On March 21, 2010, conservative writer David Frum took to his FrumForum site and penned a piece titled "Waterloo," a lengthy lamentation on the passage of the Affordable Care Act. But unlike many of his ideological brethren, Frum wasn't merely upset about a Democratic victory; he was angry that the GOP had followed a foolish legislative strategy that prized taking the Obama presidency out at the knees rather than working as the loyal opposition to craft what would be, to Frum's perspective, the best possible bill while the debate permitted it.
Could a deal have been reached? Who knows? But we do know that the gap between this plan and traditional Republican ideas is not very big. The Obama plan has a broad family resemblance to Mitt Romney's Massachusetts plan. It builds on ideas developed at the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s that formed the basis for Republican counter-proposals to Clintoncare in 1993-1994.
Barack Obama badly wanted Republican votes for his plan. Could we have leveraged his desire to align the plan more closely with conservative views? To finance it without redistributive taxes on productive enterprise -- without weighing so heavily on small business -- without expanding Medicaid? Too late now. They are all the law.
Frum was correct. The Obama administration was more than willing to deal. The more liberal imaginings of universal health care -- in the form of single-payer, or a National Health-style system -- were dealt off the table from jump. The White House wanted all parties to add on, have input, play a part in shaping the policy. So much so that the president eventually embraced a concept with a Heritage Foundation pedigree. If anything, it should have been the Democrats spitting hot fire on the proceedings.
But the Republicans weren't willing to do much in the way of deal-making and negotiating. What they were willing to do, was develop any number of wonderful, ornate lies about a health care reform plan that was cooked up in their own laboratories and celebrated as a Republican accomplishment only a short time ago, during the 2008 primary season. At least, in this effort, they truly excelled. But as Frum noted, in this column that preceded his own banishment for apostasy, it was a missed opportunity to craft a policy with that stamp of "bipartisanship," that everyone says is important.
But, hey, some of those lies were pretty ambitious. Let's remember them all, shall we?
Jeffrey Young contributed reporting.
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