Wednesday, 19 August 2009

My Declaration Of War

From CNN:

“Democratic success could depend on an obscure tactic called reconciliation, a type of budget maneuver that requires only a simple majority -- 51 votes -- to pass. Congressional Democrats authorized the maneuver specifically for health care reform legislation during the debate over the 2010 budget, which passed in April. One top Senate Republican warned at the time that using reconciliation to pass such a measure would be "like a declaration of war."”

Look at the chutzpah on this guy! The Republicans “declared war” on health care reform 15 years ago, and they’re fighting it with every sledgehammer tactic they can think of: lies, attacks, scare tactics, threats, faux martyrdom, vandalism, obstruction, spamming. But now they say the Democrats aren’t allowed to fight back? How convenient! That’s the Washington equivalent of “please bend over and grab your ankles while I take your lunch money and laugh at you.”

Let’s set aside the endless GOP lies, the incessant attacks, threats and intimidation, and look at the health care war where it really matters, in Washington .

Republicans like Bill Kristol have admitted for 15 years that the Republicans must “declare war” on health reform, because the party is doomed if real reform passes. In 1994 GOP leader Bob Dole admitted that he was rounding up the votes to kill the plan although he had never even read it. His GOP successor in the Senate, McConnell, is also rounding up opposition even though he, too, hasn’t even read any of the language. Hatch quit the deliberations without even hearing the proposed language. Portman admitted that the GOP has no health plan of their own. Voinovich, a moderate, admitted the GOP was blocking reform for politicial reasons. DeMint admitted that the GOP was seeking to break Obama, to send him to his “ Waterloo ” by killing reform. John Kyl admitted that the Republicans will not support any bill. Enzi wants to break the plan into small bits so they can be crushed one by one. When word got out that the goon squads were going to the town halls, shouting and hitting people, House GOP leader Boehner publicly endorsed their actions, and McConnell was seen laughing and crowing that it all meant that the Democrats were losing. GOP pollster Frank Luntz claims Obama is declaring war on Medicare, the latest in an endless series of dishonest “death panel” scare tactics. The Republicans sought to antagonize Democrats by trying to add an abortion ban to the health reform plan, to pass a bill providing health care for pets (!), and to convert the public option into tiny state co-ops which the insurers could crush easily (38 states have insurance markets dominated by a single insurance firm). Michael Steele spammed the DNC switchboard with calls. GOP Senators openly collected their bribes for blocking health reform at a recent social function….So, no, there was never any real effort to seek a bipartisan compromise. It was all a sham that wasted months of effort. The Republicans have declared war on reform and on Obama.

Chuck Grassley, who allegedly was the GOP moderate who was supposed to reach a bipartisan deal, comes from a blue state but seemingly is only listening to Republicans in Iowa and in Washington . Grassley admitted that the GOP was pressuring him to kill Obamacare, he resisted all legislative timetables, said he would not vote for any bill which doesn’t have widespread GOP support (which no real reform bill will have), said he won’t vote for the public option, and bragged that his tactics blocked the reform effort; he is now boycotting “gang of six” talks, claiming he’s too busy. He tried exploiting Ted Kennedy’s illness for political purposes, claimed Obama was too ignorant to know what he was doing, and accused Obama of exploiting the death-panel flap right after doing the same thing himself, although he voted for the same provisions in 2003 (when caught, he claimed he opposes it now because it’s part of a bad bill). He helped reform opponent Glenn Beck by flacking his book for him. And this is the guy who’s supposed to be leading the compromise effort? Not hardly. The Republicans have declared war on reform and on Obama.

Oh, speaking of declarations of war: a health reformer’s niece was burned in attack on her car. So the war on health reform, which the Republicans insist doesn’t exist, already has its first casualty. Not counting all the thousands who will sicken and die because Republicans are blocking health reform.

Meanwhile the GOP is concocting more phantoms to fear. In addition to Luntz’s baseless accusation that Obama will attack Medicare, Dick Armey is warning, on no evidence at all, that Obama will exploit swine flu dishonestly in the health reform debate, and Andrew Breitbart is warning, on no evidence whatsoever, that Obama will use “netroots gangs” to physically attack Obama’s enemies. Just keepin’ up the skeer.

(Also, more lies – the intellectually challenged Michelle Bachman claims that the health care plan is unconstitutional, the absurdity of which is obvious to anyone who has familiarity with the general-welfare / interstate-commerce clause of the Constitution, or with the history of Medicare, or Medicaid, or the VA.)

Grassley was supposed to bring compromise. Compromise means that both sides give in a bit, but the GOP has made clear that no matter how often the Democrats give in to their demands, they still won’t vote for health reform anyway. They have said “no” to an independent insurance board, to single payer, to mandating employer participation, no to health care information technology, to comparative effectiveness research, to eliminating overpayments to insurers. They have said “no” to the public option, and when Democrats began talking about co-ops and exchanges, Republicans like John Kyl, Eric Cantor and Tom Price said “no” to that too. So giving up the public option in favor of co-ops gains us no Republican votes anyway: they are voting “no” no matter what. Again, the Republicans have declared war on reform and on Obama.

After months of White House efforts to pitch bipartisanship, the Democrats finally gave up: Rahm Emanuel said flat-out that the GOP has made the strategic decision to block any reform. Or, as CBS put it today:

"The White House finally got the message. Loud and clear. Game on."

Abandoning the Republicans might empower the Democrats by simplifying the number of competing demands the bill must meet – the GOP’s refusal to negotiate may actually make the public option more likely. Public support for reform is still high, at least 45 Senators support the public option, and Howard Dean is keeping up the heat by warning Blue Dogs of potential primary challenges if they don’t straighten up, while Schumer is sweetening the deal by proposing that the public plan would need to meet the same regulations and requirements as the private plans. The centrist Democrats are wobbling under the pressure from two sides: Specter opposed the public option but then attacked GOP obstructionism; Conrad admitted that co-ops wouldn’t save money; Nelson, who gets tons of money from the insurance industry, fell flat in his effort to round up opponents of the public option and now is willing to discuss it. But the rest of them know the war is on. Except…

The man at the center of it all, Baucus, averaged almost a million dollars a year in payoff money from the health sector, which is more than any Democrat in Congress; almost 30 of his staffers are now working as lobbyists. His committee is the only one dragging their feet on the reform issue (their bill is the only one with Republican involvement, and the only one with the poison pill of a tax increase). Other Senate Democrats and even his own constituents are already angry with his foot-dragging. He will get a big share of the blame if the effort crashes: his role in the disaster would be the first line in his obituary and the first line in his tiny entry in the history books, the incompetent boob who set the cause back 20 years. He could even lose his committee chair if Reid has the balls to demote him. On a more practical level, the Democrats could just bypass his committee on the health reform issue. Perhaps sensing this, Baucus, after flipflopping on the public option, now says he is ready to begin marking up health care legislation for 15 September, with or without the GOP. Obama is publicly trying to buck Baucus up, but he undoubtedly has a private price for that continued support. And this yuckapuck is supposed to be our field general in the Finance Committee….

Those who have read “The Godfather” in book form may recall the moment at which Don Corleone tried to talk sense into an enemy, and finally rolled his eyes and uttered the fatal phrase “You just cannot reason with this man”. This inevitably was the last thing that happened before police began finding horse’s heads in mogul’s beds and dead gangsters in their streets. The lesson: if exhaustive patience and negotiation an enemy to terms, the only thing left is all-out war. The Republicans refuse to negotiate or be reasoned with, so let slip the dogs of war already. And of course any Godfather fan knows that a war requires a wartime consigliere, which Baucus ain’t. I’m thinking Schumer in the Senate.

The Republicans know that this is a war, and that the health reform issue is pivotal, their one chance to cripple Obama and the Democrats, and Obama gets that too..

Great quote from Crooks and Liars:

“Arlen Specter told us at Netroots Nation that the Republican caucus decided - before the inauguration - that they wouldn't support any stimulus bill at all in order to break Obama. During the Bush era, the Republicans wouldn't even let the Democrats sit in on their committee meetings and used every procedural trick in the book to shove legislation through. Don't you think it's about time the Democrats stopped playing "Mother, May I?"

Obama knows he must fight, and the real Democrats know that in the end they must fight with him. Otherwise, Obama will be pegged for all time as an incompetent wimp, Carter the Second; the Republicans will know they have the power to stop Obama whenever they want, regain their former power, and possibly unseat Obama in 2012. But the Blue Dogs don’t get it, so Obama (or perhaps Emanuel) needs to explain it all to them, and lay down the law: without a little more cooperation, Obama and the liberal Democrats will crush the Blue Dogs, ignore them on everything from cap-and-trade to DOMA to gays in the military, and watch them go down to defeat in 2010. In Bush’s words, either you’re for us, or against us.. Obama is, in fact, already letting liberals attack the Blue Dogs in their own districts, running ads in those districts, attacking foot-dragging Senators, publicly demanding the public option, and promising to do it all without the GOP if need be. Obama also needs to make clear to them: your job as Senators is not to listen to the caterwauling of misinformed constituents who know nothing about policy -- your job is to make good policy even when it’s unpopular.

And all you Democrats out there must fight too. Millions of you worked to elect Obama. For what? If you’re not helping fight his fight now, why did we elect him in the first place? So he could be a piñata for scumbags like Armey and Grassley and Rush and Glenn Beck and Palin and the goon squads?

Hullabaloo points out a few other options Obama has:

1. Obama demands that no Democratic Senator support a filibuster, even if the Senator votes against the bill itself afterward.

2. Put reformers on the conference committee, like Rockefeller and Mikulski. After the conference bill is submitted, it can’t be amended – only voted against and filibustered. Again, dare any Democrat to filibuster his own President.

3. Use the reconciliation option for the whole bill, or split into two bills with the budget stuff in the reconciliation half of the bill – include the public option, expanding Medicaid, increasing subsidies. Once started, there’s no way any Congress, particularly a Democratic Congress, is going to say “screw you, we’re taking your health coverage away again”.

(Speaking of filibusters and the Senate, how long before the online GOP wingnuts begin praying for Kennedy or Byrd to, you know, move on? Talk about death panels for seniors.)

And while Obama is fighting the Republicans, he must fight the incessant lies, too, because there are plenty of stupid, gullible people in this country. According to Hullabaloo:

“Majorities in the poll believe the plans would give health insurance coverage to illegal immigrants; would lead to a government takeover of the health system; and would use taxpayer dollars to pay for women to have abortions — all claims that nonpartisan fact-checkers say are untrue about the legislation that has emerged so far from Congress. Forty-five percent think the reform proposals would allow the government to make decisions about when to stop providing medical care for the elderly. 45% of the American people actually believe the government will be euthanizing the elderly. What the hell is wrong with these people?”

And just one more obvious point from me:


…and in poll after poll the American people said they want reform.

Firedoglake pointed out that even the recent NBC poll, which as it turned out was fiddled with by a Republican pollster with ties to the insurance industry, has encouraging news for Obama.. First, although Obama’s sometimes clumsy handling of health care only gets a 41 percent rating, reform itself is still rock-solid with 60 percent approval, despite all the insane protests, and despite the fact that the GOP lie machine has worked so well that half the country actually believes the “pull the plug on grandma” crap. The poll also showed that the goon-squad attacks at the town halls failed to have any serious effect on support for reform, and that approval for the GOP’s tactics on health reform is down to 21 percent.

Even Rasmussen, a Republican pollster who has been known to cook the books in his polling, was forced to admit that according to the latest polling, 57 percent of Americans oppose passing a health reform bill if it does NOT include the public option.

But even when we’re right on the facts, the war must still be fought. As St. Thomas Becket said (at least according to Jean Anouilh), “the kingdom of God must be defended like any other kingdom.”

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