in Minnesota, you can bet it’s happening in plenty of other states, too.”

BLAZING GUNS

Sen. Mark Udall, Colorado Democrat, is sticking by his latest pro-gun vote in an Op-Ed published in his home-state’s biggest paper, the Denver Post.

The paper took him to task for voting to support a measure that would have allowed residents to carry concealed firearms across state lines. But Mr. Udall said the paper oversimplified the vote.

“The Denver Post suggests that I rethink my vote for legislation that would allow individuals who legally acquire a concealed firearm permit in their state to carry their firearm when they travel to other states. [“Senators misfire on gun measure,” July 24 editorial],” Mr. Udall writes.

“While the Denver Post did not acknowledge it, the legislation also required that a person holding an out-of-state permit also comply with state laws governing the specific places and manner in which firearms may be carried. It was not a writ of immunity for anyone committing a crime with a gun,” as Mr. Udall characterized the Post’s initial editorial.

“Gun issues are controversial. They spark heated debate and inflame public opinion. When these issues come up, one can choose to fan the emotional flames, or one can objectively consider the facts.”

HARD COUNT

DavidShribman at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has some archaic political advice for President Obama and congressional Democrats: Watch the count on health care, citing the lopsided margins by which Social Security in 1935 and Medicare in 1965 passed.

“Here are some numbers that you need to remember as you watch President Barack Obama and Congress wrangle over a blizzard of figures at the heart of a proposed dramatic overhaul of the way Americans receive their health care: 372-33, 77-6, 307-116 and 70-24.

“These numbers are vital to understanding the American political system, if not the American medical system, and anyone who overlooks them is forgetting an important quality of the way Americans have governed themselves and cared for themselves as they grow old and infirm. Why should that ancient history be of concern to President Obama and Congress today? … These votes assured that Social Security and Medicare were regarded as mainstream landmarks in American social history. As a result, these two remarkable programs swiftly became accepted as unremarkable aspects of American life,” Mr. Shribman writes.

Health care legislation appears likely to be pushed off until after Congress returns from recess, and trouble negotiating between the Democratic Party’s liberal and moderate-to-conservative wings have made vote-grabs tough for leadership. Congressional Republicans have also put down their stakes, blasting Democratic proposals, making large bipartisan pickups unlikely.

Even though Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson had larger Democratic majorities than exist today, Mr. Shribman acknowledged, it was still the case that “a majority of Republicans in both houses supported Social Security in 1935 and a majority of Republicans in the House supported Medicare in 1965. (The Medicare legislation in the Senate failed to win a Republican majority by only four votes.) Let’s hope Washington keeps this in mind.”

COUNT BACK

Wall Street Journal scribe Peggy Noonan imagines what an old Democratic powerhouse would tell President Obama as his hypothetical protege, and it doesn’t sound good.

“If Franklin Delano Roosevelt, president of the United States through the Great Depression and World War II - if FDR, that canny old political operator, that shrewd judger of men, that merry spinner (‘First thing we do is deny we were in Philadelphia!’) that cold calculator (he put in JoeKennedy to head the first Securities and Exchange Commission, setting the fox among the foxes), that patient and knowing waiter-outer of events - if FDR were advising President Obama right now … He might look at the lay of the land and tell Mr. Obama something like this:

“My friend, you’re in a bit of a fix. Falling polls, decreasing support for health care. Beyond that, you’re stuck in a bit of a lose-lose. If you don’t get a bill along the lines you’ve announced, you’ll look ineffective and weak - a loser. If, on the other hand, you win, if you get what you asked for, it will all be a mess and all be on you. The system will be overwhelmed, the government won’t be able to execute properly, the costs will be huge. The new regime will thoroughly discombobulate things just in time for everyone’s complaints to reach a crescendo by Election Day 2010.”

So what’s a health care crusader to do? Build on the past and the present, says FDR-via-Noonan.

“But I have an idea, and hear me out. You already have Medicare, a single-payer national health care system for those 65 and older. Little Harry Truman was the first American to get a Medicare card in 1965, did you know that? LBJ hauled him in for a ceremony. Anyway, Americans like Medicare. So here’s the plan. From here on in, every day, start talking about it: ‘Medicare this, Medicare that, Medicare.’ Get your people in Congress to focus on making the system ‘healthier.’ It’s rife with waste, fraud and abuse, everyone knows that. …

“Then, at the end, get your Democratic majorities to make one little change in the program - it’s now open to all. You don’t have to be 65. The uninsured can enroll. Do it in the dead of night if you have to, you’ve got the votes. And then, and only because you’ve all made so many institutional and structural changes, you’ll have to give Medicare a new name. I’d suggest ‘The National Health Service.’ Voila. You now have the single-payer system you wanted.”

Tom LoBianco can be reached at 202/636-4891 or tlobianco@washingtontimes.com.

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