Free Markets, Free People

Obama Admin’s Messaging Confused

First we have hints by Obama that the public option isn’t critical to health care reform.

“The public option, whether we have it or we don’t have it, is not the entirety of healthcare reform,” Obama said at the town hall event in Colorado. “This is just one sliver of it. One aspect of it. And by the way, it’s both the right and the left that have become so fixated on this that they forget everything else.”

That’s followed up by Kathleen Sebelius, HHS Secretary, and Robert Gibbs, White House Press secretary, dropping the same sort of hint. First Sebelius:

Sebelius said that what the president sees as essential is to set up competition to private insurers in the healthcare system. But she said that doesn’t have to come from a public health insurance option.

“Well, I think there will be a competitor to private insurers,” she said on CNN. “That’s really the essential part, is you don’t turn over the whole new marketplace to private insurance companies and trust them to do the right thing. We need some choices, we need some competition.”

Then Gibbs:

“What the president has said is in order to inject choice and competition. . . people ought to be able to have some competition in that market,” Gibbs said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Asked if he was hedging on support for a public plan, Gibbs said, “The president has thus far sided with the notion that that can best be done with a public option.”

Gibbs and Sebelius both leave their sentences unfinished – “but it doesn’t have to be the public option which introduces that competition”.

Like 1200 insurance companies wouldn’t compete in a real open market and not the rigged market the government has established – but that’s a post for another time.

You can’t help but draw the conclusion that the administration is backing away from support for the public option if their nebulous goal, “competition”, is still the final result of the bill.

That flies right in the face of the House’s liberal caucus, 77 liberal lawmakers who have said the public option is a must. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) told CNN on Sunday it would be “very difficult” for her and other liberals to support legislation that does not include a public option.

“The only way we can be sure that very low-income people and persons who work for companies that don’t offer insurance have access to it, is through an option that would give the private insurance companies a little competition,” she said.

Johnson added that House liberals have already told Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that she should insist on White House support for a public option.

In fact, the liberal caucus has stated in the past that it won’t vote for a health care bill without a public option.

Then today:

An administration official said tonight that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius “misspoke” when she told CNN this morning that a government run health insurance option “is not an essential part” of reform. This official asked not to be identified in exchange for providing clarity about the intentions of the President. The official said that the White House did not intend to change its messaging and that Sebelius simply meant to echo the president, who has acknowledged that the public option is a tough sell in the Senate and is, at the same time, a must-pass for House Democrats, and is not, in the president’s view, the most important element of the reform package.

A second official, Linda Douglass, director of health reform communications for the administration, said that President Obama believed that a public option was the best way to reduce costs and promote competition among insurance companies, that he had not backed away from that belief, and that he still wanted to see a public option in the final bill.

“Nothing has changed.,” she said. “The President has always said that what is essential that health insurance reform lower costs, ensure that there are affordable options for all Americans and increase choice and competition in the health insurance market. He believes that the public option is the best way to achieve these goals.”

Confusion reigns. Any reasonable person listening to the president in Grand Junction might have taken his remarks to mean exactly what has been reported – that the public option isn’t critical to the final bill as long as something is in there to increase “competition”. That something, of course, could be the co-op plan (or the trigger plan) being pushed in the Senate.

I bring all this up to point out that what was considered a media savvy group during the election campaign seems to have either forgotten how to impose message discipline or, if that’s not the case, hasn’t yet realized that scrutiny of every word, phrase and nuance and the comparison of what is said by various players in the administration and Congress is standard operating procedure among the old and new media.

Their world changed in a way on January 20th that I still don’t think they quite understand. Then they were able to get away with glib nonsense and glittering generalities then. But now they’re forced to deal with warring factions (many times within their own party) who aren’t going to be satisfied with anything but specifics. Every word uttered is going to be analyzed and spun. And situations like this make the administration seem confused, defensive and not on top of their game. It also gives the public even less reason to feel confident about giving them the power over their health care for which they’re asking.

All in all, not a stellar performance by the administration thus far.


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12 Responses to Obama Admin’s Messaging Confused

  • Easy to stand on the sidelines for 8 years and screech like a banshee. Not so easy to govern, is it?

  • McQ – “I bring all this up to point out that what was considered a media savvy group during the election campaign seems to have either forgotten how to impose message discipline or, if that’s not the case, hasn’t yet realized that scrutiny of every word, phrase and nuance and the comparison of what is said by various players in the administration and Congress is standard operating procedure among the old and new media.”

    I never considered TAO and his gang to be “media savvy” simply because MiniTru was so openly and totally in the tank for them that they didn’t have to be savvy or even remotely thoughtful, consistent, or intelligent. TAO could read the set-up menu from his teleprompter and induce leg-shaking orgasms among the likes of Cwissy Matthews. Even if MiniTru wasn’t so partisan for TAO, they were too busy parsing and criticizing every word Sarah Palin said to notice if TAO made a slip. They certainly never bothered much to analyze any of his campaign promises to see if they were remotely feasible or even if he had any sort of a plan to bring them to fruition. Hence, we see the laughably pathetic scene of him promising to close Gitmo without having the least idea what to do with the prisoners there, or Tax Cheat Timmy getting laughed off the stage when his much-promised “detailed plan” to rescue the financial sector turned out to be nothing more than a hazy set of goals and a complete willingness to abandon any pretence of fiscal restraint in passing out bailout money. Now we see TAO trying to peddle a health care takeover “plan” that is nothing more than a hodge-podge of House and Senate bills that members of Congress will admit that they haven’t read themselves, and even fumbling in a comparison to the POST OFFICE to do it.

    No, his gang is not media savvy at all. If TAO and his (mal)administration got 1/10 the (ahem) scrutiny for his words that Bush and Co. routinely got, he’d be a national laughing stock and most of his cabinet would spend their time before grand juries. He’s in over his head, and only MiniTru constantly throwing him lifelines keeps him from drowing in his own incompetence.

  • I suspect the Public Option to only be delayed or disguised. Or, they’ve developed an alternate tact to dismantle private care.

    Dropping it right now may be possible but I don’t believe it and who’s going to call them on it if they do construct a Trojan Horse? The MSM?

  • “say whatever you need to say, whenever you need to say it, these idiots won’t figure it all out till it’s too late”

  • If they can get some form of Obamacare passed, it can simply be modified later on to restore anything that is cut now.  As for the administration itself, I recall that after Obama won the election, they seemed to decide that they’d run the White House the same way they ran the campaign.  Some hailed it as a new way of doing things and credited it with helping to marginalize the right and bringing the Democrats to prominence.  But now that things aren’t so straightforward, now that “the enemy” is the concerned voter, the strategy is failing and we begin to see that the administration apparently has no fall-back plan.
    I don’t think this is so unusual or unique, except for one detail– that Obama’s strategy involved putting him in front of cameras and microphones as often as possible, to use the “power of the pulpit” to generate the necessary influence for his ideas and proposals.  Now they are learning about something we call “overexposure” or “burnout.”  Familiarity breeds contempt.  The left has responded to this natural reaction by lashing out with name calling and vituperation, which doesn’t work very well when your target turns out to be the same people who helped to vote you into office.

  • I for one want to see this entire health care reform movement drop dead as if it were struck by lightning. I want to see The Clown’s™ polls drop to 30%. I want to see the Democrats lose 100 seats in the House, or possibly make 1894 look like a tea party. I want to see Harry Reid, Christopher Dodd, and Arlen Specter all go down to defeat next year. I want to see James Carville and Paul Begala re-do their 2002 act on CNN and have to wear trashcans on their heads to avoid the shame and embarrassment of what will happen to their silly party. I want to see MSNBC go out of business, but not before Keith Dimbulbermann has to say on election night 2010, “And tonight the GOP made a stunning comeback and won control of the US House of Representatives, just two years after Barack Obama looked to remake the political landscape in the United States.” I want to see the BBC and the foreign media ask how the Democrats, so allegedly beloved by the American people, could have their heads handed to them electorally. I want to see Crap and Trade go down to defeat in the US Senate. I want to see Ted Kennedy have to give up his seat and then have to face Mary Jo Kopechne and finally get his comeuppance for killing that girl.

    Nothing too bad can happen to the Democrats. I want to see them washed right out of power, then rewashed and rewashed. I want to see The Clown™ go down to ignominious defeat in 2012 and have to wave bye-bye to the White House after one term. I want to people start to call him “Jimmy Carter Obama.” Such a name is most apropos.

    As Freddy Mercury sang, “I want it all. I want it all, and I want it now.”

  • Point of clarification:  Pres. Obama didn’t visit Colorado Springs, instead he held his “town hall” in Grand Junction (population 53,000).   Last time he stepped foot in Colorado Springs – home to the El Paso County Republicans, Focus on the Family, and basically the epicenter of Colorado Conservatism — even the local “liberals” protested him. If he showed up here, he’d have to face the rath of not only the  “rabid” Republicans but also the Manitou Springs Peace-nik Hippies who are ticked that he hasn’t yet shut down the “military machine” in the Middle East or closed Guantanimo….  Instead he held “his” town hall in the safest location possible — a rural mountain town, late on a Sunday afternoon, 300 miles and 6 hours away from anyone who might make a serious fuss…. Wimp.

  • For years, it has been said that the US, under the aegis of NATO, allowed European countries the luxury of having low defense expenditures.
    Can the same be said for health care ?

  • They are not dropping the public health option! It is more sleight of hand. They want to form co-ops and then when they fail, the government will swoop in and take over! This is a provision they will include. Don’t fall asleep on this people!

  • Exactly right. Drug companies in the U.S. develop the drugs and then are hammered to sell them to the Europeans at a cost that doesn’t cover the R&D.  Essentially, the U.S. pays for a large percentage of the drugs that Europeans use.
    Even with that nice little cost cutter, their health care systems are splitting at the seams as we speak. Imagine how fast ObamaCare will collapse without that sort of help. Once the only customer of prescription drugs is the government, and they insist on what price that the drugs will be sold, the development of life saving drugs will come to a virtual halt overnight.