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Obama’s Speech: Trapped In the Gap Between Action and Rhetoric

barack-obama.thumbnail.jpgThe President did a great job last night on selling the country on the need for health care reform. He made the moral case, and every metric indicates that people were overwhelmingly moved to support his plan. That’s the good news for the White House.

The not so good news: the White House has been trying to get out from under the burden of supporting the public option for weeks. The trouble is, every time they try to do it, the President’s numbers take a huge hit. And so last night he came out and indicated that a public plan would be a part of his reform package. Today on the White House website, under "The Obama Plan," it says:

If You Don’t Have Insurance

Offers a public health insurance option to provide the uninsured and those who can’t find affordable coverage with a real choice.

The website is not so quick to commemorate the qualifiers regarding this public plan from last night’s speech:

  • "The public option is only a means to that end – and we should remain open to other ideas that accomplish our ultimate goal."
  • "For example, some have suggested that that the public option go into effect only in those markets where insurance companies are not providing affordable policies." (triggers)
  • "Others propose a co-op or another non-profit entity to administer the plan. These are all constructive ideas worth exploring." (co-ops)

The administration’s inability to close the gap between expectations and reality is a boon for progressives members of Congress. Earlier this week, the co-chairs of the Progressive Caucus — Raul Grijalva and Lynn Woolsey — wrote a letter urging the President to mention it in his speech. I spoke with Rep. Grijalva yesterday, and he reiterated the need for the President to mention it in his speech. As long as the President keeps expressing his support for a public option, they — and we — can quite rightly say that we’re only insisting on something Obama himself endorses, something he campaigned on.

Of course, the actions of the White House betray quite a different intent. The deals they have negotiated with health care industry stakeholders do not include a public plan, they don’t believe they can back out of them without triggering a rush of lobbyist money to GOP coffers. At some point there will be a day of reckoning when the public understands that the public option is gone. The White House wants to stop their opponents — and let’s face it, progressives who are insisting on the inclusion of a public plan are at this point their opponents — from being able to exploit that gap. Because every day that goes by the base gets more and more wedded to the promise of a public plan, encouraged by the positive rhetoric of the President himself. And it becomes that much harder for the White House to extract itself from the double bind they have created without paying a huge political price.

One day the 11 dimensional chess set is going to have to come to terms with the fact that Rahm Emanuel worked with Max Baucus to cut deals that they force into the House through the Blue Dogs, and that the goals of the White House are not at odds with those of the Blue Dogs. Which is why Rahm protects them. And why we keep hearing things like this:

Remember back on Friday, President Obama discussed the public option on a conference call with House liberals?… Well that meeting never happened. [I]t doesn’t seem to suggest that House liberals are being roped in to the health care negotiations between the House and the Senate.

Meanwhile, the President meets with the Blue Dogs this morning.

And the football keeps inching down the field.

CommunityFDL Action

Obama’s Speech: Trapped In the Gap Between Action and Rhetoric

barack-obama.thumbnail.jpgThe President did a great job last night on selling the country on the need for health care reform.  He made the moral case, and every metric indicates that people were overwhelmingly moved to support his plan. That’s the good news for the White House.

The not so good news:  the White House has been trying to get out from under the burden of supporting the public option for weeks.  The trouble is, every time they try to do it, the President’s numbers take a huge hit.  And so last night he came out and indicated that a public plan would be a part of his reform package. Today on the White House website, under "The Obama Plan," it says:

If You Don’t Have Insurance

Offers a public health insurance option to provide the uninsured and those who can’t find affordable coverage with a real choice.   

The website is not so quick to commemorate the qualifiers regarding this public plan from last night’s speech:  

  • "The public option is only a means to that end – and we should remain open to other ideas that accomplish our ultimate goal."
  • "For example, some have suggested that that the public option go into effect only in those markets where insurance companies are not providing affordable policies." (triggers)
  • "Others propose a co-op or another non-profit entity to administer the plan. These are all constructive ideas worth exploring."  (co-ops)

The administration’s inability to close the gap between expectations and reality is a boon for progressives members of Congress. Earlier this week, the co-chairs of the Progressive Caucus — Raul Grijalva and Lynn Woolsey — wrote a letter urging the President to mention it in his speech.  I spoke with Rep. Grijalva yesterday, and he reiterated the need for the President to mention it in his speech.  As long as the President keeps expressing his support for a public option, they — and we — can quite rightly say that we’re only insisting on something Obama himself endorses, something he campaigned on.

Of course, the actions of the White House betray quite a different intent.  The deals they have negotiated with health care industry stakeholders do not include a public plan, they don’t believe they can back out of them without triggering a rush of lobbyist money to GOP coffers.  At some point there will be a day of reckoning when the public understands that the public option is gone.  The White House wants to stop their opponents — and let’s face it, progressives who are insisting on the inclusion of a public plan are at this point their opponents — from being able to exploit that gap.  Because every day that goes by the base gets more and more wedded to the promise of a public plan, encouraged by the positive rhetoric of the President himself.  And it becomes that much harder for the White House to extract itself from the double bind they have created without paying a huge political price.

One day the 11 dimensional chess set is going to have to come to terms with the fact that Rahm Emanuel worked with Max Baucus to cut deals that they force into the House through the Blue Dogs, and that the goals of the White House are not at odds with those of the Blue Dogs.  Which is why Rahm protects them.  And why we keep hearing things like this:

Remember back on Friday, President Obama discussed the public option on a conference call with House liberals?… Well that meeting never happened.  [I]t doesn’t seem to suggest that House liberals are being roped in to the health care negotiations between the House and the Senate.

Meanwhile, the President meets with the Blue Dogs this morning

And the football keeps inching down the field.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Firedoglake.com. 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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