Obama, Blue Dog Dems: Quit Picking On Us, Already!

by jhwygirl

Figure this as Part II of a previous post, titled Beware of Public Option Smokescreens.

A little over a week ago, Jane Hamsher, principle blogger behind firedoglake whipped out with what is being called The Whip Project. It is/was a call to action for progressives to contact any and all Blue Dog Democrats and gain commitments from them for meaningful health care reform that includes a strong public option. They’ve had some success, most recently gaining commitments from Senator Kay Hagan (North Carolina), Sen. Ben Nelson (Nebraska) and Rep. Jerry Nadler (New York) for strong public options or a no vote.

Many advocacy groups have taken up television ads in Washington DC and the home states of those electeds being targeted. This has obviously caused some consternation amongst those Blue Dogs and their protective staff. So much so that one primary Blue Dog – Montana’s very own Sen. Max Baucus – agreed to meet with one such group (Laborers’ International Union of North America) upon their promise to take down an ad it had been airing.

Other groups, too, have removed ads with promises of meetings. Big groups have conceded their ads (for now): AARP, the American Medical Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans, the Federation of American Hospitals and AdvaMed. As Roll Call reports (sorry, subscription required):

Several major industry stakeholders, however, will be noticeably absent from the advertising airwaves over the July Fourth recess….AARP, the American Medical Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans, the Federation of American Hospitals and AdvaMed all say they are sitting out this recess when it comes to advertising campaigns.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America will be running positive ads touting health care reform.

The groups have been holding their fire in response to threats from the staff of Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and White House aides, who have warned that any groups that run ads attacking reform efforts before the bills have been crafted would lose their seats at the bargaining table.

Say what?! More threats? A month ago Baucus warned K Street to stay away from anti-health care reform electeds.

At least his staff are equal opportunity threateners (sic), right?

Not to be outdone, Obama has gotten into the fray, too: Washington Post reports that just yesterday, in a strategy call with half a dozen Senate and House Democrats, Obama complained that liberal advocacy groups ought to drop their attacks on Democratic lawmakers and devote their energy to promoting passage of comprehensive legislation:

We shouldn’t be focusing resources on each other,” Obama opined in the call, according to three sources who participated in or listened to the conversation. “We ought to be focused on winning this debate.

Boy – what to say about that? Most doctors and nurses agree – hell, even the AMA recently came out saying the same – that a public option was necessary for meaningful health care reform.

What’s increasing clear is that getting that meaningful public option means whipping a whole bunch of Dems into committing to a strong public option.

So why Obama would be critical of progressive groups seeking to ensure, essentially, meaningful health care reform leaves me a little perplexed.

Half-assed reform-in-name only isn’t why I voted for Obama – and I’m pretty darn sure it isn’t why a whole bunch of others voted for him either. There are other reasons, certainly, why I cast that vote for Obama – but let me just say that breaking another (Gitmo, anyone?) “big one” would be a tremendous disappointment.

~~~~~~
On another note – that WaPo article mentioned that in that Friday-before-the-Saturday July-4th-holiday call, leaders of both chambers expressed optimism that they will hold floor votes on legislation to overhaul the $2.2 trillion health system before Congress breaks in early August.

So what do I take out of all of this? I take out of it that continual calls and emails to Baucus, Tester and Rehberg are having some effect. I take out of it that donations, however nominal that you can muster, to organizations like Democracy for America, Move On, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and Progressive Change Campaign Committee – groups that are keeping the pressure up and have the infrastructure to
mount the massive effort needed – are helpful also.

Let them know politics have changed. That they were elected to represent, and that they represent you – not PhRMA – and that failing to recognize that will have dire consequences for their re-election.

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  1. JC

    “Boy – what to say about that?”

    Well, I’ve got this to say about that: centrists are starting to get scared that the left and progressives aren’t going to roll over. And to quote a famous soon-to-be-ex-governor: “Only dead fish go with the flow.” And I don’t like the flow that Obama and his centrist coalition are taking here. So I ain’t going with it–I’m bucking it.

    I agree with you, jhwygirl, that this isn’t the sort of “change” that I voted for. I like your idea of continuing to send contributions to groups trying to advocate for single payer and strong public option positions.

    Now if Obama had said “all you lobbyists, if you take your money off the table, we can have a conversation,” I would be able to support his efforts to calm the waters.

    So when I get this email from David Plouffe, of the DNC’s “Organizing for America,” campaign and read it together with Obama’s veiled threat, I hear nothing but hypocrisy:

    We know the most meaningful argument for health care reform are the stories of real Americans who are paying the price for our broken system. So we’re launching an ambitious plan to put these stories on the airwaves and into the national debate at this crucial time…

    Will you watch the video now, and then donate $25 or more to put it on the air?

    As we speak, Congress is rapidly hammering out the details of the health care bill, and getting this message out now is crucial. Our representatives must understand how strongly we feel about the need for real reform — and that we need it now.

    In the next few days, we must decide how many of these ads we can make, where we can air them, and how many views we can guarantee. The more resources we have, the greater the impact we’ll be able to make.

    So watch this first video, and then please dig deep with a donation of $25 or more so we can get this ad and others like it on the air and online in key areas across the country…

    Thanks for making it happen,

    David Plouffe

    P.S. — Over 99,000 people have already donated to power our campaign for health care reform. This is the perfect time to join them, and help us hit our big goal of 100,000 donors for health care.

    Here was my answer:

    Thanks, but no thanks. I voted for change, not this…

    Show me that President Obama will veto any bill that doesn’t contain a strong public option, and I might send you a contribution. Otherwise, you’re just wasting your time asking me for money.

    I can’t pay my medical bills as it is. And unless I know that the future will bring me true reform, I stand as a skeptic to the process whereby our president refuses to take a firm stand on the policy, and instead resorts to emotional political gimmickry like this ad and his other public pronouncements to raise money, while allowing republicans to control the agenda and policy development.

    Bipartisanship here seems to be republicans demanding that democrats embrace their policies, or no deal. That’s not the kind of change I voted for.

    JC

    To which I got the following reply:

    “… Due to the extremely large number of email messages we’re currently receiving, we may be unable to respond to your message individually, but we do appreciate hearing from you and hope you’ll work with us as we build America’s future together.

    People like you across the country built the biggest, most comprehensive campaign in American history, but electing President Obama was just the first step. With your support and involvement, we can sustain and even grow our grassroots movement to help enact the change our country so desperately needs.

    We’re tilting at windmills, once again.

    • I think we’re tilting at windmills working with the DNC. They want our help to get elected, then they want to do whatever they want (they call it leadership) once they get elected. I call it self preservation.

      It sure as hell ain’t representation.

      Matt or Jay quoted up an Ezra Klein piece a while back, and I’m with that one: Democrats should assess the potential fall-out of a meaningful health care reform vote, and adjust accordingly – meaning, figure out what the potential losses are, and start working now from that end to mitigate them – but don’t sacrifice reform.

      Here’s the layout for 2010. What incumbent might lose? Where can we pick up? But this self-preservation crap without a view of the bigger picture is maddening.

      I mean, why have a “party” if it’s every man or woman for themselves once they get elected?

      Regarding those larger groups – just another point…I can contact Grassley or any of those on Jane’s Whip Count, but once they take my name and address, that call will go to another pile. In other words – they aren’t worried about me.

      Move On? For example? They leave something to be feared for incumbents due to the massive voice and power they have in financing progressive campaigns. And the great thing about orgs like that is that even $5 here and $5 there can add up.

      Locally we’ve got some great people on the ground working for Health Care for American Now (Molly Moody, I believe) and SEIU (Denver Henderson). So in addition to throwing those groups some cash, it might not hurt to stop in down at the Union Club (where HCAN is situated) or over on S 3rd St. W by the Montana Job Services building (where SEIU is located) and grab a phone list or join in their letter writing campaign. LTEs can be powerful…they’re kinda like weeds – they kick off and feed the debate, publicly, in our local papers.

      We need every weapon – but donating to the DNC isn’t really one of ’em.

  2. JC

    I hate to double dip here, but TheHill.com today is reporting an interview with VP Biden on his way home from Iraq that reveals most clearly Obama’s tactics on health care reform.

    I can’t say that I like this approach, as it seems like it will result in a take-it-or-leave-it result. And the final result may well be something what would better be left undone.

    In an interview with The New York Times aboard Air Force Two in the skies over Iraq Saturday, Vice President Biden said Obama and his top aides would escalate their involvement in the healthcare negotiations after the House and Senate pass their respective bills. “The place where we will appropriately get engaged is when this gets to conference,” Biden said, according to a White House press pool report.

    Though Obama has been using the bully pulpit more and more to promote healthcare reform via press events at the White House and town hall-style meetings, some Democrats and liberals outside Congress have called on Obama to become more directly involved in pressing congressional Democrats on major issues in the reform debate, such as the public option. Biden rejected the notion that Obama is not engaged in the process. “Oh, he’s engaged,” Biden said. “I promise you, he’s engaged.”

    Biden said that Obama has laid out his principles for what should be in the healthcare reform legislation and how it should be financed but is going to let the current stage of the legislative process play out. “We have made absolutely clear in detail what we think is the best healthcare plan and how to finance it, who to cover and the need for a public plan. We have not a this point twisted arms in the House or the Senate on our plan,” Biden said.

    “Then it goes to conference and some of all of the elements of what we are proposing are in each of the bills, and that’s when we will fight very hard to try to produce a bill out of that conference that is consistent with what we believe is the way to fund it, the way to make sure there’s competition with the insurance industry, through a public plan, to cover the vast majority of the American people,” Biden said.

    The administration expects Congress to keep to its timetable and have legislation passed by both chambers before the August recess, Biden said. “I’m betting we will get a bill.”

    One wishes that Biden’s reference to the administrations “hav[ing] made absolutely clear in detail what we think is the best healthcare plan and how to finance it” would prompt the media and the public to demand that Obama bring his plan out of the smoke-filled back rooms, and into the light of a true public process.

    Sometimes you just gotta love Joe “I just can’t shut up” Biden.

  3. Good post, and all. A couple of points:

    So why Obama would be critical of progressive groups seeking to ensure, essentially, meaningful health care reform leaves me a little perplexed.

    Unless you are using sarcasm which I am missing, I can only repeat Ayn Rand’s maxim – there are no contradictions, only faulty premises.

    Secondly, as bad a as the health care system is in need of reform, I reject the notion that “some” reform is better than none. That’s been the Democratic strategy for too long – to buy off progressives with 10% of what they want, calling it 80%, saying “don’t let the perfect kill the good.” Progressives are not too good at basic math, but 10% is not 80%, and “Die another day” is better than 10%.

    Baucus used progressive good intentions to pass a prescription drug bill that may be one of the biggest corporate subsidies in history. It will not be undone. Bad health care “reform” will not be undone either. Better nothing than a bad bill.

  4. Great read, deff worth a subscription




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