Is Obama Sending Mixed Message on Public Option?

The answer is yes. Just a day after his Health and Human Services Secretary says the administration can live without a public option, other aides now say he hasn’t given up on it. And what exactly is involved with the health insurance co-ops that would take the public option’s place? Nobody seems to know.

All this is why, in a previous blog post, I argued that President Obama needed to start the health care reform debate with single payer, universal care.

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Those who oppose him couldn’t care less about the public option, co-ops, or anything else he comes up with. Their end game is, simply, nothing, no change at all. That’s why they spent so much time and energy packing town hall meetings with loudmouthed screamers, some of whom still can’t fathom the fact that Barack Obama is President of the United States.

Now, progressives are crying foul, saying Obama is abandoning real reform in favor of a watered down alternative. It is, as New York Times columnist Bob Herbert accurately describes it, “like sending a peewee footballers against the Super Bowl champs” when it comes to co-ops vs. big insurance. So the question must be asked, why? Why is the administration making so many concessions?

Do they not see that for some of those who oppose healthcare reform, Obama himself is the issue? Maybe the president is having trouble digesting the ugliness that came out of so many of those town halls. But he doesn’t seem to understand that nothing will mollify that small segment of the American public. Nothing, that is, short of his resignation.

You can say it’s racial, you can say it’s generational, whatever. There is a loud minority in America who see “their country” slipping away from them. They see Barack Obama and his agenda as the cause of that slippage, and they don’t like it one bit. Ditching the public option gives emboldens them like nothing else could. It tells them, “we’re winning”.

Worse yet, big business is winning. They’re the ones bankrolling the politicians and in some cases the groups that are ┬áloudest in opposing reform. They’re the ones whose bottom lines will get fatter if costs aren’t controlled. And they’ll have a giant new pool of clients if everyone’s required to purchase insurance.

And what does the public get? Not a whole lot.

I for one understand politics well enough to know you don’t always get what you want, that compromise is part of the game, a necessary one if you talk to those who play it.

But at what price? You tell me.

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Was Sotomayor’s Confirmation Really a Surprise?

It shouldn’t have been. The final vote was 68-31, hardly close by any measure. The media will lament the fact that only nine Republicans voted for her. So what? She’ll be sworn in Saturday, GOP support or not. I guess we should count our blessings nine Republican senators had sense enough to vote yes.

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Throughout Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation process, Republican opposition was overblown. People like Jeff Sessions and Mitch McConnell were paraded on the Sunday talk shows as if they had the power to stop or at least derail a process that seemed inevitable by the numbers. Now we know how that turned out.

Aside from the fact this was a victory for the White House, it should tell President Obama something as well. Bi-partisanship is overrated. Why should this president waste his own political capital on finding common ground with lawmakers who have a naked, partisan agenda? For every Lindsey Graham, who voted in favor of Sonia Sotomayor because it was the right thing to do, there’s a Jim DeMint, who sees Obama’s undoing behind his every initiative.

Beat ’em down, Mr. President. And that goes for Democrats who cross you as well. I say this knowing it’s not Barack Obama’s style to use a stick on his opposition. His nice guy approach worked well during the presidential campaign, but these people are playing for keeps. Not for nothing they’re saying if he can’t get healthcare reform passed, it means the end of his presidency.

Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation is metaphor for a new reality that Republicans are having trouble figuring out. They’re not the majority anymore. That’s why they’re sending out minions to disrupt town hall meetings on healthcare. That’s why the birthers won’t go away, no matter how bankrupt their cause. Since January 20th they’ve been looking for an opening, any opening to land a mortal blow on the Obama presidency.

Time will tell if healthcare is in fact that blow. But for now, the Sotomayor confirmation, plus the extension of “Cash for Clunkers” both represent incremental victories for President Obama. They should also represent abject lessons about the limits of a bi-partisan approach with this particular batch of Republicans.

To be fair, not all of them subscribe to the “party of no” doctrine that their leadership embraces. Not even all those who come down as opposed to some Obama policies are bad people. It’s going to be up to this president to separate the chaff from the wheat.

So, back to the original issue. Were you surprised by Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation, or by her margin of victory? You tell me.