The fault lies squarely on President Obama for his lack of imaginative, firmly flexible leadership on the issue despite holding historic Democratic majorities in Congress.
Frankly, his oddly conflicted actions about health care have left most wondering what, behind closed doors, he genuinely desires to accomplish...
In particular, the Obama administration's wishy-washy stance on a public option apparently depends on whom he is addressing. The President's mixed-signals on a public plan option have frustrated liberals, enraged conservatives, and confused everyone left in the muddled middle. Which leaves exactly nobody in agreement with whatever the President might actually support... whatever that might be.
Next Thursday, the President plans to host an extravagantly publicized health care "summit" to which he's invited recalcitrant Congressional Republicans (and presumably Democrats?) to accomplish... well, something unspecified. Since everyone realizes that this political theater will never produce any semblance of kumbaya agreement, his possible goals are to:
- Embarrass Republicans into passing Democratic reform plans. (0% chance of happening)
- Push Republicans to speak and act irrationally, then make sure all news outlets raptly report their colorful soundbytes, thereby ensuring stupid Republican behavior a long life on YouTube. (100% chance)
- Show President Obama as earnestly, deeply engaged in pushing health care reforms.
- Serve as high-profile political illustration that President Obama tried diligently to work with Republicans.
This summit appears to be a complete waste of time and money. Anything that will be said has already been said, and anything that will be accomplished on a bipartisan basis is already well known. Unless, of course, President Obama has some new proposals.
Personally, I believe Republicans have a couple good ideas that should be carefully considered, including:
- Tort Reform - So what if trial attorneys don't like it? This is about helping the American people! Seriously, are Obama, Reid and Pelosi throwing all Americans under the bus in order to enrich lawyers? Besides, if tort reform would really have as little impact on health care costs as Mr. Obama claims, why not support it?
- Cost Controls - 2,000 pages of legislation and not one paragraph requiring cost controls. Huh? Any level-headed 12 year old could tell you that her allowance money goes farther at retailers with lower prices. Providing to private insurers tens of millions of mandated new customers, then allowing greedy insurers to endlessly raise prices... which they surely will... is dumb economics. And guaranteed to crash the precarious new health care system into utter chaos. (Especially when there's no public option to force insurers to keep prices low.)
- Allowing Insurers to Cross State Lines - I had no answer when my father-in-law asked why Democrats won't allow Americans to purchase insurance from providers outside their own states. Is there a legitimate, common-sense reason for not conceding to Republicans on this free-market point?
Hopefully, President Obama will present these or other new, worthy ideas at his summit, and attract a few more members of Congress to support health care reform legislation.
Regardless, though, unless both the Senate and House magically coalesce to pass a final health care reform bill, our timid President must support Senate passage of health care legislation via a simple majority vote using reconciliation... a process that George W. Bush unhesitatingly used to implement his agenda.
If, after his showy health care summit, President Obama still fails to obtain Congressional passage of a health care reform bill, he will look weak, ineffectual, and hyper-political. He will look like a neutered president. And Americans will feel like they made a mistake in 2008.
I say stop the political games, and cancel the damn summit. Either consider new ideas or don't, but spare us the TV-ready pageantry. Just get the work done by passing health care legislation via reconciliation, if necessary, and move on. Now!
- Essential Reading
- Obama Campaign Promises: Health Care
- Obama's Inspired '09 Health Care Reform Speech to Congress
- Coakley Loss Improves Chances for Single Payer Option
(Photo taken on Feb 19, 2010 in Nevada as President Obama campaigned for Sen. Harry Reid: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)