Racing to regain control of the health-care debate, two top administration officials signaled Sunday that the White House may be willing to jettison a controversial government-run insurance plan favored by liberals.
I was about to write a post today sort of apologizing in advance for the tone of my forthcoming article on the health care business. I was worried all weekend that I had been too negative and too harsh with regard to the Democrats. It had struck me that in the month and a half or so that I spent on health care I spoke with a great many staffers and members of congress who seemed genuinely committed to fixing health care – people like Bernie Sanders, Ron Wyden, Sherrod Brown, Lynn Woolsey, and numerous others in and around the House and Senate. I was suddenly feeling very guilty for ignoring (to a degree) their efforts and focusing instead in my piece on the treachery of the Democratic leadership – Pelosi, Reid, the White House – for bargaining away real health care reform before this process even started.
Then I came home this afternoon, turned on my computer and read this latest smoke signal emanating from the White House, indicating that the “public option” is now being walked a few more steps forward along the plank. And I stopped feeling guilty about hammering the leadership. The latest news:
As President Obama finishes a western swing intended to bolster support for his signature policy initiative, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius opened the door to a compromise on a public option, saying it is “not the essential element” of comprehensive reform. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Obama “will be satisfied” if the private insurance market has “choice and competition.”
Now, obviously (and this is will be explored in more detail in the forthcoming piece, which will be out this week), the public option was not a cure-all. In fact, the Democrats had in reality already managed to kill the public option by watering it down to the point of near-meaninglessness. But the notion that our president not only does not have any use anymore for a public option, but in fact “will be satisfied” if there is merely “choice and competition” in the market is, well, disgusting.
I’ll say this for George Bush: you’d never have caught him frantically negotiating against himself to take the meat out of a signature legislative initiative just because his approval ratings had a bad summer. Can you imagine Bush and Karl Rove allowing themselves to be paraded through Washington on a leash by some dimwit Republican Senator of a state with six people in it the way the Obama White House this summer is allowing Max Baucus (favorite son of the mighty state of Montana) to frog-march them to a one-term presidency?
To quote Method Man’s Calvin “Cheese” Wagstaff character from The Wire, “This is some shameless shit right here.”