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Book: Rahm "begged" Obama for days not to pursue ambitious health reform

Rahm Emanuel spent nearly a week in the summer of 2009 aggressively trying to talk Obama out of moving foward with an ambitious version of health care reform, and by his own admission "begged" him not to do it, a book out next week reports.

The book, Jonathan Alter's The Promise, goes much further than previous accounts in documenting just how opposed Rahm was to proceeding with ambitious reform -- something that was widely suspected at the time but never proven in detail. Excerpts of the book were made available in advance of its release next Tuesday.

"I begged him not to do this," Rahm admits to Alter. But according to the book, Obama overrode Rahm's advice, privately taking a bit of shot at Clinton by telling advisers that he hadn't been sent to the White House to do "school uniforms."

After Obama had made his decision, Rahm threw himself into getting the President's plan passed and worked almost nonstop on it, the book reports. It also goes into more detail than previously known about the dramatically scaled down health reform plan Rahm urged Obama to pursue instead -- something advisers derisively called "the Titanic plan" because it insured women and children first.

According to the book, when the health care wars were heating up in August of 2009, and centrist Dems were dragging their feet, Rahm mounted an aggressive push to get Obama to shelve ambitious reform.

"For the better part of a week in August Rahm made the case aggressively," the book says.

Rahm urged the president instead to pursue a sharply reduced plan that would have insured more than 10 million Americans because it could get bipartisan support. Rahm's idea was to expand on previous Congressional plans to expand coverage for children, and boost the number of single mothers eligible for Medicaid -- hence "the Titanic plan."

But the book paints Obama as resolute about moving forward, contradicting impressions at the time that Obama hadn't exercised enough leadership on the issue. "I feel lucky," he told advisers at the time, according to the book. "I think we can get it done."

At a subsequent meeting in the Oval Office on September 1st, the book reports, Robert Gibbs cracked a joke about bad poll numbers on health care.

"This is about whether we're going to get big things done," Obama said. "I wasn't sent here to do school uniforms."

Rahm then asked Obama if he still felt lucky
.
"My name is Barack Hussein Obama and I'm sitting here," Obama answered. "So yeah, I'm feeling pretty lucky."

By Greg Sargent  |  May 14, 2010; 10:53 AM ET
Categories:  Health reform , Political media  
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Next: How real is this plan to revise Miranda?

Comments

Hey Greg,this post is disappointing. I expect more than silly palace intrigue posts from you. For this kind of stuff I can go to Politico.

Posted by: srw3 | May 14, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

srw, this is more than palace intrigue. It confirms a suspicion many liberals had but could never prove.

Posted by: Greg Sargent | May 14, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Rahm looked good on paper but he was poor choice for Chief of Staff. He is far too Clintonized and triangulated. He appears unable to see the Democratic Renaissance that is underway and, in that, he is an obstacle to moving forward. I hope he does run for CHI mayor.

Posted by: wbgonne | May 14, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Greg, I just think there are more important stories for your 1's and 0s. More of the terrible price we are paying for unregulated derivatives trading and where the white house stands on curbing, heavily taxing, or eliminating OTC derivatives trading seems more pressing now...

Posted by: srw3 | May 14, 2010 11:46 AM | Report abuse

You know, there have been nearly half a dozen books on Obama's first year, and each one has been progressively more outrageous than the last. But all of them seem to use the same "unnamed sources."

When are we going to get a book that has actual reporting in it? Can anyone get any source to go on record about anything? I'm a little tired of what looks like cheap one-upmanship in the reporting of this administration. There's a lot negative about him that ought to be reported--not going to Nashville is a big thing. I don't even think he's mentioned it. But this he-said/she-said crap is useless and getting ridiculous. "According to the book"--according to whom? A major staff member, or some intern who was walking past an open door? Every book that's come out since inauguration has been like this.

Posted by: dkp01 | May 14, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

I love that Obama said that Clinton wasn't sent to "do school uniforms," but the "Titanic Plan," I suspect, was actually the feeling that such a weak health program would sink.

Posted by: teoandchive | May 14, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

I also just realized that the best White House journalism in the past couple of years has come from Roxanne Roberts for breaking the Salahi story. At least she managed back up her story with actual proof.

Posted by: dkp01 | May 14, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

wbgonne, Rahm can't be mayor, silly. His last name isn't Daley.

Posted by: BGinCHI | May 14, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Great Post Greg,

President Obama is the engine running the country and this post shows us that even under the pressures of his Chief of staff to "hold off, wait a minute" the President has the vision and fortitude to put one foot in front of the other and push through when the odds are not in his favor.

President Barack Hussein Obama is a gift to America.

Posted by: clarity2 | May 14, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

So, it basically confirms what I always believed about Rahm Emmanuel.

Cowardly incrementalist more concerned with re-election than governing.

Posted by: PorkBelly | May 14, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse

All, Dems in Congress are saying that the "plan" to revise Miranda is likely a non starter:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/05/how_real_is_the_plan_to_revise.html

Posted by: Greg Sargent | May 14, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

@dkp01:"Can anyone get any source to go on record about anything?"

Did you even read the post? It says right there in print:

"I begged him not to do this," Rahm admits to Alter.

That sounds pretty on the record.

Posted by: schrodingerscat | May 14, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Schrodingerscat, that's one line. How much of the rest of the book is unnamed sources? Pretty much all the other books that have come out about the administration rely mostly on sources who don't go on record.

Posted by: dkp01 | May 14, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Yes, this is an important story, and yes, Jonathan Alter is a solid journalist with a good source, and yes, this confirms what many suspected and yes, Greg is right to run with the story. This issue will have repercussions throughout the Democratic Party, and illustrates the division between the monied business interests (DCCC run by Rahm, his cronies, etc.) and the populist President Obama. The fact that Obama went forward aggressively is as big of a story as the fact that Rahm opposed ambitious reform.

Posted by: benintn | May 14, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Yes, this is an important story, and yes, Jonathan Alter is a solid journalist with a good source, and yes, this confirms what many suspected and yes, Greg is right to run with the story. This issue will have repercussions throughout the Democratic Party, and illustrates the division between the monied business interests (DCCC run by Rahm, his cronies, etc.) and the populist President Obama. The fact that Obama went forward aggressively is as big of a story as the fact that Rahm opposed ambitious reform.

Posted by: benintn | May 14, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

"How much of the rest of the book is unnamed sources?"

I don't know...I haven't read the book. All I know is that Rahm is apparently on the record in this excerpt and then you proceeded to write two posts complaining that nothing in the story was sourced.

Posted by: schrodingerscat | May 14, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Thank goodness President Obama did not listen to Rahm. He wanted a trigger option that would allow insurance companies to continue on as usual.
There have been several issues that Rahm supported that do not coincide with the needs and benefits for our country and the American people.
I do not thing he has the best interest of our president and our country at heart.

Posted by: kathlenec | May 14, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

I wrote two posts lamenting the quality of reporting over this administration. Woo, one line was sourced. I won't be shocked if, like every other book written so far about the Obama admin, some journalist expects us to just trust him for no apparent reason with unsourced or poorly sourced "facts." Yes, I am angry. If you want to defend the disgusting state of political journalism today, go right ahead.

Posted by: dkp01 | May 14, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Agree with dkp. The media today leaves alot to be desired, never fact checking, senationalizing, and, their extreme bias towards the right.
CNN, ABC etc have become another Fox and the American people are the victims.
Thankfully we are not the dummies they think we are.

Posted by: kathlenec | May 14, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, kathlenec. I voted for Obama and I'm mostly okay with him as president, but there's a lot to be criticized about him. I'm worried about Kagan's ties to Goldman Sachs...but the reporting on that is overshadowed by the tonnage of "is she gay/should we care" press navel-gazing. The recent deadly flooding may for all we know actually be "Obama's Katrina," but there's been so little coverage of that, while the press tries to shoehorn BP's failure into that slogan. And yes, these books tend to be straight up gossip. I've no reason to trust "trusted" journalists who churn out these books so quickly.

Posted by: dkp01 | May 14, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

"If you want to defend the disgusting state of political journalism today, go right ahead. "

Nice strawman.

Posted by: schrodingerscat | May 14, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

I think Obama should fire Emmanuel.

Posted by: kurthunt | May 14, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

I do not always agree with our president either, but he was handed and plate full of diasters which continue.
I do know that he sincerely has the best interests of our country and the American people at heart and is trying to resolve untreaded grounds.
He never gets credit for anything from the republicans or the media regardless of meits or benefits.
They both are a disgrace

Posted by: kathlenec | May 14, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

How can you accomplish less than nothing on something?

Posted by: jacquelynwoods | May 14, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Not a strawman. You're willing to take mainstream media at their word and defend them when there's no reason to defend them. Plain and simple.

Posted by: dkp01 | May 14, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

LOL! Our President is so obtuse. His arrogance is downright creepy. Never thought I'd be sympathizing with Rahm ... heh, heh...

Posted by: pjwg1 | May 14, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

This looks and sounds like complete bs.

There is no way Rahmbo supported anything less than the most radical of radical plans, and that is all the Oboobie knows how to dream up.

Sounds like Rahm is trying to distance himself from the Oboob in preparation for an impending departure. I'm sure the Odoofus checked off on it.

Posted by: flintston | May 14, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Emanuel was serving his President superbly by advising him to back off from the health bills last year. The new law has caused and will cause for as far as the eye can see INCALCULABLE political damage to the Democratic Party and to President Obama. We all recall how the White House promised a ceaseless campaign to "explain" the new law to a public that opposed passage of the legislation. In fact, the administration is as quiet as the tomb about the new law. Why? Because the more the public learns about it the more the public will reject it. The damage to Democrats in November is already done. As 2012 approaches the health law will be a heavier and heavier albatross around the President's and the Party's necks. Give Rahm the Medal of Freedom. If you want to fire someone, fire Valerie and Robert and the two Davids.

Posted by: miglefitz | May 14, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

"But the book paints Obama as resolute about moving forward, contradicting impressions at the time that Obama hadn't exercised enough leadership on the issue. "I feel lucky," he told advisers at the time, according to the book. "I think we can get it done."

So when ObamaCare inevitably costs 10x its current projections (which the CBO recently reported will in fact exceed $1 trillion) and in 10 years becomes the next failed program excuse to pass even crazier legislation, are we all at least agreed that it isn't Bush's fault?

Posted by: zippyspeed | May 14, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

That's probably why Obama is president, and Rahm is not.


Posted by: lindalovejones | May 14, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Emmanuel is outta here before this term is up, probably shortly after the midterms.

Posted by: hared | May 14, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Most Chiefs of Staff only stay in the position for a couple of years, so it wouldn't be a stunning development for him to retire before 2012.

It may get *reported* as a stunning development, but historically it's normal.

Posted by: dkp01 | May 14, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

There's a lot negative about him that ought to be reported--not going to Nashville is a big thing. I don't even think he's mentioned it. ______

dkp01 - - now tell me why would he waste his time going down to Nashville - - TN did not vote for President Obama - - of course, this is just my input and does not necessarily represent the President's thinking in this matter. So, to continue with my opinion - - President Obama is totally excused for not going to Nashville - - to where they basically hate him and no matter what he does Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker will never support him for the good of the country. He did call Phil Bredesen, Governor of TN as well as sent money through FEMA to help out. It is the mayor of Nashville and the Governor of TN's responsibility to do what has to be done in case of natural disaster.

Posted by: ddraper81 | May 14, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

The only problem with this article is that it assumes what actually passed is "ambitious." In fact, despite how it's characterized by its reactionary opponents, the new health reform law is a market-based, incremental program that will only cover 33 of the approximately 50 million uninsured. Rahm may have argued for even less, but that wouldn't have even been worth the effort.

Posted by: healthpolicyanalyst | May 14, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

ddraper81, he's the President of the United States, not the President of the People Who Like Him. Presidents visit disaster areas. Like I said, I mostly like him. But it's noteworthy and strange that he hasn't visited--and more to my original point, it's disconcerting how little coverage the flooding has gotten outside of the area. Maybe there's a great reason the President hasn't been down there, I'll even give him the benefit of the doubt and assume there is, but the news media is too busy wondering whether Kagan needs to give gay birth to be qualified for the Court to ask questions even meager questions about TN.

Posted by: dkp01 | May 14, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Jonathan Alter, who was always writing Obama hagiography from Day One, gets a deal from the WH in which in return for further access he can write further hagiography.

And he writes that hagiography. And the credulous Greg Sargent breathlessly reports it as fact.

But where do we go for actual news?

Posted by: frankly0 | May 14, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

dkp01..To be honest, you wrote your post about something that wasn't even introduced in the article. There was no discussion about "unamed sources." You interjected that into the discussion. The article cites actual "reporting" but you've concluded that the book has little of it...

Posted by: dcis1 | May 14, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

"RAHM"?
Excuse me? Y'all on a first-name basis there, Greg?
The headline puts an air of Inside-the-Beltway cocktail party "journalista imprimatur" on this drivel.
Greg, you need new business cards reflecting your true title: stenographer.

Posted by: TOMHERE | May 14, 2010 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Rahm, the only thing you ever begged for - was for Allah to make you taller and for Tassa to suck harder.

Posted by: joesmithdefend | May 14, 2010 6:36 PM | Report abuse


wbgonne speaks about - " ...the democratic Renaissance that is underway."

Clearly telling you liberals , at this stage of the game , to 'get real' would be far too inadequate. You remind me of ghosts. They mill about aimlessly haunting the same thing over and over. You see , they don't know they're dead. They don't realize that the reality they knew is no longer their reality. Sadly , they can't move on to their new reality.

So here it be folks: The far left attained total power - WH , Senate , Congress and the media. This in turn woke the sleeping giant that is the American people. Don't confuse the term 'American People' to be republicans or Conservatives or Sarah Palin. I know that's so much easier to wrap your brains around , so much easier to accept... but these groups have ALWAYS sided against you. Nothing new there kids. No... the Sleeping Giant is in fact over 70% of us. Let's just call it the Vast Majority instead of sleeping giant.
These are the people you oppose. These are the people that destroying your dream. Your neighbors , your co-workers , your family members. You are a small fanatical fringe ( no really , I'm serious ) . The remnants that couldn't move on. Couldn't see or didn't care how much public opinion was against them - never stopped to ask themselves why.

You're un-American. You're anti-America.
That's always a deal killer in this country. It's an epic fail.

Posted by: NeoCon1 | May 14, 2010 9:41 PM | Report abuse

I can see November clearly from my house. It will be all over for the "progressive initiative".

Posted by: GoldBeachBiker | May 15, 2010 1:10 AM | Report abuse

Under Health Care Reform, Health insurance is a must, but now you can easily find health insurance for $40 http://ow.ly/1Jkvo

Posted by: zariyaagil14 | May 15, 2010 6:14 AM | Report abuse

Under Health Care Reform, Health insurance is a must, but now you can easily find health insurance for $40 http://ow.ly/1Jkvo

Posted by: zariyaagil14 | May 15, 2010 6:14 AM | Report abuse

@ GoldBeachBiker and other Neocons...

Your dream will come true. Haven't you heard, the Republicon's are coming unscrewed. And even the Presidents rating are getting higher. What you'll see is that the country still wants the Dems to run the country.

Conservative don't know how to run a country, only how to ruin it.

Posted by: mydustymusic | May 16, 2010 2:25 AM | Report abuse

You might also enjoy this Mr. Media radio interview with Jonathan Alter from May 19, 2010. He talks about his book, “The Promise,” President Obama, The Colbert Report, his wife and even does an imitation of Joe Biden imitating Arkansas Senator John McClellan. Classic stuff! http://www.mrmedia.com/2010/05/journalist-jonathan-alter-delivers-on.html

Posted by: andelman | May 21, 2010 7:51 PM | Report abuse

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