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Saturday, March 27, 2010

loose ends and aftershocks

This Ezra Klein post is worth reading in full. Perhaps the central irony of the health care debate is that Democrats adopted Republican ideas on health care, but were nevertheless lambasted (in some cases the same people who devised the ideas in the first place). More on that here.

But it is a liberal bill in another regard: it should make a real dent in income inequality. David Leonhardt addresses one of the most important, yet underappreciated, aspects of the Affordable Care Act (as we're now calling it):

For all the political and economic uncertainties about health reform, at least one thing seems clear: The bill that President Obama signed on Tuesday is the federal government’s biggest attack on economic inequality since inequality began rising more than three decades ago.

Over most of that period, government policy and market forces have been moving in the same direction, both increasing inequality. The pretax incomes of the wealthy have soared since the late 1970s, while their tax rates have fallen more than rates for the middle class and poor.

Nearly every major aspect of the health bill pushes in the other direction. This fact helps explain why Mr. Obama was willing to spend so much political capital on the issue, even though it did not appear to be his top priority as a presidential candidate. Beyond the health reform’s effect on the medical system, it is the centerpiece of his deliberate effort to end what historians have called the age of Reagan.

Speaking to an ebullient audience of Democratic legislators and White House aides at the bill-signing ceremony on Tuesday, Mr. Obama claimed that health reform would “mark a new season in America.” He added, “We have now just enshrined, as soon as I sign this bill, the core principle that everybody should have some basic security when it comes to their health care.”

The bill is the most sweeping piece of federal legislation since Medicare was passed in 1965. It aims to smooth out one of the roughest edges in American society — the inability of many people to afford medical care after they lose a job or get sick. And it would do so in large measure by taxing the rich.

A big chunk of the money to pay for the bill comes from lifting payroll taxes on households making more than $250,000. On average, the annual tax bill for households making more than $1 million a year will rise by $46,000 in 2013, according to the Tax Policy Center, a Washington research group. Another major piece of financing would cut Medicare subsidies for private insurers, ultimately affecting their executives and shareholders.

The benefits, meanwhile, flow mostly to households making less than four times the poverty level — $88,200 for a family of four people. Those without insurance in this group will become eligible to receive subsidies or to join Medicaid. (Many of the poor are already covered by Medicaid.) Insurance costs are also likely to drop for higher-income workers at small companies.

Finally, the bill will also reduce a different kind of inequality. In the broadest sense, insurance is meant to spread the costs of an individual’s misfortune — illness, death, fire, flood — across society. Since the late 1970s, though, the share of Americans with health insurance has shrunk. As a result, the gap between the economic well-being of the sick and the healthy has been growing, at virtually every level of the income distribution.

The health reform bill will reverse that trend. By 2019, 95 percent of people are projected to be covered, up from 85 percent today (and about 90 percent in the late 1970s). Even affluent families ineligible for subsidies will benefit if they lose their insurance, by being able to buy a plan that can no longer charge more for pre-existing conditions. In effect, healthy families will be picking up most of the bill — and their insurance will be somewhat more expensive than it otherwise would have been.

Much about health reform remains unknown. Maybe it will deliver Congress to the Republicans this fall, or maybe it will help the Democrats keep power. Maybe the bill’s attempts to hold down the recent growth of medical costs will prove a big success, or maybe the results will be modest and inadequate. But the ways in which the bill attacks the inequality of the Reagan era — whether you love them or hate them — will probably be around for a long time.

The reason the liberal age (1932-1968) lasted so long and accomplished so much was in large part due to FDR's success at addressing income inequality and getting us all more or less on the same page. It's also good for the economy because when average people have extra cash they tend to spend it. If Obama and the Democrats could narrow the gap between the rich and everyone else they would be doing a great service for the country. (This, by the way, is not Communism. We're talking about finding pragmatic ways of using government to temper the inevitable excesses of the free market... not having the government take over the economy.)

But as Ronald Brownstein points out, there's a disconnect in terms of public perception, especially among whites:

On the long climb to health care reform that ended with this week's momentous signing ceremony, President Obama aimed many of his arguments at a different audience from the one targeted by predecessors who faltered on the same steep hill.

Compared with earlier presidents, Obama focused his case less on helping the uninsured and more on providing those with coverage greater leverage against their insurers. That shift was especially evident in his final drive toward passage.

And yet, polling just before the bill's approval showed that most white Americans believed that the legislation would primarily benefit the uninsured and the poor, not people like them. In a mid-March Gallup survey, 57 percent of white respondents said that the bill would make things better for the uninsured, and 52 percent said that it would improve conditions for low-income families. But only one-third of whites said that it would benefit the country overall -- and just one-fifth said that it would help their own family.

In both that Gallup Poll and the latest monthly survey by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, nonwhite respondents were much more likely than whites to say that the bill would help the country and their own families. Those responses reflect not only experience (African-Americans and Hispanics are more likely than whites to lack insurance) but also minorities' greater receptivity to government activism. By meeting a tangible need in these communities, health reform is likely to solidify the Democratic hold on the one-quarter (and growing) minority share of the electorate, especially if Republicans define themselves around demanding repeal.

But whites still cast about three-quarters of votes. And if most remain convinced that health reform primarily benefits the poor and uninsured, Democrats could find themselves caught in an unusual populist crossfire during this fall's elections.

The ACA (aka HCR) will in fact help middle class people (of all ethnicities)... in some ways immediately, but in other ways not for several years. So its still important for Democrats to sell this. I think the job will be easier now that it's passed, but they really can't rest on their laurels.

Meanwhile it seems that Republicans plan to continue their strategy of playing to the Tea Party crowd, doing everything in their power to obstruct Democratic governance, rather than engage with Democrats in an effort to secure compromises and move legislation to the right. Such engagement would certainly succeed in making future legislative more conservative, but it would also be a boon the Obama Admin., who would have succeeded in making Washington work. So we can't have that!

These dynamics were on clear display in the case of David Frum's recent criticisms of Republican strategy (linked to in my previous post), which quickly got him expelled from the American Enterprise Institute (one of the preeminent Conservative think tanks).

David Waldman:

Frum has an excellent conservative pedigree. He was a speechwriter for George W. Bush, among other things, and he remains extremely conservative today. However, over the last year or so he has been making a name for himself as a reasonable conservative, one willing to call out the Republican Party when he thinks it's making a mistake. And that, apparently, is the problem. The last straw for AEI was apparently this post on Frum's blog, where he said, "Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s," and went on to lay the blame at the all-or-nothing strategy employed by the GOP leadership.

Frum's crime was not an ideological one but a partisan one. Apparently, not only is it forbidden to question GOP strategy when it's still being executed, it's even forbidden to question it after it has already failed.

Ezra Klein:

As Frum saw clearly, if you were interested in a conservative health-care system, there was room for compromise in this bill. If Republicans had cut a deal on revenue, we could've capped the tax break for employer-sponsored insurance and there would've been no increase in Medicare payroll taxes. Health savings accounts and tort reform could've been much larger parts of the bill. A system of reinsurance for catastrophic costs, as Sen. Chuck Grassley once proposed, was certainly on the table. If Republicans had offered 40 real votes for Wyden-Bennett, I would've been on their side in this debate.

But whatever interest there was in making the outcome of this legislative process more conservative, it was swamped by the interest in making the outcome more Republican. I'm not saying that there's no reason conservatives could've found to oppose this bill. But there's no way to look at Medicare Part D and RomneyCare and conservative think tanks in the 1990s and 2000s and believe that all conservatives should've opposed this bill. There's definitely no way to square their past preferences and the rhetoric they abetted this time around. And in the final analysis, the bill is worse -- both from their perspective and mine -- for that opposition. You can pass bills on a party-line vote, but you can do more with bipartisan cover.

Which is not to say there was nothing to recommend the right's electoral strategy here. But pure obstructionism failed. You might think they'd go through a period of soul-searching now where they considered whether people like Frum might've had a point about the benefits of well-timed, principled compromise. Instead, they're excommunicating him.

Frum's wife even felt compelled to jump in:

We have both been part of the conservative movement for, as mentioned, the better part of half of our lives. And I can categorically state I’ve never seen such a hostile environment towards free thought and debate–the hallmarks of Reaganism, the politics with which we grew up–prevail in our movement as it does today. The thuggish demagoguery of the Limbaughs and Becks is a trait we once derided in the old socialist Left. Well boys, take a look in the mirror. It is us now.

Edmund Andrews:

It's hard to believe that this revelation came like a bolt out of the blue. The Republican arguments on health care, the economic stimulus and financial regulation have become so convoluted and degraded that they only make sense from the perspective of raw political strategy and Tea Party pandering.

What holds the Republican Party together isn't anything remotely like a coherent philosophy or set of values. The only things holding it together are group-think based on a cold calculation of how best to block the Democrats and rile the base. It's an intellectual circling of the wagons. Small wonder that it becomes oppressive.

I am tempted to think that the revulsion expressed Crittenden is part of a bigger ferment among Republicans. I'd like to think that there is a group of young Turks or moderates who agree with Frum that the GOP health-care rejectionism will turn out to be the party's Waterloo. I'd like to think that there is a new generation GOP that is ready to take a chance on constructive engagement.

But my good friend Bruce Bartlett is skeptical. Republican leaders think their strategy since the 2008 election has been a great success. If they win back House and Senate seats this fall -- as they almost certainly will -- they'll argue that their strategy has been vindicated. And the truth is, the Young Turks are among the most fervent of the hard-liners -- the Jeb Hensarlings, Paul Ryans. The moderates are disappearing faster than ever, and the ones who stay are disdained.

Matthew Yglesias adds:

I think that to understand what’s wrong with the conservative movement today, you need to think about Barry Goldwater’s 1964 Presidential campaign. In ‘64, the GOP establishment felt that Goldwater was too radical. They said that nominating a hard-rightist like Goldwater would be counterproductive. But conservative activists worked hard, and they did it. Goldwater got the nod. And, just as the establishment predicted, Goldwater got crushed. And just as the established predicted, it proved to be counterproductive. The 1964 landslide led directly to Medicare, Medicaid, Title I education spending, and the “war on poverty.” In the 45 years since that fateful campaign, the conservative movement managed to gain total control over the Republican Party and to sporadically govern the country. But it’s only very partially rolled back one aspect of the Johnson administration’s domestic policy.

Which is just to say that the conservative movement from 1964-2009 was a giant failure. By nominating Goldwater, it invited a massive progressive win that all the subsequent conservative wins were unable to undue. But the orthodox conservative tradition of ‘64 is that it was a great success that laid the groundwork for the triumphs to come.

Which is to say that it’s not just a movement incapable of thinking seriously about the interests of the country, it can’t think rigorously about its own goals. 2009-2010 has already seen the greatest flowering of progressive policy since 1965-66. No matter how well Republicans do in the 2010 midterms, the right will never fully roll back what the 111th Congress has done. And yet, as Andrews suggests, if they win seats in 2010, conservatives will consider their behavior during 2009-10 to have been very successful.

So maybe Republican insanity is a good thing! But in the big scheme of things it really isn't. The reality is that power tends to shift back and forth between the two parties, so having one party dominated by lunatics doesn't bode well.

Paul Krugman:

I admit it: I had fun watching right-wingers go wild as health reform finally became law. But a few days later, it doesn’t seem quite as entertaining — and not just because of the wave of vandalism and threats aimed at Democratic lawmakers. For if you care about America’s future, you can’t be happy as extremists take full control of one of our two great political parties.

To be sure, it was enjoyable watching Representative Devin Nunes, a Republican of California, warn that by passing health reform, Democrats “will finally lay the cornerstone of their socialist utopia on the backs of the American people.” Gosh, that sounds uncomfortable. And it’s been a hoot watching Mitt Romney squirm as he tries to distance himself from a plan that, as he knows full well, is nearly identical to the reform he himself pushed through as governor of Massachusetts. His best shot was declaring that enacting reform was an “unconscionable abuse of power,” a “historic usurpation of the legislative process” — presumably because the legislative process isn’t supposed to include things like “votes” in which the majority prevails.

What has been really striking has been the eliminationist rhetoric of the G.O.P., coming not from some radical fringe but from the party’s leaders. John Boehner, the House minority leader, declared that the passage of health reform was “Armageddon.” The Republican National Committee put out a fund-raising appeal that included a picture of Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, surrounded by flames, while the committee’s chairman declared that it was time to put Ms. Pelosi on “the firing line.” And Sarah Palin put out a map literally putting Democratic lawmakers in the cross hairs of a rifle sight.

In the short run, Republican extremism may be good for Democrats, to the extent that it prompts a voter backlash. But in the long run, it’s a very bad thing for America. We need to have two reasonable, rational parties in this country. And right now we don’t.

Well, yesterday was Pelosi's 70th birthday, so at risk of overdoing it, here's a little more love for our Speaker...

AT THE end of January, when all of Washington was wailing that Scott Brown’s election to the US Senate meant a stake in the heart of health care reform, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a press conference and outlined her plan for the bill. “You go through the gate,’’ she said. “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 are going to get health care reform passed for the American people.’’

You have to admire the grit and persistence of Pelosi, whose persuasive powers were at their height in the days leading up to the vote. Buffeted by doubts even from within the White House, she held her seat, and managed to cajole both the pro-life conservative Bart Stupak and the single-payer liberal Dennis Kucinich into supporting the bill. That’s some savvy legislating.

“She’s no-nonsense,’’ said Boston congressman Michael Capuano, who is close to the speaker. “She’s a liberal at heart but she knows when to give and when to take.’’

In forcefully arguing for major reform, and in successfully lining up the votes for it, Pelosi was reflecting the two distinct strands of her political heritage. Along with her fellow Californians Howard L. Berman, George Miller and Henry A. Waxman, she is one of the four members of the House Democratic caucus who were proteges of the late Phil Burton -- the militantly liberal, legislatively brilliant San Francisco congressman who dominated the House during the 1970s.

Pelosi is also the daughter of Thomas D'Alesandro Jr., a New Deal-era congressman who became mayor of Baltimore. D'Alesandro was an old-style ethnic machine pol with liberal values, and Pelosi's own rise through the ranks of the House Democratic caucus was greatly aided by support from similarly old-style, tough, deal-making Democrats such as David R. Obey and the late John P. Murtha, who found in her a deal-making ability to equal their own.

San Francisco and Baltimore, West Coast liberal and New Deal boss -- you can see all these in Pelosi's passion, her charm, her toughness, her smarts. You can see them in the battle she waged: Waxman and Miller were the key authors of the House bill, and she put tough-as-nails Obey in the chair Sunday night to guard against Republican obstruction as the House finally voted on the contentious legislation.

On Friday -- though she surely doesn't look it -- Nancy Pelosi turns 70. Not a bad couple of weeks' work, Madame Speaker. Happy birthday.

Even now she's urging her colleagues to go on offense... go Nancy!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

victory... feels nice

Well it's absurd for me not to post on what's easily Obama's biggest achievement, so here goes. The health care debate was brutal, and certainly from a liberal perspective a lot of concessions were made. But there's a reason this problem has festered for so long: it's a ridiculously difficult needle to thread. I do believe this legislation is going to help a lot of people, is going to keep our fiscal situation from spiraling out of control, and will irrevocably establish health care as a right, not a privilege. We'll be revisiting this subject as a Nation on a regular basis, and can look forward to many more fights on the subject... but not like this one. The basic framework has now been established, and regardless of Republican bluster it will not be repealed. And of course it's a crucial victory in a political sense as well. A loss would have been crippling, and conversely the victory gives new lift to the various other major priorities on Obama's docket. I feel really happy, but mostly just so relieved that they pulled this off. Just think, we can't gripe so much about how ineffectual Democrats are... they actually DID something!

Even when the "fixes" that have to be approved by the Senate are made, the health-care bill will still be something of a mess. But it's a glorious mess, because it enshrines the principle that all Americans have the right to health care -- an extraordinary achievement that will make this a better nation.

It may take years to get the details right. The newly minted reforms are going to need to be reformed or at least fine-tuned, and those will not be easy battles. But the social movements that allowed Obama to become president and Pelosi to become speaker proved that the arc of history bends toward fairness and inclusion.

Needed change must not be thwarted, even if some people find it hard to accept. Obama got it right in his remarks following the vote: "We did not fear our future. We shaped it."

Jonathan Chait:

Historians will see this health care bill as a masterfully crafted piece of legislation. Obama and the Democrats managed to bring together most of the stakeholders and every single Senator in their party. The new law untangles the dysfunctionalities of the individual insurance market while fulfilling the political imperative of leaving the employer-provided system in place. Through determined advocacy, and against special interest opposition, they put into place numerous reforms to force efficiency into a wasteful system. They found hundreds of billions of dollars in payment offsets, a monumental task in itself. And they will bring economic and physical security to tens of millions of Americans who would otherwise risk seeing their lives torn apart. Health care experts for decades have bemoaned the impossibility of such reforms--the system is wasteful, but the very waste creates a powerful constituency for the status quo. Finally, the Democrats have begun to untangle the Gordian knot. It's a staggering political task and substantive achievement.

E.J. Dionne:

There will be years of wrangling over the system's costs and how it works in practice. Every successful health system in the world confronts such arguments. This new law will not end all our health care problems (no law could), but it does a great deal for access, and it makes solving other problems a little easier. Above all, it puts us on a new path.

For Obama, this struggle was transformative. He began his administration full of hope that his campaign pledge to achieve concord across party lines was a realistic possibility. But, when faced with implacable Republican opposition, he jettisoned the happy talk and came out fighting.

If bipartisanship is more fashionable than partisanship, partisanship with a purpose is infinitely preferable to paralysis. Obama has made clear that he will reach out when he can, and do battle when he must.

By temperament, the president is more a consensus builder than a warrior. But he is also a practical man who wants to accomplish big things.

On Sunday, he did just that on health care, and he earned a place in history.

Andrew Sprung:

The flip side of Obama's perhaps naive belief that he can win Republicans over is his ability to show them up. Americans are confused about the plan, but they are not confused about the man. By large margins they trust Obama more than they do the Republicans to produce rational solutions to the country's problems. In the past month, he exploited his mastery of policy detail, his pragmatism, his focus on effectively alleviating the suffering he spotlighted, and his willingness to stake his political future on getting this bill passed to the utmost. The full eloquence and passion of the campaign came back to his lips in forum after forum and speech after speech. To Democratic legislators, his message was that this bill epitomized why they had sought public office and why they were Democrats; it was the raison d'etre for their careers; in effect, passing it was worth their careers (and would make or break his own). In the bipartisan summit, he framed a core contrast: the Democrats would rein in the health insurers' worst practices; the Republicans would further enable them by weakening existing regulations. In rallies, he emphasized human suffering caused by leaving people uninsured and underinsured and enumerated the bill's benefits for ordinary people. As noted before, too, he presented the effort as a litmus test as to whether the Federal government was capable of taking meaningful action to solve national problems. He moved the needle of public opinion enough to move enough House Democrats to "yes."

The process may have been frustrating, and long, and ugly, as Obama told the crowd at George Mason on Friday. But it was also glorious. Obama has been telling crowds since 2007 that change wasn't going to be easy, but that it was possible with focus and persistence and courage. He just proved it.

Mark Schmitt:

It is a staggering achievement that Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, and others have carried this reform to the end despite these circumstances. Unfortunately, the toxic -- and easily manipulated -- political environment remains, and a lot of anxious moments still lie ahead. It's certainly dangerous to launch such a major program with one political party entirely committed to stirring up a backlash; "Repeal and Replace," we're told, will be the Republican motto in the fall. It's possible that the law's popularity might not rest on its true success – it may be blamed for insurance rate increases or credited for unrelated improvements.

But that's too narrow a view of the bill's long-term effect on our political culture and the possibilities for further progressive movement. Social Security, for example, is not just politically successful in the sense that it's popular. It's successful because it dramatically reduced the fear associated with old age or disability. It gave Americans a confidence that they would be protected, a confidence that led to a greater generosity when it came to later efforts, such as Medicaid and Medicare. Health reform will succeed politically not by being popular but by working. That is, by giving Americans a much greater sense that they are not on the brink of losing everything, that they can change jobs or start their own business or admit to a medical condition without risking disaster.

David Frum, former Bush speechwriter, came down hard on Republicans.

I saw another Republican dismiss Frum by saying as a former WH staffer he's never been accountable to anyone, which I interpreted as meaning he's never been accountable to Republican voters, who are batshit crazy.

Here are some of the lovely messages Bart Stupak's been receiving:

Jim Clyburn talked about Republican leaders responsibility to tamp down the rhetoric:

Bob Herbert has had it with Republicans:

For decades the G.O.P. has been the party of fear, ignorance and divisiveness. All you have to do is look around to see what it has done to the country. The greatest economic inequality since the Gilded Age was followed by a near-total collapse of the overall economy. As a country, we have a monumental mess on our hands and still the Republicans have nothing to offer in the way of a remedy except more tax cuts for the rich.

This is the party of trickle down and weapons of mass destruction, the party of birthers and death-panel lunatics. This is the party that genuflects at the altar of right-wing talk radio, with its insane, nauseating, nonstop commitment to hatred and bigotry.

Glenn Beck of Fox News has called President Obama a “racist” and asserted that he “has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.”

Mike Huckabee, a former Republican presidential candidate, has said of Mr. Obama’s economic policies: “Lenin and Stalin would love this stuff.”

The G.O.P. poisons the political atmosphere and then has the gall to complain about an absence of bipartisanship.

David Shuster calls out Sen. Coburn and others for the kind of hyperbolic language that incites violence:

Dems have flipped the script on Republicans:

The health-care bill that hung around Democrats’ necks for the last several months – right up to the final vote Sunday when some vulnerable congressmen were convinced to support it – has suddenly become a weapon.

If politics were war, Republicans would have just been lured from their walled city to chase a force they thought was retreating, only to find Democrats suddenly turning and attacking them head-on.

Even before the bill passed, President Obama had begun pounding the message that the new legislation would immediately benefit many Americans, and cast Republicans who opposed the bill as on the side of greedy insurers.

Hours after the bill passed, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs set the talking points: “[I]f people want to campaign on taking tax cuts away from small businesses, taking assistance away from seniors getting prescription drugs, and want to take away a mother knowing that their child can’t be discriminated against by an insurance company … we’ll have a robust campaign on that,” he said at the Monday briefing.

Tom Jensen says "repeal" has its risks for Republicans (besides it, you know, being impossible):

One of the biggest problems for Democrats on this issue and one that has contributed to the bill's unpopularity is that health care is not high on the list of things most Americans are concerned with right now. They've overwhelmingly focused on jobs and the economy, and they've seen the Democratic fixation on health care as a distraction from more important and pressing issues. We've seen over and over that much of the actual content of the health care bill is perfectly popular. It's the overall process that has really turned voters off and for that Democrats have received the blame.

If the Republicans now keep health care in the spotlight by trying to repeal it,
they will be the ones independents voters see as having skewed priorities and they may start to pay the price. Yes, repeal will play well with the base. But focusing on that has a high potential to turn off independent swing voters who have been leaning toward the GOP but are sick of the health care debate and want Washington to be more focused on something else.

Some behind the scenes accounts:

WaPo: How Obama revived HCR

LAT: HCR was Obama's proving ground

Ambinder on the vote

Here's 3000 words worth of Tom Toles:




Here's a nifty little tool that will tell you how the health care bill will affect you.

Some pics...

It was looking rough there for a while:

P011510PS-0378 by The White House.

P031910PS-1090 by The White House.

But he pulled it out:

P032310PS-0178 by The White House.

P032210PS-0292 by The White House.

P032110PS-1115 by The White House.

(lots more photos here)

... but I still vote Nancy for HCR MVP


Sara Mosle (Slate):

She is both ruthlessly effective and quietly feminine. After the House passed health care reform last November in a narrow, difficult vote, Politico reported that Pelosi walked out of the chamber and commented serenely: “That was easy.” Indeed, she's so calm and collected, she makes Obama look like a drama queen. When he was freaking out after Scott Brown's election, she coolly told him to get a spine and helped salvage his top domestic agenda. She never appears to lose it or even raise her voice. (Love her or hate her, no one can credibly accuse her of being hysterical or a harpy.) Indeed, she often seems to talk in a breathy whisper. At the same time, she may be the most able politician and strong-arming vote-getter since LBJ. But far from resenting her power as a woman, her mostly male colleagues in the Democratic House appear to idolize her (in much the way conservative men in Britain used to adore Margaret Thatcher).

Here she is walking to the Capitol with John Lewis and other Congressmen, holding the gavel that passed Medicare, while protesters shout at them.

What a badass.

I'll end with Obama's rousing statement on what HCR means for America. Definitely watch, it's what the guy is all about:

Saturday, March 20, 2010

bound to be true

Well folks, over a year's worth of debate all comes down to tomorrow. The stakes couldn't be higher.

Here's what's been happening today.

If this passes Pelosi gets the MVP award

In the jittery days following Scott Brown’s Senate victory, Nancy Pelosi was eager to resurrect comprehensive health reform. But first, she had to get past longtime ally Rahm Emanuel, who was counseling President Barack Obama to consider a smaller, piecemeal approach.

During a mid-February conference call with top House Democrats, Pelosi made it clear she would accept nothing short of a big-bang health care push – dismissing the White House chief of staff as an “incrementalist.”

Pelosi even coined a term to describe Emanuel’s scaled-down approach: “Kiddie Care,” according to a person privy to the call.

Pelosi’s remark was more than just a diss. It sent a clear signal to House leadership that Pelosi wouldn’t compromise – and it coincided with Obama’s own decision to renew his push for an all-encompassing bill after weeks of confusion and discussion.

The rebirth of the reform effort is the result of a little luck, insurance company avarice, a subsiding of post-Brown panic among party incumbents and the calculation by many Hill Democrats that going small or giving up was just as politically perilous as going big.

But the main reason the bill has made it to the floor has as much to do with the complex, occasionally tense, ever-evolving partnership between the first African-American president and the first female speaker.

“I think [Pelosi] is the one who has kept the steel in the President’s back – and I think she represents that to Harry Reid too,” Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Pelosi’s closest friend in Congress, told POLITICO.

“White Houses end up with – how do I say this? — they take an incrementalism pill,” added Eshoo. “But Nancy Pelosi is not an incrementalist.”

Neither is Obama, says Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), it’s just that he moves more deliberately. “I don’t think [the White House] were there from Day One, but they were from Day Two,” he said. “I think they knew this would be the way.”

Ronald Brownstein:

The grueling health care struggle, now nearing a decisive vote in the House, has filled in a picture of Obama that remained stubbornly unfinished through his first year. Most immediately, it has shattered the image of him as a passionless president, too cool to fully commit to any cause.

Win or lose, Obama has pursued health care reform as tenaciously as any president has pursued any domestic initiative in decades. Health care has now been his presidency's central domestic focus for a full year. That's about as long as it took to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, originally introduced by John F. Kennedy and driven home by Lyndon Johnson. Rarely since World War II has a president devoted so much time, at so much political cost, to shouldering a single priority through Congress. It's reasonable to debate whether Obama should have invested so heavily in health care. But it's difficult to quibble with Emanuel's assessment that once the president placed that bet, "He has shown fortitude, stamina, and strength."

Marc Ambinder:

Whatever you believe about health care reform, it's hard to escape the conclusion that for one party, opposing reform was expedient, and for another, supporting it required the summoning of an uncommon degree of bravery and a resistance to every base political instinct.

And a bit off topic, but you gotta love Fox News:

Stewart's Glenn Beck impression borders on performance art:

I'll close with the Lincoln quote that Obama cited at the Congressional Caucus meeting today (the only thing he wrote down for his speech, which was off the cuff):
"I am not bound to win, but I'm bound to be true. I'm not bound to succeed, but I'm bound to live up to what light I have."
-Abraham Lincoln