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Progressives With Power, Talking to the President? What A Concept

Up until now, it’s been champagne wishes and caviar dreams for the Blue Dogs at the White House, while the Progressives were left eating table scraps in the basement. 

But members of the Progressive Caucus finally got a chance to speak with the President about health care on a conference call yesterday:

Obama asked the group to define their red line when they talk about a "robust public option."

Here, let me help you with that one.  He’ trying to come up with an angle for jamming triggers on them.   "I have told my staff that it’s very important that your demand for "X" in a public option be included so that if the health insurance industry doesn’t get its act together, it will be triggered…well, never actually."

Grijalva says Obama asked how far liberals were willing to compromise on the public option, another sign, Grijalva noted, that he grasps that they mean what they say.

I think the White House should be very concerned that they "mean what they say."  Nancy Pelosi recently gave an interview to Ezra Klein where she said that the supplemental was the hardest battle she’d fought all year.   Remember that one?

Health care is not the hardest vote I’ve had this year. Not by far. That was the [war] supplemental. That was the worst. Energy was a heavy lift. But you’re talking substance. You’re discussing issues with people. But we had never thought we’d have to do another supplemental. Not that we would have to vote for. But then the president brought home the IMF and Republicans all took a hike. Then we were stuck with it. Oh brother! That was the hardest.

The supplemental was our first whip effort.  With Bob Fertik, David Swanson, PDA, Paul Martin and some glue and paper clips, we held them for 10 days and Obama himself had to come in and whip votes.  The amount of enthusiasm for the public option is exponentially higher.  Under the circumstances, I can’t imagine why the White House took them for granted  for so long.

NBC reports that Obama reminded the group that they enjoy the security of representing safely Democratic districts. 

Speaking of the supplemental, remember how Rahm beat the shit out of Progressives and forced them to vote for something they’d sworn to oppose so that the Blue Dogs could have the cover of "supporting the troops" while they voted for a $108 billion bailout of European banks?   Or how about the time Rahm beat the shit out of Progressives and forced them to vote for a bailout of Big Coal that they opposed as committed environmentalists, so that the Blue Dogs who got everything they wanted in the bill wouldn’t have to take the political hit for voting in favor of it?

Dear Mr. President:  I’d suggest that an approach other than concern for their Blue Dog overlords might be in order.

Gregg Sargent adds:

In another newsworthy tidbit, Grijalva says Obama signaled that discussions about the public option would continue even after his big speech before a joint session of Congress next week. That may be an indication that Obama won’t be mentioning the public option in his speech, but doesn’t want liberals to despair at that prospect.

In other words, he’ll stick to selling the "goodybag" and leave it to others to break the bad news to Grandma.  No surprise there, either.

The only variable here is how soon people trip to the fact that Obama has no intention of including a public option, and how pissed progressives are when they do.   I think I’m in pretty safe territory predicting that when that happens, the response is going to be…seismic.

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The Public Option: A Promise Kept or a Promise Broken

Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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