[Posted by Karl]
Lefty blogger Mike Lux is a trifle miffed:
My question now is why are certain anonymous White House officials trying to undermine the President? I ask this question in all seriousness, because this is exactly what happened in the Clinton fight for health care reform. We would do these terrific, thoughtful, complex policy meetings where we go over various options on the health care bill but make no firm decisions. The next day in the New York Times or The Washington Post, some particularly controversial aspect of the bill would be headlined as in “High-ranking administration officials say Clinton is considering X.” It was without question one of the things that eventually killed health care reform.
The cause of his angst is the Washington Post’s coverage of debate over a government-run health insurance plan:
Administration officials insisted that they have not shied away from their support for a public option to compete with private insurance companies, an idea they said Obama still prefers to see in a final bill.
But at a time when the president had hoped to be selling middle-class voters on how insurance reforms would benefit them, the White House instead finds itself mired in a Democratic Party feud over an issue it never intended to spotlight.
“I don’t understand why the left of the left has decided that this is their Waterloo,” said a senior White House adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “We’ve gotten to this point where health care on the left is determined by the breadth of the public option. I don’t understand how that has become the measure of whether what we achieve is health-care reform.”
“It’s a mystifying thing,” he added. “We’re forgetting why we are in this.”
Another top aide expressed chagrin that a single element in the president’s sprawling health-care initiative has become a litmus test for whether the administration is serious about the issue.
“It took on a life of its own,” he said.
Lux suggests that the problem is people working in the Obama White House whose primary loyalty is not to the President but to themselves. But is that really why White House flack Robert Gibbs was back singing a bipartisan tune yesterday? A quick read from Marc Ambinder suggests the answer is “No”:
The White House and Senate Democrats won’t buckle to demands from liberals that they revise their health care strategy, officials said today.
A White House official conceded today that Obama would have to weather anger from liberals for a while.
More worrisome, officials said, was the growing belief that Obama’s brand is being tarnished. A new Pew poll shows that voters don’t think Obama is working with Republican leaders, and that a plurality blame Republican leaders. They believe that Obama’s favorability rating declines, largely from independents (and within that group, women), can be reversed if he reminds these voters of the bipartisan instincts in his bones.
…Privately, White House aides have communicated to the House leadership that the onus on changing minds about the public plan is on Congress, not on the president. (Emphasis added.)
Clearly, Lux failed to consider that the first interest of people working in the Obama White House is boosting the popularity of Pres. Obama. However, that is not Obama’s only interest, as Ambinder reveals the president’s real priorities and tactics:
The president continues to operate under the belief that liberals will warm to the bill when presented with a goodybag that includes includes an individual mandate, community rating, guaranteed issue, and a minimum required package. There’s no chance, really, that a bill WON’T feature these reforms. Quietly, to secure and keep Democrats on board, the White House is going to bargain, providing inducements, like more money for favored projects, etc., in order to secure individual votes.
Somehow, it keeps coming back to that individual mandate, doesn’t it? A law requiring people to buy health insurance requires Congress to define what health insurance is, which creates that minimum required backage (not a minimal required package). Without the individual mandate, guaranteed issue does not work. Pres. Obama used to be against an individual mandate. Now it is his bottom line. The good news is that if Senate Democrats try to split the bill, trying to pass the most controversial parts through reconciliation, they might lose all GOP support for the individual mandate they absolutely must have to take over the US healthcare system, and quite possibly lose on a filibuster.