- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 17, 2009

WORDS OF WISDOM

“When House Democrats gathered on Friday for their end-of-the week caucus meeting in the basement of the Capitol, caucus Chairman John Larson (D-Conn.) told the group he wanted them to hear first from Rep. Michael Capuano, who’d just returned from a primary campaign for the Senate seat in Massachusetts vacated by the death of Ted Kennedy,” Ryan Grim writes at www.huffington post.com.

“Larson asked Capuano, who finished in second place, to share the wisdom he learned on the campaign trail,” Mr. Grim said.

“Capuano took to the microphone, looked out at his colleagues and condensed what he’d learned into two words. ‘You’re screwed,’ he told his friends in the House, according to one attendee. The room’s silence was broken only by soft, nervous laughter.

“Capuano confirmed the gist of the message - ‘I’m not sure of the exact wording,’ he told HuffPost, chuckling - and said that he doubted his wisdom was anything they didn’t already know.

” ‘I think I was just confirming stuff they already knew,’ he said. ‘I focused on two things: the war in Afghanistan and jobs.’

“Everywhere Capuano went in his state, he said, he was bombarded with demands that the government do more to create jobs. He was also greeted by deep skepticism about Obama’s escalation of the eight-year-old war in Afghanistan.

“Capuano said he told the caucus that opponents of the war need to be given a chance to vote against funding for it on the House floor.”

TIN EAR

“Of all the surprises of President Obama’s first year, the biggest is his continuing tin ear for the mood of the country. He often appears clueless about what Americans want,” New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin writes.

“Almost from the moment he stepped into the Oval Office, the man who smashed the Clinton machine and won an electoral landslide over John McCain seemed to lose his touch with the people who put him there,” Mr. Goodwin said.

“Some days, many days, he doesn’t look like he cares that big chunks of the country, left, right and center, are giving up on him.

“Voters by a large margin have said for months they don’t want the health care overhaul he’s pushing, so he pushes harder. They want less spending and debt, so he doubles down on pork, bailouts, handouts and taxes.

“They thought he would deliver bipartisanship, and he gives his hard-left allies the keys to the kingdom.

“They worry about terrorism, so he wants to close Gitmo and move the worst of the worst to the homeland. With ground zero still a mess, he gives the 9/11 plotters civilian trials in New York.

“His approval ratings are speeding downhill and some 60 percent say the country is on the wrong track. He responds by giving himself a ‘good solid B-plus’ for his first year.

“And he says Wall Street bankers ‘don’t get it.’ ”

END OF THE ROAD

“There seems to be quite a bit of bemusement among Republicans and more centrist Democrats over the furor erupting on the left regarding the removal of the public option,” Sean Trende writes in a blog at RealClearPolitics.com.

“The constant refrain from more centrist Democrats is something along the lines of ‘this is 90 percent of what we want, let’s take it and maybe we can get the other 10 percent later.’

“That’s true, I guess, but that 10 percent is pretty darned important to the left. The public option (or some equivalent) served two purposes. First, it put something into the law that had a chance of being gradually tweaked and expanded over the years into a single-payer program (though the weak version included in the House version, left alone, likely would not have accomplished this), much the way SCHIP has grown into a major program (the trick was implementing it in the first place),” Mr. Trende said.

“The Democrats aren’t likely to have 60 Senate votes, 258 House votes and the presidency again anytime soon, and with this bill accomplished, the taste for making major health reform changes anytime in the next decade will probably be minimal. This is probably the end of the road for the public option, at least for the foreseeable future, and we won’t be making any major moves away from a private insurance based system until Haley’s Comet returns.

“Second, and more importantly in the near-term, without a public option, all of the taxpayer-funded subsidies would flow to private insurance companies, along with a substantial portion of taxpayer’s take-home paychecks under the individual mandate. This is obviously anathema to a Democratic base that loathes insurance companies more than just about any other American institution.”

NEXT ISSUE

“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s inability to win any version of a public health insurance option in the evolving health care reform bill has some conservatives breathing a sigh of relief, though they are now planning to turn their attention to the upcoming House-Senate conference where the final bill is going to be hammered out. At issue: Will it include the House-passed language limiting abortion services?” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column at www.usnews .com.

“Conservatives and antiabortion Democrats tell Whispers that they will push for the final bill to include the so-called Stupak amendment, approved by the House but rejected by the Senate, which would impose restrictions on abortions offered through a new government-run insurance plan and through private insurance that is bought using government subsidies. It’s a battle that conservatives expect to win.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@ washingtontimes.com.

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