Ben Domenech tries defending his very strained comparison between the Iraq war and the ACA:
The Iraq war debacle shows us why it’s important to make the case for policy on the actual grounds the principals believe in, instead of an argument based on building up fear or overpromising on outcome. Rather than resting the case for war on the moral argument for human freedom neoconservatives held, Bush advanced a case designed to bring along the realists, based on faulty intelligence, about the burgeoning threat of weapons of mass destruction [bold mine-DL]. Instead of basing his case for his health care law on its true justification and the moral argument for universal coverage, Obama promised it would address problems it never will, resulting in lower premiums for all, better quality care, and keeping your doctor and plan if you like them.
I’m not interested in the direct comparison of the two policies, which have so little in common as to make them almost entirely incomparable. What stands out here is the strange argument that Bush’s case for war should have been even more ideological and fixated on the idea of “liberating” Iraq than it was. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that this was why leading Bush administration members favored regime change. If the “the moral argument for human freedom” had been the primary justification for the invasion, there would have been remarkably little support for the war. There’s no way to know for sure, but my guess is that most Republicans would have been reluctant to support a war justified primarily on these grounds. Not only would “the realists” have refused to go along with it, but I think most Americans would have been skeptical of waging a war primarily for the sake of toppling a dictator. As weak and shoddy as the argument for the invasion was, an argument more focused on ideological goals with less emphasis on the supposed security threat to the U.S. would have been even weaker and less appealing.
Public support for the invasion was based on fear of additional terrorist attacks after 9/11, which the administration exploited as much as it could by grossly exaggerating the danger from Iraq’s supposed weapons programs and inventing connections between Iraq and Al Qaeda. If the administration hadn’t used an argument “based on building up fear,” it probably wouldn’t have been able to demagogue a frightened public into supporting the war. Democracy promotion was the fallback justification for the war when all of the other justifications were exposed as bogus. An Iraq war identified even more closely with democracy promotion from the beginning would have been less popular at the start and would have become even more unpopular over the years.
The point here is that primarily ideological and moral arguments for or against major policies and pieces of legislation aren’t remotely as compelling to most people as they are to the adherents of these views. The impression I get from years of arguing against unnecessary wars is that it doesn’t seem to matter very much to most people that a war is illegal or immoral, but it does matter to them if it turns out to be prolonged or unsuccessful, or if it has no achievable objective. Preventive war is wrong in principle, but explaining that to people doesn’t change their views on attacking Iran. Telling them that it won’t “work” or that it will backfire might.