Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Obama faces backlash over potential retreat on public healthcare option.

It really distresses me that American progressives always back down in the face of Republican opposition. And it now appears as if Obama is possibly going to back down over the health reform debate.

Barack Obama faced a backlash from the left today after his administration signalled retreat over the introduction of a government-run national health plan.

Progressives dubbed the move 'treachery' and 'betrayal'.

Obama will continue to push for reform this year but the new healthcare provision is now likely to be run by private insurance companies rather than by the federal government, which had been his preferred option.

Why is it that, when Bush was president, he could hold out for outrageous demands - such as his insistence that his illegal wiretapping must be pardoned - and the Democrats would always fold, and yet, when Obama wants to introduce a policy which many Americans want introduced, that Republican intransigence makes that impossible?

Why don't Democratic presidents insist that they will veto any bill they don't like and force the Republicans to compromise?

The softening of the White House position comes after weeks of sustained, noisy and disruptive protests across the country against his health plan, much of it orchestrated by the right.

Howard Dean, who chaired the Democratic party from 2005 to this year, today emerged as the most high-profile party member to voice concern about dropping the public option. Interviewed on TV network CBS, he said: "You can't really have reform without a public option. If you don't want to have the public option … just do a little insurance reform … and then we'll tackle health reform another time. But let's not pretend we're doing reform without a public option."

Dean's comments reflect the debate within the Democratic party between those who argue that Obama should not back down in the face of the Republican campaign and those who say that it is better to compromise - to get half of what they want rather than nothing.

Anyone who reads here regularly will know that I am a great supporter of Obama, however, it is impossible to write this off as pragmatism. This isn't pragmatism, this is weakness.

If Obama signals now that he will back down in the face of the Republican noise machine, then he hands victory to the nutcases. One of the things which we all admired about Obama during the election was the way in which he often seemed like the only adult in the room; talking sense whilst the rest spoke in the cliches which we have all tired of. Now, it appears as if Obama will back down in the face of ludicrous claims that he wants to kill people's granny's.

The softening by the Obama administration over the public option was signalled by the US health secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, who yesterday said it was "not the essential element" of the healthcare plan.

The White House insisted that this did not amount to a change: Obama continued to think the public option was the best one but he had always been flexible about how to achieve his healthcare goals.

I really hope Obama means that. To back down now would be an epic fail. It's time for Obama to use the power of the president's office the way Republicans always use it when they are in power.

I'm with Cenk. "Sometime you need carrots, sometime you need sticks". Obama needs to start standing up to these nutcases.


daveawayfromhome said...

If Democrats lose ground in the 2010 elections, it will not be because of rising popularity of the Republicans. It will be because Democratic voters will be so disheartened by the series of betrayals we've experienced that we wont bother showing up at the polls. Why bother voting? The only difference seems to be that Democrats apologize before fucking the country. At least Republicans are honest in their malice.

Kel said...

Absolutely Dave. Obama needs to kick ass. He raised such expectations and he's allowing these nutbags to derail one of his most important programmes.