Why Oh Why 2010 Edition
Read through the 'This Week' Transcript. It's truly terrifying. You try to figure out why anybody thinks it's a good idea for these people to have the jobs that they do--and you can't:
.. WILL: Two things. First of all, Sam, you want the president to be Ulysses Grant, who won the war by his wonderful indifference to his own casualties, and I think some members in the Senate and in the House would not approve of that.
DONALDSON: Did I not just say that they may lose some seats? Were you listening?
WILL: By the millions. Now -- second, now, Paul says that, in fact, the Republicans have no ideas. They do, cross-selling across state lines, tort reforms, all those. Just a second, Paul. Then you say they're telling whoppers. That was your view about Lamar Alexander when he said, for millions of Americans, premiums will go up. You said in the next sentence in your column, I guess you could say he wasn't technically lying, because the Congressional Budget Office says that's true.
KRUGMAN: No, it's not what it says.... Can I explain? This is...
WILL: Wait. Let me -- let me set the predicate here, because you then go on and say the Senate does say the average premiums would go up, but people would be getting better premiums.
KRUGMAN: Look, let me explain what happens, because you actually have to read the CBO report.... [T]he CBO report tells you... that... what the bill will do is bring a lot of people who are uninsured, who are currently young and therefore relatively low cost, into the risk pool, which will actually bring premiums down a little bit. It will also... lead a lot of people to get better insurance... people who are currently underinsured, who have insurance policies that are paper thin and don't actually protect you in a crisis, will... get... full coverage. That makes the average payments go up, but it does not mean that people who currently have good coverage under their policies will pay more.... [T]hey'll end up paying a little bit less.
WILL: One question. If the government came to you and said, "Professor Krugman, you have a car. We're going to compel you to buy a more expensive car," but it's not really more expensive, because it's a better car, wouldn't you tell them to get off your land?
Will was really on this week-end. This one was particularly interesting in its total unresponsiveness:
VARGAS: I do want to get to one other issue related to this health care bill, which is the language on abortion, because it almost died in the House, the health care bill, because of abortion. There was the Stupak amendment, which attached highly restrictive language to when abortions could be covered, and there -- Bart Stupak says this is unacceptable, this current bill, as Obama has proposed it, and he says 20 other members of the House will have problems with it, too. Will abortion kill this thing in the end?
WILL: Well, Alan Frumin's 15 minutes of fame have arrived. He is the hitherto obscure, but soon to be quite famous parliamentarian of the Senate, and it will be his job to rule on what can and cannot be passed under reconciliation. That is, is it a budgetary-related thing? You can argue about a great many things in the health care bill. Can you say that's budget-related? No one thinks you can change the abortion language under reconciliation.
Obviously Will was riffing because he didn't have any clue about this issue and it was gibberish.
The thing went downhill from there with poor Krugman trying to inject sanity, but being thwarted by Roberts' fatuous non sequitors:
WILL: Twenty years from now, the country is going to be spending a larger portion of its GDP on health care than it is now for three reasons. We're getting older, and as we age, we get more chronic diseases that interact with one another. Second, we're getting richer; we can afford to buy more medicine. And, third, medicine is becoming more competent. Therefore, we're going to spend more on health care.
KRUGMAN: But there's a...
(DeLong: What Paul wanted to say here was: "There is a big difference between, twenty years from now, spending 20% of GDP on health care with universal coverage and spending 25% of GDP on health care with one-quarter of the non-elderly population uninsured and getting substandard coverage.)
ROBERTS: The other thing is, you know, the health care industry is the biggest employer in most of our cities now. So when -- when the speaker talks about a job creation bill...
VARGAS: A jobs bill, exactly.
It wound up with this sad, pathetic, predictable conclusion:
VARGAS: And then, of course, this weekend, we have a brand-new White House social secretary appointed to replace Desiree Rogers, a close friend of the Obamas who is exiting after a bumpy tenure, I would say. Cokie, you spoke with her. She -- she was highly criticized after the Obamas' first state dinner in which she arrived, looking absolutely gorgeous, but in what some people later said was far too fancy a dress, but most importantly, that was the state dinner that was crashed by the Salahis, who walked in without an invitation when the social secretary's office didn't have people manning the security sites.
ROBERTS: Well, I talked to -- I did talk to her, Desiree, yesterday at length. She is from my home city of New Orleans and fellow Sacred Heart girl.
DONALDSON: What's the name of the city?
ROBERTS: New Orleans.
DONALDSON: I love to hear her say it.
ROBERTS: But -- and she has lots of good explanations about that dinner. And basically, the bottom line is, it's the Secret Service. But she -- but her -- her major point is -- and I -- and I completely take this -- is that she -- she put on 330 events at the White House last year and did open the building to all kinds of people who had not been there before. And they had wonderful music days of all kinds of music, where you had during the day, the musicians would work with kids in Washington and teach them things before coming on at night.
DONALDSON: Cokie, that's irrelevant.
ROBERTS: Well, I don't think it's irrelevant.
DONALDSON: I mean, it's irrelevant. People who work for the president understand or should understand their place, which is to be spear-carriers. There are two stars in anyone's White House, the president and the president's spouse. After that, this passion for anonymity that once was a hallmark of people who worked for a president, has been lost. She wanted to be a star herself...
ROBERTS: And it's been lost. Look at all the people who work for presidents and then go out and write books about them.
DONALDSON: I think you're right.
VARGAS: Do you think she was -- did she quit, or was she asked to leave?
DONALDSON: She was asked to.
ROBERTS: She says she quit.
DONALDSON: Oh, well...
ROBERTS: And she certainly has lots...
DONALDSON: And to spend more time with your family.
ROBERTS: No, no, to go into the corporate sector and make some money, where she'll make a lot of -- she'll do fine.
DONALDSON: Good luck to her. I don't wish her ill.
DONALDSON: It's just that she didn't understand...
ROBERTS: She'll do very well.
DONALDSON: ... she was not a star in the sense that she should make herself prominent.
WILL: It is axiomatic that when there's no penalty for failure, failure proliferates. She failed conspicuously in her one great challenge, which was the first state dinner, and she's gone. If she's gone because she failed, that's a healthy sign.
VARGAS: The big question, of course, because she was one of that close contingent of Chicago friends is whether or not she's just the first to leave or if we'll see other...
ROBERTS: But you'll see people leave.
ROBERTS: I mean, that's what happens. It's a perfectly normal thing that happens in administration, is that people come, and they come in at the beginning, and then it's time to -- to go back to life.
KRUGMAN: Can I say that 20 million Americans unemployed, the fact that we're worrying about the status of the White House social secretary...
VARGAS: It's our light way to end, Paul.
DONALDSON: Paul, welcome to Washington.
What can you say to this? The system is broken and corrupt and this is one of the major reasons why.
It's mind-boggling that George Will can say this without being struck by lightning right there at the table, but he said it without even the slightest shred of irony or self awareness:
It is axiomatic that when there's no penalty for failure, failure proliferates. She failed conspicuously in her one great challenge, which was the first state dinner, and she's gone. If she's gone because she failed, that's a healthy sign.
Yes, he's right about one thing. Failure certainly does proliferate when there's no penalty.