A few years ago, when my beloved Washington Redskins were having one of their craptacular seasons, an article quoted a player from one of the teams who had played against the Redskins about what exactly was allowing so many teams to win. The player noted that while the Redskins looked impressive on paper, once they got on the field the other team had only to get one good punch in and they would fold for the rest of the game - leading to a romp.
In other words, they had a glass jaw.
If the tussle over the public option component of health care reform continues along what seems to be its current trajectory, the Obama administration will have taken a serious punch to the face and the GOP will end up running all over them.
The main problem here is that President Obama seems overly focused on getting some kind of bipartisanship out of Washington, but the problem is he's going about it using the Tom Daschle method. Many of us will remember the days where Tom Daschle led as minority leader and majority leader as marked by all sorts of ridiculous concessions to the Bush administration and the Republicans - most notably on the Iraq War. In retrospect all that bipartisanship led to was the loss of political power and clout for the Democrats, and more importantly, the near-ruination of the prestige and fiscal supremacy of the United States. That's all.
In theory, concessions on these things are supposed to lead to votes. Senator X wants this, okay we do it, now we have his vote. Representative Y really wants this to cost this much, okay we do it, now we have her vote. The problem is President Obama and the leadership in the Senate (for now, the House seems to be sticking to their guns) seem to be in a mode of permanent concession that is not going to produce any Republican votes.
The Dems could negotiate health care reform down to a band-aid and a sheet of prayer and the GOP wouldn't vote for it because the band-aid cost too much. Gotta be "deficit neutral", you know!
I don't get this. And while intellectually I sort of understand the various moving parts that have to be juggled around simultaneously, my gut feeling - and I'm sure the same goes for much of the American majority who supported the President and the Congress - is that we have the votes to get things accomplished, so why are even playing this game?
There are 60 votes for cloture in the Senate - at least there should be unless any Democrat is stupid enough to filibuster health care reform for Christ's sake, and there has got to be at least 51 Dems with the guts to do this thing, or why bother? In the House the margins are even better, with 40 votes of wiggle room for Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer. GET IT DONE.
I've often written here about how I think its kind of ridiculous how the religious right invests so much in Republicans expecting things like the outlawing of abortion - their ultimate goal - and instead Republican presidents like Bush refuse to do more than make a phone call to their rallies, let alone enact actual legislation related to their cause.
President Obama and the Democratic Congress risk serious damage with their base over health care, in a way that won't be papered over like the religious right and abortion. This is not 1992, where a President with less than 50% of the vote won on a moderate platform with very little wiggle room to work with in the congress. Obama won by almost 7%, with more than double the electoral votes of his opponent. His party enjoys considerable majorities in both houses of congress. That is not a mandate to go play pattycake with John Boehner. Its a mandate to get serious stuff done.
Democrats are in power because the electorate trusted them on 3 major items: Economy, National Security, and Health Care. On economy and national security they are on the right path, with a return to some sort of fiscal sanity and regulated markets, combined with a strategic disengagement from Iraq as well as a rededication in Afghanistan to finishing the job that began on 9/11. But while 2/3 will get you into Cooperstown, it won't help the Dems electorally.
And again, more importantly, it won't help the country.
Heart Bypass Surgergy: I've Seen Too Many
While I haven't seen the worst of this first-hand, I have seen what our current health care system screws up. I'm lucky, I'm one of those people with a pretty good health benefit from my employer. Other, close, members of my family don't have that. The costs are too high, they aren't covered on their jobs, and they have pre-existing conditions. Sure, they are cared for when they need emergency care but I honestly would much rather not have to have people in my family wait until the doctors have to rip arteries out of their chests to get their health care needs adressed. Oh, and the giant bills that ensue.
The Republican party and a few Democrats with their heads shoved up their butts want more people to suffer. They - especially the Republicans - won't budge and they won't give an inch. Their ideology and the idea of winning one fight versus a President they seek to kneecap is far more important to them than the members of my family or the millions of others out there. That's why they insist on mob rule and death panel lies rather than a serious discussion on this.
Their minds were made up on November 4, 2008. There is no sense in engaging with them, let alone conceding anything to them until they decide to bring some honesty to this issue.
The president and congress could make the Washington village types really happy with a milquetoast nothingball package of legislation that doesn't do a thing and leads to policy and electoral failure. Or they could do the job we put them in place to do.