Pick Your Battles

Conservatives have a good target in taking on President Barack Obama’s healthcare plan. It has all the elements of a winning issue for the GOP. It is too costly, too big, too intrusive and too risky.

They should focus on that battle and let some other things go.

By other things, I mean Sonia Sotomayor, Cash for Clunkers and Bill Clinton’s rescue of the American journalists in North Korea.

Sotomayor was going to get in as soon as she was picked. She had plenty of experience, impeccable academic credentials and an inspiring life story. It doesn’t hurt that she is Hispanic — or a wise Latina, as she might call herself. Conservative groups hoped to derail her on issues like gun control and affirmative action. But she skillfully batted aside any efforts to pin her down, and going after her any further is a big waste of time. Republicans get more credibility for taking on the next Obama nominee by voting for this one. Let her go.

Cash for Clunkers has been the most popular thing this administration has done. It has proven to be wildly popular with consumers (too popular, it turns out) and with car dealers across the country (most of whom happen to be Republican). So what do conservatives do? They oppose it. Why? Well, because it interferes with the free market. Well, guess what? The free market has been interfered with in a big way, for a long time (remember Hank Paulson?), so it is pretty hard to get too ginned up on that front. And I would rather have incentives to buy cars from the federal government than incentives to give money to the states so they can waste it on government bureaucrats. Let this one go, too.

Finally, conservatives have taken to criticizing Bill Clinton for his rescue of those American journalists in North Korea. I get what John Bolton is saying, but it reminds me of that scene in the movie “Airplane” where James Kirkpatrick says: “I say let them crash.” Yes, in the push-and-pull of international diplomacy Kim Jong-il might have won one. But sending Bill Clinton over to North Korea is not the same thing as sending his wife. It is not the same thing as having Madeleine Albright do a little dance with the little dictator (which happened during the Clinton administration). And my guess is that we got something useful from face-to-face meeting (namely, a sense of how sick the little guy really is). Why don’t we just give Clinton a little credit for sitting through a very painful three-hour meeting with the dictator, ask why Al Gore got us in this situation in the first place, and then move on? Let this one go, too.

Conservatives need to pick their battles. Healthcare is a good one. The others? Not so much.


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