Kristol responds to Obama's "go for it" remark

Weekly Standard editor says Republicans should take president's dare on healthcare repeal

Published March 25, 2010 10:30PM (EDT)

Back in the 1990's, Bill Kristol was largely responsible for the GOP's hardline strategy in opposing the Clinton administration's healthcare reform efforts. Now, he's a firm supporter of the right's push to repeal the new reform law that President Obama signed Tuesday. So it's not surprising that Kristol would have something to say about Obama's having taunted repeal advocates during a Thursday town hall, telling them, "Go for it."

In a blog post for the Weekly Standard, which he edits, Kristol stuck to his guns. Quoting Obama as having said, "I welcome that fight. Because I don't believe the American people are going to put the insurance industry back in the driver's seat," Kristol wrote, "The insurance industry is a diverting talking point, but it’s not going to work. Republicans simply have to say: Barack Obama’s legislation would put the government in the driver’s seat of a giant, poorly-constructed bus in which we’re simply helpless passengers. Republican reforms would put American families in the driver’s seat of cars of their choice. Which do you prefer?"

He concluded by saying, "Republicans should take up the president on his dare. They should say, 'Thank you Mr. President, we are going for it. And we're going to win.'"

A couple points here: First of all, that populist anti-insurer argument actually does seem to have some appeal this year. And it's not the only example Obama cited on this point -- he also argued, "If these congressmen in Washington want to come here in Iowa and tell small business owners that they plan to take away their tax credits and essentially raise their taxes, be my guest. If they want to look Lauren Gallagher in the eye and tell her they plan to take away her father's health insurance, that's their right. If they want to make Darlyne Neff pay more money for her check-ups, her mammograms, they can run on that platform." Kristol didn't address that part of Obama's remarks.

Second, Kristol says Republicans should tell the president they'll win on repeal. It's not clear whether he just means that it's a winning issue on Election Day this fall or whether he actually believes they'll succeed in repealing the new law, but either way, there's something of a flaw in his argument.

Simply put, repeal is all but impossible, at least until 2013, and probably beyond. Even if the GOP manages to take back both houses of Congress this year, as long as Obama is president, he's sure to veto any repeal bill, and it's mathematically impossible for the GOP to win a veto-proof majority this cycle. If Republicans run on repeal, and then fail to deliver, they run the risk of alienating all those energized conservatives out there right now.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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