I've said for a long time now that the press has long endeavored to diminish the public support for the "public option," characterizing it as one of those foolish and untenable pipe dreams of "the left" when it actually has mainstream support. At the same time, the Obama administration has spun like a weather vane, conveying that a robust "public option" was essential to health care reform on one day, shruggingly suggesting that it would not be all that important the next. In today's Washington Post, we have an article in which they attempt to make these two great tastes taste great together.
Michael D. Shear and Ceci Connolly's piece is headlined, "Debate's Path Caught Obama by Surprise." Of course! WHO KNEW THAT THE PUBLIC OPTION WOULD BECOME SO IMPORTANT TO PEOPLE? Circa August 19, the President apparently had no idea that people were so het up over it!
But at a time when the president had hoped to be selling middle-class voters on how insurance reforms would benefit them, the White House instead finds itself mired in a Democratic Party feud over an issue it never intended to spotlight.
This makes perfect sense! When you want to be busying yourself "selling middle-class voters on how insurance reforms would benefit them," you don't want to be caught flatfooted by something like the "public option," even though it's basically how you get to the beneficial insurance reforms. Now, the President has to hold a "strategy call" on which "he will not 'draw a line in the sand' about the inclusion of a public plan and make clear that no one provision is a 'deal breaker' as long as the final legislation embraces his broad principles for reform." I HOPE YOU ARE SATISFIED, "public option" proponents.
By the way! This article has some of the finest anonymous sourcery I have ever encountered. Shear and Connolly turn loose all sorts of critics on the "public option," none of whom have the guts to sign their name to their criticism:
"I don't understand why the left of the left has decided that this is their Waterloo," said a senior White House adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "We've gotten to this point where health care on the left is determined by the breadth of the public option. I don't understand how that has become the measure of whether what we achieve is health-care reform."
Nice work! An unnamed White House official blasts "the left" with the GOP's "Waterloo" talking point, and frames the popular "public option" as a fringe-supported side item. Fantastic. You should DEFINITELY LET THE WHITE HOUSE GET AWAY WITH THAT, MICHAEL AND CECI!
Elsewhere, we have "another top aide" expressing "chagrin that a single element" in the "sprawling health-care initiative" is a "litmus test" for the administration's seriousness. You also get an anonymous Democratic "strategist" lamenting that the emphasis on the "public option" was the equivalent to "leading with our glass jaw," telling the post, "We felt we probably shouldn't make health-care reform be about this because it falls so easily into the socialized medicine, big-government theme."
In fact, these aides and advisers are wrong and the "left of the left" is right. A new poll from Rasmussen shows that Americans want a public option, and support for reform collapses without it.
Just 34% of voters nationwide support the health care reform plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats if the so-called "public option" is removed. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 57% oppose the plan if it doesn't include a government-run health insurance plan to compete with private insurers.
The article does feature Richard Kirsch of Health Care For America Now, supporting the public option on the record. Unfortunately, he is set off by this guy:
One Democratic Obama ally lamented that the push for a public plan has become synonymous with victory on health-care reform.
"In the last 90 days, it has taken on an aura much more pronounced than it did the first four months of the year," said the activist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss White House strategy. He said Obama's advisers have stoked the controversy this week by creating the perception they were abandoning the public plan.
"If they made a mistake, it does go back to what I consider some inartfully framed phrases from the president and some other administration officials," the activist said. "To get where they had to go, they didn't have to depart too much from the language of June and July."
Can you really be fairly called an "activist" if you lack the courage to identify yourself in public?
Peter Perl, WaPo's editor in charge of personnel and training, spoke to ombudsman Andrew Alexander about the problems of keeping reporters aware of their sourcing policies: "We don't have a systematic way of addressing this... We tend to be reactive. We need to be proactive." Uhm...how about today -- THIS VERY MINUTE -- you get "proactive" with Shear and Connolly, Pete?
Debate Over Public Option: Post Excludes Freedom Loving Americans [Beat The Press]
Debate's Path Caught Obama by Surprise [Washington Post]
Ignoring the Rules on Anonymous Sources [Washington Post]