In the latest salvo in an increasingly bitter health care reform debate, progressive groups are targeting White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, accusing the president's top adviser of abandoning the principles of people in his hometown Chicago.
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee released an ad on Tuesday in which, through the voice of a local Chicagoan, they warn that Emanuel risks support in his own district should he "undermine" the public option for insurance coverage. The spot comes the morning after Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post first reported that the White House chief of staff had urged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to get a deal done with centrist Democrats on health care.
Playing off the widely-held belief that Emanuel will eventually return to elected politics, PCCC is set to air the ad solely on Chicago television. But it will run only as many times as fundraising permits. The initial goal is $50,000 worth of spots.
In addition to the new ad, PCCC and another progressive group, Democracy for America, provided polling numbers to the Huffington Post showing fairly healthy skepticism for the Emanuel's performance as chief of staff. Only 36 percent of Americans said they trusted Emanuel with his job. Thirty-five percent said they did not trust him, and 29 percent were not sure.
Taken together, the ad and the decision to poll Emanuel's popularity reflect a widening schism between progressive groups and the chief of staff. Emanuel, for his part, has been quoted in various outlets scoffing at the role played by these groups in the health care debate, even calling their ads "fucking stupid."
But the attacks also suggest the chief of staff is effective at his job. The more the spotlight shines on Emanuel, the less heat the president takes from these same groups. And while White House officials continue to insist that Emanuel did not urge Reid to compromise on health care during their meeting on Sunday night, they also feel confident that should legislation pass, there will be ample time to repair the hurt feelings that the process produced.
Below is the script for the ad, as narrated by Joseph Breitenbucher of Chicago, Illinois :
My family has lived here in Chicago for 30 years. Rahm Emanuel was our congressman. When I had spinal surgery the medical bills were enormous. My insurance company tried to get out of paying bills they clearly were responsible for. That's how they make a profit, by denying people care. Many families in our situation would have gone into bankruptcy. Luckily my wife is a doctor and she knew how to challenge the insurance company. So after months of paper work we got the bills paid. But not everyone has a doctor in the house who knows how to fight back. We need a public health insurance option now. That is the only way to drive competition and keep the insurance companies honest. Anything less is not reform at all.
All of us back home hope Rahm Emanuel is fighting for people like us as White House chief of staff. But if he sides with insurance companies and undermines the public option, well, he won't have many fans in Chicago.