Spark Of Life
Some excerpts of the President's speech tonight are now available. I will say that there's a bit of a harder edge in these remarks, particularly toward out-and-out opponents of reform, the likes of which have disrupted town halls all last month. This follows the feistiness of Obama's Labor Day speech to the AFL-CIO. Here's an excerpt of the excerpts:
But what we have also seen in these last months is the same partisan spectacle that only hardens the disdain many Americans have toward their own government. Instead of honest debate, we have seen scare tactics. Some have dug into unyielding ideological camps that offer no hope of compromise. Too many have used this as an opportunity to score short-term political points, even if it robs the country of our opportunity to solve a long-term challenge. And out of this blizzard of charges and counter-charges, confusion has reigned [...]
But know this: I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it’s better politics to kill this plan than improve it. I will not stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are. If you misrepresent what’s in the plan, we will call you out. And I will not accept the status quo as a solution. Not this time. Not now.
Everyone in this room knows what will happen if we do nothing. Our deficit will grow. More families will go bankrupt. More businesses will close. More Americans will lose their coverage when they are sick and need it most. And more will die as a result. We know these things to be true.
That is why we cannot fail. Because there are too many Americans counting on us to succeed – the ones who suffer silently, and the ones who shared their stories with us at town hall meetings, in emails, and in letters.
"More will die as a result." That's not half-stepping it at all. And I'm glad that Obama didn't take Saxby Chambliss' patronizing advice and show "humility". From the looks of these excerpts, he won't.
And yet, this is an easy target. Teabaggers and Birthers do not have a role to play in this debate. The President might want everyone to think they do, but they don't. They don't have the votes to stop anything if the majority really wants to pass a bill. The universe of 50-60 votes in the Senate and 218 in the House, those are the ones who will enact health care reform or not. And to them, early reports show that he will be tepid and broadly receptive to whatever they might demand.
He's going to support medical malpractice reform, a sideline of the debate which has little positive value (just see the results in the states which have already enacted it) and may make it harder for patients to seek justice if harmed by their doctor. What's more, it will not change any Republican minds on the overall bill. With respect to the public option, Obama reportedly plans to endorse it, though pointedly, it appears nowhere in his excerpted remarks. What's more, David Axelrod said again today he would not draw lines in the sand and seek compromise on the provision:
He thinks that could be good for consumers, and he's going to make the case for that, but he's also going to make the point that this is not--this is an ends to a means. It's not the essence of this debate. It's a part of--it's one of the tools, and there are other ideas out there that-to-bring competition and choice that are--that are worthy as well," Axelrod said [...]
Questioned further by Wolf Blitzer, Axelrod said Obama will nod at both of most commonly suggested public option alternatives: the co-op model, and the triggered public option.
"He will acknowledge [co-ops]," Axelrod said. "There's the idea of putting trigger on the public option so it goes into effect at some date when it's clear that a market is uncompetitive. There are a number of ideas, but what is very important is that we have the kind of competition and choice that will help consumers in many states in this country."
This just seems to me like arguing from a position of weakness. You allow room for a compromise and your opponents will pounce. Olympia Snowe basically said today that the White House must give up on the public option, as she knows he'll be flexible and she can just wait him out.
A lot of people are talking about what they want to see in the speech. Jon Cohn argues that he wants some commitment to universal coverage, something that future governments would have to take away. That's good on the policy side. Drew Westen wants a simple message and draw clear lines between allies and enemies, letting the public know who is responsible for the broken system. Tim Noah doesn't want any more speeches, because with reform so close, the goal should really be pounding on moderates until they submit. Paul Krugman says that Obama should eschew details and go for the gut, laying out the personal horror stories and the urgent need for action now. Actually, I think based on the excerpts that he's going to do just that.
I think all of this is right for its own reasons, but more than anything, I actually want to see some spirit. The Republicans have clearly made a decision to destroy Obama's Presidency through endless fearmongering and fauxtrage. They started a bonfire over this Van Jones hiring and the White House let the hit squad walk all over them. This didn't appease the right but whet their appetites for more. The only way to fight such bullying, such blatant hatred, is through showing some toughness.
First of all you have to decide if you really want to win. If you just want to spend your time debating hypotheticals and dreaming of how swell things could be while weaving yourself a safety net of emergency qualifiers in case things don't go the way you planned, go get a job at the fucking Brookings Institution. But if you're gonna go to ideological war, then go to ideological war. And if you are going to fight this war you have to ask yourself "what would Dick Cheney do?"
Never admit weakness.
Never concede points.
You have to remember that, in the case of the Glenn Beck conservative wing (a group of people who make the Dittoheads look like Quakers), you are dealing with a crazy salad of stupid people (and let's quit excusing them as "low information voters"...they're dumbshits), lunatics, assholes, racists, political performance artists, opportunists, and the kind of people who make eugenics seem desirable if not downright necessary.
These are not the people you need or want. You want the mushy middle and the mushy middle loves people who project strength and power. It makes them feel safe. They like being on the winning team. Power and winning intoxicates them. If they write for the Politico, it gives them boners and they'll write anything you want them to. But these people do not respond in the quite the same way to squishy papering over of defeat.
Many of those who have abandoned Obama of late are doing so because they have openly questioned his leadership and resolve. They don't know if he's willing to fight for them. They aren't so concerned with the details, but they want to know that they have a champion for their interests. So act like a winner. Show confidence and not even-handedness. Show the spark of life.
...good news: Marc Ambinder, sock-puppet for the White House press shop, reports that 100 House liberals will be the intended audience for the speech.