Kristol Tells Republicans to Go for the Kill on Obama Healthcare Reform Plan

This advice was prescient ... 15 years ago.

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By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Apparently trying to relive his glory days, Bill Kristol this morning exhorted Republicans to try to finish off the Obama healthcare reform plan:

With Obamacare on the ropes, there will be a temptation for opponents to let up on their criticism, and to try to appear constructive, or at least responsible. There will be a tendency to want to let the Democrats' plans sink of their own weight, to emphasize that the critics have been pushing sound reform ideas all along and suggest it's not too late for a bipartisan compromise over the next couple of weeks or months.

My advice, for what it's worth: Resist the temptation. This is no time to pull punches. Go for the kill.

Who can disagree? Surely the last thing the GOP should try to do now is "appear constructive, or at least responsible." Of course Kristol is singing off of his greatest hits list here--his signature moment came in 1994 when he delivered a similar message regarding the Clinton healthcare plan--but what he doesn't seem to get is that circumstances change.

As Time's Joe Klein notes:

But that was then. The conservative tide was still flowing strong. It's ebbing now, although many Congressional Democrats haven't figured that out yet.

Indeed. There are a couple of interpretations of the 2008 election that can be reasonably argued, and neither of them lends itself to Kristol's let's all froth at the mouth advice. You could say that voters actually listened to Obama's progressive agenda and endorsed it; or you could say that they embraced a more generic view of change in voting for him, one along the lines of we're tired of Washington negativity and combativeness. Kristol could have made much the same argument without arguing against appearing constructive or responsible. But explicitly exhorting destructive irresponsibility is the sort of nutty partisanship that invites a backlash. So please Bill, keep blogging.

Klein and WashPo's Exra Klein both make another important point about Democrats in this debate as well. Ezra writes:

But the question isn't whether Republicans understand the power of successful opposition. It's whether Democrats understand the dangers of failure. And that's most true for the Democrats who are most likely to weaken the effort: The Democrats who are cool to health-care reform because they fear the conservative tilt of their state are the Democrats who will lose their seats if Obama loses his momentum and the Democratic majority begins to lose on its major initiatives. Legislative defeats will not threaten Henry Waxman's seat. But it will imperil Mary Landrieu's. And Ben Nelson's.

I'm in-klein-ed to agree with both of them.