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Posted at 9:52 AM ET, 01/ 4/2011

Bill Daley vs. health-care reform

By Ezra Klein

billdaley.JPGTo expand a bit on the argument I made in today's Wonkbook, the right test for the Obama administration to apply to potential candidates for chief of staff is not "will this person be liked?" or "will this person be greeted with laudatory news stories?" but "will this person make the administration more effective and successful?" The problem, of course, is that that's hard to predict -- both for the administration and the news media -- while press coverage is fairly easy to predict. These paragraphs from the New York Times story on Daley, however, don't leave me optimistic:

Mr. Daley, who has not responded to requests for comment, is also known to offer blunt advice and criticism. He thought the president and Democratic leaders in Congress overreached on some of their priorities in the last two years.

“They miscalculated on health care,” Mr. Daley said in an interview last year with The New York Times. “The election of ’08 sent a message that after 30 years of center-right governing, we had moved to center left — not left.”

The problem isn't Daley's take on health-care reform, which I disagree with, but which is certainly legitimate. It's his take on the meta-politics of health-care reform, and perhaps politics itself.

The health-care law the president signed was modeled off of the health-care law the Republican governor of Massachusetts had signed, which was in turn modeled off of the health-care law the Republicans in Congress had proposed in 1993. That's "left"? And meanwhile, Daley thinks the country had moved substantially leftward over that period -- "after 30 years of center-right governing, we had moved to center left" -- but that even a compromise bill based on Republican ideas was too far left for the country, which would imply that the administration he served in the early-'90s, which pushed a more ambitious health-care bill when the country was further to the right, bordered on communist.

It's all a bit confusing, as most sweeping pronouncements about 30-year cycles of American political history are. Being a bad pundit does not disqualify someone from being a good chief of staff, but it's not a promising sign. Moreover, President Obama has repeatedly expressed pride in the accomplishments of his first two years, and frustration that a bad economy and poor messaging undermined public support for them. That theory may be right or may be wrong, but it sounds like if Daley had had his way over the past two years, there would be less for Obama to be proud of.

Photo credit: Carlos Barria/Reuters.

By Ezra Klein  | January 4, 2011; 9:52 AM ET
Categories:  Obama administration  
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Dissension about the overall reach of Healthcare doesn't seem out of character for Obama's Cheif Of Stafff. Rhambo also encouraged Obama to scale the legislation back when it's political chances seemed dim.

Obama seems to place a lot of value of having a variety of dissenting voices from within his own staff. This has pluses and minuses, and Obama has shown some skill at listening to multiple opinions and picking out a strong course; though this strategy fell apart in terms of keeping a strong line on Afghanistan, and keeping a good strategy for the tax cuts, it worked well in terms of health-care political strategy, the stimulus, and it seems to have been a large part of Obama's strong showings in the field of diplomacy.

That all makes sense of course, a lot of inputs with a strong executive choosing one path works well when you have loosely connected actors with disparate goals, since you can generally find something to make everyone happy.

It's a worse strategy when you have 2 or 3 fractious factions within an administration, pushing very hard for totally different things. Like one group pushing hard for more stimulous as the most important part of tax negotiations, and another pushing for allowing the high earner tax cuts expire as priority one.

The question is, does bringing in an outside, dissenting voice make sense with the current challenges the administration is going to face?

Posted by: chargeorge | January 4, 2011 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Phew! I was so worried Obama wasn't going to add another lawyer or investment banker to his administration.

Posted by: Candressuhmoose | January 4, 2011 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Ezra, if the ACA was so full of "Republican ideas" as you continue to mislead folks about, then why weren't Republicans invited to hearings and discussions on the development of health care reform until Scott Brown won Ted's seat in Massachusetts?

I mean, if at the end of the day the ACA is merely Republican reform with just some tweaks here and there added by Democrats, then why wouldn't Obama and Pelosi allow GOP leaders into discussions during 2009? Why did Obama tell Republicans they could come along for the ride, but would have to sit in the back?

I'm still not sure if progressives like Ezra are necessarily that ill-intentioned that they will perpetuate lies about the ACA, or if they are merely that uneducated and uninformed about it's Ezra's case, it could easily be the latter.

But continuing to try to label the ACA as merely "modeled on what Republican Mitt Romney did in Massachusetts" ignores a fundamental difference. Last I checked, Massachusetts is a state. America is a country. The Founders were pretty familiar with the difference between the two, and found no hypocrisy in doing something at the state level they would never support at the federal level.

For those of us quaint enough to believe the Constitution should still mean something, I will continue to enjoy pointing out the difference between states and countries to the likes of Ezra who can't seem to distinguish between the two.

Posted by: dbw1 | January 4, 2011 11:13 AM | Report abuse

This buffoon Klein is the best this rag could dig up as their boy genius? No wonder it's circling the drain.

Posted by: carlbatey | January 4, 2011 11:26 AM | Report abuse

sorry ezra, having a section titled "republican idea" in the bill and putting $5 million towards some "pilot program" does not pass the laugh test and is an insult to the american people more than anything else. besides, it might be easier to abide by a 200 page bill with one republican idea than a 2000 page bill with three republican ideas. Do no harm is the first directive and now Speaker Boehner can insure Reid and Obama are done undermining our economy by indluging in their crazy leftist economic "ideas".

Posted by: dummypants | January 4, 2011 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Ezra, you're beating a dead horse about HCR being based on Republican ideas. It's almost like Greg Sargent's four posts a day about DADT!

That was yesterday, get over it!

Let's start a new college drinking game whereby in every post that Ezra mentions some form of "based on Republican ideas", everybody has to take shot.

(that'll properly prepare us for Boehner as Speaker)

Posted by: 54465446 | January 4, 2011 11:33 AM | Report abuse

who cares about the individual mandate?? the bill is "left" because it pretends numbers dont matter by promising another trillion dollars to health care insurance for the non-poor, working age, able-bodied, at a time when declining revenue and exploding legacy costs from PRIOR democrat legislation mean that it would require a social transformation simply to keep health care benefits constant. but obama decides its the logical time to EXPAND them? and do so against the will of the American people?

he is so reckless and ideologically blind that "left" is not adequate. the man is a radical socialist who knows the benefit of playing it slow.

if the republicans had not won this last election and taken the house of representatives pelosi and obama would have finished the job and our country would not be recognizable come 2012.

obama and reid made their bed for the next two year and they are going to have to sit in it, thwarting, no doubt, republican healing of the private sector and free enterprise system the entire way.

Posted by: dummypants | January 4, 2011 11:35 AM | Report abuse

somehow i missed the $450 billion ANNUAL redistribution of wealth in the form of subsidies in previous Republican proposals. Feel free to clarify that for me Ezra.

Posted by: visionbrkr | January 4, 2011 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Funny how no one is commenting about the possible Chief of Staff pick and instead the trolls are commenting about Ezra's description of health care. I guess that's what they're getting paid to write about these days. You'd think they'd be more upset with another Chicago politician possibly infiltrating the White House with the last name Daley.

Posted by: saratogian | January 4, 2011 12:28 PM | Report abuse


those of us that can read note that Ezra's not bringing up another "Chicagoan" in the White House. he's bringing up his theory that this is a center-right proposal similar to those brought up by Republican Congresses in 1993 or MA current plan but its not. Are there similarities, sure. But when you add in $450 billion per year in subsides that kind of takes more of a hold of the legislation than the idea of an exchange or some nice pilot programs that may hold down cost increases.

Those on the left have argued (CORRECTLY) for years that wages over the last 30 years have been stagnant due to employers offering healthcare benefits in leiu of increasing salaries. The endstory of this for many on the left would be that the excuses in 2014 won't be there not to increase worker pay. If that ends up happening we'll see.

Posted by: visionbrkr | January 4, 2011 12:45 PM | Report abuse

So, Democrats knew Massachusetts universal healthcare program was a failure... and they Copied it for the rest of the country?
That makes ObamaCare look even worse!

Posted by: ohioan | January 4, 2011 12:49 PM | Report abuse

"The health-care law the president signed was modeled off of the health-care law the Republican governor of Massachusetts" - the dirty and confused Ezra Klein..... Ezra the Mass HC is nothing like Obamacare......

Romney's plan is supported by the people of Mass... 80% approve of it.

Romney's plan isn't being sued by the State Attorny General........Obamacare is being sued by dozens of State's Attorney's

Romney got 98% and 99% of children insured in Mass without raising or cutting taxes

Obamacare raises taxes $ 1/2 Trillion dollars and CUTS Medicare by $ 1/2 Trillion dollars

Romney's plan passed 198-2 in the 85% Democrat legislature, who wrote the bill that Romney signed.

Obamacare passed 219-216

And biggest difference is Romney's plan is a speicfic "State" plan.

Obamacare is a one-size fits all plan....

Nice try dirty Ezra Klein.......aka "the confused" one......

Posted by: allenridge | January 4, 2011 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Can you post any thoughtful analysis this year or can we simply expect regurgitation of more DNC talking points? Because A (as in one) Republican did something in the past, does not make the policy of the political right broadly speaking. CAN YOU DISTINGUISH AT ALL BETWEEN PARTIES AND IDEOLOGIES? Parties shift politically. Because Bill Clinton cut the capital gains tax and signed free trade agreements, is that now part of left wing ideology? Of course not.

We know where Dave Weigel's blog is if we want amateur hour. #Journolist

Posted by: cdosquared5 | January 4, 2011 1:36 PM | Report abuse

To reiterate, can you imagine what Klein would say if a Republican President railed on the left for being hypocrites because they don't support making the 15% cap gains rate permanent or support DOHA, and after all, Bill Clinton cut capital gains and was a free trader? Look, you political analysis is usually off by quite a bit and your bitterness over November and the unpopularity of HCR is readily apparent in these posts. Take your medicine and move on.

Posted by: cdosquared5 | January 4, 2011 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Can you read the election results ? Aren't you a political reporter ?? The Dems voting for ObamaCare got slaughtered in all but safe leftist districts--it was a historic defeat, Ezra--were you awake ? Nearly none touted their support for this monstrosity because they knew that the public overwhelmingly hated it.

ObamaCare is the Democratic tar-baby, now, sir. Just try to run away from it. Instead of a historic victory it will seen as a debacle that dragged the Democrats down for a least a decade.

Posted by: dan1138 | January 4, 2011 2:32 PM | Report abuse

All I see from these comments is, "Why don't you just accept the loss" and "Healthcare Reform is going to kill the Democrats." This is all predicated on the idea that HCR is actually bad and unwanted--but outside of the political arena, where Republicans have dominated the issue--IT'S NOT.

Poll and poll after poll show that a MAJORITY of Americans either favored the reform--this actual bill, not just theoretical reform--or wished it had gone FARTHER.

Stop telling Klein to "get over it" and realize that if anybody's got their head in the sand, it's you GOP sycophants. If the Democrats can pull together a coherent message (a big if) the GOP is in serious trouble as this bill becomes ingrained in American's lives.

Posted by: samslaw25 | January 4, 2011 2:49 PM | Report abuse

What Ezra is really worried about is Daley's belief that the Constitution actually means something.

Posted by: Curmudgeon10 | January 4, 2011 3:10 PM | Report abuse

ignorance abounds.

Posted by: potomacfever00 | January 4, 2011 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the insights..

Posted by: FoundingMother | January 4, 2011 4:08 PM | Report abuse

I have seen so many folks cancel and reschedule appointments because they cannot afford copays and deductibles. I have seen children do without proper care because their parents cannot afford to leave work and pay the doctors and insurances. I have seen two persons in three years of nursing live with cancer and no treatment due to lack of money. I have also seen the stress that comes with the bills and collection calls and threats of garnishment for those who cannot afford it. THIS IS SO PREVENTABLE.............that it makes me sick. I will continue to believe that one day persons will have equal medical care without fear of going bankrupt. For now, being sick will only make most even sicker.

Posted by: christy5 | January 4, 2011 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Being a Chicagoan, I think Obama's possible selection of Bill Daley is another judgement mistake, not because he is like my awful former Congresspe rson Rahm, but because Bill Daley is a inside job banker from JP Morgan chase and a big time apologist for Jamie Diamon.

Why can't Obama see that continuing to surround himself with inside job bankers and Wall Street people is a really bad idea in this Second Great American Depression .

And to now learn that Daley opposed the establishm ent of Elizabeth Warren's CFPA seals the deal that Daley should not join Obama in DC.

This nation needs a jobs program that actually puts people to work, not an administra tion that puts inside job bankers to work.

Posted by: kirby2 | January 5, 2011 12:45 PM | Report abuse

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