The Presidential Primaries: Circular Firing Squads and Dictionary Abuse

I. State of the race

A lot of people aren’t particularly thrilled with the candidates running for President. Many Romney supporters seem to support Romney because they say “nobody else  can win in November.” Not a glowing sales pitch, whatever the merits of the candidate.   Most of the Newt supporters I know seem to support Newt because he is the anti-Romney “who can win”and is showing some surprised popularity in the polls. This appeal is also of the “take your medicine and like it” variety which is about as motivation as the Romney rationale to me.

On a side note, I suspect that before all of this is over, Romney will fall away and Perry will become the anti-Newt, and ultimately win the nomination.  I disclose that prediction in the interests of transparency, but I don’t think it is relevant in any way to this diary.

II. Priorities

Repealing Obamacare is in my view the most pressing issue that we face.  We can $1+T deficits for another four years and still pull out of the ditch.  However, if we don’t repeal Obamacare in 2013, it won’t ever be repealed.  Without repealing Obamacare, I don’t see how we will get our deficits under control in 2017 much less 2027 or . . . ever.

Thus, it is critical to defeat Obama in November 2012.  If I thought that there was only one candidate capable of defeating Obama, I would be on that bandwagon 100%. However, I agree with Rush Limbaugh and believe that most of the individuals running for Presidentare  are capable of winning the general election against Obama.  No matter how this ends up, I will support the nominee. That is my priority, to have the best possible nominee in the best possible position to win in November.  I would even vote for Ron Paul if it came to that, figuring that the world could recover from a 4 year American hiatus, and that our allies would have a new found appreciation for the American Atlas on which all that is good stands.

III. Concerns

Given my priorities, I am very much concerned that various words and phrases are being substantially misused to our long term and collective detriment.  I do not want any Republican candidate to be unfairly and inaccurately sadled with false negative ideological baggage.  Such a result is contrary to my priorities and hopefull to your priorities as well.

There are enough negative things that one can truthfully say about the candidates that there should be no reason to manufacture or exaggerate the negatives in an effort to temporarily help our personal favorite candidate. I have identified two frequently misused terms,  but there are other examples of dictionary abuse that could be cited.

A.         “Amnesty”

Governor Perry supports allowing illegal immigrants to attend public Texas universities while paying instate tuition.  I personally disagree with the policy.  However, to refer to that policy as amnesty is contrary to the meaning of the word.

Amnesty is associated with a range of definitions such as “a general pardon for offenses“, or “an act of forgiveness for past offenses”, or even “a forgetting or overlooking of any past offense“.  None of the listed definitions is applicable to Perry’s in-state tuition plan.  Illegal aliens are not being forgiven of anything.  Nothing is being forgiven or forgotten.  A student under Perry’s plan is not immune to deportation or presecution while attending school.  Nor is a student under Perry’s plan granted citizenship or any kind of permanent legal status in Texas.  The in-state tuition plan is just an extension of the public school system.  Young people (who may or may not have had anything to do with the decision to enter the U.S. illegally, are allowed to continue their state sponsored education.

Why is it that free K-12 education fine, but subsidized college education (and yes, public universities are subsidized by taxpayers) somehow constitutes “amnesty”?

I don’t agree with the in-state tuition policy, but it is not amnesty.  Nothing is being forgiven.  Nothing is being forgotten.  Nothing is being overlooked.  Nothing stops the deportation of the student or the student’s family.

Is library use by illegal immigrants amnesty?  Access to 9-1-1 services?  Calling in-state tuition “amnesty” is an abuse of the word.  It might be unwise or unfair.  It might be a magnet to attrach people who otherwise wouldn’t come here (doubtful), but IT IS NOT AMNESTY.

On immigration Perry holds the following positions:

  1. Enforce the border.  As a side note, does anyone address this issue with more crediblity or genuine energy than Perry?
  2. No Amnesty.  “Well one of the things we’re not going to do is support amnesty. There’s not anybody that’s going to be–I don’t care whether you’ve been here 25 days or 25 years–there’s not going to be be amnesty involved in the program.”

People going around defaming Perry with the “pro amesty” label are aiding and abetting President Obama because they are dispiriting Republican primary voters with falsehoods.  If Perry is the nominee, those same people will be saddling the Republican nominee with a false label that will only dampen Republican voter turnout, putting the entire country at risk.

Disagree with the policy, but be specific and don’t use overly broad labels to hurt your own side.

B.  “Individual Mandate”

Much has been about Newt Gingrich’s comments regarding the “individual mandate”.  A Glenn Beck interview (hat tip to Robert B. Sklaroff, MD) squarely addresses the issue and is worth looking at carefully.

GLENN: All right. Well, and I think this is where we fundamentally differ is it seems to me ?? and let me just play the audio here ?? that you are for the individual mandate for healthcare and you have been for quite some time. Let’s play the audio.

GINGRICH: I am for people, individuals, exactly like automobile insurance, individuals having health insurance and being required to have health insurance, and I am prepared to vote for a voucher system which will give individuals on a sliding scale a government subsidy so it will ensure that everyone as individuals have health insurance.

GLENN: Okay. That’s 1993. Here is May 2011.

GINGRICH: All of a sudden responsibility to help pay for healthcare. And I think that there are ways to do it that make most libertarians relatively happy. I’ve said consistently we ought to have some requirement to either have health insurance OR you post a bond OR in some way you indicate you are going to be held accountable.

VOICE: That is the individual mandate, is it not?

GINGRICH: It’s a variation on it.

Even back in 1993, Newt was talking about reforming health care so that whether a person was on Medicaid, Medicare, or private insurance, people could have private accounts under their own control and not dependent on their employer to allow individuals to make their own health care decisions.  The private accounts idea or voucher has been advocated by conservatives going back at least as far as Milton Friedman.  HSA accounts are currently a mainstream conservative idea, but they weren’t so accepted back in 1993.  Newt was an early backer of such an approach.  Indiana has implemented such a program with respect to Medicaid, and it is by all appearances a big suggess.

I am not going to defend Newt’s comments in 1993, although I think it is clear from the context that Newt’s version of  an “individual mandate” is very different from the Obamacare version of an “individual mandate”.  Rather I would focus on what Newt said in May of 2011.

If you look at the language carefully, there are essentially three options in what Newt considers a “variation” on an “individual mandate”:

  1. “have health insurance OR”
  2. “post a bond OR”
  3. “in some way indicate that you are going to be held accountable”

This is not your Obama’s versino of a “individual mandate”.  This “variation” of an individual mandate is flexible and gives people options while addressing the “free rider” issue.  You don’t have to agree with it.  However, to imply that Newt’s articulation in 2011 of an “individual mandate” is essentially the mandate in Obamacare is a clear misreading of what Newt actually said. The “individual mandate” envisioned by Newt is to occur in the context of a “voucher system” and it includes option 3—that the patient “in some way indicate that you are going to be held accountable“.  There are a variety of different ways this could be done, and I don’t think individual accountabilty for incurring expenses is contrary to conservativism. To the contrary, it is utterly consistent with an individual account approach—the conservative mechanism by which to reform healthcare.

People going around defaming Newt with the “he supports an individual mandate, just like Obama” label are aiding and abetting President Obama because they are dispiriting Republican primary voters with falsehoods.  If Newt is the nominee, those same people will be saddling the Republican nominee with a false label that will only dampen Republican voter turnout, putting the entire country at risk.


There is a lot to like and dislike about our candidates.  You can definitely count me on the side of “is this best we have after the 2010 tea party election?”  Each candidate has some obvious flaws, and since every individual weighs those flaws differently, different voters make different assessments as to who they think is stronger, more electable, would make a better President, etc.

This diary is a plea that while we all engage in jousting over candidates, issues, and events that we:

  1. Reiterate that we will support the nominee
  2. Refrain from loading Republican candidates with labels that are purely false at worst, or highly misleading at best.

Our various candidates may temporarily be adversaries of each other, but that is no reason for the conservative community to become adversaries with ourselves.  Please don’t add the litany of misleading garbage that President Obama’s $1B war chest will inevitably place on our nominee.  There will be enough BS out there without adding to it ourselves.