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"Squandered opportunity"

vastleft's picture
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William Greider sums it up. Go read.

Barack Obama mainly did this to himself. To avoid the accusation of socialized medicine, he intentionally shrouded his objectives in bureaucratic euphemisms like "public option." What the hell does that mean? It doesn't mean anything. The vagueness allowed anyone to fill in the blanks and anxious people did so in apocalyptic ways. The original idea, after all, was making something similar to Medicare available to anyone between childhood and old age who was either shut out by high prices or abused by insurance companies policing the system. This approach--call it Medicare Basic--would in theory give government the greater leverage needed to control the price inflation and reshape the system in positive ways. If you told people "public option" was a Medicare equivalent, the polls would demonstrate the popularity. Instead, that objective is now at risk. The right still calls Obama a covert socialist.

There is a more cynical interpretation of Obama's flexibility. He is coming out right about where he wanted to be.

I am simply appalled by how much of our discourse fails to take into account this simple, obvious fact about "Public Option": "It doesn't mean anything. The vagueness allowed anyone to fill in the blanks...."

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Ga6th's picture
Submitted by Ga6th on

is new how? To me Obama has been an amorphous blob with undefined goals and beliefs for quite a while. This column could've been written a year ago.

Historiann's picture
Submitted by Historiann on

The Nation dumped heaps of super-"progressive" misogyny on Hillary Clinton and made inflated claims of what an awesome "progressive" President Obama would be. Even Katha Pollitt drank the kool-aid, and joined the band with the rest of the Nation gang, like a memo had been sent down from Victor Navasky's office and all of the Faithful were supposed to fall in line.

So, I think it's awesome and totally predictable that they're now suffering a major case of buyer's remorse. I had to laugh last fall when they came begging (I'm a former "Nation" subscriber and Associate) because they were all scared that the new postal costs were going to bury them. I had to say, "gee, you should have thought of that before trashing Clinton so thoroughly in the primaries! Later, haterz."

Submitted by Paul_Lukasiak on

is how the A-listers have adopted the "public option" as their cause despite the fact that they don't have the first fucking clue what it will be comprised of. Jane is going so far as to raise money to "thank" congresscritters who promise not to vote for a bill that doesn't include a "public option"...

And its pretty obvious what's going on here. Since these bozos don't have the first fucking clue what they are supporting, its obvious that what they are really seeing is knee-jerk opposition to the right wing. There's no thought involved here -- if the right wing hates the "public option", then the A listers have to be for it...even though they don't know what it is, or how it works.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

"[T]he A-listers have adopted the "public option" as their cause despite the fact that they don't have the first fucking clue what it will be comprised of."

It will be comprised of claiming success regardless of how shitty the actual plan is. Good for A-listers, good for Obama, bad for everyone else except our corporate overlords.

Alternatively, if the stench is so bad it even reaches the nostrils of the Townhouse gang, they'll write sternly worded telegrams about the Democrats who shockingly disappointed them.

mass's picture
Submitted by mass on

from the A-Listers that there is no movement for single payer, which is laughable since there are tens of thousand of doctors and nurses representing single payer advocacy groups. But, somehow, these people think there is a movement for something called "public option"? If it were not so sad, it would be funny.

dblhelix's picture
Submitted by dblhelix on

tens of thousand of doctors and nurses representing single payer advocacy groups. But, somehow, these people think there is a movement for something called "public option"?

the actblue page for public option advocates has 754 donors, last time I looked.

Incidentally, I think it would actually be a good thing if online fundraising declines over the next year, leading to increasing irrelevance of the "donate!" types. Personally, I didn't elect any of these people to any position representing my interests. They get treated as such by some politicians because they are the cash conduits, no more, no less.

Jeff W's picture
Submitted by Jeff W on

I question this key sentence of William Greider's analysis:

To avoid the accusation of socialized medicine, he intentionally shrouded his objectives in bureaucratic euphemisms like "public option."

No, his objectives were as clear as they were contradictory or quixotic. he wanted a "public health insurance option" to "keep insurance companies honest" yet "firewalled" enough that they couldn't compete effectively. He doesn't want to "vilify" insurance companies yet an honest appraisal would require something close to that, at least. Obama couldn't call it some "Medicare" variant because that would highlight what the plan isn't.

I'd agree with Greider's second, "more cynical interpretation" of Obama's actions but there's no need to call that a "manipulative, deceptive portrait," unless it refers to the person doing the portrayal, instead of the person being portrayed. Anyone who extolled the virtues of bipartisanship or bringing "everyone to the table" was obviously not going to go for even moderately progressive reform. The problem is not in how Obama is communicating his objectives (although one could easily take issue with that), it's what his objectives are (to the extent they're ascertainable).

Davidson's picture
Submitted by Davidson on

What evidence does he or anyone else have that Obama isn't exactly who his actions show him to be? Why the hell would insurance and pharmaceutical companies advocate for whatever mush Obama is selling if he was going to actually enact any measure of reform? Why would Tom Daschle be one of his earliest supporters if Obama was any threat to the corporate stranglehold on Washington?

Forget the hype. Look at the reality.

And Paul has hit the nail on the head: what the hell is going on with the A-list bloggers? Do they not realize they, just like the town hall crazies, are being played for fools? Did they not actually look at the "public option" and realize there's no there there? This is just sad. If the "public option" passes, what lie will they come up with after 2013 to cover their asses on this one? I remember just a couple months ago, when Obama started really disappointing progressives, Jane offered up the front that he was the "best" possible choice they had last year.

Jeff W's picture
Submitted by Jeff W on

I was adopting Greider's wording as a way of labeling the second interpretation. I've edited my post to put that wording in quotes.

The amount of denial and rationalization on the part of the A-listers needed to defend one's position is astonishing.

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

identity and not principles or policy. And I don't mean Obama's personal identity (he's historic! he's inspiring! he can read a teleprompter!), although that was obviously a big part of the cult following part of his fans.

It was about the A-list bloggers personal identities. Most people can admit to a mistake, even a big or colossally stupid mistake, when it doesn't reflect on them as a person, or doesn't speak to something about their core in terms of self-image. But whether they bought into Obama because of their 'hopefulness' or pedestrian bandwagon-jumping, to admit they were fooled (speaking charitably)would be admitting that they failed at the very thing that they imagine makes them A-listers in the first place; super political savvy, real 'player' influence on the political process, and the advance guard of the reality-based community.

Why do you think Jane Hamsher is so stuck on slapping public option critics for their pitiably poor understanding of the political process? Bow down, peasant, you know not whereof you speak. I am expert. Or is in such a frenzy to whip for a public option that she can't defend except to enumerate, repeatedly, the inventory of wrongs of the current system, instead of explaining how the public option would address the wrongs. Or constantly crowing about how influential FDL is, without ever asking for what? I don't mean to single out Hamsher, there's plenty as bad, but her actions do seem to boil down well to use as a paradigm of a more general trend.

That's why I think it will be a cold day in hell before we see A-listers overall admit they were colosally wrong (to put it kindly); at best we may see a long slow morphing into occasional criticism of Obama. But I doubt we'll see anything unaccompanied by the litany of reasons why no one could have ever guessed that he would fill-in-the-blank (to infinity).

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

I know that Boehlert's book (and your interview with him) pointed that way, but I thought I lot of the A-lister's responses sounded like after-the-fact rationalizations, as in casting about for a credible (and in some cases, sympathetic-sounding) excuse, whether it accorded with actual motivations or not. You get around the blogs much more than I do, so I was wondering if it's based on more than the interview and stuff.

I mean, I don't think they were fooled either (that was why I said 'charitably', I could almost feel bad for the people who were fooled), but I don't think it was as much taking a dive as fairly happily riding the crest of an exciting, if totally unprincipled wave.

Otherwise, Digby and Jane Hamsher wouldn't still be obsessed with blaming Rahm Immanuel, instead of his boss, for all our current woes.

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