I don't know what happened to Charles Krauthammer. I read him in The New Republic back in the 80s, and he was a run of the mill foreign policy realist. And then The New Republic went all neoconservative and crazy pro-Israel, and I stopped reading The New Republic, and the next thing I know Krauthammer is a right-wing bastion and a regular on Fox News.
Well it was interesting to see him on The Daily Show earlier this week. He was charming and reasonable. I don't know if he is sincere, or whether he just saw this as an opportunity to get people like me to read his book, because I haven't read him in over a decade precisely because I thought he had become a right-wing loon. Nevertheless, the discussion between Stewart and him was refreshing because they were using real ideas rather than talking points, or so it seemed.
Krauthammer says he respects Ted Cruz's passions and views, but dissociatates himslef from his tactics. He argued that Social Security and Medicare are among the great accomplishments of the liberal state, but that the welfare state is at a crossroads, and the question is whether we can continue to afford them. And then that Obamacare is a disaster because with a 17 trillion dollar national debt we cannot afford another expensive entitlement. He said that while he shares Stewart's passion to find ways to insure the uninsured, it was absurd for the government to create a program like Obamacare that would be so disruptive to a sector of the economy that contributes 16% to GDP. Unless I misunderstood him, he said that he and Stewart agree that extending Medicare would have been preferrable. (See part 3.)
So that's kind of how it went--not a disagreement about goals but about how to achieve them, and when Stewart pointed out that no conservative in office agrees with Krauthammer, Krauthammer allied himself with Paul Ryan. And this is where it started getting incoherent--at least to me. And it just struck me as interesting but irrelevant.
As I said, I haven't read him in years, and I have no idea whether Krauthammer is an honest man, or whether he's just a shill trying to make a reasonable case for ideas he knows don't matter. Part of the conservative playbook is to deploy conservative intellectuals to keep liberals distracted debating ideas that seem to have some validity while their rich friends rob everything in sight.
I don't know, and it doesn't matter. The power game is not about who has the best ideas; it's about which interests have the most clout. Obamcare debate was never about ideas or about what was best for the country; it was always first and foremost about what was politically possible. And the possible was determined by the power of the insurance and healthcare industries to shape the healthcare reform agenda to meet their needs first. They are the pigs feeding at the trough; the uninsured get the slop that splashes on the ground.
I question Krauthammer's sincerity because surely he knows that the richest economy in the world can afford this 'entitlement' if it had the political will to change the tax structure to do it. He knows that it was the Republicans during the Bush administration that ran up the debt by cutting taxes while starting an expensive war. By passing Medicare D without any plan to pay for it. By supporting financial deregulation trends that led to the financial crisis and the bailout in 2008. He must know that the Republicans are playing a cynical game that is all about running up huge debts so that they can prevent the Democrats from doing anything because the country can't afford it after GOP recklessness.
Political conservatism in America, whether naively or cynically, embraces doctrines that serve the interests of the already rich and powerful. Those interests will seize on any ideas that give them cover, and Krauthammer's ideas serve those interests' purposes whether he intends them to or not.