Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lieberman says Obama never pressed him on public option

As HuffPo's Ryan Grim is reporting, Lieberman now says that Obama and the White House never pressed him on the public option:

Well, no. I think I got pressure from the president to be for health care reform. I'd have to think about this, but I didn't really have direct input from the White House on this.

First off, how do you not remember? Well, whatever.

Let's assume that Lieberman is telling the truth here. (Though, honestly, that's not an assumption I'm all that comfortable making. He could very well be lying.) If so... what the fuck?

Why did Obama not at least try to persuade him to support the public option (or the Medicare buy-in)? Is Obama purposely trying to piss off his entire liberal-progressive base, all of us who supported him? I know, Obama's more establishmentarian than tranformationalist, and it never should have been expected that he'd bring radical change despite his campaign rhetoric, and he's already done a great deal to piss us off -- those who supported him enthusiastically as well as those who were skeptical all along. Just ask Glenn Greenwald.

But could he not at least have tried to take the lead on health-care reform? Could he not have pressed both Lieberman and Nelson, among others, to accept an earlier iteration of the bill, before it was stripped down to appease those two? Could he not have worked with Reid to secure 60 votes for a more progressive bill? No, it might not have worked, but an attempt, a genuine, sincere attempt, would have been nice.

Instead, we're left with this -- and, again, this is assuming that Lieberman is being honest, which is a helf of a lot to assume. The Senate bill, as stripped down as it is, as flawed as it is, might just be what Obama wanted all along. Sure, he talked about the public option as if he wanted it, but maybe, just maybe, he never wanted the sort of change so many of us liberals and progressives believe in. (Deep down, I still think Obama wants more than this and that he was just being realistic all along. But maybe I'm still delusional in that pro-Obama sort of way. I want to believe that he's better than this.)

And so he'll get his corporate-friendly bill, with 58 Democrats plus Sanders and Lieberman on board, and he can position it as a major triumph. To an extent, that's right. However flawed it is, I support it. It's better than nothing, and nothing really is the alternative at this point. But for fuck's sake, it could have been better, and all it needed, perhaps, was a presidential push.

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  • This is an important question, and we may never be completely sure of the answer.

    I've never seen any evidence that Obama was ideologically committed to the left beyond the very moderate center-left. His real passion seems to be bipartisanship and a naïve hope of "transcending" the "culture wars". Hence Rick Warren at the inaugural, the lack of action on DADT, and the exaggerated efforts to deform the health bill so that Snowe or at least Lieberman could support it.

    More charitably, he may have decided that Lieberman's vote would be needed on other issues in the future, that arm-twisting was unlikely to work because the man will probably retire soon anyway, and that therefore it was best to avoid antagonizing him.

    I think Obama wanted a public option. I think he just didn't want it badly enough to fight very hard for it.

    By Blogger Infidel753, at 8:01 AM  

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