Obama must avoid health plan mistakes on energy 

The blizzard that entombed the East Coast in snow neither proved nor disproved global warming, but it made a fine punch line to the series of pratfalls that have cost Global Warmists the credibility they had built up over 20 years.

After the United Nations' climate curia was busted in short succession for excluding relevant data from temperature records, citing fake statistics in making future predictions, and concealing the conflicts of interest of its leader, Rajendra Pachauri, the idea of spending trillions in the name of fighting global warming sounds about as rational as hiring an arsonist as a housesitter.

The global warming hustle has fast fallen out of fashion in the mainstream, but those in the educated class still cling to the notion. Since most do not believe in God, it is harder for them to give up their temporal faiths.

Somewhere in Cambridge or Berkeley, someone is still waiting for Americans to embrace the metric system and the eventual victory of the communist economic model.

But if we are to see any progress made on our use and acquisition of energy, it will be necessary for our political leaders to let go of their faith in global warming. Regulating carbon is dead, but American interest in energy policy is very much alive.

Obama is now trying to get back in control of the energy discussion. Whether he can succeed will depend on whether he drew the right lessons from his health care defeat.

One of the reasons for the Obamacare debacle was that Democrats chose the wrong rationale for selling their plan. Looking for a unifying theory that tied health spending to the larger recovery effort, the president and his allies focused on cost savings and deficit reduction.

This was a serious mistake.

Americans are not so foolish that they think spending $1 trillion on a new government health program would save money.

There was likely no national health system that Democrats could have passed easily, even if they hadn't stumbled every step of the way. Given the fractured nature of their majority and the fundamental American hostility toward federal encroachment, going big was bound to be difficult.

But the president had a chance in the early, post-stimulus weeks of his administration to make an argument that people were hurting and that an expansion of Medicaid and the children's health insurance program was in order.

Priced right, it likely would have rolled along in the $9 trillion convoy of stimulus and relief spending of early 2009. What's $150 billion more when you're already tripling the deficit and buying banks and car companies?

Just like prior expansions, this enlargement of the entitlement universe would have been permanent. It also would have brought us to the very precipice of universal coverage.

But Obama and the liberals in Congress cheering him on wanted something big that was part of the great leveling of American society they seek.

Now that we are hazily aware of the damage that was done in the panic of 2008 and 2009, any health proposal that passes will be modest and limited in scope. More likely, Obama's team will walk away from their caper empty-handed.

While the president works to make sure that Republicans take the blame for the waste of the past year, he is also looking to revive his cap-and-trade proposal.

To get some bipartisan support, Obama is breaking with his past opposition to nuclear power. The president now wants to help bring the first nuclear reactors online in the United States in 30 years.

He still needs to reconcile this move with his effort to close the nation's only viable long-term nuclear waste storage facility at Yucca Mountain, but Obama's nuke switch will improve his chances of being taken seriously on the issue of energy.

It will not, however, make it any more likely that anyone other than die-hards will support sweeping climate legislation.

There are lots of better reasons for expanding America's energy options, chief among them: maintaining our access to cheap electricity secure from foreign threats. It's an open lane of public sentiment into which the president could easily merge.

But he is still resisting. And it certainly doesn't help his credibility when his administration prevents domestic oil and coal production and proposes new energy taxes.

Unless the president is willing to drop his unified theory of climate change and embrace a more practical approach, his energy plans will end up just like his health bill.

Chris Stirewalt is the political editor of The Washington Examiner. He can be reached at cstirewalt@dcexaminer.com

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Chris Stirewalt


Washington Examiner Political Editor Chris Stirewalt, who coordinates political coverage for the newspaper and ExaminerPolitics.com in addition to writing a twice-weekly column and
regular blog posts.

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