Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Rebutting Obama by Proving His Point

Here's the obvious video of the day, with Obama defending his record against his progressive critics:

And yep, I've pretty much got to agree with all of that. 

And here's the key part I liked:
This is the public option debate all over again. So I pass a signature piece of legislation where we finally get health care for all Americans, something that Democrats had been fighting for for a hundred years, but because there was a provision in there that they didn’t get that would have affected maybe a couple of million people, even though we got health insurance for 30 million people and the potential for lower premiums for 100 million people, that somehow that was a sign of weakness and compromise.
And the big question is: What was it about the public option that made progressives believe that this was the linchpin of the whole thing?  Without this, we've been assured, the healthcare reform was nothing but a Republican sham that wasn't worth our time to even consider thinking about, as it'd be even worse than nothing at all.  And even now that we've seen all the good things Obama got us, we're assured that the whole thing is worse than a pile of warm snot on a birthday cake and can't be referenced in any way besides a total disaster.

But what about the end of rescission?  What about the end of pre-existing condition disqualifiers?  What about the 30 million people who will get insurance, or the potential for 100 million people to see lower premiums?  What about the statewide insurance exchanges that will allow self-employed and small businesses to get real insurance at a reasonable price?  Or the fact that these insurance exchanges will include non-profit options?  Surely these provisions are worth something, right?

Apparently not.  Because people didn't get an option for government-run insurance, the whole thing was a giant betrayal and if Obama even attempts to defend his bill, he'll be attacked even further.  There's no effort needed to refute Obama's point.  Without the public option, he can't possibly have given us anything worth anything.

My Definition of Compromise

Here's a post I found because of a long-time reader who now considers me a conservative because I don't think that taxing the rich to make them poorer is a key tenet of liberalism.  Sure, I still support government programs and regulations, as well as supporting the need to force the rich to pay for it, but unless I want to outright hurt the rich by making them less rich, I'm a no-good conservative fink...or something like that. 

Anyway, he pointed me to a blogger who attacked Obama for daring to defend himself against his leftwing critics.  He quoted the Obama passage I quoted above and wrote:
Well, let’s see, first you said you wanted it included, and then when the other side objected, it wasn’t included. What’s your definition of compromise?
And first off, you've got to like the revisionist thinking here.  In reality, the healthcare debate lasted a LONG time, with Obama trying to get the public option before finally giving it up in order to get us these other things.  But in this new reality, Republicans merely objected and it was gone.  As if Obama capitulated without a fight.  Somehow, I seem to recall that battle lasting for months, but I guess I'm mistaken, because I'll be attacked as an apologist merely for saying it happened.

But more importantly, this guy just made the very point Obama was trying to make.  Because they didn't get the public option, the reform was worthless.  In his eyes, there was no compromise.  There was only the public option and anything less than that was complete and total defeat.  Because all the millions who will benefit from this aren't worth the few million who might have benefited even more.  Had the public option been the only thing we were fighting for, this guy would have a point.  But seeing as how we were fighting for an entire reform bill, most of which we got, his point only served to prove Obama right. 

Sure, Obama saved human lives.  But the compromise with Republicans apparently wasn't worth the price.  I wonder how many more people would have died if Obama had listened to his leftwing critics. 

Oh, and does it need to be mentioned that Obama has another job besides fighting for legislation; namely, running the executive branch?  Ir probably should be mentioned, especially as passing legislation wasn't even supposed to be one of the presidential duties; though I guess this makes me an even bigger apologist.

Attacking the Forest to Save the Trees

But this blogger had to ignore all that, just as he's ignored all the good things Obama got us.  In fact, if you read his entire post, you'll find that he had to directly ignore just about everything Obama said, and effectively demonstrated the exact point Obama was trying to make, which this blogger missed completely.  The debate of incompetent v. evil comes to mind, though I'll refrain from casting such aspersions because it's probably uncalled for.  But still, when people demonstrate the very point they're trying to rebut, you've got to wonder about their motivation.

But the point is clear: These progressives don't really care about what Obama got us.  They'll insist it was worthless and that we're not even allowed to consider these gains.  We lost everything and if you try to justify it in any way, then you're one of the enemy.  So I'm a conservative wingnut because I don't want to hurt the rich, while Obama's a spineless sellout because he only ended rescission, pre-existing conditions, and effectively muzzled the health insurance industry.  What a loser!

Of course, the fact that I'd even make this argument just shows what an apologist rightwing sellout I am.  And if any of them read this, they'll be so sure of this that they won't need to refute anything I wrote.  They can merely know in their heart of hearts that they could have done all the great things Obama did, while also giving us the handful of items he wasn't able to do.  And they'd do it by attacking Republicans relentlessly, because of course, that's what voters really want.  Sure, the end of rescission is nice and everything, but what people really want is more political attacks.


John of the Dead said...

The problem lots of folks have, myself included, is that the public option was, itself, the compromise position. The left was pushing for a single-payer system. A public option was the compromise between private insurance (which we still have) and a national public insurance. And therein lies the problem - Obama started with the compromise position, and then compromised even further.

Every kid knows how this works - when you're writing your letter to Santa, you ask for three things: #1, a baby brother; #2, a pony; #3, what you really want. You should ask for more than you expect to get, and be willing to compromise down to what you'll accept. In many cases, it seems like Obama has started with what he'll accept, and been compromised down to less than enough. For another example, the stimulus bill was less than half of what his economic advisers recommended. Instead of requesting the $2T recommended, he instead asked for the compromise amount of $800. He *then* compromised further on the make-up of the stimulus, moving more to tax cuts and away from direct spending.

Now, you may think that compromising on the compromise results in an outcome that's good enough. I disagree, and think we could have gotten a better outcome if we had started from a more progressive position, then compromised to a centrist position, rather than starting with centrist and compromising to right-center. For what that's worth.

John of the Dead said...

And further, don't you think it's telling that Obama has spent more time attacking his liberal critics than his conservative enemies? Which one wants him to fail? Which side has staked its fortunes on causing his failure? Why has he spent so much time seeking to address the concerns from the side that will hate him no matter what, and so little time address the concerns of the side that worked hard to elect him? I'm really not sure what to make of that.

John of the Dead said...

Shoot, Blogger eated my first comment. I'll try to re-enter it.

The problem lots of folks on the left have, myself included, is that the public option was, itself, the compromise position. The left was pushing for a single-payer system, as opposed to the private insurers we still have. Rather than advocate for single-payer and compromise down to the public option, Obama advocated for the compromised public option, then accepted regulations on private insurers.

Every kid knows how this works. When you're writing your letter to Santa, you always ask for three things - #1, a baby brother; #2, a pony; #3, what you really want. Ask for more than you'll accept, and be willing to "settle" for what you want. Instead, it seems like Obama has started from a position of what he'll accept (based on campaign rhetoric - public option, ending tax breaks on the wealthy, closing GITMO, ending DADT) and compromised down to less than that.

Another example is the stimulus bill. You might argue that, given the political climate, $800B was the most we could have gotten. Unfortunately, Obama didn't even bother advocating the position his economic advisers recommend, a $2T bill. He advocated for the compromise $800B, then compromised further by moving to a make-up of more tax cuts and less direct spending.

That, in a nutshell, is my complaint. Rather than advocating a truly progressive position, then compromising to a centrist plan, Obama has consistently advocated a centrist plan, then compromised to right-center. You might argue that right-center is good enough (and I'll gladly concede that it's better than hard right); I would counter that we as a nation could be better off by starting off negotiating from a very progressive (or liberal, or left; what have you) starting position. It seems like lots of lost opportunities, and we may not see a Democratic President and Congress for a long time.

Betsy said...

Once again good Doctor, I appreciate your common sense. If the American people had had the sense to get out in Nov. and vote over 60 Democrats into the Senate and leave those in the house, we could be having everything we want. They didn't, they deserve what they don't get (and what they get). Many of us don't but that is the way it goes. I heard his speech, agreed and after reading a lot of pro and con things decided that a real world view makes more sense than a pie in the sky one. I hate some of this stuff but I blame the %$^& republicans, not the president.

mahakal said...

John of the Dead is right on. I knew that Barack Obama was a right of center moderate all along, of course, and he is surely better than the far right Republicans, but he basically gets them what they want and lets the country blame the Democrats. And that, in a nutshell, is why many people are willing again to vote for Republicans. It isn't the fault of the American people for voting badly, it is the fault of the politician Barack Obama for failing to inspire them. Compromise. Compromise. Compromise. It might be the best strategy he's got, but it might make him a one term president if he doesn't figure out a better way to get the base motivated.