03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Halftime At The Healthcare Reform Superbowl

[The scene: a football locker room. Hundreds of Democrats are sitting on benches, to hear Coach's halftime pep talk, in the Health Care Reform Superbowl. Some appear exhausted, some appear battered. Enter Coach, downstage.]

OK, people, that was a good half. We made some mistakes, we took some hits, but at the end of the half, we put five field goals up on the board. That's good enough for a first half, but we've got to score some touchdowns in the second half, or we're just not going to win this thing.

First up, we're going to review the basics. [Crowd groans.] Don't give me that! When you score some touchdowns, then you can complain! [Silence falls.] That's better.

Can we get that basic play up on the screen... OK, thanks. Now this is what we've got left to do. Here are the obstacles left in our way. Repeat after me: House floor vote... Senate floor vote... conference committee... OVAL OFFICE!

[Note: The Washington Post has conveniently published the slide the Coach is referring to, if you'd like to review the situation as well.]

That's what we've got to do. We've got to move the ball, keep moving the ball, and never give up until we cross that goal line. You got all that?

Now, let's talk a bit about the first half. We had way too many fumbles, but in the end we got lucky. The first four field goals were pretty straightforward -- everyone give a hand to the three House committee chairs, and the Senate committee chair who scored in what I would call a timely manner. [Cheering and clapping.] That's right -- they deserve applause. Good job, guys!

But then we began the drive for Baucus' field goal. Where's Baucus? I don't see Max out there... What's that? What? Speak up! You say that Baucus is outside counting his campaign contributions from the health care industry?!? That son of a... OK, I want the entire defensive line to go out there and drag him back in here. That's right, guys... don't be gentle, either.

[Baucus is dragged in, trailing hundred-dollar bills in his wake, and unceremoniously dumped on the floor in front of the Coach.]

Max, I have to say you are a disappointment to the team. I know, I know, you finally got your field goal five seconds before the half ended. But it took you a quarter and a half to get the ball thirty yards down the field! You really think we have time to waste like that? You got such a big ego that you think you deserved more time in the lights than everyone else combined?? No, don't slink away, I want you front and center for what I have to say next.

[Coach glares at Max one last time, then addresses the whole team]

OK, for the rest of you, we did put some points up... even if Baucus took forever to do it. We have put more points up than any other Democratic team in the Health Care Reform Superbowl in 100 years. That is something to be proud of.

But the fight is not over! We have not won the game yet! We've got a bruising second half in front of us, and we have to keep fighting if we want to pull this thing off!

We need two touchdowns right away in the third quarter. We need a successful drive by the House squad, and a successful drive by the Senate squad. And the key to both is teamwork. We've got to get everyone together moving down the field in the same direction. The Republican defense is going to be brutal in the second half. You think it was bad before? You think the folks in the town hall section of the stands were yelling loud before? You ain't seen nothing yet, I promise you that. The closer we get to winning this game, the more savage and ferocious it's going to get out there. You've got to be ready, and you've got to stop bumping into members of your own team -- you're just doing the Republicans' work for them by doing so! So cut it out!

OK, since Max Baucus is down front here, let's deal with the Senate first. Reid! Dodd! Front and center! Baucus, you stand up there with them.

I want the rest of the team to take a good look at these guys. They're the ones who can either bring us to victory or send us crashing into defeat. Take a good look, because this is the team that has got to score a touchdown in the third quarter for us.

Reid and Dodd, I know you're wondering if you're going to be on the team next year. You face some tough post-season elections, and your hometown voters may not send you back. But you know what? Nothing breeds success like success. If you go home as winners -- if you go home with Democrats across the country cheering for you because you won the big game -- then it's going to be a lot easier for you to get re-elected and keep your places on the team next year. If you are the reason we lose this game, I can pretty much guarantee you that you will be fired next year. You got that? You can win big, or you can go home. Winning some incrementalist piece of garbage that changes nothing is not going to cut it, either. So think about the speech you can give during the campaign that says "We got it done. We won the Health Care Reform Superbowl by scoring a touchdown when it counted the most, and when a field goal would not have won." Or think about the apologizing you're going to have to try to run on instead. Let that motivate you to score big time.

Now, I know it's going to be tough to score your touchdown with the team you've got. There's all kinds of corporate whores wearing our jersey who would be happy to see the whole thing fail. Explain to them that failure means not getting re-elected. Maybe they'll come on board when they see it that way.

Reid -- step forward!

I've heard rumors that you're trying to plan out your drive down the field by asking Olympia Snowe into your huddle. That is just not going to fly. Instead of giving Snowe a veto over the whole thing, why don't you use the offensive weapons we've given you? You certainly talked about this enough to the reporters before the game. So I want you to make me a promise -- every bill that you prepare and every plan you consider should be done in two ways. Prepare a 60-vote draft, and a 50-vote draft of each iteration of the bill. Budget reconciliation may be the only way to go, and it may be the better way to go. We could ignore some of the corporate whores this way, and get an even better bill passed. So, Harry, USE THIS AS A CLUB! Let the threat of using budget reconciliation be a major part of the discussion. Set deadlines, and draw some lines in the sand. Get a strong bill out. Because that crowd out there isn't going to care if we throw a 50-yard pass or a 60-yard pass, as long as we put the points on the board.

You've simply got to toughen up, Reid. Where's the rookie? Grayson? Stand up, Grayson! I want you to take a look at Alan Grayson, Harry, because he"s right. He is there to teach you how to grow a spine. When you're talking with Baucus and Dodd, the best thing you could do is ask: "What would Grayson do?" And the first answer to that question is: "Don't let Olympia Snowe in on your talks with Dodd and Baucus." You got that, Harry?

OK, enough of that. Let's talk about the second touchdown we need -- where's Pelosi? Pelosi, get up here.

In the first half, you did a good job, Nancy, I have to give you that. You were much more coordinated than the Senate folks, and you produced some key points in a timely manner. But now I hear you're kind of goldbricking. I hear that you're basically saying that Reid should go first, and produce his touchdown before you're going to start your drive. That is unacceptable. That is not giving 110 percent!

Because you, Nancy, and your House squad, are our strongest offense. Sorry, Harry, but it's true. Pelosi here has shown more fighting spirit than you, it's just a fact. But that is no excuse for Pelosi's squad to take a nap. This is the Health Care Reform Superbowl folks, there's no time for anyone to be napping.

Think I'm being too tough, Pelosi? Well, what exactly has the House done for the past two and a half months? Hmm? That's what I thought -- nothing. OK, we were all waiting for Max to get his act together, but that didn't stop you from getting ready for your touchdown drive! Where's Steny Hoyer? Stand up, Hoyer, so we can all take a look. Pelosi -- did you send him out to the press to say he expects to have a House floor vote by Christmas, but is making no guarantees?!? What the... what... what kind of horse manure is that? Pelosi, you cannot continue to drag your feet and let Reid take all the political heat, so that you can conveniently hold your floor vote afterwards.

That's not what you're supposed to be doing!!

You, Pelosi, are supposed to be out front taking some heat. We all know that whatever gets through the House is going to be stronger and better than what Harry can manage. This is how we have to twist Harry's arm! Show him what a strong bill should look like! Regain the offensive momentum! Take the fight to the other guys! Show us how it's done!

Where's the White House folks? What? They're outside, sitting on the sidelines? Figures -- that's where they've been the whole first half. That cheerleader they've got did have a few good cheers for us, but it's looking like we're going to have to do this ourselves, folks.

I've got one final word to say here, and then we're due back out on the field. When we get into the fourth quarter, I want to see two touchdowns on our side of the board. I want a floor vote in the House and a floor vote in the Senate. And I want whatever comes out of the Senate to be strong -- not some nonsense Olympia Snowe wrote. But in the fourth quarter, you're going to all have to work together! We're going to have to have a conference huddle. That huddle had better not run out the clock... you hear me? I am not joking. I know that conference huddles are sometimes the place were games go to die. That is not going to happen this time! I don't care if we work through Thanksgiving and Christmas -- we are not going to lose this game in the final seconds because we couldn't get out of the huddle. Are we all crystal clear on that? Good.

OK, we've only got a minute left. So I want you all to bow your heads. We all remember Teddy Kennedy. Ted was never more happy than when he was sailing his boat. And I firmly believe that he's happily sailing somewhere today, wherever he is. But what you don't know is the last thing Teddy said to me, when he knew the Health Care Reform Superbowl might possibly be won by Democrats this year.

"Coach," he said, "sometime, when the team is up against it, and the breaks are beating the team -- tell them to go out there with all they got and win just one for the Skipper..."

Well? What are you waiting for?!?

[Team breaks into an enthusiastic roar, jumps up from the benches, and runs out toward the field.]


[Note: To give credit where credit is due -- the concept for this article and the photo came from a commenter on Democratic Underground, writing in response to an earlier column of mine.]


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