Yes, the Affordable Care Act website rollout has been a fiasco. And, as always happens when political catastrophe strikes, the wave of bad analogies has rushed in its wake. One in particular that’s gaining ground: Healthcare.gov is for Barack Obama’s presidency what the invasion of Iraq was to George W. Bush’s administration, complete with outraged liberal reactions to it.
Here’s the funny thing: it’s a bad analogy, which could turn out to be accurate … but probably won’t.
How much damage have the Republicans done to themselves going into the elections of 2014 and 2016? And has President Obama resolved to hang tough, not just in this round, but in the one that follows and the one after that?
Don Rumsfeld, believe it or not, is back. And though I haven't read "Rumsfeld's Rules," (available in paperback soon!), I'm pretty sure he hasn't changed a bit. Which is something that I think it's fair to say is true of most people who worked at high levels for George W. Bush. As far as they're concerned, they were right all along, about everything. Rumsfeld thinks President Obama is going about this Syria thing all wrong, about which he could well be right, but how can anybody hear him offer opinions about that sort of thing and not remind themselves that he bore as much responsibility as anyone for what was probably the single greatest foreign-policy screwup in American history?
Anyhow, the real reason I mention Rummy is that Errol Morris has a new documentary about him coming out soon called The Unknown Known. Like Morris' The Fog of War, his film on Robert McNamara, it's basically a long interview with Rumsfeld. But unlike McNamara, Rumsfeld has no regrets. Watch this preview all the way to the end:
When President Obama got Republicans to raise taxes on the top one percent of income earners as part of the January deal that ended the threat of the fiscal cliff, some Democrats gloated that Republicans had been made to go back on the famous Grover Norquist pledge never to raise taxes. It appeared that Obama, fresh from his November victory and taking advantage of Republicans’ divisions, had won big.
On March 19, two weeks from now, it will be ten years since the United States military commenced the invasion of Iraq. Even though some details are fading from memory, one bit sticks in my mind—those final days before the war and its dramatic countdown, the 48 hours George W. Bush gave Saddam Hussein and his sons to get themselves out of the country. It was a fitting end to the pre-war campaign, some theatricality to lend an extra bit of drama to a conflict conceived in delusion and sold in deception. This anniversary is a good time to remind ourselves of what happened then and how so many of the people who continue to shape our public debate behaved.
The campaign to sell America on an invasion of Iraq was probably the most comprehensive and dishonest propaganda effort our country has seen in the last century. As we discuss it over the next few weeks, those who continue to hold that it was a good idea—akin to saying to this day that the Titanic was unsinkable—will claim that though there was certainly bad intelligence, the Bush administration did not actually lie about Iraq, that their intentions were good and they forthrightly made their case to protect America.
Don't let them get away with it, not for a second.
President Obama has miscalculated both the tactical politics of the sequester and the depressive economic impact of budget cuts on the rest of his presidency. The sequester will cut economic growth in half this year. But it’s now clear, one way or another, that we will get cuts in the $85 billion range that the sequester mandates this fiscal year. All that remains are the details.
It’s hard to be happy about the prospect of the sequester—the huge, automatics cuts to domestic spending set to take place if lawmakers can't reach a long-term budget deal—going into effect at the end of the week. Not only will it will mean substantial cuts to important programs; it will be a further drag on an already weak economy, shaving 0.6 percentage points off our growth rate. The end of the payroll tax cut, which expired on January 1, has already pushed it down to around 2.0, but the sequester cuts will depress it below the rate needed to keep pace with those entering the labor market. As a result, we are likely to see a modest increase in unemployment over the course of the year if the cuts are left in place.
The Senate vote just before dawn in favor of a permanent tax hike on the top one percent defers virtually all of the other budget battles. Assuming the House follows suit today, it is up to President Obama and the Democrats to radically change the conversation.
Top Democrats and leading progressives are arguing that Social Security shouldn't be part of negotiations over the fiscal cliff. As Senator Richard Durbin said in a speech on Tuesday:
Social Security doesn't add a penny to the debt and should not be part of any deficit reduction talks. We can and must do what we can to ensure its solvency for another 75 years, but that is another topic for another time.
Likewise, writing in the Huffington Post yesterday, my colleague Bob Kuttner called Social Security (and Medicare) "extraneous" to the fiscal challenges at hand. Moreover, Kuttner writes:
I've been looking at the crisp blue sky and remembering when the world went silent. The unspeakable images—which we have not yet shown to our son—are seared into all of us who were adults, then. How strange is it that a generation of young people has come of age who were sitting on school buses or in schoolrooms that day, who didn't watch as hundreds of people burned cruelly to death, as New York City was coated with human ash?
Our ongoing debt battle will soon move to its next phase, where the 12-member "super Congress" will attempt to negotiate $1.8 trillion in further budget cuts; if they can't come to an agreement, or if they do come to an agreement and their plan isn't adopted by the full non-super Congress, a package of cuts, taken equally from defense and non-defense discretionary spending (with a few programs held harmless) goes into effect. Jonathan Chait sees a silver lining in all this:
Back in May, House Speaker John Boehner went before the Economic Club of New York to offer the GOP’s opening bid on debt-ceiling negotiations. His demands were straightforward: Republicans would only support raising the debt limit if it came with cuts that would exceed the increase in borrowing power. In his own words, “Cuts should be greater than the accompanying increase in debt authority the president is given. We should be talking about cuts of trillions, not just billions. They should be actual cuts and program reforms, not broad deficit or debt targets that punt the tough questions to the future.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's culture war counterterrorism campaign against federal trials for suspected terrorists contrasts rather starkly with the junior Senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul:
"I think in this instance, if you capture them here, I think the federal courts probably can take care of them much more swiftly than Guantanamo and actually give them very lengthy sentences if they are found guilty," Rand Paul said.
Paul points to more than 400 convictions of other terror suspects in the United States.