September 2, 2009

OK, not that I'm tooting my own horn, but I wrote a little bit about David Axelrod's typical strategy on Monday called "Did we elect President Rahm or President Obama?"

Basically, his strategy is to wait until the very last second to insert President Obama back into the debate after it gets away from him. Unfortunately, it also reflects how badly the president has handled the situation by not standing behind any firm idea one way or another. We saw it again and again during the campaign and David is doing it just that with health care reform.

The White House says Obama may detail his health care goals before Senate negotiators finish.

The president is considering a speech in the next week or so in which he would be "more prescriptive" about what he feels Congress must include in a bill, top adviser David Axelrod said Tuesday in an interview. The speech might occur before the Sept. 15 deadline the White House gave to Senate negotiators to seek a bipartisan bill, Axelrod said. He suggested that two key Republicans have not bargained in good faith.

Congress reconvenes next Tuesday after an August recess in which critics of Obama's health proposals dominated many public forums.

Some Obama allies, watching his approval ratings tumble in polls along with support for a health care overhaul, have urged the president to take a more hands-on approach. They feel he gave too much leeway to Congress, where one bill has passed three House committees, another has passed a Senate committee and a third has been bogged down in protracted negotiations in the Senate Finance Committee.

Axelrod indicated that Obama would not offer new proposals but would be more specific about his top priorities.

"The ideas are all there on the table," Axelrod said. "Now we are in a new phase, and it's time to pull the strands of these together."

He said there is serious discussion in the White House of Obama "giving a speech that lays out in specific ways what he thinks" about the essential elements of a health care bill.

Axelrod said it was possible that the speech could occur before a planned Sept. 15 Obama address on health care in Pittsburgh.

Obama has called for innovations such as a public health insurance plan to compete with private insurers, but he has not insisted on it. It was not clear Tuesday the degree to which he might press for various proposals in a new speech.

Obama also plans to meet with Democratic congressional leaders on Tuesday.

Axelrod condemned recent comments by two chief Senate Republican negotiators -- Charles Grassley of Iowa and Mike Enzi of Wyoming -- who have sharply criticized key elements of Democrats' health care plans even as they insisted that a workable bipartisan plan was on

The fact that Republicans have acted in such bad faith opens the door for Obama to be rid of the bipartisan solution and tell America he has to do it alone. There's no mention of what the president will say, but this is what I had expected. The fight for the public option is still on, even though I received a few emails telling me that the media is reporting the WH said the public option was dead. We'll see. Hold on, because Blue America isn't sitting back. We're gearing up for a new action.

Now they are floating more trial balloons out there and there's a report in the Politico that has Axelrod saying they won't back the public option in stone. And he says it's late in the game so he needs his closer to come in and save the day. Is President Obama now Mariano Rivera?

Adam Green says: David Axelrod Laying Groundwork For Dem Loss in 2010?

A tip: When a reporter quotes a single source in a story (quoting him eight times, no less) and then has a random controversial comment from "an aide" -- chances are that aide is Axelrod.

Axelrod apparently is missing the polls.

Axelrod -- do you know the surest way to ensure that Dems running in 2010 have a diminished base and lose independent voters? Force them to oppose the public option!

Digby writes:

The Republicans won't participate, of course. The liberals he armtwists will resent him for forcing them to walk the plank with their own voters. His base will be demoralized and verging on active hostility. The mythical "center" will shrug their shoulders and move on to the next issue. (They are, by their own definition, disloyal.) Only the Blue Dog and DLC politicians who got paid by the medical industry will happily stand by his side at the signing ceremony, with visions of lobbyist cash dancing in their heads. I hope he really, really likes them because they will be the only enthusiastic supporters he has left after this.

I have a question: is it true that Real Americans greatly admire politicians who loathe their own supporters and publicly and repeatedly kick them once they obtain office? I honestly don't know the answer to that, but it seems that the Democrats are convinced of it. It's an interesting psychology, to say the least, but one which I have never understood.

Update: Keep in mind that it ain't over til it's over. Obama is worried about his approval ratings, but he's not stupid. He sees the same legislative roadblocks that everyone else sees and has to realize by now that the path to health care is through the Democratic Party alone. And that means the liberal are still in play whether he likes it or not.

AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Richard Trumka on MSNBC said (as Logan reported earlier) they will not back anything that doesn't have a public option.

AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Richard Trumka told the press that this means the 11 million member-strong labor organization “won’t support the bill if it doesn’t have the public option in it.” Today, Trumka appeared on MSNBC and explained to Norah O’Donnell that the inclusion of these three elements marks the difference between “coming up with a bill that you have reform and actually having health insurance reform.”

The president is supposed to speak at a labor day function in Cincy to the AFL-CIO so I wonder what he'll say.

And mcjoan has more:

So the Baucus debacle now seems dead, reconciliation for healthcare reform more likely than ever, and the Dems' slipping poll numbers arguing for bolder, conclusive action--for change we can believe in. All this leads to an interesting situation for Obama and Congress, as Greg point out:

Interestingly, this has created a built-in tension: While Senate Dems have more control over whether health care succeeds, the stakes are higher for House Dems. It’s a tougher cycle for the House, aides say, meaning they’d likely face bigger losses if Senate Dems can’t resolve their impasse with Republicans or if they don’t opt for reconciliation to get reform done.

Either way, if they look hard enough, liberals can locate something of a silver lining in all the bad news: It ups the pressure on Congressional Dems not just to do health care this year, but do it right.

Everything points to the need to "do it right." Let's hope that realization filters up to the White House, too, before Obama negotiates himself out of good options.

dday writes: How To Lose The Presidency In Four Years

I find it hard to believe that the White House would be so stupid as to think that making the least popular choices to the majority of Americans making under $50,000-$60,000/year would be just the ticket to increase the President's popularity. Actually, just kidding, I don't find it so hard.

It goes on and on...Now it's suddenly becoming the Olympia Snowe Bill from CNN's Ed Henry:

HENRY: My colleague Dana Bash and I have learned from a source, each one of us, that this White House right now is very quietly in serious conversations with Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, a key moderate. She is basically the last Republican out of those gang of six senators who have been negotiating, really the last Republican that has an open line to this White House right now. What we're hearing that she's talking about with White House staff is sort of a scaled-back bill that would focus on insurance reforms that both sides could agree to, but would not have a full public option, instead, would have a so-called trigger.

What that means in layman's terms is basically that the insurance companies would have a couple of years to make some dramatic changes. If they do not make those changes, then a public option would be triggered. So, it would be used down the road. They would hope that this would appease liberals by saying it's not completely off the table. And the big hope is that this could bring along another moderate Republican, like maybe Susan Collins of Maine, some conservative Democrats, like Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu in the Senate, who don't want a public option, but would sort of potentially be open to a trigger like this.

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