A Complete Idiot Talks About Health Care


Dana Milbank — not ordinarily my first choice for sharp political commentary — has a devastatingly funny take-down of Michael Steele at the National Press Club:

“We need to bring new language to this debate,” Republican message man Alex Castellanos wrote in a memo to fellow GOP strategists this month. “If we paint the house the same color, no one will notice anything has changed: We will still be the same, outdated Republicans who have no new ideas and oppose everything.”

Castellanos, a consultant to the Republican National Committee, offered poll-tested language that the party could use to kill President Obama’s health-care legislation in Congress. “If we slow this sausage-making process down, we can defeat it,” he reasoned.

RNC Chairman Michael Steele must have liked what he read. When he gave a speech at the National Press Club on Monday, he all but read aloud from Castellanos’s memo.

“Slow down, Mr. President: We can’t afford to get health care wrong,” said the memo.

“Slow down, Mr. President: We can’t afford to get health care wrong,” said the chairman.

Memo: “The old, top-down Washington-centered system the Democrats propose will empower Washington to restrict the cures and treatments your doctor can prescribe for you.”

Steele: “The old top-down Washington-centered system the Democrats propose is designed to grow Washington’s power to restrict the cures and treatments your doctor can prescribe for you.”

Memo: “President Obama is experimenting with America, too much, too soon, and too fast.”

Steele: “The Barack Obama experiment with America is a risk our country can’t afford — it’s too much, too fast, too soon.”

In the back of the room sat the ventriloquist, admiring his work. Castellanos used the word “experiment” six times to criticize Obama’s plan; Steele, the eager pupil, used it 30. Only one thing would have made the performance more impressive: if Castellanos had been able to drink a glass of water while Steele was talking.

Alas for the party boss, the memo did not prepare him for the question-and-answer period.

Does Steele favor requiring everybody to have health coverage? “I don’t do policy,” he replied.

Why didn’t Republicans deal with health-care reform when they were in charge? “There has been just a general lack of focus on this issue,” he said.

Indeed.

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