15 February 2010

Not dead yet?

ObamaCare is weakly protesting "I think I'll go for a walk," while the pundits insist "You're not fooling anyone." 

But are the pundits wrong on this?  I've long since given up the caricature of Obama as the Jedi Master playing eleven-dimensional chess games against hapless opponents.  His post-Coakley strategy, however, of playing it cool and allowing the dust to settle may well pay dividends in the end.  The televised bipartisan summit idea may breathe much-needed life into the initiative, and based on how he schooled congressional republicans at their retreat, I'm not surprised that they are reluctant to participate.  This is a nasty little Catch-22 for the GOP, though, because if they choose to boycott, I can't think of a photo-op which would better illustrate GOP obstructionist tactics than the camera slowly panning across a row of empty chairs with the nametags of republican leaders sitting in front of them.

But will it be more than a photo-op?  History suggests not.  While Obama once again holds out key Republican priorities like Medical Malpractice Reform as an incentive to compromise, the GOP has rejected such overtures before, and despite the death of the public option and despite the inclusion of several republican ideas in the bill, they remain steadfastly committed to obstruction.  In fact, Boehner's preliminary response to the President was to insist that their participation was contingent on the Democrats' willingness to scrap the proposal and start from square one.  Bipartisanship only works when there are two parties willing to compromise, and despite multiple painful policy concessions from the left, there has not been a single discrete commitment from the other side of the aisle describing the basics of a compromise they would find acceptable. 

I suspect that the summit will consist of much posturing and a great show of reaching out to the intransigent GOP, and then both sides frantically playing the spin game to drive the narrative that it's the other guys who are being inflexible.

Reminds me of my last negotiations with the Blues.

It's also worth noting that although polling (for whatever you believe it to be worth) indicates that the reform bill has lost much public support, there is also a strong feeling from the public -- by a two to one margin -- that this crisis is severe enough that lawmakers should not walk away from the efforts to achieve comprehensive health care reform:

Compromise is hard (it's been excruciating for this liberal), but it has to be bipartisan.  It will be interesting to see whether the GOP is willing to bring anything to the table to seal the deal. And if they don't, they deserve to have the Democrats ram their bill through on a straight party-line vote over their objections.

This is too important to fail.  We need to pass the damn bill.


  1. Obstructionism in Congress, profiteerism among industries and sensationism in public. This is, and [as far as eye can see] will remain to be an uphill battle.

    "This is too important to fail." Ditto that.

  2. The same poll you cite also reveals that while a majority may want Congress to continue to try to pass comprehensive health reform, more of those polled oppose (49%) than support (46%) the current proposals from Obama and the Congress; 60% think the current proposals are more complicated than they need to be; and 59% think the current proposals are too expensive.

    As for the argument that the current proposals contain elements the GOP wants, even if that is true (and it's not entirely clear that it is) the fact remains that the ideological thrust of the two bills already passed (more and more government intervention) is diametrically opposed to the ideological bent of Republicans (greater reliance on the free market). The current bills are huge heaps of compromise but not compromise with the Republicans - compromise with the various types of Congressmen who caucus with the Democrats. Saying the current bills should be supported by the GOP because there are some elements they've asked for is like saying a skirt is really a pair of pants because it has a front zipper and a back pocket.

    Beyond that, if the argument that there are elements in the current bills that Republicans should like is actually correct, that seems to me to mean not so much that we should pass the existing bills but rather that we should find the specific elements both sides agree on and pass just those. Take an incremental, small-step approach to health care instead of a large leap of faith.

  3. The tipping point seems to be that HCR opponents are almost always louder (at times, hysterically so) than reform supporters. Don't plan on getting my point across by either yelling into someone's eardrum or creating a generalized hysteria, though. It's a pitty really that important things like HCR can't get accomplished in a civil manner. Bullies win.


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