Yes, Obama was misleading during the campaign about the public option and many other progressive issues. But he was transparent about it, most Democrats saw he was not being straight and did not vote for him in the primaries.
The public option he proposed was limited to people not otherwise covered and a small set of small businesses. It was designed not to compete with private insurance, unlike Edwards' and Clinton's public options, which were explicitly designed to constrain private insurance companies by competing with them. It was so small that it was clearly designed to be jettisoned.
Some low information voters may feel betrayed by the legislation we have, and by Obama's role in crafting that legislation. But most voters, and especially usual mid-term voters, are not low information voters and knew what to expect from Obama, they will appreciate the historic nature of this legislation. So I do not think Obama will pay a political price next year for this pivot. The noise on the blogs is the same noise Obama ignored as he racked up wins during the primaries.
Too many people ignored the policy differences between Obama and Clinton, or pretended she was more conservative.
Clinton consistently pointed out through the primary that the private insurance market was inherently broken and that to reform health care we must have an individual mandate and a broad based public option. Obama dissented on those two points. That was the major HCR difference between them.
Going back now and pretending those differences never existed is how progressives lose. We can't achieve progressive change unless we highlight those differences and honestly advocate for the policies we believe in.
I worked on HCR in 1994. When we were closing up shop, after the failure of that effort, Bill and Hillary Clinton personally promised us that they would not give up, eventually we would pass HCR. Nice to see Bill Clinton helping Barack Obama keep that promise.
One of those rare cases where we swap opinions on Obama's judgement. On the policy I agree with you, Obama went the wrong way here. But on the politics what he is doing makes sense.
First you have to recognize a few economic realities, without a mandate neither universality nor most of the new insurance company regulations are possible. Obama knew this in the primaries but chose to use mandates to score points rather than help educate the public about the actual choices before them (see Paul Krugman for more background). Once he had to govern he flipped on mandates with no protest. His public option was always a rump public option, it was obvious that he intended to sacrifice it. He gave congress a long leash to provide the political cover of having tried to include it. I think he was wrong to sacrifice the public option.
But on the politics Obama wins in the end. This bill is not incremental change, it is a major change to a huge sector of our economy, the health care system. The effects of legislation this sweeping are hard to predict, it will have unintended consequences, but it opens the door to a progressive health care system for all Americans. We can expect regular improvements as Congress and administrations adapt regulations to people's needs. There are enough short term benefits for the bill to show positive results before next years elections.
Yes, for the moment the polls will reflect unease as Congress remains confused and people ponder what this will mean for them. But once it has passed, Obama signs it, and Obama and the Democrats begin explaining it, those numbers will pick up. As Democrats realize how historic this victory is their enthusiasm will return.
Eh, Dean is demonstrating his usual political acumen. The choice is half a loaf or none, not half a loaf or reconciliation. The insurance companies would nuke the kinds of reform we want to push through reconciliation in the time it would take to go through the legislative process. And besides, the Democrats in congress are under immense pressure to move on to jobs.
It seems to me the failure here was assuming Obama would fight for the public option, and therefor not applying enough pressure in the Senate. Obama co-opted the groups when they tried to apply pressure, when it might have made a difference.
I don't understand the opposition to mandates (except as a healthy person's example of taxes for thee but not for me). An individual mandate is a prerequisite to move away from our employer based system and achieve universality. Universality is the goal here, from that we could get to single payer. Opposition to mandates is not consistent with progressive health care reform.
Read what she actually said and proposed on economic policy, it might surprise you. For instance she argued that the private insurance market alone was inherently incapable of efficiently funding health care.
Even after the primary she was pushing hard for a new HOLC, a direct government program to re-write mortgages. Obama went with a bank based approach, which has failed.
Her policies were clear in the campaign, she described where the market was failing, and why the government had to step in. They were not by and for Wall Street.
Witch burning is a handy way for the people profiting from the system to short circuit any attempts at reform. Historic witch burnings didn't scare anyone with actual power, and of course they couldn't instill fear in non-existent witches, but they do serve to misdirect people from the real cause of their problems to personalized imaginary ones.
Bob Rubin won't suffer from the slings and arrows of Mat Taibbi, nor will he, or any "overprivileged thieves", be hurt by whatever fervor Taibbi manages to stir up, but that fervor can serve to block reform. The Republican populist arm, the Tea Parties, are in sync with the party's goal of weakening government. Taibbi's polemic shifts attention from the decades of Republican policies that led us to this point and dumps the whole mess on one guy, Bob Rubin, who Taibbi attempts to turn into a Democratic Svengali. So what might Democratic politicians do? Denounce Rubin, the same way Obama denounced the DLC while campaigning on DLC policies.
The time to say "I told you so" ran out in July 2008 when Obama flipped on Telecom immunity. Anyone who hadn't figured out who Obama was by then was politically hopeless.
Since then the best bet was to support Obama and pressure him from the left.
You are correct on economic policy, Clinton's economic proposals were much more democratic than Obama's. She explicitly recognized that market-based approaches were inadequate to our economic situation and pushed for direct government intervention rather than channeling money through Wall St. as the Fed and Obama have been doing.
But there is no chance in hell that anyone will mount a serious primary challenge to Obama. As disappointing as he may be to some he remains extremely popular among Democrats, and given his record so far he is likely to chalk up more than enough Democratic accomplishments to cruise to primary victory.
but politically it's bad for progressives because conspiracy theories stand in the way of good policy analysis and good activism, replacing them with apathy and fear.
If you think the tea-baggers are good for the Republican party, then maybe you can make a case for Taibbi being good for progressives. I think Fernholz, and Charles above, are correct. You have to diagnose the actual cause to successfully change things, wishful thinking and pleasing narratives end up serving the interests of the status quo. Taibbi may motivate people, but he will motivate people to burn the witch (in this case Bob Rubin) rather than address the political power of Wall Street.
According the the article Obama himself said "I just want to say right now, I want to take off the table that we're leaving Afghanistan."
Once Obama narrowed his choices to various levels of escalation, yes, I think he had only one choice, the escalation his hand-picked general in Afghanistan proposed. Biden's proposal, shifting focus to counter-terrorism, was a recipe for endless occupation. It didn't address the infrastructure that sustains Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
I agree with Obama's choices, including taking withdrawal off the table, but I don't think it is correct to say that he did not make them, or that he was backed into them by his generals.
I agree that the Obama campaign was misleading in its appeal to anti-war voters, you need only look at the campaign's furious reaction to Bill Clinton pointing out that Obama's anti-war credentials were a "fairy tale" to sense that they knew how critical those voters were to their success against Hillary Clinton. But I think you are wrong about Obama's brand and the impact his Afghanistan policy will have on it. Sure, people like Michael Moore and Barbra Ehrenreich might have been fooled. But those people were Ralph Nader supporters, most Democrats just aren't that dumb.
Look at the post-speech Gallup results on Afghanistan, support for Obama's Afghanistan policy has jumped to almost 60% among Democrats. Most Democrats knew Obama planned to shift military resources from Iraq to Afghanistan, and once he made clear what he planned to do they support him. If he remains as clear and determined about Afghanistan then that support will build through the 2010 elections. The Democratic unease in Congress is just the usual political spinelessness that makes people not trust Democrats on national security. They got spooked by some bad poll numbers on Afghanistan instead of judging the policy on the merits.
The things that could damage Obama politically, and reduce turnout in 2010, are failure on health care or his handling of the economic crisis. If people think he spent a ton of money helping bank executives get bigger bonuses, but then he can't afford to put Americans back to work, he will have a real turnout problem. Anti-war sentiment was not a major factor in the 2008 general election, and won't be in 2010.
The year is almost up, and Obama has yet to "meet separately, without precondition... in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea." I think we can agree that whatever naïvety Obama may have displayed it is long gone. There is no chance he will meet with any of those leaders in the foreseeable future Begin/Sadat style. They would each have to significantly change their posture toward the United States before Obama would be willing to meet with them.
He is, of course, pursuing diplomatic talks with all of those countries, in the hope that they will change posture and give him the opportunity to meet with their leaders and "bridge the gap that divides our countries."
I think Hillary Clinton's Afghanistan policy, were she president, would be identical to Obama's.
Obama set this course as soon as he became president, when he suddenly fired McKiernan and put McChrystal, a Petreaus counter-insurgency accolyte, in charge of Afghanistan. The policy Obama is pursuing is clear, well thought out and has been planned for a long time. I think it is the correct one.
The only difference is that fewer people would have been surprised were a President Hillary Clinton to choose this course. She was more clear, in the campaign, about the specifics of the foreign policy she would pursue. She didn't sugar-coat her policies with war skeptic rhetoric.
You have a point, but with a little more context it falls apart.
Obama asked for a watered down stimulus to please some Republican Senators. Bayh's vote against Obama's budget was symbolic, the leadership had the votes it needed and let Bayh make a statement against deficits. Obama has consistently signaled that he is willing to trade away the public option, and Obama's representative on Health Care in the Senate, Max Baucus, is one of the few Democratic Senators more conservative than Bayh.
It's not that Bayh and Obama agree on every issue, but that Obama's legislative proposals have been written to appeal to Senators on Bayh's right, like the Republican Senators from Maine. If you look past the brand, rhetoric and cultural cues to the substance of what Obama proposed to do, he is and was throughout the campaign a centrist or conservative Democrat not much different from Bayh.
Obama's budget was, at best, the most progressive since Clinton's 1993 budget, which included substantial progressive taxes on the wealthy. So maybe you can call that decades.