Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Did It Work? Is It Working?


The New York Times had a terrific report the other day, explaining that the stimulus package is "working," polls and Republican talking points notwithstanding.

Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's and an occasional adviser to lawmakers from both parties, said, "[T]he stimulus is doing what it was supposed to do -- it is contributing to ending the recession." Zandi added that without the recovery bill, the "G.D.P. would still be negative and unemployment would be firmly over 11 percent. And there are a little over 1.1 million more jobs out there as of October than would have been out there without the stimulus."


What I didn't realize is that the piece included some very helpful charts, featuring projections of key economic indicators from three companies that specialize in macroeconomic forecasting. (via Matt Yglesias). You'll notice, of course, the black line and the gray line -- the black representing progress with the recovery plan, the gray representing what would have happened without it.

There are several angles to keep in mind here. First, opponents of the stimulus would have us believe the recovery plan has failed. Those are, oddly enough, the same people who got us into this economic mess in the first place. They were wrong then, and they're wrong now.

Second, as Brad DeLong explained, the people providing the data for the NYT charts are economists "who sell their forecasts to paying clients." In other words, these aren't political players who have an incentive to skew the data -- to stay in business, they have to get these trends right. And when it comes to the stimulus, they're unanimous in their beliefs that the Recovery Act helped the economy considerably, and will continue to do so next year.

Third, my only complaint about the charts is that there isn't a third line -- one for the economy with the stimulus, one for the economy with no intervention, and one with what we would have seen if we'd taken the Republicans' advice. It was, after all, 95% of congressional Republicans who, at the height of the crisis, voted for a truly insane five-year spending freeze.

How they feel justified complaining now, rather than thanking president for preventing an economic catastrophe, is a point of ongoing concern.

There's no mystery here. The debate is over. The economy is obviously still struggling, but the stimulus did what it was supposed to do, and has made a real, positive difference.

Conservatives were wrong about Reagan's tax increases. They were wrong about Clinton's tax increases. They were wrong about Bush's tax cuts. And they're wrong again now.

That Republicans still manage to talk about economic policy at all demonstrates a remarkable amount of chutzpah.

What digby said . . .

digby: Projection Project
Rush shared his philosophy of life with his listeners today in words that were simple and true:
If you live in the universe of lies, the last thing that you are governed by is the truth. The last thing you are governed by is reality. The only thing that matters to you is the advancement of your political agenda. And you tell yourself in the universe of lies that your agenda is so important the world will not survive without it and therefore you can lie, cheat, steal, destroy whoever you have to to get your agenda done because your opponents are evil, and in fighting evil, anything goes. There are no rules when you're in a fight with the devil.
He pretended that this was a description of liberalism, but that's silly of course. His conviction and passion on the subject shine through with every word. He sounds exactly like the true believer he is.

There be Dragons

TimF.: Sign O’ The Times

Ross Douthat dreams of a Republican who understands and can talk about policy. Just imagine. For a change Sunday newschat shows might cover actual issues instead of serving as group therapy sessions for stupid angry people like John McCain, Eric Cantor and Joe Lieberman. The dirty little secret of DC is that nobody presses these guys on policy because they can’t possibly handle it. They oppose Obama policy because pancake rainbow phlogiston wolverines.

As long as we’re dreaming I’ll take my magical flying pony with the feature that makes it poop dollar bills. Plus flame breath to fight the dragons.


The good news is, most Americans acknowledge the reality of climate change; accept that it's a serious problem; and support efforts, such as cap and trade, to address the crisis.

The bad news is, like practically everything else of late, it's become a partisan issue in which the American mainstream has one set of beliefs, and Republicans have an entirely different reality.

The percentage of Americans who believe global warming is happening has dipped from 80 to 72 percent in the past year, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, even as a majority still support a national cap on greenhouse gas emissions.

The poll's findings -- which also show that 55 percent of respondents think the United States should curb its carbon output even if major developing nations such as China and India do less -- suggest increasing political polarization around the issue, just as the Obama administration and congressional Democrats are intensifying efforts to pass climate legislation and broker an international global warming pact.

The increase in climate skepticism is driven largely by a shift within the GOP. Since its peak 3 1/2 years ago, belief that climate change is happening is down sharply among Republicans -- 76 to 54 percent -- and independents -- 86 to 71 percent. It dipped more modestly among Democrats, from 92 to 86 percent.

That there was any drop at all is discouraging. The problem grows more severe with each passing year, and policymakers are more inclined to take necessary actions if they feel like they're responding to public demand. The more people reject reality, the more likely politicians will put off hard work.

In this case, the discouraging results are compounded by the simplicity of the poll question itself. As Kevin noted, "[T]his isn't a drop in conservatives who think that global warming is manmade. It's not a drop in the number who think it will continue in the future. It's not a drop in the number who think it's too expensive to do anything about it. The question ABC asked was whether or not temperatures had increased over the past hundred years. It's a simple factual question like asking if the Allies won World War I. But only a bare majority of conservatives believe it. It's Jim Inhofe's party now."

As this relates to legislation pending in Congress, there was one encouraging result -- a 53% majority supports a cap-and-trade proposal. The results on this question have improved ever so slightly over the last several months.

On a related note, Thomas Friedman had a good column on all of this last week, explaining why even the most reason-resistant conservatives should take energy policy seriously: "[Y[ou don't believe in global warming? You're wrong, but I'll let you enjoy it until your beach house gets washed away. But if you also don't believe the world is getting more crowded with more aspiring Americans -- and that ignoring that will play to the strength of our worst enemies, while responding to it with clean energy will play to the strength of our best technologies -- then you're willfully blind, and you're hurting America's future to boot."


The struggle continues -- is the wiser course of action ignoring Sarah Palin because she's a foolish clown undeserving of attention, or shining a light on her offensive antics to help demonstrate the misguided inanities of the larger right-wing movement?

I generally lean towards the former, but some of the former half-term governor's misdeeds are too odious to overlook. Like this one, for example.

Former Alaska GOP Gov. Sarah Palin on Monday accused President Barack Obama of not acknowledging the sacrifices made by the men and women in the U.S. military.

"There's been a lack of acknowledgment by our president in understanding what it is that the American military provides in terms of, obviously, the safety, the security of our country," Palin said during an interview with Fox News's Greta Van Susteren. "I want him to acknowledge the sacrifices that these individual men and women -- our sons, our daughters, our moms, our dads, our brothers and sisters -- are providing this country to keep us safe."

"They're making sacrifices," said Palin, who visited the Army base at Fort Bragg on Monday as part of her ongoing book tour. "They're putting so much on hold right now so that the homeland can be safe and they can fight for democratic ideals around our world. I want to see more acknowledgment and more respect given to them."

Asked specifically what she'd like to see more of from Obama, Palin said, "I want to see them equipped. I want to see them given everything that they need, including strategies -- a surge strategy in Afghanistan, for one -- so that they know that they're there for victory, they're not there just biding their time as lives are being lost."

Even for Palin, this is vile. "There's been a lack of acknowledgment by our president in understanding what it is that the American military provides in terms of, obviously, the safety, the security of our country"? I'm not entirely sure she's trying to say here, or what it is she thinks the president has failed to "acknowledge."

But in Grown-Up Land, the Commander in Chief has honored the service and sacrifices of servicemen and women repeatedly. He did so at Dover Air Force Base last month; just as he did at Fort Hood and on Veterans' Day this month. Obama, in just the past few weeks, has met with U.S. troops in Florida, Alaska, Texas, and in South Korea.

Also note, Palin, who has never demonstrated any meaningful understanding of foreign policy at any level -- look, Sarah, there's Putin flying over your house -- can't criticize the administration's efforts on a substantive level, so she complains for no reason about her misguided sense of "strategies."

In other words, we can add this to the very long list of subjects on which Sarah Palin pops off without having a clue what she's talking about.

John Cole added, "What a detestable human being.... I'm seriously so sick and tired of these people. Visit the troops and you are accused of using them as a photo op. Spend one day not genuflecting to the troops, you are accused of ignoring them."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

History Lesson

Beutler (TPM): Sebelius Unveils State By State Analysis Of Impact Of Health Care Reform

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today unveiled state-by-state analyses of the beneficial impacts of health care reform. Using the Senate bill, the report underlines, among other things, the number of working and middle class people who would receive federal assistance, and the extent to which the legislation would reduce the number of uninsured in that state.

So, to pick three states totally at random, if you wanted to know what the goodies for Nebraska, Arkansas, and Louisiana, would be, you can just click.

And, in case you're wondering, the reports do not address the state-by-state impact of the public option.

A bit of history from one who was there - O'Donnell.
Reform haunted by ghosts of bills past? Nov. 23: Senator Sherrod Brown explains why he's optimistic about the passage of the Senate health reform bill with guest host (and former Senate staffer) Lawrence O'Donnell.
Marshall: More on Filibusters

A political scientist TPM Reader begs to differ with TPM Reader JB on the filibuster and the difficulty of getting hard bills through the senate ...

I am a political scientist who has studied the Senate filibuster. As much as I'd like to agree with JB's post, it misses the mark in important ways -- leading people to blame Obama and Reid for what is really way beyond their control. (Note: that is not to say that Reid hasn't made mistakes or Obama has not made mistakes -- but that is a separate question).
Here is the issue: JB writes: "If this had not been the case, legislation like the 1986 Tax Reform Act (which overhauled the entire federal tax code), the Goldwater-Nichols bill of that year restructuring the Pentagon, and the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments could never have been enacted." Here is the problem: all of those pieces of legislation passed with overwhelming majorities voting yes -- far more than 60 votes. For example, the Senate passed Golwater Nichols with 95 or 96 yea votes; Clean Air Act passed 89-11. Even if a few yes votes would've rather seen the bill fail, this is no way comparable to health care today. In other words, filibusters could not succeed in the Tax Reform, Goldwater-Nichols, Clean Air Act cases etc because if someone filibustered, more than 60 senators would genuinely want to end the filibuster so that the bill would pass. Today, there are not 60 senators who want the bill to pass, as it currently stands. That is lousy, but it is not something that Harry Reid could change by being a better legislative strategist. JB is right that it was not always this way: before the 1970s, it was pretty common for major, controversial bills to pass the Senate absent a filibuster-proof supportive majority. But since then, the filibuster has become so widely accepted (and so costless) that it is a real veto (except when reconciliation is an option -- which is not so feasible here) absent 60 votes. Note also: the idea of citing the southern Democrats as at all restrained on civil rights opposition is laughable. The only reason the 1964 Civil Rights Act could pass is that LBJ and the Democrats made enough concessions to Dirksen to get enough GOP votes to have 67 for cloture (which was the threshold back then). Fortunately, Dirksen was not anywhere near as conservative as today's Republicans, so the concessions were not as substantial as would be required to get GOPers on board today for any liberal legislation.

I think both readers have good points here. But, thinking back, there's any question that as recently as the 1990s filibusters (or using whatever obstructive measures to force 60 vote majorities) were much less common than they are today. Today it is treated as a given; 60 votes is the default. That simply did not used to be the case.

Some of it is a change in standards, a breakdown of informal rules, as JB suggested. But I think we're also deluding ourselves if we do not figure in a large role for larger structural changes in our politics. Simply put, the broader climate of political polarization in the country -- a socio-political reality than transcends parliamentary rules -- creates pressures for party coherence and party discipline that makes the resort to these tactics more and more the norm.


Over the weekend, Roll Call ran an online item, explaining, "With the Senate preparing to vote Saturday on whether to consider a $848 billion health care overhaul bill, national Democrats on Friday launched a rapid response system aimed at blunting each GOP criticism of the bill."

I have to say, the DNC's rapid-response fact-checking was pretty damn impressive. I lost count of how many alerts hit my inbox during the debate, but just about every time a Republican senator would make an appearance -- on the Senate floor or on one of the cable networks -- another alert went out, pointing to his/her demonstrable falsehoods. Late yesterday, the DNC posted the entire package of fact-checking items, which serves as a timeline of sorts, chronicling each bogus claim as it was made.

But let's not miss the forest for the trees here. Looking over the rapid-response list, the efficiency of the DNC operation is impressive, but the key takeaway is more important: Good lord, Republicans sure do lie a lot about health care.

I mean, GOP lawmakers weren't even close to the truth. Watching the debate as it unfolded, one got the sense that reform's opponents either know literally nothing about the issue at hand, prefer almost pathological levels of dishonesty, or perhaps both.

Over the weekend, Josh Marshall noted in passing that the congressional GOP lied quite a bit during the 1994 reform debate, but Republicans are now "upping their game ... lying even more shamelessly than in round 1."

I'm reminded of Ruth Marcus' reaction to the House debate a few weeks ago, when she marveled at the "appalling amount of misinformation being peddled" by Republicans.

I don't mean the usual hyperbole about "a children-bankrupting, health-care-rationing, freedom-crushing, $1 trillion government takeover of our health-care system," as Texas Republican Jeb Hensarling put it. Or the tired canards about taxpayer-funded abortion or insurance subsidies for illegal immigrants. Or the extraneous claims about alleged Democratic excesses....

I mean the flood of sheer factual misstatements about the health-care bill.... You have to wonder: Are the Republican arguments against the bill so weak that they have to resort to these misrepresentations and distortions?

Their Senate colleagues were just as offensive, shamelessly pretending as if reality had no meaning whatsoever.

John McCain, for example, said in a written statement that the reform bill would add "more than a trillion dollars to our country's deficit," would put medical decisions "in the hands of government bureaucrats," and amount to a "government takeover of our health care system." He's obviously lying. None of this is even remotely true.

But McCain and his cohorts have a strong incentive to be as blatantly dishonest as they can be. For one thing, it keeps the rabid GOP base worked up. For another, it might confuse the American mainstream, who won't know who's telling the truth and who isn't.

Ordinarily, the media would help sort this out. So much for that idea: "The media is basically letting all opponents of health care say whatever the hell they want about health care reform with little pushback. I don't know why I continue to be surprised when this happens, but I do..."

Without political consequences for dishonesty, this is only going to get worse.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Standing in line, passing the time.

This video is surprisingly interesting. Really - they support her but they don't know why. And a lot of the things they "know" aren't true. Not that a similar set of interviews of people standing in line for many a politician would be a lot different. But I stood in line to attend an Obama rally in Harrisonburg, VA, and the people in that line were very well informed about the issues.

Sully: The Kate Gosselin Of Politics

A reader writes:

I disagree with your reader who says Palin is a bullshitter. I kind of like bullshitters. I consider someone like Bill Clinton to be a bullshitter. Kind of smooth, kind of full of one's self. In my mind, Palin is a disturbed individual who does not live in a world where truth as a concept is relevant or even extant. She is wholly a creation of the media because she has a sexy quality to her good looks (especially in an industry - politics - that has few beauties). Her only cleverness is that she uses her child with Down's Syndrome as the entire basis of her being as a politician. Sorry to put it so crudely, but that is the thing that the hard right loves about her. (In fact, she recounts how she considered abortion but decided against it. As a mother, I find that little story so disgusting. Why would a mother ever openly discuss that they thought about aborting her child? Or her defender, Bernie Goldberg, implying that a liberal would abort a Down's Syndrome child. Even more disgusting.)

Some people who are not on the hard right like her for other reasons - especially because she is a working mother of five. They relate to her, and I think that is valid.

What is missing is that she has no substance. She is an empty vessel. In our reality show, 24-hour news cycle world, one can be an empty vessel and still be wildly popular as a reality star, a politician, or whatever. No one questions beyond the surface, and indeed it is politically incorrect to even imply that she is not bright. If you are Kate Gosselin, then I have no problem with you being wildly popular and stupid (not that Kate is stupid). If you want to lead my country, then I do have problems with you being popular and stupid. (And, honestly, I am sick to no end of having leaders that are so dumb that the stock observation made about them is that they are not as dumb as we think.)

So, for anyone who thinks you or others are wasting their time dissecting this woman and her "views," then I have one number for them. 46. That is the percentage of voters that wanted Sarah Palin to be President of the United States. What would that number be today? With a media that has gone nearly wholesale against Obama, with a progressive movement that is enabling Palinites through relentless and often self-righteous fault-finding, with an almost silent group of Obama defenders, with a reality show obsessed culture, it is plausible that the 46 % could add the paltry 5% it needs to rule the world.

Doesn't that chill you to the bone?

Martha Stewart has some harsh words for `Dangerous`Sarah Palin

Palin Getting Middle East Policy Advice from Billy and Franklin Graham

Sarah Palin recently explained that Israel’s illegal settlements should be expanded “because that population of Israel is, is going to grow. More and more Jewish people will be flocking to Israel in the days and weeks and months ahead.” In my own critique of that statement I focused on the weird theory that population growth requires territorial expansion (almost every country’s population is growing, after all) but she also seemed to articulate the view that Jewish immigration to Israel is about to accelerate. I wrote that off as possibly poor wording, but Jeffrey Goldberg had some questions:

“More and more Jewish people will be flocking to Israel”? Who, exactly? Is this her analysis of Jewish demography? Is there a sudden upsurge in Zionist sentiment among American Jews, the only sizable Jewish community left outside of Israel? Or is this an indication that Palin buys into creepy End-Times thinking, in which the ingathering of the Jews, and their mass death, presage the return of Christ? Inquiring minds want to know.

This story about Palin’s meeting with Billy and Franklin Graham tends to bolster the End-Times possibility:

The former Alaska governor and 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate told Billy Graham about how she came to faith in God as a girl in Bible camp.

She quizzed him on the presidents he’s known and wanted his take on what the Bible says about Israel, Iran and Iraq, Franklin Graham reported.

I don’t want to make too big a deal about this, but given the tendency of U.S. politicians to avowedly claim religious grounding for their political beliefs I do think somewhat more scrutiny needs to be given to the issue of the extent to which evangelical figures are letting their policy views be driven by apocalyptic scenarios. John Hagee of Christians United for Israel, for example, supports preventive military strikes on Iran that he believes will lead to Israel’s destruction at the hands of a Russo-Arab alliance.

At any rate, Franklin Graham’s views on the subject are clear and disturbing:

In case there was any doubt left about evangelical views of Islam, Billy Graham’s son, the Rev Franklin Graham, stated that Islam “is a very evil and wicked religion.” […]

Yet the millennialist Christian beliefs and goals differ not only from those of mainstream Israelis, they also differ starkly from the goals of even the most militant Israeli expansionists. Fundamentalist Christians believe that the Jews will either convert to Christianity or perish in the end times. Hence the Middle East peace plan suggested by Rev Franklin Graham, Billy’s son: Muslims and Jews alike should try “surrendering their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ and having their hearts changed by the Holy Spirit.”

Unfortunately, the government of Israel seems intent on pursuing a path that’s bound to over time alienate the liberal majority among diaspora Jews and instead leave it more dependent on these kind of people.

Our Failed Media

DougJ: Dirty Chinese-wannabe hippie

James Fallows responds here to Chuck Todd’s claim that Fallows and other Asia-based journalists should stop whining about NBC’s shitty coverage of the president’s Asia trip. Fallows shows altogether too much tact and restraint for my tastes, but it’s worth reading.

When Glenn Beck complains that the press didn’t pay enough attention to a video of college students dressed up as pimps and hos, the Washington Post and New York Times performed acts of contrition and assigned reporter to keep track of whatever Beck was saying in the future. When an acclaimed journalist (and one even working for an Official Publication in this case) criticizes coverage of meetings between the United States and the most populous nation on earth, that is politically-motivated whining that should be mocked and ignored.

That’s where we’re at as a country right now.

Fallows: Manufactured failure #4: more on Obama's trip

Things are warming up on this front. Previously here, with backward links. Today's points:

1) Many people have forwarded me a posting from my friend and former colleague Chuck Todd, saying that people who criticize the press's horse-race, instant-analysis coverage of Obama's trip are guilty of the same horse-race, instant-analysis thinking themselves. Ie, Hypocrite lecteur - mon semblable -- mon frere!

With all good will toward Chuck, let me point out the distinction: What (we) reporters say or write about an event can in fact be judged as soon as we say or write it, because it's all out there to be seen. What happens in a meeting between the leaders of China and the US often can't be judged for months or years after it occurs -- which is the complaint about instant analysis of what Obama "got" or didn't from this trip. For instance: no sane person imagined that an agreement about the value of the RMB would be announced just after this session. That is not the way the Chinese government has ever behaved in response to foreign "pressure." We will know whether US intervention on this issue had any effect over the next few months. It reveals zero familiarity with the issue to expect anything else -- or imply that the absence of an announcement is a "failure."

2) Many people have sent clips of today's talk show by my friend and former colleague Chris Matthews, which went in super-heavy for the "Obama humiliated in Asia" line. With all good will to Chris, I fear that this show today, notably the comments by the Washington Post's reporter from the Asia trip, will be the new symbol of exactly the kind of instant-analysis that, in my view, fundamentally misrepresents what happened on the trip. (Distillation of my complaint in an On the Media segment here; also, it was one theme of my All Things Considered discussion with Guy Raz yesterday.)

2A) As a bonus, here is what the Post's page showed yesterday for discussion of Obama's trip: was it a success or "an embarrassment"?


3) Below and after the jump, more comments from a US government official who was on the trip and knows first-hand about many of the meetings with foreign dignitaries. Earlier from this person here.

About the "humiliating" bow to the Emperor of Japan:

"Obama's attitude was, this is an elderly gentleman in a country where this kind of greeting is customary. It does not seem extraordinary to show this kind of gesture to him. The Fox news poll said that 67% of Americans thought it was a good thing for him to have done. When the president heard that some people had complained, I'd characterize his reaction as: The notion that the United States is somehow humbling or humiliating itself by showing respect for a local custom, when it is transparently the most powerful country in the world, leaves me speechless."
On what Obama "got" from China on climate/environment issues:
"We closed some of the gap but not all of the gap. The Chinese do not wish, three weeks out of Copenhagen, to be seen working hand in glove with the US to impose a "G2" solution to the G77. They have their own reservations about how far things should go. But they also don't want to be seen as the stumbling block or odd man out.

"We kept making the argument, We're the #1 and 2 emitters, so we have a special responsibility, a special role. We got some movement. They are taking substantial mitigating steps, which they didn't enumerate but we know what they are. As best we can tell, they are prepared to submit those as their "target" in Copenhagen, and of course we want them to be "commitments" rather than targets. There is still a stumbling block on the issue of accountability, which is always a hard one with the Chinese. We'd like to have an independent peer review of whether doing what you said you would do. There are lots of different ways to do that... But we haven't closed that part of the gap yet.

"Prime Minister Rasmussen [Lars Loekke Rasmussen of Denmark, with obvious involvement in the Copenhagen talks] has been saying that while a binding legal treaty by this December is not possible, he has been calling for a politically-binding accord at Copenhagen. Then there would be the task of turning it into a treaty over the next year. The Chinese have bought into that general framework. And we made a lot of agreements with them on clean energy [details here]. So on climate change, there were no miracles, but we moved them out out of the position of being blockers to being part of the game.
On what happened regarding North Korea and Iran:
"North Korea first. We announced that [Ambassador Stephen] Bosworth was going there on December 8. Essentially we want his talks to be followed by resumption of Six Party Talks before terribly long. We told the Chinese that. In the joint statement, the Chinese did in fact commit to seeking resumption of Six Party Talks at an early date. They agreed to that principle, and they were pretty robust in their insistence that they care about the denuclearization of North Korea. In fact they more than anyone else have reasons to be troubled by the program. The missiles may not be aimed at China, but they are right next to China. So our perspectives are not identical, but on North Korea, we're doing pretty well.

"Iran has been more difficult, and will probably become a more sensitive issue. Iran itself is heading the wrong direction. By end of the year, we may have to go to the pressure track. We made a strong presentation, whose gist was: Time is running out, and if this situation continues, several other clocks are ticking. There's the Israeli clock. If Israel decides to do something, we cannot stop them. If it's an existential decision, you don't consult anybody else. And Saudi Arabia and Turkey and Egypt probably would follow with nuclear programs. What's the impact of that on security in the Persian Gulf and the international non-proliferation regime? And on Japan and Korea? It is profoundly in China's interest to stay close to the "P5 + 1." [Five UN Security Council permanent members, plus Germany.]

"On the one hand, they get it. But as a matter of principle they don't like sanctions and are concerned about their energy supplies, and they always like to free-ride. If the Russians are on board they will be on board too. At the end of the day, I expect the China will be on board. There may be some foot-dragging about specifics of a resolution, depending on how draconian it is. Russia is the bigger challenge, in the sense that if you get China.
About judging the results of these talks - and those on economics [about which more in the next installment]:
"Discussions with the Chinese just don't offer dramatic breakthrough moments. It's water on a stone. They don't reveal their Eurekas to you. While you're there you get fairly predictable responses. Next time you go back and get a little different treatment.

"Judgments will be borne out over time. Will they cooperate or not on Iran? Will they be spoilers or not on climate change? On North Korea? Rebalancing their economy? None of those is a one-day story. The only fair way of evaluating results will be over time.

"But I get the sense that many of our critics would not be happy unless Obama punched the Chinese leaders in the nose."
More to come, from the official and also from sources in China, on the impact Obama's town hall may prove to have.

Health Care Monday: Dog Food Edition

QOTD, Mimikatz:
America may well have lost the ability to solve problems because too many people have a vested interest in their continuation.
Kevin Drum: Dog Food Explained!

So how did the Senate's provision forcing members of Congress to buy health insurance through the exchange end up in the final bill? A reader emails to explain:

The provision in the health care bill was added by Sen. Chuck Grassley. He originally wanted it to cover all federal workers — not just the Congressional ones — and obviously that created a bit of a stir. Baucus tried to placate him by adding language to say that federal employees may enter the exchanges, but that didn't work. So then Grassley offered his amendment saying, members of Congress and their staffs must use the exchanges. Perhaps he thought this would lead to an embarrasing fight, but Baucus said, "fine," and then that was that. As far as I know, the House version just says, members of Congress may enter the exchanges if they want to.

So there you have it. More here.

Ezra Klein: Reform begets reform

This is a good point from Fred Hiatt:

[M]aybe the country isn't all that divided -- most of us would welcome common-sense improvements in health-care delivery and insurance -- but the system feeds on and exacerbates our differences. The advent of the 60-vote rule in the Senate has magnified the already formidable checks and balances built into the Constitution, with the disproportionate blocking power it awards small and rural states. Cable television and the Internet have empowered those with the greatest intensity of feeling. The self-serving redistricting habits of the political elite, designed to protect incumbents, have left most legislators vulnerable only to primary challenges from the extremes of their respective parties.

Whichever explanation appeals to you -- and no doubt they all contain some truth -- the perception of paralysis increases the urgency of passing health-care reform. Failure would damage the Obama presidency, and it would also deepen the fear, here and abroad, that America is stuck.

To put this slightly differently, the failure of this health-care reform bill will not be taken as evidence that people should try other health-care reform bills with much more severe -- and thus unpopular -- cost-cutting measures. It will be that even a popular president backed by the largest Senate majority since the 1970s couldn't pass a fairly modest health-care bill. If you don't believe me, just ask the Republican presidential candidates if any of them are preparing detailed plans to privatize Social Security.

"Doing" health-care reform proves something important: Health-care reform can be done. That's not an argument for a bad bill, as Hiatt is careful to say, but it's an argument for recognizing that an imperfect bill is the beginning of a necessary process, while a damaging defeat ends any hope of one.

Benen: LEVERAGE....
Jonathan Cohn wrote a good lay-of-the-land piece last night on the state of the health care reform fight, noting, among other things, the "unambiguous." "unyielding," and "obstinate" efforts of center-right Democrats undermine the Senate bill.

But Cohn's point about reform's champions is the one I keep mulling over.

To be sure, Liberals can flex their muscle, too. Bernie Sanders made very clear, in his own statements over the weekend, that he wasn't guaranteeing to give his vote -- particularly if conservative Democrats (and former Democrats) extract even more concessions.

Sanders is right to play hardball like this, but, at the end of the day, it's hard to imagine he'd cast the vote to kill health care reform. He simply cares too much about the people even a weakened bill would help. The same goes for Sherrod Brown, who's emerging as a leading voice for progressives. Their interest in helping their fellow man is, in strategic terms, a great weakness.

I not only think this is right, I think it's a dynamic that will inevitably shape the debate over the next month (or more). We're dealing with a series of upcoming negotiations in which conservative Dems' indifference gives them leverage. In other words, Lieberman, Nelson, & Co. don't much care if this once-in-a-generation opportunity implodes, while reform advocates care very much. These rather obvious bargaining positions create a playing field that is anything but level.

Put it this way: imagine there's a big meeting with every member of the Democratic caucus in both chambers. You stand at the front of the room and make a presentation: "If health care reform falls apart after having come this far, tens of millions of Americans will suffer; costs will continue to soar; the public will perceive Democrats as too weak and incompetent to act of their own agenda; the party will lose a lot of seats in the midterms and possible forfeit its majority; and President Obama will have suffered a devastating defeat that will severely limit his presidency going forward. No one will even try to fix the dysfunctional system again for decades, and the existing problems will only get worse."

For progressive Democrats, the response would be, "That's an unacceptable outcome, which we have to avoid."

For conservative Democrats, the response would be, "We can live with failure."

This necessarily affects negotiations. One contingent wants to avoid failure; the other contingent considers failure a satisfactory outcome. Both sides know what the other side is thinking.

Yes, progressive Democrats can force the issue, keep the bill intact, and force Nelson, Landrieu, Lieberman, and Lincoln to kill the legislation, in the process making clear exactly who was responsible for the debacle. But that's cold comfort -- the goal isn't to position center-right Dems to take the blame for failure; the goal ostensibly is to pass a bill that will do a lot of good for a lot of people.

The push for more "compromise" isn't going to be pretty.


It's always encouraging when a lawmaker in a precarious position has his/her priorities straight.

"If you get to the final point and you are a critical vote for health care reform and every piece of evidence tells you if you support the bill you will lose your job, would you cast the vote and lose your job?" CNN's John King asked Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado on Sunday's State of the Union.

"Yes," Bennet bluntly and simply replied.

Bennet was appointed by Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter to replace Sen. Ken Salazar, who stepped down from the Senate to serve as President Obama's Interior Secretary. Bennet, who was superintendent of the Denver public school system prior to his appointment, will have to seek election to the seat for the first time in 2010.

Now, I wasn't especially impressed with the question. We haven't seen King pressing his Republican guests on the price they may pay as a result of opposing health care reform. Indeed, the question for Bennet is premised on the notion that supporting health care reform is somehow a risky, politically dangerous thing to do. The framing of the question has a decidedly GOP-friendly spin.

Regardless, Bennet's response sent the right signal -- lawmakers who care more about keeping power than using it are looking at their responsibilities the wrong way. Good for him.


How concerned are Democratic leaders about keeping the 60-vote Senate caucus together on health care reform? They're already making contingency plans, hoping to replace defectors with the Maine Moderates.

Anxious that Saturday's party-line Senate vote to open debate on a health care overhaul gives them little maneuvering room, Obama administration officials and their Congressional allies are stepping up overtures to select Senate Republicans in hopes of winning their ultimate support.

The two moderate Republican senators from Maine, Susan Collins and Olympia J. Snowe, say Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, reached out to them after he unveiled the Senate measure, encouraging them to bring forward their ideas and concerns.

Ms. Collins also received a personal visit from a high-level Obama emissary, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, a former senator who worked closely with her on various issues as part of a bipartisan coalition.

Now, at first blush, this seems pointless. Probably second blush, too. Snowe and Collins not only oppose the Democratic proposal, they both just voted to filibuster a motion to have a debate on the bill. Collins said yesterday that she'd like to find a way to "rewrite the bill in a way that would cause it to have greater support." The two may be slightly less conservative than their GOP colleagues, but they don't exactly sound like prime targets for across-the-aisle outreach.

On the other hand, there are four members of the Democratic caucus -- Nelson, Landrieu, Lieberman, and Lincoln -- who are being just as obstinate as Snowe and Collins, if not more so. Indeed, all things being equal, it's probably fair to characterize Snowe as being to Lieberman's left on health care reform (Lieberman thinks even a trigger would be going too far in generating competition for private insurers).

With this in mind, the outreach to the Maine senators seems to have less to do with asking, "How can we make this vote bipartisan?" and more to do with asking, "What can we do if Lieberman decides to betray us?"

Of course, it's not just Lieberman. His center-right Democratic cohorts will all make painful demands to undermine the bill. The fact that Snowe and Collins are still on the radar screen, though, signals that the leadership is keeping its options open.

Back in July, we talked about an op-ed Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) of Arkansas wrote for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. It wasn't perfect, but the center-right senator struck some encouraging notes:

Individuals should be able to choose from a range of quality health insurance plans. Options should include private plans as well as a quality, affordable public plan or non-profit plan that can accomplish the same goals as those of a public plan. [...]

Unfortunately, opponents of reform, who have no real plan for improving health care, are already using the tired arguments of the past. They say that Congress is trying to create "more government" or a "Washington takeover" of health care, which will raise your taxes, get between you and your doctor, and eliminate private insurance. It's a strategy that spreads misinformation and generates fear to preserve the status quo. Arkansans should not be misled by those who oppose real reform.

Of course, that was several months ago, before Teabaggers went berserk in August. But as Igor Volsky noted, as recently as yesterday, Lincoln's own website argued, "Individuals should be able to choose from a range of quality health insurance plans. Options should include private plans as well as a quality, affordable public plan or non-profit plan that can accomplish the same goals of a public plan."

That was the senator's official position a day after Lincoln stood on the floor of the Senate, "promising" to join a Republican filibuster of health care reform "as long as a government-run public option is included" in the bill.

After Volsky's post, Lincoln's office changed the senator's official position, scrubbing the page of any references to allowing consumers to choose among competing plans.

But given that the reasoning behind Lincoln's conservative position on reform has gone largely overlooked, perhaps, the next time the senator is addressing reporters, someone can ask her, "So, why were you for giving consumers the choice of a public option before you were against it?"

Yglesias: Thousands of Uninsured Arkansans Seek Free Medical Care

It’s not a coincidence that states with elected officials who are dubious about health reform tend to have the largest number of uninsured people. The same political culture that produces high uninsurance rates at the state level normally also produces federal officials who are hostile to measures to broaden access. But as long as the spotlight’s on Arkansas:

According to the Arkansas Department of Health, around 450 thousand Arkansans lack health insurance. More than a thousand of those uninsured made their way to Little Rock’s Statehouse Convention Center on Saturday for the National Association of Free Clinics “C.A.R.E.” event. [...] According to the NAFC, more than 90 percent of those who came on Saturday had three or more life-threatening conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, cardio-vascular, and pulmonary disease. Dr. Kimberly Garner, who works for the Veteran’s Administration in North Little Rock and was one of the volunteer physicians at the clinic, says those kinds of numbers illustrate the need for change.

As of 2008, 19.2 percent of non-elderly Arkansans were uninsured (Arkansas seniors, of course, avail themselves of government-run health insurance), a bit higher than the national average. Many of those people would be made much better off by the health reform bill that passed the House or by the somewhat different one that passed the Senate. But Blanche Lincoln says that unless Democrats agree to kill the idea of introducing a public option into the mix, she’ll vote against a bill that would otherwise help many of her constituents.

Think Progress: Gun Lobby Mobilizes Against Health Reform By Claiming Obama Administration Will Issue ‘No Guns’ Decree
On Friday, Gun Owners of America sent out an action alert to its 300,000 members warning that the Senate health care bill “would mandate that doctors provide ‘gun-related health data’ to ‘a government database,’ including information on mental-health issues detected in patients, which could jeopardize their ability to obtain a firearms license.” The alert also warned its membership that the “wellness and prevention” provisions in the health care bill would allow the Obama administration to issue a “no guns” decree:

Finally, as we have mentioned several times in the past, the mandates in the legislation will most likely dump your gun-related health data into a government database that was created in section 13001 of the stimulus bill. This includes any firearms-related information your doctor has gleaned…or any determination of PTSD, or something similar, that can preclude you from owning firearms.

And, the special “wellness and prevention” programs (inserted by Section 1001 of the bill as part of a new Section 2717 in the Public Health Services Act) would allow the government to offer lower premiums to employers who bribe their employees to live healthier lifestyles — and nothing within the bill would prohibit rabidly anti-gun HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from decreeing that “no guns” is somehow healthier.

The so-called “gun-related health data” is actually anonymous statistical information to help researchers develop health programs and initiatives that serve specific population groups or further the study of various conditions and medical needs. Section 2705 of the Senate health bill permits employers to vary insurance premiums by as much as 30 percent for employee participation in certain health promotion and disease prevention programs, but stipulates that the employer wellness program must be “based on an individual satisfying a standard that is related to a health status factor.” Gun ownership does not fall into this category.

This fear-mongering should be seen as the continuation of a multimillion dollar effort launched by the gun lobby to portray Obama as “a threat to the Second Amendment rights.” Prior to the election, the NRA claimed of Obama, “[N]ever in NRA’s history have we faced a presidential candidate…with such a deep-rooted hatred of firearm freedoms.” Since the election, the NRA and other gun groups continue to misinform voters about Obama’s gun policy proposals, claiming that unrelated policies — like the economic stimulus — are part of a broader campaign to strip gun rights.

“I’m not going to take away your guns,’’ Obama has repeatedly said. Nevertheless, sensing an opportunity to gain more members and fuel gun sales, the gun lobby has preyed on people’s fears by making up false claims.

  • from the comments:
    Art says:

    They are really reaching now.

    Hey! Did you hear the health bill will fund the rebuilding of the Berlin Wall?

    Whoa! I heard the health bill will give Texas back to Mexico!!

    Watch out! It’s said that the health bill will outlaw Christmas!!

    EnnuiDivine says:


    It was also outlaw meat!
    And mandate soy consumption!
    And make heterosexuality marriage illegal!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dishonesty and Incoherence

If we had a functioning press corps that asked actual, substantive questions, this kind of incoherence and dishonesty would not be possible.
Ezra Klein: Sarah Palin's ghostwriter gets hold of John McCain's web site

The front page of John McCain's web site reads:

I remain committed to opposing any bill that puts your health care decisions in the hands of government bureaucrats while adding more than a trillion dollars to our country's deficit. Taxpayers simply cannot afford this government takeover of our health care system and this is our opportunity to put an end to it.

That's interesting, I guess, but what about the bill being considered by the Senate, which cuts $130 billion from our country's deficit and leaves health-care decisions exactly where they are now, wherever that might be?

Yglesias: Blanche Lincoln’s Website Still Says She Supports The Public Option

My colleague Igor Volsky points out that not only did Blanche Lincoln used to support a public option, as of last night at least that language was still up on her website:

blanchlincolnpublic 1

Her specific belief that a public option, if enacted, would eventually receive public funds even if it’s created by a law that prohibits taxpayer subsidies is a little bit hard to understand. Right now there aren’t sixty votes in the Senate for taxpayer subsidies to a public option. Nor is there a majority in the House for taxpayer subsidies to a public option. Nor does the White House support such subsidies. And we’re at something of a high water mark for Democratic victories—how likely is a simultaneous leftward shift by all three branches?

Yglesias: Blanche Lincoln, Racing Horse

Blanche Lincoln has emerged as one of the pivotal votes in the US Senate debate about health care reform. So an article about her and her role in the debate seems like a smart thing for a newspaper to run. Which makes Spencer Ackerman’s tweet quite apropos: “Hey let’s say that I didn’t pay any attn to HC yesterday. Shouldn’t this piece tell me why Lincoln opposes the bill?”

Exactly. It’s striking to me how little scrutiny the stated views of public option opponents tend to get. Moderates are very rarely asked to explain what it is about an opt-outable level playing field public option that’s so horrible that it becomes suddenly worthwhile to filibuster an otherwise good bill that will put the country on a more sustainable fiscal course will improving millions of Americans’ access to health care.

Here's how a real, thinking reporter puts the piece together:
Countdown had a good piece on the public option for floods, which is supported by almost all Senators:

"OLBERMANN: Some blue dog House Democrats led by Stephanie Herseth Sandlin also oppose a public option. And when the Senate Finance Committee voted against including the option in its version of health care reform, Republicans were joined by a handful of Democrats including the committee chair, Max Baucus, who crafted the bill after conferring for weeks with the so-called “gang of six”: fellow Democrats Jeff Bingaman and Kent Conrad, Republicans Chuck Grassley, Mike Enzi and Olympia Snowe. The entire gang of six votes—casts their votes against the public option on Tuesday.

"But each of them voted just last year in support of government-run insurance, that insurance however protects property. It is the National Flood Insurance Program created in 1968, because the free market decided it could not make money on that unpredictable risk called flooding. Government-run flood insurance is sold through private insurance companies but it is backed by the government and the government assumes all risk. Unlike the public option which relies on customer premiums, government flood insurance gets a subsidy—also known as a handout—from the government and it is mandatory for some people.

"So given all the shouting over a public option, who could vote for mandatory taxpayer subsidized, anti- free market socialized flood insurance run by government bureaucrats? Every single politician I just named and most of Congress. Charles Boustany of Louisiana, along with 44 other Republicans, including going bipartisan on September 27th, 2007 to vote yea on the Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act. Karl Max applauded."

WaterTiger: Joe Lieberman: Still a fucking tool

now with an extra serving of tool-ness:

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) raised hackles among liberals earlier this week when he claimed that the public option wasn't a part of the 2008 presidential campaign. He repeated that claim to reporters tonight, though acknowledged, when pressed, that then-candidate Barack Obama did in fact include a public option in his campaign health care proposal.

And then there's this:

Anyway, I'm opposed to it."

Shorter Lieberfucktard: I don't care what it says: I'm against it. Oooh, LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME!!!!

That Joe Lieberman would rather kill health care reform than let some consumer choose between competing public and private plans isn't exactly new. I continue to find it fascinating, though, to see his evolving explanations.

In June, Lieberman said, "I don't favor a public option because I think there's plenty of competition in the private insurance market." That didn't make sense, and it was quickly dropped from his talking points.

In July, Lieberman said he opposes a public option because "the public is going to end up paying for it." No one could figure out exactly what that meant, and the senator moved onto other arguments.

In August, he said we'd have to wait "until the economy's out of recession," which is incoherent, since a public option, even if passed this year, still wouldn't kick in for quite a while.

In September, Lieberman said he opposes a public option because "the public doesn't support it." A wide variety of credible polling proved otherwise.

In October, Lieberman said the public option would mean "trouble ... for the national debt," by creating "a whole new government entitlement program." Soon after, Jon Chait explained that this "literally makes no sense whatsoever."

Well, it's November. And guess what? We're onto the sixth rationale in six months. I actually like the new one.

"This is a radical departure from the way we've responded to the market in America in the past," Lieberman said Sunday on NBC's "Meet The Press." "We rely first on competition in our market economy. When the competition fails then what do we do? We regulate or we litigate.... We have never before said, in a given business, we don't trust the companies in it, so we're going to have the government go into that business.."

What a pleasant change of pace. Lieberman is moving away from practical and policy arguments -- that's a good move, since he's totally wrong on the merits -- and shifting towards opposition based on traditions.

That's at least creative. We haven't set up public plans to compete with dysfunctional private models before, therefore we shouldn't in the future. The first half of the equation may very well be true, but the second half is more of an observation than an argument.

In a nutshell, reform advocates are saying, "Giving people the choice of a public option is likely to help consumers by cutting costs and promoting competition." Lieberman is effectively responding, "We haven't done things that way in the past."

To which I respond, "So?"

The goal here is not to preserve ideologically-based traditions; the goal is to help consumers get the care they need at a price they can afford.

But don't worry, December is almost here. Lieberman will have a new line soon enough.

  • The comment section is predictably harsh with reality-based examples oh how utterly wrong he is. For example:

    Uh Joe, how about fire-fighting?

    Posted by: johannm on November 22, 2009 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

    This one's wrong too. We don't trust the marketplace to provide affordable health care coverage to seniors, so we have Medicare. The government has already gone into the business of providing health care coverage. What an idiot.

    Posted by: Chuck on November 22, 2009 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

    Utter horseshit. TVA brought electricity to rural Appalachia. Amtrak started providing passenger rail after companies couldn't provide it.

    But seriously, Lieberman isn't going to vote for health care reform. Either run the framework through without the public option then include the public option later through budget reconciliation, or run the whole thing through reconciliation.

    Posted by: Datanerd on November 22, 2009 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

    OK, so the government did not set up public schools and universities, did not start the USPS, never began building roads and bridges, never went into the pension business? Private businesses and individuals were doing ALL those things first and the government "went into" them.

    Posted by: rabbit on November 22, 2009 at 3:19 PM
Amato (C&L): Is Luke Russert the reincarnation of 'Clara Bow?'

Did you know that Luke Russert is the new political It Girl?" From now on, I'm calling him Clara Bow.

Digby explains.

Little Luke:That's what all signs are point to right now. But the interesting thing we can take away from this is a point that NBC producer Ken Strickland made that I think is great. It's that Harry Reid, no matter what happens, he is showing to the liberal base that he has done everything in his power to get a bill with a public option to the floor at least up for debate.

This satisfies the liberals, this satisfies the crowd, and really, I think it will show him to be the standard bearer of the liberal cause, Andrea.

Andrea Mitchell: Luke Russert, you're in the right place with the best story in town. Thanks so much.

Young Luke is quite the analyst. You can see why he was vaulted to the top of the American news business over the heads of others who have far more training, brains and ability. It's in the blood.

Just in case anyone missed it, Little Luke thinks that actually getting a public option in the bill isn't important to liberals -- the real victory is that the public option got to the floor. Apparently, Villagers think this whole thing was simply a bid for attention and now that the savvy Reid has delivered that, it doesn't matter what the bill has in it, we just love him to death. After all, liberals would certainly would never be so bold as to forget our place and think we might actually win something. How silly.

To the wise and worldly Little Luke, liberals are children to be appeased with gestures and shiny objects. I wonder where he learned that?

The Villagers are covering their asses because they declared the public option dead a long time ago, so now the story is that we're all happy little Cheeto-eaters because Harry Reid got it this far. What morons. And they wonder why blogs are cutting into their world. Maybe Luke is just looking for more college football tips.

Gawker has a little more.

Health Care: push comes to shove Edition

David Broder isn't sure if health care reform will cut the deficit, and as such, isn't sure if he likes the bill pending in the Senate. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was delighted to see the column, and called the writer a "distinguished senior columnist" with important "reservations as a citizen."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) replied, "To focus on a man who has been retired for many years and writes a column once in a while is not where we should be."

Technically, Broder never exactly retired, and continues to churn out fairly predictable content (next week's column: politicians should be more moderate). But in his latest item, Broder doubts that the Senate's reform plan will achieve the promised deficit reductions. The columnist is aware of the CBO report, but reads it in such a way as to conclude that "the promised budget savings may not materialize."

Broder's Washington Post colleague Ezra Klein seems to think Broder should have taken a closer look at the details.

The net increase of $160 billion in the first 10 years is part of CBO's analysis, not a caveat to it. It doesn't mean the bill doesn't cut the deficit, it just means that overall spending is larger before you add revenues into the equation. Moreover, the CBO continues: "during the decade following the 10-year budget window, the increases and decreases in the federal budgetary commitment to health care stemming from this legislation would roughly balance out."

In other words, the revenue and the savings grow more quickly than the costs. Extend that line out further and, yes, federal spending on health care falls as a result of this bill. In other words, the bill satisfies Broder's conditions. But he doesn't come out and say that.

Instead, he pivots to the now-traditional argument that Congress won't be able to stick to the savings and revenue measures in this bill. That, however, is another way of saying that Congress can't cut health-care costs and the American government will go bankrupt. For one thing, that's not a very good reason not to at least try and avert that outcome. But if Broder's position is that we face certain fiscal collapse, then the only real question is whether we would prefer that 30 million Americans had insurance in the meantime, or went uninsured over that period.

Reading Broder's column reminds me of listening to center-right Democrats complain about the bill for no apparent reason. Harry Reid crafted a modest, affordable bill that would significantly reduce the deficit, cut systemic costs, and steer clear of massive tax increases. This is what the center-right says it wants. And yet, they're reluctant to take "yes" for an answer.

Broder's argument seems to be, "Well, maybe policymakers won't follow through and do what the legislation explicitly mandates they do." By any reasonable measure, that's simply not an argument.

Madrak (C&L): Nate Silver: We Shouldn't Be Celebrating Just Yet on Healthcare Reform

Nate Silver on why we shouldn't celebrate just yet:

Needless to say, it would have been very, very bad news for the Democrats if the motion to proceed to debate on their health care plan had failed tonight. But I'm not sure how newsworthy this really is. The potential hold-outs, like Lincoln and Ben Nelson, are going to have much greater leverage later on, when the bill nears its second major procedural hurdle: the cloture motion to proceed to the final vote.

And there's some bad news for Democrats too: Lincoln has joined Senators Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman in making a fairly explicit threat to filibuster a bill that contains a public option. Mary Landrieu, on the other hand, sounds a little bit more open to compromise. But this impromptu Gang of 3 -- Lincoln, Nelson, Lieberman -- could be a tough one for progressives to penetrate.

Yeah, it's going to be ugly by the time they get done dealing away any real hope of competition for the insurance companies. I'm not optimistic about the short-term results here and I have to keep muttering to myself that this will be good for our children and grandchildren - probably.

Kurtz (TPM): Where Does This Leave Us?

The takeaway from today's debate is that the conservative Democratic senators have not budged on a public option. They've been persuaded not to block the bill from going to the floor for debate, but beyond that it doesn't appear any deal has been struck to get their votes on the next and more important cloture vote.

You might attribute that in part to the Dem holdouts wanting to enjoy their moment of maximum leverage for as long as they can, right up until the next vote later this year. But it's wishful thinking to conclude that's the only thing going on here. Blanche Lincoln's floor speech in particular seemed to foreclose her being able to plausibly turn around later and vote for a public option. You can't come out as strongly against it as she did and then vote for it anyway without seriously compounding your political problems back home.

The only reasonable reading of today's developments is that while the Dems will get 60 votes this evening they are still short of the 60 they need to get to a final vote on a bill that includes an opt out public option. Couple that with the fact that there is 100% guaranteed to be a health care reform bill in some shape or form passed by the Senate, and you're left with somebody needing to strike a deal to get this done.

We reported earlier that, according to one Senate aide, Sen. Chuck Schumer has been trying to map out a compromise that would switch the public option from an opt out version to some form of triggered public option that would satisfy the Democratic holdouts (and maybe Olympia Snowe). This apparently ticked off some of the opt out proponents in the Senate, though Schumer's office is vigorously denying to us that Schumer has had any role in any such negotiations.

Pissed at Schumer? Really?

No one's been as committed to the public option as Schumer, and our reporting has suggested that it's very unlikely that the public option would be in the bill today were it not for Schumer's efforts. But for all his work to get a public option through, Schumer is still a pragmatist, and surely he's known for several days what's becoming obvious to all of us today: they don't have the votes. So I'm not sure I get why anyone would be pissed at him for trying to come up with a compromise that gets the votes and preserves as much of the public option as possible.

I mean I "get it" -- emotions are raw and no one who's pushed hard for public option is going to be happy to see it watered down more. But at this point you're just denying reality if you think all that the Dems need to do to get the waverers to come around is stand together in a show of unity. Lieberman is a no. Snowe is a no. Nelson, Landrieu and Lincoln are tepid at best. Whatever peer pressure could be brought to bear is heavily diluted when you're four votes short. If it were one lone holdout, maybe. But four?

I don't have any independent knowledge about whether Schumer's been trying to forge a compromise. But it sure wouldn't surprise me. I'd be more surprised, given what we now know about the lack of votes (or, more precisely, what we've pretty much known but have had confirmed today), if Schumer were not trying to find a compromise. Somebody's got to. This isn't one where you get to just pick up the ball and take it home with you. You still have to play, even if the outcome is guaranteed to disappoint.

Late Update: A couple of developments this evening that suggest this compromise Schumer is exploring may be where the action is at.

At his presser following tonight's vote, Harry Reid said, "I welcome Sen. Schumer, Landrieu and Carper -- Landrieu said that they're working together on a public option that's acceptable to [all parties]."

Not long after that, Schumer's spokesperson emailed us with a markedly less defensive statement, in light of Reid's comment:

Leading up to tonight's vote, some senators expressed a desire to discuss the public option currently in the Senate bill. Of course, Senator Schumer did not rule that out. But no such talks have yet taken place, and there is not any compromise at hand beyond what Leader Reid has already inserted into the bill. Senator Schumer remains a strong proponent of the opt-out, level playing field public option.

That sounds like the pragmatic Schumer gearing up to go to work.


Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) has a few thoughts about the kind of changes he'd like to see on the health care reform bill. In fact, he has two pages of ideas, which he's already delivered to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

"There is not a lot of explanation there. These are just items," Nelson said.

What's on it? Public option, abortion, and CLASS Act, among other things.

"There will be a lot of discussion back and forth about what might get enough votes," Nelson said after the vote. "There will have to be fairly significant changes for others as well, not just me.... Nuance will not be enough."

I haven't seen the actual list, but at this point, I'm not altogether sure what any of this means. Nelson hasn't included "a lot of explanation" with his demands? Wouldn't "a lot of explanation" be helpful under the circumstances?

He isn't exactly a rookie. If Nelson has some specific ideas about policy improvements, he should, you know, craft legislative language, put together proposed amendments, start seeking co-sponsors, etc. Handing Reid a list of "just items" doesn't sound especially constructive.

For that matter, it'd be helpful to know if this is a list or a ransom note. Does Nelson intend to join a Republican filibuster if only some of his list is addressed to his satisfaction?

As the process moves forward, keep in mind that Nelson appears to have a hierarchy of concerns in mind. Just a few days ago, the conservative Democrat said he doesn't like the existing restrictions on abortion funding, but added, "If there's no public option, perhaps some of the [abortion] problem goes away."

In other words, Nelson has a list, but his top target is the public option. I suspect the other center-right members of the caucus are thinking along the same lines.
Atrios on The Last Honest Man
The senator from Connecticut lies, and the Village pretends not to notice... every time...
Beutler (TPM): Lieberman Repeats Claim That Public Option Not Part Of 2008 Presidential Campaign

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) raised hackles among liberals earlier this week when he claimed that the public option wasn't a part of the 2008 presidential campaign. He repeated that claim to reporters tonight, though acknowledged, when pressed, that then-candidate Barack Obama did in fact include a public option in his campaign health care proposal.

"This is a kindof 11th hour addition to a debate that's gone on for decades," Lieberman told reporters tonight. "Nobody's ever talked about a public option before. Not even in the presidential campaign last year."

I asked in response, "How do you reconcile your contention that the public option wasn't part of the presidential campaign given that all three of the [leading Democratic] candidates had something along the lines of the public option in their white papers?'

"Not really, not from what I've seen. There was a little--there was a line about the possibility of it in an Obama health care policy paper," Lieberman said.

(That line read, "Specifically, the Obama plan will: (1) establish a new public insurance program, available to Americans who neither qualify for Medicaid or SCHIP nor have access to insurance through their employers, as well as to small businesses that
want to offer insurance to their employees," and went on from there.)

I said, "And at the time Senator Clinton, and John Edwards also had..."

"Edwards probably had it more than anybody else," Lieberman said. "But Clinton, Obama, McCain--I don't see it. Anyway, I'm opposed to it."

Mark Kleiman on Madison’s revenge

Except for George Voinovich, who didn’t vote (and is retiring in any case) every Republican in the Senate, including alleged “moderates” Grassley, Snowe, and Collins, voted against even allowing debate on the health care bill. This after every Republican in the House save Anh Cao voted against reform; even Cao’s vote didn’t come until after the bill already had the 218 votes it needed to pass from Democrats.

Your high-school civics teacher no doubt told you that you should “vote for the person, not the party.” Madison and Hamilton, who hated what they called “faction,” would have agreed. All three of them were wrong. Party is the only mechanism by which voters can influence actual outcomes.

Alas, the idea that nonpartisanship is somehow the morally superior position lingers in our civic religion. Just the other night an otherwise intelligent dinner companion proudly informed me that she was an independent.

Even if you prefer to vote for a politician who genuinely thinks for him- or herself, at the national level that option is no longer available. There used to be genuine Republican liberals (such as Jacob Javits, Mac Mathias, Mark Hatfield). No more.
Every Republican on the Hill was happy to stand back and let the Beloved Leader and his wrecking crew trash the Constitution.

When push comes to shove the Republicans all vote like reactionaries, and the “centrist” Democrats are mostly worthless opportunists with “for rent” signs on their foreheads, on the Joe Lieberman-Ben Nelson model.

On Election Day, there’s only one question to ask: “Which side are you on?” If the Democratic candidate in your district is a flat-out crook or lunatic, good partisan hygiene may require that you vote against him. But don’t be seduced by a “moderate” Republican. As the yokel said when he saw the rhinocerous, “They ain’t so such animal.”

Yglesias: Coal Groups Want to Block Health Reform to Kill Clean Energy

One crucially important, but not-so-well-understood aspect of American politics is that business groups in the U.S. tend to behave in a highly ideological, highly solidaristic manner rather than as narrow interest groups. For example, check out this interesting item from my colleague Lee Fang:

Corporate front groups and large business trade associations are funneling their resources into defeating health reform. Even though health reform will lower costs for small businesses and boost worker productivity economy-wide, it appears that corporate entities influenced by major polluters are hoping that the defeat of health care legislation will slow President Obama’s agenda and derail their true enemy: clean energy reform.

The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, which is largely backed by the coal industry, candidly revealed this strategy in a letter released today to Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Robert Byrd (D-WV). The Chamber of Commerce demanded that the senators use “their clout and seniority” to obstruct the health reform debate until cap and trade legislation is taken off the table and the EPA is barred from regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant. As Ken Ward of the Charleston Gazette noted, Rockefeller has already rejected a similar proposal of blocking health reform unless the EPA stops reviewing mountaintop removal permits. The coal lobby has also pressured West Virginia state legislators to pass resolutions opposing clean energy reform.

Part of what’s interesting about this is that, as a matter of logic, you could easily imagine trying to run this play in the other direction. The WV Chamber of Commerce could be working with Senators Rockefeller & Byrd to cement a broad, bipartisan alliance between WV legislators in which the Republicans join with the Democrats to support health reform and the Democrats join with the Republicans to protect the state’s coal interests. There’s nothing, in other words, particularly obvious, natural, or inevitable about this kind of linkage. But American business has a very strong tendency toward forming a broad ideological alliance against all forms of regulation and public services. You might, for example, think that “real economy” firms would want a well-regulated financial system but business groups show no signs of anything other than hostility to efforts to better-regulate the main banks.