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Don't blame Rahm


It looks like this post arguing that conflicting leaks from the White House and the Senate represented widening divisions was, well, totally wrong. Instead, the leaks now look like Harry Reid was setting the White House up as the heavy in advance of last night's health-care compromise.

As the storyline goes, Rahm Emanuel, not Harry Reid, was behind last night's compromise. TPM DC quotes this account from one of Reid's aides:

Emanuel didn't just leave it to Reid to find a solution. Emanuel specifically suggested Reid give Lieberman the concessions he seeks on issues like the Medicare buy-in and triggers.

"It was all about 'do what you've got to do to get it done. Drop whatever you've got to drop to get it done,' " the aide said. All of Emanuel's prescriptions, the source said, were aimed at appeasing Lieberman -- not twisting his arm.

Similar accounts appeared in the Huffington Post and Politico. All of them were sourced to Reid's staffers. Convenient as it is to blame mean ol' Rahm, though, Reid didn't have 60 votes for anything stronger and neither he nor the White House thought there were appealing options left. If either party had been confident that a better outcome was attainable, they would have lunged for it. Emanuel is useful as a scapegoat here, but little more than that. After all, if the guy were truly so terrifying that he could cow the Senate majority leader, he would've been able to pull Lieberman or Snowe into line.

Photo credit: Olivier Douliery via Bloomberg News.

By Ezra Klein  |  December 15, 2009; 9:08 AM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: The death of the public option
Next: Finishing what they started


Ezra- I know you've said splitting the bill and doing PO, Medicare expansion under reconciliation wouldn't work because the main bill would just be filibustered to protest the reconciliation part- but is that the case if the opposition to PO doesn't know it's coming back? What's to stop Reid/Rahm from rolling over on everything, passing and signing the bill, then announcing that they're starting a reconciliation bill? You yourself have said that the bill is just a starting point and will be tweaked in the future.

Posted by: _SP_ | December 15, 2009 9:14 AM | Report abuse

The slight problem with the "don't blame Rahm" concept is that Rahm has sold out Progressive positions in this process since the start of the process. There never was any incentive to people like Lieb, Nelson, Blanche and Mary to tact because Rahm constantly gave them and the Blue Dogs cover right from the start.


Posted by: toshiaki | December 15, 2009 9:17 AM | Report abuse

I call BS. They could have stiff-armed Holy Joe into falling in line, but they didn't want to be "uncivil."

Decorum amongst millionaires is their highest priority.

Posted by: AZProgressive | December 15, 2009 9:29 AM | Report abuse

I don't understand how people look at Lieberman's behavior thus far and come to the conclusion there was anything that Obama, Emmanuel, or Reid could have done differently to get him on board a better bill. His objections are not about policy or influence; they are about payback for the primary. In fact I'm not buying that he's on board this new compromise until I see him actually vote aye on cloture.

So what time today will Nelson and Lincoln start making their own threats to vote against cloture?

Posted by: redwards95 | December 15, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

And what _SP_ said.

I'll vote come Nov., but I am sure, after this fiasco, the Dems are going to get crushed next year, as no one donates to them and the base stays home.

Posted by: AZProgressive | December 15, 2009 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Yeah Rahm could hold hostage DNC funds from Lieberman and Snowe! Oh wait, no he could only cost Reid his election. Don't worry Ezra I'm sure you 'll come up with another way in which the Whitehouse is entirely blameless for the morass they created.

Posted by: endaround | December 15, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Are you going steady with this guy or what? Because otherwise I'm unaware of any other reason you would so consistently rationalize and enable every sell-out he engineers. Is there anything you actually give a damn about or would resist, or do you see your job as counseling the rest of us to embrace the learned helplessness that you've made your own?

Posted by: redscott | December 15, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

But it's so much more narratively satisfying to make it an ugly backroom deal between skeezy Jews.

I don't get why *this* is what the left is so cock-showing-offy about. Clearly many/most Dems did pretty heroic work and will still pass valuable, major reform. The jobs situation, the fallout from last decade's "Welfare Reform," the feeble stimulus, and escalating war and an anemic, conventional pro-war speech in Oslo - these are the heartbreakers. These are the things Obama did to mess up healthcare. If he'd done better on guns and butter, he'd have credibility and his bully pulpit now.

Posted by: JaneG | December 15, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

This is how the press gets co-opted. They constantly rationalize on behalf of those in power to maintain access.

Isn't it great that bloggers are now just like the Villagers?

Posted by: uberblonde1 | December 15, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

"It was all about 'do what you've got to do to get it done ..."

Get it done! Shocking! What kind of progressive is he?!? Throw him out of the Party!

Posted by: ostap666 | December 15, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

If people are looking to keep score I'd look back at the various leaks when Harry Reid decided to go with the public option instead of the trigger. I think there were some people in the White House, far from being naive and believing in Lieberman, predicted just the kind of spot we're now in and preferred to rely on Snowe for the 60th vote. I think one of the leaks was 'I hope he can count votes'.

A good public option with a hard trigger was probably doable if you picked Snowe as your last vote. I'm not sure that's still the case.

Posted by: jamusco | December 15, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

the leaks now look like Harry Reid was setting the White House up as the heavy in advance of last night's health-care compromise.
Says who? Rahm?

Posted by: obrier2 | December 15, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Where do we stand on nationwide co-ops with government bargaining? Since the public option and early medicare are out, this would be a next-best thing, right?

It sounds from the comments that a lot of liberals are missing the point - if the core of the bills passes, the people win no matter what happens afterwards.

Posted by: kelmerp | December 15, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

True -- it wasn't Rahm who gave up on meaningful reform. It was Obama, early on in the process when he refused to stake out a goal and fight for it. We really shouldn't blame the messenger; it's the king who has no clothes, if we'll only look.

And Reid will be the loser in Nevada.

Posted by: janinsanfran | December 15, 2009 10:20 AM | Report abuse

I think it is in Rahm's job description to take the bullet... He is Obama's Mr. Friday Man too.

Other than that I do not think Rahm has any leverage to convince Lieberman or Snowe. For White House to waste political capital on that will be really foolish.

As you pointed Ezra - it is the political reality. Swallow the bitter pill and move on. There are far more politically significant bills in the pipeline and HCR cannot hog all the oxygen on Congress so long. Already the collateral damage due the 'Year of HCR' is lot.

Posted by: umesh409 | December 15, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Well, whatever Mr. Klein says, it comes from the white house communications office. Now Emanuel wishes, for whatever reason, to deny he strongarmed Reid. I thought he would be proud of having done so, but I guess he has his reasons for answering back, through the mouthpiece of this blog.

Posted by: truck1 | December 15, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

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