POLITICS
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Glenn Greenwald Writes One-Act Play About How The White House Works

Yesterday, we took up the issue of whether or not President Barack Obama could have done more to pressure Congress to craft a more effective health care reform bill than the one currently slouching out of the Senate towards an uneasy mating ceremony with the House bill in conference committee. Assuming it even gets there! Maybe the only thing Harry Reid can ultimately get 60 votes for is a "Get well soon" card from Hadassah Lieberman -- who knows?

Glenn Greenwald took up the matter as well, armed with the same checklist of tactics from Adam Green. Greenwald went on to conclude that, "contrary to Obama's occasional public statements in support of a public option, the White House clearly intended from the start that the final health care reform bill would contain no such provision and was actively and privately participating in efforts to shape a final bill without it."

It's a compelling argument and the key piece of supporting evidence is the deal the White House negotiated in private with the pharmaceutical industry.

Greenwald also argues, at length, against the notion that the entirety of the failure to reform health care can be laid at the feet of Congressional intransigence. I'd say that Greenwald has far less sympathy for the very real Congressional obstacles the White House faces in advancing their domestic agenda than I do. But I think we'd both agree that this is why you don't take tactics such as the ones Green identifies off the table -- if you can't get health care past your Ben Nelsons or your Joe Liebermans, at least leave no doubt that you tried.

Glenn takes his view of Obama's larger indifference to this and fashions a fun little playlet for his readers. As you all know, I like fun little playlets, too!

Yet numerous Obama defenders -- such as Matt Yglesias, Ezra Klein and Steve Benen -- have been insisting that there is just nothing the White House could have done and all of this shows that our political system is tragically "ungovernable." After all, Congress is a separate branch of government, Obama doesn't have a vote, and 60 votes are needed to do anything. How is it his fault if centrist Senators won't support what he wants to do? Apparently, this is the type of conversation we're to believe takes place in the Oval Office:

The President: I really want a public option and Medicare buy-in. What can we do to get it?

Rahm Emanuel: Unfortunately, nothing. We can just sit by and hope, but you're not in Congress any more and you don't have a vote. They're a separate branch of government and we have to respect that.

The President: So we have no role to play in what the Democratic Congress does?

Emanuel: No. Members of Congress make up their own minds and there's just nothing we can do to influence or pressure them.

The President: Gosh, that's too bad. Let's just keep our fingers crossed and see what happens then.

That's pretty good. If I could offer some dramaturgical advice, however, I think that having Emanuel say, "Oh well, I'm off to key Jane Hamsher's car for insisting that we should 'help people,'" would be a much stronger exit line.

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