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The “Party of No” reactionaries are pretty annoying.  The “centrist” Democrats are pretty annoying.  But sometimes I wonder if the “reasonable conservatives” are even worse.  After providing us with four reasons to support the Senate healthcare bill and six reasons to oppose it, David Brooks ends with this today:

So what’s my verdict? I have to confess, I flip-flop week to week and day to day. It’s a guess. Does this put us on a path toward the real reform, or does it head us down a valley in which real reform will be less likely?

If I were a senator forced to vote today, I’d vote no. If you pass a health care bill without systemic incentives reform, you set up a political vortex in which the few good parts of the bill will get stripped out and the expensive and wasteful parts will be entrenched.

I wonder.  Does Brooks really flip-flop every day on this?  If he does, then by an amazing coincidence, every single moderate conservative has done the exact same thing and come to the exact same conclusion: a sort of sad declaration that although reforming healthcare is a noble idea, the current legislation on offer is just too compromised, too full of barnacles and bribes, too lacking in real reform to deserve support.

And the same thing is true of climate legislation.  And financial regulatory reform.  And stimulus spending.  It’s amazing!  They all have fine goals, but in their current form none is worth supporting.  They’re just too messy.

But look: these guys all know how the political system works.  Nothing ever comes through Congress pure and pristine.  “Systemic incentives for reform,” as Brooks well knows, is just another way of saying “ways to push costs down.”  And plans to reduce costs are all going to be demagogued endlessly and cynically by every conservative officeholder and pundit in the country, leaving Democrats with no choice but to water them down, pretend they’re something else, or just plain run away from them.

So we end up with a sausage.  We always end up with a sausage.  Brooks knows this.  So if that’s his excuse for not supporting healthcare reform, he’s just blowing smoke.  He knew months ago what the basic Democratic plan was, and he knew months ago that anything this big would end up compromised and messy.  Pretending now that this is why he opposes it really grates.  If he just doesn’t like liberal ideas about healthcare reform, he should have the guts to come out and say so directly.

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