If you have a chance to see Barney Frank on Maddow tonight do. He makes the case that the Republicans acting complete dolts has forced Obama to give up his pretensions of bipartisanship and I agree. In fact, the lunacy and intractability may end up being responsible for a better health care bill than we otherwise would have gotten. Considering how desperate the Democrats are to get approval from people who hate them, they would have done almost anything.
He also didn't take this too seriously, pointing out that hecklers are a standard feature of the English parliament.
I don't mind it much either. It's rude and stupid, but Obama isn't a king and it isn't wrong to yell at the president. However, I can't help but recall what happened to these women during a Bush junior speech to a joint session of congress:
Call it the tale of two different shirts worn by two very different women: a well-known peace activist who has agitated the White House and a lawmaker's wife who has staunchly supported the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
Anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan wore a shirt with the message "2,245 Dead. How many more?" -- a reference to the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq.
Beverly Young, the wife of 18-term Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Young of Florida, wore a shirt that read "Support the Troops."
Both shirts resulted in their owners being ejected from the House chamber before President Bush's State of the Union address on Tuesday night.
Sheehan, an invited guest of Rep. Lynn Woolsey, a California Democrat, was arrested around 8:30 p.m. ET on charges of unlawful conduct. Young was asked to leave but not arrested.
The capitol police later apologized, but stifling the slightest criticism of the president wasn't particularly unusual at that time as I'm sure you remember. In those days, just a few years ago, yelling at the president in that setting would have been considered treason and the Democrats who did it would have been waterboarded.
Obama's speech was effective, I think. I don't know if it will change public opinion and there is no doubt the Republicans are going to dig in their heels even more, but all the Democrats should feel at least somewhat relieved that Obama was able to make a strong case for reform. And despite the fact that he hedged, his long discussion of the necessity of the public plan is good news for progressives. It's still alive anyway and I can't honestly say that would be the case if the progressives hadn't decided to make a stand. (Of course we're still talking triggers or co-ops, but that's nothing new3)
Update: Jonathan Cohn has a rundown on the news Obama made in the speech. I can't speak to the policy importance of these new elements, but on a political level, this seems very smart to me:
A promise to provide low-cost, bare-bones policies right away--merely as a stopgap, until full reforms kick in.
This could be huge because it will get a lot of people under some kind of coverage immediately and, combined with the insurance reforms, may show enough people some benefits right away to allow the rest of the plan to kick in before the Republicans can demagogue their way back into office. It's a slim reed, but definitely worth doing.
Update II: I assume that Charlie Cook is thrilled that Obama hangs on his every word.
Update III: The Kennedy passage was beautiful. He even used the dreaded "L" word, which I haven't heard in that setting without a sneer for ... well, ever. I don't know how many people can hear that plea for empathy and community, but I hope some did.