[updated x2] Required reading: Paul Krugman rips Obama's bipartisanship meme
by tarheel74, Thu Aug 13, 2009 at 08:26:28 PM EDT
But on to Krugman:
"I am in this race because I don't want to see us spend the next year re-fighting the Washington battles of the 1990s. I don't want to pit Blue America against Red America; I want to lead a United States of America." So declared Barack Obama in November 2007, making the case that Democrats should nominate him, rather than one of his rivals, because he could free the nation from the bitter partisanship of the past.
Some of us were skeptical. A couple of months after Mr. Obama gave that speech, I warned that his vision of a "different kind of politics" was a vain hope, that any Democrat who made it to the White House would face "an unending procession of wild charges and fake scandals, dutifully given credence by major media organizations that somehow can't bring themselves to declare the accusations unequivocally false."
So, how's it going?
Sure enough, President Obama is now facing the same kind of opposition that President Bill Clinton had to deal with: an enraged right that denies the legitimacy of his presidency, that eagerly seizes on every wild rumor manufactured by the right-wing media complex.
This opposition cannot be appeased. Some pundits claim that Mr. Obama has polarized the country by following too liberal an agenda. But the truth is that the attacks on the president have no relationship to anything he is actually doing or proposing.
Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa, is one of these supposed moderates. I'm not sure where his centrist reputation comes from -- he did, after all, compare critics of the Bush tax cuts to Hitler. But in any case, his role in the health care debate has been flat-out despicable.
Last week, Mr. Grassley claimed that his colleague Ted Kennedy's brain tumor wouldn't have been treated properly in other countries because they prefer to "spend money on people who can contribute more to the economy." This week, he told an audience that "you have every right to fear," that we "should not have a government-run plan to decide when to pull the plug on grandma."
Again, that's what a supposedly centrist Republican, a member of the Gang of Six trying to devise a bipartisan health plan, sounds like.
The question now is how Mr. Obama will deal with the death of his postpartisan dream.
So far, at least, the Obama administration's response to the outpouring of hate on the right has had a deer-in-the-headlights quality. It's as if officials still can't wrap their minds around the fact that things like this can happen to people who aren't named Clinton, as if they keep expecting the nonsense to just go away.
What, then, should Mr. Obama do? It would certainly help if he gave clearer and more concise explanations of his health care plan. To be fair, he's gotten much better at that over the past couple of weeks.
What's still missing, however, is a sense of passion and outrage -- passion for the goal of ensuring that every American gets the health care he or she needs, outrage at the lies and fear-mongering that are being used to block that goal.
So can Mr. Obama, who can be so eloquent when delivering a message of uplift, rise to the challenge of unreasoning, unappeasable opposition? Only time will tell.
Update [2009-8-14 23:38:1 by tarheel74]:
Thank you everyone for reading this diary for recommending it and having a spirited discussion. I did not want to add my opinion to the same space where I am outlining the opinion of one of the sharpest minds in this country. However being one of the few people who has been the sentinel on this issue from early May after closely following all the developments on health care I am surprised that the administration continued to follow this failed quest for bipartisanship and in effect ended up negotiating against its best interests. What did it do wrong?
Everything in my opinion. Let's begin at the very beginning. The administration could have chosen a proven Democrat with sharp elbows and a medical degree in Dr. Howard Dean to head its HHS division but instead chose someone who would be more centrist i.e. Kathleen Sebelius. Then instead of listening to the more progressive voices like Robert Reich and Paul Krugman, they decided to put more credence in the opinion of people like Tom Daschle, Larry Summers and Austan Goolsbee. In the Senate the administration decided to hitch its wagon not with the more progressive faction, but with the more conservative trifecta of Messrs. Baucus, Conrad and Bingaman. They decided to hand over complete responsibility of drafting the legislation to Congress and Senate absolving itself of all leadership role. Then while all signs pointed towards the Finance Committee undermining the public plan, the White House decided to get into some closed door back-room negotiations with the Pharmaceutical and Hospital lobby on behalf of the same Finance Committee thus undercutting the efforts of the progressive House caucus that actually came up with the most comprehensive bill yet. Meanwhile Finance Committee member Kent Conrad went on the record to state his opposition and his unwillingness to support a public option.
As I have said before, these are self-inflicted wounds. Right now what we have is no longer a comprehensive health care reform but instead a health insurance reform much like what they have in Massachusetts. Will it keep our premiums down? Maybe in the short term. Will it stop the cost of health-care from rising the way it is? I don't see how it will. It did not in MA and having the same plan nationwide will not make much of a difference. Does all this make me angry? No, I am past that point. I am sad that the administration is letting such a chance go away, because right now I do not see how there will be a public option with more and more Democratic Senators and Representatives voicing their opposition to it. From being hopeful, I am now wishing on a miracle that suddenly everything will align and we will get some semblance of health care reform, otherwise it is health insurance regulation with maybe an exchange and a co-op.
Update [2009-8-16 13:5:59 by tarheel74]:
Someone is ringing the death knell for the public option, the question is can you hear it or are you still in denial?
First it was at the Netroots Nation where Bill Clinton tried to prepare the progressive base for a bill without public option:
"Trying to hold the president's feet to the fire is fine, but first we have to win the big argument," former President Bill Clinton said Thursday at the Netroots Nation convention, a gathering of liberal activists and bloggers who will prove most difficult to convince. "I am pleading with you. It is OK with me if you want to keep everybody honest. . . . But try to keep this thing in the lane of getting something done. We need to pass a bill and move this thing forward."
I want us to be mindful we may need to take less than a full loaf, he said after recounting the political troubles that followed his failed reform effort in 1994.
Then there is Kent Conrad another of administration centrist allies who since a few days back have been signaling that he will vote against a public option. Today on the Fox News Sunday show he said this:
A public health insurance option took more hits Sunday as Sen. Kent Conrad described its pursuit as a wasted effort and an administration official said it is not an essential part of reform.
Conrad (D-N.D.), who supports setting up health insurance co-operatives with government seed money to compete with private insurers, described the public option as all but a lost cause.
Look, the fact of the matter is there are not the votes in the U.S. Senate for the public option, there never have been, Conrad said in an interview on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.
So to continue to chase that rabbit is, I think, a wasted effort, Conrad said.
Then there is the White House's HHS secretary who more or less waved the white flag on public option:
Apparently ready to abandon the idea, President Barack Obama's health secretary said Sunday a government alternative to private health insurance is "not the essential element" of the administration's health care overhaul.
The White House indicated it could jettison the contentious public option and settle on insurance cooperatives as an acceptable alternative, a move embraced by some Republicans lawmakers who have strongly opposed the administration's approach so far.
Make no mistake, funding co-ops is a much more welcome alternative to the GOP and the insurance lobby. Co-ops are untested and unregulated entities working on a state by state basis without portability and would do nothing to keep costs down. Sen. Rockefeller has already voiced his concerns about co-ops and you can read them here.
But to the greater point, who here thinks that the direction we are heading as far as health care reform goes is progressive let alone Democratic and more importantly will keep the cost down for consumers? This is NOT health care reform. This is INSURANCE REFORM. The government is more interested in passing the buck to the consumers. The legislation as it is being proposed by key members of the Finance Committee and embraced by the WH is something that the Republicans under John McCain proposed. It creates a mandate which shovels millions of new customers to the insurance companies but does nothing to keep costs down.
In the same vein who here thinks that a bill without public option will fly as anything but a defeat for the Democrats? Tim Pawlenty, who is a contender for the Republican ticket in 2012, is already saying out loud what other Senate Republicans like Jim De Mint has been saying. You cannot appease these people, but a party with 20% identification with the American public has just hijacked one of the key Democratic policies. Bipartisanship in this case has not only been a misguided endeavor but it is failing the majority of the people of the United States by throwing us once again, but with more pomp and splendor, at the mercy of insurance companies and their cronies.