Bloomberg View columnists Margaret Carlson and Ramesh Ponnuru met online to chat about the anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination and the Cheney family quarrel. Below is a lightly edited transcript.
Ramesh: The New York Times is marking the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination with some pretty demented coverage. You’d get the impression, reading the articles it’s been pumping out every other day, that the president had been assassinated by a “climate” of “right-wing hate” in Dallas, rather than by a specific communist. Maybe, Margaret, you can explain what psychological compulsion is at work here? At the time, Jackie Kennedy lamented that “it had to be some silly little communist” who killed her husband; his death couldn’t fit into a heroic progressive narrative. After all these years though you’d think the Times could face the truth. But maybe ideological fantasy is a comfort right now, as it becomes clear that liberalism has gone from a creed that could put a man on the moon to one that can’t build a functioning website.
Margaret: I understand Mrs. Kennedy not wanting some puny Communist committing such an enormous act. It's like a young nationalist killing the otherwise-unimportant Archduke Franz Ferdinand and starting World War I. Huge history-changing events shouldn't be carried out by small men. We're a country that loves conspiracies -- Roswell and UFOs, anyone? Some people have even built cottage industries around proving that Lee Harvey Oswald wasn't the lone gunmen in Dallas, including the late Senator Arlen Specter with his magic bullet zinging here and there, and Oliver Stone with the movie JFK. Last month at a gathering of Kennedy assassination buffs, Stone said, "Tonight they can get us all in one drone strike." But there are way too many for that. We look at the Warren Commission now through today's prism of technology we see "Homeland." I'm not a conspiracy buff but I was intrigued by the doctor at Parkland Hospital who decided to throw his notes in the trash because they had blood on them. Now that we're on blood, I can transition to Obamacare where there is much spilled on the floor and more to come. I can't muster any defense -- forget sending a man to the moon -- how about just enrolling a person in an exchange.
Ramesh: The latest amazing Obamacare revelation comes from administration official Henry Chao, who said that they still haven't built 30-40 percent of the system for paying insurers. The line seems to be that it isn't all that important because the system doesn't need to be ready until January. If you find that comforting, take comfort. President Barack Obama's utterly meaningless gesture toward helping the people whose plans are being canceled seems to have achieved its intended effect, keeping Democrats from bolting for the safety of the Upton Bill to let people keep their old plans. But if the news remains bad, how long will they stay in the fold?
Margaret: I know you're a decent Republican but I don't know about Liz Cheney. She strikes me as someone who is willing to sacrifice her sister -- and her children -- for power. And why don't they talk to each other directly instead of through Facebook? When Dad weighed in to say that Liz was "compassionate" and had shown "kindnesses" to her sister, Mary, which shouldn't be confused with approving of her marriage. It might be a painful intra-family dispute or Liz could just have been using her sister to go very public with her opposition to same sex marriage to combat an ad by an independent group suggesting she's gone soft because she supported health insurance benefits for same-sex partners. Even in Wyoming, people might respect silence rather than publicly taking out after family.
Ramesh: I don't think Liz Cheney believes she has publicly gone after her family, or that she has in fact done that. Now if you believe that same-sex marriage is a civil right and that its denial marks gay people as second-class citizens, of course that line of thinking is going to be very attractive. But (assuming she's sincere!) Liz Cheney doesn't see the issue that way at all. And if she's wrong about that -- if her stance represents a rejection of civil rights -- then it is wrong regardless of who her sister is. This does look like a very painful family quarrel, one that reflects the angriness of our political debate on this issue. And I suspect it's going to be take even longer for the Cheneys to resolve than fixing the website will take the Obama administration.