Can We Believe “Anonymous White House Staffers”?

Yesterday I quoted an article by Michael D. Shear and Ceci Connolly in the Washington Post that the White House is surprised the Left is insisting on the public option. Today the leftie blogosphere is looking at this in two ways.

First, the “we’ve been punked” argument, as expressed by Digby:

But on a political level, the left has been betrayed over and over again on the things that matter to us the most. …

…After 2000, what is it going to take for the Democrats to realize that constantly using their base as a doormat is not a good idea? It only takes a few defections or enough people staying home to make a difference. And there are people on the left who have proven they’re willing to do it. The Democrats are playing with fire if they think they don’t have to deliver anything at all to their liberal base — and abandoning the public option, particularly in light of what we already know about the bailouts and the side deals, may be what breaks the bond.

It’s really not too much to ask that they deliver at least one thing the left demands, it really isn’t. And it’s not going to take much more of this before their young base starts looking around for someone to deliver the hope and change they were promised.

Amen, Sister Digby. See also Scarecrow at FDL.

Marc Ambinder reports that the White House thinks liberals will get on board with a plan that drops the public option but includes a mandate to buy insurance … from private insurance companies?

White House: Bite me.

On the other hand, Marcy Wheeler thinks that much of this noise about selling out the public option is coming from people with their own agendas to promote and is not reflective of what President Obama really thinks.

See also Mike Lux at Open Left:

What I discovered when I worked in the White House was that there were plenty of people who work in that building whose primary loyalty is not to the President but to themselves. They leak things to reporters to cultivate them and make sure they write puff job articles about them. They help certain lobbyists because they might want a job in their firm someday. They empower certain powerful Senators or members of Congress because they are personally close to them, and/or because they might want to get paid big money to lobby them someday soon. Maybe they want to run for office themselves one day, and so they cultivate certain donors.

So while it is possible that all the back-tracking on the President’s bill from anonymous staffers is all a carefully laid-out strategy, since it’s a strategy that is really not working, I think it is also quite possible it is just classic disloyalty from self-interested staffers.

The President will be holding a video conference on health care this afternoon that I plan to “attend.” I will report if he says anything to give us a clear indication of where he is on the public option.

17 thoughts on “Can We Believe “Anonymous White House Staffers”?

  1. I honestly don’t know whether I should trust anything Obama says right now, although what he doesn’t say will speak volumes.

    Whatever. We’ll see how it all plays out.

    I know what my line in the sand is — public option–, and no amount of sweet-talking or rationalizing by Obama or any other politician is going to move that line.

  2. Public option or death, by which I mean not only that the administration will never survive the loss of its base on this issue, but millions of actual people are dying for lack of affordable medical care. This isn’t optional.

  3. i think a lot of people realize that single payer is the only way to go and if the public option goes out the window now, that means we will have a total collapse of the system sooner rather than later with the result that we get single payer sooner rather than later. It would be harmful to do anything without the public option IMHO, but in the long run if there is no public option real reform will happen sooner. Of course, more lives will be ruined and the insurance companies will make more obscene profits at the expense of the most vulnerable and Obama will be a one and done president.

  4. I’m sorry. If I’m to believe the Digby / FDL interpretation, I have to believe that Obama is doing this to extort campaign contributions from the healthcare and insurance industries. But he knows full well that if he doesn’t get something, he will lose seats in 2010 and never again get anything done (see the Clinton admin). If that were his motive, he would be saying “I need to concentrate on the economy, so we’ll do healthcare later (hint, hint)”.

    Here is the CommonWealthFund study which analyzes 3 scenarios: no public option, a public option at midway between Medicare and private, and a public option at Medicare rates. Politically, the 3rd scenario has a 0% chance.

    In 2020, current system: 5 trillion
    No public option: 4.7
    Public option at midway rates: 4.6
    At Medicare rates: 4.4

    In 2020 they project over 61 million without insurance if we do nothing. All 3 options insure almost everyone.

    I’d love Medicare for all. But this isn’t beach volleyball; lives are at stake.

  5. I’m one who has thought that if they back off on this, and get a watered down version of some give away to the insurance companies, screw it. It’s time for revolution. I would never vote Republican but would certainly pass on the elections. What the Democrats say is just bullshit, I’ll wait until they change the entire system before clicking in again because clearly it doesn’t make a difference who gets elected. They’re all just different shades of the same, awful, stinking, pile. As for the anonymous staffers, time to grow a pair and fire them, now. Stay on message, everyone, and get it done.

  6. I agree with digby. I consider myself very far left and if Obama doesn’t deliver on a strong public option, I will be voting Green Party the rest of my life, as it will be clear there is no difference between the two major parties.

  7. The big health insurance companies are equivalent to the Mafia. I am for single payer in order to get these insurance thugs out of my life; but, that isn’t going to happen this year. Thus, the public option is my compromise. I will not compromise with it. Not only is the White House going to lose me on this; but, all Democrats in Congress who don’t seem to support the White House on this issue will lose me.

    It’s funny when all these Republicans say the government can’t run a health care program because it is too incompetent. They seem to forget that they are the government and are calling themselves incompetent. Of course, we have the last eight years to prove how incompetent Republicans are–and, then there’s Michelle Bachmann. But, I worked for the Federal Government for 31 years. I was very competent and hardworking. I knew my job and did it well. I also worked with many, many other employees who were the best in the business. Thus, I take issue with those who say the government can’t do anything. Maybe many of the Congress critters are too stupid to run anything except a campaign; but, the Civil Service employees of the Federal Government are generally very competent, efficient, and effective.

  8. Just got this off The Washington Monthly site (Steve Benen):

    * The conservative approach to health care reform in a nutshell: “Limbaugh tells caller who can’t afford $6,000 to treat broken wrist: ‘Well, you shouldn’t have broken your wrist.'”

    Absolutely incredible solution to all our health care problems from the Republican tool, Limbaugh–don’t get sick.

  9. I heard someone say on one of the MSNBC shows earlier this week that the main failing of the Obama position on healthcare is lack of a clear message. I think this is true: see, we all have been paying attention and we have no idea what the White House really supports anymore. Kathleen Sebelius says on Sunday that the public option’s not essential, then on Tuesday she says that absolutely it’s a key part of the bill. Ramm Emanual comes out and says that bipartisanship is dead, but some anonymous insider says there’s still room for compromise. I think the White House taking a stance on something would go a long way towards both soothe ruffled feathers in the base and also sending a clear message to the public about what it is the WH actually stands for.

  10. Obama’s first move when he got into office should have been to push for public financing of election campaigns, full stop. Our current system, which is nothing but legalized bribery, ensures that our Congress and president will remain nothing but paid shills for the corporatocracy.

  11. I watched the video conference on C-Span. It was basically a cheerleading session to his most loyal supporters. He basically says he wants a bill that reduces cost, expands coverage, reform rules (preexisting condition etc.). If he can do all that with or without a “public” option then I’m all for it. I think reforming the insurance company rules can be done but I don’t see how he expands coverage (affordable) without having some sort of goverment option, and I don’t really think costs are ever going to come down without a full blown government takeover. But hey what do I know? He did take a real good shot at FAUX news (didn’t mention their name but it was pretty obvious).

  12. Public options, public financing of elections, where’s da money in dat?
    I’m with the majority here. No public elections = loss. For the country, for the Democrat’s, for the future.
    Now, on the other hand, 5 years ago, if what we were talking about were the improvement’s mentioned without the public option, I would have been ok with it. But of course we had Neanderthal Republican’s controlling every branch.
    Now, if you want me to ‘swing’ along with the proposal, make sure the public option is included.
    We elect Democrat’s to take a step forward, not backwards, or to side-step. I’ve danced that dance before. The Republican led that dance. I, and the rest of the Democrat’s, want to lead the next dance.
    And Republican’s, if you want ot slam-dance on your own, that’s fine. Just realize that there’ll be no one but your own to catch you.
    And you guy’s have shown recently that you don’t ‘catch’ on too quick. So, jump at your own peril. But, by all means, jump!

  13. fshk – agreed. The time for consensus, excuses, whimpering, doubletalk and self-contradiction is over. Formulate a coherent plan already. Let one person speak for the WH plan, and everybody else shut up.

  14. fshk – one more additional point about “lack of a clear message”. This is what enabled the wingnuts to manufacture all kinds of noise and fear mongering, some of which the public is starting to believe. Were there a clear message about what Obama really was for, little of this toxic sideshow would’ve happened.

    How the country awaits a liberal leader who can stand up and clearly articulate what they’re for.

  15. What we should be talking about is a “private option”. Medicare works – and it is “socialized medicine”. What doesn’t work is piracy involving corporations holding American’s health hostage. If rich people want to continue funding corporate overcharging and malfeasance, in the mistaken belief that this represents “capitalism”, let ’em!

  16. You could see the fallout between Obama and the left 10,000 miles away and at least months before the inaugeration.

    At that time it was clear that the main problem for Democrats, for the Democratic party, for the Left, and for obama was the deep disagreement about ends and means. You could tell that Obama was corporate and that the Left was for ‘single payer’, for example, and that the future of Obama’s Presidency had to involve some reconciliation between these two positions.

    At that time, it would have been useful and helpful to lay out the issues, which, were obvious even then.

    Now, the political winds are gusting and bama’s Presidency is being thrown around like it’s trash.

    A discussion then would have helped the Left understand what it should have been doing to support it’s own agenda on the wars, on civil liberties, and on health care.

    But that discussion was stopped dead in its tracks on this site, for one, when Maha screamed at me to go away and shut up.

    So now, we read stuff like this,

    “…Even for those of you who are willing to justify anything and everything in the name of “political pragmatism,” betraying clear campaign commitments and constantly exhibiting contempt for core progressive values doesn’t seem to be working very well as a political strategy, to put that mildly.”

    from Glenn Greenwald, tells us that the Obama people have been exposed for the corporate tools that they are, and the left has no organized response outside of going to a third party, or sitting on their hands, or screaming.

    So, Maha, do you still think that we need to let problems fester until the country is septic?

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