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Head-Knocking Time

By Dan Froomkin
1:04 PM ET, 06/22/2009

There's a consensus emerging among liberal pundits about what needs to happen for President Obama to achieve genuine health care reform: He's got to get tough with the legislators who are standing in his way.

Michael Tomasky writes in a Guardian commentary:

What time is it? Simple. It's time this week for Barack Obama to start banging some heads in Congress....

[L]egislators are rarely courageous. They're not leaders. They're followers. They don't like doing risky things. They like doing things they know are popular...

We all know that Obama can do the let's-all-reason-together routine. It's nice, and it still should be his default posture on most matters. But he has to show that he can be a ball-buster. He has to show he can scare people. Americans haven't seen that side of him. It could be that it doesn't exist. But if it does, now is damn well the time to start showing it.

Robert Reich blogs for TPM Cafe that Obama must build forcefully make the case for universal health care everywhere around the country, forget bipartisanship, insist on a public option, demand that taxes be raised on the rich, and -- yes -- knock heads on Capitol Hill.

Whose heads?

Paul Krugman writes in his New York Times opinion column:

The real risk is that health care reform will be undermined by 'centrist' Democratic senators who either prevent the passage of a bill or insist on watering down key elements of reform. I use scare quotes around 'centrist,' by the way, because if the center means the position held by most Americans, the self-proclaimed centrists are in fact way out in right field....

Whatever may be motivating these Democrats, they don't seem able to explain their reasons in public....

Honestly, I don't know what these Democrats are trying to achieve. Yes, some of the balking senators receive large campaign contributions from the medical-industrial complex — but who in politics doesn't? If I had to guess, I'd say that what's really going on is that relatively conservative Democrats still cling to the old dream of becoming kingmakers, of recreating the bipartisan center that used to run America.

But this fantasy can't be allowed to stand in the way of giving America the health care reform it needs. This time, the alleged center must not hold.

By contrast, Robert J. Samuelson uses his Washington Post op-ed column today to decry the amount of money being spent on the "welfare state." You know, on things like Social Security and Medicare.

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