Andrew C. McCarthy wrote a response to a Jonah Goldberg post about the shutdown deal today. Let me preface this post by saying that I am generally a fan of McCarthy, and believe he writes a lot of insightful things, especially in the foreign policy arena. With that in mind, his latest post is full of several inaccurate claims and straw man arguments. Instead of trying to write a response in column form, I would like to address several specific claims made by McCarthy:
1) “Because, as a matter of law, Obamacare could not proceed unless both congressional chambers agreed to fund it, and because Republicans control the House, House Republicans could deny it funding.”
This claim is made in the post on several occasions and is essentially the premise of the main argument. The problem is that it is completely false. Most of Obamacare was funded in the original bill. People know this is false because Obamacare proceeded and continued to be funded despite the government shutdown that began on October 1st. This is exactly why the actual defunding of Obamacare required passing a law with a provision specifically defunding Obamacare. The fact that the whole post is premised on this inaccurate claim should basically end this discussion, but there are countless other claims in this post that present a false impression of what occurred. We cannot learn from our mistakes if we do not accept the reality of what happened.
2) “something also had to be done because Obamacare is a disaster for the productive part of the country. And, more urgently, that something had to be done now. This was not a manufactured crisis. Obamacare was set to commence on October 1.”
Except no proposed strategy, including defund, did anything to stop Obamacare before October 1st. In fact, it started on October 1st despite us actually pursuing the defund strategy. “Something had to be done” is meaningless when nothing could be done that would actually address the issue.
3) “McConnell insists, was not in any way influenced by the tidy $3 billion earmark thrown in for one of his pet Kentucky boondoggles.”
This was an earmark proposed by Obama and several Democrats, and was not objected to by a single Senator. Trying to imply it had something to do with McConnell ‘s vote just isn’t based on reality.
4) “Republicans had two options. Option One was the GOP establishment’s “win elections, then repeal” strategy: Do nothing for now; allow Obamacare to be implemented; assume its unpopularity would increase, creating a climate for extended, uninterrupted GOP electoral success, finally leading to a Republican Congress of such substantial majorities that an Obamacare repeal would pass both houses and be signed by a Republican president. As we shall see, core assumptions of “win elections, then repeal” require the suspension of disbelief.”
This claim is the prefect example of a straw man argument. Everyone, including supporters of the defund strategy; acknowledged that ultimately you have to win elections in order to actually repeal Obamacare. In the meantime, nobody suggested doing nothing. In reality, there were countless strategies that were suggested by countless parties, all of which were rejected because they couldn’t measure up to the unicorn defund plan. For example, McCarthy manages to conflate defund with delay within the article, but these were separate strategies. In fact, many supporters of trying to use the debt ceiling and sequestration cuts to bargain for a one-year delay in the individual mandate (a much more realistic plan) were attacked for not backing defund. Furthermore, making your case to the American people in order to gain the power to do what is necessary is hardly equivalent to doing nothing, it is what should and must be done. That alone is better than dividing opponents of Obamacare without having an actual plan that would do anything to diminish Obamacare. Also worth noting that the people opposed to “option 2” were hardly limited to the “GOP establishment,” unless you consider Thomas Sowell, Scott Walker, Rick Perry, Ron Johnson etc. part of the GOP establishment.
5) “Republicans who have won the popular vote in a presidential election only once since 1988; who are rapidly losing the confidence of the conservative base that gave the GOP the historic midterm victory in 2010”
Ignored in this statement is the reason the base is losing confidence in the GOP. Every single Republican in Congress, including the biggest squishes, opposes Obamacare. It was exclusively Democrats that passed Obamacare. They justified it on a pyramid of false promises and against the will of the public, which directly led to Republican electoral victory in 2010. This continuous effort by some on the right to shift blame to Republicans for something that Democrats are solely responsible for is not productive or sensible. In addition, it is precisely because some have created false expectations for the base as to what Republicans can accomplish while only having a majority in the House that conservatives constantly feel disappointed. Many have correctly written that some of this is based on the failure of the GOP to govern conservatively when it did have power, but that doesn’t change the fact that current GOP politicians cannot truly show whether they learned a lesson from those mistakes until they regain the power necessary to actually govern. In our current system, that can only be done through elections. If you are unhappy with the GOP being unable to govern from just the House, your problem is with our system of government and the Constitution, not the Republicans in Congress.
UPDATE: Andrew has written a response to this post: http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/361680/mandatory-spending-obamacare-again-andrew-c-mccarthy