Free Markets, Free People
Since he didn’t forcefully enter the debate, the media reported on his news conferences and town hall meetings as if they were the White House’s failed attempts to set the agenda. Obama’s popularity has fallen and support for “his” bill — a bill that doesn’t exist — has plummeted.
Objectively, the fact that he hasn’t given a speech on health-care reform or defined his own bill or begun to really pressure the Congress means, in practice, that he has a lot left of tools left in his toolbox.
If Obama hasn’t “forcefully entered the [health care] debate” what was that ABC infomercial? What was the purpose of the series of town halls – if he wasn’t “forcefully entering” the debate.
In fact, Obama has been trying to push his health care agenda since he’s been in office.
Kaus reminds us of how involved to this point Obama has been in the topic of health care:
“Our CBS News tally shows that Mr. Obama has given 27 speeches specifically on his health care objectives. Add in other remarks, events and statements in which he mentioned health care and the number soars to 119.”
Those numbers flatly contradict Klein’s conclusion:
What’s not clear is whether he has the political capital left to use them effectively, or whether the last few months saw him robbed of something he hadn’t even had a chance to use.
Never had a chance to use? Hardly. Misspent, misapplied, squandered? More likely – it isn’t that he hasn’t taken the opportunities to “forcefully enter” the health care debate, it’s that he’s been completely ineffective when he has.
That’s why many don’t buy the David Axelrod spin which says, in effect, that has all proceeded as planned and now they’re merely going to “synthesize and harmonize these strands and get this done” with Obama’s upcoming speech.
Klein may believe that Obama is finally “forcefully entering” the debate with the upcoming speech, but I’d bet most Americans will see it as simply more of the same old ineffective nonsense wrapped in a new rhetorically glittering package that they’ve been hearing for months.
The battle lines are being drawn prior to the speech President Obama will deliver to a joint session of Congress next Wednesday. One group which has now put itself on record with an either/or demand is the House Progressive Caucus. In a letter delivered last night to Obama, the Caucus said:
Any bill that does not provide, at a minimum, a public option built on the Medicare provider system and with reimbursement based on Medicare rates-not negotiated rates-is unacceptable. A plan with negotiated rates would ensure higher costs for the public plan, and would do nothing to achieve the goal of providing choice and competition to keep rates down. The public plan with set rates saves $75 billion, which could be lost if rates are negotiated with providers. Further, this public option must be available immediately and must not be contingent upon any trigger.
The Progressive (they don’t like the word “liberal” anymore) Caucus, as I recall, has about 77 members. The lack of a public option, however, could cost Democrats upward of 100 votes and coupled with Republican votes against – not to mention Blue Dogs – would doom the bill in the House.
So what the Progressive Caucus is doing is drawing a line in the sand over which they claim they will not budge. In actuality they’ve put President Obama in what most would consider a no-win situation.
Of course word has it that a pubic option is very unlikely in the Senate version of a bill and if it is forced into a bill it will cost all Republican Senate support (even the usual 3 that go along with the Dems) and most likely a few Democratic Senators (Landreau, for instance, who has stated publicly that she won’t vote for a bill with a public option) . That would put them well below the 60 needed to end debate. It would also leave them with only the reconciliation process which needs a simple majority to pass a bill, with which to turn. And that is fraught with all sorts of dangers for the Democrats as the process allows parliamentary objections at almost every step and allows non-budgetary items (reconciliation is a budgetary process) to be stripped from the bill.
This has left the White House with few options. But one is an appeal to party loyalty and loyalty to President Obama as well as a smidgen of “post-racial” politics:
White House advisers will likely insist that liberals mustn’t deny the president a historic victory and enable a defeat that could cripple the first African-American presidency.
And cripple it we must – bad ideas are bad ideas, regardless of the race or party of those pushing them. This health
care insurance reform scheme is the penultimate bad idea – along with cap-and-trade, TARP, the unstimulative “stimulus” bill, the omnipork spending bill, the take over of GM and Chrysler, the bailout of the (selected) financial institutions and the projected 9 trillion in deficits. I wouldn’t care if the the president were purple, I’d want anyone pushing those sorts of ideas politically “crippled”. I’d figure that since the president and Congress had already managed to hobble the nation, hobbling their ability to do more damage is the only good idea to come along is quite some time.
Of course I’d also most likely be labeled a racist and obstructionist by them if I actually said such a thing, wouldn’t I?
It couldn’t possibly be independents and libertarians objecting as well could it?
School districts from Maryland to Texas are fielding angry complaints from parents opposed to President Barack Obama’s back-to-school address Tuesday – forcing districts to find ways to shield students from the speech as conservative opposition to Obama spills into the nation’s classrooms.
The White House says Obama’s address is a sort of pep talk for the nation’s schoolchildren. But conservative commentators have criticized Obama for trying to “indoctrinate” students to his liberal beliefs, and some parents call it an improper mix of politics and education.
“The gist is, ‘I want to see what the president has to say before you expose it to my child.’ Another said, ‘This is Marxist propaganda.’ They are very hostile,” said Patricia O’Neill, a Democrat who is vice president of the Montgomery County School Board, in a district that borders Washington, D.C. “I think it’s disturbing that people don’t want to hear the president, but we live in a diverse society.”
The White House moved Thursday to quell the controversy. First it revised an Education Department lesson plan that drew the ire of conservatives because it called for students to write letters about how they can help the president.
One more time for the slow and stupid, i.e. the media – this is about a president presuming to speak directly to our children without our permission. It’s not so much about the message, it’s the presumption. To me that’s a presumption which he has no right to make. If he wants to speak to the nation on national TV I, as an adult, have the ability to choose whether or not to watch him or instead a Braves’ game. If he wants to talk about education and address children, I’ll put mine in front of the TV if I think what he’ll have to say is useful and necessary. That’s a parent’s job and a politician – any politician – presuming he is above such parental control or choice is just flat wrong.
As this was originally planned, although it appears some school districts are now going to provide an alternate activity for those who object, this was to be a captive audience forced to watch the message. Many parents, not just conservative parents, understand the ability for something like this to be abused. Again, it’s not so much about the message as it is about the precedent.
Lastly, many of the objections haven’t been focused on the speech but the fact that this is an organized event with a lesson plan that, until the outcry, had some portions where were obviously political. And that’s the opinion of more than just conservatives (the White House dropped some of those more obvious portions from the lesson plan).
So to boil it down so even the media can figure it out – it isn’t just conservatives objecting to this. More importantly, it’s about the 3 “p’s” – presumption, precedent and politics.
Oh, and concerning the tu quoque?
Obama isn’t the first president to be criticized this way. O’Neill recalled President George H. W. Bush made televised address to students in October 1991 as campaign season was heating up. A handful of Democrats denounced Bush’s address as pure politics. Bush asked students to “take control” of their education and to write him a letter about ways students could help him achieve his goals, strikingly similar to Obama’s messages.
Yeah, that was wrong as well. Okay? This president as with any president has more than enough to do without presuming he’s welcome to become the national daddy. Why don’t we refrain from centralizing that too and concentrate on taking over another car company or something instead?
UPDATE: Speaking of outrage (and disengenuousness) – I have to ask, given this bit of outrage from the left (and speaking of tu quoque), would this line of reasoning have survived an attempt by George W. Bush to do the same thing?
More broadly, Obama is the leader of this entire nation. It doesn’t matter if you voted for him–or even if your head threatens to explode every time you think about him. He is the president, and, as such, it’s a big deal that he’s speaking directly to students about the importance of education.
Despite being called “brownshirts”, “un-American” and a “mob” of “astroturfers”, a Rasmussen poll indicates the public believes the townhall protesters to be a genuine reflection of the concerns of their neighbors:
Forty-nine percent (49%) have a favorable opinion of those opposing the health care reforms at town hall meetings. That’s up eight points from 41% a month ago. Thirty-five percent (35%) have an unfavorable view of the town hall protesters, unchanged from last month.
Fifty-nine percent (59%) now say the town hall protesters are citizens reflecting the concerns of their neighbors. That’s up ten points over the past month.
Thirty percent (30%) believe the protests are phony efforts drummed up by special interest groups and lobbyists.
Those are phenomenal numbers – within a month, the favorables for the protesters move up 8% despite an organized effort to demonize them while those who see the protesters unfavorably remains both flat and in the minority.
Another encouraging sign is the fact that most of those polled think that Congress members ought to shut up and listen:
Fifty-six percent (56%) of voters nationwide say that it’s more important for Congressmen to hear the view of their constituents rather than explain the proposed health care legislation. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 37% hold the opposite view while 7% are not sure.
The desire for Congress to listen may stem from the fact that voters believe they understand the legislation better than Congress.
Apparently Americans are in the mood to remind Congress members it is they who are the hired help and it is time they remembered it.
People ask, “what is the utility of a poll like that”? It is a temperature check, a mood indicator, a warning, if you will, that whatever is being contemplated by legislators and the president had best be checked against this trend. It isn’t a favorable trend for what they want to do and the utility comes in realizing that an tailoring something which won’t see them ushered unceremoniously out of office in a year or so.
Like, for instance, ramming something through that their constituents don’t like, but the party base does. The point to be taken here is if the protesters are the tip of the iceberg and most feel they truly represent the feelings of their neighbors, what do you suppose might happen in November of 2010 if legislators disregard the very strong signals being sent?
The president’s speech next Wednesday should be very interesting given these polling indicators. Will he continue to plow ahead trying to force a square peg in a round hole (and pay the political consequences) or will he bow to political reality and radically modify and shrink his goals for health
care insurance reform?