Frum Opposes ObamaCare Repeal, Admits He's Only Republican Over Foreign Policy

On Tuesday's The 11th Hour with Brian Williams on MSNBC, it was another case of an alleged Republican pushing a left-leaning point-of-view instead of a conservative one as The Atlantic senior editor, former George W. Bush speech writer, and recurring MSNBC guest David Frum argued against Republican efforts to make substantial changes to ObamaCare. At one point, he even admitted he only considers himself a Republican because of foreign policy issues.

Frum shared a nine-minute segment with liberal MSNBC contributor and Barack Obama campaign pollster Cornell Belcher who excitedly professed agreement with his "Republican" guest. Ironically, Frum appeared the next morning on CNN's New Day where he was more appropriately paired with conservative guest Matt Schlapp of the American Conservative Union who actually put forth a right-leaning point-of-view.

As MSNBC's The 11th Hour devoted much of its one-hour show to the latest on health care reform, one Republican member of Congress -- South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds -- was given slightly more than five minutes to make his case for reform. By contrast, the later segment with liberal Belcher and left-leaning Frum was almost twice as long at nine minutes.

After Belcher began by expressing a hope that Republicans and Democrats will start working together on reform and not make dramatic changes to ObamaCare, Frum was optimistic about Republicans having difficulty passing the current Senate plan as he similarly hoped for only modest reforms involving Democrats. 

After suggesting that Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is trying to derail reform because so many Kentucky residents benefit from ObamaCare, Frum pointed to other Republicans as well as he declared:

They have been pushed by the national party into an untenable position where they are compelled to oppose something that their constituents get benefits from. It's not surprising this project is failing, and this is how it will get to that more productive conversation Cornell yearns to hear.

Host Brian Williams then rephrased Frum's argument as suggesting that the Senate Republican plan is something "bad," and that it is a good thing that the normal legislative process is holding it up:

So, Cornell, it's kind of a perverse way to get around to it, but you can see David's point -- this means the system is working because something bad is not being able to come out of that building behind you.

Belcher was glad he and Frum had such agreement as he began his response:

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That is absolutely right, and David and I are actually in accord on this, surprisingly. But this is where we leave partisanship aside, right, and our politics are still broken, right?

Belcher then went off onto complaining about gerrymandering creating more polarization.

After Frum argued that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should focus on making about three modest changes to ObamaCare, Williams switched topics and asked his Republican guest about world reaction to President Donald Trump on foreign policy. At this point, Frum seemed to hint that he does not have much agreement with Republicans on issues other than foreign policy as he recalled:

The thing that made me a Republican -- that keeps me in the party -- is my commitment to a U.S.-led world order. This order does not stabilize itself. It needs American leadership, American commitment.

The next morning, on CNN's New Day, Frum again argued against repealing ObamaCare:

Republicans were trying to do something that was just too hard. They were doing something too ideological. This one, I think really is worn less by the President and more by the House and Senate leadership. You do not take benefits away from tens of millions of people. I wrote that in 2010 -- I wrote that again when the bill failed in the House -- and I'll be writing it again through this year. 

He then added:

The Republican approach needs to focus on things that are most difficult for Republicans in the Affordable Care Act, especially its excessively redistributive financing, its burden on the healthier part of the insured population, and fix those problems without -- but accept that the guarantee of near-universal health coverage is part of American life -- whether you think it was a good idea to extend it or not -- you cannot now take it away seven years later.

A bit later, he repeated his slap against Senator Paul and other Republicans as he asserted:

He's acting in predictable ways, which is he's talking right and voting left. And that's what Senator Mike Lee is doing -- that's what Senator -- not Senator Cruz -- that's what the Senators from Arkansas are going to do. That half the population that gained Medicaid coverage under the ACA is white. And let's be blunt about this. Those are Trump voters -- those are Rand Paul voters. Republicans, in fact, are not going to take that away, and that's why they're tripping over their own feet as they carry this tray across the ballroom.

The conservative Schlapp argued that Republicans need to get some Americans to move from Medicaid to private health insurance.

Below is a transcript of relevant portions of the Tuesday, June 27, The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, and the Wednesday, June 28, New Day on CNN:

#From MSNBC's The 11th Hour:

11:44 p.m. ET
BRIAN WILLIAMS: So, David, the town was broken long before Donald Trump got there. He does bring with him a set of unusual circumstances and challenges. Is this a Congress problem or a Trump problem or both?

DAVID FRUM, THE ATLANTIC: I think the system's working. I don't think this is a problem. I think this is actually the way we get to a better result. Here's the way I find useful to understand this. Look at this Senator by Senator, state by state. Take Rand Paul, who's become an opponent of Mitch McConnell's proposal. Kentucky has seen the largest improvements of its uninsured rate of any state since 2010. Back then, about 20 percent of Kentucky-ans lacked insurance -- today seven and a half percent do.

Rand Paul's vote is concentrated in the southeast corner of the state -- coal country. There are counties there where he gets over 75 and in some cases over 80 percent of the vote. That's also where the state's Medicaid population is concentrated. Those counties that are giving Rand Paul, 70, 75, 80, 85 percent of the vote, a fifth of their population or thereabouts would lose coverage under Medicaid if the ACA were repealed.

So what is Rand Paul doing? He wants to protect the ACA -- he needs to find a conservative-sounding reason for opposing the repeal of ACA, and that's what he's doing. You see that with Senators from Arkansas -- you see that with Senators from Pennsylvania. They have been pushed by the national party into an untenable position where they are compelled to oppose something that their constituents get benefits from. It's not surprising this project is failing, and this is how it will get to that more productive conversation Cornell yearns to hear.

WILLIAMS: So, Cornell, it's kind of a perverse way to get around to it, but you can see David's point -- this means the system is working because something bad is not being able to come out of that building behind you.

CORNELL BELCHER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: That is absolutely right, and David and I are actually in accord on this, surprisingly. But this is where we leave partisanship aside, right, and our politics are still broken, right? And I know, Brian, you don't want to get into the weeds on this, but gerrymandering, it really is hurting our democracy where you have to, you know, placate a base of voters and you have all these incumbents in safe Republican or safe Democratic districts.

So the partisanship and the polarization becomes so increased that, you know what, it is hard for a Democrat to reach across the aisle. And it's really hard -- I would even argue even harder for a Republican to reach across the aisle because, you know what, this is a -- ObamaCare was a Republican idea. Let's tweak it and make it better.

FRUM: Which Mitch McConnell could have done and should have done, is gone through his caucus and said, "Fifty-two Senators here, I want each of you to write down on a piece of paper the three things about the ACA that bug you most." And if you'd done that, and put them all in a hat and drawn them out, you would have seen a lot of overlap. There are three things that Republicans probably could converge on that bug the most. McConnell could have said, "You know, I'm going to write a bill that fixes those three things."

It's quite a short bill -- it's quite a modest bill -- it's quite an incremental bill. And it would pass, and then you'd have something to show for it. Instead, he's trying to do this moon launch -- which, by the way, makes millions of people worse off -- to do something with 52 votes that is the kind of moon launch that the American system can only do when you have a national consensus that has 70 votes behind it.

WILLIAMS: David, I'd be remiss to not ask you about the times we're living in -- and I want to illustrate them using two things. Number one, one of the tweets today from our President, it says: "So they caught fake news CNN cold, but what about NBC, CBS and ABC? What about the failing New York Times and Washington Post? They are all fake news." I'm not sure if people have their arms around the fact that this is, again, the President of the United States using Twitter, but to diminish the news media and a free press in a free society. 

And the second has to do, David, with the fact that you are a proud Canadian joining us from Canada tonight. This is Chrystia Feeland -- known to many of us because of the time she spent in the United States, the foreign affairs minister of Canada. "Freeland questions U.S. leadership, says Canada must set its own course." Quote: "The fact that our friend and ally has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership puts in sharper focus the need for the rest of us to set our own clear and sovereign course."

David, don't make me talk about the fact that Americans and Canadians fought and died together on Normandy beaches 
and elsewhere around this world and through the years. What a sad state of affairs that quote is.

FRUM: Well, what is more alarming than that quote because, look, messing up the U.S.-Canada relationship is probably beyond the wit even of Donald Trump. It's a very strong relationship. But similar things have been said much more ominously by Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany.

And Germany does have a historic tendency to go wandering. It is not -- it does not have that blood brotherhood that Canada and the United States have. Pew just released a poll showing global attitudes toward the United States collapses of 50, 60, 70 and 80 percent in respect for American leadership. 

One of the most ominous of those collapses is in South Korea. Donald Trump is running a highly provocative policy in Northeast Asia. He's doing it while denouncing the U.S.-South Korea free trade agreement while demanding that South Korea pay a billion dollars more than was negotiated for a defense system that protects Japan and the United States and not South Korea. He is every day doing terrible damage to American global leadership. 

I thought you were going to say, when you introduced my pride, that I'm a proud Republican. I served in the Bush administration. The thing that made me a Republican -- that keeps me in the party -- is my commitment to a U.S.-led world order. This order does not stabilize itself. It needs American leadership, American commitment, American power, American military force. And Donald Trump is laying waste one after another to the basis of American leadership in the world.

WILLIAMS: Let's have both of you gentlemen back on -- we'll keep talking about this. Thank you both for coming on tonight.

#From CNN's New Day:

7:52 a.m. ET
DAVID FRUM, THE ATLANTIC: In this case, I don't think the problem is merely Donald Trump's lack of knowledge or understanding of the health care issue. Republicans were trying to do something that was just too hard. They were doing something too ideological. This one, I think really is worn less by the President and more by the House and Senate leadership. You do not take benefits away from tens of millions of people. I wrote that in 2010 -- I wrote that again when the bill failed in the House -- and I'll be writing it again through this year. 

The Republican approach needs to focus on things that are most difficult for Republicans in the Affordable Care Act, especially its excessively redistributive financing, its burden on the healthier part of the insured population, and fix those problems without -- but accept that the guarantee of near-universal health coverage is part of American life -- whether you think it was a good idea to extend it or not -- you cannot now take it away seven years later.

(...)

MATT SCHLAPP, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION: It's not just about what we don't like about ObamaCare -- which is where Republicans have been for seven years -- it's got to be about what we believe. And I just think that we believe that the best way to solve our health care problem is not to grow the rolls of Medicaid.

ObamaCare was in large part pushing a lot of people onto Medicaid. We actually want people to get off Medicaid into the individual private markets so they can buy health care plans. So what Republicans are trying to fashion is an off ramp for Medicaid into the private market so that they can actually get better health care.

CUOMO: So, David, that's the proposition: an off-ramp onto private health care, but the problem is, you're dealing with a population that's having funding cut that don't have the money for it.

FRUM: Look, Republicans say that, but they don't believe it. Let me give you a very concrete example. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky -- the purest of the pure, so he says -- 450,000 Kentucky-ans have gained coverage under the Affordable Care Act. That coverage increase is concentrated in the southeast part of the state, which is precisely where Senator Paul's vote is concentrated. So there are counties in the southeast where Rand Paul is getting 70, 75, 80 -- in one case, 84 percent -- of the vote. In those counties, a fifth of the population will lose their Medicaid coverage if the ACA is repealed. That is a fifth of the population is under the Medicaid extension.

SCHLAPP: That's not true.

CUOMO: Matt's saying that's not true, David.

SCHLAPP: It's not true.

FRUM: I direct you to the Atlantic article. I wrote those numbers -- they are all fact-checked, there are links -- you can count them all. It's in the piece I'm going to repost this morning. It is true. And because it's true, Rand Paul is acting predictably --

SCHLAPP: Here's the problem --

FRUM: Let me finish the sentence. He's acting in predictable ways, which is he's talking right and voting left. And that's what Senator Mike Lee is doing -- that's what Senator -- not Senator Cruz -- that's what the Senators from Arkansas are going to do. That half the population that gained Medicaid coverage under the ACA is white. And let's be blunt about this. Those are Trump voters -- those are Rand Paul voters. Republicans, in fact, are not going to take that away, and that's why they're tripping over their own feet as they carry this tray across the ballroom.

CUOMO: What does David have wrong, Matt?

SCHLAPP: Okay, well, first of all, I think that know specifics on the numbers is one of the problems with the CBO -- I think Ron Johnson pointed that out -- when you're estimating the impact on health care policies, we get it wrong a lot because it is complicated to know what people are going to do. I'll give you an example. In the most recent CBO analysis, they talk about the fact 15 million people after the mandate goes away might choose not to get health care coverage.

Do you realize, even if ObamaCare stays in place, year after year, people are choosing to forego the mandate because they simply can't afford the premiums. And when people talk about the fact that people in Kentucky will lose Medicaid coverage, it's because our whole model is to get them off Medicaid and onto a private sector alternative. I'd much rather have a tax credit for somebody to buy the health care insurance they want, than to force them onto Medicaid. 

CUOMO: But a tax credit is only as good as your income level because a tax credit doesn't help if you don't have the money to pay enough taxes to offset the subsidy. 

SCHLAPP: That's not true. No, no, no, no, these are advanceable, refundable tax credits which you get even if you don't pay income taxes. Now, some conservatives think they're too generous, but that is the choice -- this offer that they've chosen. 

CUOMO: Well, then it's not a tax credit. That would be a subsidy, by the way, Matt.

SCHLAPP: Well, you know, Chris, I think you make a really great point. The difference between an advanceable, refundable tax credit and a subsidy, I think that's a very fair point.

CUOMO: But I'm saying a tax credit has to do with what you pay in taxes and an abatement thereof. So if it's money in their pocket, that's something else. But, David, make the final point.

FRUM: You've gone down a rabbit hole here. You've gone down a rabbit hole that lets Matt get away with too much, I'm sorry.  ... Whether or not you think the CBO has a difficulty modeling the market for individual care, the market modeling Medicaid is easy. It is just a fact -- it's written into the law how many people will lose Medicaid. So -- and Matt may think it's better to get a --

SCHLAPP: That's not accurate.

FRUM: -- refundable tax credit, but Rand Paul wants to get reelected in Kentucky is defending the ACA because otherwise his career is over. And that is multiplied across the Republican party.

NB Daily Congress Foreign Policy Health Care Medical Insurance Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats CNN New Day MSNBC The 11th Hour with Brian Williams Atlantic Video Brian Williams David Frum Chris Cuomo Donald Trump Rand Paul Mike Lee


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