More Bachman = more good news for Obama

Seems to me that the more Americans see as Michelle Bachman as the face of the Republican party the better that’s got to be for Obama.  It increasingly appears by her fundraising and staff hires that she’s going to make a serious run for the Republican nomination.  To which I say, “you go girl!”  Not to mention, I really want a woman running, whether Palin or Bachman, when I teach Gender & Politics in the Fall.  Here, Chait sketches out a seemingly plausible scenario for her to capture the nomination:

But I think Bachmann is a legitimate dark-horse possibility to win the nomination.

Now, my model of how the nomination works presumes the nominee will probably be someone who’s acceptable to both the activist base and the party elites. That argument took me, by process of elimination, to Tim Pawlenty, the only candidate who 1) the base won’t disqualify, 2) the elites won’t disqualify, and 3) actually seems to want to run. But, as Josh Marshall points out, if Bachmann wins in Iowa, she could knock Pawlenty out of the race.

Then what happens? Well, you’d see the GOP establishment scrambling to unify behind a non-insane alternative. But as I’ve argued ad nauseum, I don’t think that will be Mitt Romney. Or, if it is Romney, I think Bachmann could probably beat him. She’d carve him to pieces over health care, not to mention general inauthenticity issues.

If Pawlenty’s got decent fundraising and elite support, I don’t see a sup-par showing in Iowa necessarily knocking him out, but still, this is an interesting scenario.  Of course, if this economy is bad enough, even Bachman could beat Obama.  But it would have to be really bad.


KSM Trial

Dahlia Lithwick is in absolutely top-form this week.  Here she is on the issue of moving the KSM trial (I wrote about this yesterday).  Dahlia:

Today, by ordering a military trial at Guantanamo for 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his co-defendants, Attorney General Eric Holder finally put the Obama administration’s stamp on the proposition that some criminals are “too dangerous to have fair trials.”

In reversing one of its last principled positions—that American courts are sufficiently nimble, fair, and transparent to try Mohammed and his confederates—the administration surrendered to the bullying, fear-mongering, and demagoguery of those seeking to create two separate kinds of American law. This isn’t just about the administration allowing itself to bebullied out of its commitment to the rule of law. It’s about the president and his Justice Department conceding that the system of justice in the United States will have multiple tiers—first-class law for some and junk law for others…

After today it will be easier than ever to use words and slogans to invent classes of people who are too scary to try in regular proceedings.

Say what you want about how Congress forced Obama’s hand today by making it all but impossible to try the 9/11 conspirators in regular Article III courts.* The only lesson learned is that Obama’s hand can be forced. That there is no principle he can’t be bullied into abandoning. In the future, when seeking to pass laws that treat different people differently for purely political reasons, Congress need only fear-monger and fabricate to get the president to cave. Nobody claims that this was a legal decision. It was a political triumph or loss, depending on your viewpoint. The rule of law is an afterthought, either way.

It may not matter to you today that the U.S. government has invented a new class of criminals fit for a new class of trials. It may bother you a lot more when special rules are created for unions, or corporations, or the poor, or the children of illegal immigrants, or eco-terrorists. Today’s capitulation will just embolden Congress to do all that and more.



Chart of the day (Who gets Medicaid?)

Both Klein and Yglesias highlight this very worthwhile chart at the time when Paul Ryan’s budget is now calling Medicaid a “welfare” program in an obvious attempt to deligitimze it.  (One of my favorite classroom demonstrations is on the power of question wording when I have half the class answer a question about “people on welfare” and the other half answer about “poor people.”  Thanks to Republican efforts, the term “welfare” is most definitely stigmatized.).  Anyway, the chart:

So, just to be clear, while expanding tax cuts for the richest Americans, this budget plan cuts health care for the elderly and disabled.  Tell me again that Republicans aren’t greedy and callous.

Paul Ryan’s budget secret: cut Medicare and Medicaid

While Paul Ryan is being praised as “brave” and “serious” for his budget plan, it’s important to remember that this bravery and seriousness essentially consists in very real cuts of health care services to future poor and old people.  Where’s the bravery in that?  Show me a Republican willing to raise the top marginal tax rate up to the level it was during the 1990’s (somehow, the economy managed to survive then) or willing to cut the defense budget– that’s bravery.  Ezra Klein deconstructs what Ryan’s budget actually does:

In Medicare’s case, the reform is privatization. The current Medicare program would be dissolved and the next generation of seniors would choose from Medicare-certified private plans on an exchange. But that wouldn’t save money. In fact, it would cost money. As the Congressional Budget Office has said (pdf), since Medicare is cheaper than private insurance, beneficiaries will see “higher premiums in the private market for a package of benefits similar to that currently provided by Medicare.”

In Medicaid’s case, the reform is block-granting. Right now, the federal government shares Medicaid costs with the states. That means their payments increase or decrease with Medicaid’s actual rate of spending. Under a block grant system, that’d stop. They’d simply give states a lump sum at the beginning of the year and that’d have to suffice. And if a recession hits and more people need Medicaid or a nasty flu descends and lots of disabled beneficiaries end up in the hospital with pneumonia? Too bad.

In both cases, what saves money is not the reform. It’s the cut. For Medicare, the cut is that the government wouldn’t cover the full cost of the private Medicare plans, and the portion they would cover is set to shrink as time goes on. In Medicaid, the block grants are set to increase more slowly than health-care costs, which is to say, the federal government will shoulder a smaller share of the costs than it currently does. The question for both plans is the same: What happens to beneficiaries?

Very important points to remember in the coming debate.  I’d love to see the journalists covering the issue to get this stuff right, i.e, Ryan cuts health care costs by cutting care, but I’m not planning on it.  Why cover or attempt to understand policy when Sarah Palin might post something interesting on facebook.

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