09/19/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Bipartisanship Porn

There are many kinds of porn. In the modern vernacular there's "food porn," which describes gastronomic perfection so delicious, it's practically obscene. There's also "torture porn," made famous by Mel Gibson's movies, Rob Zombie's movies, 24, Fox News Channel and, of course, the Bush administration. And then there are the too numerous to list forms of regular old "porn" porn.

I'm not so thrilled to announce that there's a new kind of "porn" in town. What we've been witnessing during this health care reform process can easily be defined as "bipartisanship porn." It's a display of bipartisanship so obscene and excessive that it borders on perverse. But unlike most of the other forms of porn, it's not even fun to look at chiefly because it involves the shriveled mugs of Chuck Grassley and Max Baucus.

Today, following a killer 12 hours of fresh air in which it looked like bipartisanship porn was dying, Robert Gibbs let fly in the White House press room:

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the administration remains committed to drawing Republican support for the bill, particularly in the Senate.

"I don't know why we would short-circuit that now," Gibbs told reporters.

He said the White House believes some Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee "are still working in a constructive way to get reform through the Senate and ultimately to the president's desk."

After everything that's gone down this month? Sheesh. Get a room.

Gibbs has dropped these comments on the same day when Rahm Emanuel finally admitted that the Republicans aren't at all interested in voting for health care reform.

It's the same day when the New York Times reported that the congressional Democrats are prepared to jettison the Republicans once and for all in order to pass a real health care reform bill.

It's within the same week when both Grasshole and Jon Kyl made it perfectly clear that the Republicans will not vote for any health care reform bill short of something that abolishes Medicaid, privatizes Social Security and replaces Secretary Sebelius with Carrie Prejean.

And it's following several weeks when the entire Wingnut-Industrial Complex injected numerous lies, distortions and actual firearms into the health care debate. This succeeded in scaring the white plastic belts and warm-up suits off scores of old people and convinced a supermajority of Fox News viewers that affordable, reliable and portable health insurance is somehow the Fourth Reich (because we all know how much neo-Nazis love mixed-race liberal politicians).

During the battle over the Recovery and Reinvestment Act, we observed that the Republicans were only interested in sabotaging the president's agenda. Their goal was to play along with this notion of bipartisanship just enough to find gap through which they could drop their psycho-bombs into the legislation and dash away -- brazenly shouting "So long, suckers!" as they went. Like the well-known fable about the scorpion and the frog, it's their nature. This is what they do. Their only path out of exile is to sabotage anything and everything in the Democratic agenda. When the Democrats fail, the Republicans rise again. They've been perfectly honest and up front about this, too, as evidenced by the famous "fail" remarks from their impotent de facto leader Mr. Limbaugh.

So why are they being allowed to do it again, this time with something as critical as health care reform?

The answer can be illustrated by outlining the three biggest bipartisanship porn fetishists, if you will. The White House, centrist Democrats and the establishment press.

The last group first. The establishment press, the Villagers, believe that the only path to seriousness is bipartisanship. It's a leading ingredient in the conventional wisdom cocktails served at various inside-Washington media mixers. It goes without saying that this is a standard reserved for Democrats only. When the Republicans controlled Washington not so long ago, the establishment press was all about fetishizing Republican virility -- how masculine their packages looked in a flight suit and how easily the Democrats could be clubbed over the head with its sheer bulbous-ness. Now that the Democrats are in power, however, bipartisanship is mandatory for being considered "very serious." It's why very few members of the Progressive Caucus have managed to sneak onto a Sunday show. Not bipartisan enough and therefore not very serious.

The centrist Democrats, meanwhile, are obsessed with bipartisanship porn because it helps them to look more like Republicans. This has a dual benefit in that it attracts the establishment press, it appeases their more conservative states/districts and it calms the nerves of their financiers in the various lobbies and PACs -- in this case, the health care industry. I would lump Max Baucus, Kent Conrad, Evan Bayh, Blanche Lincoln, the Nelsons and Joe Lieberman into this category.

And finally, there's the White House.

While they appear to be leading the charge in terms of keeping bipartisanship porn alive today, I'm not sure how genuine they really are. It's difficult to believe that they're this blind to what the Republicans are up to. Rahm Emanuel appears to understand the scorpion-ish behavior as evidenced by his comments today. And the president is too smart not to see it. So what's their motivation?

There's no way they'd deliberately allow this legislation to fail altogether. And a crappy, watered-down reform bill would haunt their legacy for decades to come. I mean, if we're not looking at significant relief in how we deal with health insurance by 2012, there's no amount of campaign platitudes that will ameliorate the continued pain and anger. After all, there are experts who are good at math and they'll be able to track whether the reform bill allowed health care prices to continue to skyrocket, further subsidizing the health insurance mafia, or whether the reform bill actually did something, you know, positive.

The only justification I can see for what Gibbs said today and, to a certain extent, what the president and Secretary Sebelius said over the weekend is that with or without the public option, the White House doesn't have 60 votes to break a Republican filibuster.

Unless Senators Kennedy and Byrd are well enough to turn up for two floor votes several months from right now -- one to break the filibuster of the reconciled Senate bill and another to break the filibuster of the conference report -- the White House will need two Republicans to flip and vote against their own party's filibuster. Twice. And this scenario depends on zero Democrats voting with the Republicans (they'd be insane to do that). Ultimately, the only way to get those two Republican votes for cloture is if the White House at least attempts to seem "bipartisan." This possibly explains the continued posturing amid all of the obvious crazy. (Reconciliation is a way around, but, by some accounts, reconciliation would blow giant holes in the bill, perhaps taking the public option with it.)

At this still early stage I'd like to think that the White House's express preference for bipartisanship porn is purely tactical and not reflective of what can only be described as political ignorance and stupidity. If it's the latter, the White House will have ultimately succeeded in its utter self-destruction -- limping across the threshold with a health care reform bill that's been brazenly cut to pieces by marbled-mouthed Glenn Beck disciples like Chuck Grassley.

I sincerely hope this is the last time I write about porn and Chuck Grassley in the same essay.

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