Tuesday, November 29, 2011

An open letter to Jeff Fecke.

Since Jeff Fecke links to my post in his "liberals are just as bad as Fox News" post, I feel the need to respond.

He writes,
Firedoglake began amplifying the message that Obama was selling out the left, that he was intentionally trying to undermine the public option in order to…something. It was never made clear exactly why Obama would work against a policy that he had specifically endorsed, other than that it meant Obama was in thrall to Big Business.
Fecke links to my post at FDL. Here's the first graf of that post:
We now know that the White House, in secret negotiations with industry lobbyists, quietly killed the public option in July 2009. But when the President gave a nationally-televised, joint address to Congress on September 9, 2009, he implied that the public option was still on the table.
You'll see that those links go to Think Progress, which cites Tom Daschle's book, and Obama's speech. There's nothing at all in there about "Obama intentionally trying to undermind" anything. The point is that a) Daschle admitted that the public option was sacrificed to AHIP as a bargaining chip; and b) Obama wasn't terribly honest about that.

(Side note: negotiating behind closed doors with industry lobbyists is something Obama expressly promised not to do when he campaigned for the presidency -- and specifically attacked Hillary Clinton for.)

We also know that Obama offered up the public option when he tried to get Chuck Grassley on board.
"If we do everything and resolve all the policy issues the way you want, with no public plan, do you think you'll be able to support the bill?"

Grassley looked away. "I don't know."

Fecke adds,
The public option was stripped from the bill for mundane reasons — it didn’t have enough support to get through the Senate. But that didn’t fit the FDL narrative, which is why they chose to believe and amplify information that came from dubious sources, because that information fit their narrative.
I don't know what this "FDL narrative" Fecke is talking about or these "dubious sources" -- the sourcing above is all excellent. But the facts are that the public option was negotiated away pretty early on by Obama and the White House, and he never publicly fought for it. He campaigned on it, but he didn't insist that it be in the final bill, probably because he didn't think it was that important, and he thought getting something, anything passed -- was the goal.

Obama was happy to put the screws to someone like Dennis Kucinich in crunch time, but did he visit Blanche Lincoln's and Evan Bayh's districts, telling them to get behind the public option? No, he didn't.

What's more, the final health care bill passed via reconciliation in the Senate, and there certainly were 51 votes for it in the end. But Obama did not insist that it be put back in (again, probably because he made the calculation that a health care bill without a public option is still better than no health care bill).

But here's where it gets dicey: Obama later weirdly denied that he even campaigned on the public option, which wasn't true -- an odd fact Fecke conveniently doesn't mention. Why? Because he wants to absolve Obama of any duplicity here and blame everything on liberals.

The liberal complaints about Obama and the public option are easy enough to understand. It was clearly sacrificed to get industry insiders and corporatist Democrats and Republicans on board -- despite the fact that polling showed it was overwhelmingly supported by the public. But in the end, the White House made a political calculation that passing something was better than passing nothing -- and they appear to have been wrong. This is probably because people hate their insurance companies and they think they're paying too much every year in health care bills -- and there's nothing in the bill they see that will provide them a way to lower their costs any time soon. A public option would've given people a chance to opt-out of the noxious cartel that currently controls the health care industry.

Fecke also doesn't acknowledge that the public option was already a compromise position for liberals, who agreed to abandon single payer in favor of Obama's version of RomneyCare. And as much as liberals have expressed frustration with Obama, Obama and the White House haven't exactly endeared themselves to the base with their endless, pointless hippie punching.

To assert, as Fecke has, that all liberal complaints about Obama are based on lies and delusions and completely illegitimate, I think, simply isn't fair.

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