Watching August finally come to a close, I couldn't help but notice that the strategy being used by David Axlerod on the health care reform debate is pretty much the same one he's used throughout the primaries and the general election: David allows the debate to drift off, loses the messaging almost completely, the media runs afoul with wingnuttery and then Axlerod brings President Obama back in so he can swoop down and save the day at the last second.
How's that working for him now?
It might have had a better chance of working if the President had given more definitive answers to what he wanted in health care reform. Instead, he turned the entire legislative process over to Congress, the Baucus Dogs, the Blue Dogs and the Chuck Grassleys, and now it's a mess.
If a bill is passed without a public option, President Obama is in jeopardy of losing his base now. If he doesn't want to lose the left, he must speak out and make clear what he wants in the bill that includes a vibrant public option.
Rahm Emanuel, his Chief of Staff, has always been the biggest supporter of the Blue Dogs and it seems like it's part of his strategy to let them block real change to the system and is making sure that the insurance companies still rule the world. Without ever going out on a limb and saying what exactly he wants to pass in health care, he's allowed the right ring fanatics to spew their Beckerwocky, brandish their assault rifles at his events and it shows in the polls. If President Obama loses his base, then who will be there to get his back as his presidency continues? As Mike Lux has written, it's Bush's base that kept him afloat when things got rough and without them, he surely would have lost the 2004 election.
Chris Bowers writes:
In both branches of Congress, Democrats already have the votes and procedural options in place to pass a public option on health care reform. This means it is possible to pass a public option now. it also means that if a public option does not pass as part of health care reform, it will be a because of a political calculation made by the Democratic leadership, not because there was no way to pass one...read on
We have the votes and we have the power, but does the will to really change health care exist? Only time will tell, but the Obama administration is at the precipice now on health care. When Congress comes back in session the time for games, trial balloons and focus groups are over. We voted you in to make real change and not phony compromises. Allowing conservatives to dictate health care and his agenda was never something the almost 70,000,000 who voted for him wanted.
I didn't vote for Rahm Emanuel, did you?
He still has time to make it work, but that time is running out.
UPDATE: I watched Chuck Todd say on MSNBC a little while ago that we should all circle the date 09/15/09. That's the day of reckoning. He also is reporting that President Obama's true health care bill of love is the Baucus Bill and that's the one he'll get behind. How does Chuck know that? I'm not sure, but he's an elitist Villager.
Chuck Todd is a bit of a dim bulb, but he is a perfect purveyor of beltway conventional wisdom. His proclamation is what the Village believes and regardless of whether or not it's true, the debate will be shaped by that preconceived notion.
Just a word to the wise: as of September 15th, if the committee reports out a bill as promised, the proponents of real health care reform will be fighting the notion that the debate is over and anything more than minor cosmetic changes to the bucket of corporate compost the Finance Committee serves up will be portrayed as Obama caving to the hippies. Plan your arguments accordingly.
Update III: Ooooh. The plot thickens. "Robust" public option or nothing? Brian Buetler reports...
The Republican obstructonism, from a number of anlges, is pushing Obama to choose between a good plan or nothing.
If he picks a good plan, maybe we should send them all thank-you notes.