A few days ago I made the following statement:
But that last point brings up an uncomfortable truth about the modern GOP, it has become so partisan that a health plan quite similar to the Massachusetts plan is now so beyond the pale that it seems that think tank people are being fired and muzzled (at the AEI) for even considering the Obama plan as a possible starting point for further compromise.
I still have this general concern about the GOP, but the specific example I cited was false. I had based my comments on the AEI on a report from Bruce Bartlett, who reported on a conversation he had had with David Frum. Frum was recently fired from the AEI. Because the firing occurred immediately after Frum’s famous ”Waterloo” article, which attacked the Republican establishment, many people assumed that the article led to the firing. Obviously there is no way to know for sure, but surely the AEI must have known that if Frum was fired right after the article, rather than 3 months later, then people would draw that inference. In any case, I drew that inference. Of course it’s their right to employ the people they feel most comfortable with; my point was that the GOP currently needs a bracing dose of criticism.
It now turns out that Bartlett’s statement was false. Frum recently indicated that he had merely mused out loud that AEI researchers might have been afraid to speak out in favor of aspects of Obama’s proposal. Furthermore, articles like this one lead me to believe that the AEI does not muzzle its researchers. Normally my instincts are to wait and see on these sorts of disputes, as there is often another shoe to drop. Especially as I have found most conspiracy theories to be false. In retrospect I wish I hadn’t made that specific accusation against the AEI, as I didn’t have enough evidence. So I apologize to the AEI.
So is there anything left of my complaint about the right’s approach to health care? I admit that I haven’t followed this issue closely, but I certainly had the impression that back in 2006 there were quite a few people on the right, in places like Reason magazine and the Heritage Institute, that had lots of good things to say about Romney’s Massachusetts proposal. So I still think the right as a whole has a perception problem here–specifically the perception that the much more strongly negative reaction to the very similar Obama plan was partly based on political considerations. And I still think the Republicans should have tried harder to get a compromise bill enacted.
[And recall that I opposed the bill, and probably would have opposed a compromise. But a compromise probably would have been better than what we got.]
I freely admit that my perceptions may be erroneous. Perhaps I was mistaken in assuming that the Heritage Institute had supported the mandatory insurance/subsidies approach of Massachusetts, after all, I merely relied on news reports. And perhaps Olympia Snowe had all her suggestions shot down in committee, I wasn’t there. In any case those who know more about this mess than I do should feel free to add information to the comment section.
HT: Greg Ransom–you were right on the muzzling charge.
PS. At least I’ll never have to apologize to the Singapore government, unlike certain newspapers.
Update: Here’s Bruce Bartlett’s response to David Frum’s clarification.