December 21, 2009

Hell has officially frozen over. After more than a decade of hyper-partisanship and knee-jerk, reactionary opposition to the other, the entire political spectrum of Meet the Press's roundtable panel--Markos Moulitsas, Joe Scarborough, Ed Gillespie and Tavis Smiley--all agree on one thing: the health-care reform bill sucks. There's the vaunted bipartisanship Obama sought.

Laughing off Whiter House adviser David Axelrod's spin of the historic (and not-as-bad-as-it-seems) nature of the bill, Markos points out that all this bill does is expand an already broken system, a proven failed program in Massachusetts. Scarborough adds that for all the White House talk that the insurance companies hate the bill, there is no regulation that Congress didn't capitulate on after pushback from the insurance lobbies and if they hate it so much, why has the value of their stock gone up so much recently? Former RNC Chair Ed Gillespie can barely contain his glee at the thought of the seats the GOP will pick up, because of this bill, and Smiley notes that Candidate Obama's rhetoric doesn't measure up to President Obama's actions and bemoans the incrementalism mentality:

I do believe that you have to stand on your principle. With all due respect to the White House and the President, who deserves who deserves great credit for taking this issue on and pushing further down the field than any other seven Presidents have done, you still have to ask, where is the principle that we started out with, and how firm have we stood on that principle? I thnk the danger for this White House is this: that the President and his team appear to be incrementalists. I warned the last time I was on this program, quoting Dr. King, about taking “the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.”

I love that line, and it resonates as much today as it did when Dr. King tried dissuade those who wanted to take an incremental approach to civil rights and segregation.

The sad thing is how clear this is to us here outside the Beltway, and how badly calculated this was to those inside the White House. And I don't think this was some malevolent intent on their part, but just a triangulating, DLC/Centrist move that completely didn't take into account that we now inhabit the post-Clinton/Bush era. I don't think there's any question that the White House must accept responsibility for the lameness of the bill--although they'll never do it publicly and risk giving more fodder to the GOP media--Feingold and Webb are already pointing fingers.

And at this point, I don't know what can be done to make this better. Tempting as it might be to thrown in the towel, the ramifications of that politically (you throw a bone like that to the GOP and nothing will get through Congress next session) will be a nightmare, and besides which, there's no guarantee they'd be able to achieve anything, much less anything better on a second go-round. So all in all, I have to agree with Joe Scarborough, as much as it deeply pains me to do so: we've been screwed.

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