How Low Can Unions Go?

by George Leef

How low can unions go in using their political clout to grab more money from unwilling individuals? Pretty low, such as inducing a friendly governor to sign an order declaring people who receive funds through a state program so they can give health care to sick or disabled family members in their homes to be “state employees.” Then, the union contrives to win an election with only mail-in ballots so it becomes the “representative” for all these people, and then siphons off 3 percent of the funds they counted on for their dues.

That was the scheme run by the SEIU in Minnesota and when individuals were startled to see that some of the money they were getting was being siphoned away into union dues, they started to fight back — and encountered a state bureaucracy that was not interested in helping.

For more details, see my latest article in Forbes.

The comments are full of troll-type stuff about how wonderful unions are for employees. Even if that were true (and it’s mostly false), it has nothing to do with the facts here. Leftists who dislike business cronyism should also oppose unions when they do the same thing.

The Supreme Court ruled against a very similar scheme in Harris v. Quinn (in another blue state, Illinois) but Big Labor never lets the law get in the way of achieving its goals.

The Bi-Partisan Option

by Rich Lowry

One possibility being bandied by the White House is finding a way to peel off Democrats to build a bipartisan coalition for legislation. There are a couple of problems with this: 1) It’s a lot harder to do now than in January. Trump could have given an inaugural address that was more explicitly unifying in tone and he could have invited Chuck Schumer to the White House and said, “Chuck, you’re not leaving the room until we agree on an infrastructure package.” Then, Trump could perhaps have rolled a Republican leadership wary of crossing a newly elected Republican president. But now Trump has spent months antagonizing Democrats and has less political capital to use pushing around GOP leaders than he did a few months ago. 2) Democrats hate Trump’s bullying personal style, his tweets, and his attacks on the media and other critics. This distaste is likely to overwhelm any substantive agreements on legislation. 3) A left-wing “resistance” movement is in full swing and will target any Democrats who contribute to any Trump success.

All of this means that Trump may be an ideologically heterodox Republican who naturally should be working with Democrats in theory, but he won’t be able to pull it off in practice.

The Outsider Enters Boldly and Trips Over His Own Shoelaces

by Jim Geraghty

From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

The Outsider Enters Boldly and Trips Over His Own Shoelaces

“There’s a new sheriff in town” is a pretty popular power fantasy. We find ourselves stuck in a circumstance where everyone seems to be running amok, pursuing their own selfish or petty agenda, acting in complete disregard of the needs of others or the community as a whole. Our patience is exhausted, we’re fed up with it, and we make a bold, impossible to ignore, vaguely threatening gesture that demonstrates our supreme power. ENOUGH! Everyone freezes. We declare that order has returned. We begin dictating orders to others, to put everyone in their place. Cowed and intimidated, everyone dutifully returns to their proper place as part of a well-organized machine.

Saturday, Mike Allen shared a rather revealing anecdote about the way the Trump administration is approaching the task of getting legislation passed:

When the balky hardliners of the House Freedom Caucus visited the White House earlier this week, this was Steve Bannon’s opening line, according to people in the conference room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building:

“Guys, look. This is not a discussion. This is not a debate. You have no choice but to vote for this bill.”

Bannon’s point was: This is the Republican platform. You’re the conservative wing of the Republican Party. But people in the room were put off by the dictatorial mindset.

One of the members replied: “You know, the last time someone ordered me to something, I was 18 years old. And it was my daddy. And I didn’t listen to him, either.”

“You have no choice…” Except, the members did. Perhaps at Breitbart.com, Bannon got used to negotiating with people he could fire. The president and his team can’t make a member vote for a bill, particularly one the member thinks is terrible or severely disappointing.

I wrote Friday that one glaring, unavoidable problem for the White House is that the president was trying persuade reluctant members of the House without really understanding why they were objecting. Our old friend Tim Alberta offered a vivid anecdote:

Thursday afternoon, members of the House Freedom Caucus were peppering the president with wonkish concerns about the American Health Care Act—the language that would leave Obamacare’s “essential health benefits” in place, the community rating provision that limited what insurers could charge certain patients, and whether the next two steps of Speaker Paul Ryan’s master plan were even feasible—when Trump decided to cut them off.

“Forget about the little s***,” Trump said, according to multiple sources in the room. “Let’s focus on the big picture here.”

The group of roughly 30 House conservatives, gathered around a mammoth, oval-shaped conference table in the Cabinet Room of the White House, exchanged disapproving looks. Trump wanted to emphasize the political ramifications of the bill’s defeat; specifically, he said, it would derail his first-term agenda and imperil his prospects for reelection in 2020. The lawmakers nodded and said they understood. And yet they were disturbed by his dismissiveness. For many of the members, the “little s***” meant the policy details that could make or break their support for the bill—and have far-reaching implications for their constituents and the country.

Maybe to Trump these details about the bill were “the little s***.” But to the members in front of him, this was the make-or-break criteria of what makes a good reform bill. You would think the author of The Art of the Deal would have understood the importance of knowing the other side’s priorities. I seem to recall impassioned, insistent assurances during the 2016 Republican presidential primary that Trump was the ultimate dealmaker. Now we’re assured by Trump fan Bill Mitchell, “Trump is prescient and a brilliant strategist; therefore, the death of today’s bill was part of his long term strategy.”

We’ve seen the growing enthusiasm for “outsiders” in American politics in recent years.  A pratfall like this isn’t the only potential outcome with an outsider, but it’s a strong possibility. They either think they can completely rewrite how the system works, haven’t bothered to study how the system works, or don’t care how the system works. But they don’t actually change how the system works.

Like most of my colleagues, I found AHCA pretty “meh” at best. (With all the bashing going on right now, it’s worth remembering that the bill did offer flexibility to the states on Medicaid, did reduce the deficit, would reduce premiums in the long term if not the short term, and constituted the biggest effort at entitlement reform in a generation.) But because of the impossibility of getting 60 votes in the Senate, it didn’t include tort reform, insurance companies selling across state lines, and a couple of other big elements of the conservative health care reform agenda. It’s quite possible that had this bill been enacted, most Americans would feel like nothing had changed or improved by November 2018.

This was always a thorny, multifaceted problem. But the president and congressional Republicans were quite clear in their promises in 2016. They told us they could handle this, and they made fixing it sound easy. At what point is it fair to conclude their self-assurance was evidence they had no idea what they were talking about?

Monday links

by debbywitt

This collection of Vintage Celebrity Endorsements is pretty funny, if you’re old enough to remember the celebrities.

Where to Hide If a Nuclear Bomb Goes Off In Your Area.

This Man Built an Entire Church Out Of  Live Trees.

Two Infographics: Spring Cleaning Checklist and Best Ways to Die.

How Big Can a Land Animal Get?

10 Origin Stories of Famous Sports.

ICYMI, Friday’s links are here, and include the history of dentures, a set of uninspirational quotes, flying water taxis in Paris, and why barns are painted red.

Pinocchios

by Jay Nordlinger

In today’s Impromptus, I hopscotch around, as usual. I begin with the Republicans and health-care reform, and end with Linda Bridges, our late colleague here at NR.

I’d like to publish some mail touching on previous columns. A reader from Toronto wrote to say that he thought of me while reading his program at the National Ballet of Canada. They were doing a new Pinocchio, choreographed by Will Tuckett, the distinguished Englishman.

Over the years, I have railed against what I call “safe-zone violations” — the intrusion of politics where it doesn’t belong. (I have an essay on this subject in my new collection, Digging In.) Also, in a column this month, I railed against “relevant” as maybe the most bogus word of our time.

The National Ballet of Canada had a Q&A with Tuckett in its program. Here is one exchange:

Q. “While this has always been a children’s story, Pinocchio seems to have been showing up in American politics a lot of late. Will this Pinocchio have any political overtones?

A. “… I don’t think people will be going to see Pinocchio hoping for a treatise on the global political situation. I hope people will be thinking that it will be great to go to the theatre and have an enjoyable evening where nobody is dictating what they should think. One of my least favourite words is ‘relevant’ in terms of art. As soon as you’ve said that awful word, you watch the project get up and run off the table into the land of irrelevant. …”

My hero, Will Tuckett.

In my Impromptus on Friday, I had an item on the National Enquirer, which seems to me the epitome of fake news — Cruz and JFK and all — but is not one of the publications that President Trump labels “fake news.” On the contrary, he treats it with great respect (and they have been great to him).

A reader writes,

My husband grew up in Florida and says that a large number of nationally recognized writers would take a sabbatical from their jobs at the Washington Post or wherever and come work for the National Enquirer, where they would make more in a couple of months than they made in a year at the regular job. He used to watch them sit around in a bar and dream up outlandish stories for the Enquirer, and said it was wonderfully entertaining, but he always understood why they never wrote for the Enquirer under their real names.

Well, I may be taking a sabbatical soon. I have some entertaining ideas, and I could think of ways to spend the dough …

On Heath Care, Most Republicans Are Nowhere on the Ideological Spectrum

by Peter Spiliakos

The collapse of the American Health Care Act has Republican pointing fingers in all directions. Some want to blame the House Freedom Caucus for opposing an Obamacare repeal that did not repeal enough of Obamacare. Some want to blame Republican moderates for opposing any repeal that would have thrown too many people off the insurance rolls. Everybody seems to be blaming the GOP congressional leadership. I would suggest that we spend too much time thinking about GOP health-care policy in terms of liberals, moderates, and conservatives. The real problem is that, on health-care policy, most Republicans are neither conservative, nor moderate, nor even liberal.

Sometimes it makes sense to talk about political cleavages in terms of a left–right spectrum. On taxes, conservatives want less and liberals want more. There are other axes of disagreement (flat taxes, progressive taxes, consumption taxes, payroll taxes), but the generalization holds true. It is the same on guns. The left position is greater restriction on the private ownership of guns, while the right position involves fewer restrictions on private gun ownership. You can be to the “left” on one issue but to the “right” on another. Prior to running for president, Bernie Sanders was to the left on taxation and most other issues, and to the right (relatively) on guns.

It is possible to speak of intra-party GOP health-care debates in terms of an ideological spectrum. On the right, you have conservatives who would accept a full repeal of Obamacare even in the absence of a replacement. They are willing to accept that millions would lose coverage to be a price worth paying. On the left, there are Republican moderates who are so supportive of Obamacare’s coverage expansion, and so fearful of getting rid of some popular Obamacare regulations, that they are basically willing to let the law stay as it is.

In the middle, you have a group of reformist conservative wonks who want to replace Obamacare with a combination of universally available catastrophic health-care insurance (through automatic enrollment of the uninsured combined with an opt-out clause), health savings accounts (pre-filled for the indigent), and high-risk pools for that portion of the uninsured with pre-existing conditions. This is to be combined with market reforms to force medical providers to be open about their pricing and the elimination of barriers for new medical providers.

Unlike the Republican Left, this middle group hates Obamacare for worsening everything that is already broken about America’s system of using third-party insurance as comprehensive pre-payment for routine health-care costs. Unlike the Republican Right, they accept that market health-care reform that expands catastrophic coverage is going to involve higher government spending than the pre-Obamacare system does.

If it was just these three groups, we might be fine. People who hold each of these viewpoints can have a productive conversation. There might be a compromise, or one side might prevail.

The problem is that most GOP voters (and, I would suggest, most GOP members of Congress) are nowhere on that ideological spectrum. They don’t like Obamacare, but they also don’t like the trade-offs involved in any of the Republican left, right, or center alternatives to Obamacare.

No, that’s not quite right. It isn’t just that they don’t like the trade-offs. It is that they don’t want to think about the trade-offs — or even to think about health-care policy at all.

It didn’t start this year. It didn’t even start with Obamacare. Rank-and-file conservatives have been uncomfortable talking about positive health-care-reform proposals for decades. They could explain to you why missile defense systems and capital-gains tax cuts were good, but when they were asked about alternatives to Democratic health-care plans, things got awkward. There was mumbling about tort reform, followed by some way to derail the conversation.

These Republicans were comfortable attacking Democratic proposals but could not agree on any alternative and did not want to think about any alternative. America already had the greatest health-care system in the world — until Obama messed it up.

That was the formula. Praise American health care, attack the Democrats for wanting to socialize medicine, and change the subject as quickly as possible.

The passage of Obamacare made that strategy obsolete, but the habits didn’t die. This group spent seven years opposing Obamacare without thinking about what a post-Obamacare health-care policy should look like.

Much more than the House Freedom Caucus, or the skittish moderates, or the wonks, it is this last (and largest) group that sets the tone for the GOP on health care. Like this largest, unideological group, Republicans spent seven years failing to agree on even the broad principles of an Obamacare replacement, spent a few weeks flailing around, and now want to use the failure of the AHCA as an excuse to move on to real issues like tax reform. The GOP was never more itself than when its response to failure borne of the refusal to think seriously about health care was to think about something (anything) other than health care. For the average Republican, health care is nails on the chalk board. Tax cuts are a warm bath.

We will know that the Republicans are serious about health care when the great mass of Republicans shake off the habits of the last 40 years and pick a side on health care policy.

Charles Murray Finally Fights Back Against the SPLC

by David French

The once-valuable (and now hateful and vile) Southern Poverty Law Center has long labeled Charles Murray an “extremist” and a “white nationalist.” The SPLC’s label not only contributes to lazy headlines and borderline-slanderous reporting, it also seems to have partly inspired the violent attack against Murray at Middlebury College. After years of ignoring the SPLC’s claims, Murray finally chose to address them, in detail, and his response is devastating.

He took the entire SPLC entry and copy edited it — providing additional context when necessary, correcting misrepresentations, and generally dismantling their argument. Here’s a sample, when he corrects the SPLC’s assertion that Murray tries to link social inequality to “genes” and claims that he bases his own work on “the work of explicitly racist scientists.” After noting that his book, The Bell Curve, “never attempts to link social inequality to genes,” Murray says this:

Actually, you’ve got to change this whole sentence. The attempts to link IQ to social inequality are contained in Part II of The Bell Curve, “Cognitive Classes and Social Behavior.” It consists of eight chapters, each of which examines the relationships among IQ, socioeconomic status (SES) and various social behaviors. The topics of the eight chapters are poverty, schooling, unemployment, marriage and nonmarital births, welfare dependency, parenting, crime, and citizenship. In each chapter, Herrnstein and Murray review the relevant technical literature and then use data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) to conduct regression analyses of the relevant social behavior using as independent variables cognitive test scores and an index of SES. Here’s the point: The NLSY analyses for all eight chapters are based exclusively on samples of non-Latino whites. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to invoke the use of “racist scientists” to discredit findings based on original analyses conducted by Herrnstein and Murray using samples of whites. No?

Murray’s post systematically picks apart the SPLC’s assertions, and in so doing, he reminds us of The Bell Curve’s key predictions:

In this penultimate chapter we speculate about the impact of cognitive stratification on American life and government. Predicting the course of society is chancy, but certain tendencies seem strong enough to worry about:

An increasingly isolated cognitive elite.

A merging of the cognitive elite with the affluent.

A deteriorating quality of life for people at the bottom end of the cognitive ability distribution.

Unchecked, these trends will lead the U.S. toward something resembling a caste society, with the underclass mired ever more firmly at the bottom and the cognitive elite ever more firmly anchored at the top, restructuring the rules of society so that it becomes harder and harder for them to lose. Among the other casualties of this process would be American civil society as we have known it. Like other apocalyptic visions, this one is pessimistic, perhaps too much so. On the other hand, there is much to be pessimistic about.

Murray remarks, “As predictions from 1994 go, you’ve got to admit these aren’t bad.”

The SPLC and others have twisted words like “extremist” into meaninglessness. Yes, they (and the rest of us) can properly identify the Klan and Klan-like groups as hateful, and those groups are certainly worth monitoring, but it takes a special kind of ideological fanaticism to apply the same label to people like Murray and groups like my old employers at the Alliance Defending Freedom. The SPLC can do whatever it wants with its fundraising riches. No one, however, has to pay any attention to them, and the next reporter who relies on its “research” to describe or discredit decent men and women will out himself as lazy, biased, and possibly even malicious. 

Linda

by Rich Lowry

She was a sterling editor, a storehouse of institutional knowledge, and a wonderful colleague. Whenever some nettlesome stylistic issue came up, or a question about our history, or anything related to WFB, my first impulse was, Ask Linda. By the end, she probably knew more about Bill Buckley than Bill Buckley did. Her career spanned an enormous swath of our life as a magazine–we have lost someone made us who we are. Somewhere up above she and Bill are enjoying a laugh over a glass of wine, and probably having an animated conservation about the merits of the serial comma. RIP.

Linda Bridges, RIP

by Jack Fowler

Our colleague, who worked at National Review for over four decades, including as Managing Editor, Senior Editor, and Editor-at-Large, and as a personal assistant to William F. Buckley Jr., passed away this evening at Calvary Hospital in The Bronx, after a nine-month battle with esophageal cancer. She was 67. Her cousin Gail Dow wrote the following obituary:

* * *

Linda Kay Bridges entered this world on April 25, 1949 in Los Angeles, California, the first of two children born to Beulah Lorene (Stromsmoe) and Roy Gordon Bridges. She was a precocious child — an early indication of the high intelligence she exhibited throughout her education, career, and life. Although Linda was genetically only half Norwegian, she was heavily influenced by her maternal grandmother, Gena Sophia (Brekke) Stromsmoe, who lived with the Bridges family until her death in 1977 at age 91. Linda learned early on the pleasures of baking and eating Norwegian foods, especially lefse and pastries. It was a taste she savored her entire life.

As a youth, Linda was a horse-lover and rider, and the proud owner of two horses: Play Girl, which she described as “a palomino of unbeatable color,” and Princess. Her brother, Don, suspects that the family’s decision to move from Pico Rivera to a new home with acreage in La Puente, California, was heavily influenced by her desire to keep her own horses in that locale, rather than just board them there.

Linda was also an accomplished pianist, and a life-long devotee of classical music, including opera and ballet. This was a love she shared with her long-time friend and roommate, Alice V. Manning. Other passions they shared were travel — including exotic trips on the Orient Express, skiing in Gstaad, Switzerland, and annual ski treks to the mountains of Vermont. Perhaps skiing was not such a stretch for this southern California native: Linda’s Norwegian ancestry is rife with ski-makers and cross-country racers. Indeed, the ancestral Brekke home in Norway is Morgedal, in Telemark province — a small mountain town that Norway has christened “The Birthplace of Modern Skiing.”

After schooling at Mary Miller Junior High School (where she studied Latin — a language she adored), she went on to graduate with honors from El Monte High School, then matriculated at the University of Southern California, from which she graduated summa cum laude in 1970 with a major in English Literature and a minor in French. While a junior in college, she dared write to National Review to point out and quibble with what she considered to be a grammatical error that had been used repeatedly in the magazine. Her letter intrigued none other than William F. Buckley himself, who responded to her letter, requesting that she send additional samples of her writing. She did, and was offered a position as a summer assistant. He so approved of her style, her extensive vocabulary and inveterate skill at word-smithing, and her content (Linda was a life-long conservative) that he quickly offered her a job at the magazine upon her graduation. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Linda moved to New York City immediately upon graduation from USC, and entered the employ of National Review as a contributing writer/journalist. Over the years, she rose through the ranks to Senior Editor, and finally to Editor-at-Large at the magazine. She also served as a personal editor for her mentor and father-figure, William F. Buckley, from 2004 until his death in 2008, organizing and preparing for publication his many writings and memoirs. Among the books she authored over the years were The Art of Persuasion: A National Review Rhetoric for Writers; Strictly Right: William F. Buckley and the American Conservative Movement; and Athwart History: Half a Century of Polemics, Animadversions, and Illuminations — A William F. Buckley Jr. Omnibus.

The most important thing to which Bill introduced Linda was religion. Although she came to a realization of Christian faith well into her adulthood, she embraced it with fervor. She was an active member of St. Mary the Virgin Episcopal Church in midtown Manhattan, served diligently on the church council and call committee, and participated fully in its programs and ministry.

Linda was a member of several august groups, including Phi Beta Kappa, The Philadelphia Society, the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy, and The Anglican Society.

In addition to her parents, Linda was predeceased by her friend and room-mate, Alice V. Manning. She is survived by her brother, Donald W. Bridges, of La Puente, Calif. Her extended family is most grateful for the loving care of her many friends at St. Mary the Virgin, particularly Michael Merenda, Barbara Klett, and Curate James Ross Smith; and for the concern and support of her colleagues at National Review.

Memorials may be made in her memory to St. Mary the Virgin Episcopal Church, 145 West 46th Street, New York, NY 10036.

The GOP Is Better Locally Than Nationally

by Charles C. W. Cooke

North Dakota has quietly passed “constitutional carry”:

BISMARCK, N.D. – Governor Doug Burgum today signed legislation allowing law-abiding citizens to carry a concealed handgun if they have possessed a valid North Dakota driver’s license or state ID card for at least a year.

In other words, those who wish to carry a concealed handgun in North Dakota no longer need the state’s permission to do so. North Dakota becomes the seventh state in two years to take this step, and the 13th overall. By the end of this year, that number will likely be 17.

This news broke at the same time as the news that the Republicans had flamed out in the first (maybe last?) attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare. And the contrast underscored something I’ve noticed for a while: At the state level, the GOP has been remarkably effective at ushering in reform over the last seven years; at the federal level, by contrast, it has been able only to hold the line.

This, of course, is partly because the GOP has only just got full control of the federal government, whereas it has been running most of the states for half a decade now. But one can’t help but notice the difference in ambition. At the state level, Republicans have ruthlessly passed right to work legislation, even in unlikely places such as Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin; they have expanded charter schools; they have done yeoman’s work restoring the Second Amendment; they have cut taxes and regulation; and they have enacted as many pro-life measures as the courts have allowed. They have, in other words, lived up to their billing.

At the federal level, meanwhile, they have narrowed their intentions from the get-go. Under Donald Trump, there will be no entitlement reform, and possibly no healthcare reform either; there will likely be a massive, goodie-laden “infrastructure” bill, of the sort that GOP likes to rail against when a Democrat is in the White House; no departments will be shuttered, or radical structural changes made to the federal behemoth; and the promise of tax reform — that is, a substantial change to the way the system works — has already been replaced by “tax cuts.” How strange the difference in achievement between the local and the national.

The Endgame

by Rich Lowry

We’re starting to get reporting on the internal details of the health-care debate. This bit from Shane Goldmacher and Josh Dawsey at Politico on the final hours is notable:

But even as Trump and his top advisers wanted to forge ahead, they were showing sign of worry. Spicer no longer embraced the term “the closer.” GOP leadership pushed to drop what was now seen as a kamikaze mission. And a little after 3 p.m., Trump talked to Ryan again — the two had a 45-minute conversation late Thursday night about the law.

“He talked to Paul Ryan for a few minutes, who said he was at least 10 and 15 votes short,” one of the senior White House officials said. Ryan said he planned to pull the vote unless Trump objected, and Trump said he was OK with that.

Ryan explained soon after what it meant to a national television audience: “We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future.”

Trump got off the phone, scribbled down some notes and dialed up reporters to give his side before the full White House staff was even briefed. The president was most focused on the news coverage and how it reflected on him, as he had been throughout, telling advisers how much the criticism of the law on TV bothered him.

And our former colleague Tim Alberta has an excellent long piece for Politico magazine that describes how fuzzy Trump was on the details, which limited his persuasiveness. Here is his account of a meeting on Thursday:

Filled with hope once again, Freedom Caucus members were once again promptly disappointed. This meeting was yet another “take one for the team” seminar. The atmosphere was friendly, and the president had the group laughing with irrelevant riffs and stories of negotiations past, but it became clear, as soon as he made the “little shit” comment, that no serious changes were going to be made, because the president didn’t have sufficient command of the policy details to negotiate what would or would not be realistic for Ryan to shepherd through the House.

Through charm, force of personality and sheer intimidation, Trump did move some votes into the yes column. But GOP leaders were left wondering why he didn’t do more—why he didn’t send tweets, travel to congressional districts, put his famed dealmaking skills to work. The answer, to Republicans on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, is obvious: Because he lacked familiarity with the legislation itself, and thought it was Ryan’s job to sell the specifics.

“Trump is a business executive. When he tells his lieutenants to get something done, he’s used to it getting done,” one senior House GOP aide told me. “He’s really not used to getting involved himself.”

 

Don’t Give Up After 3 Lackluster Weeks

by Rich Lowry

Our editorial notes that a silver living is that progress was made on forging a party consensus on replace and urges the GOP not to quit after less than a month at this:

Cutting regulations could be key to finishing the unification of the party. The Congressional Budget Office has previously found that cutting down on Obamacare regulations would increase coverage, since it would make it possible for people to buy low-premium coverage they prefer. While some specific deregulatory measures make moderate Republicans jittery — even a careful relaxation of the rules governing pre-existing conditions would induce some queasiness — improving the coverage numbers would allay their main concern about replacing Obamacare. Expanding the tax credit for people making a little bit too much money to qualify for Medicaid could allay it more.

This basic approach would be compatible with a variety of legislative tactics. House Republicans could try to pass an aggressive bill without much regard for whether it can pass the Senate: At least they would have outlined and stood for a set of health-care policies that make sense, that offer something for conservatives and moderates, and that can serve as the basis for future action. Or they could work with the parliamentarian and with senators to see whether they could get a bill better than this week’s past the finish line.

If they went this route, Republican leaders would not spring a new bill on their followers and allies and tell them they have to vote for it posthaste. There would have to be more patient cajoling and less last-minute bullying. We know many Republicans on the Hill and inside the White House feel that they have already spent enough time on this issue. But we have no sympathy for this complaint. They have spent seven years saying they were going to replace Obamacare. They didn’t say they were going to spend a few weeks on a half-baked plan and then give up. Back to work, ladies and gentlemen.

What an Engaged Party and President Looks Like

by Rich Lowry

Philip Klein has a brutal assessment of the GOP failure on Obamacare that includes this paragraph reminding us of what Democrats did to push the ball over the finish line:

One has to admire the commitment that Democrats and Obama had to delivering something they campaigned on and truly believed in. They spent 13 months getting the bill from an initial concept to final passage, and pressed on during many points when everybody was predicting doom. They had public hearings, multiple drafts of different bills, they kept negotiating, even worked into Christmas. They made significant changes at times, but also never lost sight of their key goals. They didn’t back down in the face of angry town halls and after losing their filibuster-proof majority, and many members cast votes that they knew risked their political careers. Obama himself was a leader, who consistently made it clear that he was not going to walk away. He did countless rallies, meetings, speeches — even a “summit” at the Blair House — to try to sell the bill, talking about details, responding to criticisms of the bill to the point that he was mocked by conservatives for talking so much about healthcare.

A Debacle with Many Fathers

by Rich Lowry

Paul Ryan is going to take the most blame for the failure of repeal and replace, and rightly so. He had the ball, and it ended up being a debacle. He gambled this his close vote would be more like the close votes of Nancy Pelosi, who had a president of her own party standing with her, rather than those of John Boehner, who didn’t. Instead, this was Boehner redux. There was no getting around that the substance of the bill was poor and the process–premised on passing the bill through the House and the Senate in four weeks–was even worse. It was only going to get over the finish line based on pure muscle and there are limits to what that can achieve, even in the House where the leadership has such inherent power. 

If the loss is a blow to Ryan, it’s a party-wide failure. It’s not as though the Speaker came up with the bill and the strategy on his own. President Trump and the Senate were on board. I assumed that Trump would end up being a good intra-party salesman, with a carrot (his knack for schmoozing) and a stick (attacks on Twitter). But he didn’t know enough to be effective and his seat-of-the-pants decision to give into the Freedom Caucus on “essential health benefits” lost more moderates than it gained conservatives, while Trump clearly had no idea of the policy implications. His insistence during most the day that the House hold a zombie vote, going through with the floor vote even when a defeat was assured, was bizarre and amateurish.

Maybe Congress and the administration can transition relatively smoothly to tax reform, but I doubt that’s going to be any easier–it’s just as complicated and also involves using reconciliation to avoid a filibuster. An alternative route would be to try to do a smaller corporate tax reform with some Democratic votes, although so many Democrats are opposed to Trump as a matter of principle, that may be impossible. If tax reform bogs down, the White House may feel it has no choice but to resort to Obama-style unilateral governance, emphasizing Trump’s core issues of immigration, trade, and his war with the media/leakers, where he has a lot of authority to act on his own.

Dogs Detect Cancer from Bandage

by Wesley J. Smith

This is amazing.

Dogs can sniff out cancer from a piece of cloth which had touched the breast of a woman with a tumour, researchers said Friday, announcing the results of an unusual, but promising, diagnostic trial.

With just six months of training, a pair of German Shepherds became 100-percent accurate in their new role as breast cancer spotters, the team said. The technique is simple, non-invasive and cheap, and may revolutionise cancer detection in countries where mammograms are hard to come by.

“In these countries, there are oncologists, there are surgeons, but in rural areas often there is limited access to diagnostics,” Isabelle Fromantin, who leads project Kdog, told journalists in Paris.

Animal rights activists would oppose using the dogs in this way, because, you know, “slavery.”

Indeed, some, such as Gary Francione, believe dogs should not exist in this world.

Krauthammer’s Take: Democrats Have Created the Expectation of Universal Health Care

by NR Staff

In light of Republican failure to pass the American Health Care Act, Charles Krauthammer dismissed the idea that Chuck Schumer would try to work with Republicans at all, since the Democrats are moving toward a single-payer system as the country increasingly expects universal coverage:

What Schumer said is so telling. Everything he offers is not a compromise halfway between Obamacare and a market-based system. Everything he offered is increase in government control of healthcare, and increase in subsidies. The Democrats are going in one direction. When Obamacare explodes, or collapses, or ends with a whimper instead of a bang — but it’s going to expire one way or the other — the Democrats are going to head in one direction and one direction only: single payer. They are going to go to the British system or the Canadian system. That’s the logic of Obamacare. It was a Jerry-built system which was going to temporarily create an entitlement but would not work because it was financially impossible. So it’s financially impossible, it collapses, but they have succeeded in creating an expectation of universal care and once you have that, that’s the reason why the Quinnipiac poll had the reform, the Ryan reform, at 17 percent. That’s pathetic. That’s lower than anything ever in Obamacare. What we’re going to get is, in time, Democrats are going to go to single payer, and Republicans are going to try to get a stripping away of government control. But I think its time is slipping away; the zeitgeist in the country has changed.

Amy Hagstrom Miller vs. Judge Neil Gorsuch

by Ramesh Ponnuru

I just watched the testimony of the founder and president of the Whole Woman’s Health Clinic, the Texas abortion clinic that won a Supreme Court case against state regulations, at Judge Gorsuch’s confirmation hearings. Some lowlights:

At about 1:24, she tells an allegedly sad story: “I also remember the woman who called from west Texas where every single clinic had been shut down. She was a single working mother with three children. We helped her to find a clinic, raised money for her abortion, child care, transportation, and lost wages. By the time she made it to a Dallas clinic eight weeks later it was too late for her to have an abortion in the state of Texas. We need judges on the court who support our constitutional rights no matter our zip codes. Neil Gorsuch is not that judge.” The terrible tragedy here is that an abortion did not take place.

At around 2:19, Senator John Kennedy (R., La.) asks her whether she would ever support any nominee who had not declared his support for Roe v. Wade. Her eventual answer: “I believe that Roe v. Wade is precedent and it’s important for the justices to uphold precedent.” Right, she’s just devoted to precedent. I’m sure she’s a big believer in Maher v. Roe.

Kennedy then asks her to substantiate her charge that Gorsuch had let his “personal beliefs” determine his judicial decisions, including his decision in the Hobby Lobby case. She does not seem to grasp the question but eventually settles on the idea that the result in the case was proof enough of Gorsuch’s lack of “objectivity.”

Bonus: She says during that exchange, “I tend to side with the little gal.” I wonder whether that west Texas woman’s child, who must now be a toddler, is a girl.

A Sad Day for GOP Voters

by David French

The instant I learned that House leaders had pulled their health care bill, my mind flashed back to seven long years of campaign promises and fundraising pitches. The GOP fought its way to electoral ascendancy in part through consistent, steadfast, and loud pledges to repeal and replace Obamacare. That was the promise to GOP voters from coast to coast, and it motivated millions of Americans to vote, to give, and to volunteer. This was one of the great causes of the Obama-era conservative movement.

And now, with Republicans controlling the White House and both houses of Congress, Speaker Ryan says health care reform efforts are over “for the foreseeable future.” Perhaps it’s the cynic in me, but as the political world moves to battles over taxes, immigration, and trade, it’s easy to imagine the “foreseeable future” quickly becoming the indefinite future. It is possible that seven years of campaigning, organizing, and fundraising just culminated in . . . whatever happened today.

I hope not. I pray not. The consequences of long-term failure could be grave. Even in polarized times, a critical mass of voters have proven that they can and will switch sides in sufficient numbers to punish the party in power. Obamacare never “fixed” American health care — and, as the legions of Bernie fans demonstrated — desires for true single-payer health care have only seemed to grow in the progressive heart. Obamacare may well be one day repealed and replaced. It just might not be the Republicans who make that happen. 

Republicans Surrender on Health Care

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Conservatives shouldn’t be dismayed by the failure of the Republican bill–against which there were excellent arguments. They shouldn’t even be dismayed by the fact that the bill was so flawed. Health care is a huge and complicated issue, different Republicans have different views, congressional Republicans have not had to come up with a governing agenda since the late 1990s, and on and on.

What conservatives should be dismayed by is that Republicans are taking the failure of this bill to be the last word on Republican health policy for, as Speaker Ryan put it, “the foreseeable future.” And it’s not just Ryan and President Trump. Other Republicans seem more eager to blame each other for failure–it’s the Freedom Caucus’s fault! it’s Trump’s! it’s Ryan’s!–than to ask why exactly Republicans are quitting after only a few weeks.

The Democrats spent more than a year passing Obamacare; they spent, arguably, seven decades building support for it. Republicans are making a deliberate choice, right now, to continue being less serious on this issue. It is one within their power to reverse.

The Art of the Fumble

by Kevin D. Williamson

Donald Trump, the great negotiator, failed to talk Republicans into voting for a Republican health-care bill. A few thoughts:

One, Trump’s reputation as a maker of great deals has been oversold. Replacing decades of bad health-care law and bad health-insurance policy with something that is market-oriented — while also addressing the risk aversion of Americans worried by the unpredictable nature of health insurance and health-care costs — is, as it turns out, not very much like negotiating a zoning variance in Atlantic City.

Two, Trump still doesn’t seem to understand this. Reactions to Paul Ryan’s opening gambit on health-care reform were pretty negative. Trump insisted that “we’re going to have tremendous support.” Speaking about congressional Republicans, he said, “I’m already seeing the support not only in this room, I’m seeing it from everybody.” He was wrong about that. Bluster only goes so far when the campaign is over, and Trump doesn’t have what it takes to bully conservative representatives from safe districts in Texas and Oklahoma into voting for legislation that doesn’t meet their standards. He doesn’t seem to have done enough thinking about the basic policy questions to really even understand what those standards are. Congressional Republicans would do well in the future to assume that the president’s only real role in health-care reform is going to be signing the bill in a big, beautiful Rose Garden ceremony.

Three, Republicans — incredibly — haven’t figured out what they want. Sean Hannity, on his radio program this afternoon, faulted Republican health-care reformers from failing to consult “the best and brightest” at the Washington think-tanks and policy shops, i.e. the very “Establishment” that he and Trump and other conservative populists have been raging against for more than a year. The course of action that will provide conservative populists with their cherished moment of closure — “Ding dong, Obamacare is dead!” — is different from the course of action that will create a consumer-oriented and market-driven health-care regime that is popular not only among true believers but also in the rather larger demographic of Americans not working at Cato or AEI. Maybe next time around they should try sorting that out before offering the bill.

Paul Ryan has an impossible job. But it is his job, and it is going to be up to congressional Republicans to provide the real leadership on this issue.

But this is not the first time a bill has failed. And it was not a very good bill. Republicans still have time to do better, if they can figure out what exactly it is they actually want to do.