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Health Care Summit: Republicans to Battle Notable Slayer of Strawmen

February 24, 2010

Representative John Boehner has now completely given away the game.  The upcoming health care summit with President Obama is going to be pure Kabuki theatre, a “political passion play”.

According to a House GOP leadership aide familiar with the top-ranking Republican’s remarks at the weekly closed-door conference meeting, Boehner appealed to skeptical Republican lawmakers, saying, “We shouldn’t let the White House have a six-hour taxpayer-funded infomercial on ObamaCare. We need to show up. We need to crash the party.” 

Republicans must exercise extraordinary caution.  The last time they met face-to-face with Obama in front of the cameras, the leftist commentariat practically wet themselves congratulating the president for having the intestinal fortitude and rhetorical prowess to set up and knock down strawman after strawman, make outrageous claims about the current state of the economy and the effects of stimulus, and make the quite laughable claim that economics all seem to agree with him, but none can be found to support the Republican side of the argument.  It was quite a sight!  The president spoke in hushed tones of Republicans trying to paint ObamaCare as some sort of “Bolshevik plot”.  It would be outrageous–if any Republican in the room had ever made such a dastardly assertion.  Nor can such verbage (or anything similar) be attributed to the boogeymen of the right, such as Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, or Levin. 

The president took great pains to set himself up as an infinitely agreeable pragmatist caught in the crosshairs of a virulently partisan opposition, hell-bent on undermining his every policy initiative for the sake of political points.  Quoth the president: “And the notion that I would somehow resist doing something that cost half as much but would produce twice as many jobs — why would I resist that? I wouldn’t. I mean, that’s my point, is that — I am not an ideologue. I’m not. It doesn’t make sense if somebody could tell me, “You could do this cheaper and get increased results,” that I wouldn’t say, “Great.””

Yet and still, the president has yet to utter the word, “great”.  Hmmmm.

This came fast on the heels of an oddball declaration that the president might have supported a Republican plan over porkulus that would have carried less than half the price tag while creating more than twice the jobs, but for the appalling lack of a “credible” economist that would support Republican’s assertions. 

Either the president is dishonest, or his staff is wholly unaware of the existence of Google.  The president could have visited Heritage, or Cato, or the East Appalapacoochie Community College’s School of Economics and found economists willing to support the time-tested theory that massive government spending doesn’t do much of anything to pull an economy out of recession. 

Time and again during the Q&A with President Obama, Republicans offered up well-worded, thought-provoking queries on everything from tax cuts, to health-care reform, to cap and trade, only to be given the most vague and ephemeral answers.  Time and again, a talented rhetorician reduces the opposition’s arguments to a profoundly ridiculous caricature of themselves.  It’s almost as if the president is worried that if the public heard a real response to real questions, they might figure out that a rank amateur occupies the most powerful office in the world.

Credit Boehner for knowing that the summit is pure theatre.  It would be nice if Republicans could get away with the same sort of rhetorical slight-of-hand the president employed last time–“You know Mr. President, you act like our opposition to ObamaCare and massive deficit spending is some sort of plot to overthrow the government and institute free market anarchy in its place”–but they’re Republicans, so they’d never manage to get away with such a thing.

What Republicans need to do, however, is argue principle effectively.  While Mr. Obama’s efforts in the arenas of energy, health care, and job creation legislation aren’t a “wild-eyed plot” to insert the government into the most mundane aspects of our lives, it doesn’t matter.  Plot or no, under the banner of health care reform, cap-and-trade, and increased federal government involvement in public education, government will grow increasingly burdensome and oppressive.  Paraphrasing Tocqueville, government will grow oppressive without torturing men.  I have said before time and again that there isn’t any minutiae in a citizen’s life that can not theoretically be touched by the foregoing legislative efforts.  There are market based solutions to real problems–and there are actually plenty  of economists willing to state so, on the record!  Imagine that!

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