Home / General / Today In Washed-Up Contrarianism

Today In Washed-Up Contrarianism


Michael Kinsley is someone who wrote columns worth reading during the first Bush administration, which for some reason means that he continues to draw a healthy paycheck to bring you such insights as “mass unemployment has to make things better in the future because ice cream,” “I invented the concept of same-sex marriage in 1989 which qualifies me to say that premature anti-homophobes are much worse than homophobes,” and “how dare people challenge Rush Limbaugh’s inalienable right to his current level of advertising revenues.”  He has a new column, and it has finally achieved his goal of reaching a Level 10, or “Jonah Weiner,” level of contrariansim.

Kinsley’s argument is that Obama should surrender to Republican extortion.  When you see the premise, you might expect him to make a bad but at least vaguely defensible argument, like “Obama should give Republicans some token face-saving concession to save the economy.”  I think that would still be wrong, because even a token concession would make debt ceiling extortion a permanent feature of the American political system and hence eventually produce a default anyway, but I can at least see an argument there.   Kinsley, however, argues that Obama should just pay the Republican ransom and undermine his signature domestic policy achievement in exchange for nothing. The imagined speech Kinsley would have Obama give:

The sad truth is that if you don’t care about any of that, it gives you tremendous power over those who do. Perhaps unfortunately, I do care. And I believe the stakes are too high to let this become a testosterone contest. So I have sent a letter to Speaker Bohner, saying that I will agree to a year’s postponement of the Affordable Care Act, if he will agree to a rise in the debt limit that is at least big enough to spare us another episode like this for a year.

So something that’s terrible short-term and long-term. How does Kinsley deal with the obvious problem that this will make extortion a permanent feature of the American political system? With pure comedy gold, that’s how:

The media will no doubt call Obama weak because he gave in. So let them. Sticks and stones. Meanwhile, will the Republicans really take the past couple of weeks as a precedent and push him around on every issue that comes up? Highly unlikely. They are already getting most of the blame. They surely don’t look forward to trying to convince voters it was such a swell experience that they’re going to put us through it again and again.

This is, as far as I can tell, not meant as a joke. Kinsley quite seriously seems to believe that House Republicans will be chastened by national public opinion polls not to pursue a strategy that won them major unreciprocated policy concessions, the complete inconsistency with the actual behavior of the actually existing Republican Party notwithstanding. One could point out the fact that most House Republicans are in safe seats regardless of the national standing of the party, that the urban concentration of the Democrats means that Republicans can lose the national vote badly and still retain a majority (for this to happen you have to go all the way back to…2012,) that the house Republicans most threatened by the massive unpopularity of the party are the dwindling group of “moderates” who are abjectly useless but aren’t driving the bus, etc. etc…but it doesn’t matter. Kinsley doesn’t know much about contemporary American politics, and he doesn’t care that he doesn’t know. And since taking a random news item and making a trademark “counterintuitive” argument that collapses on the slightest inspection is still working for him professionally, why should he be expected to put in any actual effort?

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
  • GoDeep

    Yeah, he’s a dope alright. I’m sure next he’ll tell Obama to start negotiating with terrorists. And he prolly believes that if Obama “wasn’t so angry” all the time, the Teahadis would really love him. Oh, yeah, and the moon is made of green cheese!

    • Ahuitzotl

      Well if he wasnt so angry, he’d be a republican. and white.

  • There’s a corollary to the Pundit’s Fallacy that says anytime a pundit writes the speech he wishes a politician would give, the content is monumentally stupid.

    • That should be called Sorkin’s Law, methinks.

      • Warren Terra

        More like Sorkin’s Crime, amirite?

        • MsInformed

          Sorkin’s Fallacy?

          • Lee Rudolph

            Sorkin’s Phallus.

            • That’s usually what’s being displayed whenever his characters deliver one of those speeches.

              • Warren Terra

                I’m not sure “displayed” is the word you want. “enthusiastically manipulated”, perhaps.

                • I feel like that’s more when he writes himself, like when he wrote Kristin Chenoweth an open letter in which he accused her of not dating him anymore being wrong about gays and some other stuff. Now that was some enthusiastic manipulation.

          • nillions’ irish fred

            Sorkin’s Folly

      • Rob

        Sorkin’s Complaint

    • Pat

      I think this article should be titled: “Today in Wishful Thinking…”

      • But when I write speeches for Obama they are really kick ass speeches and don’t include sighing and whining and giving up. That’s what I don’t get. There’s a place for fantasy speeches in every person’s fantasy life. But why fantasize that your Mary Sue/Marty Stu is getting kicked in the teeth instead of doing the kicking?

        • Hogan

          Good point. Liberals must not allow a wish gap.

        • Pat

          I guess it depends on what you want to happen to your Mary Sue/Marty Stu. Looks to me like Kinsley is dreaming of a big Republican win. Happily, that appears to be some serious magical thinking.

    • FMguru

      Oooh, that’s a good one. Those are almost as useless as anything that begins with “An Open Letter To…”

  • Rob in CT


    • Yeah, for a guy who wasn’t half-ass-bad, in the late 80’s.

      But you know, if a guy hasn’t gotten a hit in over 20 years, he’s usually still not in the Major Leagues.

      Why does this feckin’ eedjit still have a column?
      Ditto, Richard Cohen.
      Ditto, Thomas Friedman.
      Oh well – you get the idea!

  • bspencer

    I think you made this up. I simply don’t believe it’s real.

    • Mike Schilling

      I’m with bspencer. The giveaway was the combination of postponing PPACA for a year, postponing the debt ceiling fight for the same year, and insisting that next year the GOP won’t insist on the same deal (actually, insist on a much better deal with the same deal being their absolute floor.) If you’re going to write parody, try to make it somewhat plausible, OK?

      • lb 22

        If the debt ceiling fiasco has been so bad for Republicans, that we can trust they will never ever, use it as a hostage again, then why are they demanding it only be raised for six weeks? If Kinsey’s thesis was correct they would be trying to figure out a way to make sure they don’t have to do it again while Obama is in office, and blame it on the Democrat’s profligacy.

    • Warren Terra

      Live by contrarian centrism, die by contrarian centrism. If he intended satire, I can’t detect it; it isn’t clear anyone has any certainty satire was intended, some people just prefer the notion to the idea Kinsley is this dumb.

      • N__B

        It’s not Poe’s Law.

        Maybe Coleridge’s Law…although most pundits would be doing good to stop one of three facts.

        • Warren Terra

          Lovecraft’s Law? After all, he was influenced by and is often mentioned with Poe (though they weren’t remotely contemporaries), and the both-sides-do-it pundits and the Teahaddists are conspiring to drag us into a realm of eldritch horror.

          • nillions’ irish fred

            though they weren’t remotely contemporaries

            I would say so

            • Warren Terra

              Yes, yes, the “Poe” of “Poe’s Law” isn’t Edgar Allen Poe – but I was assuming that N_B was playing off of Edgar Allen Poe, especially because a quick Google found no evidence such a thing “Coleridge’s Law” existed. Sam Coleridge was a contemporary of EA Poe, and both were given to writing on fanciful themes and to the pursuit of intoxication.

    • gratuitous

      I believe the Nobel Prize will be awarded later this month to a team of scientists for positing the existence of a “Michael Kinsley” particle, but unable to verify their conjecture. The phrase “too fucking unbelievable” will become scientific shorthand for any theory that outré. Centuries from now, spurious research will be dismissed as “looking for Michael Kinsley.”

  • 4jkb4ia

    Then all the people who struggled simply to sign up for the exchange would be in the same state of limbo for another year. It does not work. Obama was eloquent enough on this subject just last week.

    It is sad enough that the people who caused this will not have any consequences for their crazy behavior at the ballot box if there is any solution at all. You want SCOTUS to be watching and to see that the nationalization of money in politics means that you have representatives who are responsible to only the people who will give money to their kind of crazy.

  • Cody

    Obviously he isn’t privy to the same media as us. If Obama caved it would be just that – and the MSM would portray him as a weak and worthless President… just like they have for the past 5 years.

    Even if the Republicans did care about their national opinion polls, the media would just continue their “Both Sides Do It” plot.

    • NonyNony

      No, he even points that out.

      He literally points out that there is no upside at all for Obama or Democrats to cave in, and then says that they should do it anyway. I have to agree with bspenser and Mike Schilling – this has to be an elaborate hoax.

      • David Hunt

        Maybe it’s his tryout article for the Onion…

        • demz taters

          He’s got some tough competition, what with the public advice that Newt’s been offering Republicans on how to politically finesse the shutdown.

  • Warren Terra

    We are frequently told that the brilliantly conceived notion of a “Kinsley Gaffe” is an intention coined by the insightful Mike to describe a rhetorical error in which the speaker unwittingly and unwillingly reveals their true motive.

    So, can we say that ol’ Mike’s suggestion that Obama should give the Republicans everything they want in return for nothing, an idea so bad that it obviously constitutes an error or “gaffe”, is Mike Kinsley’s Kinsley Gaffe?

    • Cody

      By God, I think he’s got it!

  • Well. That was painfully stupid.

    But I know that this is the prelude to a full rendition of Why isn’t the mean uncivil uppity stupid president enacting my brilliant idea!? scored for nose flutes, kazoos and whoopie cushions.

    • efgoldman

      …scored for nose flutes, kazoos and whoopie cushions.

      Also to, trash cans with tire chains, and fire siren.
      [Yes, I know real pieces which include them.]

  • Warren Terra

    As I recall, Mike Kinsley has serious and continuing medical issues. He is able to manage the related difficulties in part because he gets medical care through his employers: that is, he gets medical insurance that is subject neither to coverage or gaps neither by rescission nor because of pre-existing conditions, at a price born by subsidizing his policy through taking money from a larger collective of employees and from the organization to which they adhere. In other words, he gets essentially all the protections and benefits of the ACA from his large employer, just as other workers at large, non-stingy employers have been able to do for decades upon decades now.

    But a few years back Obama, Pelosi, and slightly over half the political system saw fit to extend these same benefits and protections to everyone, including the third or more of Americans who didn’t have them at all or didn’t have them consistently. This made slightly under half of our political system very angry indeed. And Kinsley apparently doesn’t give a sh!t, doesn’t see any pressing need for a huge chunk of the country to enjoy the same treatment that for over a decade has been protecting his life, his lifestyle, and his livelihood.

    Fnck him.

    • rea

      No wonder he has medical issues–every time he goes out on a date, he ends up eating anthrax and tire rims.

    • This is 100 percent right. Maybe before the huge, huge, debate under Clinton, and before the even larger public debate during the passage of the ACA, itm ight just barely be possible for an upper class lackey with good health care not to know about the 40 million under or uninsured. But there is no excuse for this kind of ignorance any more. Any adult person, especially one with a massive medical condition, who doesn’t lie awake sleepless at night wondering how those 40 million people get by without health insurance coverage, should be taken out and beaten around the neck and shoulders. Whatever you think about the ACA at least its taking a huge chunk of our fellow citizens and putting them on track to get something like the coverage that the upper class has always relied on.

  • calling all toasters

    I have a counter-offer for Mr. Kinsley: he should turn off his Parkinson’s brain stimulator for a year, and in exchange he can make a speech blaming me for it being off. Wotta deal, right?

    • pseudonymous in nc

      Beat me to it. It’d be a worthy sacrifice, wouldn’t it?

      • calling all toasters

        It would be tough, but I’m willing to weather it. Because it’s for my country! (prolonged sobbing)

    • SFAW

      Parkinson’s brain stimulator

      Is that the one that helps cluelessness to expand to the space allotted between Kinsley’s ears (or to the column’s length)?

  • dmilligan

    I used to like Kinsley and enjoyed reading him, but it seems that a few years ago he caught the same bug that ate Dennis Miller’s brain.
    It’s a sorry thing to see.

    • Bob

      Kinsley was once an engaging writer. Dennis Miller never had a brain. His shtick was always low-brow aspiring to highbrow historical and cultural references that he understood at a Jonah Goldberg level. His narcissism coupled with his arrogant groping was never funny or insightful.

      • dmilligan

        I never said that Miller was funny, but he used to be able to talk without drool running down his chin.

        • Davis X. Machina

          Should I be worried if I consistently have trouble telling Dennis Leary and Dennis Miller apart?

          • efgoldman

            Should I be worried if I consistently have trouble telling Dennis Leary and Dennis Miller apart?

            Yes, you should. Leary’s stage persona is nasty, but unlike Miller, Leary’s actually funny, and generally not a Wingnutter Troll.

            • Davis X. Machina

              That’s the one of them that’s not Bill Maher? I’m so confused.

      • Anonymous

        Miller was amusing when he had good writers working for him. On his own he’s hopeless.

        Maybe Kinsley should reverse the process hire some ghost writers.

      • docmorgan

        Yes, years and years back he was a foil for Buckley (as brownnose) and then Mr. Gates with great fanfare installed him at Slate. For a while his pen worked and he seemed blessed with some progressive thoughts. Soon he went to some protective publisher or other and eventually he slinked to the dark side. Had sort of a gift with words, but one could see he was infected with a version of Krautheimer syndrome. Perhaps he hopes to take up the masters mantel. With this recent ‘work’ he seems to have caught scumsucker malaise or Becksdrivel disease.

        Use caution as reading drivel like this will make your brain turn into Limbaugh fluid, a waste product.

  • laura

    It’s a really dopey argument. I almost wondered if it was satire.

    • drkrick

      Reminds me of Keith Olbermann’s call for Cal Ripken to take himself out of a game before he broke Gehrig’s consecutive game streak because … Well, it was never clear why he should forgo claiming the record unless it had something to do with not causing stat nerds to have a sad about a record that was never supposed to be broken.

      • Reminds me of Keith Olbermann’s call for Cal Ripken to take himself out of a game before he broke Gehrig’s consecutive game streak because …

        Because Ripken wasn’t the same SS he was earlier in his career. It took a herculean effort convince Ripken to move to 3B because he had no range at SS. Look up his stats.

        • whispersd

          Was Olbermann saying that Ripken should take a day off because he needed a day off, or was he saying that Ripken should take a day off because Gehrig’s record should be treated as a holy relic?

          • rea

            It’s not that Gehrig’s record was a holy relic. It’s that, if you had a player like the Ripken of that era in every respect except for the potental record, that player would not have played evey day.

            • centerfielddj

              Unfortunately for Olbermann’s attempt to intervene, Gehrig’s performance also fell off in his last season; Lou was no longer a great player, just a good one. True, Ripken had fallen further than Gehrig in relative quality at the end, but each of these consecutive-games-played streaks have limits when it comes to their merits. One thing does set these two apart, though: it is extraordinarily difficult to play major league baseball and stay healthy enough to play every single game for 16 seasons.

        • Col Bat Guano

          Is this supposed to support Olberman’s call?

  • dollared

    Me first!!!! I get to be the first on this thread to point out that this really is what Neville Chamberlain did: give the bully everything he asked for, on the assumption that the bully would not ask for more later. And I have not read the pundits, but I bet that most applauded him……

  • sibusisodan

    Sure, the article is ridiculous, but not as bad as the follow up is going to be: it will hand-wavingly acknowledge that the articles’ critics are right in all respects, while complaining at the lack of seriousness the article was received with, and the tone in which it was derided.

    That was my memory of his last embarrassment, anyway.

    • I do encourage disembarking from the boat. When I checked the comments were pretty evenly split between This must be a joke and You must be high.

  • Jay B.

    I’d go one step further than Kinsley and basically ask the President to abdicate in favor of either Ted Cruz or John Boehner because it’s the only way out of this mess! Seriously, think of the adulation Obama would receive if he just said “You know, the American people had a say in this crazy dream we called ‘democracy’, but honestly, we have people who, gosh doggit, just care more about the issue of health insurance coverage and spending than even me! As a result, I’m asking Vice President Biden to join me in stepping down and letting the junta take over, because, after all, they’ve shown just how much they cared about making sure they got their way.”

    I mean Richard Cohen would probably write a glowing column about it and that’s obviously what’s at risk here.

    • Thomas Friedman

      Boehner and Cruz are both well qualified for the job. That said, my choice for the new president would be the foreign minister of Latvia, Edgars Rinkevics.

      Yes, yes, he is not an American citizen, and his last name has several odd diacritical symbols. But what a message the choice would send! In the new “flat” economy, who better to run things than somebody nobody’s ever heard of from a foreign country with a thriving group of McDonald’s franchisees and excellent taxi service? Imagine a top-level summit between the new president and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Listen, Bibi,” Rinkevics would say, “we both want the same thing here: a high-stakes metal-detector that seeks out the digital future and a virtual blueprint for an eighth continent, right on the fault-line between Microsoft and the Kalahari.” It may seem preposterous, but as the shoe-shine boy in Jakarta was saying to me just the other day, a little preposterousness might be exactly what we need at this juncture. That would truly be thinking outside the box.

      • Warren Terra

        Slow clap.

      • The next six months will tell…

      • wjts


      • witless chum

        All of the internet’s blessings upon you, sir or madam.

    • Tristan

      He should literally shoot himself on stage.

  • flamingolingo

    At least The New Republic posted a rebuttal to Kinsey’s stupid post. Schaffer’s point about columnists’ fondness for the ‘blaze of glory’ tactic makes sense to me. There do seem to be too many pundits who advocate moves that make zero political sense but can be praised for being noble, rising above the fray, etc. Do these folks want to write about actual politics or not?

    • Hogan

      Yeah, I thought the point was to win the fray. Rising above it doesn’t help with that, much as the USAF would like to think it does.

      • Tristan

        If Obama called a press conference on the subject of the shutdown only to escape in a balloon once all the cameras were there, it would be pretty baller.

    • Pat

      I’m thinking not.

  • bobbo

    Kinsey has an incentive to write a good column the same way Republicans have an incentive to legislate.

  • rea

    WTF? Does he not see what will happen next year if Obama agrees to a one-year psotponement of the ACA in return for a one-year extension of the debt limit?

    • Warren Terra

      Obviously, the postponement and the Republicans’ clear responsibility for it that will in no way be treated by the media as a case of Both-Sides-Do-Everything, will heighten the contradictions and so a surge of voter engagement will give us a new, better ACA a year from today, after the midterms, which are more than a year from today.

      There, I think I’ve captured his thought process.

    • Royko

      Seriously, the only way I could maybe see giving Republicans something (like a one year postponement of ACA) would be if they removed the debt ceiling entirely. Even then I would think it was bad precedent, bad policy, bad optics, and a bad deal. But it would be something.

      Why the hell would you give them anything if they can demand more in a year?

      • rea

        Well, my point is, is this not a fomula for postposing the ACA forever?

        • liberalrob

          I’m sure that’s their plan.

  • liberal

    Meanwhile, will the Republicans really take the past couple of weeks as a precedent and push him around on every issue that comes up? Highly unlikely.


    • JustRuss

      Indeed. That would be so….uncivil. Next you crazy liberals will be suggesting some congressman will call him a liar during the State of the Union, or claim that he wasn’t born in America!

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      Unbelievable that anyone could write that with a straight face.

    • Hubert G. Waspenbury

      See here, you sneering ruffian, I’m personal friends with Edward Brooke, Nelson Rockefellar, and Henry Cabot Lodge’s son-in-law, and I’ll have you know that the Republicans are as respectable and sporting a collection of gentlemen as one could ever hope.

  • Anna in PDX

    I agree with bspencer. He has to be trolling. It has to be parody. If not then he really has gone senile.

    • LosGatosCA

      The guy’s been a useful idiot since his first appearance on Firing Line.

      He’s the prototype for every Faux News liberal.

      • liberalrob

        The prototype for Alan Colmes.

  • Chris Mealy

    I have a couple of books of Kinsley’s collected newspaper columns from the 1980s that I got for a dollar. He was pretty funny back then. He had some deal about only wearing eyeglasses frames from Britain’s National Health Service because he was for universal health care. The only person on the left I remember him going after was Ralph Nader. His old columns hold up pretty well, if you want to learn about how we got here it’s more fun than Rick Perlstein.

    Since then it’s been bad bad bad. Being married to a tech bazillionaire probably hasn’t helped.

    • JustRuss

      Being married to a tech bazillionaire probably hasn’t helped.

      Maybe not, but still, nice work if you can get it.

      • witless chum

        He’s writing this shit basically for fun? So, likely, he really means this. The fuck?

        • Warren Terra

          His identity and his self-respect depend on him being a professional pundit to whom people should listen. So there’s more at stake than merely having fun.

  • david


    One of my favorite kinsley debates, with james galbraith. Kinsly’s respone is fantastic.

    • MG

      No. Galbraith is fantastic. Kinsley begins a paragraph with “hey snot-nose” and really demonstrates zero original analysis (much less any moral compass), just an ability to synthesize odious points.

  • Please tell me he didn’t really use “testosterone” and the misspelling “Bohner” in the same sentence.

    I need a shower.

  • Murc

    Tangent: what the hell do the Republicans think is going to be true in six weeks that isn’t true now?

    I mean, sure, six more weeks of solvency for free, I’ll take it. But still.

  • Michael Kinsley is someone who wrote columns worth reading during the first Bush administration

    When I first read that, I wasn’t sure if you meant 1988-1992 (George H.W. Bush) or 2000-2004 (W.’s first term), and then, after thinking about it, I decided it didn’t much matter. The man had 25 years of lucid, often incisive, liberal commentary in him (late 70s through early 2000s), which is more we should reasonably expect from any pundit. Look at George Will–sure, the man’s wrong about 4 things out of 5, but at least he used to be able (or was willing) to make actual arguments for his mostly bad ideas. But I genuinely doubt the man has bothered to try much at all for 20 years now.

    • Alan in SF

      My memory’s probably hazier than yours, but did Michael Kinsley ever write anything actually liberal? Or incisive? Like I said down-thread, I believe MK was one of the first “Even the” Democrats, as in “even the Democrats believe new restrictions should be placed on abortion.”

      • Kyle C

        His dissent from his own magazine’s endorsement of the contras–1985-ish?–was.

      • Kinsley was, as I recall, one of the better of Charles Peters’s many “neoliberal”–circa the late 70s and 80s–disciples. He had at least a few smart ideas about what to do about the collapsing New Deal coalition all around the Democrats, and, unlike some of his compatriots–*cough*Mickey Kaus*cough*–he didn’t let those good ideas convince him to go full-contrarian and (perhaps intentionally, perhaps accidentally) end up abandoning the whole egalitarian project entirely. And, as Kyle notes below, he was a voice of at least some restraint as Peretz led the magazine into neo-conservative madness.

  • joe from Lowell

    Kinsley quite seriously seems to believe that House Republicans will be chastened by national public opinion polls not to pursue a strategy that won them major unreciprocated policy concessions

    National public opinion polls that could very well turn around, as the concession would easily be spun and Obama’s acknowledgment that he’d been wrong, while the Republicans make a big show of sighing in relief that he finally stepped back from the brink and acted responsibly.

    • Scott Lemieux

      RIght — the other obvious problem is that it’s not clear how handing the Republicans a victory without the consequences of a default would cause them to lose popularity.

  • DAS

    Republicans will be chastened by national public opinion polls not to pursue a strategy that won them major unreciprocated policy concessions, the complete inconsistency with the actual behavior of the actually existing Republican Party notwithstanding. One could point out the fact that most House Republicans are in safe seats regardless of the national standing of the party

    Also, public opinion polls merely represent what those people who don’t mind being interrupted at dinner time tell random strangers who call during dinner time in order to amuse themselves while avoiding hearing their kids hold a learned discourse on dynamic social networks in the context of common feeding behavior in primary educational environments and themes and stylistic devices in modern lyrics, i.e. who said what to whom at the 3rd grade lunch table and random completely age-inappropriate words from songs you don’t know, but your kid has heard every day for the past summer on the camp bus.

    People do say one thing to pollsters when the memory of what is happening is fresh, but vote another way after “even the liberal media” repeats GOP talking points for the umpteenth million time in the run up to elections. And the GOP knows this.

    BTW — I used to feel about Michael Kinsley’s contrarianism the same way I feel about Glenn Gould’s piano playing: I like what he does, but for the love of FSM, nobody else should even try to copy what he does and anybody who does try just shows what a wanker he is. Now, I am beginning to feel that Kinsley himself falls into the category of “wankers who should stop copying Kinsley”.

    • Alan in SF

      Michael Kinsley was one of the earliest of the “Even the” Democrats.

  • Alan in SF

    C’mon, you made this up. Not even Michael Kinsley could write something that cosmically stupid. Could he?

  • pseudalicious

    Kinda OT, but LGM bloggers & readers are smart, so let me throw this question out to you guys:

    What’s interesting and confusing me about this shutdown/Obamacare fight is that, instead of the 1% solidly aligning against liberal interests, you’ve got rich guys vs. rich guys, or basically the Kochs against other rich businessmen who don’t want a default, plus the Kochs vs. the insurance industry (at least, according to this NYT article, which says the insurance industry is going to do a big ad push to sell its programs that feature in the exchanges: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/06/us/a-federal-budget-crisis-months-in-the-planning.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0)

    But one of the good things about the PPACA is that it theoretically opens the door to what we on the left want: single payer. (Add a public option one day, then make the public option the only option, bada bing, bada boom.) Which would make insurance companies extinct. So, either (a) they think such a thing’s impossible, and this will get them money right now, so they’re pro-ACA for now*, or (b) they think this could happen, but don’t care because this will get them money right now. If B, why not align with the Tea Partiers and work hardcore to kill the law so that they can go back to denying people for pre-existing conditions and all the other predatory crap they do, plus kill the threat of their own extinction?

    • rea

      The ACA won’t lead to single payer if the insurance companies make the ACA work.

      • Davis X. Machina

        Protection rackets work that way.

      • Warren Terra

        True, but I’m willing to accept a functioning, regulated, subsidized private health insurance system (i.e. like Switzerland has), and not to insist on Single Payer, Single Provider, or even the Public Option. I’d prefer at least the Public Option, because I think it would keep the private insurers honest, but if the private insurers can make the ACA work (and by work, I mean for society, not just for them), I can live with that.

      • DAS

        OTOH, the ACA won’t lead to any more changes (single payer or even simply more expansions of coverage) if the ACA is made not to work or is even perceived as not working. If the ACA is even perceived as not working or even just “being too radical for middle America”, that saps political will and momentum for further changes, not matter how necessary.

    • JustRuss

      Single payer is many years away, while ACA means millions of new customers in a few months. Given most CEOs don’t think beyond next quarter’s stock options, these guys are probably doing the Mother of All Happy Dances over the ACA–when no one’s looking, of course. Wish I owned the hooker-and-blow franchise in one of those midwest towns that houses an insurance company HQ.

      • Warren Terra

        Although, at least the money available for hookers and blow for executives is now capped at 20-percent-of-premiums-minus-genuine-administrative-expenses.

        • DAS

          Hookers and blow are not genuine administrative expenses?

          • KaliuaKid

            If you’re making people live in Midwestern towns, hookers and blow are considered necessary for retention. Definitely genuine administrative expenses and listed under “misc.” in their quarterly expense reports.

    • Pat

      I thought that a couple of New England states had gotten waivers to include non-profit co-ops, or possibly Medicare buy-ins, into their plans. There was a lot of openness for innovation on the part of the Administration in PPACA. So those public options could be done on a state-by-state basis.

      Your logic takes an unwarranted leap at the notion that we would want to make the public option the only option. We have state schools and private schools. We have FedEx and the post office.

      My vote is for making the PPACA work, and bringing the public option in quietly. This is so much better than what we had three years ago.

      • liberalrob

        Your logic takes an unwarranted leap at the notion that we would want to make the public option the only option.

        No one is saying “make the public option the only option” as in proscribing private health insurance by law. The public option would become the only option if it existed, because the Invisible Hand would kill off most of the private insurance industry. Only supplemental insurance companies like Aflac would remain. That’s what they’re fighting against.

  • Chuck Smith

    The Kinsley editorial is brilliant! The Republican operating assumption has been that Obama will give in. Kinsley’s editorial shows that the case for caving is so weak and absurd, any Republican reading the editorial will have to say, “Okay, I get it. No President could ever give in to the current Republican demands without looking like an absurd loser.”

    I’m sure Kinsley’s next editorial will reveal that this was a clever creative editorial ploy, right? Because, if this editorial is sincere, that would be pathetic.

  • Michael Kinsley has been a wanker for much longer than Lemieux has been aware of his wankerosity.

    1. Kinsley ran the New Republic in a manner that (somewhat later) Stephen Glass felt free to fabricate and Rush Shalit felt free to plagiarize; in defending in effect his own editorial sloppiness at TNR, he effectively argued that seat belts don’t save lives since people drive less carefully. TNR also published Betsy McCaughey’s lies about the Clinton Health plan. I am not saying that these abuses occurred under Kinsley, but rather that he created the culture in which they were later able to thrive.

    2. Kinsley actually said that believing that the Downing Street Memo exposed a decision by the Bush Administration to go to war contrary to the facts is a “paranoid theory.” Kinsley said after the fact that everyone knew Bush was going to war, but at the time he said that Bush was bluffing.

    3. The Medium Lobster points out that the reason that certain scandals aren’t actually scandals is because Michael Kinsley doesn’t understand them.

    I think Lemieux should look back to what Kinsley was actually saying rather than relying on memory. Having done so, I think that Kinsley is one of the most dishonest living journalists, and has been throughout his career. He has a nice smile and an aw shucks attitude. But he’s a creep.

    • Anna in PDX

      *sigh* I miss Fafblog so much, particularly the Medium Lobster.

  • Rich

    Kinsley was said to be brilliant by Alterman, et al. well into the 00s. He wrote surprisingly concise and liberal opo-eds for Wa-Po on occasion, at that time. Still, he was failing at the LA Times and had spent quite a while birthing Slate, mostly by hiring 2nd string TNR guys like Mickey Kaus. Most of his Slate writing consisted of personal attacks on David Talbot of Salon, who at least tried to come up with a new approach to journalism with new people before he ran out of money. Go back further and you’ll see that he invented the role of “punching bag liberal” on tv screamfests, staring with his more courtly but synchophantic role on PBS’s “Firing Line”. Both times that he took over from Rick Hertzberg, you could see Marty Peretz’s prejucices seeping more deeply into TNR and I belive he was the one who found a place fro Andrew Sullivan, who succeeeded him and completely wrecked TNR.

    Kinsley was famously the favorite “extra man” for DC dinner parties in the 90s and alot of people (myself included) assumed he was gay. I’m assumingthat all those dinner parties helped his career and may explain how he’s managed to fail upward for years (except for those seemingly ghost written WaPo pieces in the first Bush II admin). He probably brought a little DC “glamor” to Seattle dinner tables, too and entranced, if not just distracted the tech millionaires. Slate was a financial and intellectual failure. He left chaos at LA Times. He had people like Alterman gushing about him even after he’d proven to be unimpressive. Fianlly, in the past couple years, people suddenly noticed what a fool he was.

  • Gunnar G. “Gunny” Gunn

    Kinsley may have written one or two smart things more than 20 years ago, but at this point, he’s so far past his sell-by date that his prose ought to be illustrated with cartoon stink lines and little buzzing flies. Christ, what an asshole.

    • Anonymous

      I enjoyed this piece from earlier this year much more than your, well, assholeish comment. I don’t know why criticism of left-moderates on this site sometimes gets extra-sour, complete, in this case, with accusations of senility and Parkinson’s jokes, but it doesn’t speak well of some of y’all’s human feeling.
      Yeah, I know, lighten up Frances.

      • I enjoyed this piece

        Andy Rooney ISN’T dead!

        • Anonymous

          Heh, fair enough.

      • Anna in PDX

        Hi Michael. Whatever. Personally when I wondered if you were senile I was thinking it would excuse this column and give a logical explanation for its stupidity. If you’d rather just be considered a stupid, narcissistic asshole that’s fine too.

        • Anonymous

          Not MK. I thought it was a well-written reminiscence of TNR’s glory days, such as they were, in terms of that mag’s former relevance. People used to read it
          Does it matter that I disagree with Kinsley’s latest column? Or his last five, or twenty? That I think he’s often usually wrong about political mechanics?

          I am probably doing a bad job of saying that I think he’s often wrong but not mendacious, and that the not-mendacious-but-still-wrong don’t deserve to get shit all over. That’s a gut feeling, probably boosted by my sympathy for his medical condition. So shit all over my lazy rebuttal – it probably deserves it.

          • Anonymous

            “It” being the column I linked to, not the one linked to in the OP. If it matters.

          • An argument that Michael Kinsley isn’t mendacious really has to deal with the fact that earlier this year he tried to take sole credit for the concept of gay marriage, as mentioned in the OP.

            • Anonymous

              Reputationally mendacious – that’s fair. I was thinking of someone like Krauthammer, who’s making a more extreme version of the same shitty argument as Kinsley, but whose motives are really transparent.
              I should acknowledge that I don’t have any evidence for judging MK to be a basically honest pundit. I just hate to see him get treated like a Krauthammer or a Kissinger or something. Though as a rich man I’m sure he can take the rhetorical heat.

              • That’s fair, but for the record I don’t think anyone here considers Kinsley to be anywhere near the same league as Krauthammer.

                • Anonymous

                  I probably overreacted a bit; I read some of the comments up there that way, but they may well have been honest give-and-take. Or meant that way.

          • Anna in PDX

            I think his over the top contrarianism and long and glorious tradition of hippy punching make me unsure whether I should consistently try to give him the benefit of any type of doubt. In this case I thought assuming he was going senile WAS giving him the benefit of the doubt, and the long and kind of awful “nasty letter” thing you linked to just made him sound like more of an unlikeable narcissist.

            I know you aren’t him, I was just snarking and now feel somewhat bad about that. Sorry for being a jerk to you, I think I was just feeling defensive. I would not have brought up his Parkinson’s personally (as it happens I didn’t know he had Parkinson’s), but I was one of the people who wondered if he were senile because I honestly could not understand how he could write something so awful otherwise, not because I think senility is a joke.

            • Anonymous

              Thanks, AIPDX. I shouldn’t have gotten all butt-hurt at the sock-puppetry accusation you didn’t mean. As I said one inch above, I don’t have a rock-solid reason to give recent-years’ MK the benefit of the doubt either. I’m not digging his recent analysis at all. I am a long-time reader of his stuff and someone who doesn’t like to see people with neurological disorders picked on – even when they’re being assholes. That’s my personal bugaboo, and it probably colors my take on MK beyond where anyone should take me seriously.

  • Dr. Wu

    The mind boggles.

  • Samuel knight

    Not sure I remember any golden years for Kinsley. Thought he was great – at the time, but now think he was always a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Look at this record – developed a whole cadre of right wing nuts at TNR – krauthammer, Barnes, foer, lane, etc. advocated lots of simpering work together articles with a real bottom online – sell out. That has always been his gig – sound liberal – but in the end sell out to the conservative line. It’s just a lot easier to see it now.

    • Lee Rudolph

      Comrades, I wish to confess. Yes: I was a premature anti-Kinsleyan. I have always been a premature anti-Kinsleyan.

      Please, comrades, which way to the re-education camp? I will go quietly.

    • Michael C


  • theod

    Kinsley’s sharpness has changed greatly over time as he has aged: (1) He married money; lots of it. That tends to change one’s POV and social network. Though I’m sure he’d deny it. (2) He has a serious neurological disease, some sort of Parkinson’s. (3) He is older and not employed and that tends to make one feel discarded and so even crankier. His time for relevance is over, but he will be the last know.

It is main inner container footer text