They Really Do Think We're Stupid

by digby

Ron Brownstein is just full of Village wisdom today on Hardball. First he says that the American people are probably going to give Obama a lot more room on Afghanistan to occupy the country indefinitely than anyone thinks, even though the outcome is most likely to turn out to only stave off something worse happening. This is because of 9/11, although he doesn't really spell out why, other than apparently believing Americans are still hooked on that shallow bullhorn nonsense from Bush.

(Matthews, meanwhile insists that the choice is to either beat the Taliban or get out. What that really means here on planet Earth, of course, is that the choice is between endless violent military occupation and getting out. Tweety hasn't wrapped his mind around the fact that the United States military services are not actually Jedi Knights.)

It was a predictable insider take on serious matters. But Brownstein's comments on health care were what really got me:

Brownstein: If Harry Reid did not make an effort for a significant public plan, the left forever would have said, "you never tried." And now it becomes an empirical question, if there are 60 votes for an opt-out version, it'll be there. If there aren't, 60votes for the opt-out version, you've got to move on.

Matthews: I think he's won the affection of my colleague Ed Shultz already. Shultz is very much a public option guy and I think he considers him his champion right now.

Brownstein: And I think that's kind of the reverse of Cronkite I suppose. "If you have Ed Shultz, you have America."

Matthews (with wonderment): Yeah ...

Brownstein: The fact is that the left would never have forgiven Reid and the Democrats if they had not made an attempt, and now the onus is really back on the left. Can they deliver 60 votes? Can they pressure some of those moderate Democrats? In the end, probably not, but they have to make the try first.

And then the Meet The Press braintrust David Gregory offered this bizarre non-sequitor:

Gregory: One important piece of this is to get a public option do they have to cover fewer people do they have to drop taxes and can they do less? Can they do less?

Uhm, ok Stretch. Whatever.

First, Ed Shultz may be a sort of version of what the village thinks of as "America" (look for Matthews to start saying that, which isn't an altogether bad thing) but I doubt seriously he's going to be happy if Reid fails to get 60 and then asks for an E for Effort. I know they think that all Real Americans are morons, but Shultz isn't quite that dumb. He may not be willing to blame Obama, but he'll be pissed.

Brownstein seems to think that all this public option stuff is some sort of a bid for attention and that we're just thrilled to have been invited to the party at all. It seems to elude him that the Democrats did recently win a big election and the vast majority of the party (not to mention a solid majority of the public) wants a public option. It's not some fringy teabag thing.

But what I love is that "the left" now has to deliver the moderate wing of the party. Really? The last I heard that was the White House and the leadership's job. We on "the left" don't actually have the capacity to deliver anything but the liberals and progressives. And that hasn't exactly been easy. Reid and Obama have to figure out how to deliver a bill with the PO. Counting on "the left" to be happy with a jolly, good try is serious wishful thinking. The left is ready to have a full blown meltdown if the leadership has played them for Charlie Browns on this one.

The Democrats have to make a decision: do they believe their job is to reform the health care system to the benefit of the American people or protect the health care industry? To my way of thinking the reform bills are already healthcare industrial complex protection plans, within which the public option is only a possible way to keep the door open for further reform. It's very small potatoes as it is and slightly embarrassing to have to be fighting for at all. To pretend that this complicated mishmash without even that is the best they can do with a huge majority and a President who ran on the issue should be more than slightly embarrassing to them.

By the way, the CBO now says that the public plan premiums will end up being more expensive, but they don't tell you why: they assume that the private plans will find ways to evade the intention of the law and deny coverage to sick people. And why not? They are for-profit entities who are required to maximize their shareholder value however they can. They've literally got to make a buck. Essentially, the CBO has baked into their numbers the idea that you can't trust the health industry to cover everyone because they make money by taking your payments and not paying claims.

Marissa McNee wrote in by email:


Ben Nelson really believes that what's good for Wellpoint CEOs is good for America and if a few sick people have to suffer a little bit, it's the patriotic thing to do to save the free market system in healthcare. But I don't think most Americans agree with that.

And I certainly don't think "the left" agrees with that nor will they be appeased because Harry Reid gave one good press conference and brought the public option to the floor. I know it's all about scoring points with these villagers, but out here in the hinterlands it's about something much more vital than that. Life and death vital.

Update: Lawrence O'Donnell on Olbermann leads with a story that the CBO numbers are "devastating" and "shocking" for reform and implies that it's not worth doing because of it. But then he's been saying the public option is a loser for months, so he has a big stake in seeing it fail.

Anthony Weiner indicates that this is all fallout from the failure of Medicare +5 and seems to be positioning that failure as a big disappointment to the liberals so they can go into the conference having already compromised.

Wendell Potter says that they need to open the PO to more people so they have a better pool, which indicates either better subsidies or Wyden style choices. (Maybe that was what Stretch was mumbling about?)

Perhaps this is where the liberals are going. Let's hope they're going somewhere.