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When the Troops Stop Listening to Their Leaders

HuffPo’s Ryan Grim reports that the President held another closed meeting today with Senate Finance Committee members who have failed to do their jobs on health care reform.

That closed meeting was followed by a closed meeting of all Senate Democrats in which the Democratic members who have failed to do their jobs presumably obscured why they have failed to do their jobs. We know this because the only Senator to emerge with a positive assessment was Evan Bayh.

At the conclusion of what must be the umpteenth closed meeting — and why are discussions of health care public policy kept secret? — to discuss or obscure failure, Senate leaders emerged to make yet another set of dissembling remarks. The leaders revealed they haven’t a clue how transparently absurd and offensive it was, and remains, to turn over reform to a small group of unrepresentative Senators who oppose the basic elements of reform and who arrogantly claim that only their views count while the work of the Senate HELP Committee and three diligent House Committees that carry the last vestiges of reform can be thrown in the trash.

Apparently, none of them can put together the following logical chain:

1. The opposition party is completely irresponsible and has no intention of helping solve the country’s problems. That means working with them is not just pointless; it’s wasting time.

2. Leaders of the opposition party, their industry allies and hired provocateurs are persistently lying to incite mob actions and public hatred against anyone who tries to explain, let alone defend reform efforts. That means Democrats should refuse to work with the opposition. Why are they even allowed at the table?

3. Even if there are still one or two sane Republicans willing to consider meaningful discussions about the contents of reform, they are under unrelenting pressure and intimidation from their party and their organized crazies not to agree to anything that could reasonably be described as real reform. That means the absence of bipartisanship is a consequence of Republican obstruction, not a function of Democratic unwillingness to talk. We need to stop pretending this is our problem and make it theirs.

4. There are just enough numbskulls like Ben Nelson in the Democratic Party, plus unprincipled opportunists like Joe Lieberman, to coddle the opposition and stall Democratic-only reform efforts as long as they are shielded by their own colleagues. It’s time to stop shielding them.

5. Whatever his other gifts, this President does not have the temperment or inclination to hold anyone accountable for being irresponsible. We need to stop looking to this President for that kind of leadership.

6. The President is losing the trust and confidence of his own supporters, because he has betrayed them on the tough calls. As a result, all too many health care reform advocates believe they will be betrayed again; many believe that Rahm Emanuel will shoot them in the back if they try to advance a progressive agenda. Thus reform efforts must honestly confront White House opposition and hold this President responsible.

Matt Yglesias, responding to Jon Cohn, notes a lack of enthusiasm to support this President’s health care agenda, whatever that is. No kidding.

But this is not simply or mostly Max Baucus’ fault. The President and Democratic leadership empowered Max Baucus instead of Chris Dodd and Jay Rockefeller, and Sherrod Brown. That leadership is collectively letting their own supporters down, and its time for supporters to tell the WH and leadership their failure is unacceptable.

The White House keeps asking its supporters to fight the good fight, but not too hard, to support reform, but not too much or far enough or too soon. We’re told the system is broken but no one is to be held responsible for breaking it, and its defenders are not to be confronted.

Sorry, but you don’t win battles against deeply entrenched interests that way, you lose armies. If they can’t figure this out and turn it around, the WH and Democratic leadership shouldn’t be surprised if no one joins up to take the next hill for this team.

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John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley