On this evening's edition of Hardball, Chris Matthews hosted Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele, and the two men proceeded to have the following preposterous conversation:
STEELE: Excuse me. What about the left wingnuts who won't let the President get his agenda through? What about all the left wingnuts that are the reason we don't have health care right now? You have 60 votes in the Senate. You have a 78-seat majority in the House and I don't see anyone talking about the left wingnuts who are stifling the health care for my mother, my family and my community. Don't give me the name calling. That was a political process. Now we are talking real things here when you talk about the Democratic Party the division is real because we don't have health care. The division is real because we have --
MATTHEWS: Interesting. The President would be better off if he didn't have a left and he could push a more moderate health care bill.
STEELE: I don't know. That is the choice the Democrats have to make. I'm embracing my party, I'm embracing--
MATTHEWS: You are making it for me. You are saying something smart. That the President of the United States has to make a tough discerning decision to find the kind of bill that will pass and pass it instead of being hung up by his far left?
Yeah. Not only is that not "something smart" to say, it is a rivetingly dumb thing to say and Matthews has nary a fact on hand to support his cosigning of Steele's contention.
I'll concede Steele's point that the significant majorities the Democrats enjoy in both the House and the Senate make the Republicans irrelevant to the health care discussion. But there's a reason you don't hear "anyone talking about the left wingnuts who are stifling the health care." It's because there are no left wingnuts stifling the health care bill!
Just as an example, here, once again, are the Senators who are doing more than anyone else to stifle the health care reform bill. They include such luminaries as Joe Lieberman, Olympia Snowe, Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, Kent Conrad, and Blanche Lincoln, and there's nary a "left wingnut" among them! The facts are these: the progressive membership of both houses have been nothing but accommodating to the health care process. From Jump Street, the legislators to Obama's left willingly bargained away the single-payer health care system they favored in order to lend unified support behind a reform package that was more sellable to moderate Democrats and Republicans. They ended up uniting behind the "public option," only to discover that President Obama wasn't willing to say much in praise of that idea other than to say, "Yeah, sure, that public option thingy would be neat, I guess?"
The sum total of progressive obstructionism came when a progressive bloc in the House of Representatives briefly let it be known that they would not support a bill that did not contain a public option. Did health care reform get "stifled" in the House as a result? No! The bill that will be sent forth for a vote contains a public option! So, what has the "left" stopped from happening, exactly? Meanwhile, the Senate's reform bill waters down the public option still further, into the "opt out" version. So, once again, progressives have given ground, have done nothing but accommodate the process, and in the end they may be asked to give still more ground, to get a watered down version of the health care bill that Obama sometimes says he wants, depending on which way the wind is blowing.
And really, having given ground on the matter three or four times already, how could anyone object to "the left" refusing to bargain away anything further? Let's remember, public option supporters are reflecting the will of a vast majority of the American people. You really cannot pretend that 55-75% of the country is a "wingnut fringe."
Chris Matthews is supposed to be some sort of shrewd and meticulous chronicler of political reality, but if he really thinks Steele is offering a smart idea, he needs to have his head examined. There is not one single shred of reality to back up Matthews' contention that the "left" is gumming up the health care reform process. That is what we call a "nimrod fantasia." But let's call the ball where it lies: Chris Matthews doesn't really care about reporting political fact, he cares about pleasing Michael Steele with enough adequacy so that he'll return to his show to share more of his so-called wisdom.