Boy, did Ron Fournier of the AP come up with some utterly craptacular nonsense on Obama’s health care reform speech last night (here)…
WASHINGTON — Barack Obama faces the same obstacles that plagued former President Bill Clinton during a health care standoff 15 years ago. But Obama took a strikingly different path around them Wednesday night, choosing the promise of compromise over Clinton’s sharp-edged veto pen.
For Clinton, the my-way-or-the-highway approach backfired. The legislation died, Republicans won control of Congress just 10 months later and health care fell from the public agenda, though Clinton himself recovered to win a second term.
I’m surprised that Fournier didn’t tell us that little fairies in the shape of elephants flew around and spread pixie dust that brainwashed the voters of this country into rejecting “big gumint” and those dastardly tax-and-spend liberals. That makes about as much sense as what he just said about the 1994 congressional election which (pathetically) gave the Repugs control of the U.S. House for the first time in 40 years.
I will grant you that there was a bit of overreach by the Clinton Administration, particularly on the issue of gays in the military (which, really, shouldn’t be an issue – I think Obama is handling this better by letting former Iraq war vet Patrick Murphy lead the effort to repeal DADT in the House, though it would be nice to hear some opposition to the ridiculous Defense of Marriage Act by the president himself, which would only help repeal of DADT).
Update 9/12/09: By the way, speaking of the Defense of Marriage Act, I thought this was good news.
And I will also grant that what happened with health care contributed to the perception also, though the following should be noted from here (I know I got into this in an earlier post, but I think it bears repeating – a lot)…
In mid-August, former President Clinton…argued that blaming his administration’s decision to hand a (health care) bill to Congress was an inaccurate depiction of what occurred and not a reason the effort failed.
As keynote speaker at the Netroots Nation conference of progressive/liberal bloggers in Pittsburgh, Mr. Clinton sarcastically denounced what he considers the false, revisionist history: “Everybody knows that Hillary presented this horribly complicated, 1,300-page bill, which would have broken the back of the federal statutes. And what she should’ve done was refused to present a bill and just have her committee issue a report to Congress with recommendations.”
In reality, Mr. Clinton said, the bill-writing was dictated by Congress: “We actually pleaded with the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee to let us send a report with recommendations and have them write the bill, and he said, ‘I will not take this up unless you send me a bill.’ ”
Mr. Clinton recalled that the chairman at the time — Representative Dan Rostenkowski, whom President Clinton later pardoned for a mail-fraud conviction — countered that without a presidential bill, interest groups would swarm all over his committee. The lobbyists would overwhelm the lawmakers, in other words.
And according to Mr. Clinton, the chairman argued: “There’s not enough base-level knowledge in the Congress to resist it, and we will never get anywhere. This will not happen unless you give a bill.”
Also, the Clinton budget had passed the year before, which would eventually ensure economic prosperity which lasted through the rest of his administration. However, at the time, the Repugs (cheered on by our corporate media stenographers on this and everything else, including the failure of health care reform) did nothing but harp about tax increases to Medicare and Social Security. That, along with their caterwauling about the assault weapons ban, gave Baby Newton Leroy Gingrich an opening to yammer on and on about his Contract on America.
(I think it’s also important to consider that, back then, the concept of conservative movement, ideologue Repugs wasn’t as commonly accepted as it is now, unfortunately. By that I mean that, though voters were unhappy enough with Poppy Bush not to elect him to a second term in 1992, there were still enough grownups in charge of the Republican Party who voters thought could actually perform the hard work of governance, to the point where those voters gave their party congressional power in ’94. However, I always thought that Gingrich’s flameout, as well as that of a certain dancing former exterminator, was at least as telling as his ascent – that is, voters woke up and realized what wingnuts they both truly were, aided by the Monica Whatsername inquisition.)
So basically, for Fournier to assign the failure of health care reform to pass in ’94 as the sole reason for the Dems’ loss of Congress is laughable. And though it’s possible that that scenario could be repeated if somehow health care reform doesn’t pass in this session, that would also take place if the voters assumed that the Repug party could be trusted again as they once were in the early ‘90s. And it’s a whole new ballgame on that score, my fellow prisoners.
And here’s more Fournier dreck…
Liberals were frustrated that a progressive revolution had not yet materialized under Clinton’s watch. Even worse, Republican and Democratic skeptics alike wondered whether he had the stomach for a fight.
Clinton responded that night 15 years ago by brandishing a pen and declaring: “If you send me legislation that does not guarantee every American private health insurance that can never be taken away, you will force me to take this pen, veto the legislation, and we’ll come right back here and start all over again.”
From that flourish of political arrogance followed every bad decision that doomed health care reform — a task force headed by his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, meeting in secret to craft a Byzantine plan with little congressional input.
It died upon arrival.
As noted above, former House Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski was the one who wanted Clinton to produce a bill instead of Congress.
But Fournier isn’t done, folks…
Obama knows there is no chance of having a truly two-party approach to health care reform, and only a slim chance of dragging more than two or three Republicans aboard a Democratic bill.
But he also knows — his pollsters surely have told him — that the public craves at least the appearance of bipartisanship.
An Associated Press-GfK poll released hours before his address shows that eight in 10 Americans say it’s important that any plan that passes Congress have the support of both parties.
According to this, that is actually correct (does it say something that the only place where I can obtain this information is a Repug-friendly site?), believe it or not (the bottom of the post tells us that the poll sampling included 39 percent Democrats and 33 percent Republicans…presumably, the other 28 percent were independents or undecided – I cannot locate any other sampling information on this poll).
However, I think the following should be emphasized (here)…
Americans overwhelmingly support substantial changes to the health care system and are strongly behind one of the most contentious proposals Congress is considering, a government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
The poll found that most Americans would be willing to pay higher taxes so everyone could have health insurance and that they said the government could do a better job of holding down health-care costs than the private sector.
Yet the survey also revealed considerable unease about the impact of heightened government involvement, on both the economy and the quality of the respondents’ own medical care. While 85 percent of respondents said the health care system needed to be fundamentally changed or completely rebuilt, 77 percent said they were very or somewhat satisfied with the quality of their own care.
I think concern about the impact on the economy is understandable given its sorry state at the moment.
So, we have Fournier’s poll telling us that 8 in 10 Americans support a poll with input from both parties. And we have the New York Times/CBS poll telling us that Americans strongly support health care reform and the public option (though they are justly concerned about the numbers behind those reforms).
Well, armed with that information, you would think the Repugs would have put together at least a semblance of legislation to address those concerns (presumably, the papers some of them were waving in the air during Obama’s speech last night – and don’t worry, I won’t say that they were imitating Neville Chamberlain since that would invite more stupid comparisons between Obama and you-know-who).
However, as we read from here…
Top Republicans in the House today unveiled a GOP health-care plan, stressing that they were looking forward to working with President Obama and Nancy Pelosi.
The plan, devised by the House Republican Health Care Solutions Group, promotes specifically targeting groups among the nation’s uninsured that could be covered by the existing system as well as keeping health insurance within the private sector.
Another area that is not touched upon within the GOP plan is cost. When pressed on the issue by reporters, Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) struck back.
“We are not going to have a bill that is larger than the GDP of most countries,” he said, an apparent reference to the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate on the Kennedy plan and other floated numbers — in the trillions of dollars — for the potential cost of other Democratic-backed plans.
He then went on to say the numbers for the GOP plan would come after the Democrats are done scoring their own legislation. When pressed harder for a ballpark estimate of the cost of the plan, Camp responded, “We do have ideas about that” before reiterating the GOP’s idea of insuring Americans under the age of 25.
So, as usual, they have something to amplify their talking points from their core constituencies (as well as fodder for more feigned umbrage), but nothing with enough detail to serve as a basis for serious legislation.
And Fournier concludes his piece with this…
Why wave a veto pen when Obama can make a pass at bipartisanship and declare victory over whatever Democrats muscle through Congress? He’s a good politician, and knows it.
Obama must figure he can make a half a loaf look like a bakery.
Well (taking Fournier’s trite metaphor a bit further), what else is Obama supposed to do when the Repugs don’t even bother to leave him any crumbs?
Also, Media Matters has more on Fournier here.
Update: Funny how Fournier didn’t mention the Bill Kristol ’93 memo that kos noted here, isn’t it (though Huckleberry Graham remembers, of course).