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Thread: President Obama as helpless victim in healthcare? Nonsense.

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    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    Default President Obama as helpless victim in healthcare? Nonsense.

    Of all the posts I wrote this year, the one that produced the most vociferious email backlash -- easily -- was this one from August, which examined substantial evidence showing that, contrary to Obama's occasional public statements in support of a public option, the White House clearly intended from the start that the final health care reform bill would contain no such provision and was actively and privately participating in efforts to shape a final bill without it.

    From the start, assuaging the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries was a central preoccupation of the White House -- hence the deal negotiated in strict secrecy with Pharma to ban bulk price negotiations and drug reimportation, a blatant violation of both Obama's campaign positions on those issues and his promise to conduct all negotiations out in the open (on C-SPAN). Indeed, Democrats led the way yesterday in killing drug re-importation, which they endlessly claimed to support back when they couldn't pass it. The administration wants not only to prevent industry money from funding an anti-health-care-reform campaign, but also wants to ensure that the Democratic Party -- rather than the GOP -- will continue to be the prime recipient of industry largesse.


    As was painfully predictable all along, the final bill will not have any form of public option, nor will it include the wildly popular expansion of Medicare coverage. Obama supporters are eager to depict the White House as nothing more than a helpless victim in all of this -- the President so deeply wanted a more progressive bill but was sadly thwarted in his noble efforts by those inhumane, corrupt Congressional "centrists." Right. The evidence was overwhelming from the start that the White House was not only indifferent, but opposed, to the provisions most important to progressives.

    The administration is getting the bill which they, more or less, wanted from the start -- the one that is a huge boon to the health insurance and pharmaceutical industry. And kudos to Russ Feingold for saying so:

    Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), among the most vocal supporters of the public option, said it would be unfair to blame Lieberman for its apparent demise. Feingold said that responsibility ultimately rests with President Barack Obama and he could have insisted on a higher standard for the legislation.
    "This bill appears to be legislation that the president wanted in the first place, so I donít think focusing it on Lieberman really hits the truth," said Feingold. "I think they could have been higher. I certainly think a stronger bill would have been better in every respect."
    Let's repeat that: "This bill appears to be legislation that the president wanted in the first place." Indeed it does. There are rational, practical reasons why that might be so. If you're interested in preserving and expanding political power, then, all other things being equal, it's better to have the pharmaceutical and health insurance industry on your side than opposed to you. Or perhaps they calculated from the start that this was the best bill they could get. The wisdom of that rationale can be debated, but depicting Obama as the impotent progressive victim here of recalcitrant, corrupt centrists is really too much to bear.

    Yet numerous Obama defenders -- such as Matt Yglesias, Ezra Klein and Steve Benen -- have been insisting that there is just nothing the White House could have done and all of this shows that our political system is tragically "ungovernable." After all, Congress is a separate branch of government, Obama doesn't have a vote, and 60 votes are needed to do anything. How is it his fault if centrist Senators won't support what he wants to do? Apparently, this is the type of conversation we're to believe takes place in the Oval Office:

    The President: I really want a public option and Medicare buy-in. What can we do to get it?

    Rahm Emanuel: Unfortunately, nothing. We can just sit by and hope, but you're not in Congress any more and you don't have a vote. They're a separate branch of government and we have to respect that.

    The President: So we have no role to play in what the Democratic Congress does?

    Emanuel: No. Members of Congress make up their own minds and there's just nothing we can do to influence or pressure them.

    The President: Gosh, that's too bad. Let's just keep our fingers crossed and see what happens then.
    In an ideal world, Congress would be -- and should be -- an autonomous branch of government, exercising judgment independent of the White House's influence, but that's not the world we live in. Does anyone actually believe that Rahm Emanuel (who built his career on industry support for the Party and jamming "centrist" bills through Congress with the support of Blue Dogs) and Barack Obama (who attached himself to Joe Lieberman when arriving in the Senate, repeatedly proved himself receptive to "centrist" compromises, had a campaign funded by corporate interests, and is now the leader of a vast funding and political infrastructure) were the helpless victims of those same forces?

    Engineering these sorts of "centrist," industry-serving compromises has been the modus operandi of both Obama and, especially, Emanuel.

    Indeed, we've seen before what the White House can do -- and does do -- when they actually care about pressuring members of Congress to support something they genuinely want passed. When FDL and other liberal blogs led an effort to defeat Obama's war funding bill back in June, the White House became desperate for votes, and here is what they apparently did (though they deny it):

    The White House is playing hardball with Democrats who intend to vote against the supplemental war spending bill, threatening freshmen who oppose it that they won't get help with reelection and will be cut off from the White House, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) said Friday. "We're not going to help you. You'll never hear from us again," Woolsey said the White House is telling freshmen.
    That's what the White House can do when they actually care about pressuring someone to vote the way they want. Why didn't they do any of that to the "centrists" who were supposedly obstructing what they wanted on health care? Why didn't they tell Blanche Lincoln -- in a desperate fight for her political life -- that she would "never hear from them again," and would lose DNC and other Democratic institutional support, if she filibustered the public option? Why haven't they threatened to remove Joe Lieberman's cherished Homeland Security Chairmanship if he's been sabotaging the President's agenda? Why hasn't the President been rhetorically pressuring Senators to support the public option and Medicare buy-in, or taking any of the other steps outlined here by Adam Green? There's no guarantee that it would have worked -- Obama is not omnipotent and he can't always control Congressional outcomes -- but the lack of any such efforts is extremely telling about what the White House really wanted here.

    Independent of the reasonable debate over whether this bill is a marginal improvement over the status quo, there are truly horrible elements to it. Two of the most popular provisions (both of which, not coincidentally, were highly adverse to industry interests) -- the public option and Medicare expansion -- are stripped out (a new Washington Post/ABC poll out today shows that the public favors expansion of Medicare to age 55 by a 30-point margin). What remains is a politically distastrous and highly coercive "mandate" gift to the health insurance industry, described perfectly by Digby:

    Obama can say that you're getting a lot, but also saying that it "covers everyone," as if there's a big new benefit is a big stretch. Nothing will have changed on that count except changing the law to force people to buy private insurance if they don't get it from their employer. I guess you can call that progressive, but that doesn't make it so. In fact, mandating that all people pay money to a private interest isn't even conservative, free market or otherwise. It's some kind of weird corporatism that's very hard to square with the common good philosophy that Democrats supposedly espouse.

    Nobody's "getting covered" here. After all, people are already "free" to buy private insurance and one must assume they have reasons for not doing it already. Whether those reasons are good or bad won't make a difference when they are suddenly forced to write big checks to Aetna or Blue Cross that they previously had decided they couldn't or didn't want to write. Indeed, it actually looks like the worst caricature of liberals: taking people's money against their will, saying it's for their own good --- and doing it without even the cover that FDR wisely insisted upon with social security, by having it withdrawn from paychecks. People don't miss the money as much when they never see it.
    In essence, this reinforces all of the worst dynamics of Washington. The insurance industry gets the biggest bonanza imaginable in the form of tens of millions of coerced new customers without any competition or other price controls. Progressive opinion-makers, as always, signaled that they can and should be ignored (don't worry about us -- we're announcing in advance that we'll support whatever you feed us no matter how little it contains of what we want and will never exercise raw political power to get what we want; make sure those other people are happy but ignore us). Most of this was negotiated and effectuated in complete secrecy, in the sleazy sewers populated by lobbyists, industry insiders, and their wholly-owned pawns in the Congress. And highly unpopular, industry-serving legislation is passed off as "centrist," the noblest Beltway value.

    Looked at from the narrow lens of health care policy, there is a reasonable debate to be had among reform advocates over whether this bill is a net benefit or a net harm. But the idea that the White House did what it could to ensure the inclusion of progressive provisions -- or that they were powerless to do anything about it -- is absurd on its face. Whatever else is true, the overwhelming evidence points to exactly what Sen. Feingold said yesterday: "This bill appears to be legislation that the president wanted in the first place."

    UPDATE: It's also worth noting how completely antithetical claims are advanced to defend and excuse Obama. We've long heard -- from the most blindly loyal cheerleaders and from Emanuel himself -- that progressives should place their trust in the Obama White House to get this done the right way, that he's playing 11-dimensional chess when everyone else is playing checkers, that Obama is the Long Game Master who will always win. Then, when a bad bill is produced, the exact opposite claim is hauled out: it's not his fault because he's totally powerless, has nothing to do with this, and couldn't possibly have altered the outcome. From his defenders, he's instantaneously transformed from 11-dimensional chess Master to impotent, victimized bystander.

    The supreme goal is to shield him from all blame. What gets said to accomplish that goal can -- and does -- radically change from day to day.

    Glenn Greenwald - Salon.com
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  2. #2
    Elite Member MontanaMama's Avatar
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    The healthcare problem is the same problem dems always have. Liberal politics, what you're for or against, is much broader than republican politics. The leadership is not respected by the rank and file and they can't ever seem to come up with a single list of things to do, everyone wants his/her own agenda according to his/her own personal politics.

    I think Obama's problem is that fundamentally he's a decent person and expects people to behave decently, which is why he has been willing to bargain against his own position for the benefit of a powerless minority. Plus, I'm not sure he realizes what power he could weild over the process. As a constitutional lawyer, he must firmly believe in the separation of powers.

    The thing I don't get is that the Repubs keep to the party line by controlling the purse springs of their party, doesn't the democratic leadership have the same opportunity to develop an agenda and force their members to get along or be on their own. Of course the fact that Lieberman, as a solo "independant" is single-handedly controlling the hc debate belies this premise.
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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    1) He is not a 'decent person', please stop it with the 'phone line to his heart' talk.

    2) He knows what power he has over the process. He claims inability to affect anything in congress (blatantly stupid on its face) unless it suits his purposes.

    3) The Democrats have no system of punishment or consequence for anybody who strays. Exhibit A: Lieberman.

    Let me give you a run down of the health care insanity:


    A) Obama dumps single-payer health care (easily the best option, basically medicare for everyone) immediately. It is not on the table. It is not up for discussion.

    B) The minute he's in the White House, he makes backroom "secret" deals with BigPharma that sees him agreeing not to dent their bottom line with any kind of reform (ie: no reimportation of drugs from Canada or Europe, ie: no savings). Then he denies these deals ever took place, except the Pharma industry blows this by admitting to them.

    C) He then hands off health care reform to 3 blue dog DINOs and 3 republicans, all of whom are bought and paid for by the pharma/insurance industries (the very industries they're supposedly going to reform, yeah right) who do their very best to kill the public option.

    D) The public option proves wildly popular to the American public, much to Obama's chagrin. He then sends out Rahm and his spokesbitches to make constant remarks about how anybody who wants a public option is a "left of the left" fringe whacko, and that it's not important, only a small part of reform, blah blah blah

    E) Despite the public option being vastly popular, Obama instructs Senate Dems to court Olympia Snowe and Joe LIEberman in order for the bill to be "bipartisan", which is just a cover because he knows NEITHER of them will sign onto something with a public option.

    F) The Senate Dems falter, and start cutting any useful provisions out of their bill.. no drug reimportation, no premium cost caps, insurance companies can still dump you with pre-existing conditions, and stuff IN a "mandate" that FORCES (yes, forces) 30 million americans to buy overpriced insurance they cannot afford NOW under pain of fines. Seriously. I'm not kidding.

    G) LIEberman and Snowe still hedge, so Obama sends Rahm to Harry Reid in the senate and tells him to agree to ANYTHING Lieberman or Snowe say just so they can pass a bill. I'm not kidding. This happened in the last 2 days and was verified by 3 independent sources. The White House denies, but they also denied they ever made any back room deals with pharma too.

    H) So what's left is a bill with no cost controls at all, that forces people to buy shitty insurance they cant afford or get fined ridiculous amounts.


    So you can stop with the "he's a good man" shit, because no he isn't. He's a corporate whore more interested in having a "win" than decent legislation. The sooner people wake the fuck up and smell the coffee the better.
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    Elite Member MontanaMama's Avatar
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    Well I think you just proved what I was saying, you can only see your own political point of view and anything not in complete agreement with your position is to be reviled. No greys at all.

    You undercut your entirely valid point by saying that Obama is not a decent person. And if I ever ever ever have but the words "phone line to his heart" in the same sentence, you are invited to string me up by my thumbs.

    Is the healthcare bill the best it can be? Absolutely not. Is something better than nothing? I guess we won't know until the Senate passes something and reconciles it witht he House bill. Is Obama making the most effective use of his office to meet his stated goals? Absolutely not. But there are 100 Senators and 435 Representatives, everyone with a different agenda and a different set of advisors and together they are a co-equal branch of the government to Obama's Executive branch. As I already said, Obama is suffereing from the same problem Dems have always had, inability to some together with a single focused goal with consequences for those party members that aren't on board.
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    (Replying to MontanaMama) This is some of the smartest shit I ever read

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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MontanaMama View Post
    Well I think you just proved what I was saying, you can only see your own political point of view and anything not in complete agreement with your position is to be reviled. No greys at all.
    No I just listed a timeline of what happened. That's what we call reality. These events took place. They are undeniable. They have been reported on and listed.

    You undercut your entirely valid point by saying that Obama is not a decent person.
    Uh no, listing all the misdeeds he has done to kill the public option and cost controls on this bill actually proves the point that he is not a decent person. No decent person would do that. No decent person sends Rahm out to Harry Reid telling him to cut a deal, ANY DEAL with lieberman just so "something" can get passed. A decent person says to kill the bill because it passing would actually make the status quo WORSE.

    And if I ever ever ever have but the words "phone line to his heart" in the same sentence, you are invited to string me up by my thumbs.
    Saying he's a "decent person", without being a personal friend or family member and in contravention to everything I listed is the same as some Bushbot saying "he's doing what god wants".

    Is the healthcare bill the best it can be? Absolutely not. Is something better than nothing? I guess we won't know until the Senate passes something and reconciles it witht he House bill. Is Obama making the most effective use of his office to meet his stated goals? Absolutely not. But there are 100 Senators and 435 Representatives, everyone with a different agenda and a different set of advisors and together they are a co-equal branch of the government to Obama's Executive branch. As I already said, Obama is suffereing from the same problem Dems have always had, inability to some together with a single focused goal with consequences for those party members that aren't on board.
    No, HE HAS TRIED TO KILL ANY KIND OF PUBLIC OPTION IN THIS BILL AND GAVE AWAY ANY KIND OF COST CONTROLS FROM THE BEGINNING.

    Jesus! I just listed exactly what happened and it's all quantifiable. THESE ARE ACTIONS HE HAS TAKEN. It's not some helplessness issue.

    Read this and understand:

    It's also worth noting how completely antithetical claims are advanced to defend and excuse Obama. We've long heard -- from the most blindly loyal cheerleaders and from Emanuel himself -- that progressives should place their trust in the Obama White House to get this done the right way, that he's playing 11-dimensional chess when everyone else is playing checkers, that Obama is the Long Game Master who will always win. Then, when a bad bill is produced, the exact opposite claim is hauled out: it's not his fault because he's totally powerless, has nothing to do with this, and couldn't possibly have altered the outcome. From his defenders, he's instantaneously transformed from 11-dimensional chess Master to impotent, victimized bystander.

    The supreme goal is to shield him from all blame. What gets said to accomplish that goal can -- and does -- radically change from day to day.
    That's what you're doing.
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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    Even more fun! The White House, having thanked Lieberman for doing its dirty work, now disses Howard Dean for his suggestion that they kill a shitty bill and start over.

    From Jane Hamsher at FireDogLake:

    MSNBC's MIKA BRZEZINSKI: I won’t name names, but I heard it from several people in the Administration: Howard Dean, very not pleased, with Dr. Dean speaking out about health care reform and this plan.

    Savannah Guthrie: Yeah, very irritated. Yes, isn’t it fascinating they don’t seem to be too angry at Lieberman, they’re reserving their fervor for Howard Dean, but actually, one senior official who I talked to this morning paid the highest insult which was to call him irrelevant to the entire health care debate. You know he kind of had his moment in the sun in the last week when this Medicare expansion looked like it was going to be the thing that broke the logjam between the progressives in the party and the moderates, but, of course, because of Lieberman, the Medicare expansion is gone, and now Dean is having what one official called “a tantrum.”

    And they think it’s just not helpful, but they say he’s irrelevant because, bottom line is, even though he was meeting yesterday with all the Democrats, a lot of liberals did blow off steam, there’s a lot of frustration, they’re annoyed that the public option is gone, that then they compromised to do the Medicare extension, now it’s gone. At the end of the day, the moderates are holding sway over this bill, but at the end of the day the President’s been able to hold them in line and they think progressives will be with them.



    Howard Dean was being talked about as a secretary for Health and Human Services. The man is an MD and a health care expert. He knows far more about health care and reform than President Obama or Rahm Emmanuel. And Dean says the bill needs to be killed.

    AMERICAblog News: White House thanks Lieberman for blocking President's reform promise, but now criticizes Howard Dean for defending it
    So again.. more important to have a "win" on the scoreboard (because they won't be tackling anything 'controversial' next year, Sen. Pelosi) than to pass good legislation and anybody getting in the way of that earns the ire of the White House.
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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    EVEN MORE FUN! The anti-abortionists now want THEIR provisions put in or else they walk!

    COULD NOT HAVE SEEN THAT ONE COMING, right?

    Ben Nelson is going to get whatever he wants. Lieberman showed that. The Democrats need Nelson to pass a bill, unless they get Olympia Snowe, and so far she's reportedly not being very helpful. I think you'd be very hard pressed to argue that Rahm, on behalf of Obama, isn't going to pay Harry Reid another visit and tell him to chuck pro-choice women under the bus.

    So now we've moved from President Lieberman to President National Right to Life:

    Senators cornered Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) throughout the day, aiming to sway him. Nelson received draft language from Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) of an amendment to tighten restrictions on federal financing of abortion. The amendment would segregate private funds that cover abortions from public subsidies for health insurance.

    “We’re looking at it,” said Nelson, who indicated that he was also waiting on feedback from anti-abortion groups.

    But Douglas Johnson, the legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, said Wednesday night of the Casey language, “This proposal would break from the long-established principles of the Hyde Amendment by providing federal subsidies for health plans that cover abortion on demand. This is entirely unacceptable.”



    Appeasement doesn't work. If you show serial weakness, which this White House and this Congress do on a regular basis, you will be repeatedly challenged and taken advantage of. This is why so many of us "non-wonks" are so livid about the President and Harry Reid caving on the Senate health care reform bill over and over again. This is about much more than health care reform. It's about Democrats caving now and in the future on every single issue we care about. It's about whether Democrats even run our party any more.

    AMERICAblog News: Move over Lieberman, now the National Right to Life Committee gets a veto over Health Care Reform
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    Socialist!!!

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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    Retard!!
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    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    Updates from Greenwald on the OP:

    UPDATE II: I'll be on MSNBC this afternoon at 3:00 p.m. EST with David Shuster/Tamron Hall discussing this post.

    UPDATE III: Over at Politico, Jane Hamsher documents how Joe Lieberman's conduct on the health care bill provides the perfect vehicle to advance the agenda of the White House and Harry Reid. Consistent with that, she independently notes media reports that White House officials are privately expressing extreme irritation with Howard Dean for opposing the Senate bill as insufficient, but have nothing bad to say about Lieberman, who supposedly single-handedly sabotaged what the White House was hoping for in this bill.

    UPDATE IV: Immediately prior to the MSNBC segment I just did -- video for which I will post when it's available -- an NBC reporter explained how Robert Gibbs used his Press Briefing today to harshly criticize Howard Dean for opposing the health care bill. Why did Gibbs never publicly criticize people like Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman and the like if they were supposedly obstructing and impeding the White House's agenda on health care reform (this is a point Yglesias acknowledges as a "fair" one)? Having a Democratic White House publicly criticize a Democratic Senator can be a much more effective pressure tactic than doing so against a former Governor who no longer holds office.

    Meanwhile, as one would expect, health insurance stocks are soaring today in response to the industry-serving "health care reform" bill backed by the Democratic Senate and White House -- the same people who began advocating for "health care reform" based on the need to restrain on an out-of-control and profit-inflated health insurance industry (h/t Markos).

    Glenn Greenwald - Salon.com
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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    seems the fix is in, doesn;t it
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