WASHINGTON — Political commentator Ben Stein told PJ Media that the Republican Party has been damaged after the government shutdown but that the effect will not be “lasting.”
Stein also said Obamacare does not “bother” him at all, adding that it’s not the “end of the world.”
Stein was the host of the American Spectator’s annual Robert L. Bartley dinner in Washington on Wednesday night, which featured remarks by Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and entrepreneur Donald Trump.
“I think they’ve been damaged but I don’t think it will be lasting. I mean, it will last for a while but then nothing lasts forever — but I think the Republican Party should’ve played it a little smarter than that,” Stein said.
When asked what Republicans should have done along the way, Stein argued that they “should’ve just said it’s [Obamacare] a bad bill but we’re not going to shut down the government over it; we’re just going to try to make it better.”
Stein said he personally does not have “any specific problem” with the healthcare law.
“I’m not one of the people who thinks it’s the end of the world; I don’t think it’s the end of the world at all. I am not upset about it. When I worked for Mr. Nixon we proposed universal health care and nobody even thought about it very much, so it doesn’t bother me at all, sorry,” the former president’s onetime speechwriter told PJ Media before the dinner began.
Before Cruz took the stage as the event’s keynote speaker, Stein called Cruz the “one person in the Senate who stood up and was willing to tell the truth, was willing to do it until his last ounce of energy had left him, was willing to be mocked and belittled.”
Stein was referring to Cruz’s effort to defund the healthcare law in the budget battle with Democrats that eventually led to the government shutdown.
“When the history of how socialism was stopped in the United States of America is told, and it will be told at some point, it will be told, there will be a name that will be in gleaming gold ink and that will be Senator Cruz,” said Stein.
“I’ll do my very, very best to keep my remarks under 21 hours,” quipped Cruz, adding, “21 hours is a long time, it’s a really long time – it’s almost as long it takes to sign up on the Obamacare website.”
Reflecting back on the debate over the passage of a continuing resolution to keep the government funded, Cruz criticized Senate Republicans for not uniting with Republicans in the House.
“Unfortunately, Senate Republicans didn’t unite, didn’t support House Republicans. Instead, a lot of Senate Republicans actively, vigorously, vocally attacked House Republicans,” he said. “That ensured the strategy could not succeed.”
Cruz said Obamacare is designed to “collapse” and “destroy the private insurance market” for the 200 million Americans who are satisfied with their current private healthcare coverage.
“There is a reason why President Obama and Harry Reid both say Obamacare is designed inevitably to lead to single-payer socialized health care,” Cruz said.
“Once that happens, you can’t unscramble those eggs,” Cruz said. “The strategy of let’s do nothing, let’s let it all collapse, let’s let it all meltdown, jeopardizes the health insurance of all of those Americans who like their coverage, and once it’s broken putting it back is practically impossible.”
Cruz vowed to continue the flight to stop Obamacare.
“How is it possibly a responsible strategy to say, ‘well, let’s sit back and wait and let the entire private health insurance market be decimated and destroyed?’ I don’t think that’s a strategy that makes any sense at all,” Cruz said.
Donald Trump, the winner of the American Spectator’s entrepreneurship award, praised Cruz in his speech.
“Had they [Republicans] stuck together, you would have made one hell of a deal and you wouldn’t be in the position where you’re being criticized right now,” said Trump. “Hang in there, senator. It wasn’t easy for you, I can tell because I watched people, they were sniping at your heels and I’m not talking about the Democrats. So just keep it going.”
Actor Gary Sinise was presented the American Spectator Award for Service at the event for his work with disabled veterans. Joe Lawler of the Washington Examiner received the Young Journalism Award and Bill McGurn of the New York Post won the Barbara Olson Award.