The [Friday] Papers
By Steve Rhodes
A loyal reader asked me what I meant by my statement yesterday that a public option made no sense whatsoever, and the current leading bill without a public option made no sense whatsoever.
Here is my explanation.
1. What I mean is that I don't think the public option makes sense - for a number of reasons. First, it's pure speculation and wishful thinking to believe that this will "force insurance companies to be honest." Obama likes to trot out the (bad) example of the U.S. Post Office competing with FedEx and UPS, but does anyone really believe the business practices of the Post Office have anything but minimal impact on FedEx and UPS? And there already is competition in the market. Beyond that, the CBO has made clear that a public plan will not save money. We all know that the public option is a half-measure on the way to single-payer, something Dems spoke freely about through the last campaign but deny now. Finally, I don't like the idea of the government entering a private marketplace and playing along.
2. But . . . the current bill would make no sense without the public option because it wouldn't be health care reform, it would only address a handful of important insurance issues but not the macro health care system - pre-existing conditions, portability, etc. It would leave us with the exact same system, including the onerous employer-based insurance plan.
3. So, as I've written, I support single-payer. But it's abundantly clear that the country just isn't ready for it - and may never be. It's been so demonized that I'm not sure it could happen - unless the Dems screwed up their courage and pushed it through on their own. But too many moderate Dems would absolutely refuse, and there would probably be riots in the streets.
4. An alternative - which the president was asked about [Thursday] in his live radio interview with Michael Smerconish, but which, like the rest of the questions, he totally didn't answer, would be for the federal government to incentivize (and in my view, largely fund) the states, which are already implementing their own plans, be it the Massachusetts plan, the plan we have here in Illinois, or the variety of other state plans like TennCare and MinnCare. In some cases those are essentially single-payer systems - administered by the states. Why can't that be the path - or the answer? Each state could be mandated to a minimum level of care to prevent, say, Alabama from not participating.
5. I agree [re: my loyal reader's suggestion that the administration trot out Wendell Potter at every opportunity]. But it's not Obama's style to actually, um, fight. He doesn't want to make the insurance companies mad. It's funny, though. I never, ever, liked John Edwards. Thought he was a smarmy poser. But he said in the debates that what Obama didn't understand was that you had to FIGHT the insurance companies and special interests, you couldn't try to make nice with them, because they will try to screw you. That's who they are. And let's face it, Hillary was/is a fighter too. Obama pledged not to fight, and look where we are.
6. Medicare for All. Yes. That seems like a really simple solution. Why not just let everybody buy into Medicare? There's your single-payer, public option! I haven't researched this much, but it sounds like a fine idea to me. I wonder why it hasn't gotten any traction.
Who Will Get Taken Care Of
Obama seems to view his job as chief wrangler of compromise. Whatever bill the Congress can agree on will be the bill he will sign; it will be the fruits of all their "hard work" and what he will see as the only thing achievable.
Sometimes you need a president, though, not a facilitator.
You know what? The same story was written about Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton and George W. Bush . . . and nearly every president. How could they run a winning campaign yet stumble in the White House?
Well, someone has to win a campaign. A campaign's management only looks perfect because . . . it's winning, so the media elevates it's players and strategies beyond reason to tell a (fictionalized) story.
Beyond that, campaigning is not governing. And that's why we shouldn't vote for the best campaigner, but for the candidate we think will govern the best.
Journalists like to think that campaign operations are some sort of acid test to how well a candidate will govern, despite scads of evidence to the contrary. Pundits do it all the time; somehow the campaign able to put out the best spread of food and josh around on the plane most effectively is deemed the campaign that ought to . . . rule the free world.
So how do you choose who will govern best? Easy. Look at a candidate's record and experience. The past is almost always prologue. It's all we have to go on. Promises mean nothing unless a candidate has a record of keeping them.
This isn't just about Obama. Hardly. Look at George W. Bush's campaigns. Like the Cubs with Kevin Gregg and Milton Bradley, we got exactly who we should have known we were getting. Bill Clinton is Bill Clinton. Ronald Reagan is Ronald Reagan. Nothing they did should have been a surprise.
I'm happy to recall that I described Rod Blagojevich as an empty suit in his first gubernatorial primary. One of the state's best-known political reporters disagreed with me at the time, arguing vociferously that Blago was the best campaigner he had seen, Clintonesque.
So? Our job isn't to elect the best campaigner, because that's not the post we're filling.
(And this is not an "I told you so" about Obama; it seems to have slipped past a lot of readers that I wrote several times that a voter could reasonably argue that Hillary Clinton had invalidated her credentials for the presidency with her war vote. Still, she was the best candidate by my criteria regardless of ideology. Or look at Howard Dean. Actually not a great candidate, but I sure would have liked to see him be president.)
Anyway, what Lakoff gets wrong in his piece is that the other side will frame messages too. Calling health reform the American Plan is smart politics, but it doesn't change the underlying facts. It's just meeting bullshit with bullshit.
And that's what people mean when they say they are tired of partisanship.
Well, first, like I've alway said, I never endorsed her, nor did I vote for her - or anyone. I don't believe journalists ought to vote in primaries, which are interparty activities. It's not my job to help a party nominate a candidate.
And like I said - and wrote many times - her war vote alone was enough to disqualify her.
But that's no different than what Republicans are saying right now about health care: The government can't even run Cash for Clunkers, how is it going to run health care? Apparently because some dealers haven't gotten their money yet.
You could just as easily say, though, that the government put a man on the moon, how hard could health care be?
It's just nonsense.
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Posted on August 21, 2009
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