“You go through the gate. If the gate’s closed, you go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we’ll pole-vault in. If that doesn’t work, we’ll parachute in. But we’re going to get health care reform passed for the American people.”
Unfortunately, Rahm Emanuel doesn't.
It remains to be seen how much Emanuel was speaking for the Administration, but I think it's clear that the Democrats absolutely must finish HCR... for the sake of their immediate electoral future as well as the long term health (fiscal and actual) of the country.
Making all of this all the more painful it turns out on the eve of the MA election House and Senate leaders had worked out a deal on a final bill, which would be a done deal by now had the election gone the other way.
In response to my admittedly dramatic post below my friend Jim pointed me to this post, which makes a good point:
Liberals need to be careful not reinforce the idea that Democrats will inevitably fold on health care; they need, as I've said, to avoid panic about panic. We do have some reporting -- see this item from Greg Sargent -- that indicates that House leadership and the White House may be essentially following the course predicted by Jonathan Chait and Neil Sinhababu. They both suggest that once the politicians recover from the shock, they'll realize that the obvious best course is to get health care done. So, for activists, the trick is to give them time to do that without immediately attacking the president and everyone in Congress for their weakness. All those attacks do is keep the downward spiral going.
If you support reform, this is the time to call one's Member of the House and tell him or her to get it done, to bring up and pass the Senate bill. If you have a liberal blog and support reform, put away the recriminations and the panic, and make it very clear that the House can salvage everything if they pass the Senate bill.
And indeed there have been more signs of sanity returning since that post was written, so perhaps things will work out after all. What really bugged me last week was that Obama didn't come out and make a strong statement that HCR would happen one way or another, but instead allowed the conversation to slide into panic. Even now it seems to me that Obama (or, at least, members of his Administration) should be doing more to pressure the House and Senate to wrap this up. Jonathan Cohn takes stock of where the President is at now:
For all of the mixed messages of the last week, sources say that President Obama himself remains absolutely committed to pursuing comprehensive reform--more so, in fact, than many of his political advisers. And if you’ve listened to him talk about it publicly, particularly in his Tampa speech the day after the State of the Union, he certainly sounds determined not to give up--perhaps because so much of Washington thinks he should.
Even the decision to focus on jobs, banking, and the economy right now--while letting the "dust settle" on health care reform--may not be quite the sign of retreat it seems at first blush. Many insiders have suggested to me that giving leadership a little breathing space to negotiate, and giving members of Congress more time to adjust to the post-Massachusetts political landscape, will ultimately make a deal more likely. In today's Los Angeles Times, Rep. Gerald Connolly, president of the House Freshman Democrats says that strategy may be working: "The more they think about it, the more they can appreciate that it may be a viable . . . vehicle for getting healthcare reform done."
Still, even some of Obama's supporters think he, or at least his administration, could be more acting more aggressively. They remain dismayed (as do I) that the administration didn't have a clearer plan for how to proceed with reform in the wake of the Massachusetts election--and worry, even now, that the prevailing attitude is to let Congress come to its senses rather than to bring Congress to its senses. "The administration's arms-length approach is a large part of the problem," says a senior Democratic strategist. "They have lost vital time and momentum. There is no excuse."
During Friday's cabinet meeting, President Obama apparently told his advisers that reform was on the two-yard line. That sounds about right. But it may not get over the goal line unless he, and the rest of the Democratic team, push even harder.
Granted, if all this works out then I'll give kudos all around, but I don't think it's wise or helpful to just assume that Obama's playing 3 dimensional chess to our checkers. All of our elected officials need to feel some pressure to move.
That said, if anyone is playing three dimensional chess it's Obama. His visit to the GOP caucus truly is must-see-tv for anyone interested in politics. It's a reminder to those us who may get frustrated and demoralized (again, see post below) that we do have a truly remarkable POTUS, that our efforts last year were indeed worth something and that in bleak times such as these not to ever count ourselves out. You can watch it here.
Paul Krugman and Ezra Klein each had excellent responses to Obama's "spending freeze." They hit on some of the same basic points, but I'd still recommend reading both.
Norm Ornstein argues that Congress has been more effective than it gets credit for.
Ta-Nehisi Coates had an interesting reaction to Mathews' comment that watching Obama's SOTU he "forgot he was black for an hour." I don't think it was anything worth getting too bent out of shape over, Mathews was just saying whatever popped into his head as usual, and I can sort of see what he was trying to get at, but it was certainly an odd thing to say. Coates acknowledges there was no malice in the comment, but goes on to make some good points about the assumptions behind it. I would actually be really interested to hear Mathews' response, but I suppose that's not likely to happen.
This kind of stuff is good to talk about though, because so much of our perceptions are rooted in unquestioned assumptions, which don't even seem like assumptions, they just seem self-evidently 'true.'... even when they're not. But for that reason it doesn't help anyone to accuse Mathews of being a "racist" for something like this, because by that definition everyone is a racist, which is true in a sense, but isn't the same thing as the kind of outright racism that truly is unacceptable. If we basically tell people they shouldn't talk about race that will only ensure their unquestioned assumptions remain intact. But Coates provides the kind of thoughtful push-back that might help us understand the issue better.
Finally, for your enjoyment, some pics from a Fred Phelps protest/counter-protest: