Barack Obama’s first year has many lessons and raises a few questions, most of them involving the home of melodrama, the Senate. One of the interesting things that became obvious is that the tough, cool, in control, Obama, has a pathological fear of losing a Senate vote. Time after time he has backed down and abandoned positions for fear that the Republicans + 1 nominal Democrat would defeat a proposal that got a majority of Democratic votes there. Health care is the quintessential example. Assuming he was paying any attention at all to the bad acid trip on that issue, at some point he must have realized that it was political as well as policy insanity in progress.
I wonder if what we were actually seeing wasn’t Barack Obama’s and Rahm Emanuel’s macho inability to risk losing something in action. That the risk of looking temporarily like a loser on behalf of Obama’s core consistency, of going down fighting on our behalf was something their sens of manhood couldn’t take. To many here, that wide spread sign of male neurosis will be very familiar.
What would the political risk of losing a really great healthcare bill be? One with the very popular public option, the tax on the wealthy to pay for it, the protections against denial of coverage, the medicare buy in, or any other combination of benefits to The People? What would have happened is that they would have at least tired to do the right thing and failed. That would have made the political problem the Republicans and the virtual Republicans with a D after their names. The problems of that are far, far lower than the ones from what was done. Just politically, you’d think that there would be enough Senate Democrats who would prefer the cover of blaming Republican-Lieberman than looking like the fools and punks they do now.
I think we are witnessing the political liabilities of having macho guys in charge of things. Instead of risking a loss over their promises to us, they tried mightily to get anything, even something that would end up destroying the idea of just, rational health care policy and the Democrats chances in elections, so they could claim a victory, make a pretty speech and pretend that what they had done wasn’t an immediate and devastating loser.
Rahm Emanuel has always traded on his tough guy image, of his being a political wise guy. Apparently it has worked for him up till now. But this last year has shown that he’s a total phony. He only goes for those he believes are weak or who have no option but to give in. He figures that’s the base of the Democratic Party. Apparently he figures that we are invested in some kind of protection racket, which last Tuesday should have shown, we aren’t. If Barack Obama doesn’t share that MO, he’s given us no reason to suspect otherwise up till now and he’s about run out of time to show one.
The alternative theory is that they were crooked from the start and never intended to produce a real health care bill. The jury’s still out on that question too.
The problem gets worse every week, it hasn’t gone away. It is the real big boy on the block that will end up making Obama and his administration, the Democratic Party and the United States the ultimate loser.
Ezra Klein’s idea for how they could possibly rescue this disaster is worth thinking about. If something like that isn’t done, they should kill the stinking thing by making the Senate vote on a something having at least the appearance of a real bill. At least that would give real Democrats in the House some cover. They should take the incredibly stupid mandate without a public option out of it or the Republican-Liebermans will get credit instead of blame.