Interview with Deroy Murdock

The Stanford Review was fortunate to have the opportunity to sit down with National Review columnist and Hoover Media Fellow Deroy Murdock at the end of last quarter after a Review co-sponsored speaking event on the myths surrounding universal government healthcare.

The Stanford Review: What inspired you to write your piece “Three Cheers for Waterboarding” and had you expected the type of criticism it generated?

Deroy Murdock: The massive backlash? Yeah, well what inspired that was all of the criticism—ranging from people on the left to John McCain on the right—saying we’ve got to stop this waterboarding, this is torture, this is terrible. And I just thought look, we need to say to people that this is not something about which we should be afraid, it should be something of which we are proud—and people are upset that I use that term—yes, we should be proud that this country, that our government, is willing to take this step to protect us from people who want to murder us! From people who already have butchered 2,978 people on 9/11 and would be delighted to kill 29,780 people tomorrow if they could get away with it. Yes, I’m proud that my government went to the trouble of getting information out Khalid Sheik Mohammed them which allowed us to prevent as far as I’ve heard, maybe a dozen potential attacks. Khalid Sheik Mohammed was the chief architect of the 9/11 attack, and he was waterboarded for 90 seconds, after which he revealed the names of six guys. We were able to bring a guy like Hambali in—the guy who did the Bali nightclub bombing. We were able to stop a man named Iyman Faris, who was busy trying to find acetylene torches to cut through the cables of the Brooklyn Bridge so the Brooklyn Bridge would collapse into the East River. There was a guy named Yazid Suffat—he was busy running an anthrax laboratory in Qandahar; he had a buddy trying to get a pilot’s license.

I’m glad it worked and we should do it more if it will help us get information. We’re talking about 30 to 90 seconds of significant discomfort, there’s no question about that. But I want people to think about 30 to 90 seconds of discomfort for them versus avoiding that discomfort and having Americans undergo the discomfort of watching their loved ones turn to steam, watching more planes fly into buildings, watching people on fire jumping out of their offices to their deaths.

I knew that people would disagree with what I said; I was surprised that the backlash was as vitriolic and as bitter as it was. I would say that I probably got more nasty comments about that op-ed than I did about any others in the last 5 years, probably. The same people who scream and yell and bitch and moan about waterboarding, the same people who scream at George Bush, about “why didn’t he connect the dots?!” Well, we are trying to connect the dots, and you can’t connect the dots until you collect them.

TSR: How does the quality of current American healthcare—both public and private—compare with that of our Canadian and European counterparts?

DM: People who advocate government healthcare love to focus on the costs, they don’t really focus much on the quality; and one of the important questions to ask is what are people here versus other places getting for their money? And what you often find in the so-called single-payer universal healthcare models is that very often the quality of the care is not as good as it is here, the equipment very often is older, it is harder to find, and you’ve got a much lower availability for things we take for granted like CAT scan machinery and MRIs.
And in some places like Great Britain, which is the most universal health care system in the world, the differences are quite stark. You have people who are dropping dead a lot sooner because the quality of the care they get is really not very good. I gave the instance of prostate cancer, where the deaths are four times higher in Great Britain than they are here. Yeah, people here are going to pay a lot more money, but they’re going to live through it.

TSR: Can you comment on Hillary’s, Obama’s and McCain’s proposed health care policies?

DM: I think the main differences are that with Hillary and Barack, you’ve got people who want much more government involvement in medicine. The difference between Obama and Clinton is that he does not want to make it a full mandate, which she does, so his system is probably marginally less big government than hers is. To McCain’s credit, he’s been pushing some solid free market ideas such as expanded health savings accounts, letting people buy insurance across state lines, and malpractice suit reform. I think the American people, whether it’s McCain versus Obama or McCain versus Hillary Clinton, will have a real choice in that area.

TSR: Was it acceptable for Governor Romney to push a mandatory non-government healthcare plan in Massachusetts when, as a Republican governor, he was faced with democratic supermajorities in both houses of the legislature which may have preferred universal government-provided healthcare and also could have overridden Romney’s veto on that matter?

DM: I think what Romney should have done was put the free market proposal on the table, and push a private limited government, pro-market proposal, and take it to the people. I think had he done that, he might have gotten it through. Or make a ballot measure out of it. This happened with Salucci who tried to get tax cuts through the state legislature, but they wouldn’t do it, so he said “fine, I’ll put it on the ballot,” and he did and people voted for it. Taxes went from I think 5.75% state income tax to 5.3%. I think Romney could have done that—at least he should have tried. And maybe at the end of the day, it doesn’t pass, and he says, “OK, we’ll compromise,” and then maybe you end up with Romney Care. But that’s his opening bid. And then he put all sorts of other stuff in it, like a provision that gives Planned Parenthood a seat on the Medical Payment Review Board. And there’s no seat for Massachusetts Right to Life or any Catholic pro-life group. So until this system ends, Planned Parenthood has a seat on the table in terms of what they do and don’t reimburse—which I think is insane. And he had a line-item veto, he could have line-item vetoed that and did not. So again, that’s more weasely-ness on the part of Mitt Romney—he’s a world-class weasel as far as I’m concerned.

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