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When It Comes to Repeal, Ben Sasse Is the Real Deal

8:01 AM, Feb 3, 2014 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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There are a lot of Republican politicians who ostensibly favor the repeal of Obamacare.  But there are a lot fewer who give the impression of having the ability and determination to lead the way in bringing about that nation-defining result.

Ben Sasse

Ben Sasse of Nebraska has made his opposition to Obamacare the clear centerpiece of his Senate campaign.  He has made plain that he opposes not just Obamacare but also the entire “Obamacare worldview.”  He has been endorsed by the Senate Conservatives Fund, Club for Growth, Paul Ryan, and Red State; has been profiled by Mark Hemingway in these pages; and has recently appeared on the cover of National Review. 

Yet Dean Clancy of FreedomWorks claims that Sasse is a fraud.  He writes on that organization’s blog, “My sense is Ben Sasse is not what he claims to be.  I think he’s a Mitt Romney-style technocrat masquerading as an anti-Obamacare firebrand for temporary political purposes.”  He adds, “I think honesty demands that Mr. Sasse either acknowledge his real views publicly—or repent of them.” 

I’ve known Sasse since before Barack Obama became our 44th-best president (counting Grover Cleveland twice), and I can certainly vouch for his not being a fraud.  Rather, he’s a nice, sincere, extraordinarily bright Nebraska farm kid who is deeply committed to the principles of our nation’s Founding, which have soaked into his core. In 2009, Ben and I wrote an anti-Obamacare op-ed together for the New York Post—and, even before that, I held him (as I do no less today) to be one of the most important figures in the fight to spare this country from Obamacare. 

Even Clancy grants that Sasse (which rhymes with “glass”) “is a very impressive man,” who “comports himself as a gentleman,” and who is “without question the most knowledgeable candidate in the race on the intricate details of health care law and regulation at the federal level—a true plus in the Age of Obamacare.”  Yet Clancy somehow thinks that Ryan, the SCF, and the rest have been duped into thinking that Sasse would make an inordinately fine senator.

Clancy’s case against Sasse pretty much comes down to his misconstruing a statement that the Nebraska Senate candidate gave in an interview, and then running utterly wild with that misconstruction.  In response to a question from a Slate political reporter about someone who makes $20,000, apparently is uninsured, and develops a kidney condition, Sasse said:

“I think we should have a universal, a shared cultural or societal goal, of universal health insurance coverage.  That’s completely different from saying the government can solve all of those problems, or that it can micromanage every aspect of the health delivery system.  I think we know that it can’t do that.”

In other words, we should want everyone—or as many people as possible—to have health insurance, but a government takeover clearly isn’t the answer.  Clancy omits the second and third sentences of Sasse’s response, quoting the first in isolation.  He then asserts that “we cannot achieve [Sasse’s] goal without government taxes, mandates, and coercion.”  Therefore, he concludes, “While [Sasse] appears to have been careful never to publicly say he supports Obamacare’s individual mandate…reading between the lines it’s clear he does.”  This, of course, is groundless nonsense.  Sasse is no more a supporter of Obamacare’s individual mandate than Obama is of Obamacare’s repeal.

Clancy also takes Sasse to task for favoring an alternative to Obamacare—one that helps to equalize the tax treatment between the employer and individual markets—rather than simply embracing Clancy’s notion of letting “free people in free markets provid[e] the health care everyone needs at a price most can afford (with private charitable assistance buying the remainder into the market).”  Sure, such a scenario would be pretty ideal.  But it would also be ideal if the federal government hadn’t broken our health care system in the first place—and if we weren’t staring down the cannon at Obamacare’s potentially becoming a permanent fixture of American life.  Does Clancy really think the way to bring about full repeal is to tell independent voters that millions of people who are now getting thousands of dollars in taxpayer-funded Obamacare subsidies can, under his plan, learn to rely on private charity? 

In truth, there are two kinds of right-leaning politicians or commentators who endanger the cause of repeal:  those who don’t really care about repeal because they don’t really think Obamacare is all that bad, and those who refuse to offer an alternative because they cannot see the political reality on the ground—namely, that you can’t beat something with nothing.  Whether it’s Mitt Romney (a member of the first camp) or Dean Clancy (a member of the second), each of these two forms of erroneous thinking leads to the same place:  the failure to defeat Obamacare. 

Thankfully, there are a lot of conservative leaders who avoid these pitfalls on either side.  And there are a few, like Sasse, who have the will to lead the charge on repeal—and the talent to help bring it to fruition.

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