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A failure of White House leadership


One other point on the public option: This has been a complete and utter failure of White House leadership. They need to give this effort their support, or they need to kill it by publicly stating their opposition. But they can't simply wait for someone else to make the decision for them, which has been their strategy until now.

If the White House decides that reviving the public option is a good idea, there's reason to believe the Senate would follow them on that. It would make some sense, after all: The public option is popular, its death was partly the product of industry pressure, and the sudden spate of high-profile rate increases offers a nice rhetorical pivot for anyone who wants to argue that individuals should be able to choose an insurer who's not a profit-hungry beast. Plus, Democrats need an excited base going into the 2010 election, and this may be the only way to get it.

If the White House decides to stick with the effort to look like hopeful bipartisans in the face of Republican opposition, that would make sense, too. The sell on reconciliation is that it's a few final tweaks to a bill that has already passed. The White House's health-care proposal reflected that theory. Resuscitating the public option is a very different play: It's a big change rather than a small tweak, and it's a polarizing decision after weeks of rhetoric emphasizing comity.

But the White House has stayed quiet -- and confusing. Publicly, Kathleen Sebelius said the White House would do whatever Harry Reid wanted. Privately, there's been no support for this public option push, and the idea didn't even make a token appearance in their white paper. They wish this wasn't happening, but they're not willing to put a stop to it. Instead, they hoping someone else -- maybe Jay Rockefeller -- stands up and calls the play.

This is, however, the worst of all worlds. In refusing to disappoint the left early, they're assuring the sense of betrayal will be much more acute because the feeling of momentum will have far longer to build. And in refusing to embrace this strategy cleanly, they're making it harder to lay the groundwork for an effective communications strategy around a bill that's tougher on insurers. The problem isn't just that the White House is following, but that they're making it harder to eventually lead.

Photo credit: By Ethan Miller/Getty Images

By Ezra Klein  |  February 23, 2010; 11:24 AM ET
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Name one issue on which the Obama strategy has been something other than passively waiting for someone else to make the decision.

Oh yeah! Free money for Goldman Sachs. They were Johnny on the spot with that one.

Sorry, my bad.

Posted by: pj_camp | February 23, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Ezra, you are wrong to continue to spout that the public option is "popular!" The public option is NOT popular for the majority of taxpayers....why you attempt to distort the polls is beyond me. Yes, healthcare reform is needed to curtail costs, etc., but the public option is feared or angered by everyone except those on the left (that think they know what is good for everyone else) and those who seek the "entitlement" the public option brings. Spin it any way you want, but if Obama rams the PO through, it will be political suicide for the Dems!

P.S. I do agree that the WH needs to cut bait or fish.....there is no real leadership!


Posted by: my4653 | February 23, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Is it not the 'same old politics' Obama wanted to change? President and his advisers must be living in another world here. Obama himself has brought this ignominy for his agenda.

Further, Obama Proposal is actually worse than Senate Bill since the whole game plan going forward is to cajole House Members where Democrats do not have any intention of undertaking any serious cost control. That is the reason they do not have any Commission on Medicare neither Obama Proposal mentions that. WaPo Editorial says that President has retained that commission but I did not see any explicit mention of the same in those 11 pages. Besides Excise Tax also has been diluted from $150B to $30B only.

Obama Proposal in the end needs to be opposed for the same reasons as like earlier - no serious cost control. On the contrary, President continues to 'deceive' Americans here - he wants to talk about cost control; but neither cannot propose any serious cost controls not cannot 'lead' House Dem members for any serious votes on this one.

I just wish GOP blasts Dem Proposals on Thursday for what they are - just entitlement expansion, plain and simple with no concern for cost control whatsoever.

In the end it is doubtful whether Americans would loose anything if the Dem HCR farce ends in failure. Dems, including President, have never been honest with American Public about cost as well as about PO.

It is the same old story again.

Posted by: umesh409 | February 23, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

If Obama kills the PO before Thursday, isn't he just negotiating with himself and moving the starting point to the right and giving himself less room to look bipartisan?

Posted by: danwhalen2 | February 23, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Ezra, in your Newsweek article, you told Obama to STFU. You can't have both.

And I love rightwingers' truth by assertion! Every poll shows more people favor a public option than oppose it. But the rightwingers have figured out if they use enough exclamation points, they'll convince fellow muddle-minded morons.

Support for HCR in general:

Posted by: AZProgressive | February 23, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

They didn't take a strong stance on it in the past because they didn't think they would have the votes in the Senate to get it passed, but they didn't shoot it down either because it drew the right wing fire away from other aspects of the bill. The Republicans have shown they will demagog anything, no matter how harmless (see death panels). Politically the smart play was to let the GOP attack the public option, which was never going to get 60 votes in the Senate, then drop the public option in a show of bipartisanship. This would allow both sides to appear triumphant; the Dems would pass a health care bill and the GOP would have stopped the public option. Obviously this didn't work out quite like expected. At least, not yet.

Now that reconciliation is required I think the Dems would be foolish to add a public option to the reconciliation fix. Pass the fix, get the major overhaul done, and come back to the public option in a seperate (reconciliation) bill. Actually, I'd say a Medicare buy in through reconciliation is far better than a public option, it is easier to explain, easier to set up and would work well with the reconciliation process.

Posted by: nisleib | February 23, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse


actually bush started the bailout, no? Another thing you all can bash him for.


thanks for actually discussing what most don't on here, cost control. They should do a whole lot more when it comes to that and they don't. If we're going to spend almost a trillion dollars I'd like to hold doctors, insurers, pharma et al just a tad more accountable. We won't get this opportunity to hold them accountable again anytime soon.

Posted by: visionbrkr | February 23, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

What if the WH continues to give no answer on the PO until after the summit, then goes for it? They can say they tried to get bipartisan support, the GOP said No as usual, and now there's no reason not to put in the PO. It will still be a bit tricky to explain why they didn't support it strongly until now if its such a great idea, but maybe seizing on the recent rate hikes would be sufficient.
I don't think they will do so, of course, but it would seem like a reasonable path if they finally decided they might actually want Democratic voters to show up at the polls in November.

Posted by: jbossch | February 23, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

*Politically the smart play was to let the GOP attack the public option, which was never going to get 60 votes in the Senate, then drop the public option in a show of bipartisanship. This would allow both sides to appear triumphant; the Dems would pass a health care bill and the GOP would have stopped the public option. *

It seems to me that the fatal flaw was that it became obvious to everyone involved that the public option was going to be the first thing that the Democrats were willing to give up, and the Republicans realized this and realized that they could just go straight to attacking the rest of the bill and the very concept of HCR. A bargaining chip that you can't credibly be seen to be willing to keep or give away as part of a bargain isn't a bargaining chip at all.

Posted by: constans | February 23, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

"In refusing to disappoint the left early, they're assuring the sense of betrayal will be much more acute because the feeling of momentum will have far longer to build."

The questions of motive and influence are already there, and they're not going away anytime soon. Do Democrats have principles? These mysterious behaviors make it hard to make the case that they do. And when you don't have principles, you lose people's trust. And their enthusiasm.

I remember one point during the primaries when Hilary Clinton harshly criticized Obama for being willing to sit-down with unfriendly foreign leaders. The tradition at the time was for any Democrat to recoil at the charge of being "soft" on foreign policy. But Obama did something different during that campaign. His response was to turn a presumed weakness into a strength. Rather than recoiling, he responded to the bizarre notion that we couldn't talk to our enemies with two simple words: "Watch me!"

What happened to that guy? He shows up every once in a while. Like when he pays a visit to Republican House leadership and quietly, politely eats their lunch. But those flashes of audacity are too few and far between. They don't show up often enough to help build any momentum. And eventually they become overwhelmed by an endless series of provisos and reservations. Goddamn politics.

Posted by: slag | February 23, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Your article in Newsweek seems to suggest that the President should stay out of making direct statements like this on legislation, on account of the intrinsic polarizing properties of the office.

Posted by: adamiani | February 23, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

The reason why the White House is being deliberately vague on the public option is very simple. They made a deal with pharma industries last year in which they agreed not to include a public option in the final bill. However, if they come out deliberately against the public option, as you point out, they destroy any chance they have of having a decent November at the ballot box.

So, they're trying to have it both ways: leave it for Congress to decide, and if the public option doesn't pass, they go to their activists, point to Congress and say "it's all their fault." If the public option passes, they go to the pharma industry, point to Congress and say "it's all their fault."

Posted by: dwbh | February 23, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

"Ezra, in your Newsweek article, you told Obama to STFU. You can't have both."

Also, this is true. And kind of funny now that I think about it.

Posted by: slag | February 23, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

"If Obama kills the PO before Thursday, isn't he just negotiating with himself and moving the starting point to the right and giving himself less room to look bipartisan?"

I think that is a reasonable argument.

However there is a flip side. Having a "rogue" Democratic proposal floating around that is not included in the published White House plan creates a storyline for the Republicans that the summmit is not the all-inclusive open discussion and negotiation it is supposed to be, and there is still reason to believe Democrats will cut "back room deals" outside the summit later on.

Obama and the Democratic leadership have had nearly three weeks since the summit was announced to get their ducks in a row. I don't think that having any remaining ambiguity over an item as big as the public option is helpful at this point.

Posted by: Patrick_M | February 23, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Ezra - Agreed. What is the White House so damned afraid of in stating what it wants? How many times has Obama been to Capitol Hill to rally Democrats and soft-pedaled on the public option? How many times has he mentioned it in stump speeches, and then failed to follow up by taking a "by any means necessary" approach to get it passed?

Thursday is going to be a litmus test for many on the left - does Obama have the courage of his convictions or does he just have a lack of convictions?

Posted by: pk2031 | February 23, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

If there no health care reform this year, progressives will be as to blame as those on the right.

Progressives demanded the public option and some have refused to support the bill without it.

Surely there is some middle ground which will help everyone but not be everything anyone wants. Why not start there, and then work toward more if the Democrats ever have such a chance again?

Believe me, them having such a chance again is a long shot if they couldn't even pass simple, badly needed health care reform when they had a super majority.

Posted by: tinyjab40 | February 23, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

God let's leave Kathleen and the base hanging out to dry.

Posted by: ladcrp | February 23, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Um, Obama released his plan, which didn't include a public option. I'd like to have a public option in the bill. I'd rather have Medicare buy in. I'd abosolutely love to have Medicare for all. But I think the President has now released the health care reform plan that he's willing to put political capitol in. Folks in Congress should be smart enough to figure that out.

Posted by: rpy1 | February 23, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

To my4653,

Ezra is not "wrong" in saying that the public option is favored by most Americans. It is you that are wrong. 60% of people want a robust public option, while on 30% disapprove of it, this is why Ezra keeps telling the truth about the polling. The public option is not just approved by "us" on the left, it's approved by a majority of Americans, look it up! If you can't figure out where, here, I'll help you.

Also, funny how you call the kettle black, as in all "lefties" say they know what is best for all of us, what a complete crock! You mean that you right-wing nuts didn't try to interject in the Terri Schiavo case?...or that the best thing we could do after 9/11 was to go shopping? The height of hypocrisy!

Posted by: jpbreezes | February 23, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

To clear up some misinformation in a previous post: Several recent polls (including one by WaPo) found that most voters-- between 57% and 77%-- do, in fact, support a public option.

Posted by: spatter7 | February 23, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Funny how the very first post to this discussion feels the 'public option is not popular'.Not sure where the poster ever got that idea...

Posted by: lgh3 | February 23, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

What is missing in these discussions is that we don't know what private promises the White House made to the medical-insurance industry that might preclude any serous public option. They got less than all-out opposition. What looks like indecision may be simply paying the price they negotiated.

Posted by: janinsanfran | February 23, 2010 12:44 PM | Report abuse

We elected a moderate Republican last November. Forget the progressive rhetoric(The Talk). Observe the actions(The Walk). Obama is most confortable with Wall Street, not with ordinary citizens on Main Street. He leads where Corporate America tells him to go. There isn't a speck of Harry Truman in the man. His base will sit on its hands in 2010 & 2012, as the Party of Nihilism continues to suck the blood out of the disappearing middle class.

Posted by: allen11 | February 23, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Could someone here please cite the latest polling showing support for the Public Option? I'm hearing too many conflicting claims to discern fact from fiction.

Posted by: jkeithsr | February 23, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

To pj-camp,

I won't even go into describing just one promise Obama has kept. I'll let you read them. For the record, (current), Obama has kept 96 promises, and broken 33.

As far as "free money" going to Wall Street, not just Goldman Sachs, your "Father" Dubya was the first to give billions to Wall Street, oh yea, facts just don't belong in your "reality".

Posted by: jpbreezes | February 23, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Obama is a weak and timid president. He keeps trying to play patty-cake with his Republican enemies and the scoundrels in the health insurance industry. Health care WITH a public option, which would save Americans millions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives a year, seems to be on the bottom rung of his priorities. It's time for him to use the bully pulpit of the presidency to fight back against worms like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell.

Speak out forcibly for your policies, Mr. President. The American people will listen.

Posted by: irkulyen | February 23, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, the public option is soooo popular that...

When angry voters, against all odds, elected a conservative Republican to fill Ted Kennedy's Senate seat because he'd explicitly campaigned on a pledge to block socialized medicine, it should have been enough.

When Democrats Evan Bayh, Patches Kennedy, Chris Dodd, Vern Tincher, Byron Dorgan, Brian Baird and Roland Burris abruptly announced they would not seek reelection -- because they knew the fate that awaited them -- it should have been enough.

When angry voters, defying every prediction, elected a fiscally conservative Republican as governor of New Jersey, it should have been enough.

When, on the same day, enraged voters swept Democrats out of virtually every state-wide office in Virginia -- something that hadn't happened in a century -- it should have been enough.

When hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens showed up in Washington to protest socialized medicine and an out-of-control Congress, it should have been enough.

When tens of thousands of AARP members canceled their memberships in protest of their selling out senior citizens, it should have been enough.

When senior citizens, concerned voters and even young people showed up at town hall meetings last summer to ask their representatives why they wouldn't listen to them, it should have been enough.

When Bill Clinton lost Congress in 1994 after pushing his ill-fated HillaryCare initiative, it should have been enough.

When Harry Truman tried to sell national health insurance after the end of World War II, which Congress utterly rejected, it should have been enough.

When Franklin Roosevelt wanted national health insurance in 1935 but, despite his power over the Supreme Court and Congress, feared tying it to Social Security lest the whole package go down in flames, it should have been enough.

You "progressives" just don't get it.

Enough is enough.

Posted by: wpjunk | February 23, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

What is missing in these discussions is that we don't know what private promises the White House made to the medical-insurance industry that might preclude any serous public option. They got less than all-out opposition. What looks like indecision may be simply paying the price they negotiated.

Posted by: janinsanfran | February 23, 2010 12:44 PM | Report abuse


I would say that's not the case. I've been in some of these very low level discussions of private insurers (via conference calls about impending national reforms) and they are absolutely afraid of the public option as a precursor to single payer (who knows what they truly believe and or admit on conference calls) and they acted and said that they have no idea what was going to take effect.

Posted by: visionbrkr | February 23, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Obama is a (R)eagan Democrat, also referred to as DINO. Bipartisanship is a ruse. The agenda is purely corporatist. Unlike Clinton, Obama apparently doesn't see that a 'rising tide raises all boats'. hi proposal is even worse thant the bill that cost the Democrats the Senate seat of the late Ted Kennedy.

Truly pathetic.

Posted by: mmdccbslm | February 23, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

The nation and the Congress that President Obama and his White House want to lead does not exist. It seems that very little feedback from citizens, pundits, Democrats, Independents, or Republicans on their failure of leadership is going to be heard. ~ richard allbritton, Miami,

Posted by: rigel1 | February 23, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: wpjunk | February 23, 2010 12:55 PM |

every official survey taken by every reputable organization that has undertaken the effort to monitor the public feeling on the issue of a public option, especially a medicare buy-in, has proven you completely, totally and utterly wrong. Those are the facts.

It's awfully convenient for you to ignore facts. those surveys include the survey of the voters who selected Scout Brown.

Posted by: mmdccbslm | February 23, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

to JPBREEZES: Not sure which poll you are looking at, but, maybe it is the one from Mars. And, I am not a right-wing nut...I am an independent that is left on some issues and right on others. Healthcare, admittedly, has become a partisan mess! But spending trillions and using the Federal Government to control the process is a socialist wet-dream! Not to worry, the true poll will be taken in November 2010 and in November 2012....those are the only ones that really count!


Posted by: my4653 | February 23, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

to my 4653,

You really are incompetent! I gave you the link to the poll that I used...and by the way, I also am an Independent, have been ever since the mid-90's.

Go ahead and dream of 2010/12. None of us, even Dick Cheney knows what's going to happen in those years, I'm just glad your delusions bring a little joy into your life in these hard times.

Posted by: jpbreezes | February 23, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Ezra Kline. You insist that the House is wrong because they won't "just pass" the Senate bill when it could easily be argued that the Senate should "just pass" the House bill since neither has votes for the other's, and, democracy considered, the House is the more representative institution and has the more representative bill, but you can't hide your annoyance that they won't do it your way. Journalism?
Now, in spite of clear statements that the Executive Branch will be supportive of any decisions the Legislative Branch would make regarding legislation the Legislative Branch might choose to pursue, you choose to indict the President for not taking "leadership" on the Public Option. Journalism?
Don't speak too soon, the wheel's still in spin, and if the wheels come off it won't surprise me to find powder residue on your palms.

Posted by: jackroy23 | February 23, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

It's becoming painfully clear that the Obama administration is allowing the Public Option to "die on the vine" in order to protect their vested interests, interests that will donate heavily come election time. De Ja Vu.

Posted by: mcdermottmike1 | February 23, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sold on the public option as the Holy Grail of health care, but any reform package that fails to address the biggest problem is not reform at all.

The biggest problem in health care is affordability due to rate inflation. HCR has no other mechanism to control costs, and the mandates and subsidies are guaranteed to increase premium inflation.

Without the public option, there is no attempt to keep rates affordable. By providing competition in an oligopoly, the public option pressures insurance companies to keep their policies competitive. This threat of competition is exactly what they don't want, but what consumers need.

Either include the public option, come up with some other market-based method to increase competition in this non-competitive industry, or just forget the whole thing and we can come back to it when the industry collapses on itself.

Posted by: AxelDC | February 23, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

*****They need to give this effort their support, or they need to kill it by publicly stating their opposition. But they can't simply wait for someone else to make the decision for them, which has been their strategy until now.*****

Why, Ezra? Why can't they do exactly that (rely on others -- ie Congress)?

Presumably the ultimate goal of the White House is to get a comprehensive HCR bill to Obama's desk. Presumably the ultimate goal of the White House is NOT to get a comprehensive HCR bill THAT INCLUDES A PUBLIC OPTION to Obama's desk.

I don't think they really care one way or another whether the bill has a public option. They just want HCR enacted.

So, if that's the case, it doesn't seem at all obvious to me why "action" in this regard on the part of the administration is needed.

Indeed, vigorous public support for a P.O. by Obama at this juncture (ie., in the immediate runnup to the summit) might well be all Boehner and McConnell need to credibly characterize the conference as a left wing setup -- and give them the political cover they need to do a no show.

Posted by: Jasper999 | February 23, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

By all accounts, Obama ran an almost flawless campaign for President. But one wonders what has happened to that political acumen since he began governing.

Obama needs to replace cabinet officers and political advisers. We need a Secretary of the Treasury who has never worked one day on Wall Street, a Homeland Security Secretary who actually has security-related experience and economic advisers who are as mean and focused as junk yard dogs on creating jobs.

And Obama needs to read the riot act to Congressional leaders and present them with a stark question: do you want the Democratic Party majority in both houses of Congress to continue? If so--declare war on the GOP and behave accordingly.

Posted by: ernie1241 | February 23, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

"every official survey taken by every reputable organization"...of which you name not one! Creating your own facts again, I see.

Posted by: jpbreezes | February 23, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Comic relief from today's news:

After complaining all year that the HCR bills are too long, today the Republicans are complaining that Obama's plan is not long enough:

"A spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner today ridiculed President Obama's health care proposal because it's too short.

"The White House's 'plan' consists of an 11-page outline, which has not been scored by the Congressional Budget Office or posted online as legislative text. So they want to reorganize one-sixth of the United States' economy with a document shorter than a comic book, and they're complaining that they can't find our plan on their own website? C'mon," said the spokesman, Michael Steel, in an email to reporters."

Posted by: Patrick_M | February 23, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

*****By all accounts, Obama ran an almost flawless campaign for President. But one wonders what has happened to that political acumen since he began governing.******

I think Obama's political acumen has MOSTLY been fine since the election. He and his team made a single, very costly error: they weren't sufficiently strict with respect to the PACE of healthcare legislation. Had they done so, and had a bill made it to Obama's desk in, say, December, he'd now be lauded as a massive success. Indeed, it's not clear that the White House even had the power to force Congress (or, more accurately, the Senate) to move more quickly. I'm not aware of what leverage Obama had to, say, force Max Baucus to wrap up his committee's work by mid July.

Posted by: Jasper999 | February 23, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Obama gifts the insurers no public option no matter how limited; 30,000,000 mandatory paying customers; the ability to transact business across state lines which is gold for the insurers but a disaster for the insureds and ensures that the Enemy of America, the Republican Party as it is currently constituted, takes back control over the executive, legislative and judicial branches (as if they ever relinquished it in the first place despite getting thumped in the last three elections up to Obama) so they can finish off what they couldn't quite destroy during Bush-Cheney which was almost the culmination of the Reagan Mourning in America program started in 1980.

Thank you Obama. The Republicans couldn't have done it without you!

Posted by: Patriot3 | February 23, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

This is not weak leadership but smart politics. If Obama comes on strong-it will surely send a signal to the Insurance lobbyists, GOP attack dogs and before we know it the public option will be history again. Time and time again the President has said he can not do this alone. WE HAVE TO SHOW OUR SUPPORT FOR THE PUBLIC OPTION!! This has to be done from the bottom up. As something the public wants not something imposed by the "socialist agenda" of this President but as long as progressives keep undercutting Obama and weakening his popularity he loses his ability to bargain with the GOP and the insurance industry. Obama is an avid poker player and sometimes you need to hold your cards close to you chest and not yap like Weiner did about the Medicare option becoming Medicare for all. Obama plays it cool for a reason. I don't see as timid at all any president who takes on the health insurance lobby in his first term is not timid! And he keeps coming back. Now with a concise plan to keep the process moving forward and a summit to challenge the GOP to put up or shut up.

Posted by: pazav | February 23, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

More likely scenario: Obama cut a super secret deal behind closed doors with Big Insurance to kill the public option just like he did with Big Pharma to kill progress on prescription drug pricing. The only reason the Pharma deal came to light is Pharma squealed in order to keep Obama to his end of the bargain. Obama can't come right out and say he opposes the PO because 82% of Dems support it, 61% of independents and 59% of all voters. (Qunnipiac 1/14/10) Seems like typical Obama M.O. - pretend to be for a popular progressive policy while playing footsie under the table with the powerful interests in opposition and telling them he has no intention of actually backing any progressive policies.

The PO is the ONLY thing that will release the iron fisted, tyrannical chokehold the Insurance industry holds over the middle class and it will take a leader a lot stronger than the wishy washy backroom dealer Obama to release that iron grip and free the middle class.

Posted by: ophelia3 | February 23, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Obama is not going to support the public option being added now because he understands that a deal was made to eliminate it to get 60 votes in the Sentate, without which there would be no Senate bill today for the House to pass with a reconciliation fix. Therefore, without that Senate vote, health care really would be done for now. To try to put the public option back in now would be to go back on an agreement already made amongst Dems and there will not be 50 Senate Dems willing to do that and that is why Rockefeller said what he did. For the administration, the public option has always been a means, not an end, and, and it has, therefore, always been willing to give it up, in exchange for passing what it views as a good bill that meets the principles the President has consistently talked about. And, on that, the president is correct. We need to pass the infrastructure of health care reform now (Senate bill) with a realistic reconciliation fix and work to make it better in the future. Contrary to what a lot of people seem to think, the history of reform in America, whether under Wilson, FDR or LBJ, is a history of small reform beginnings that would be built on later and made better. But first you have to start somewhere and the Senate bill with a realistic reconciliation fix is that somewhere and a lot better than where we will be without it.

Posted by: gregspolitics | February 23, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

"To try to put the public option back in now would be to go back on an agreement already made amongst Dems and there will not be 50 Senate Dems willing to do that and that is why Rockefeller said what he did."

My recollection of December 2009 is somewhat different.

As I recall, the last form of public option in the Senate bill was the Medicare buy-in at 55.

The only reason that provision did not survive was Joe Lieberman's last minute flip-flop.

Joe Lieberman is not a Democrat.

It would not violate "an agreement already made amongst Dems," to restore a Medicare buy-in, since ALL the Senate Dems supported it (+ Bernie Sanders) and the provision only fell out thanks to the non-Dem Lieberman.

Posted by: Patrick_M | February 23, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse


I wish that you and the rest of you white liberals would relocate to your land of origin, LaLa, and leave the rest of us in peace. The stupidest thing that Democrats could do, 2nd only to not doing anything at all, is attempt to create a new entitlement program via a budget maneuver. It's not happening! Get over it!

Posted by: NMP1 | February 23, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Public Option is the Only way to save the competition against the Insurance industry.
Reform without Public plan is not reform, it's give a way to Insurance industry.

Posted by: tqmek1 | February 23, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

You so don't get what the White House is doing. Cornhusker kickback bad so Cornhusker kickback given to everybody. Union pandering bad so a coat of lipstick put over the union pandering. Toss in some soaking of the rich and demagoguing of the insurance companies and run it up the flagpole. Tag, now Congress is "it" again.

Posted by: bgmma50 | February 23, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

My best guess is that Obama isn't backing the public option, because of concerns that it might unravel support from the major provider and pharma lobbies.

If he says no to the public option publicly, he only further alienates part of his political base.

If he says yes, he risks alienating part of his financial political base.

So the net result is an approach that appeases the lobbies while saying nothing of consequence about the issue and more importantly doing nothing of consequence about that element of health care reform.

Posted by: JPRS | February 23, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

ophelia3 writes: "The PO is the ONLY thing that will release the iron fisted, tyrannical chokehold the Insurance industry holds over the middle class "

I am not opposed to the public option but I don't understand why people think it will have such a strong effect on private health insurers since the public options being discussed would probably capture only a small fraction of the insurance market.

Private health insurance can work if we have strong enough regulations in place to prevent private insurers from denying people coverage based on pre-existing conditions. The Senate bill mostly does this.

Posted by: bigbaubdi | February 23, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

NMP1 says:

"The stupidest thing that Democrats could do, 2nd only to not doing anything at all, is attempt to create a new entitlement program via a budget maneuver."

Maybe, although that is not what is happening.

The idea is for the House of Representatives to "create an entitlement program" via passage of a bill that was already passed by a super-majority in the Senate. And also the Congress will make a few minor modifications (with direct fiscall impact) to the bill that both chambers pass, through the reconciliation process.

All very normal process.

"It's not happening! Get over it!"

Ok, if it won't happen, then why are you (and so many other trolls) wasting your time on this blog talking about a dead bill?

Posted by: Patrick_M | February 23, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Public Option is the Only thing that Most the voter approve of.

Posted by: tqmek1 | February 23, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

My only reason to support Obama was to get health reform through. Without a public option its not health reform. It is just a giant handout and creating a captive market for the insurance industry. Most American know they can't trust the private health insurance system with our health anymore. The results of letting insurance companies control our health system are needless deaths, bankruptcies because of catastrophic illness, and unmanageable out of control cost escalation. The best solution would be to eliminate these parasitic companies from the system to so it could really be about our health instead of the profit margin of our death.

Posted by: motodude | February 23, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, it's no big deal. They can discuss the public option at the summit, on television. Jasper999 above has it absolutely right, and most of the other commenters here are wrong: Obama has actually played this pretty well, though he made a few minor mistakes last year. The oppose/favor on healthcare continues to close the spread:

as your less-than-humble reporter predicted in these very comments two months ago. Another prediction: a month after the summit, the spread could close to 4 or 5%, almost statistically insignificant.

P.S. The President should be clear throughout the summit when he is changing between speaking like a normal person, and going into his wonkspeak. If the Republicans throw him a technical curveball and he responds by sounding like some Washington policy insider, the public is going to hate it.

Posted by: Lee_A_Arnold | February 23, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Add the people in favor of the public option to the people in favor of single payer and you exceed 70% in every poll. Obama doesn't care what's popular or in the public interest, but only what's popular with the lobbyists.

Posted by: Ekwabet | February 23, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

To Public Option or To Not Public Option, That Is Not The Question!

The question is now the ‘Means’ and not the ‘End’. The titles of a piece tells you the story: “Obama’s Way: Pretend It, Demagogue It, Dictate It”. “HealthCare Summit - A Stepping Stone Towards 'Reconciliation'”.

They say, “"We can not think of anybody with sufficient low mental capacity to believe that after more than a year of working and deliberating on the HealthCare bill to a final disapproval by the American people, that a 6 hour meeting will miraculously dissolve all the entrenched interests built in that time,....". "President Obama's Healthcare Summit is a process for him, is not an end. He will pretend, take the failure that he expects - and desires - and use it to run all the way to 'reconciliation' with it."

A lot more incisive than the mainstream media. At httP://

The consequences: “Perhaps, In A Perverse Way, The Best Thing That Can Happen To The Republican Party.”

Posted by: JohnGalt9 | February 23, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Ezra -- I don't understand. One hour after writing this scathing article re: the President and the Public Option, you write a piece that says the following:

"Some on the left think the absence of the House's public option renders reform meaningless, even though the public option in the House's bill would have made very little difference either to people or to costs."

You can't have it both ways. Why should the WH support a public option that would have made little difference?

Posted by: momof3inga | February 23, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Could it be that our detached president, as a junior politician, was so unaware of reality that he believes he is now enacting change?
Real change in health care will provide a public option. Anything less is simply another obfuscation.

Posted by: greta2 | February 23, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

I totally agree with gregspolitics the watered down version of public option that was passed was going to cover only a small percentage of people and not provide any cost savings. The real reforms are in the major HCR bill. History has shown us over time that reform takes time--> bills can be improved and expanded to cover more people and include more reforms and benefits like Medicare and Soc Security. Just pass the HCR bill!!!

But if you want the PO then call your Senator and tell him to sign the letter or forever hold your peace..

Posted by: pazav | February 23, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

After reading the lead, I was prepared to give you "what for" but then I read your piece. As much as I would like to say chill, I cannot. I do not understand why Obama has not learned that the no finger prints strategy is perhaps okay in the Illinois legislature or even the US Senate but that as the President of the United States you have to lead. Maybe this is the Muhammed Ali strategy of floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee..... but Ali also threw some pretty nasty gut punches. Time to do so. The Public Option is dead for 2010 and progressives like me might as well get over it, but that does not mean there is not a lot to salvage. Get the Camel's nose under the tent and we will get what we want over the next few years.

Posted by: tarryh | February 23, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

"GINGRICH: I don’t believe that President Obama in any way is like Fidel Castro. But I do believe he is an exactly in the tradition of the French Socialists or the Italian Socialists or the German Socialists. I think he’d have been very comfortable in the Social Democratic Party in Germany. I think he would have been very comfortable in the pre-Tony Blair Labor Party in Great Britain. I think he represents a strain of left-wing big government. '

Gingrich’s statement that Obama would fit in with the Social Democratic Party in Germany is interesting. After all, the Social Democrats were fighting to block Adolf Hitler prior to World War II. As Matt Yglesias has explained:

The Social Democrats were the main source of opposition to Hitler at a time when the Communists were bizarrely maintaining that there was no difference between the two and the mainstream parties of the center-right decided that it made sense to form a tactical alliance with Hitler.

Social Democrats stand for a generous state and active labor market policies. Nazis try to conquer the world and send people to the gas chamber.

So while so many conservatives have tried to tie Obama and his policies to Hitler, Gingrich is now admitting that Obama would have been been on the front lines in fighting against fascism."

Posted by: drindl | February 23, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Obama, it seems, is unwilling to take on the leadership of anything. This is just the worst example. When is he going to get some cojones?"

Posted by: sameolddoc | February 23, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Kill this bill.
With no Presidential leadership, No cost control, no negotiated drug prices.
This has gone on to long, and the longer it takes the worse and more expensive this reform bill becomes. President Obama, has refused to lead, bipartisanship is dead, why not just do the right thing.
Have a public option for those that want it, and let others keep their private insurance if they want that.
So far Obama has wasted a year, tens of millions if not more dollars, our Congress's time, and still this bill is to complicated, benefits insurance companies more than citizens, and does little to cut costs.
What a failure this bill and Obama have become!

Posted by: bodgerslick | February 23, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Obama won't "lead" on the public option because he doesn't support it. It doesn't fit the deal he worked out with big insurance companies nearly a year ago. On the other hand, the administration believes they must obfuscate their real intentions in order to keep progressives from turning against them. They're playing exactly the same game now that they played late last year. Obama says he believes the public option is the best way to control costs while he and his minions don't lift a finger to support it. They believe they save face with progressives "sorry guys, we gave it our best shot, we just didn't have the votes." So progressives are disappointed but not enough to totally turn on them.

The truly sad part is that they, apparently, still believe the fallacy that they can pass a bill that is a windfall for big insurance and does a couple of really small but good things for the consumer. Amazingly, it turns out, the public is not nearly as stupid as the democrats and republicans think. A funny thing has happened since 1993. An enormous number of insured people have either been completely screwed by their insurance company or know someone close to them who has. The insurance companies, Pharma, and the republicans have spent the better part of a year lying in order to scare people into wanting congress to do nothing that would actually be reform. Nevertheless, from blue, to purple, to red state, the one thing we all KNOW is that we want health care reform that gives us the ability to fire our insurance companies and get coverage like our seniors and veterans. Obama and all of the conservadems are still trying to ignore what is being painted on their faces by the electorate every day. A majority in this country are insisting on a public option. There will be hell to pay if they continue to ignore it.

Posted by: paranoid36 | February 23, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Process & Substance on Both the President Failed Americans


Judging from the spectacle of the President’s public humiliation, it’s evident he’s lost the support of virtually all Americans. If this is what he meant by 
‘consensus’, he’s achieved it: moderates, conservatives and liberals are united 
in their opposition. The ‘reforms’ are variously considered a sham, trivial or an
institutionalization of the current disastrous health care system (only with 
more public subsidies to the insurance industry). The complete and utter 
powerlessness of this President is all too evident in the drama unfolding in DC, as he seeks ‘bi-partisanship’ for a proposal the voters of neither party support. 
Pity Obama, the Democrats and the nation.


The confusion and endless gyrations evident in the plan (try reading it) are the result of trying to fit ‘reform of the system’ into the system’s current contorted, inefficient and costly contours (in other words, the plan is not a ‘reform’, but more pasting things on to a broken system).

Here’s what the people wanted when the Democrats started:

“A mere seven months ago (that would be around June 2009), The New York 
Times/CBS poll found that 72% of Americans ‘supported a government-
administered insurance plan—something like Medicare for those under 65—
that would compete for customers with private insurers.’”

From then until now, Obama has:

1. Rejected single payer; 

2. Stiff-armed the government option; 

3. Mandated individuals and families pay premiums to private sector insurers;

4. Assured billions in tax payer subsidies for private sector insurers;

5. Stipulated actual health care service at 80 cents of every dollar, while 
insurers can spend 20 cents of every premium dollar on lobbying, ‘sympathetic’ 
candidates, CEO bonuses, ‘administration’, fighting claims for treatment and, 
now, we can add, participating on the new Federal ‘rate review’ Board.

The substance of the President’s proposal is the current costly, inefficient and 
ineffective insurance system on Federal steroids.

The process, which the President invited on himself, is resulting in little more than the public pillorying of the 
weakest President since Jimmy Carter.

If Obama wanted to cast himself as a leader, this was surely his last chance, and he blew it with a plan to keep the current system in place, while supplementing it with taxpayers’ money in the form of mandated premium payments and Federal ‘subsidies’. That’s no reform at all.

Posted by: theworm1 | February 23, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Healthcare: Time Doesn't Wait”

by Bohdan Yuri

Ovi Magazine: 2010-01-27


"...Now would be the time for President Obama to come forth and act as a true leader --- a Leader of both the Nation and the Democrat Party. If he doesn’t do it now then his term will end just as Carter’s did.
Regarding Healthcare: Now is the time for the President to fight back with his own proposal, and shape a Medicare for All bill with a single payer. At the very least, this should have been the goal from the beginning....

... As to that ever happening, (a sad laugh)…..Here’s the missing ingredient so far --- Courage!

Who will have the Courage to do what’s right and not suckle up to the milk of lobbyists. That is the question....

...Yet, ironically, under this new plan the insurance companies will not dissolve. They will still be there to offer supplemental insurance as they already do to the seniors with Medicare. But here’s the rub, they won’t be making such big profits anymore--- still profitable but not as huge.

But that’s the battle line, simple as that --- Money.

And let’s also redirect timetables. The present Healthcare bill wouldn’t have gone into effect until 2014. Do politicians realize they are not God? How many uninsured will die that could have been saved? ...

...The only part that is required by the President is the Strength, Courage, and Wisdom to act --- to realize the Truth."

Posted by: onekolesoi | February 23, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Do they want it to be popular, and 'not have the votes -- not yet'.

That way, they have something to campaign on. Are Dems just scared about running for election with a functioning health care system? So, we'll have to live without one?

Posted by: rat-raceparent | February 23, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

whether obama likes it or not, people remember him campaigning for a public option, he owns the idea

Posted by: jamesoneill | February 23, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

You people really need to give it a rest with the public option thing. Anybody with a general handle on the political climate knows its not going to pass at this point so for Obama to spend political capital even posturing as if it could would be an extreme act of bad faith that would further jeapordize the Democrats chances of pulling enough Republican votes to pass era-defining health care. Get real guys, don't throw the baby out with the bath water, you are expecting too much.

Posted by: tribeca487 | February 23, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

This reform legislation has needed, from day one, a meeting of the Democrats. The meeting should include all House and Senate Democrats and those posing as Democrats, like Lieberman. In a closed room, they should be given marching orders by the President. The public has stated clearly that they want reform, to include the public option. From the beginning up to today, the opinion polls have shown the preference for the public option. Sen. Baucus was entirely too soft in his committee meeting, letting the Republicans insist on too much softening and nothing positive. The result was a limp bill. This must be rectified and the reform must be passed, by reconciliation, because the Republicans will never agree to anything, including their own ideas.

We have other issues to deal with and this is one that should have been finished six months ago. Move out smartly and take no Republicans, they will not agree to anything.

Posted by: ronjeske | February 23, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

I still think that the public option/reconciliation effort is running parallel to the White House bill that will be discussed at the summit. Gibbs and Rockefeller's pronouncements, while disappointing to my ears, are simply cover for the Republicans reflexive attacks on their motives going into the summit. The public option gets 61% approval in my state, VA, even after the game-changing governor election in November. If you care about the public option, call Senator Rockefeller and all the other Senators who used to be for the public option and haven't signed on yet. After the Republicans refuse to negotiate, legislate and govern (again) on Thursday, then the strategy could easily move full steam ahead to the public option - if more Senators sign on.

Posted by: mrheinstein1 | February 23, 2010 4:27 PM | Report abuse


President Obama killed the public option. Maybe it was part of his backroom deal with BigPharma all along.

Health care is going to be Obama's Waterloo, indeed. I am a life-long, loyal Democrat. But I will not support the President in 2012. In fact, I will support any primary challenger with a pulse against Obama.

Posted by: ram_lopez | February 23, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

There is no shortage of hubris, that's for sure. Sometimes, there's nothing for it but the sandbox retort: Who do you think you are? Someone, anyone, with a lot more gravitas than "Ezra Klein" should be pronouncing on national policy affecting hundreds of millions of Americans, for a national paper. The voters did not elect Arianna Huffington, the creature from Daily Kos, or Ezra Klein. Obama is representing everyone -- not the 10 to twenty percent, max, on the far left. Stop trying to hijack the presidency.

Posted by: SueR1 | February 23, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse

E. Klein is exactly right about the thus-far feeble Obama operation. I enthusiastically voted for the president, but he is coming day by day to morph into our modern Hamlet. And we know what became of that conflicted, self-doubting prince.

Posted by: jimsteinberg1 | February 23, 2010 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Ezra ... As if my opinion means anything to you ... You're a jockey riding a dead horse . And like most jockeys you don't care who owns , buys , feeds , or stables the horse . After the one you're sitting on starts drawing flies ... which nag will you mount next ? I know one on Capitol Hill ... She's a little long in the tooth but has been known as a successful mare but quick to start and fails in the stretch ... lots of show and no go ... a bit like you !

Posted by: lagnafrah | February 23, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

If Republicans were really smart and really devious, they would come to Thursday's meeting and DEMAND the following:
1. Kill the Phama deal - allow Medicare bargaining and drug reimportaion.
This will make Republicans hugely popular with the public, especially seniors and destroy Obama's deal with big Pharma so he would have to kill health care reform.
2. Eliminate the individual mandate.
This would also be very popular and kill the deal with Insurance Companies.
3. Require Tort reform.
4. Require buying across state lines.
And say to Obama, that if you include ALL of the above, then we will not filibuster but must include ALL.
Republicans would then have the high ground and appear as righteous populists and win lots of public support.
Democrats in Congress and Administration would be destroyed as they would be shown as shills for big Pharma and Insurance companies. This would lose them their base voters and most of the Independents.
Of course the bill would never pass with these provisions so the Republicans have a win, win. They are viewed as heros and also have KILLED the bill.

Posted by: abowers1 | February 23, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Is the White House Handling Of Health Care legislation a 'Complete Failure'? Poll


Posted by: usadblake | February 23, 2010 5:30 PM | Report abuse

if the white house don,t start listening to the people we will have a new crew if we have a country left for them to serve in . i have never seen so many dumb people elected to run a country as we have now

Posted by: mahye1935 | February 23, 2010 6:24 PM | Report abuse

Actually, the majority of people I talk to are grateful the President risked what he did to bring public option to the forefront and whatever he gets will be the beginning of a whole new aspect to health reform. I like my insurance but we were worried beyond words that the health insurance our company provided us would skyrocket even more that it has over the past nine years of retirement. Having the President put some kind of skids on the rate of increase is a blessing. My friends who have lost insurance coverage because of pre existing conditions and cancellation of coverage for bogus reasons understand how things will now be better for so many. We also know that once the door is opened and the public settles down and the media stops throwing fire on the flames, the President can open the door to more and more health reform issues, to include a public option. There is enough fear and hate mongering regarding the President from the Republicans. I'm the first to ask questions or grouse about why or why not something wasn't done. But when more time is spent on what didn't get done and so little touting by left wing media, how very much he has done or how much worse it could be, I believe we are danger in cutting off our nose to spite our face. Where would we be now on health care if the Republicans were once more in charge. Give it a rest, move on and begin to praise this administration for what they did and not for what they didn't. One year was not enough time to start bemoaning the fact we elected this man and especially not in this precarious year. I think he knows exactly what needs to be done and that there is more than one way to skin a cat. Everyone, everywhere, can not have exactly what they want, exactly when they want it, not even progressives. Who else has even got this far in the fight for health care, that should be the big story. Unless you want to run it into the ground and help hand the country over to Sarah Palin and the likes of her. Because if that's what you want, your gonna get it.

Posted by: mancoff | February 23, 2010 7:03 PM | Report abuse

Neither Obama nor the Democratic Party's congressional apparatus has ever wanted to do anything more than TALK ABOUT health care reform. The public option was strictly a rhetorical device.

The actual reality is that the Democrats are every last bit as corrupted by Big Health Care as the Republicans. This "debate" has been a joke from start to finish.

Posted by: MagicDog1 | February 23, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

Dear Mr. President:

Health care reform without a public option is no reform at all.

Mr. President, you seem to slipping from a position of leadership, to one of management. Please, take a few minutes to watch this clip from the 1995 movie, The American President, starring Michael Douglas. View it in the context of health care and banking reform, and the current malaise that is politics, including the White House. A clip is worth a thousand words.

Thank you.


Posted by: SiliconValley | February 23, 2010 7:21 PM | Report abuse

Well, now I an convinced that Ezra is a plant from Mars, sent here to frustrate conservatives and up the hits on the Washington Post's website.

Debra J.M. Smith
Informing Christians

Posted by: DebraJMSmith | February 23, 2010 7:24 PM | Report abuse

Why are the liberals so anxious over the public option? How about letting the big pow-wow take place before talking about "lack of leadership"...If the WH came out strong for the public option, they would give the gop an excuse to push away from thursday's meeting...Let's see what the gop does. If they try to legislate, it's makes sense to drop the public option. If they don't (which is likely), the Prez will call out the false premise of the gop talking points (transparency, deal-making) and show them to be obstructionist when their only "plan" is "let's start again!"...Relax and see how it unfolds.

Posted by: TruthHurts2 | February 23, 2010 8:04 PM | Report abuse

Let’s simplify things about the health care debate. Republicans are for states rights. They generally would agree with a health care proposal that has the most limitations on the federal government. Democrats are for federal initiatives. They disagree with the republicans that states should solve national problems and wish to maximize national solutions. The libertarian camp has recently entered the debate in the form of Ron Paul. They go a step beyond Republicans to maximize individual rights over the rights of individual states. I would recommend that there is a forth point on the political compass that is being ignored. That point could be called the “Statist” solution. A statist solution would delegate our democratic freedoms to a panel of experts for a time to solve a problem. This solution would be the way that countries like Germany have traditionally solved problems. Countries like Germany hire a commission of experts to solve these problems, and then take the governing of this solution out of political hands so that the commission can stay the course and solve the problem. Recently, our president set up a bipartisan commission of two former deficit hawks in both parties to remove this blind spot from our eyes. I believe that our president is on the right track here. Why shouldn’t this same strategy work on health care?

I appreciate technological tools like twitter that open up this debate to small voices like mine to enter the fray. Many of the news commentators and journalist have a vested interest in selling advertising. They choose to interview people who are controversial so they can increase their ratings. I do not believe that the German solution has much controversy or democratic input to drive public policy debate. That is why it is currently a blind spot in the health care debate. America is a country made up of salespeople. We love to give our best pitch and hear about ideas we believe in. I think it is time to give the Americans with more or an engineering perspective a turn to govern. The health care system is broke and it needs to be fixed. Should we consider all possible solutions? Problems that do not appear in the blind spot of our rear view mirror may be better solved by us looking directly to the experts for a time until the problems are more easily seen.

Posted by: pparris | February 23, 2010 8:04 PM | Report abuse

I think Obama is simply doing the politically expedient thing here. He knows that a majority of both houses would support a health care bill with a limited public option. And, he knows that the right will crucify him if he tells Reid -- publicly -- to pass the public option in the senate through reconciliation.

So, he proposes a bill without a public option and allows the senate to think about where things stand now: both houses need a majority to pass a bill and the most likely way to a majority is to take the good aspects of both the house and the senate bills. That may include a public option.

I actually wonder about whether the public option would be more effective than a simple mandate with subsidies and rate caps. Although the left loves the public option, if it's not funded with taxpayer dollars, how would it work? How would it be affordable? I don't see it that clearly.

Posted by: teoandchive | February 23, 2010 8:42 PM | Report abuse

Recent Public Option Polling:

(If this is some lefty communist plot - then there are a lot of us)

* In Nevada, only 34% support the Senate bill, while 56% support the public option.

* In Illinois, only 37% support the Senate bill, while 68% support the public option.

* In Washington State, only 38% support the Senate bill, while 65% support the public option.

* In Missouri, only 33% support the Senate bill, while 57% support the public option.

* In Virginia, only 36% support the Senate bill, while 61% support the public option.

* In Iowa, only 35% support the Senate bill, while 62% support the public option.

*In Minnesota, only 35% support the Senate bill, while 62% support the public option.

* In Colorado, only 32% support the Senate bill, while 58% support the public option.

Posted by: printthis | February 23, 2010 8:50 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, the public option is soooo popular that...

When angry voters, against all odds, elected a conservative Republican to fill Ted Kennedy's Senate seat because he'd explicitly campaigned on a pledge to block socialized medicine, it should have been enough.

To quote the doctor from Scrubs: Wrong, Wrong, Wrong,'re wrong.

Scott Brown won Mass in large part because dispirited Dems stayed home and because Martha Coakley ran the worst campaign in modern electoral history.

The fact is that a majority of MA voters approved of their state's health care plan, which is similar to the proposed plan here. The Public Option gets 60%+ support in poll after poll and those who oppose it wouldn't vote Dem if their lives depended on it. Finally, Pew just came out with a poll showing that support for the HC plan goes UP once people learn what's actually in it, as opposed to the right-wing spin and conservative talking points they've been fed.

By the way, how many Brown supporters of five weeks ago would turn out for him in an election today after his vote on the jobs bill yesterday? Even Captain Cosmo knows that long term, the GOP's JUST SAY NO strategery is a road to ruin.

Posted by: aviate | February 23, 2010 8:58 PM | Report abuse

If Republicans were really smart and really devious, they would come to Thursday's meeting and DEMAND the following:
1. Kill the Phama deal - allow Medicare bargaining and drug reimportaion.
This will make Republicans hugely popular with the public, especially seniors and destroy Obama's deal with big Pharma so he would have to kill health care reform.
2. Eliminate the individual mandate.
This would also be very popular and kill the deal with Insurance Companies.
3. Require Tort reform.
4. Require buying across state lines.
And say to Obama, that if you include ALL of the above, then we will not filibuster but must include ALL.
Republicans would then have the high ground and appear as righteous populists and win lots of public support.

Why will this never happen? The Republicans are as likely to call for Medicare bargaining and drug reimportation as they are to demand 50% tax increased on the wealthy. The people who brought us the "donut hole" and the prohibition on Medicare drug price negotiation are not about to go against their pharmaceutical company masters now.

Tort reform is window dressing and most people know it.

Buying across state lines will lead to even more watered down coverage and weak protections.

Of course, if the goal is to score political points and not deal with a serious public policy problem, then this is not bad strategy. And as we all know, Republicans are good at cheap theatrics and not so good at actual, you know, governing.

No mandate = massive increases in government costs, at a time when the GOP is pretending that it gives two cents about deficits (unlike when it was actually in power).

Posted by: aviate | February 23, 2010 9:05 PM | Report abuse

If it sucks, it's not reform. If it's cuts, it's not reform. If it's done for the Industry moguls, it's status quo. If it's revolutionary, it's public option voted by the public! Get with it, Mr. President!! (In contemporary vernacular, Mr. President, You reek of Republican Conservatism, not progressive reform--therefore, you suck! And I voted for you!)

Posted by: wildspirit | February 23, 2010 9:40 PM | Report abuse


If the Republicans propose some of those then HCR will be easier to pass.

Posted by: micheline101 | February 23, 2010 9:52 PM | Report abuse


With all due respect, you speak out of both sides of your mouth. You've said numerous times that Obama hurts cause-du-jours like "the public option" because once Obama attaches himself to an issue it immediately polarizes the issue.

The truth is however that the public option is immediately perceived as a vehicle for speeding up the process by which this healthcare legislation morph's into the single-payer healthcare system.


This why save for any special clever polling tricks with heavily peppered words like "choice" & "competition", the bill put forward by Reid and Pelosi is wildly unpopular.

Who hasn't seen the YouTube videos of Hacker telling the audience about Single-Payer Trojan Horse....or just about every other liberal supporting this bill!

We know what this legislation is about. Why do you insist on the charade at this late date?

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | February 24, 2010 8:38 AM | Report abuse

During the past 200 years there have been a number of prominent "socialists" and history proves their notions of political philosophy and social organization have NEVER worked and have always failed.

I admit that in the early days of Christianity the new disciples of Christ were so moved by the Holy Spirit in this present phase of God's Plan that they really did hold all things in common: share-and-share-alike. 2000 years of evil-infected human nature has made it clear that without absolute power to run it, "socialism" always fails.

No bureaucracy or system of law-enforcement will ever stop the ordinary venial corruption and brutality of unregenerate Souls. "Socialism" is a concept that needs the absolute power and goodness of the living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to make it work. From what I've seen and heard, modern proponents of "socialism" don't even believe God exists.

Wasn't it Vladimir Lenin who said Communists are dead men on furlough? Wasn't it Bill Ayer's who predicted that 25,000,000 U.S. citizens would need killing before The Revolution would be complete? The only power that the atheist-socialist has at his disposal is a very low-grade power of death.

Luke 12:5--But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.

Posted by: ironmule | February 24, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

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