Opinion

The Great Debate

The healthcare disconnect

Darrell West– Darrell West is vice president and director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution and the author of Digital Medicine: Health Care in the Internet Era. The views expressed are his own. —

It is not the first time Washington has been disconnected from the general public, but recent discussions over healthcare reform reveal a D.C. establishment fixated on arguments not central to the general public.

The air waves are filled with clashing claims over the so-called public option whereby Medicare would be expanded to include more Americans. Proponents claim this is the best way to cover most Americans currently without coverage and drive down costs by creating competition for private insurance companies.

Opponents complain about a “government-run” health system and bureaucrats coming between physicians and patients.

According to pollster Geoffrey Garin, though, voters do not have a big problem with the public option, or employer or individual mandates requiring coverage. A recent New York Times/CBS News survey found that 72 percent of Americans support a “government administered health insurance plan” similar to Medicare and 59 percent believe the government would do a better job than private insurance companies in holding down health care costs.

What to watch for in Iran’s presidential election

Suzanne Maloney– Dr. Suzanne Maloney is a senior fellow for foreign policy at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy. Maloney, a former U.S. state department policy advisor, recently  published the book “Iran’s long reach: Iran as pivotal state in the Muslim world.” The views expressed are her own. —

Iranians go to the polls on June 12 in what is shaping up to be the most contentious ballot in the thirty years since the overthrow of the Pahlavi monarchy and the establishment of the world’s first modern theocracy. The ballot will determine the political fate of Iran’s provocative president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and more broadly will signal the future of the country’s volatile political course and the prospects for improvement in its long-troubled relationship with Washington.

Iranian politics have become intensely personalized, focused for better and for worse around Ahmadinejad, a remarkable development considering his prior inexperience in national politics and the relatively limited authority of Iran’s presidency. By inserting himself in all of Iran’s most contentious debates and by asserting himself both on the domestic and international stage, Ahmadinejad has emerged as the focal point of Iran’s contemporary political landscape. As a result, the vote will serve as a referendum on Ahmadinejad’s notorious personality and policies – a reality underscored by the thinly-veiled vitriol directed at the incumbent in recent weeks.

First 100 days: Grading Obama’s foreign policy

Michael O'Hanlon– Michael O’Hanlon is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. The views expressed are his own. –

It’s no great surprise in American politics these days, but already a great partisan debate has broken out about President Obama’s foreign policy effectiveness to date. For his enthusiasts, the United States has hit the “reset” button and is reclaiming its place as not only a strong country, but a respected leader among nations. For his detractors, Obama is making the world dangerous by apologizing for America’s alleged misdeeds of the past, naively talking with dictators, and cutting the defense budget.

And as usual, the truth is neither of these polar positions. But as a past critic of Obama, especially during his days of promising a rapid and unconditional exit from Iraq during the presidential campaign, I would nonetheless argue that he has done a good job overall, and that his supporters have the stronger case to date. Still, making too much of provisionally good decisions in the first 100 days verges on playing a silly game of Potomac Jeopardy that only the evening talk shows and political junkies really care about. The bottom line is that Obama is just getting started. But he is off to a more solid start than almost any of his recent predecessors.

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