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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.

Health Care Reform: WTF Just Happened? The Left Weighs In

by on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 at 6:49 pm EDT in Healthcare, Politics

The reaction to Obama’s Health Care Reform fiasco is getting rather explosive on the Left.  There seems to be somewhat of a prevailing sentiment that Obama’s Administration bears the lions’ share of the blame for Lieberman and Blue Dog intransigence.  Here’s some of the reactions:

Labor Unions:

Sam Stein from the Huffington Post is reporting that two of the country’s largest labor groups, the SEIU and the AFL-CIO, are holding emergency meetings, and are hinting they will formally oppose the ‘Lieberman-friendly’ bill.  He described the labor leaders as “fuming at the concessions that Democratic leadership made in the last few days to win the support of the caucus’s most conservative members, notably Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.)”  Listen to how one high-ranking labor official described who is to blame for this mess:

“What is really frustrating folks here is that it’s impossible to make and implement plans to pressure senators when the White House and Reid keep undermining the efforts no one from the outside can put any credible pressure on Senators because they know the White House will back that Senator up whatever they do. If the White House is going to cave to a Senator who spent the entire election campaigning with McCain and calling Obama a traitor how are we supposed to have any leverage over anyone?

“If Lieberman — who has done so many horrible things directly to Obama — can get away with this on Obama’s signature issue it makes it infinitely harder for us to pressure senators, on issues in the future, because there is no fear of retribution or coercion from the White House. They only pressure progressives, not anyone in the middle.”

Here’s the President of the United Steel Workers, Leo Gerard, who gives President Obama the benefit of the doubt, by calling him naive, and suggesting he “got hoodwinked” by the Health Insurance Industry.  Leo, no offense, but I don’t think Obama is the one showing naivete.  He goes on to state:

“I can tell you this — point blank — if we don’t get a meaningful health care bill that reduces costs and has everybody in and doesn’t have an excise tax, has a pay or play for employers, has a public option, or a medicare buy-in, we’re not gonna campaign for any Democrat that voted against this bill, and we’re going to go out and try and defeat them.”

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Blogosphere:

I think Glenn Greenwald has BRILLIANTLY NAILED what’s been going on here, as he usually does.  He doesn’t buy that Obama and Rahm Emanuel got bested, due to some sort of naivete.  He believes they got EXACTLY the health care bill they always wanted, and shows how they had no problem flexing muscle to get legislation through the Houses in the past when it was something important to them:

Indeed, we’ve seen before what the White House can do — and does do — when they actually care about pressuring members of Congress to support something they genuinely want passed. When FDL and other liberal blogs led an effort to defeat Obama’s war funding bill back in June, the White House became desperate for votes, and here is what they apparently did (though they deny it):

The White House is playing hardball with Democrats who intend to vote against the supplemental war spending bill, threatening freshmen who oppose it that they won’t get help with reelection and will be cut off from the White House, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) said Friday. “We’re not going to help you. You’ll never hear from us again,” Woolsey said the White House is telling freshmen.

That’s what the White House can do when they actually care about pressuring someone to vote the way they want. Why didn’t they do any of that to the “centrists” who were supposedly obstructing what they wanted on health care? Why didn’t they tell Blanche Lincoln — in a desperate fight for her political life — that she would “never hear from them again,” and would lose DNC and other Democratic institutional support, if she filibustered the public option? Why haven’t they threatened to remove Joe Lieberman’s cherished Homeland Security Chairmanship if he’s been sabotaging the President’s agenda? Why hasn’t the President been rhetorically pressuring Senators to support the public option and Medicare buy-in, or taking any of the other steps outlined here by Adam Green? There’s no guarantee that it would have worked — Obama is not omnipotent and he can’t always control Congressional outcomes — but the lack of any such efforts is extremely telling about what the White House really wanted here.

Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake weighs in with similar sentiments on the Administration:

“They were very good at making it look like they wanted a public option in the final bill without actually doing anything to make it happen,” said Jane Hamsher, publisher of the liberal blog Firedoglake. “It’s hard to believe that the two most powerful people in the country — arguably the world — could not do more to achieve their desired objective than to hand the keys over to Joe Lieberman. They would not be where they are if they are that bad at negotiation.”

Digby weighs in:

There are not a lot of good reasons why [Obama] wouldn’t use the power of his popularity when his numbers were stratospheric to insist on something other than cost controls. One can only assume he didn’t want to.

Even I knew that the Senate was full of a bunch of prima donnas who had to be deftly handled and given a tremendous amount of attention and engagement when you try to do something big. That’s just how it works in that chamber, especially when Democrats are in the majority. It was never going to be easy. But the president had a tremendous amount of good will and political power when he came into office and indicated from the beginning that instead of pushing through his agenda quickly and efficiently he would have the congress to “take the lead” and only inject himself when it was necessary to consecrate some (preferably bipartisan) compromise. That’s a recipe for slow action and bad legislation.

The president may not have the singular power to enact good domestic policy, but he is the only one with the power and public backing to knock heads and lead in his own party. And if the best he can do in that regard is tell the Democrats that they need to “protect him” by passing any bill, well, that’s pretty weak.

Liberal Democrats:

Most surprising of all, is the candor coming from Democratic politicians themselves.  No more putting a nice spin on things, for the sake of the President.  They are pulling-no-punches:

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey (D-Wis.) told POLITICO:

“It’s ridiculous, and the Obama administration is sitting on the sidelines. That’s nonsense.  The White House has been useless,” he said.

Rep. Anthony Weiner:

“Snowe? Stupak? Lieberman? Who left these people in charge? It’s time for the President to get his hands dirty. Some of us have compromised our compromised compromise. We need the President to stand up for the values our party shares. We must stop letting the tail wag the dog of this debate.”

Senator Feingold weighed in to The Hill:

“This bill appears to be legislation that the president wanted in the first place, so I don’t think focusing it on Lieberman really hits the truth,” said Feingold.

Here’s what John Conyers had to say about it:

“The president keeps listening to Rahm Emanuel,” he said. “He doesn’t listen to” the Congressional Black Caucus.

As for the Senate health care bill, Conyers went through a list of defeats: “No public option, no extending Medicare to 55, no nothing, an excise tax, God! The insurance lobby is taking over.”

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus:

“Since the Senate won’t use reconciliation, which only requires 51 votes, it doesn’t look promising for any real change.”  Grijalva said he would vote against the Senate bill unless the House is able to make significant changes in conference.

Rep. Peter DeFazio:

“There is unbelievable frustration with the Senate,” he said. “The Senate is a graveyard. They could run the place with 50 or 51 votes, but they don’t want to hurt the club,” he said. “They are relying on people like Joe Lieberman, who was thrown out of the Democratic Party by the voters of his state, to tell the Democratic Party what its agenda is. That’s a very sad state of affairs.”

Rep. Lynn Woolsey:

“Thirty percent of Democrats will not come out and vote if there is no public option in the health care bill,” she said. “What does that tell you?”

I think it’s safe to conclude that Obama and Emanuel have effectively divided the Democratic Party in two.  Instead of applying an iota of pressure on Lieberman and the Blue Dogs they are doing the very opposite: hitting back at the base.  Note: I didn’t say “hitting back at liberals or the ‘Left Wing of the Party’,” because 88% of ALL Democrats still favor a public option, as does 60% of ALL Americans.

The President has effectively been undermining the popular will of his own party AND country, and he’s furious that everyone isn’t bending over, and giving him his ‘political victory’.

Lieberman Threatens To Filibuster Medicare Buy-In, As New Video Surfaces Showing Him Endorsing It

by on Monday, December 14, 2009 at 6:51 pm EDT in Healthcare, Politics

I discovered this video (courtesy of the Connecticut Post) via Digby, originating back to Greg Sargent.  Hopefully, it will continue to make its way throughout the net roots.  Pass it on! In the video — shot just three months ago on September 8, 2009 — Joe Lieberman explains his support for a Medicare buy-in.

The interviewer asks him, “Why do you now, in 2009, oppose a public option after for so long supporting it?”   Here’s a transcript of Joe Lieberman’s response:

“I didn’t really support a public option in the way that it’s being recommended now.  In other words, what’s being recommended now is a separate new government run health-insurance plan.  What I supported then, and um … thanks for mentioning this, because it points out for some period of years I’ve been concerned about health care reform and devoted to doing something about health care reform, and trying to figure out how to best cover with insurance, people who are uncovered.

So what I did — and here’s the difference — my proposals um … were to ah … basically expand the existing successful public health insurance programs, Medicare and Medicaid.  In the case of Medicaid, to allow people who were above the eligibility level to buy into the Medicaid system on the theory that it would be — up to a certain income level — a theory they’d be able to buy into it at less than the market rate of health insurance.

When it came to Medicare I was very focused on a group — post 50, maybe more like post 55 — people who have retired early or have unfortunately been laid off early, who lose their health insurance and they’re too young to qualify for Medicare, and what I was proposing was that they have an option to buy into Medicare early and again on the premise that that would be less expensive than the enormous cost — if you’re 55 or 60 and you’re without health insurance and you go into to try to buy it, because you’re older — although to me still young and vital — you’re rated as being; you’re rated as a risk, so you pay a lot of money.”

Here’s the actual video:

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Joe Lieberman just articulated the merits of the EXACT bill that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid just put together — now being scored at the Congressional Budget Office — which includes a Medicare buy-in for those over 55.

And guess what?  Just yesterday, the Huffington Post reported that Joe Lieberman told Harry Reid to his face that he would filibuster any bill that includes a public option OR a Medicare buy-in:

Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) informed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in a face-to-face meeting on Sunday that he will vote against a health care bill that includes a public option or a provision that would expand Medicare, a Democratic Senate aide tells the Huffington Post. […]

Lieberman punctuated the discussion by telling the majority leader directly that he will vote against the bill if the Medicare buy-in and public option provisions remain in it. Roll Call reports that Lieberman said he would also support a Republican filibuster of legislation that included these provisions.

And today, Huffington Post reports, that Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel demanded that Reid bend over for Joe Lieberman and pull the public-option and the Medicare buy-in out of the bill:

Rahm Emanuel visited Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in his Capitol office on Sunday evening and personally urged him to cut a deal with recalcitrant Sen. Joe Lieberman, two Democratic sources familiar with the situation said.

Emanuel, President Obama’s chief of staff, has long been identified as leading a faction of White House advisers who have been pushing the Senate simply to pass any health care bill, no matter how weak.

His direct message to Reid (D-Nev.), according to a source close to the negotiations: “Get it done. Just get it done.”

As if we required any evidence that Joe Lieberman was nothing, but an unprincipled, dishonest, insurance industry ‘fuck-boy’ — we now have the actual proof to be aired over and over again in his home state of Connecticut.

Senator Reid,

It’s time to give Rahm Emanuel the finger, pursue reconciliation with a Medicare Buy-In For All, AND it’s time to strip Joe Lieberman of all his committee chairs.  After this video goes viral, anything short of that will make you look weak and spineless.

Progressive Reactions To The Senate’s Public-Option Compromise

by on Wednesday, December 9, 2009 at 4:34 pm EDT in Healthcare, Politics

While the Congressional Budget Office reviews the Senate’s new health care reform proposal, the key players are remaining tight-lipped about its details.  But news organizations are piecing together from their sources what this public option compromise is beginning to look like. Dylan Ratigan of MSNBC’s “Morning Meeting” outlined some key components he’s uncovered of the […]