On France, Iraq, Healthcare

Nidra Poller's account of the debate between French presidential candidates Nicolas Sarkozy and SC)golC(ne Royal is priceless. The left's theme is that Sarkozy has an uncontrollable temper. But it was Royal who could not keep her temper under control. The left, it seems, has chosen a frivolous and incompetent candidate. Molly Moore and John Ward Anderson's account in the Washington Post tells a similar story. They note that the latest Ipsos poll shows that Sarkozy is ahead 53.5 to 46.5 percent and that Royal has not led in any poll since January. Since the results of the first round on April 22 were in line with the polls, this is good news for Sarkozy. The election is next Sunday.

Mario Loyola has an excellent take in his piece on George Tenet's book in National Review Online. One important point: In the run-up to the Iraq war, we should have emphasized that the burden of proof was on Saddam Hussein and that unless he provided transparency about his weapons of mass destruction, we were entitled to go to war. Too many of us unthinkingly apply the presumption of innocence, which we rightly accord to individuals in civil society, to regimes in international affairs. But why should Saddam Hussein have enjoyed a presumption of innocence?

Here's the latest on Sen. Ron Wyden's healthcare initiative, which I reported on in my Creators Syndicate column. Wyden has enlisted Republican Sen. Bob Bennett in his effort. Both are members of the Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over healthcare legislation and which in recent years has produced bipartisan tax-cut and healthcare legislation.

His two supporters from the House are less well positioned: Democrat Brian Baird is on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Republican Jo Ann Emerson is on Appropriations. I wonder whether Jim McCrery, the ranking Republican on Ways and Means, is interested. He's politically savvy and knowledgeable about policy. But he's also got his platter full. Taxes may become an issue later this year, if Democrats' pay-go rules and their desire to make yet another annual fix of the alternative minimum tax move them to support a tax increase.

And trade is even more pressing. Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel has supported some free trade agreements and is reportedly interested in renewing trade promotion authority, which expires at the end of June. Trade Subcommittee Chairman Sander Levin, a Michigan Democrat, is surely less eager to renew TPA, which passed by only one or two votes in the Republican House in 2003. So it appears that the Wyden initiative--getting rid of the preference for employer-provided health insurance and providing universal insurance through an array of private-sector choices, with subsidies for low earners--is still a long shot in this Congress. But it does provide a bipartisan way of going forward.

By Michael Barone