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Obama’s Biggest Broken Promise: The One On Special Interests

by on Thursday, December 24, 2009 at 1:28 pm EDT in Healthcare, Politics

Barack Obama told the Washington Post that he never campaigned on the public option.  I recently provided resounding proof — as aggregated by Think Progress — and also included a new scathing ad being run by The Progressive Change Campaign Committee SHOWING Obama telling his supporters that he would only sign a plan that contained a public option.

Obama had in fact made the public option a major part of his health care reform promise during his campaign.  Anyone who supported him knows this, and so his lying about it is only going to polarize him even further from his base — or should I say, whatever remains of it.

Chris Matthews, last night, feebly attempted to spin Obama’s Washington Post lie, when dueling with Joan Walsh of Salon.  Matthews tried to make a distinction between Obama’s having promised he would provide a public option, and his having ‘campaigned’ on a public option — which is what Obama was quoted as having told the Post:

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All that inner-beltway selective-nuance crap feels a bit like ‘grabbing at straws’ to me.  You can slice and dice it all you’d like Chris, but Obama ran on it.  Again, check HERE for the proof (and keep in mind ALL this information was available online at least 10 hours before Hardball aired last night).

Leave it to Uber-Blogger, Digby, to masterfully capture the real essence of Obama-supporter angst:

There is a lot of back and forth about what Obama promised about a public option and what he didn’t. The PCCC is running ads today pointing out that just a few months ago he promised that he wouldn’t sign a bill that didn’t have one. Whether or not what he called a “public plan” during the presidential campaign is up for grabs.

But when I went back and looked at Obama’s speeches during the campaign to get an idea of how he talked about it and health care in general, I was struck by something else: how much his rhetoric revolved around changing the culture of special interest dominated Washington. In fact, virtually all of his domestic program was wrapped in that promise:

This election is about them. It’s about you. It’s about every one of the 47 million Americans in Virginia, in Tennessee and across this country, who are going without the health care they need and the millions more who are struggling to pay rising costs.

But let’s be honest – we’ve been talking about this for a long time. Year after year, election after election, candidates make promises about fixing health care and cutting costs. And then they go back to Washington, and nothing changes – because the big drug and insurance companies write another check or because lobbyists use their clout to block reform. And when the next election rolls around, even more Americans are uninsured, and even more families are struggling to pay their medical bills.

If Obama had come out of the gate last January, forcefully projecting his campaign imperatives upon both Democratically controlled houses — after all, we ushered him in with a clear, indisputable mandate — and he came back with this lousy, crappy health insurance giveaway, the Left would have been just as grief-stricken, but likely would have given the President the benefit of the doubt.

The thing is, anyone who watched knows with certainty, that with Obama’s popularity at the time, with control of both houses, with this being his single-biggest policy initiative, and with reconciliation at his disposal, he had everything he needed to run roughshod over the Republicans and Blue Dogs, and could have delivered nearly everything he promised us.  We made the mistake of believing he was working for us — the people.  That’s what this fury on the Left is all about.

Obama’s biggest campaign promise, as Digby reminded us all, was that he would not be beholden to special interest groups — the ones who always manage to thwart all efforts of meaningful reform (as Obama eloquently described above).  And, yet, before the health care initiative was even launched, Obama essentially smothered ‘Change’ in its crib, by doing EXACTLY what he said he wouldn’t — he struck backdoor deals with the entrenched interest groups.

And the President now pretends that he fought hard — though we all saw he didn’t.  In fact, not only was he MIA — refusing to outline any priorities for a health care reform bill — his own White House was undermining his campaign promises at every turn, insisting they weren’t essential for Obama’s signature.  He now pretends the opposition was just too fierce, too dug in — though we’ve heard from the Senators themselves that he never once pressured anyone on the public option.  And, of course, he clearly didn’t want Reid using reconciliation.

Obama wanted the bill he got — the one cooked up by the entrenched interests in his back door deal.  By not using reconciliation, he believed the Blue Dogs would give him the cover he needed to emerge from this industry giveaway unscathed.

And now Obama appears frustrated; frustrated that the Left won’t give him HIS due victory, and applaud him for this bill — this trillion dollar wealth redistribution from the middle class to special interests.  He clearly believed the Left would allow him to white-wash this bill as ‘meaningful reform,’ but no one is buying.  Obama’s brand is now the embodiment of everything the public detests about Washington.

In the past — before the net roots — this kind of corporate capitulation routinely flied like a stealth aircraft over the electorate.  Bill Clinton could have pulled it off in the 90s — in fact, he did.

Mr. President,

WAKE UP!  We’re not in the 90s anymore.

Obama’s Betrayal Of The Left Spells Problems For The Democratic Party

by on Thursday, December 10, 2009 at 4:44 pm EDT in Healthcare, Politics

Back when Candidate Obama was working the campaign trail across the country, his message of hope — of overcoming entrenched interests in pursuit of meaningful and necessary change — inspired and stirred a nation.  He marketed his message in an ingenious mantra, “Yes we can,” that conjured up the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.; one who by sheer will, determination, and inspiration had overcome monumental — institutionalized — adversity.

Obama’s message, his symbolism, and his command of issues awoke a sleeping giant in this country: a grass-routes movement high on populism, and deeply suspicious of beltway elites and special interests.  He’d effectively tapped into this spirit across people of all ethnicities, races, religions, and economic backgrounds.  He resonated with them in a way that helped to distinguish himself from his opponent Hillary Clinton, a centrist, whose brand had long been associated with special interest influence.

What Obama effectively stirred up in this country has turned out to be a mixed blessing for the Democratic Party, a party which had strategically repositioned itself to the center as far back as the 1990s, by embracing many of the same corporate interests that had historically backed Republicans.  Since the Clinton years, Democrats successfully placated the Left by throwing them a few bones here and there, while doing the bidding of entrenched interests on more significant and complex issues (like trade, health care, credit card legislation, bankruptcy laws, etc).

Obama made the mistake of believing he could run as ‘Obama the populist,’ to then transform into and govern as ‘Obama the centrist’.  Perhaps he’d merely allowed himself to get sucked into championing populist positions he wasn’t sincerely passionate about during the long and contentious campaign.  Let’s face it, of the three major contenders in the Democratic Primaries, John Edwards started out as the quintessential ‘populist candidate.’  Obama moved more and more in that direction as the primaries continued, and Obama’s delivery of these populist messages became so well received, that I sometimes wonder if at some point he and his campaign just made a strategic decision to ride out the populist wave.  You can see how he might have gotten caught up in it all — the exhilaration of “moving” and “inspiring” the masses; seeing tens of thousands of people queued-up enthusiastically in the rain for hours, to hear how you’re going to finally take them to the promised land, and deliver meaningful change.  I admittedly was one of those waiting in line, in the rain, for five hours, in Chapel Hill (ruined my shoes, btw). 🙂

President Obama and the Democratic Party have a big problem on their hands.  They awakened something of a populist giant, only to betray their hopes, and to leave them feeling more cynical about their government than ever before.  Thomas Jefferson astutely said, “An injured friend is the bitterest of foes.”  I can think of no better expression that more accurately captures the feeling on the Left towards the Democratic Party at this very moment.

Few on the Left blame Republican obstructionism for Washington’s inability to pass a robust public option, or for any of Obama’s other broken campaign promises.  We expect nothing more from the Republicans — our lying, propagandizing, obstructive foes.  We have watched the President and the White House very closely since his election, and are perplexed by his lack of conviction, fortitude, and leadership; his refusal to advocate strongly for his own — supposed — legislative priorities; his nonexistent efforts in getting his campaign promises pushed through two Democratic houses.  Obama had been awarded an overwhelming mandate to implement the change HE PROMISED, and he’s clearly not up to the task.  No, the Left lays the blame squarely at Obama’s feet.

And that may prove to be calamitous for the Democratic Party in the 2010 and 2012 elections — a party whom the Left resented for eight long years, as they signed their names to some of the most catastrophic — often illegal — Bush initiatives imaginable.  Obama and the Democratic Party are still actively covering up Bush’s war crimes — immunizing these neo-cons from ever being held accountable; most likely to cover up Democratic complicity.

The grass-routes enthusiasm for Democrats in 2008 was mostly wrapped up in a hatred for Bush/Cheney and a love of Obama — what he represented; and more importantly, what he advocated for: CHANGE.  Obama, for a moment in time, had reinstated the electorate’s enthusiasm for what had been a complicit, impotent, subservient Democratic Party.  Now that Obama and the Democrats have taken the easy route — tossed meaningful change on several fronts over board in order to accommodate entrenched interests — I suspect Left-leaning populists will abandon voting Democratic across all candidates, something they were all too happy to do in 2008.

Just a hunch …

Obama’s Silence On Public Option Emboldens Obstructionists

by on Monday, December 7, 2009 at 11:03 am EDT in Healthcare, Politics

Obama met with Democratic Senators yesterday at a rare Sunday Democratic caucus to give something of a ‘pep talk’ — which is how he described it to reporters — to encourage them to complete their job of passing health care reform.  He didn’t take questions from the Senators, most of whom were reported as complimentary of the President’s speech.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told Walter Alarkon of The Hill:

“He reminded us why we’re here, he reminded us why we run for office and he reminded us how many people are counting on us to come through”

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) said that:

Obama’s message was most effective when he was “putting into context how important [the healthcare bill] was to the economy and what this means in terms of how people judge this Congress and what happens to us.”

What was being discussed most, however, seemed to be what was missing from his speech — guidance on the hotly-contested public option — believed by many to be the most critical component of meaningful Health Care Reform.

Ryan Grimm of The Huffington Post reported that Senator Joe Lieberman — one of a few non-Republican holdouts vowing to filibuster anything resembling a public option — was virtually “beaming” about its absence from Obama’s speech:

The independent who still caucuses with Democrats wanted to point something out to the Majority Leader: Obama didn’t mention the public option.

Lieberman was beaming as he left the room and happy to re-point it out when HuffPost asked him what Obama had said about the public health insurance option, perhaps the most contentious issue still facing Democrats as they negotiate their way toward a final health care reform bill.

“Well, it was interesting to me — of course everybody hears with their own ears — that he didn’t say anything about the public option,” said Lieberman. “In other words, when he outlined how far we’ve come on the bill, he talked about the cost-containment provisions; he talked about the insurance market reforms; and he talked about enabling 30 million more people to get insurance. He said these are historic accomplishments, the most significant social legislation, or whatever you call it, in decades, so don’t lose it.”

Reid told reporters that Lieberman had approached him after the meeting to note the absence of the public option, but that folks shouldn’t read too much into Obama’s silence on the issue. “That doesn’t mean it’s not an issue, because the president didn’t talk about it,” said Reid.

What I find so unsettling about Obama’s continued silence on the public option — especially since we’re now in the 11th hour — is what it reveals about the President himself: that he doesn’t seem to really care if the final bill is a legitimate health care reform bill, or not.  The public option is the ONLY THING that would reign in health care costs.  Everything else being proposed (outside the public option) is just a workaround for the health insurance industry, which is why the industry has been so relentless in defeating the public option.

Obama is keenly aware of the public option’s significance to meaningful health care reform.  He advocated for it in great detail as a candidate on the campaign trail, and yet as President — before the health care debate had even begun — his White House was putting it out to the press that he’d sign a health care reform bill without one.  Either Obama has been compromised (i.e. has cut a backroom deal with the health insurance industry), or his only motivation all along has been to score a quick political victory at any cost; even if it produces a bill so watered down as to be ineffective in providing affordable health care to all Americans.

In my entire lifetime, I’ve never seen such an inspiring, articulate, intelligent, mobilizing candidate instantly mutate after his victory into a hyper-conciliatory-to-the-point-of-appearing-timid President.  Most Presidents — rightly or wrongly — believe their election victories accord them a mandate to push through whatever promises got them elected.  They aggressively take ownership of their party’s legislative agenda.  When a President wins a decisive victory while his party controls both Houses in Congress, it is like a resounding mandate to run roughshod over the opposition.

And yet, here is President Obama, our ‘change agent’ — having won a decisive victory and whose party controls both Houses — gone MIA on what has been described as his biggest priority initiative — health care reform.   Instead of promoting HIS priorities, and lobbying members of Congress to get on board — essentially leading — he sheepishly punts to Congress to figure it all out, offering no leadership, nor insight into what he expects to see in the bill.  Which would suggest that he doesn’t really care; he just wants a bill — any bill — whether it provides meaningful health care reform, or not.

By failing to display some much-needed party leadership — i.e. by resisting to pressure Joe Lieberman and the Blue Dogs to join Democrats in achieving their most important legislative victory since FDR — Obama’s ‘pep talk’ seemed to only embolden their resolve for further obstructionism on meaningful health care reform.

Which brings me to the question: whose side are you on, Mr. President?