As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Let's Not Oversell Luntz

Yes, I saw the Frank Luntz memo. I thought he was working for Hollywood now because he was "tired of selling reality," but I guess he came out of retirement for one last shot at denying Americans the right to health care. Or maybe not - the memo pretty much includes the same bromides we heard back in 1993 - that Republicans should talk about rationing, and a "government takeover" of health care, with politicians and bureaucrats deciding who gets treatment. There's no real alternative option here, just buzzwords like "waste" and "choice" and "patient-centered" and "more". Really, that's his prescription:

(10) It’s not enough to just say what you’re against. You have to tell them what you’re for. It’s okay (and even necessary) for your campaign to center around why this healthcare plan is bad for America. But if you offer no vision for what’s better for America, you’ll be relegated to insignificance at best and labeled obstructionist at worst. What Americans are looking for in healthcare that your “solution” will provide is, in a word, more: “more access to more treatments and more doctors…with less interference from insurance companies and Washington politicians and special interests.”

Just do it!

This assumes that 2009 looks like 1993, and I simply don't believe it. Americans have had 16 more years of shoddy treatment at the hands of insurance companies. 16 more years of denied care, not from the government, but from the current health care system. 16 more years of overpaying for treatments and losing their coverage to a pre-existing condition. Luntz wants Republicans to personalize the crisis, but Democrats can do that all day long.

Also, it's not clear to me that any of this even matters to a great extent. Republicans know that the cudgel of budget reconciliation will force their participation in the discussion or get completely shut out. They can talk about "government takeovers" all day long, but they don't have the numbers to obstruct.

Grassley wants to stick with Baucus for as long as he can but knows that Democratic leaders such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel are waiting in the wings, ready to force through a Democratic bill if a consensus fails to emerge.

“Here’s something we Republicans have to consider: We can be bargaining in good faith up to that ... one, last issue — whatever that might be — and regardless of how [well-]intentioned Sen. Baucus is on reaching an agreement with me, Pelosi and Reid could decide to pull the rug out from under them at the midnight hour and not have an agreement,” Grassley said.

Grassley later characterizes reconciliation as having ended bipartisanship, but his very presence in the debate suggests that the opposite is true.

The real icebergs for health care reform have popped up on the Democratic side of the aisle. Arlen Specter and Ben Nelson oppose a public option. The Chair of the Budget Committee killed the White House's proposal on partial funding, with capping charitable deductions for the wealthy. And there will be a host of other pitfalls, with the progressive groups pushing from the bottom demanding real reform. Republicans aren't involved in that debate. It's very hard for them to GET involved in that debate, because they have no interest in it.

When Barack Obama informed congressional Republicans last month that he would support a controversial parliamentary move to protect health-care reform from a filibuster in the Senate, they were furious. That meant the bill could pass with a simple majority of 51 votes, eliminating the need for any GOP support. Where, they demanded, was the bipartisanship the President had promised? So, right there in the Cabinet Room, the President put a proposal on the table, according to two people who were present. Obama said he was willing to curb malpractice awards, a move long sought by Republicans that is certain to bring strong opposition from the trial lawyers who fund the Democratic Party.

Nothing, it turned out. Republicans were unprepared to make any concessions, if they had any to make.

Somebody didn't read the Luntz memo.

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