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Bill Kristol Says Kill Health-Care Reform (Obamarama Remix)


Bill Kristol has some advice for Republicans. "With Obamacare on the ropes, there will be a temptation for opponents to let up on their criticism, and to try to appear constructive, or at least responsible," he writes. "My advice, for what it's worth: Resist the temptation. This is no time to pull punches. Go for the kill."

Yawn. This is like saying that Keith Richards still can't get no satisfaction, or that the much-missed Rodney Dangerfield would appreciate a bit more respect. It's useful to remember here that Kristol is less a pundit than an operative. His job isn't to give his opinion. It's to give this opinion. And hes been giving this opinion, in almost exactly these words, since 1994.

The fact that Kristol is an operative, however, doesn't make him a wrong operative. In the 1990s, Kristol correctly understood that passage of the plan would "revive the reputation of the party that spends and regulates, the Democrats, as the generous protector of middle-class interests." He also understood that destroying Bill Clinton's health-care reform effort was the GOP's path to victory in the 1994 midterm elections. And so it was.

The argument is much the same this year. And Kristol isn't alone in his question. As Sen. Jim DeMint said on a recent conference call with Conservatives for Patient Rights, "If we’re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him."

But the question isn't whether Republicans understand the power of successful opposition. It's whether Democrats understand the dangers of failure. And that's most true for the Democrats who are most likely to weaken the effort: The Democrats who are cool to health-care reform because they fear the conservative tilt of their state are the Democrats who will lose their seats if Obama loses his momentum and the Democratic majority begins to lose on its major initiatives. Legislative defeats will not threaten Henry Waxman's seat. But it will imperil Mary Landrieu's. And Ben Nelson's.

Bill Kristol is right that defeating Obama's health-care plan is a first step for Republicans who want to pick off vulnerable Democrats in the 2010 midterms. But the converse is also true: Passing health-care reform is the first step for vulnerable Democrats who want to save their seats.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Morry Gash.

By Ezra Klein  |  July 20, 2009; 10:54 AM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Well, you'd think the Blue Dogs would know this themselves.

Posted by: leoklein | July 20, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

I wonder if the truth isn't more mundane, and, in a way, worse -- that the Democrats can withstand failure on health care.

Posted by: wovenstrap | July 20, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Bill Kristol is so 1993.

Posted by: newjersey_lawyer | July 20, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Like there would be no reason to oppose this EXCEPT to defeat Obama. Many people have elderly parents they don't want subjected to the every six months mandatory "end of life" counseling (Kennedy and other bigshots exempted).

Posted by: truck1 | July 20, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

This post actually gives good reason for calling you a shill, as a previous blogger did. You present the motives of the healthcare reformers as one hundred percent on the up and up -- oh yes, they just want to do good for THE PEOPLE. The idea of a win (or as Emanuel puts it "success") is not their point. Oh no. It has nothing to do with consolidating the power of the democrats, displaying Obama's strength, making huge fortunes for those able to determine who gets what. no no no -- it's just for the good of the little guy. On the other hand, those who oppose massive government expansion are motivated by one thing alone -- to defeat Obama. That's all, period. They could have no other objection to this jerry rigged plan, feared even by democratic governors, denounced by Elmendorf (hey, he must be a clean guy because they were unable to blackmail him into changing his report!)

Posted by: truck1 | July 20, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Not just the Bill Kristol, the whole GOP cavalry of Boehner, Steele and others are 'in for kill'.

The effect of this will be to galvanize Dems and Left. While GOP is silent, there will be many critics. But when Left sees that their idol and their ideals are maligned; necessarily the reaction will be go into the shell and protect Obama.

It is doubtful, Dems will that much foolish not to pass some (or any) bill named 'Health Reform'. Political battle is less of an interest here.

The true causality is amount of time Obama will spend in attacking GOP back. That is necessary and he will do that for sure. Heck, without it his signature agenda item will not survive. But all of that 'gunning' on GOP will come at the cost of threading the needle. It will result in Dems in Congress passing an atrocious Health Care Bill. Long term it could prove disastrous politically. Fiscally that for sure will be Armageddon. I mean come on and who to believe President Obama that he will sign only 'fiscally neutral' bill. You can do all sorts of gimmickry to claim that you do not increase deficit. CBO will catch those assumptions, but Dems are already on the game of discrediting CBO. Besides GOP has the illustrious history of ignoring CBO when it suited them. (As Sibelious rightly pointed, GOP passed senior citizen extension of Medicare without balancing at all.) So getting away with deficit laden health reform bill is very much a possibility.

Posted by: umesh409 | July 20, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Do you really think you're more pundit than operative yourself? There's really no objective analysis in your healthcare coverage. You pretty much just push the Party line and that's not journalism. It's rather obnoxious to pretend that your "punditry" is somehow more sophisticated and intellectual because you happen to agree w/ the Government.

You should write a food column on the sweet taste of Government propaganda.

Posted by: fallsmeadjc | July 20, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

People have been pulling their punches towards Smirkin' Billy Kristol for too long.

truck1: you have a touching inability to conclude that something which looks like a duck and quacks like a duck is, in fact, a duck. Or perhaps you're just a hack.

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | July 20, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

"Many people have elderly parents they don't want subjected to the every six months mandatory "end of life" counseling (Kennedy and other bigshots exempted)."

Man, it's a good thing those elderly parents aren't on a gov't run insurance program. Like Medicare.

Posted by: steveh46 | July 20, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Medicare doesn't have mandatory end of life "issues" counseling. yet. That is probably a wonderful invention of Zeke Emanuel.

Posted by: truck1 | July 20, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Keep getting the truth out...people like Kristol don't care if Americans suffer, as long as they "get Obama".
Keep reporting the truth!

Posted by: mumsty | July 20, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

"It's useful to remember here that Kristol is less a pundit than an operative."

Unlike Ezra Klein, huh? LOLOLOL!!!

Posted by: whoisjohngaltcom | July 20, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

So sad that while the experts are voicing many solutions the politicos like Steele and Kristol and simply out to bloody Obama's nose. If healthcare is allowed to remain a purely partisan subject, nothing will ever get done.

Republicans had better take care. I think they smell blood in the water but have no idea the consequences if they win and kill reform. It will be seen that the Republicans killed health care reform with no alternative, and more of their seats will be lost in 2010.

By being so vocal all I see the republicans doing, as usual, is shooting themselves in the foot. How many independents and swing voters are out there cheering the republicans on? Even republicans get sick. Maybe healthcare reform will just have to wait until the republicans keep hurting the electorate until their numbers in the congress are very small, then reform will happen no matter what they do.

Posted by: bevjims1 | July 20, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Even republicans get sick. What, are you confusing "reform" of healthcare with actual healthcare? Do you think no one is getting care? Are you not going to doctors yourself???

Posted by: truck1 | July 20, 2009 4:23 PM | Report abuse

This is nothing but a political game to the republicans. I personally find it disgusting. It's not that they don't want health care reform, it's that they want to break Obama. The really unfortunate part about that is that the rest of us will go down with it. They don't care about heath care - they've got theirs, so screw you! And btw, don't count on them being there when you have a major illness, can't pay your bills and your home is foreclosed on. They don't care - they've got theirs.

Posted by: NotFooledTX | July 20, 2009 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Like Ted Kennedy has done without healthcare?

Posted by: truck1 | July 20, 2009 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Kristol is a parasite who is wrong in his analyses all the time. Re healthcare reform, a majority of Americans want it. If we can spend 2 trillion dollars in 6 years for 2 wars, we can spend trillions for healthcare. Kristol can kill himself.

Posted by: mstratas | July 20, 2009 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Kristol is a very angry man.

As angry a frustrated zionist as exists today. Perhaps if he'd not been fired a couple of times..

but then, the firing was the result of his
ugly anger.

Oh well, he joins those who don't want ordinary Americans to have anything that might cost Israeli initiatives some money.
S'more wars, some settlements that Bernie Maddoff's downfalls cost, etc.

Posted by: whistling | July 20, 2009 5:18 PM | Report abuse

The republicans are going in for the kill - and it isn't about health reform, it's about Obama. They could care less about health reform or about us. If some of us die or suffer for them to win their battle and weaken Obama, oh well. We're just pawns in their game.

Even Kristol doesn't really want to kill health reform only Obama. From his Weekly Standard article:

Then opponents can say, of course we do want to pass sensible health reform. But to do so, we need to start over.

So the constructive part of the message would be: Start Over. We're not giving up on health reform. Far from it. But the only way to pass health reform is first to get rid of the misbegotten efforts now before Congress. The only way to pass health reform is to start over in the fall. The Obama plan wouldn't go into effect until 2013 anyway (except the tax increases, which would kick in in 2011). We have plenty of time to work next year on sensible and targeted health reform in a bipartisan way. But first we need to get rid of Obamacare. Now is the time to do s

Posted by: FauxReal | July 20, 2009 8:25 PM | Report abuse

Well I have to say that I love all the glorious chit chat going on in here. Anyways, I just have a couple comments questions.
Healthcare reform and actual healthcare for an individual are two completely things. But that is beside the point here.
By defeating Obama's healtchare measure will the conservatives/Republicans necessarily elevate their prestige with the general electorate? If Obama loses this battle can he not say it was because of the conservative and their pessimism and whining. Can he not use the fact that they killed the measure against them. Or will the stigma of defeat be too great and make him seem ineffectual?
Is there not enough popular support for reform so that those who defeat reform will be elevated to power? Would that not be perverse for those who voted against us to gain momentum and seats precisely because they defeated the reform that we need and want.

Posted by: max2sax | July 22, 2009 3:04 AM | Report abuse

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