Clinton, Health Care and Haiti
Jude Wanniski
July 15, 1994


The political grapevine in Washington is now carrying reports that the President's pollster, Stan Greenberg, is telling him his troubles with Paula Jones are having a debilitating effect on his standing with the citizenry. The Beltway and the national media are consumed with health care and Haiti, the salient issues of the moment in domestic and foreign policy. There is barely a mention of Paulagate, which seems to be last month's news. In the country at large, though, the pollsters are finding the Silent Majority may have thrown a switch on the President, deciding to do the best it can until it can remove him from the Oval Office in 1996. The President's decision to try to postpone the civil suit until he leaves office, instead of contesting the Jones' charges now, may have been the straw that broke his back. Ross Perot is telling Republicans he knows he cannot run in 1996 because it would give the President a chance of re-election -- although I would be greatly surprised if Clinton were the Democratic nominee in '96. 

The prospect of a military intervention in Haiti is the most serious threat to the commonweal. What we have is a weakened President whose moral authority has been stripped to the point where he can only lash out at the religious right and Rush Limbaugh for being the source of his difficulties. Yet he has the raw power to pick up the telephone and order an invasion of Haiti, which we fear he may do if only to demonstrate that he is not afraid to use raw power. The New York Times, the voice of the Democratic Establishment, Wednesday implored him not to invade Haiti out of "a desire to refute doubts that this Administration is prepared to use force." The Times, a Clinton supporter in 1992, says there is "No Good Reason to Invade Haiti...An invasion will not create a workable Haitian political system, win regional respect or set a constructive precedent for the use of force in post-cold war foreign policy. There is no guarantee of a quick exit or acclaim from the Haitian population, even the pro-Aristide majority. And it is not supported by Congress or American public opinion." 

Yet the passionate, almost fanatical support for invasion among black Americans, led by the Congressional Black Caucus, has the President leaning in that direction. The black leadership has worked itself into a frenzy over the assumption that racism is the only reason there is no support in white America for invasion. On last weekend's talk shows, I noted that without exception every black politician or journalist questioned favored invasion, and almost every white politician or journalist was in opposition. For several months, without success, I have been trying to persuade Rep. Charles Rangel of Harlem that racism is not the reason why white folks have such trouble in seeing Haiti the way he does. If Haiti were snow white, we would confront exactly the same dilemma: Should force be used to restore a white Aristide to a presidency he won and then frittered away with incompetence? Or should we accept seven million impoverished, white Haitian refugees who cannot feed themselves into Miami because of the embargo we imposed in order to prove to the White Caucus that we are not racist? The only solution that makes sense has been proposed by Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole, which is to lift the embargo and send a fact-finding commission headed by Colin Powell to Port-au-Prince. Senator Dole, I'm told by a Democrat close to the Haitian scene, is one of the very few American political leaders who has the respect of the Haitian ruling class -- over the years treating Haitian politicians visiting his office with respect they rarely see. "They are used to being treated by Americans and Europeans as if they are from that poor, little 'nigger' island in the Caribbean," the Democratic source says. The American news media, especially the television reporters, have reduced the Haitian military and business class to a uniformly degenerate stereotype -- hoodlums, thugs, profiteers, rapists. The military "dictator," Gen. Raoul Cedras, a professional who conducts himself with precision and dignity and whose principal demand is that Haiti's independence and sovereignty be respected, instead gets offers from the Clinton Administration of a cushy exile in the south of France. 

Sen. Robert Bennett [R-Utah] tells me that Haiti is one of the very few places on earth that the Mormon Church has abandoned, after having tried to establish a mission. It was not the deprivation or hardship that drove away the missionaries, he says. That they are used to. "They tell me it was impossible because of the depth of the anti-Americanism among the population." The Black Caucus seems to have the wistful idea that American troops would be greeted with cheers and garlands after a few shots are fired. The other view I get from a good source who is extremely close to the situation is that the people are ready to strap on their helmets and dig in for a chance to pick off U.S. Marines with sniper fire, as long as they hang around. On the David Brinkley show last Sunday, Jim Wooten said he came to the studio in a taxi driven by a Haitian emigre, who asked him why the United States would want to invade Haiti: "What did we ever do to you?"

If Congress and American public opinion can persuade President Clinton to hold the U.S. Marines off through August, in favor of an end to the embargo and a diplomatic mission, we will still have the health care problem to confront when Congress returns in September. The country clearly does not want the Congress to pass hasty, foolish legislation, and would prefer a postponement until next year, when there will be a lot more Republicans in Congress. The intellectually corrupt Democratic liberals, who can smell the end of this Democratic President as well as effective control of Congress, know these next few months will be the last chance they will get for a long, long time to socialize medicine. At the moment, it looks like there will be nothing to worry about, because the administration's political support within the Democratic Party seems to be fracturing over the abortion issue. Several dozen pro-choice members of Congress insist they will oppose legislation that doesn't pay for abortions. Several dozen pro-life legislators say they will oppose legislation that does. The Catholic Bishops say they will support universal coverage, but only if it doesn't cover abortion. 

This is a facade. The issue will be settled come September as Democratic strategists always knew it would be, by giving a victory to the pro-life forces and the Catholic Bishops. The pro-choice forces will seem dispirited, but they will get side deals, including language that will more or less require the establishment of hundreds of abortion clinics across the country. Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, the smartest Democrat in Washington, has been assigned the job of designing legislation that will pass Congress, even if this is accomplished with almost no Republicans. He is shrewd enough to know that he must avoid the lightning rod issues -- immediate employer mandates, guaranteed abortion coverage, mandatory alliances and explicit price controls. Instead, he will try to get a few serious provisions that will act as a foundation for socialized medicine through a new program that will cover the uninsured and replace Medicaid. 

The President and Hillary and Democratic leaders will scream and yell as the concept of "universal coverage" gets stretched into the 21st century through hard triggers and such. Meanwhile, the real action will occur as Senator Mitchell quietly tries to sneak through the idea of providing all poor people, the uninsured, and small businesses with access to a new Medicare Part C. The Republicans will be cast as cold and hard-hearted if they refuse this modest request. And before you know it, 95 million Americans will be crowded onto this expensive island, and it will be impossible for any GOP plan adopted next year to be able to gain the market efficiencies that would obviate the need for this kind of action. 

These are the dying days of the New Deal, and like a drowning man who thrashes around at his wildest before he goes down for the last time, the Democratic leaders will say and do anything before they gasp their last. Their most ferocious attacks on the religious right from the President and the liberal intelligentsia are just the beginning. They reflect the fact that the idea at the heart of the religious right is individual accountability for individual sin. This runs exactly counter to the idea at the heart of the secular humanists and the religious left, which is that society is to blame for sin, that criminals are victims, that society must not only sanction all abortions, but also make us all pay for each and every one of them, and that the state in fact must feed us and house us and pay our medical bills. While it is at it, it might as well invade Haiti, so we can feed and house and take care of the Haitians too. Brace yourself. It will be quite a last gasp.