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Obama Owns It, Whatever It Is

BDBlue's picture

dday at the end of his blog about the President's phone call with bloggers:

There is a bright spot, however. Obama went pretty far [pretty far, huh? wow!] in support of a [incredibly shrinking] public option, a fairly tangible reform effort [if it were done as originally envisioned, which is no longer even being discussed], on the call. He doubted the evidence that a co-op plan like that pushed by Kent Conrad would work, citing past experience that showed them having trouble getting off the ground. And he then said that the House and Senate bills would not be identical, that a conference committee would certainly be required. And at that point, the White House would engage in serious negotiations [good for the White House to finally get serious after the basic shape of the legislation has already been hammered out, no sense getting serious before almost everything has already been decided], with the President's fundamental principles and benchmarks in place [whatever those are]. The House and Senate bills would not match up exactly, but that would not mean that the final bill wouldn't include certain elements, he essentially said. The President was basically saying: get it to conference, and we'll straighten it out. That probably doesn't mean that the President gets everything he wants, but it means that the big issues will be at his determination and discretion, almost certainly.

I think that's an important reminder. Past White Houses have used the conference committee very effectively to make sure bills matched preferences. Obama signaled his willingness to do that. Which means that, while we can have a role in getting this bill through each chamber, the White House will be able to make their presence felt to a degree at the finish line. In effect, he will take ownership of the policy and ensure it beats the status quo.

Got that, Obama will take ownership of the policy so whatever we end up with will ultimately be Obama's bill, no excuses later. He won't get everything, but the big issues will be his determination and discretion. If it's fantastic, which would be an unexpected surprise, all credit to the President. If it sucks, then I don't want to hear the list of "progressive" excuses for why it sucks and why it's not Obama's fault (of course, it won't be Obama's fault entirely, he's had plenty of help).

And "ensure it beats the status quo" - don't aim too high there "progressives," you might hit your head on a snake's underbelly or something. But hey, it's not like people are dying or anything.

NOTE To dday's credit, he notes how deeply unsatisfying the President's answer to his specific policy question was (and good on him for asking a specific policy question), but that just makes all this faith based support at the end more frustrating. Even though Obama basically refused to commit to anything in terms of policy, dday is still going out and flogging for the "Obama plan". Look, Obama's asking for your help, it's actually okay to demand something from him in exchange for it. Because if you're willing to go out there and whip for Obama - without getting anything in return - you're likely to end up with nothing. He doesn't need to give "progressives" anything to get their support. You just gave it to him. Now, he's free to go cave to the Blue Dogs.

Always get a quo for your quid. That's Politics 101. Jeebus.

NOTE 2 Obama's call to bloggers for help is evidence that, IMO, supports Stirling Newberry's point about how weak Obama is in terms of getting things done legislatively.

No votes yet


Submitted by lambert on

"Mush from the wimp." I wouldn't use that here, since I don't accept the Dems-as-weak narrative.

But it is all mush and muddleheaded-ness, isn't it? And "please sir, may I have some more"?

Submitted by Anne on

so many allegedly progressive bloggers are willing to be at the other end of these Obama booty calls - it's like phone sex for cryin' out loud. Why don't they feel as used as they appear to be from the outside looking in?

I don't really see this as Obama stepping up to own anything; I see it as Obama looking about for those he can pass off the responsibility to in case it fails.

And, seriously, if this is how Obama conducted his community organizing, it pretty much answers the question about why no one in the communities he organized ever stepped forward to sing his praises.

Submitted by lambert on

Yep. So obvious I didn't see it.

a little night musing's picture
Submitted by a little night ... on

Where they try to reconcile the 20% of the House and Senate bills that differ?

The 80% where they agree still contains plenty of suckitude.

Also, in what universe does it happen that if a House bill and Senate bill differ, that the version which is more appealing to liberals (choke) is the one that they move toward? This seems seriously unlikely to me, Obama or no Obama.

I really don't get the need to pass something, anything, NOW NOW NOW! Is there no bill so bad that Obama wouldn't sign it if it passed? He does not exactly sound committed even to the weak tea of his six points.

Healthcare reform is such a big haul that we only have the chance once every couple of decades to do it, but once some bill, any bill, passes, we'll be able to keep making more improvements? Maybe he/they really do believe that some kind of psychological barrier will be breached?

[Or maybe it's about proving he can do something the Clintons couldn't do? Gee, I hope he's not that small.]

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

Isn't that why they had to spread the assassination and darkened photo lies? To get what they wanted?

One thing that saves me frustration and has been liberating is the realization that "progressivism" wasn't really about liberal values per se. The WFN (whole foods nation) and Pibbers (PBR drinkers) wanted a new Democratic Party, free of us trailer trash types. We should believe them.

Submitted by hipparchia on

ok, that made my day.

yep, progressives aren't liberals, and the funny thing [to me, at least] is that the term progressive, iirc, was revived by governor clinton back in his arkansas days, and by the dlc, the ones that today's progressives love to have.

Submitted by lambert on

Surely not Pabst Blue Ribbon? What am I missing here?

a little night musing's picture
Submitted by a little night ... on

In a "cult beer" kind of way. (I didn't know either. I rely on my son to tell me about these things. He doesn't do them, but is in advertising so he knows about them.)

It reminds me of when I was trying to find a drink of my own that would be quirky but not label me as trendy. Everything I chose turned out to have been a trend recently. I gave up when I found out that there are pretentious rye whiskeys. So much for my Old-fashioneds. I'll just quaff whatever plonk's around.

Looking... here we go!

Submitted by hipparchia on

i think this is his style, and that we're moving right along more or less on the path he intends.

Submitted by lambert on


basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

rather than lacks backbone. Other than his own need to create situations that benefit him personally, he has no vision of governance. He has no preference on policy except to the degree that he can profit personally or exploit the policy for re-election.

He appears weak and muddled because he is a president who isn't leading. He isn't leading because he doesn't care. He doesn't care because the only thing that really interests him is himself.

I was reading up last night on Michelle's patient dumping scheme at Chicago University Hospital. It really was an absolutely morally deplorable policy she cooked up and hired David Axelrod to execute. It's emblematic of the difference between the Clintons and the Obamas. When Hillary found out that rural residents in Arkansas didn't have easy access to health care because it wasn't financially prudent to build in such sparsely populated areas, she went to dc to raise funding to build some clinics. Michelle gets hired by a teaching hospital in a low income neighborhood and immediately sets about cutting poor residents off from health care - although her own salary more than doubles at the time.

I just get this feeling that he and Michelle don't like low income people and really don't care if we get insurance or not. They're certainly willing to look bad if it means that they make more money.

a little night musing's picture
Submitted by a little night ... on

I tried to look into the controversy over the Urban Health Initiative (poor choice of name IMO, but whatever): the only news sources I found were fairly uninformative, like this one from UPI:

CHICAGO, Aug. 23 (UPI) -- Michelle Obama's job at the University of Chicago Medical Center included responsibility for a program to steer the uninsured away from its emergency room.

The wife of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama is now on leave from her position. She was earning $317,000 a year as vice president of the hospital.

Some top Obama advisers are also involved with the Urban Health Initiative, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Dr. Eric Whitaker took over the program when the hospital hired him in 2007, and the hospital contracted with a company owned by David Axelrod, Barack Obama's top strategist, for a public relations campaign.

Another Obama adviser, Valerie Jarrett, heads the medical center's board and approved the hiring of Whitaker's company.

Hospital officials say uninsured patients seeking treatment for minor illness and injury were overwhelming the emergency room. The program tried to find doctors in the neighborhood for those patients and says they will get faster treatment elsewhere.

"Senator Obama sees community health centers as a vital part of efforts to invest in prevention and reduce costs," said Ben LaBolt, a spokesman..

Chicago Alderman Toni Preckwinkle said some doctors and nurses have complained to her that the medical center is dumping patients.

The original Chicago Sun-Times article has not much more.

And here's the Washington Post:

Michelle Obama, an executive at the medical center, launched an innovative program to steer the patients to existing neighborhood clinics to deal with their health needs.

That effort, in time, inspired a broader program the hospital now calls its Urban Health Initiative. To ensure community support, Michelle Obama and others in late 2006 recommended that the hospital hire the firm of David Axelrod, who a few months later became the chief strategist for Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

Axelrod's firm recommended an aggressive promotional effort modeled on a political campaign -- appoint a campaign manager, conduct focus groups, target messages to specific constituencies, then recruit religious leaders and other third-party "validators." They, in turn, would write and submit opinion pieces to Chicago publications.

One key recommendation from Axelrod's firm: "Respond quickly to opposition activity."

The medical center's initiative provides a window into the close relationship between the Obamas, their associates at the University of Chicago and Axelrod, the strategist most central to Barack Obama's rise. It also illustrates how that circle, and particularly Michelle, dealt with an intractable social problem that confronts many urban areas: How much care should large, nonprofit hospitals offer the poor in return for tax-exempt status?

The medical center markets its initiative as an effort to improve patient health for the poor and at the same time free its resources for emergencies and complicated procedures. The Urban Health Initiative also could save the hospital substantial amounts of money, by removing the nonpaying poor patients from its emergency room.

"An ER visit for something that's not an emergency costs the medical center $1,200," said Kelly Sullivan, a hospital spokeswoman. "That's sucking up dollars in health care that we don't all have to just blow through carelessly.

"Michelle inspired us . . . to step back and take a holistic approach to this problem."

Those involved in the effort in Chicago say that they are hopeful but that it is too soon to judge its success.

Michelle Obama and Axelrod did not respond to requests for an interview about the initiative. Axelrod's partner, Eric Sedler, confirmed his firm did the work but declined to discuss specifics. Hospital executives declined to say how much Axelrod's firm was paid.

Howard Peters of the nonprofit Illinois Hospital Association praised the medical center's efforts, saying the ER is not the place to provide patients with primary medi

"Patients need a source of ongoing care, and this initiative is trying to make that care available in a more appropriate setting and in a more timely way," Peters said.

Axelrod's firm warned hospital executives in its May 2007 presentation that, although many people welcomed the initiative, primary-care doctors opposed it as a break with the center's commitment to the community. Opinion research showed that a small but passionate group of people already considered the hospital to be elitist, arrogant and lacking in "cultural empathy" for the surrounding economically depressed South Side neighborhood, according to a draft report obtained by The Washington Post. Some doctors in focus groups dismissed local health clinics as "wholly inadequate."

One of the suggestions from Axelrod's firm: Change the name of the initiative.

"Internal and external respondents expressed the opinion that the word 'urban' is code for 'black' or 'black and poor,' " according to a report the firm gave the medical center on May 14, 2007. "Based on the research, consideration should be given to re-branding the initiative."

Egad, Axelrod agrees with me about the name. Oh well.

There may well be problems with this program, but apart from the above I have not found any credible sources telling what, exactly, they are. The program seems to me to be a fairly decent attempt to deal with the problem*. The devil, of course, is in the details, so if you have any, I'd be interested.

But I did notice that the little bit of information given above seemed to be enough for the right-wing blogs to jump all over the story as proof of how evil MO was, back last summer.

I would hate to think we're propagating right-wing talking points here. If there's evidence, let's bring it in.

[You must know I'm no big fan of Michelle Obama (eta: or of Axelrod!), but in this instance, and I started out skeptical about this program, in the end at this point I don't see any basis for thinking that it was anything but what it seems, as described in the clips above.]

* a problem which, I must note, single-payer would solve excellently!

Submitted by lambert on

... but that's the way of the world. And using ER for routine medical care is a systemic problem, though of course people who are otherwise without care use them and rightly so. (Of course, it all depends on who defines "routine" -- if it's the insurance companies, screw that.) One also wonders if there's a domestic component to Obama's idea that poor and old people are sucking up too many medical resources....

If there's a patient dumping scheme, and this isn't winger bloviation, surely there'll be stronger evidence than this -- possibly in a local IL blog?

a little night musing's picture
Submitted by a little night ... on

The source seems to be NQ, though I wouldn't be surprised if right-wing blogs are involved. And the story is distinctly different from the way they played it at NQ. (I only founs this out by googling the right combination of words and searching in "blogs". I do not read NQ. haven't for a long time. They used to have good stuff but it went offf the rails during the primaries.)

Anyhow, the story in short is this: in February of this year, UofC Medical laid off a bunch of emergency workers and altered their triage policy, excluding more patients than they had been excluding under the Urban Health Initiative. Problems ensued, one woman claimed that they failed to adequately treat her critically injured son, and they are being condemned by the American College of Emergency Physicians. (This action preceded the problem with the woman's son.)

Problem is, this really has nothing to do with MO, except in the sense that it's an evolution (into something that might in fact be illegal) of a policy she was behind. But she was long gone by the time they did this. The NQ comment section only discusses the second of the two articles (cdated 20 Feb 2009), overlooking the first (dated 10 Feb 2009) where the new policy is described as being implemented in Feb 2009. (And aren't you glad I gave links, so you can check this out for yourself? Because the NQ commenter did not even see fit to identify which newspaper it was. Yes, I'm pissed. MY OCD wouldn't let me let this go until I had tracked it down, and I've got other things I'd rather do.)

Also, the story about the woman and her son, it is very unclear whether or not the hospital did anything wrong. She's upset because they first asked her about insurance, which all ERs do, and then later sent her son home without what she thought was proper treatment. She apparently then went to another hospital on her own. It's not at all clear that she was a victim of the new triage policy - she may be, but it's not clear.

Also, if they're only triaging (in this particular way) patients who lack insurance, that could be a big problem. (It was a concern I had about the original UHI. I could never learn from the articles whether all non-emergency patients were being sent to other places, or just the ones without insurance, who would be expected to be the majority of those using the emergency room for non-emergency purposes anyway.)

I could discuss at greater length, but I have not the time, and frankly, I've got other things I'd rather write about.

The UofC policy now is, frankly, horrible, and probably illegal as well, and the fact that they felt forced into it does not mitigate. The legal requirement that ERs accept all patients amounts to an unfunded mandate. And you know what? Single-payer would solve that problem! Hey, Michelle! You can have this ldea for free - I won't even insist you give me credit for suggesting it!

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

He's going to have virtually no legislative accomplishments, other than TARP and that's when he was the nominee, I agree with Stirling on this one. He's mostly using his executive authority, which can easily be undone by whoever comes next (for good or ill).

But I agree that the direction we're going is pretty much where he's happy to go. That doesn't also mean he isn't weak. Indeed, I suspect he wants to go in these middle directions because he is weak. If there was something he really did want from Congress, I'm not sure he could get it. I think he did want his stimulus and he ended up with a completely watered down version (of something that wasn't good enough to begin with). He has no idea how to deal with folks to his right other than to cave to them. Which, again, is not to say that he's all that upset about where this is all going, he's to the right of Richard Nixon domestically, just that I'm not convinced he could change it if he wanted to. Not because nobody could change it (although there is some of that), but because he lacks the political skills. A first-term Senator simply isn't equipped, IMO, to put the screws to Congress. I wish I could find the post/comment, but during the primary Paul Lukasiak pointed out that Obama actually has very weak political skills. I'd say that's what we're seeing. I mean, the man has had to resort to appealing to bloggers (whom he clearly disdains) for help in getting even this weak-ass healthcare "reform" passed. That is not a sign of great legislative muscle.

Submitted by Anne on

and I think we're going to see more executive orders, signing statements and creation of task forces and such that do not report to Congress; he's simply going to bypass Congress whenever he can because it's easier than trying to actually lead them to where he wants them to go. What concerns me maybe more now than even during the Bush years is the possibility that with a Democratic Congress, there will be a tendency to let the oversight of the executive branch just evaporate. Anyone who thought there was going to be transparency had better get used to opaque, because that's what we're going to get.

I look at what he is cooking up with respect to preventive detention, for example, and I get chills - and not in a ooh-I'm-so-excited kind of way, but in an I-think-I-might-be-sick kind of way.

Submitted by Anne on

and following it pretty closely:

First steps taken to implement preventive detention, military commissions

A task force appointed by President Obama to issue recommendations on how to close Guantanamo announced yesterday it will miss its deadline and instead needs a six-month extension, potentially jeopardizing Obama's promise to close Guantanamo within a year. The announcement was made in a briefing given by four leading Obama officials, where the condition of the briefing was that none of the officials could be named (why not?) and all media outlets agreed to this condition (why?).

Though the Task Force's final recommendations were delayed, it did release an interim report (.pdf) which -- true to Obama's prior pledges -- envisions an optional, three-tiered "system of justice" for imprisoning accused Terrorists, to be determined by the Obama administration in each case: (1) real trials in real courts for some; (2) military commissions for others; and (3) indefinite detention with no charges for the rest. This memo is the first step towards institutionalizing both a new scheme of preventive detention and Obama's version of military commissions.

From this interim report, it's more apparent than ever that the central excuse made by Obama defenders to justify preventive detention and military commissions -- there are dangerous Terrorists who cannot be released but also cannot be tried because Bush obtained the evidence against them via torture -- is an absolute myth.


UPDATE II: The always-thorough Daphne Eviatar of The Washington Independent notes the numerous reports from Obama officials indicating the President's commitment to a regime of preventive detention, and she documents that the scheme they are contemplating is virtually identical to what Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey recommended and demanded last year (during a time when preventive detention was an unpopular idea among Democrats).

There's a lot where that [snip] is - and none of it will make you feel any better.

Submitted by hipparchia on

but i lean toward ian welsh's take, that he's conciliatory by nature.

i think obama values the process of everybody pulling together too much, and while he values many of the goals of liberalism in the abstract, achieving them can wait as long as we're working toward them in a 'good' way. this wouldn't be so bad if the country weren't in such dire straits.

as for using bloggers, i think it's more likely that he's co-opting them and silencing [or at least muting] them ahead of any criticisms they might be inclined to make later. i've been following the ofa organizing, and he [or more likely axelrod] has turned the alinsky-style community organizing model sideways. where alinsky was all about those lower on the ladder organizing to take some power away from those higher up, ofa is much more into [stealthily] giving those lower on the ladder the illusion that they're gaining some power.

Submitted by lambert on

... that Obama's Presidency seems like it's been going on forever, besides the ongoing economic disaster as it afflicts us useless eaters, is that Obama's presidency can really be dated to the passage of TARP in October, two months before January. That was his point of maximum leverage. And here we are.

Submitted by Anne on

morning, I read this (emphasis is mine):

Obama won't release names of visitors from health industry

Invoking an argument used by President George W. Bush, the Obama administration has turned down a request from a watchdog group for a list of health industry executives who have visited the White House to discuss health care overhaul.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington sent a letter to the Secret Service asking about visits from 18 executives representing health insurers, drugmakers, doctors and other players in the debate. The group is seeking the material as a gauge on the influence of those executives in crafting new health care policy.

The Secret Service sent a reply stating that documents revealing the frequency of such visits were considered presidential records exempt from public disclosure laws. The agency said it was advised by the Justice Department that the Secret Service was within its rights to withhold the information because of the "presidential communications privilege."

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics said it would file suit against the Obama administration as early as today. The group has sued the administration over its failure to release details about visits from coal-industry executives.

A White House spokesman, Ben LaBolt, said: "We are reviewing our policy on access to visitor logs and related litigation."

As a candidate, Barack Obama vowed that in devising a health care bill he would invite in TV cameras - specifically C-SPAN - so that Americans could have a window into negotiations that normally play out behind closed doors.

Having promised transparency, the administration should be willing to disclose who it is consulting in shaping health care policy, said an attorney for the citizens group.

In its letter requesting the records, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics asked about visits from Billy Tauzin, president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America; Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans; William Weldon, chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson; and J. James Rohack, president of the American Medical Association, among others.

PhRMA, which represents the nation's drug companies, said it took part in two meetings with senior White House officials in the Roosevelt Room.

The Obama version of transparency: not what you thought it would be.

"Invoking an argument used by President Bush:" appearing a more news reports and articles than ever before.

TreeHugger's picture
Submitted by TreeHugger on

I am struck at the contrast between how certain the Cheetoesque leaders and followers are/were that they understand the epoch changing nature of all things Obama, while many of the rest of us still spend time parsing who and what he is.

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

This is something that *I* will never forget. It was very telling and revealing.

When I say Pibber or talk about the WFN (whole foods nation) that is what I'm referring to, and to me its not a compliment. I don't know how anyone can read a comment like that and not think progressives were itching to throw the "white" working class under the bus. Incidentally, most minorities are part of the working class.

a little night musing's picture
Submitted by a little night ... on


But I like yours better.

(I also typed in haste. Is there any other way? lwads, indeed.)