Romney’s Healthcare Talking Points Still Need Work

April 3rd, 2011 at 2:15 pm David Frum | 58 Comments |

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At the RJC annual meeting in Las Vegas, Mitt Romney delivered the big speech on Saturday.

He did a good job too, talking about issues from employment to Israel – everything really except guess what? As he finished and received his ovation, the woman to my right murmured “He’s got my vote.”

The audience noticed the omission too. At question time, the very first question was posed by a urologist who asked about the Romney healthcare plan in Massachusetts.

Here was Romney’s answer:

First, he defended the plan as a necessary response to the problem of unpaid healthcare in emergency rooms.

Second, he offered an excuse for the plan as a legitimate innovation at the state level.

Third, he attacked President Obama for extending the plan to more than one state.

Finally, he promised to repeal the national healthcare plan.

All this took perhaps 90 seconds. The audience applauded the fourth part – and the governor joked, “They tell me when the audience applauds, to stop talking.”

I doubt that answer will do the job for him.

In answer to a later question, Romney tried another approach. He joked that the president paid him the compliment of describing his plan as the inspiration for the president’s own plan. “In that case,” said Romney, “why didn’t he call me?” Romney suggested the president should have asked him what worked and what didn’t in the Massachusetts experiment.

This answer is getting more plausible.

Yet Romney did not himself specify what worked and what did not work, leaving the largest part of his case unmade. Ironically for him, a stronger defense of his own program would allow a more plausible attack on the federal program, as in:

We did this and that – it worked. But the feds added that and this – a costly mistake.

Every time I see Mitt Romney speak, I am struck by three things:

1) How hugely personally impressive he is, in ways big and small. He remembers the names of people in the audience. He knows the policy. He can be very funny. He’s sharp, prepared, ready for any question. Underneath it all, he manifests personal character and decency. An audience member reproached him for running “too gentlemanly” campaigns in Massachusetts, praised Donald Trump for “taking the gloves off” against President Obama and demanded whether he was prepared to do the same. In a way that left the questioner nodding and smiling, Romney restated his preference for a campaign not based on personal attacks.

2) Romney has a tic of inserting caveats into his campaign boilerplate. For example, he blisteringly attacked President Obama for canceling  the European missile defense program. Here was something the Russians wanted, and President Obama gave it away without getting anything in return. Yet Romney’s critique contained a clause to this effect, “Even if you wanted to cancel the program anyway…” Again and again, Romney would salt statements that his audience wanted to hear with little mental asterisks noting that maybe what they wanted to hear was not exactly accurate, or wise, or in accordance with his own private opinions. Ironically it is this unwillingness to do the full 100% pander that creates the impression of “inauthenticity.” A less honest man would seem more authentic, at least for the moment.

3) Romney is truly a candidate of upper America. In Las Vegas, he spoke movingly of the impact of unemployment. Yet he opened this fine passage in his talk with an anecdote about traveling out from the home of friends in North Las Vegas to tour other people’s foreclosed homes. He could view and empathize with the misfortune, but unmistakably he spoke of misfortune as something that happened to other people, people he did not know personally. American politics obviously has plenty of room for aristocrats. (See the Roosevelts, the Kennedys, the Bushes.) But typically, when people who start at the top enter politics, they either present themselves as tribunes of the under-privileged (like Teddy Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy), or else (like George W. Bush and to a certain extent Franklin Roosevelt) they tell a story of personal crisis and redemption.

Romney’s story is very impressive in its own way: born to a successful father, he achieved an even greater success of his own. Yet Romney seems to have arrived at his success so smoothly, so gracefully, and so without inner turmoil and pain as to open a huge gap between his experiences and those of virtually everyone else in the United States. If he is to be president, he must find a way to close it.


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58 Comments so far ↓

  • TerryF98

    …” Again and again, Romney would salt statements that his audience wanted to hear with little mental asterisks noting that maybe what they wanted to hear was not exactly accurate, or wise, or in accordance with his own private opinions. Ironically it is this unwillingness to do the full 100% pander that creates the impression of “inauthenticity.” A less honest man would seem more authentic, at least for the moment.”

    Once again Frum wants a candidate who lies convincingly to be President of the USA. No wonder he loved Bush so much, there was the consummate liar.

    I give Romney plaudits for not taking the birther route, and for not pandering. He is a flip flopper extrordinaire so that all may change tomorrow, but for today well done.

  • ottovbvs

    born to a successful father, he achieved an even greater success of his own.

    He started at the bottom with $50 million you mean.

    Ironically it is this unwillingness to do the full 100% pander that creates the impression of “inauthenticity.” A less honest man would seem more authentic, at least for the moment.”

    Mitt the flip flop doesn’t do the 100% pander? Hilarious.

    • Carney

      Your typical mean spirited jeering cannot obscure the reality of Romney’s astounding success. During his 14 years heading Bain, it averaged an annual rate of return of 113%. That’s incredible no matter where you started.

      And plenty of people have inherited money and squandered it.

      • ottovbvs

        I actually think Romney is a completely competent businessman and was a relatively successful governor of MA. What I’m laughing at (but you’re obviously too unsophisticated to understand )is Frum’s characterisation of his achievement.

      • TerryF98

        Most of that money came from asset stripping companies, exporting the jobs and closing them down, a great way for a Prospective President to behave, enriching himself at the cost of American jobs.

  • Carney

    I don’t blame liberals for jeering at Romney for “flip flopping” – that is, for moving right on social policy.

    What I don’t get is conservatives doing that. How are we going to convince waverers, especially policymakers, to side with us if we greet converts with scorn and hatred?

    The left never excoriated Jesse Jackson, Dick Gephardt, Ted Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and Dennis Kucinich for going from pro-life to “pro choice”.

    And we used to be that smart too. Bush Sr. abruptly switched to pro-life to get on the ticket in 1980. Reagan himself, as governor, had proudly signed California’s sweeping abortion legalization legislation into law. Yet neither were mercilessly taunted by their own side, for years and years without end, for their change of position.

  • Carney

    On healthcare, “RomneyCare” is basically the same health plan suggested by the conservative Heritage Foundation in the 1990s. That Romney accomplished this in MA is impressive since he was facing a hard-left legislature with so few Republicans in it that they could have overriden his veto and rammed through a REAL socialist scheme.

    Sure, Romney’s plan included an individual mandate to buy health insurance. That’s a GOOD thing, a conservative thing. We’re no longer in an America where we’ll let hospitals turn people away who can’t afford to pay. The problem there is some people know that and refuse to buy a health plan, and just show up smugly demanding care. Refusing to buy a health plan is disrespectful to taxpayers that you’re putting on the hook. Insisting that people take responsibility for their health care by buying their choice of private health plan, or at least paying a fee equivalent to the risk they are putting taxpayers at, is conservative, pro-taxpayer, and pro individual responsibility.

    All the loudmouths who scream and whine about the individual mandate and brag that they’ll never buy a health plan should sign a waiver releasing all hospitals from any responsibility to give them any care, no matter how sick or injured they get.

    Oh, and even if you dislike “RomneyCare”, he’s not trying to impose his MA plan on the whole country; he believes in federalism and each state trying its own approach. And it’s unquestionably constitutional, because the 10th Amendment gives broad discretion to the states to do anything they’re not forbidden to do.

    • Nanotek

      “And it’s unquestionably constitutional, because the 10th Amendment gives broad discretion to the states to do anything they’re not forbidden to do.”

      but that characterization seems incomplete because the Commerce Clause gives Congress the power to regulate commerce between the states, so citing the 10th amendment doesn’t end further considerations.

  • Bunker555

    Tea Baggers’ attention spans are as long as their noses. They only want to hear Mitt say-repeal ObamaCare.

    “Finally, he promised to repeal the national healthcare plan.”

    The religious wacko wing of Tea Baggers may not support his candidature for the nomination. The Huckster has them in the bag.

    http://www.frumforum.com/huckabee-fans-embers-of-religious-right

  • Carney

    Ted Kennedy (less charitably, his speechwriter) said in eulogy of JFK Jr. that he “had every gift but length of years.” Now past 60 and a gray-streaked grandfather, Romney, it seems, has been given even that as well. It’s easy to spot the petty and small-spirited – they’re the ones who are jealous of him.

    • ottovbvs

      Get a life Carney, it has nothing to do with jealousy. Romney is running for president, he’s undoubtably the most competent of the gallery of weirdos and meatheads currently out there running for the GOP nomination, but he’s pandered and flip flopped relentlessly to the wingnuts both during his last campaign and he’s doing the same again now. Thus it’s not unreasonable to assume he’s going to be taking his marching orders from them should he ever win the presidency. Do you really feel comfortable that the spirit of Bachmann, Kristol and Rand Paul is what’s going to animating the next presidency. 40 years ago Romney would have been a shoo in for the GOP nomination, the fact he’s not tells you this is a party that has lost touch with reality.

    • ottovbvs

      Carney btw…Given that you make a singularly mean spirited reference to Ted Kennedy’s funeral eulogy to his dead nephew you clearly haven’t the remotest idea of mean spirited means. Before you go around throwing out accusations of mean spriritedness you might want to examine your own behavior.

      • Carney

        I wasn’t mocking Kennedy’s pain, Otto. As I cast about in my mind for some way to capture that “blessed in every category” quality that Romney seems to have, I hit on that great quote from Teddy’s speech and thus included it. But yes, my post probably could have done without my having to note my doubts at the old tongue-tied bombast’s ability to turn such an elegant phrase on his own.

  • NRA Liberal

    I supported the Heritage Foundation/Obamacare plan because I thought it was the camel’s nose under the tent.

    At bottom, the ACA fight was over the basic concept of insurance: a large risk pool, with everyone forced to participate.

    Yes, we ended up with a (formerly) GOP scheme and big giveaways to concessions to entrenched vested interests, but that was the price to pay for winning the philosophical fight. It was touch and go there for a while, too–balanced on a knife edge.

    I agree with Frum’s “Waterloo” appraisal.

  • TerryF98

    On the Republican hopefuls.

    “This is my 10th presidential campaign, Lord help me. I have never before seen such a bunch of vile, desperate-to-please, shameless, embarrassing losers coagulated under a single party’s banner. They are the most compelling argument I’ve seen against American exceptionalism.”

    If you’re thinking those words came from a liberal blogger or a Democratic firebrand, you will be surprised to learn that the source was consummate Villager Joe Klein

  • armstp

    The only thing Romney supposively offers is his so-called business experience. However, as the economy recovers, that valued business “experience” becomes less important.

    Other than his business “experience” GOP voters think he is a phony. He has switched positions on abortion, gun laws, healthcare law, gay rights, immigration, campaign finance law, etc. etc. etc.

    • ottovbvs

      It’s also the case of course that governors and politicians with business experience have got rather a checkered record. A bit like former generals. Think Hoover and Grant.They both come from command and control environments where you send out a memo and everyone salutes the flag and gets on with it. The presidency or governorships are just not like that. They require a totally different tool kit of skills.

  • Rabiner

    Carney:

    “Sure, Romney’s plan included an individual mandate to buy health insurance. That’s a GOOD thing, a conservative thing. We’re no longer in an America where we’ll let hospitals turn people away who can’t afford to pay. The problem there is some people know that and refuse to buy a health plan, and just show up smugly demanding care. Refusing to buy a health plan is disrespectful to taxpayers that you’re putting on the hook. Insisting that people take responsibility for their health care by buying their choice of private health plan, or at least paying a fee equivalent to the risk they are putting taxpayers at, is conservative, pro-taxpayer, and pro individual responsibility.”

    So what do you dislike about the Health Reform passed by Obama? It basically was the Heritage plan from the 1990s or Romney’s own plan in MA.

  • nikhil_gupta

    Interesting comment at the end, but given that Obama is not exactly the master of personal politics, probably not a very urgent one.

    • ottovbvs

      is not exactly the master of personal politics,

      So why do Obama’s likeability numbers consistently beat his approval numbers by 10-15% points if he’s not a master of personal politics? Would you like to explain this dichotomy?

    • hisgirlfriday

      Interesting comment at the end, but given that Obama is not exactly the master of personal politics, probably not a very urgent one.

      I would contend that how Romney stacks up in the game of personally connecting to voters in comparison to Pawlenty or Barbour or Huckabee is a lot more urgent than how he stacks up against Obama.

      • TerryF98

        Romney comes across as a Mr Good-hair, an elite, a cold calculating man well removed from ordinary Americans.

  • hisgirlfriday

    I just don’t see how Romney wins the nomination whether Romney irons out the healthcare talking points or not.

    Romney is not the type of candidate who can win on personality, he’s not the type of candidate who can win on hard-nosed negative politicking and yet he hasn’t proposed any policy proposals for a presidency that can allow him to stand out from the crowd.

    The only thing that makes him stand out from people like Pawlenty or Barbour or Gingrich or Bachmann or Huckabee are negatives in the nationwide GOP primary: he was born rich, he’s a Mormon, he’s a Northeast guy, his landmark achievement as a politician is universal healthcare.

    So what is his path toward victory? Fundraising from big money donors and courting conservative intellectual elites without inspiring a throng of dedicated ground game volunteers or courting the broader mainstream media? Didn’t he try that in 2008 and already find out it wouldn’t work?

    For the sake of my country on the off chance I have to live under a GOP president starting in 2013 I hope that Romney can get it together to pick up the nomination but his political strategies thus far haven’t given me much hope in that regard.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    Carney: Oh, and even if you dislike “RomneyCare”, he’s not trying to impose his MA plan on the whole country; he believes in federalism and each state trying its own approach

    But this begs the question, is he running to NOT run America? If Romneycare works for Mass. why could it not work for America? Do people in Nevada have a different physiology than people in Mass.?

    Can anyone here tell me why Romney wants to be President? Does he have any core that anyone anywhere can latch onto?

    Apart from his one and only term in Mass. and having made a nice chunk of change (granted, it is peanuts compared to the Gates, Buffets, etc.) what is this great and effortless success he has had? Is simply making money the be all and end all? What evidence is there that he can replicate his own personal financial success with the business of leading the Free world?

    In fact, the guy has been doing nothing but exerting tremendous effort all the time with this ceaseless contortions of his own positions.

    Lets not forget, in his one Presidential run he lost both Iowa and New Hampshire, despite throwing everything he had at both, and this time he is going to blow off Iowa completely with his whole strategy to win in NH.

    Given my pick of Mormons, I would rather have Huntsmen. And if he runs, that will split the Mormon vote in the west.

  • Xunzi Washington

    Carney on Romney’s success and inheritance: And plenty of people have inherited money and squandered it.

    I hear this over and over, and don’t get it. Look, if you inherit 50 million and lose it, you are a freaking moron. Put it in Treasuries and – in most years – you’ll be pulling in 1 to 2 million a year.

    To MAKE 1 to 2 million a year from scratch requires a hell of a lot more than just “not being a moron”.

  • Xunzi Washington

    Carney says of Romney’s success and inheritance: “And plenty of people have inherited money and squandered it.”

    Look. I’ve heard this a million times used as if this proves some kind of innovative savvy and it befuddles me.

    If you are given 50M, you’d have to be a moron to lose it. Put it in Treasuries and in most years you’ll make 1 – 2 million a year.

    Now, to MAKE 1 – 2 million a year from zero beginning requires a whol lot more than just “not being a moron”. You have to be smart.

    So it’s unclear to me why not losing your inheritance makes you smart, innovative, savvy, or whatever.

    Now, there may be other evidence for these things in Romney’s case, but the inheritance “saavy” doesn’t do it.

    • Carney

      What’s your documentation that he inherited $50 million? In any case, plenty of wealthy people (athletes, entertainers, aristocrats, and businessmen too) have blown that and more. How many times has Trump had to declare bankruptcy?

      To my knowledge, the overwhelming majority of Romney’s personal wealth comes from his own effort and work in the business world. He actively managed, founded, and advised businesses, averaging a 113% annual rate of return for 14 years. That’s beyond amazing.

  • Elvis Elvisberg

    Ironically it is this unwillingness to do the full 100% pander that creates the impression of “inauthenticity.” A less honest man would seem more authentic, at least for the moment.

    No.

    That is not correct.

    What creates the impression of inauthenticity is not merely his oily, huckster demeanor, but also that he emerged on the political scene by running to the left of Ted Kennedy in a Senate campaign, then campaigned and governed as a moderate governor of Mass., then lost interest in governance and went on speaking tours touting his newfound far-right persona for the last few years of his term in office.

    It’s the relentless, all-pervasive flip-flopping, not the “I’m not as crazy as you” verbal tics, that mark Romney as an inauthentic panderer.

  • mikewaz

    In answer to a later question, Romney tried another approach. He joked that the president paid him the compliment of describing his plan as the inspiration for the president’s own plan. “In that case,” said Romney, “why didn’t he call me?” Romney suggested the president should have asked him what worked and what didn’t in the Massachusetts experiment. Yet Romney did not himself specify what worked and what did not work, leaving the largest part of his case unmade.

    So Mitt Romney says President Obama should have called and asked what did and didn’t work in Massachusetts, but Mitt either doesn’t know what did and didn’t work in Massachusetts or doesn’t want to talk about what did and didn’t work in Massachusetts. Could it be because the program largely succeeded and ACA copied virtually all of the components that made it work?

  • PatrickQuint

    Romney is pandering to the far right to get the nomination. I don’t think that he’s a true believer.

    You know, I don’t really care. Of course he’s a slimy politician. They’re all slimy politicians. I think this one can do a pretty good job as manager of the economy long-term, and that’s what I care about. The other Republicans will fall in line, breaking their campaign promises as necessary. That’s what Republicans do a lot of these days.

    I see a fair bit of madness in GOP positions resulting from what they feel to be the necessity of being on the opposite side of Obama. Perhaps that madness will abate somewhat if they don’t have someone to be against.

  • hisgirlfriday

    Because I’m a freak, I’m watching the Romney speech from this even on C-Span right now.

    Can someone explain to me why Romney is still ranting about Eastern European missile defense systems in his stump speech? Or why he thinks we still live in a world where Russia is our single biggest threat and not the Islamofascists or China (btw, at one point he credited China with having adopted U.S.’s “free enterprise system” along with India… WTF?!?!)? And would it kill him to update his stump speech from two years ago to talk a little more about the events of North Africa and Middle East?

    I actually found the little bit of empathy he showed talking about the troubles in Las Vegas and the real people facing foreclosure the strongest part of his speech. To me, his empathy there didn’t seem phony.

    What was phony was when he claimed that he thinks Obama doesn’t think business should exist at all.

    • Carney

      HGF, Romney, like most national security conservatives, favors Eastern European missile defense for several reasons.

      The most important is that Iran’s ballistic missiles can strike EE. That casts a shadow over their f foreign policy, especially on Mideast issues. Removing or greatly ameliorating the threat from Iranian missiles enables EE to remain staunch allies of the US on Mideast policy, rather than drifting into appeasement. Far from ignoring Islamofascism, missile defense is a direct counter to it. The limited systems we had in place could not, and were not designed to, stop an all out Russian attack, but rather one or a handful of incoming missiles such as those that could be launched by Iran.

      Secondly, we are directly competing with Russia for influence in EE. The real and symbolic umbrella of protection provided by the missile defense systems puts Russia on notice to forget its dreams of re-subjugating the region. Removing those systems after those countries put themselves on the line angering Russia by accepting them should anger American patriots – it is a move seemingly designed to destroy our credibility when we promise small allies that we’ll stick with them if they side with us over a nearby bully.

      Don’t over-interpret and nitpick his statement about China. The broader, obvious reality is that the Chinese government abandoned communism and decided to open up their economy to private business, when they saw how much better a job free enterprise did in providing for the people’s needs. They didn’t even need to look at us – but rather compare North vs South Korea, mainland China vs. Hong Kong and Taiwan, etc.

      On Obama and business, Obama himself stated that he’d prefer a government health care system. And wrote in his autobiography that during his exceedingly brief stint in productive business he felt like a “spy behind enemy lines.”

  • Bunker555

    GOP Presidential Power Rankings:
    http://iowaindependent.com/54173/2012-republican-power-rankings-for-march-28-social-conservatives-on-the-rise

    “One thing is for sure, don’t count Romney out until he takes himself out.”

    Another panelist notes that Gingrich and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum are “betting the entire farm on Iowa, but can’t get past the star power and street cred of Michele Bachmann.”

    SOURCE: Iowa Independent

  • jorae

    It’s been in effect for 4 years….any thing that did not work, would have been adjusted. If the whole thing did not work, it would have been repealed.

    Why mince words…It worked and now he has a choice to either say it worked or repeal the thing…what difference does it make if it is State wide or United States wide?

    Money in money out. Anyone want to give me an example of a State plan on anything that can only work in that state? I think it is a typical “dodging the facts” with a smile on your hypocritical face. Republican have no shame…or do they really care about your tax dollar…really.

  • Carney

    Sorry to everyone for the off topic post here.

    BTW otto I did not get back to you in a timely way on the energy thread that has now been bumped off the front page.

    Here is my latest comment (maybe you should reply to me there so we don’t hijack this thread.)

    http://www.frumforum.com/obama-energy-plan-wont-end-our-oil-addiction#comment-270904

    “otto, if, as in the 1940s, we had the majority of the world’s known oil reserves and two thirds of its oil production, our globally disproportionate consumption of oil would not be a national security problem.

    Similarly, we consume a globally disproportionate share of the world’s electricity, but because 97% of our electricity supply comes from non-oil (ie domestic) sources, that is also not a national security problem.

    The source of the problem is thus not our globally disproportionate consumption of oil. It’s that oil is permanently and unfixably controlled by unfriendly or hostile foreign powers. Since we can’t fix that issue, our best remaining choice is to switch the source of our transportation motive power to alternatives which are abundantly available either domestically, or with friendly powers, and which cannot be “cornered” by a cartel able to impose monopoly prices.”

    • ottovbvs

      “otto, if, as in the 1940s, we had the majority of the world’s known oil reserves and two thirds of its oil production, our globally disproportionate consumption of oil would not be a national security problem.

      But we don’t…thus it is

      Similarly, we consume a globally disproportionate share of the world’s electricity, but because 97% of our electricity supply comes from non-oil (ie domestic) sources, that is also not a national security problem.

      The electricity is indigenously produced just as the oil used to be back in 1940.

      The source of the problem is thus not our globally disproportionate consumption of oil.

      What a wonderfully illogical construct. Unfortunately, it totally ignores the reality that our society is massively dependant on oil, doesn’t produce it in sufficient quantities indigenously any longer (as you point out) and there aren’t any economically or environmentally viable substitutes that can be produced domestically despite your claims to the contrary.

      I’m afraid Carney you completely destroyed your cred on this topic when you dismissed the importance of conservation by claiming it was a waste of effort because fuel consumption between 1976 and 1990 jumped 16% while ignoring the fact the number of cars on the road jumped by 36%.

      • Carney

        I didn’t “ignore” the fact that the number of cars rose. I already knew it and have mentioned it many times in past posts on this forum and elsewhere. That fact was part of the background for my assertion that fuel demand will inexorably rise. That’s HOW fuel demand rises; economic and population growth creates more people and more wealth. As soon as people can afford cars, they buy them – that’s how strong the desire for individual freedom of mobility is. The number of cars per household rises, the size and power of cars rises, the miles driven per person rises. Combine that with more people and even the most impressive fuel efficiency improvements fail to catch up.

        What in the world did you think you were refuting by triumphantly pointing to the increase in the number of cars? All you were doing was backing up my point that increasing fuel efficiency is futile.

        • ottovbvs

          I didn’t “ignore” the fact that the number of cars rose…What in the world did you think you were refuting by triumphantly pointing to the increase in the number of cars? All you were doing was backing up my point that increasing fuel efficiency is futile.

          Actually you did while claiming that conservation was a waste of time because of the 16% rise in oil consumption over the 1976-90 period. In fact consumption would have more than doubled without conservation so thus we would have become EVEN MORE dependant on oil than we would have been without conservation!!! Essentially what your argument consists of is a call for ever more oil or oil substitute consumption on the grounds that it has some connection with freedom while at the same time bemoaning our strategic dependence on oil (of which we consume wholly disproportionate quantities) with breathtaking displays of illogicality which you don’t even get when I point them out. To use an automotive metaphor you might want to engage brain before opening mouth.

        • Carney

          otto, I didn’t mention it, but that doesn’t mean I overlooked it. Also, a large portion of that 1976 to 1990 timeframe was spent in stagflation or recession. If it had been an uninterrupted growth run, the rate of growth of fuel demand would have been even higher. And now China and India are automobilizing as well. You yourself admit that the best that conservation can do is make growth demand slower. Even from a perspective, then, that quantity of consumed fuel is the problem, conservation is a failure. We’ve tried it for decades, and are consuming more fuel than ever.

          Of course, the real problem is that our vehicles are unnecessarily “locked in” to consume fuel from the one and only source (among the many available sources of liquid fuel) that happens to be controlled by our enemies. If we opened up the fuel market and broke Enemy Fuel’s monopoly (that is, if our cars could run on non-petroleum fuel), then we’d actually be getting somewhere.

          Contrary to your claims, we have the world’s greatest coal reserves, plenty of natural gas, and plenty of biomass production capacity – all of which can generate methanol.

          In the long run, if advanced and abundant enough electricity production comes on line (if we diverted the billions we waste of hydrogen fuel cells to fusion for instance) we could generate methanol from atmospheric CO2, thus going a long way toward dealing with greenhouse gas.

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  • CentristNYer

    Carney: “I don’t blame liberals for jeering at Romney for “flip flopping” – that is, for moving right on social policy … The left never excoriated Jesse Jackson, Dick Gephardt, Ted Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and Dennis Kucinich for going from pro-life to “pro choice”.”

    The difference is that those guys didn’t make it a regular practice. No reasonable person would fault a politician for reexamining an issue and coming to a new conclusion about it. It’s the fact that Romney has changed his position on a whole series of important matters — including same sex unions and health care reform — and did so right at the point that he was gearing up for his first run for the GOP nomination. It strained credibility to believe that all-of-a-sudden, as he’s about to face increasingly conservative and out-of-touch Republican voters, he’s had a change of heart on all the issues that distinguished him from the pack.

    • Carney

      Skipping the too-easy question of whether Bill Clinton made flip-flopping “a regular practice”, you mention two other issues – same sex unions and health reform.

      I doubt Jackson, Gephardt, Kennedy, Clinton, Gore, or Kucinich would have publicly backed same sex unions in ten years ago, let alone in prior decades. (Yet again, the Left largely has given them a pass.)

      Furthermore, how has Romney changed his position on health care?

      • ottovbvs

        Skipping the too-easy question of whether Bill Clinton made flip-flopping “a regular practice”,

        Why don’t you address the central issue rather than bringing up the usual distractions. Yes all politicians flip flop, Clinton was about the norm, but the reason why Romney’s reputation is in tatters is because he’s turned flip flopping into an industrial process with exhibit A being Romneycare. It’s an albatross like Gingrich’s sex/wife problems.

  • ottovbvs

    You yourself admit that the best that conservation can do is make growth demand slower.

    Not necessarily, it depends on the conservation methods adopted which can take many forms. As I pointed out before if gas was at same price in the US as in backward countries like Switzerland and Germany oil consumption would over five years fall precipitately in this country.

    Contrary to your claims, we have the world’s greatest coal reserves, plenty of natural gas,

    I never claimed we didn’t have large reserves of coal and gas, so here you’re just switching from bizarre illogicality to porkies I’m afraid. I just said we don’t have economically and environmentally viable substitutes and we don’t.

    • Carney

      OPEC raised the price of oil from $10 a barrel in 1999 to $140 a barrel in 2008. But oil demand is highly price inelastic. It takes truly brutal price hikes to alter behavior, and by brutal I mean imposing real harm on the economy and on family budgets.

      And yet, without making cars able to run on non-oil fuel, you’ve imposed all that sacrifice for precisely nothing. Are Germany and Switzerland ahead of us in alternative fuel compatible cars? No.

      Without that, no matter how low your per capita consumption, you’re still at the mercy of OPEC, still forced to pay whatever price OPEC demands if you want to move.

      Alcohol fuel may not be environmentally immaculate (nothing is), but it’s better than oil. More importantly, it frees our economy and our national security from dependence on our enemies.

      And what the hell’s a “porkie”? Speak English.

      • ottovbvs

        Without that, no matter how low your per capita consumption, you’re still at the mercy of OPEC, still forced to pay whatever price OPEC demands if you want to move.

        It doesn’t occur to you that we’d be relatively less at the mercy of OPEC if our per capita consumption were half what it is? And if consumption fell massively that the price would come down because oil is an internationally traded commodity. Really, is this too hard for you to grasp?

        Alcohol fuel may not be environmentally immaculate (nothing is), but it’s better than oil. More importantly, it frees our economy and our national security from dependence on our enemies.

        It’s not cost effective and and it’s environmentally damaging. Methanol is as much of a delusion as ethanol. Increased efficiency/reduced consumption is a much more cost effective route to reducing our strategic reliance on oil and it does not mean becoming a third world country as you keep insisting contrary to all the evidence.

        And what the hell’s a “porkie”? Speak English.

        Porkie = Lie…I try to keep debate civil.

        • Carney

          It doesn’t occur to you that we’d be relatively less at the mercy of OPEC if our per capita consumption were half what it is?

          It used to, before I wised up.

          Now follow me here. I’m going to make an extremely important point. I’ve made it before, slowly and carefully; apparently it went in one ear and out the other. I’ll try again.

          If we reduce oil consumption, OPEC can just cut production to match, increase the per-unit price of oil, and make just as much total money from us as before despite the reduced sales volume. We end up paying OPEC just as much of our money, for less oil, as we did before, for more oil.

          And paying just as much despite having undergone non-trivial sacrifice to “achieve” that lower consumption volume, such as imposing high gas taxes on ourselves, paying extra for hybrids, or sacrificing lives and time and quality of life in flimsier, slower, weaker, smaller cars. The terrorists and other extremists get to play with just as much of our money as before.

          OPEC can do this because it controls vast majority of the world oil supply and our cars cannot run on anything other than oil derived fuel.

          That’s why conservation and focusing on consumption is so futile. First of all as I have described earlier reducing consumption is effectively impossible to achieve and even if we could do it it, at great cost, it would accomplish nothing on the economic and geostrategic fronts anyway.

          We cannot fix or change OPEC’s control of the world oil supply, but we CAN change whether our cars are stuck with OPEC controlled fuel as their only choice.

          If methanol compatibility were a standard feature like seat belts in all new cars, foreign or domestic, luxury or entry-level, big or small, then after a few years a critical mass of cars or the road would be flex fuel. It’s at THAT point that gasoline taxes can make sense, where they become something other then pointless brutalization of drivers and instead help push drivers to choose alternatives.

          Then gas stations would be forced to race each other to install methanol pumps to avoid being undercut by neighbors. Then at long last gasoline would face competition, and OPEC would be unable to raise the price above the level (around $50 a barrel without subsidies) at which alcohol fuel is price competitive. This puts a cap on OPEC’s mischief budget and on fuel prices, a cap that can be relentlessly lowered via wise policies.

        • ottovbvs

          If we reduce oil consumption, OPEC can just cut production to match, increase the per-unit price of oil, and make just as much total money from us as before despite the reduced sales volume….before I wised up.

          Wised up is a highly debatable proposition. This one is at or about your previous triumphs of logic and math. If cutting production is so easy why didn’t oil states do it when oil was at $65 a barrel two years ago to hold up prices?

          First of all as I have described earlier reducing consumption is effectively impossible to achieve

          Actually what you described earlier was that reducing consumption was entirely possible to achieve. When the number of cars on the road increases by 36% and the consumption gas by only 16% that is reduced consumption. If you don’t get this as you obviously don’t, you’re never going to get anything.

          “And paying just as much despite having undergone non-trivial sacrifice to “achieve” that lower consumption volume, such as imposing high gas taxes on ourselves, paying extra for hybrids, or sacrificing lives and time and quality of life in flimsier, slower, weaker, smaller cars. The terrorists and other extremists get to play with just as much of our money as before.”

          Paranoid too?

  • CentristNYer

    Carney // Apr 4, 2011 at 12:47 pm
    “How did Romney flip flop on RomneyCare?”

    For starters, he’s bent himself into a pretzel trying not to take responsibility for key features of the program, saying that he never supported them and wouldn’t support them going forward. That includes raising taxes (which RomneyCare does) and imposing mandates on business (which RomneyCare also does).

    He’s free to rewrite history on this if he likes, but if he was a serious person, he would own the program warts and all and defend it. (It is after all, extremely popular in Massachusetts.) Instead, by walking away from the cherry-picked parts that don’t do test well with Republicans, it only furthers the impression of him as someone whose values are entirely poll-driven.

    • Carney

      Maybe all or nothing is a false choice. Maybe reality’s more complicated than bumper sticker slogans permit. Maybe, just as he says, he disagrees with some aspects of how it’s been implemented. He’s a generally conservative Republican; it should not be considered shocking, nor proof of mendacity, that he would tend to disagree with aspects of a given law that other conservative Republicans would disagree with.

      Were liberals flip-flopping liars for supporting No Child Left Behind but not liking the (scrapped) school voucher provisions, then later complaining about how funding was implemented? No, liberals are consistent in asserting that one can never dump enough tax dollars into the black hole of government schools.

  • CentristNYer

    But those features of the program were critical to its implementation. It’s like saying “I was all for sending troops to Iraq, but I just didn’t want to have to pay for it.” You can’t take credit for a program’s success without also taking responsibility for the hard decisions that made it possible. That’s not leadership.

    • Carney

      Perhaps. But in any case, it’s his change of opinion on abortion primarily that has driven the narrative that he’s a flip flopper, a narrative that was hardened in place well before his health plan became a political problem for the base.

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