Senate Race in Massachusetts: Obama’s Health Care Effort Looks A Lot Like Afghanistan Mess

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clinton coakley.jpg
I haven’t watched the Senate race in Massachusetts all that closely. I was impressed with the smart policy work, particularly in foreign policy issues, that Alan Khazei’s campaign put out. Khazei touched on a lot of issues that the better known but more issues mum Martha Coakley put out.
However, it’s clear now that one of the most liberal states in the country is ill at ease with Barack Obama’s health care reform agenda. Obama and Rahm Emanuel have so irritated the progressive wing of the party with what he has forfeited to get a deal with the health care industry and with Senators Joseph Lieberman and Ben Nelson that many are either staying home — or they are actually voting for the Republican.
I ran into one of Washington’s top lobbyists yesterday — a stalwart Democrat who made his mark as one of the key managers of Congressional machinery — and he doubted that Coakley was going to win. On the lighter side though, he said that the decision by Obama’s team to campaign for her meant that they thought he could possibly make a difference and that there was a chance. He would not have chased a lost cause.
But a test of the disdain some key players on the left have of Obama now is captured in this strong piece by Massachusetts’ own Robert Kuttner who wrote:

How could the health care issue have turned from a reform that was going to make Barack Obama ten feet tall into a poison pill for Democratic senators?
Whether or not Martha Coakley squeaks through in Massachusetts on Tuesday, the health bill has already done incalculable political damage and will likely do more. Either way, the Massachusetts surprise should be a wake-up call of the most fundamental kind.
Obama needs to stop playing inside games with bankers and insurance lobbyists, and start being a fighter for regular Americans.

The health care battle is beginning to look a lot like Afghanistan — a pit into which America pours a never ending stream of rationalizations, compromises, resources and effort, looking paralyzed and neutralized in the process — generating consequent weakness, inattention and impotence on virtually every other policy front.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

63 comments on “Senate Race in Massachusetts: Obama’s Health Care Effort Looks A Lot Like Afghanistan Mess

  1. Carroll says:

    James..
    That’s why I use corrupt,corrupt, corrupt..over and over till people are sick of hearing it from me I am sure…But everyone in the universe knows what it means and that is what people revolt against eventually regardless of the form of government.
    Like the guys POA was describing in his post…they hear fascist from some radio hate talker and boom…it’s fascism that is the cuase of all their troubles!…..or socialism that keeps them down!.. or whatever.
    They are uneducated and listen to these bums with agendas so they pin their hate on some bugga boo threat instead becuase they have no earthly idea that it is the entire government system of institutional corruption that is screwing them…they just know they are being screwed but can’t tell you exactly how.

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  2. JamesL says:

    Carroll: “You can a find a dozen definitions for fascism”
    That’s probably part of my point. If a dozen definitions are still hanging around and competing with each other, none of them are correct and worth arguing over. But doing nothing is no option either, unless you LIKE living in a fascist state. I was hoping someone would come up with a single definition that superceded all the others. Not having that makes a hash out of the old line that those who dont’ understand history are bound to repeat it.
    Roger that on strata, class, caste, whatever.
    I once knew a guy who studied fish traffic patterns to see why they moved where they moved. He concluded that where they moved next depended on where they were last. Not much different from your description of people.

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  3. Carroll says:

    Posted by JamesL, Jan 19 2010, 10:00PM – Link>>>>>>>>>>
    You can a find a dozen definitions for fascism, communism, socialism and then dozens of sub categories and variations of all those illustrated in governments around the world.
    The reason I don’t bother with those labels is that in reality all of them including democratic capitalism have in common a “ruling strata”; whether it be a dictator & his henchmen, or bureaucrats in communism and socialism or a monarchy and parliament or the elites in our democracy.
    The only thing that means anything to the majority masses in any of those forms is who is in the ruling strata..the good guys or the bad guys. There have been some beloved Kings and dictators and some despised elected leaders.
    Half the people who use fascism and socialism don’t even really know exactly what they mean, they are just buzz words someone planted in their head so they use it.
    The main thing is people or some opposing group either overthrows them for various reasons, no matter what form rules, or they don’t.

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  4. JamesL says:

    POA, yes you have spoken to this and spoken well. Not many others though, despite the many excellent posts here over time.
    Dan Kervick, great post on the other thread.
    NC, I do think it matters what you call it. If you can’t name it, define it, dissect it, traige its effects, label and illuminate all its attributes, draw distinctions about what it is and isn’t, identify which pathways and streams lead toward it, and which lead away, you can’t prepare for it, you can’t herald its arrival, you can’t prevent it from setting up camp and staying, you can’t control it, and you might not even know it is there. Which appears to be where we are nationally, and is part of the reason why the varous sides are divergent. Congress is irrelevant to this problem because they will follow like dogs if the national dialog would actually go somewhere. But the national dialog is directed hither to yon and is ineffectual. I’m sure the neo-Mussolini’s are ecstatic. And in that sense the failure of Ameria to wage the critical war of clarity is more than Obama’s failure. He has the mental tools to do that, the pity being he is not. A lot of other people don’t have the tools. Some people here have them.

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  5. PissedOffAmerican says:

    James, there are many occassions in the past that I have commented about the fascist direction our government is taking.
    Americans don’t wanna hear about it, it runs down the batteries on their mental dildoes.

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  6. Neo Controll says:

    Probably, we assume fascism.
    And how much does it really matter what name you give to that which stomps and corrupts?
    Fascism is prior oppression.
    Today it is neoconessim.

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  7. JamesL says:

    I’m vexed that amidst all the words generated by some very good thinkers here, excepting those who are grafted breast-to-ideological rootstock, or who are just plain nuts, the word ‘fascism’ never comes up. I really don’t understand that. Describe America’s moneyed few and their unending bent toward garnering ever more money and power, the carefully directed media, the arms/surveillance/aerospace industry and its deployment for corporate gain more than national defense, and big pharma, and big energy, and how they play together in their exclusive club with laws and regs and high walls to keep the riff raff out, and describe the fools in Congress that play out minor plots that would not keep soap opera fans interested, and it seems you come up with something nearly identical to fascism. Given name changes and reconstructive surgery, Moussolini would feel right at home in New York, and Hitler would feel a place had been made just for him by the America’s hearth.
    I’m guessing that for Americans it is THEY who are always fascists (and THEY do include Dems and Repubs depending on the talker). US can’t be THEM. WE are too good, even to think about it. The old log in the eye. I’m also guessing that it is too easy to claim or believe that all fascistic governments are either Far Left, or Far Right, depending on ones own beliefs as to who are the well dressed bogeymen and bogeyladies, and thus one funnels oneself into an eternal roundabout with DC political theater at its center. One need not swirl down the toilet bowl of political obfuscation if one focuses on fascism, rather than its endlessly debatable origin. A better set of questions would be: What are the qualities of America’s progress that are moving toward fascism, and what are the qualities of Americas progress that are mobing away from fascism. While I can come up with lots of answers to the former question, I am personally lacking for answers to the question and would like some help. Anybody got a list?

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  8. Doctor Yes says:

    It is being reported by knowledgeable sources all over the internet that the Republican Party has gotten its hand on a HAARP Device and that for the past several weeks they have been bombarding the ionosphere above the state of Massachusetts to insure that Coakley loses.
    Ionospheric heaters can control electron density gradients and the refractive properties in selected regions of the ionosphere meaning that they can modulate ionospheric electron density. That is a powerful method of generating longitudinal waves, using the sky itself as a giant longitudinal antenna. This antenna has been beaming the subliminal message to anyone located in Massachusetts; “vote Republican; vote Republican; vote Republican…..”
    Democrats are hopping mad that they don’t own one of these ionospheric heaters and before the next election they plan to plead with the Japanese or Norwegians to lend them one. Alternatively they might promise to triple foreign aid to Israel if the Israelis will lend them theirs.
    Obama is thinking of firing Rahm Emanuel for not making sure that they Democrats had one of these phased array systems before the Republicans did.
    If Coakley loses, heads are going to roll!

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  9. Carroll says:

    Here’s Christ Hedges description over at the Nation of the HC bill and Washington.
    “You’re a social worker or a parish priest in a poor urban neighborhood that lives under the malignant, if stable, stewardship of an organized-crime protection racket. The small business owners all have to pay a protection fee, which most of them can afford, but a significant portion of bodegas and nail salons operating on razor-thin profit margins struggle to come up with the money. When they fall short (which is often) they are subjected to beatings, harassment, vandalism and other petty cruelties.
    Now, it turns out that you can raise enough money through your organization so that you can reliably cover the protection fees for the struggling shop owners operating on the margins. Whenever they can’t come up with enough money, you can make up the difference. The improvement to residents’ lives would be massive: no longer forced to live in fear, they would be allowed to transact their business and go about their lives free from the constant, degrading fear of physical violence.
    But by taking this action you would also be channeling revenue into the pockets of the protection racket and, perhaps more insidious, further entrenching its power by conceding its central premise: that all local businesses must pay up in order to survive.
    This is, in rough allegorical fashion, the dilemma at the heart of the recent intra-left battle over the Senate version of the healthcare bill. Those arguing that the bill will be a massive step forward in reducing the misery of the uninsured are for the most part right. And those arguing that the Senate version of the bill is a grotesque sellout to Big Pharma and, to a lesser extent, Big Insurance, are more or less correct as well.
    When the White House used its muscle to kill a bipartisan amendment that would have allowed reimportation of drugs, it was as if our fictional social worker or priest took to shaking down shopkeepers to stay in the good graces of the local thugs.
    For what it’s worth, I’m generally in the pay-off-the-thugs camp, because of the concrete benefits it would provide (Medicaid expansion for 15 million) but also because by enshrining the notion that the government is responsible for managing the healthcare system, the crimes of the insurance racket can now be laid at the feet of our politicians.
    In the short run, that accountability may spell political trouble; in the long run, I’m hopeful that it will force the government to crack down”.>>>>>>>>>
    It’s a good description but also illustrates why the liberals are wimps and nothing ever changes. Like Hedge, they will settle for a short term payoff, a tip or crumb they are going to be allowed by the Mafia in return for making the Mafia even stronger, more controlling and wealthier in the long run.
    And his last part about the crimes finally being laid at the feet of the politicians and “hoping” the government will crack down doesn’t even make any fucking sense. The politicians are the government. Does he expect laying it at their feet means not re electing them and putting someone new in? Who will immediately become part of the same system and be working for the Organized crime elite just like the ones they threw out?
    HUH?
    This exactly why I cannot stand the liberals or the progressive sheep. They are permanent Pollyanna’s and children and rule followers and timid souls.
    You do not f’ing beat their system by paying them off..ever.
    You throw them on the street and take their marbles and turn their resources into a legitimate organization. No matter how many teabaggers or sheep cry at such actions from the government. That is the only way to deal with them and the only way you will ever beat them and the only way to deprive them of their resources that they use to control government.
    For all that I supported health care reform I hope this bill dies a ugly death. Because it won’t get “fixed” or tweaked” as the sheep say.
    Why in the hell would it get improved when we just strengthen the Insurance and drug mafia that controls the congress and WH by gving them a health reform that makes them even richer to excersise their control over it?
    Someone ‘splain that to me. And don’t give me this in the short term improvements bullshit.
    Accepting the little short term crumbs and licking DC’s hand in graditude for letting us lick the spoon since we can’t have the cake is the reason we have this problem to begin with.

    Reply

  10. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “ok Norwegian and POA”
    “rahm and his brother, lieberman — would you not agree they’re all aligned with Tel Aviv over our country?”
    Pay attention to our comments, and it will save you the embarrassment of asking stupid questions.

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  11. Doctor Know says:

    Petition Aims To Hold Rahm Accountable
    http://progressillinois.com/2010/1/19/petition-holds-rahm-accountable
    ok Norwegian and POA,
    rahm and his brother, lieberman — would you not agree they’re all aligned with Tel Aviv over our country?

    Reply

  12. DonS says:

    “Liberal, conservative, what does it matter really . . .”, you’re right of course Carroll. and the kicker, “. . . they both produce about the same results.” is of course also true.
    But, in the CW, Dem=liberal=baaaad. Or, actually, unclean. And that’s all you really need to know.
    How it got that way? Well, our heads are all still spinning, but there is no question that we have been had, and the ‘hadders’ are laughing all the way to the country club.
    Pity, though, that we’ve all been had, except that 0.001%. There was never anything so much to be admired in straight up liberalism; anything really progressive never had a chance.
    The rest of the gullible, the dittoheads along with everyone else, has been had. The they just don’t know it as they wallow in the ever so shallow and evanescent bathos of moral superiority, and gotcha hatred.
    BTW, I heard a radio clip of Beck today. Flush, like the tumescent penis that he is, is going for the gold. Aligning the “good” dems with the thugs, he is setting up the ‘progressives’ as the actual bad guy in his universe . . . the regulars as keepers of the flame against the fall of the republic.
    MLK is turning in his grave, eh, Barack?

    Reply

  13. John Waring says:

    http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/01/19/guantanamo
    Glenn Greenwald, on the crime of not looking backward, makes the case far better than I ever could. Also check out Keith Oberman’s interview with Scott Horton at the end of article.

    Reply

  14. Carroll says:

    Liberal, conserative, what does it matter really..they both produce about the same results.
    They both “had to save the little guy” by bailing out WS and sending our tax money up the ladder.
    They both had to “save the uninsured” by taxing us and passing the proceeds onto the for profit insurers.
    It is hard for me yada yada about single issues when they all stem from the same problem….the political self and party interest that churns out
    one bastardize bill after another that never really “improves”, that just “cost” and makes the entities that created the problem richer.

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  15. james says:

    dons – welcome to the heartland of amerika, lol…

    Reply

  16. DonS says:

    Mr. C, you really need to have better soundbites before you waste our time here. “The Democrats and their liberal agenda” isn’t even good enough if your suffering a brain aneurysm as we speak.

    Reply

  17. Mr.C says:

    The Democrats and there liberal agenda is cominig to a END

    Reply

  18. DakotabornKansan says:

    Perhaps Jon Stewart says it best about the Democrats mindset that if they lose the Massachusetts senate seat, they will lose their chance of passing health care reform, “If this lady loses, the health care reform bill that the beloved late senator considered his legacy, will die. And the reason it will die… is because if Coakley loses, Democrats will only have an 18 vote majority in the Senate, which is more than George W. Bush ever had in the Senate when did whatever the fuck he wanted to,” and about the Democrats woeful inability to defeat the Republicans’ strategies, “It’s not that the Democrats are playing checkers and the Republicans are playing chess. It’s that the Republicans are playing chess and the Democrats are in the nurse’s office because once again they glued their balls to their thighs.”

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  19. DonS says:

    Somewhere in the narrative of Obama as accidental president who will, nonetheless, have historical consequences, there will be a chapter or two outlining how Obama made a fine suit, but failed in filling it. I’d lay awake remembering that if I were sleeping in the WH.
    Let’s just take MLK since BHO credits him for being where he is today. Towards the end of King’s life, the hagiographers like to forget, he was becoming more outspoken and insistent re 1) anti-war, especially anti immoral/Vietnam war and 2) jobs, jobs, jobs for those who needed it most.
    HBO should be required to view that tape until it sinks in.

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  20. JamesL says:

    Many good comments here, too many to comment on all. Too bad American politics is devoid of similar dialog.
    RE Obama’s popularity and veracity, among his many choices to date that have been out of touch, his decision to “look forward” is key, but only one of a dozen. But, focusing on that choice, I would ask this:
    If Obama is actually suggesting that I “put the past behind” for Bush war crimes, and illegal Iraq war, DOJ law breaking, blatant Wall Street fraud, torture, secrecy, illegal civilian surveillance, and other illegal acts, he is suggesting that I, based on his suggestion, CHOOSE to abandon the rule of law. But only for a select group. Law must continue to apply to individuals who are not in the government, not in the CIA, not in the FBI, not on active military duty, not in the uper military chain of cmmand, not in provate armies, not in the upper echelons of Wall Street, or NSA, or any of the secret organizations that are part of the government.
    If Obama really suggests this, he advocates a theory that law applies only to individual humans in certain circumstances, and that law does NOT apply to many organizations and “special” individuals, virtually all of whom are occupied with the control or surveilleance of citizens.
    That I might do so at his suggestion would be the voluntary enactment of fealty to a king, and a citizen-based abandonment of law as anything of importance. If Obama wants me to forget the past, he is breaking his oath as head of the Executive Branch to uphold the laws of the land. There is no other way to interpret this. As, supposedly, a Constitutional lawyer, Obama must be aware of this, making his position all the more clear.

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  21. JohnH says:

    Obama and the Little Engine the Could.
    The other engine broke down, so all the little toys
    asked the Obama engine.
    The Obama engine said, “Yes we can. We can climb
    over the mountain.”
    All the toys got on board, chanting, “Yes, we can.
    Yes we can.”
    Finally they reached the foot of the mountain. The
    Obama train stopped, and Obama made a magnificent
    speech. “Nope, we can’t. I don’t even want to try.”

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  22. JohnH says:

    I agree with POA. It’s as if Obama woke up one day
    and said, “I could be President.” Then he said, “I
    could be a figure of historical consequence–the
    first Black President.” Then he said to himself,
    “What a hoot! I’m going to go for it.”
    His whole campaign was a lark, nothing
    substantive, just seeing if he could con people
    into electing him.
    And now that he’s got what he wanted, he’s
    delegated everything to the military and to the
    slimeballs who happened to be around during
    Clinton’s presidency. He has already accomplished
    what he wanted to accomplish. The people’s
    business? Who cares?
    How else can you explain the fact that Obama is
    not even trying to move any sort of legislative
    agenda, sitting passively as health care reform
    turns into a stinking heap of rotten pork.

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  23. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “The essence of Obama’s problem is he squandered his moral authority”
    He didn’t “squander” it, he never had it. Thats why he was picked.
    “Psst, hey buddy, wanna be the first black american prez??? Well, uh, here’s whatcha gotta do…..”
    Even if he is a one termer, which he will be, he will still be the first black President, he and his family will still enjoy generational wealth, and these fucking criminals that have brought this nation to its knees, and are responsible for the deaths of over a million human beings, will still get off scot free.
    You watch, the Harpers article will NOT instigate any honest effort to investigate or indict anyone. Thats was always a part of Obama’s package deal. He IS keeping his promises. Not the promises he made to the American people, but the promises he made to whomever is behind the media extravaganza that created him.

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  24. John Waring says:

    Everybody needs to read the Harper’s article POA linked to at 10:02 PM.
    The essence of Obama’s problem is he squandered his moral authority. If Scott Horton is correct, and I think he is, then we Americans tortured to death three prisoners at Gitmo.
    Think about that for a moment. Obama wants to move on? The dead are crying out for justice. We cannot move forward until this rot is excised. Think about how compromised the Justice Dept really is.
    The issue is the same when we look at our financial industry. The masters of the universe are hated the world over. Yet Obama refuses to excise the rot. Look at our absymally disfunctional health industry. Yet Obama refuses to excise the rot.
    It is past time for the president to demand accoutability and real reform. I wonder if he is capable of doing so.
    The moral basis of our social contract is unravelling before our eyes and the president appears oblivious.

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  25. Outraged American says:

    Ditto Linda. Thanks for making this BS understandable to a
    doofus like me.
    I’ve just been through a string of red tape that could go to the
    moon and back just to get coverage because I had a kidney
    infection in 2002 and am being treated for a tiny pre-cancerous
    skin lesion.
    SInce this is the first time I’ve had to apply for individual
    insurance with “pre-existing” conditions I was shocked and
    amazed at the amount of hoops that had to be jumped through.
    And one of the BS (aptly named) / BC “Medical Risk Assessment”
    people told me flat out that I would be turned down if I had a
    condition like diabetes.
    So what do people who have diabetes do?
    And there was this whole BS about “portability”since we’re
    coming off of Cobra, which we spent $12,000 on last year. How
    do people actually navigate the maze of getting health
    insurance?
    My husband and I are relatively well-educated and we’ve spent
    at least 100 hours trying to figure out our health insurance.
    And we’re still going to have to pay a lot with a pretty high
    deductible.
    Basically, we’re going to be going to the doctor only if we’re
    dying, and still paying though the teeth for that “privilege.”
    And yet we have the money *HAH* to spend killing people on
    the other side of the world…
    Obama, you F-ed up. But I think only someone under four
    would really have believed in “change” from the Dems. Rahm
    Wall Street/ IDF Emanuel, here’s looking at you kid.
    Change ballot access and then we might get real change. That’ll
    happen around the time we colonize Uranus or DISCOVER A
    CURE FOR CANCER, which will happen simultaneously 11,000
    years in the future when there are five of us left and we’re all
    worshipping before a statue of Ralph Nader…
    Beyond that, I live in “What’s the matter with Kansas?” land and I
    have to say, most of the f*cktards in the state of Arizona will
    vote against their best interests, hence McCain, Kyl and
    Shadegg, the Three Corrupt-a-teers. We deserve what we get.

    Reply

  26. bob h says:

    “However, it’s clear now that one of the most liberal states in the country is ill at ease with Barack Obama’s health care reform agenda.”
    Or, perhaps they feel they have already done the hard work of establishing a similar universal healthcare system for themselves, and, even though they generally support it, don’t feel compelled to shell out for the rest of us. This is the one point Brown makes that makes some sense.

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  27. Carroll says:

    DOROTHY RABINOWITZ”?….replusive!
    I don’t give a rats ass about the Mass. race but I wouldn’t even let my puppy pee on one of that junk yard bitch’s smear pieces.
    If I were a Mass voter the fact that Rabinowitz has an agenda to sink her would throw my vote to Coakley.

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  28. kotzabasis says:

    It’s not the good guys that in critical times blaze a new course but the hard guys. In hard times it’s the hard men/women who prevail. Obama ab ovo was soft and weak and never had it in him to be a great president. But he was charming enough in his cat walk during the campaign to seduce many Americans who were looking for a mirage in the so called desert land politics of the previous administration, and who solicited the angel in the clouds for the Change “Yes We Can.” And as is shown above, many of his supporters still have their political dwelling in the misty clouds with the only consolation that the landlord of this dwelling is a “good guy.”

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  29. Mr.Murder says:

    Obama did help keep the Schiavo debacle open for debate….
    can’t he mention that with the GOP in public when it comes to discussing Health Care?
    Done right, he could turn the tables on the discussion. Burn them with their own fire, Barack.
    Invite the GOP handles to breakfast, remind them.

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  30. DebraT says:

    I really do not want to see a Republican in the seat held so capably by Teddy Kennedy. I believe that Coakley is barely qualified to hold it, but that the Republican money flowing into the state campaign is not for the greater good of the people of Massachusetts, but is a strong power play to return the Congress back to a Republican majority, full of holy rollers and warmongers with hypocrisy dripping from their jaws.
    Be that as it may, Coakley’s beady-eyed Irish Catholic take on Puritanism really alarms me.

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  31. Dan Kervick says:

    The economic collapse of the fall of 2008 was a bona fide crisis, one that in my estimation will turn out to be as significant and landscape-changing as 9/11.
    Why, you say? It’s just a recession. There are always recessions, aren’t there? They come to an end, don’t they? But this one was different. Many Americans lost a massive amount of personal wealth and now feel, accurately, that they are permanently poorer.
    Even worse, the cause of this recession was different, because it was created by the financial industry. The chief helmsmen and engineers of the American economy, the custodians of the capital that drives American capitalism, torched our economy in a blaze on incompetence, corruption and selfish greed. It wasn’t just the business cycle; it wasn’t just a few overenthusiastic dot-com bubble blowers. The guys who run everything are the bastards who killed us.
    This is like when Catholics discover that a large bunch of their once-respected priests are actually in the altar boy raping business, and that the ones who aren’t rapists themselves spend their time erecting protective rings around the rapists. The loss of trust, faith and respect is profound, and will have a lasting impact. The faces of these men now physically repulse ordinary Americans when they see them on TV. And yet Obama makes nice and civil with them, and pow-wows with them when they should be languishing in the stocks in Lafayette Park so that people can throw rotten fruit and vegetables at them. What next, Americans ask? Will Obama invite some of the aforementioned naughty monsignors into the White House to feel up his daughters?
    Obama and his team doesn’t seem to get what has happened here culturally and socially. Obama was never all in with a progressive agenda, and thinks people elected him to create the lovey-dovey middle-of-the-road purple America he preached. So he can’t figure out why so many people have abandoned him. But he lost his nerve following the election. In response to the economic crisis, he lurched reflexively toward the past, the center, and the establishment. At the same time, his core of natural constituents and supporters went left, and reached for the future and the new. He zigged; they zagged. His inauguration speech was a cold, uninspiring stew of lowered expectations, and it’s been downhill since then. The team he chose was an equally uninspiring synod of old generation figures with old, dead ideas. Yes, some of them served only a little more than a decade ago in the Clinton administration. But they are on the other side of the 9/11 and Great Recession cultural divide, and might as well have been in office 30 years ago. They are over.
    Obama has pissed away the support of tens of millions of enthusiastic people. Perhaps Beltway pundits needs to consider the hypothesis that when tens of millions of enthusiastic supporters start to disagree stridently with a few dozen folks in the Oval Office, it’s not the *tens of millions* that are wrong. Political analysts need to ask themselves what exactly Obama’s White House thinks they are doing politically. What kind of world do they think are they living in?
    Larry Summers? Honestly, what minuscule percentage of those who voted for Obama last year were voting for an economy run by Larry Summers? Summers couldn’t even keep his job at Harvard, the American Mount Olympus of elitist techno-dweebs. If they don’t even like him there, what would make anyone think that regular, non-Harvard Americans would like him? There are compelling champions of American values, needs and attitudes all over this country, people who are every bit as capable and smart, and way more with it politically, than someone like Larry Summers. They are all out there waiting for a chance to help govern their country. But Obama seems to think the country should be run by the guys with the highest SAT scores. He needs to get a clue about different kinds of smarts.
    Yet people still like Obama, and think he is a good guy at bottom, which makes it so tragic that he is failing to develop a bond of real trust and support among Americans.
    I read the rehashed piece about Cass Sunstein lately, and about his creepy notions about propagandizing the public by infiltrating and gaming the blogosphere. What is a diabolically Machiavellian control freak and ultra-elitist like that doing anywhere *near* this White House. But those are the kinds of smart-ass folks who are now in charge. Americans smell it; and they don’t like it. This administration is now in the hands of the neo-Lippman technocratic prick class who think they are smarter than everyone else in the world, and that no one else is fit to decide anything but them. These characters need to be defenestrated rapidly if Obama is to have any chance of not losing the public entirely. Or does Obama think that all those “Yes We Can” kids voted for a White House that was going to infiltrate the internet and exert paternalistic dominion over the thought processes of Americans?
    The Best and the Brightest lead us into a screwy, stupid war; they also designed the new age Wall Street that trashed our economy. These bozos need to be sent back to their classrooms. Give some of the less supercilious and more in touch Americans a chance to govern. Americans are fed up with the establishment and the old guards.
    I still believe Obama is a good guy who has it in him to do well. But he chocked in the clutch, and pussied out when faced with a crisis that arose even before he took office, and now he is stuck with an administration of people who are phenomenally out of step and out of touch with the way most Americans think, and who have class loyalties and interests that are opposed to the interests of 90% of the public.
    Obama doesn’t realize how much potential power he still has to effect real change. But he needs to stop being so uptight and controlled, and has to stop playing prevent defense all the time. He should stick his finger in the socket and feel the surge of American popular feeling, and not be afraid of the shock he’s going to receive. Plug in. Get lit up. Feel the times. Stop being such a dork.
    One of the dumbest mistakes he made was listening to whatever genius told him to “boycott” Fox news. Screw that. He should stride right in to the Fox studio and say that if they are going to talk smack about him, he demands the opportunity for rebuttal. Get in the faces of those morons. Stop running away. And if Presidents can’t do that sort of thing, hire a team of helpers to do it. But get some people Americans actually … you know … LIKE.

    Reply

  32. Bean Boy says:

    Steve,
    anirprof is right on the money, especially on one point. It’s not the President’s health care plans, it’s really about the Mass and national Dems’ stupidity in choosing Coakley. Voters from both sides may just want “Change in Reverse” because of the following WSJ’s article.
    “Martha Coakley’s Convictions”
    The role played by the U.S. Senate candidate in a
    notorious sex case raises questions about her judgment.
    By DOROTHY RABINOWITZ
    WALL STREET JOURNAL – JANUARY 14, 2010
    The story of the Amiraults of Massachusetts, and of the prosecution that had turned the lives of this thriving American family to dust, was well known to the world by the year 2001. It was well known, especially, to District Attorney Martha Coakley, who had by then arrived to take a final, conspicuous, role in a case so notorious as to assure that the Amiraults’ name would be known around the globe.
    The Amiraults were a busy, confident trio, grateful in the way of people who have found success after a life of hardship. Violet had reared her son Gerald and daughter Cheryl with help from welfare, and then set out to educate herself. The result was the triumph of her life — the Fells Acres school — whose every detail Violet scrutinized relentlessly. Not for nothing was the pre-school deemed by far the best in the area, with a long waiting list for admission.
    All of it would end in 1984, with accusations of sexual assault and an ever-growing list of parents signing their children on to the case. Newspaper and television reports blared a sensational story about a female school principal, in her 60s, who had daily terrorized and sexually assaulted the pupils in her care, using sharp objects as her weapon. So too had Violet’s daughter Cheryl, a 28-year old teacher at the school.
    But from the beginning, prosecutors cast Gerald as chief predator — his gender qualifying him, in their view, as the best choice for the role. It was that role, the man in the family, that would determine his sentence, his treatment, and, to the end, his prosecution-inspired image as a pervert too dangerous to go free.
    The accusations against the Amiraults might well rank as the most astounding ever to be credited in an American courtroom, but for the fact that roughly the same charges were brought by eager prosecutors chasing a similar headline—making cases all across the country in the 1980s. Those which the Amiraults’ prosecutors brought had nevertheless, unforgettable features: so much testimony, so madly preposterous, and so solemnly put forth by the state. The testimony had been extracted from children, cajoled and led by tireless interrogators.
    Gerald, it was alleged, had plunged a wide-blade butcher knife into the rectum of a 4-year-old boy, which he then had trouble removing. When a teacher in the school saw him in action with the knife, she asked him what he was doing, and then told him not to do it again, a child said. On this testimony, Gerald was convicted of a rape which had, miraculously, left no mark or other injury. Violet had tied a boy to a tree in front of the school one bright afternoon, in full view of everyone, and had assaulted him anally with a stick, and then with “a magic wand.” She would be convicted of these charges. Cheryl had cut the leg off a squirrel.
    Other than such testimony, the prosecutors had no shred of physical or other proof that could remotely pass as evidence of abuse. But they did have the power of their challenge to jurors: Convict the Amiraults to make sure the battle against child abuse went forward. Convict, so as not to reject the children who had bravely come forward with charges.
    Gerald was sent to prison for 30 to 40 years, his mother and sister sentenced to eight to 20 years. The prosecutors celebrated what they called, at the time “a model, multidisciplinary prosecution.” Gerald’s wife, Patricia, and their three children — the family unfailingly devoted to him — went on with their lives. They spoke to him nightly and cherished such hope as they could find, that he would be restored to them.
    Hope arrived in 1995, when Judge Robert Barton ordered a new trial for the women. Violet, now 72, and Cheryl had been imprisoned eight years. This toughest of judges, appalled as he came to know the facts of the case, ordered the women released at once. Judge Barton — known as Black Bart for the long sentences he gave criminals — did not thereafter trouble to conceal his contempt for the prosecutors. They would, he warned, do all in their power to hold on to Gerald, a prediction to prove altogether accurate.
    No less outraged, Superior Court Judge Isaac Borenstein presided over a widely publicized hearings into the case resulting in findings that all the children’s testimony was tainted. He said that “Every trick in the book had been used to get the children to say what the investigators wanted.” The Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly — which had never in its 27 year history taken an editorial position on a case — published a scathing one directed at the prosecutors “who seemed unwilling to admit they might have sent innocent people to jail for crimes that had never occurred.”
    It was clear, when Martha Coakley took over as the new Middlesex County district attorney in 1999, that public opinion was running sharply against the prosecutors in the case.
    Violet Amirault was now gone. Ill and penniless after her release, she had been hounded to the end by prosecutors who succeeded in getting the Supreme Judicial Court to void the women’s reversals of conviction. She lay waiting all the last days of her life, suitcase packed, for the expected court order to send her back to prison. Violet would die of cancer before any order came in September 1997.
    That left Cheryl alone, facing rearrest. In the face of the increasing furor surrounding the case, Ms. Coakley agreed to revise and revoke her sentence to time served — but certain things had to be clear, she told the press. Cheryl’s case, and that of Gerald, she explained, had nothing to do with one another — a startling proposition given the horrific abuse charges, identical in nature, of which all three of the Amiraults had been convicted.
    No matter: When women were involved in such cases, the district attorney explained, it was usually because of the presence of “a primary male offender.” According to Ms. Coakley’s scenario, it was Gerald who had dragged his mother and sister along. Every statement she made now about Gerald reflected the same view, and the determination that he never go free. No one better exemplified the mindset and will of the prosecutors who originally had brought this case.
    Before agreeing to revise Cheryl’s sentence to time served, Ms. Coakley asked the Amiraults’ attorney, James Sultan, to pledge — in exchange — that he would stop representing Gerald and undertake no further legal action on his behalf. She had evidently concluded that with Sultan gone — Sultan, whose mastery of the case was complete — any further effort by Gerald to win freedom would be doomed. Mr. Sultan, of course, refused.
    In 2000, the Massachusetts Governor’s Board of Pardons and Paroles met to consider a commutation of Gerald’s sentence. After nine months of investigation, the board, reputed to be the toughest in the country, voted 5-0, with one abstention, to commute his sentence. Still more newsworthy was an added statement, signed by a majority of the board, which pointed to the lack of evidence against the Amiraults, and the “extraordinary if not bizarre allegations” on which they had been convicted.
    Editorials in every major and minor paper in the state applauded the Board’s findings. District Attorney Coakley was not idle either, and quickly set about organizing the parents and children in the case, bringing them to meetings with Acting Gov. Jane Swift, to persuade her to reject the board’s ruling. Ms. Coakley also worked the press, setting up a special interview so that the now adult accusers could tell reporters, once more, of the tortures they had suffered at the hands of the Amiraults, and of their panic at the prospect of Gerald going free.
    On Feb. 20, 2002, six months after the Board of Pardons issued its findings, the governor denied Gerald’s commutation.
    Gerald Amirault spent nearly two years more in prison before being granted parole in 2004. He would be released, with conditions not quite approximating that of a free man. He was declared a level three sex offender — among the consequences of his refusal, like that of his mother and sister, to “take responsibility” by confessing his crimes.
    He is required to wear, at all times, an electronic tracking device; to report, in a notebook, each time he leaves the house and returns; to obey a curfew confining him to his home between 11:30 p.m. and 6 a.m. He may not travel at all through certain areas (presumably those where his alleged victims live). He can, under these circumstances, find no regular employment.
    The Amirault family is nonetheless grateful that they are together again.
    Attorney General Martha Coakley — who had proven so dedicated a representative of the system that had brought the Amirault family to ruin, and who had fought so relentlessly to preserve their case — has recently expressed her view of this episode. Questioned about the Amiraults in the course of her current race for the U.S. Senate, she told reporters of her firm belief that the evidence against the Amiraults was “formidable” and that she was entirely convinced “those children were abused at day care center by the three defendants.”
    What does this say about her candidacy? (Ms. Coakley declined to be interviewed.) If the current attorney general of Massachusetts actually believes, as no serious citizen does, the preposterous charges that caused the Amiraults to be thrown into prison — the butcher knife rape with no blood, the public tree-tying episode, the mutilated squirrel and the rest — that is powerful testimony to the mind and capacities of this aspirant to a Senate seat. It is little short of wonderful to hear now of Ms. Coakley’s concern for the rights of terror suspects at Guantanamo — her urgent call for the protection of the right to the presumption of innocence.
    If the sound of ghostly laughter is heard in Massachusetts these days as this campaign rolls on, with Martha Coakley self-portrayed as the guardian of justice and civil liberties, there is good reason.
    Ms. Rabinowitz, a member of the Journal’s editorial board, is the author of “No Crueler Tyrannies: Accusations, False Witness And Other Terrors Our Times” (Free Pre

    Reply

  33. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Obama did EXACTLY as he was designed to do. He promised change in such a carefully orchestrated and marketed manner that it stole the spotlight from the true patriots that actually stood for change with conviction; Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich. If you agree with their politics or not, BOTH of these men have exhibited unwavering convictions over long periods of time, and both have against what has become the “status quo” for the last few decades, a corrupt and elitist governance that has very little respect for the interests of the lower and middle classes.
    So many of you seem to think that Obama intended to emulate his own rhetoric. That was NEVER the intention. It was ALWAYS about maintaining the status quo. The American people were screaming for something, anything, different than what these pieces of shit Bush and Cheney gave us. So Barack Obama was created to give them an illusion, a charade. And he performed his role perfectly.
    If you doubt it, just push rewind, and re-envision Bush, a war criminal, a traitor, a torturer, a liar, an AWOL deserter, and a mass murderer, standing unshackled on the world stage next to Barack Obama, smirking, as he implores us to send him our cash.

    Reply

  34. Linda says:

    Questions,
    Obama and his folks approached it in the wrong way from the start by telling everybody that it is sooo complex and taking single payer off the table because they looked at Hillarycare and decided that they could not take on the drug and insurance companies. He never considered that the people might like it if he took them on. That’s what he needs to do.
    Complex is insurance exchanges and expanding Medicaid that states can’t afford anyhow, and making deals with Ben Nelson. I’m willing to pay higher taxes to have everybody covered. I’m not very happy about paying taxes so people in NE don’t have to. Taxes is a four letter word, but donations aren’t. An increae of 1% on an income tax bill for a year is only $100–less than $2 a week.
    All the mechanisms and bureaucratic structure are in place for Medicare now–so it would be cost-effective to expand quickly say by decades 55-64, etc. Medicare would not be in such financial trouble if Congress started fixing it 10-20 years ago. They didn’t. Republicans added prescription drug and more to Medicare Advantage and didn’t pay for it in 2003. In the original Medicare Advantage, it would only pay 95% of average cost and saved 5%. Drug companies are making out like bandits on that. Prices shot up not down.
    Think about it. Single payer is the only way to control costs. If all the providers, etc. have only one customer, the government, paying the bill, they can’t shift costs and things around. They won’t like it at first, but they will get used to it and love it. So if physicians got $80 a visit (or whatever) and did not have to deal with dozens of insurance companies and hire several clerks to do it, they would be thrilled.
    Why are the savings to pay for health care coming from Medicare? Because it is single payer run by the government. It’s a bit amusing to hear some elderly tea party folks yelling against health care reform and not wanting government running things, but don’t touch my Medicare. How intrusive could government be if people don’t even notice it’s a government program?
    I’m not implying that there isn’t waste in Medicare, but Obama administraion including HHS, DOJ, FBI is coming after the fraud and abuse more than Bush did. Put money in that, and you get an immediate return in savings. I don’t know what the ratio is, but let’s say that they save $3 in fraud for every dollar spent on enforcement.
    Read T.R. Reid’s book, “The Healing of America” especially about how Switzerland and Taiwan developed their plans starting around when Clinton plans were around. Switzerland is interesting because its health care system was a lot like ours. Both of them have single payer systems up and running that providers and people like.
    And it’s not as if they would have to start all over with the same process, John Dingell and his father have been introducing single payer bill in every Congress for decades. Obama didn’t say, “Yes, we can” on single payer. The only thing he was definite about is “No, we can’t.”
    So if I were advising him and if Dems lose in MA, let the Republicans vote it down, pivot and use some of these talking points, call out the health-industrial complex, fight for the people, and see what will happen to his ratings. And by the way, if that fails too, the Republicans and centrists stopped it twice.
    Then he still would have time before the election to do a small health reform bill with some of the most popular things.
    And if I were Obama, I’d be out every day saying that filibuster has to be changed, even when Democrats are in the minority. That’s what gave Nelson and Lieberman their power. That’s what obstructs getting things done. It wasn’t always at 60,etc. I don’t even mind if we go back to making them stand their and read until they fall over. It’s not in the Constitution. The Senate can change its own rules.
    And there are great examples of what happens when even by initiative (Prop 13) in California when they required a 2/3 vote to pass budgets. They couldn’t govern the state.

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  35. JohnH says:

    questions–the filibuster is a a convenient
    excuse.
    JFK faced overwhelming odds against ratification
    of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The country and
    particularly the Congress were in a sullen,
    belligerent, anti-Communist mood. But JFK reached
    out to civic and religious organizations to build
    grassroots support. He used his bully pulpit to
    convince people. In the end he prevailed with a
    2/3 super-majority, all because he was willing to
    use the substantial persuasive powers at his
    disposal
    Where has Obama reached out to organize his
    supporters? When has Obama consistently used his
    gilded tongue to build support for anything? Why
    haven’t Obama and the Democrats forced the
    Republicans to actually filibuster something that
    has massive popular support–anything?
    As I said, Obama has not made ANY REAL EFFORT to
    sell his programs. In governing style, he’s as
    aloof as Bush 41. And it’s pretty clear that
    Obama’s detachment is by choice, since he did not
    behave that way when he was trying to sell
    himself.

    Reply

  36. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Obama has made a mockery of the values he ran on”
    Fact is, if Obama and his treasonous lackey Holder do not act upon the revelations Harpers has uncovered about Gitmo, and our Justice Department’s purposeful failure to investigate egregious crimes and uphold the law, then he should be impeached immediately. These two felonious imposters have no more regard for the law than Bush and Gonzales did.
    http://harpers.org/archive/2010/01/hbc-90006368

    Reply

  37. questions says:

    JohnH,
    What to do about the Senate, though? Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman grossly miscalculated in opposite, but similar ways. The similarity is that both decided to be loud and proud about their stands on health reform. They both pushed and pulled and ranted and were bribed. They are both HATED now, Nelson because he supported reform at all from a state that hates reform, and Lieberman because he obstructed from a state that didn’t want the obstruction. They may both be facing the end of their political careers over this one.
    Both made calculations that as long as they were in that “G60,” whose support is absolutely necessary for moving anything at all in the Senate, they should work to get famous. And they both worked in the conservative direction, one because he’s from a conservative state, and the other because…well, no one really knows.
    The sad fact is, without actual moderate Republicans in the Senate, the median voter becomes a super conservative Dem, and that super conservative must be pleased by super conservative legislation.
    This is a structure in the Senate. The “median” has shifted over to number 60, and whoever #60 is, that person runs the Senate for now.
    What is beautiful, though, is that being #60 is not without serious cost. So it’s possible that no one will try to be an obstructionist #60, but instead, to a (wo)man, they will all be #58 or #59.
    Or, the most conservative few will side with the Republicans, and the Dems will get nothing done.
    None of this structural stuff can be laid at Obama’s feet, Emannuel’s feet, or anyone else’s feet. It is all structural/institutional. It would happen at #50 as well, but in the current Senate, #50 is more likely to the left of #60. The pivot senator always has outsized power.
    So, no, I wouldn’t say “mockery” or “cynical” or the like. I would say that there are institutional and logical and structural forces at play that we are simply stuck with.
    If you disagree (and I assume you do), go ahead and lay out a realistic legislative map. How do you get Lieberman and Nelson and the other conservative dems to push for something like health care reform? How do you “force” them to go against their preferences? How do you make them support a bill that is far far to the left of their constituents (unless, as in Lieberman’s case, he simply no longer has a constituency)?
    It’s one thing to be deeply unhappy about how things have turned out, but it’s another to think that Obama really could have forced a progressive bill through a non-progressive Senate.

    Reply

  38. JohnH says:

    questions–too pessimistic? I don’t think so. It’s not just about health care, which was transformed into wealth care for the medical mob.
    Where exactly is it that Obama has not stiffed the base? Show me where Obama has delivered. Show me where he has actually made ANY EFFORT at all to deliver: Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Guantanamo, Wall Street, warrantless wiretapping, defense contractor accountability, climate change, jobs? Overwhelming Democratic majorities accompanied by big fat zeros. Total futility.
    Obama and Emmanuel obviously haven’t figured out the connection between rewarding your supporters and winning elections. This is not simply about rewarding your financiers, but also about rewarding the voting public. Total futility.
    Obama has made a mockery of the values he ran on. Worse his cynical campaign positioning has poisoned the well for candidate who might actually believe what he espoused. Anyone who says what Obama said will initially be met with disbelief, which is probably just as well, since we’ve had more than enough purely opportunistic political scam artists.

    Reply

  39. JamesL says:

    Dan Kervick: “Heads really need to roll in this White House. Obama made a bunch of really, really bad personnel decisions during the panicky atmosphere of a transition occurring during the peak of the economic crisis, and he is now being done in by stupidity, mediocrity and cluelessness”
    Linda: “”The enemy of the perfect is not the good” doesn’t work when the legislation isn’t good but bad…..Every other industrialized country that has a health plan has a single payer plan. It’s the only rational way to do it, and many nations do it keeping but highly regulating private insurers. Single payer is not socialism or communism.”
    MarkL:”The problem is… his(Obama’s) exceedingly passive approach to policy”
    Thank you all and JohnH for DoBeDoBeDo.
    I do believe Obama wanted to Do, but has come up short in lots of areas, not the least of which is staff. He has established a cabinet status quo that isn’t working. Short of him leaving, some others will have to. If they don’t it will be proof certain that Obama either does not know how to direct or has no functional agenda or vision.
    Very sad to say that on MLK Day. To be accurate, MLK had his bad, unpopular, and ineffective times, and he was pushing against a MOUNTAIN. But he would not quit or negotiate down and used his skills and harnessed his determination to the best ideals of human relations to make the points we now remember him by. Obama would not be finished if he did this. He will be finished if he does not. Me to you Barack.

    Reply

  40. Dan Kervick says:

    “Obama and Rahm Emanuel have so irritated the progressive wing of the party with what he has forfeited to get a deal with the health care industry and with Senators Joseph Lieberman and Ben Nelson that many are either staying home — or they are actually voting for the Republican.”
    That’s not their problem. Rather the problem is that there has been a massive defection of unaffiliated voters in Massachusetts from the Obama camp. Look at the polls for Pete’s sake! One keeps hearing about the 3-1 Democratic voter registration advantage in Massachusetts. But half of Massachusetts voters don’t belong to a party. And hasn’t anyone noticed that Massachusetts has a solid recent history of electing Republican governors? The Congress-made, lobbyist-written and industry-approved health plan has lost the independents.
    Obama and the centrist Dems who rule the Senate had no inclination or incentive to take on the true sources of waste in the health care system: a networked Roman orgy of gluttonous devourers of the wealth of ordinary Americans, people who are being allowed to extract massive, wasteful and extravagant personal benefits from the system, benefits forked over by the sick and the desperate, people with few choices. Middle class voters, pummeled by a recession and stunning losses of personal wealth, are being asked to fork over still more, so that we can now take care of the poor and uninsured too, while making sure that all the health robber-barons still get to buy their yachts and second homes.
    Progressives would have delivered a bill that really stuck it to these wealth-vacuums in the health care complex, and at the same time guaranteed that 80% of us would have been solid, guaranteed net winners from the legislation. Coakley could have taken *that* into this election. Instead, the centrist Dems decided to stick it to the middle class again, so that they could help the poor and uninsured without taking one red cent from the health care robber-barons who bought their Congressional sinecures for them.
    Heads really need to roll in this White House. Obama made a bunch of really, really bad personnel decisions during the panicky atmosphere of a transition occurring during the peak of the economic crisis, and he is now being done in by stupidity, mediocrity and cluelessness – and by attachment to the dead-end doctrines of the Third Way Clinton era.
    It’s a new era; a new world. The Great Recession has changed everything. This ain’t the freaking West Wing and the Jed Bartlett age. What is Obama doing with Rahm Emmanuel, Larry Summers and a bunch of Podestacrats running his administration?
    Kuttner gets it.

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  41. questions says:

    oops…
    “if the recent increase in unemployment….”

    Reply

  42. questions says:

    JohnH and John Waring,
    I think your reading of Obama is a little too pessimistic.
    The fact is that because health care is a huge part of the economy and involves vast numbers of people, lots of money, and the life and security of us all, it’s not going to be changed easily. Health care reform is a massive undertaking and is easily used to scare people because of the life/death issues involved.
    It was a huge thing to bite off, was something Obama wanted to DO, and sadly it has run into Republican intransigence, insurance company interests, an inability for the left to chill out about all the things it hungers for, demagoguing by a certain senator from a certain northeastern state, electoral politics, the structure of the Senate, the right wing noise machine, the sheer complexity of health care finance, the fact that health care is never going to come down in price (is it today’s or yesterday’s NYT that has an article about the “cost disease” — there’s been absolutely no efficiency gain (nor CAN there be) in health care or in education, so the costs of those always rise, while TVs and computers gain huge amounts of efficiency over time and so get cheaper and cheaper)…..
    In short, the undertaking has been massive, the results pretty much what could be expected with a non-bargaining Republican party with tremendous party discipline (more from ideological purity and fear of the noise machine than from threats over committee seats I’d guess).
    The real problem with the health care bill isn’t its length or complexity. Rather, the problem is more structural in our political system. We have a hard time doing really big things unless we’re really panicked. Most people are panicked about terrorism, only some are panicked about health care. Easy to get the PATRIOT ACT through, not easy to get health reform through.
    And let’s face it, some people’s care might actually be less convenient or less fancy or less somehow in order to allow other people to have any care at all. There might be trade offs somewhere. The very possibility of trade offs means that those who even might lose need some kind of bribe. They won’t give it up for free. And somehow, “recission” isn’t scary enough, possibly because it only hits in the individual market and something like it only hits in the small business market.
    If the recent increase has made some people aware of how vulnerable they really are (homeless, used to be middle class, totally white people/at the local food bank, used to be middle class totally white people/unemployed and uninsured and losing their home used to be middle class…), it still hasn’t gotten deep enough into our collective psyches that we need to do something about the structure of health care. Not enough of us are afraid.
    And Linda, single payer isn’t even a possibility at this point in our history, even if it’s rational. And it’s hard to say if, in this culture, it is rational. Governmental power to dictate income feels different from the same power in corporate hands. I don’t know why, but it’s a strong current in this culture. Single payer puts that power in the government’s hands, and the only way to “bend the cost curve” is to use that power to cut practitioner income. I don’t see how that’ll happen without a pretty big change in medical culture. Note that Medicaid is not accepted by many physicians, some are dropping Medicare, many Ob/Gyns whine about tort reform…. Whatever lowers income, especially reimbursements that lower income below costs will be problematic.
    I wonder if there’s a survey out there that asks how practitioners would feel about single payer if the payer decided to pay Medicaid rates, instead of “reasonable and customary” rates. And I wonder if single payer would ever be structured to guarantee a really comfortable life for the nation’s doctors.

    Reply

  43. Paul Norheim says:

    Ditto.

    Reply

  44. Carroll says:

    Posted by JohnH, Jan 18 2010, 3:59PM – Link
    Someone once said that there are only two reasons people run for President:
    1) They want to DO something
    2) They want to BE President.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    I made my comment before I saw this. I could have saved myself some typing and just said ditto.

    Reply

  45. Carroll says:

    Well I had some hopes for Obama..(yea hope springs eternal)
    But in the end the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and started waving little red flags so I didn’t vote for him (or McCain), I just wrote in a name.
    Looking at Obama dispassionately now…I think he just wanted to “be” President. And he used his talent for soaring speeches to accomplish that.
    He’s taken no chances for real change, been careful to keep the elite contributors to the dem party happy with his policies or non policies. He’s done the same backroom deals as Bush and most others have done with big pharma and etc..
    In short it appears there is and never was any “there” there. He’s just well…living in the WH.
    I can see Obama being very happy with just one term if he can get out of running for a second term in a graceful way.
    He would be very content and happy retiring as an an ex-prez where he could travel around and make his flowery speeches and play cheer leader for the dems with the whining liberals who can’t get enough abuse from “their party” and always come back for more.
    I am not going to list all the wimp out crap he has done that has the public down. We all know already.
    Where’s kathleen? She could give me the correct Sicilian phrase for “he’s dead to me”.

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  46. John Waring says:

    I voted for far-reaching change, not business as usual.
    Obama deserves to get his clock cleaned.

    Reply

  47. DavidT says:

    C’mon Steve,
    I know you’ve never been an Obama enthusiast but it would
    be nice if you provided some substantiation for your nasty
    charge. If this piece isn’t an ad hominem one than I don’t
    what would be one. I guess it all comes down to whether
    you feel eliminating recissions, a ban on preexisting
    conditions refusals, covering 31 million uninsured, as well as
    developing hundreds of pilot programs is important. As Ron
    Brownstein recently argued, it’s the white elitist left that
    already have health Insurance who are most unhappy with
    the current legislation. What would you have done differently
    so that the Democratic moderates would have supported the
    legislation and the base would be energized? Isn’t it usually
    the out of party base that is more energized in such elections
    ( which is why the president usually loses seats in an off-term
    election). I do agree however that the White House should
    have been more involved earlier on in this race and suspect,
    sorry, that pushing for a different candidate would have made
    a bigger difference than any different approaches to Health
    Care Reform.
    Cheers.
    David

    Reply

  48. Linda says:

    Charlie Cook last week in “National Journal” called health care reform “a colossal miscalculation.” If Obama could have saved it, he needed to do so in August and hold Congress to his deadline for producing a bill–not had an August recess and been in all day meetings with Congress.
    Even then it already was not a good piece of legislation or well done. Medicare and Medicaid bill was less than 100 pages long. Nobody can comprehend or understand anything 1000-2000 pages long.
    Some differences can be easily compromised in Obama style. If House bill says 150% of the poverty level and Senate bill says 100% (those aren’t the real figures), it’s easy to agree on 125%. But most of them can’t.
    “The enemy of the perfect is not the good” doesn’t work when the legislation isn’t good but bad. Not that there aren’t some very good things in it.
    Every other industrialized country that has a health plan has a single payer plan. It’s the only rational way to do it, and many nations do it keeping but highly regulating private insurers. Single payer is not socialism or communism.
    What is being proposed is not universal coverage but contains a lot of totally unfair potential cost shifting. The eligibility level for Medicaid will be raised to cover a lot more people, but that means they will have to produce all kinds of documents and be means test which is very degrading. Medicare recipients may suffer because their rates of pay will be less than those on private insurance.
    How can people have equal access if Medicaid pays a physician $40 for the same visit for which Medicare pays $80 and private insurance pays $100?
    And if you add 30 million newly insured in 3-4 years, it’s clear that providers will go for the higher pay. This is still cost shifting and not universal coverage that is fair. It is fair when there is one price for each service that is posted and when everybody has the same access.
    As for all those cost-curve bending concepts of comparative effectiveness, geographical variations, and practice guidelines. They are good stuff but only if studies are large enough and well enough designed and done to be widely accepted. But worse than that, I believe there is a provision in the Senate bill that says these studies can never be used in the new health care system. Why do it if you can’t use it?
    If the price of getting a bill is this kind of illogical nonsense, then it’s the bad that is the enemy of the good. There’s no such thing as a perfect piece of legislation. Nobody ever expected perfection.
    It’s time for Obama to change course whether health care reform passes or not and just take on all the special interests in health care. That’s what the people want!

    Reply

  49. ... says:

    americans malaise with its political system is a growth industry!!! i suspect this to continue for the next few years, while the usa continues to fall off the world map in terms of relevance…

    Reply

  50. JohnH says:

    Someone once said that there are only two reasons people run for President:
    1) They want to DO something
    2) They want to BE President.
    It’s pretty clear that we’ve had a run of people whose greatest goal was being President. Governing was distasteful. Bush, Sr. felt entitled and was pretty happy the way things were. Clinton never had any internalized set of values he was working from. Bush, Jr. immediately turned things over to Cheney. And Obama would be delighted giving the occasional, brilliant speech.

    Reply

  51. anirprof says:

    Forgot to add:
    5. As evidence, look at recent polls out of CT. Despite the power of the health insurance industry there, polls show that Blumenthal would crush any Republican, and that if an election were held now, any Democrat would crush Joe Lieberman running as an Independent. If what’s happening in MA were mostly about anger at national-level policy, why doesn’t that show up in CT too — replacing Dodd with Blumenthal didn’t change the heath care bill, after all?

    Reply

  52. anirprof says:

    Steve,
    Be careful attributing too much of the impending Coakley debacle to health care. I know Mass very well, and there are important local factors at play:
    1. Coakley has run an astonishingly bad campaign, that has veered between invisibility, ineptitude, and irrelevance without ever managing to give anyone a reason to vote for the candidate.
    2. She’s a weak candidate to begin with, not only dull but rubs MA progressives the wrong way due to her transparently opportunistic law-and-order personna (e.g., Amirault), and suffers among “Reagan Dems” for being a woman (women do badly in Mass statewide races) and seeming culturally out of touch (not knowing Curt Schilling played for the Red Sox!!)
    3. The Mass Dem party has had a bad run lately — Deval Patrick’s missteps and a larger than usual number of scandals / indictments involving state legislators. National policy aside it’s just a bad year for the D brand in MA due to local personalities and corruption.
    4. On health care, due to MA’s statewide plan the national legislation has little to offer Massachusetts except higher federal taxes that’ll subsidize people in “Red States” who have chosen not to solve the problem on their own like MA did. This does not play well. It reminds people of No Child Left Behind, which despite the Kennedy connection is deeply unpopular in New England — seen as imposing annoying federal rules on states like MA or CT that already had good schools because other states like TX or KY wouldn’t act at a state level.
    Btw, good to have met you a few months ago!

    Reply

  53. MarkL says:

    Jamesl,
    Thanks for the reply.
    Wouldn’t you agree that Obama really soared when he spoke on changing the course of foreign policy? He gave details there, and had an obvious grasp of the issues.
    When it comes to domestic policy, he did support some new and attractive ideas, such as his open government proposals (where did those go?).
    He also moved people who felt a need for change, but the change message was so vague no serious person should have paid attention.
    On bread and butter issues, he was worse than mediocre. Do you remember his defense of voting against a 30% cap on credit card interest rates in one of the debates?
    Don’t forget his Harry and Louise health care scaremongering.
    Obama was below par in the ability to articulate solutions to the economic concerns of the ordinary citizens. Edwards was far better in that rea. In my opinion Obama did not and does not have the strong grasp of economic policy that Bill Clinton, nor Clinton’s ability to make complicated issues comprehensible to the voters. His “bitter” remarks were emblematic of his clueless, uninvolved stance towards the lower class.
    In terms of policy, Obama is about what I expected. The problem is that his exceedingly passive approach to policy is damaging the Democratic party. I’m sure that Obama could have sold the excise tax as an appropriate tool for reducing health care costs if he chose to, but doing so would expose him to political risk.
    Likewise, I’m certain he could have sold the public option, but the desire for big money donations from the usual suspects made that choice unpalatable to him. He wants Congress to be responsible for the details, while he takes credit for the whole bill (bad parts not included, of course).
    In terms of foreign policy, I believe he is showing a sure hand, although I don’t like his Afpak policy.

    Reply

  54. MarkL says:

    I saw a very sad comment by Paul Krugman from a recent blog entry:
    “…So I’d place blame for Obama’s undoubted troubles on (a) half-measures in the crucial early months (b) unwillingness to articulate a clear break with Reaganism and all that”
    You have to be removed from reality to think that Obama would articulte a clear break from Reaganism. Obama articulated a clean break from Clintonsim (only to hire many old Clinton hands) and was full of praise for Reagan.
    Krugman, whose mathematical analytical skills are as sharp as ever, has really been compromising his integrity with his recent support of Obama.
    His complete backflip on the excise tax, his freakout over Greenwald’s perfectly legitimate criticism of Gruber are just two examples.

    Reply

  55. JamesL says:

    MM, thanks for 2:01.
    Juan Cole has an excellent post on how relevant MLK’s message is today.
    MarkL: “What in Obama’s history led you to believe that he would be responsive to the left?”
    Not addressed to me, but I’ll answer. It has been a long time since a Presidential candidate demonstrated an ability to articulate rather than obfuscate or meander. The hope that Obama represented to people I know was that his gift for oratory, his apparent ability and willingness to articulate difficult issues, and the follow-on hope that he would take his opportunity as President to draw the distinctions necessary to extricate the usual political discourse from the molasses swamps wherein it normally resides, to use those gifts to speak for people, the human kind.
    Few realists doubted the depth of the global and national disasters that Clueless George and Darth Cheney left in their polluted wake. But there was a sincere hope, for all candidates, that despite any apparent deficiencies, the person, if elected, would rise to the challenge and become a great president, and would be effective at leading the nation toward stability and openness.
    This unspoken hope was more a factor for Obama than for McCain. McCain voters supported him for who he was, not what he might become. Obama was supported because of who supporters thought he was, AND because of what they dreamed he might become. Obama’s descent has been, as it were, from a double peak.
    Explanations of the mystery of the “why” of Obama’s major course diversion from his campaign rhetoric will pile up as history unfolds. But from the perspective of the moment, Obama has failed to live up to his campaign rhetoric (or implications he allowed to stand), has failed to leverage the powers he does possess, has failed to manage and position his staff to both offset his own weaknesses and energeticaly advance a clear agenda, and, in the key area of hope, has failed to demonstrate that he has risen to any level beyond a standard pol.
    POA will immediately retort that this was plain for all to see before Obama was ever elected, if people woul have opened their eyes. With hindsight, POA’s position can now be seen as more accurate than when he was nearly a lone voice calling out Obama’s deficiencies during the campaign.
    No sane person wants Obama to fail because his failure would be ours. History is filled with people who struggled vainly, then at some point, by epiphany or sheer determination, overcame their own internal barriers and moved into a new level that would be seen as wise and exceptional.
    Obama would do well to find some quite place outside the Bubble and ponder what Cole wrote about MLK.
    Obama has yet to display much wisdom beyond speeches. He still could rise, but as previous Presidents have found, enmeshment is progressive. If anything is to change, these things are clear: he must redefine his vision, shake up his staff, jettison anyone or any entity that does not completely share that vision, and kick the process in its great, pondiferous behind.
    Obama would do well to find some quite place outside the Bubble and ponder what Cole wrote about MLK.

    Reply

  56. Mr.Murder says:

    OT:
    To those who observe, Happy MLK Day!
    A friend once lived upstairs of James Earl Ray’s brother in St.Louis. Their door got kicked in the day after King was shot. Secret Service basically paced everyone there.
    It’s strange how Ray had logistical support to go directly across from where King would stay in advance of King’s there. Almost like someone listened in on their phone calls…
    James Earl Ray’s brother was the chair of Wallace for President, their party HQ was in a St.Louis bar. Strange the media never connected that dot….
    How exactly does a long time loser like James Earl Ray get out of jail to new suits and autos? Hint: he changed autos at least once between St.Louis and Memphis. He was spending money like a Republican in those days, or a Blue Dog, in proper context.
    BTW, King was marching in support of collective bargaining. Living with equity through reasonable wages is an item that can surpass any one group or interest and make everyone better. King Jr. knew what it was about, he could see the big picture.
    A friend in Teamsters celebrates this holiday with a sense of reverence, he knows how hard it is to get that value from work and have something to show for it. Most Americans do not keep that vigil and let those rights erode, in the future people will look back and value those who did and still do. MLK was ahead of the curve, a visionary, in those terms.
    Labor groups can help provide the kind of infrastructure to help disaster relief. They provide a means of communication and can fast track most accompanied political processes. ECOSOC should have a wing that directly represents this fact. These groups can get ahead of foreign policy challenges on the horizon.
    Thanks for everything, Steve. TWN is such a resource, I’m certain King would have been a participant here.

    Reply

  57. MarkL says:

    Jerry,
    What in Obama’s history led you to believe that he would be responsive to the left?
    I’m genuinely curious.

    Reply

  58. Jerry Lapiroff says:

    I am puzzled at the lack of responsiveness to his base – the people who got Obama nominated and elected – and instead trying to compromise with non-supporters, most of whom are not going to support his policy proposals anyway. Those people represent the financial institutions, insurance companies, and moneyed interests, not the people.
    I kept waiting during the health care debate for Obama to say – “This is what I want.” And I kept waiting for him to have pressure put on Lieberman and Nelson. It didn’t happen. It was more the other way around.
    And – in retrospect – it might well have made sense to have fought for a larger stimulus package if that would have improved the unemployment situation.
    I am afraid that Obama may end up turning Afghanistan into his Vietnam without effecting nearly as much progressive domestic change as – dare I say – Lyndon Johnson.

    Reply

  59. MarkL says:

    By the way, wasn’t Kuttner a strong supporter of Obama in 2008? In fact, if I’m not mistaken, he was one of those who fueled the fire on the charges that HRC was racist.
    He’s not just any lefty.

    Reply

  60. DonS says:

    My hometown newspaper has an AP story this morning relating Obama talking at Vermont Avenue Baptist Church yesterday. Some might consider it whining about the hand he’s been dealt and how people don’t appreciate him:
    “Our predecessors were never so consumed with theoretical debate that they couldn’t see progress when it came. Obama said. “Sometimes I get a little frustrated when folks just don’t want to see that even if we don’t get everything, we’re getting something”.
    “We’re getting something” Good thing he was speaking before a handpicked friendly congregation of black folks, not some of his “other” base of supporters on the left-left center.
    I was at a dinner party of old friends a couple of days ago; 9 of us. All lefties, to far lefties. Without going into details, four of us were very disgusted with Obama, one pretty disgusted, one rather neutral, one an Obama apologist/fan, two congenital Dems regardless of anything else. And I should add the disgust all revolved around Obama’s failure to advocate, much less deliver on promises.
    Kuttner, and other “key players” are not ginning up their suppositions and conclusions out of thin air.

    Reply

  61. MarkL says:

    Great comment, JohnH.
    What can we expect now from Obama? Well, he’s talking about legislating from “shared values”, and says we urgently need to fix Social Security. What else can that mean except that he is Nixon going to China to dismantle SS? This was my biggest fear during the campaign—I had no idea Obama would be such a disaster in so many areas of domestic policy. Frankly, he should have been SoS for someone, because his heart clearly lies with foreign policy.
    His complete indifference to the details of domestic policy is killing Dem enthusiasm.
    It’s plain as day that all he cares about is getting credit for passing a bill: first the stimulus bill, now the health care bill.
    He continues to govern as if bipartisanship is possible.
    I hope Coakley loses—badly—because only then might we see some soul searching by the Democratic leadership. Better now than after a disastrous loss in Nov. 2010.
    As I understand it, Coakley was very popular until quite recently. She is not the problem—Obama is.

    Reply

  62. Hal (GT) says:

    It certainly looks like a great example where the
    policies are affecting the races. It will be really
    interesting to me if Coakley loses. It’ll be a huge
    denunciation of the Congress and administration.
    Loved your title for this post by the way.

    Reply

  63. JohnH says:

    For Obama, all weapons are on the table. And that’s where he leaves them. He could have organized progressives from the outset, but he didn’t. He could have sold his case to the people, but he didn’t. He barely ever used his bully pulpit to appeal to the people.
    It’s as if he decided–or was told–to go into battle with both hands tied begin his back–not exactly the way to dunk the ball.
    What’s that all about?

    Reply

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