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Hullabaloo


Friday, December 07, 2012

 
Raising the Medicare eligibility age and Saddam Hussein

by digby

Yesterday I wrote that a consensus is emerging among the allegedly liberal punditocrisy about "entitlement cuts" specifically medicare. I quote Lawrence O'Donnell saying that enough Democrats are ready to go along.  Today, Jonathan Chait comes out in favor of raising the Medicare age. His rationale is questionable on all counts but this is mind-boggling:

The political basis for the right’s opposition to universal health insurance has always been that the uninsured are politically disorganized and weak. But a side effect of raising the Medicare retirement age would be that a large cohort of 65- and 66-year-olds would suddenly find themselves needing the Affordable Care Act to buy their health insurance. Which is to say, Republicans attacking the Affordable Care Act would no longer be attacking the usual band of very poor or desperate people they can afford to ignore but a significant chunk of middle-class voters who have grown accustomed to the assumption that they will be able to afford health care. Strengthening the political coalition for universal coverage seems like a helpful side benefit — possibly even one conservatives come to regret, and liberals, to feel relief they accepted.
Yeah, that'll happen. And hey, if a few million people have to suffer, well, it's good politics for Obama.(Let's throw some sick old people out of medicare so Obamacare will be more popular!)

Dday properly decimates the argument here and I highly recommend you read it. I'll just remind everyone that Chait is known for his, shall we say, unusual ideas. This one remains my favorite:
Bring back Hussein, the lesser evil

JONATHAN CHAIT

THE DEBATE about Iraq has moved past the question of whether it was a mistake (everybody knows it was) to the more depressing question of whether it is possible to avert total disaster. Every self-respecting foreign policy analyst has his own plan for Iraq. The trouble is that these tracts are inevitably unconvincing, except when they argue why all the other plans would fail. It's all terribly grim.

So allow me to propose the unthinkable: Maybe, just maybe, our best option is to restore Saddam Hussein to power.

Yes, I know. Hussein is a psychotic mass murderer. Under his rule, Iraqis were shot, tortured and lived in constant fear. Bringing the dictator back would sound cruel if it weren't for the fact that all those things are also happening now, probably on a wider scale...We may be strong enough to stop large-scale warfare or genocide, but we're not strong enough to stop pervasive chaos...Hussein, however, has a proven record in that department. It may well be possible to reconstitute the Iraqi army and state bureaucracy we disbanded, and if so, that may be the only force capable of imposing order in Iraq.
[...]
The disadvantages of reinstalling Hussein are obvious, but consider some of the upside. He would not allow the country to be dominated by Iran, which is the United States' major regional enemy, a sponsor of terrorism and an instigator of warfare between Lebanon and Israel. Hussein was extremely difficult to deal with before the war, in large part because he apparently believed that he could defeat any U.S. invasion if it came to that. Now he knows he can't. And he'd probably be amenable because his alternative is death by hanging.

I know why restoring a brutal tyrant to power is a bad idea. Somebody explain to me why it's worse than all the others.
I wrote this at the time:
When I read Jonathan Chait's piece in the LA Times from yesterday, I assumed he was making a Swiftian modest proposal. I read his piece to be a satirical left hook to the notion that the Baker Commission was going to find some magical solution to the Iraq quagmire and conclude that the only formula that would work would be to put Saddam back in charge.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I just saw him on Chris Matthews' show explaining that he was engaging in "a little bit of hyperbole but I think there's something to it" and "maybe we should put it back where we found it."

Chait said "almost everyone with a brain says we shouldn't have gone in the first place" however later admits that he was for the war but on different grounds than the neocons who were delusional about spreading democracy. He was for the war because he thought "weapons of mass destruction were the rationale" and said "I didn't pay attention to, I confess, I didn't pay much attention to the possibility of a completely failed state. When the Bush administration talked about democracy I thought they were lying they way they lie about everything else that they do."
Jonathan Chait, you'll remember, wrote the seminal essay on why liberals should support the war in October of 2002 in TNR. Here's what he had to say back then:
When asked about war, they [liberals] typically offer the following propositions: President Bush has cynically timed the debate to bolster Republican chances in the November elections, he has pursued his Iraq policy with an arrogant disregard for the views of Congress and the public, and his rationales for military action have been contradictory and in some cases false. I happen to believe all these criticisms are true (although the first is hard to prove) and that they add more evidence to what is already a damning indictment of the Bush presidency. But these are objections to the way Bush has carried out his Iraq policy rather than to the policy itself. (If Bush were to employ such dishonest tactics on behalf of, say, universal health care, that wouldn't make the policy a bad idea.) Ultimately the central question is: Does war with Iraq promote liberal foreign policy principles? The answer is yes, it does.
His reasoning was that we believe "American global dominance cannot last unless it is accepted by the rest of the world, and that cannot happen unless it operates on behalf of the broader good and on the basis of principles more elevated than 'might makes right.'" How invading Iraq met that criteria he didn't explain, (or why American dominance was a positive value in the first place) other than to say that Saddam was a very bad man --- the same bad man he later suggested we re-install to power when things went wrong.

So, you know, the lesson is that the Very Serious people always have bad ideas and misunderstand how how things really work. Best to just move along and pay no attention.

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