I would have sworn I heard President Obama say last night that he "supports" the public option. He did it in that cool and non-committal way he has been doing it since he became President -- he supports, but stays open-minded and not dogmatic, and is open to suggestions.
It is a disturbing kind of open-mindedness, in my opinion, and part of that crazy pragmatism Obama has been accused of by many progressives, including his own doctor. There were already worrisome statements in his speech with regard to PO -- for example, that it would include at best only about 5% of our population (so how strong can it be? what will be the real criteria for participation? can people like us, not poor, but no longer able to afford their overpriced, individually bought coverage sign up? etc.) or his insistence that it's only a small part of the reform package, and so on.
As soon as I got on-line, I saw e-mails from the usual suspects: Firedoglake, SEIU, New York Senator Kristine Hilldebrand, imploring me to support them and/or call my representative again ASAP and insist on the public option in our health care reform bill. Or write letters to the editor (per FDL).
The e-mails were urgent in tone, stating, sensibly enough, that even though our President supports the public option, he did not say he will fight for it. Surely these guys know what's cooking. There was also an e-mail from President Obama urging me/us to contact our reps in support of his reform efforts. (BTW, I've done it all numerous times.)
Then came Charlie Rose on TV with his post-speech discussion, which involved Democratic Reps. Anthony Weiner from New York and Kathleen Dahlkemper from PA, Al Hunt from Bloomberg News, Joseph Califano, David Brooks from NYT, Republican Rep. Thaddeus McCotter from Michigan, and Rich Lowry, editor of National Review.
First, Rose talked about the health care reform with Reps. Weiner, Dahlkemper and McCotter. The former two were strongly in favor of PO (Dahlkemper is a Blue Dog who became convinced that only PO can honestly reform the system at this point), while McCotter did what Republicans usually do -- opposed everything they said, though in the manner reasonable enough for a GOPer, pointing out, for example that Dems themselves are not sure what they want in their final bill.
True, though he did this with that annoying customary GOP glee and satisfaction over the Dems confusion. I know, it's hard to blame him for that; however, his behavior again shows the Republican M.O. -- sit back, do nothing/offer nothing of value, and watch the Dems screw up whatever it is to screw up. (BTW, McCotter is one cool cucumber -- and he looks like one too: tall, bald, shiny and shapeless.)
And then something strange happened: Rose parted with Weiner and Dahlkemper, retained McCotter, and brought to the table Brooks, Hunt, Califano, and the geek extraordinaire, Rich Lowry, dripping with disdain (he is, after all, from National Review). The mood of the whole gathering changed, and good punditing times were had by most, while they all, collectively, put PO to death.
I thought, wait a minute! Was I beamed up to some kind of a twilight zone? I could have sworn I heard Obama express his support for PO, yet the whole punditry forum, the majority of which was positively inclined toward Obama, declared PO dead on arrival, with as much as a hand-waving ironic gesture from Brooks, indicating that he never believed PO was even seriously considered by the President. Neither did Hunt or Califano, though Lowry had to stress that he remained wary of anything in the health bill that smacked of anything publicky and stated, with his trademark disdain, shared with McCotter, that progressive Democrats would be stupid to insist on PO and ruin the reform efforts by doing so. (Though I strongly suspect he may be hoping for just that.)
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Cross-posted at The Middle of Nowhere.