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Mike Lux

Mike Lux

Posted: August 19, 2009 01:59 PM

I'm for the Obama Health Plan, Are Anonymous White House Staffers?


Barack Obama put together the outlines of a really solid health insurance reform plan in his 2008 campaign, and sent a similar package of ideas to Congress earlier this year. While not everything I would have wanted, I have strongly supported him in getting those basic ideas passed, as have three House committees and one Senate committee, and the overwhelming number of Democratic activists and voters. He has said he would remain flexible about specifics, but that to him, health care reform needed to achieve certain goals, including dramatically expanded coverage of the uninsured, serious cost containment, and providing enough choice and competition to keep health insurers honest. I agree 100%.

My question now is why are certain anonymous White House officials trying to undermine the president? I ask this question in all seriousness, because this is exactly what happened in the Clinton fight for health care reform. We would do these terrific, thoughtful, complex policy meetings where we go over various options on the health care bill but make no firm decisions. The next day in the New York Times or Washington Post, some particularly controversial aspect of the bill would be headlined as in "High-ranking administration officials say Clinton is considering X." It was without question one of the things that eventually killed health care reform.

What I discovered when I worked in the White House was that there were plenty of people who work in that building whose primary loyalty is not to the President but to themselves. They leak things to reporters to cultivate them and make sure they write puff job articles about them. They help certain lobbyists because they might want a job in their firm someday. They empower certain powerful Senators or members of Congress because they are personally close to them, and/or because they might want to get paid big money to lobby them someday soon. Maybe they want to run for office themselves one day, and so they cultivate certain donors.

So while it is possible that all the back-tracking on the president's bill from anonymous staffers is all a carefully laid-out strategy, since it's a strategy that is really not working, I think it is also quite possible it is just classic disloyalty from self-interested staffers. In part I say this because what kind of brain-dead strategy would it be for an anonymous staffer to say on the front page of the Washington Post "I don't understand why the left of the left has decided this (the public option, a core part of Obama's health care plan) is their Waterloo." I mean, why would you undermine and attack the people who are actually fighting for the president's plan? Talk about a dumb strategic move. And the Obama people are smart, so I have to assume that this is just pure disloyalty, perhaps someone trying to suck up to Max Baucus, for example.

I am going to keep fighting for the president's plan and goals. I will not give in until the fight is done. I just hope all the anonymous White House staffers will keep fighting with me.