Goldilocks Was Betrayed

by digby

All the Democrats were using some odd rhetoric on TV today. When asked directly if they would vote for a bill that had a Stupak amendment they kept saying that they were going to work to make sure that they "preserved the status quo." The president said the same thing:

"I laid out a very simple principle, which is this is a health care bill, not an abortion bill," Obama said. "And we're not looking to change what is the principle that has been in place for a very long time, which is federal dollars are not used to subsidize abortions.

Saying the bill cannot change the status quo, the President said "there are strong feelings on both sides" about an amendment passed on Saturday and added to the legislation, "and what that tells me is that there needs to be some more work before we get to the point where we're not changing the status quo."

In an exclusive television interview in the Map Room of the White House, Obama told ABC News'Jake Tapperthat he was confident that the final legislation will ensure that "neither side feels that it's being betrayed."

It's just great seeing the president defending his principles like that. I'm just not sure what the principle actually is. It certainly isn't that a woman has a fundamental right to make her own reproductive decisions.

Evidently, they are signaling that the Hyde Amendment is their backstop once again. Why they think it will work better the second time around I can't imagine. And why he thinks that he can come up with a compromise that ensures that neither side feels betrayed is frankly beyond me. Where do they go from here? Agree to only restrict Americans' constitutional rights every other week? I don't get it.

All day long, I kept hearing the argument that pro-choice Democrats are going to have to compromise because Pelosi just doesn't have the votes otherwise. But the truth is that she doesn't have the votes without the pro-choice caucus either. Why isn't it just as reasonable to say that Stupak and his crowd should compromise? I hear people say over and over again that Democrats will prove they can't govern if they hold the line on this or that provision and risk tanking the bill. But these Stupak Democrats did it --- and they won. Indeed, many people are hailing the outcome as a triumph of legislative maneuvering. (All except for the women of course, but they're on their own.)

The dynamics working against liberals are fairly obvious: they are the ones who want to help a whole bunch of people in dire straits and nobody else gives a damn. That makes them weaker in the final stages because everyone knows they want it more (that people are desperate) so they will not risk getting nothing at all when so many are suffering. The people who are willing to walk away always have more power in a negotiation.

So, knowing that, why in the hell do they go into every discussion having already given away everything but their bottom line? Especially when the only people with whom they are negotiating are ostensibly on their own team, where presumably the leadership and the president have some extra sway? If there was ever a case for the liberals to go in with guns blazing, demanding repeal of the Hyde Amendment, demanding single payer, demanding huge tax increases on the wealthy, demanding open border access to the health care system (which some countries have.) Then they would have had something to work with.

Instead they went in with the tried and true "don't make trouble" strategy assuring everyone who would listen that they had no intention of upsetting the status quo or causing "distractions" and practically apologizing for even asking for universal coverage. In the end they ended up actually rolling back their position on a matter of fundamental principle. And it sounds like that still isn't going to be enough.

In case you are wondering about the real life effects of playing cheap politics with pregnancy, read this. And this. Contra McGaskill and Tweety, who are misinformed about just about everything, this is actually a big deal. This amendment doesn't just punish Lord Saletan's little sluts. All women will be losing coverage for necessary abortions when a wanted pregnancy goes wrong. It only has an exemption for the life of the mother, but not for her her health, nor for severe and fatal fetal abnormalities. Click those links for what that means in real life.

Update: Thank you Meteor Blades