October 12, 2009

The Villagers on the Chris Matthews panel all agree on a couple of points. The dirty f-ing hippies on the left have no right to demand anything of President Obama and were silly to think he’d live up to his campaign promise to reform our health care system. And two, any bill, whether it’s terrible or not that the President signs will be “transformational” and “historic”.

It doesn’t matter to them if it’s a crap sandwich which ends up being nothing but a giveaway to the insurance industry. What matters is that it passes. Andrea Mitchell seems positively giddy at the idea that it will be “criticized from all sides”. That’s a good thing Andrea?

While I agree with them on Afghanistan and that the President did not promise to get us out of there, President Obama did promise some real reform on health care and he also talked about cleaning the lobbyists and their influence out of Washington. This is hardly what’s going on now with Max Baucus and his lobbyists writing the health care bill in the Senate Finance Committee.

And Clarence Page conflates going between single-payer and the public option to the compromises being talked about now. Note to Clarence Page. Going from the public option to a trigger—or no public option at all—is not the same as hedging between single payer and the public option. One is an already bad compromise that might lead to reform. The other is just loading up the pockets of the insurance industry by forcing everyone into the system with no price controls.

Transcript below the fold.

MATTHEWS: Well, I'm not so sure that's fair.

BORGER: He's...

MATTHEWS: I think Biden's position, what I've been able to get is hold.

MITCHELL: I think Biden is more nuanced.


MATTHEWS: Not pull out and hold.


MATTHEWS: At least the troop level we're at right now. Not to go back the other way.

BORGER: Biden's not talking about withdrawing.

IGNATIUS: There was an argument that we should have a much more restrictive counterterrorism approach here...


IGNATIUS: ...whether it's Biden or somebody else. But essentially, the president took that off the table. But I do think he wants to make sure he gets it right, and I have a feeling the public supports that.

BORGER: He took--he took withdrawal off the table from Afghanistan.

MATTHEWS: Well, here's what I don't get. How could--well, that's right.

BORGER: But that's not what Biden was saying.



MATTHEWS: On this point, a couple areas. I'm going to start with this one, with the left, the people--the netroots, the people who make all the noise...

BORGER: Right.

MATTHEWS: ...on the--on the cable and elsewhere--are all out there complaining, kvetching, going crazy, `Hey, why don't we pull out of Afghanistan? He promised.' No. Where do they get these promises from?

BORGER: He never...


BORGER: And they--and the same thing on health care, public...

MATTHEWS: He never promised to pull out of Afghanistan. He said that's the war we have to fight.

PAGE: It's perception.

BORGER: It's--yeah. It's that.

MATTHEWS: How can the left dictate this guy's scorecard?

BORGER: He did not promise that. He didn't promise, for example, during the campaign--did you hear the words "public option" uttered...


BORGER: ...from Barack Obama during the campaign?

PAGE: He never came down on that, right.

BORGER: He did not utter those words. I think it's sort of an entitlement; `We got you elected, you're our guy. You need to do what we want you to do.' And what we see in the president's review...

MATTHEWS: Yeah. Well...

BORGER: ...is somebody--is somebody who is acting as commander in chief.

MATTHEWS: OK. How does this happen--journalists here. You're all journalists. How does the world get this picture that he promised something on the public option? He promised to get out of Afghanistan? Well, we all know from the record, he said fight Afghanistan and let's get health care done in a very general way.

PAGE: Well, I saw--I saw it happen.

MITCHELL: Because...

PAGE: I was one of the people who was pressing him as a candidate on public option and single payer, and he reused to be pinned down on that. He kept--he kept wiggling around it. But, you know, hope and change was radiating all over the place and...


PAGE: ...really the perception went out that he was going to solve the problem. And the people on left always said, `We need something serious, like'...

MATTHEWS: OK, here's the question, then, Clarence, for you, since you're on this.

PAGE: Yep. Go ahead.

MATTHEWS: Is he smart to play it loose...

PAGE: I think...

MATTHEWS: ...to play it loose so far, not nail down particulars, so that when he gets near signing a bill he can sign it?

PAGE: It's his style. You know, he does not want to define the goal too strictly because he wants to leave wiggle room...

MATTHEWS: So why is he for health care reform if he can't tell us why?

PAGE: ...for his adversary--I'm sorry, for which?

MATTHEWS: Why's he for health care reform if he can't say what he wants?

PAGE: Well, what is reform, Chris? You know, reform means to recast...(unintelligible).

MATTHEWS: Anybody have a thought on this?

MITCHELL: I think--I think...

MATTHEWS: What is health care?

BORGER: You know what...(unintelligible).

MITCHELL: Yeah, I think it's smart for him to keep his options open. You don't say, `I'm going to veto if it does not include this.' He has to leave running room for the--for the compromising that's going to take place within the Senate committees and then eventually when it gets to the floor.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let's go back to the topic of the week, what we started with, the question, performance vs. promise. We asked The Matthews Meter, 12 of our regulars, is all the criticism that Obama is stalled right now more perception or is it based on reality? Well, eight of our meterites say it's perception; four say it's reality.

Gloria--Andrea and Clarence, you two in the middle, say it's perception. But Gloria, closest to me, says it's reality, he hasn't measured up to expectations and promise.

BORGER: Yeah. Well, I think it's because he walked on water when he came--when he came into office, and it's very difficult to live up to that. I think health care, as we were saying earlier, is the key to this. And I think, in fact, he may have hung out of the discussions a little too long.


BORGER: He did come out for a public option. I think when he gets a health care bill, because I believe he will get a health care bill--maybe New Year's Eve, but he will get it.

PAGE: Mm-hmm.

BORGER: Then the perceptions and the reality will change.

MATTHEWS: So the bottom line, if he does get a bill that he can sign, it will be a transformational first year in the presidency.

BORGER: It will be for him.

MATTHEWS: Will it? If he gets a bill and signs it, will it be a transformation?

PAGE: Well, that's right. And he's banking on that. He's going--he's going to get a bill. The only debate will be whether it's enough or not.

MATTHEWS: Will it be a transforming, historic presidency to begin with?

PAGE: Well, just getting a health care reform bill out right now, that will be transformational.


PAGE: Because look at history, we haven't tried for 100 years to do this.

MATTHEWS: I agree with you.

MITCHELL: Absolutely. It'll be a first step, but it'll be transformational.

IGNATIUS: Health care--health care's a start. There's a lot in the oven, and that stuff may...

MATTHEWS: Will it make him--will he make history if he does this?

IGNATIUS: It's a huge change in American social landscape.


IGNATIUS: But yes, it is a--it will be an historic bill.

BORGER: Right, absolutely.

PAGE: Economic.

MATTHEWS: We're agreed. Four for four.

IGNATIUS: He will take credit for it and the country'll be happy about it.

BORGER: Right.

MATTHEWS: OK, still up in the air. You guys think he'll get a bill, right?

PAGE: Oh, yeah.




MATTHEWS: And it will be historic.

PAGE: Yes, by its very nature.

BORGER: Not for what it will be...

MITCHELL: It'll be...

IGNATIUS: Very--extremely historic.

MATTHEWS: Now that we've gotten something serious settled, let's get to this.

BORGER: Just getting anything.

MITCHELL: And still criticized from all sides.

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