January 23, 2010


Obama's Power Outage: One Senate upset, and the president seems ready to deal away health care. Leslie H. Gelb on how he needs to stop prattling on about institutions, grab the reins, and lead. (Leslie H. Gelb, 1/23/10, Daily Beast)

[H]e instantly sold out almost a year’s worth of effort—his own, and that of his fellow Democrats—spent on passing health-care reform. Here’s what he said: “[I]t is very important to look at the substance of this package ... I would advise that we try to move quickly to coalesce around those elements of the package that people agree on. We know that we need insurance reform, that the health-insurance companies are taking advantage of people. We know that we have to have some form of cost-containment because if we don't, then our budgets are going to blow up and we know that small businesses are going to need help so that they can provide health insurance to their families. Those are the core, some of the core elements of, to this bill.” (Typically, Mr. Obama reacts to cataclysms with major new decisions within hours, only to redefine or recolor them within days.)

Unless I’m misreading where Mr. Obama is going or unless he changes his explanation of “core,” this statement feels like virtual capitulation to Republicans—without even waiting a few days to establish a bargaining position. Why on earth give the “core” away before even starting the bargaining? Truth be told, I’d prefer a tight bill that zooms in on portability of coverage, opens up insurance companies nationwide to competition, offers insurance protection for previous conditions, establishes store-front clinics as neighborhood “hospitals,” provides catastrophic insurance, and puts forth medical information programs to cut costs, and takes a few other practical small steps. But it offends my sensibilities to watch the president throw in the towel before the give-and-take even begins anew. And it certainly has offended his fellow Democrats.

So Republicans are right but the policies that make sense should only be conceded as bargaining chips so that the Democrats can get the stuff that will be ineffective?

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 23, 2010 6:30 PM
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