Monday, August 24, 2009

With Friends Like These...

Earlier this month, President Obama called GOP Senator Charles Grassley one of his "Republican friends on Capitol Hill" who was "sincerely trying to figure out if they find a health care bill that works."

Sen. Grassley was so warmed by the President's kind words that he has since gone around stating things like how he won't allow a bill that will "pull the plug on grandma", praising Glenn Beck's new book, stating that Obama needs to be more bipartisan and focus on "getting 80 votes" (!!), and bragging to town hall attendees that his obstruction helped prevent the President from moving the bill forward earlier in the summer. Best friends forever!

The very same Sen. Grassley appeared on CBS' "Face The Nation" yesterday and was asked to explain, and defend, his grandma-killing fear tactics. Grassley explained, with no shame, that-
"I said that because — two reasons. Number one, I was responding to a question at my town meetings. I let my constituents set the agenda. A person that asked me that question was reading from language that they got off of the Internet. It scared my constituents. And the specific language I used was language that the President had used at Portsmouth(*), and I thought that it was — if he used the language , then if I responded exactly the same way, that I had an opposite concern about not using end-of-life counseling for saving money, then I was answering — [...]

...You would get into the issue of saving money, and put these three things together and you are scaring a lot of people when I know the Pelosi bill doesn’t intend to do that, but that’s where it leads people to."

So here you have Sen. Grassley admitting a) that this scary thing isn't actually in the bill, and b) that he lied to his constituents and acted like it was, because he lets them 'set the agenda' based on things they found on the internet. I don't know what is 'scarier' to me... that this man is a U.S. Senator or that the President considers him one of his "Republican friends on Capitol Hill".

[*Note: The President did say that... as an example of the lies poisoning this debate.]

It's my growing belief that Obama's achilles heel is his obsession with getting 'everyone at the table' and insisting that he can negotiate in good faith with Republicans. So many of his early missteps (the watered-down stimulus, failure to get most legislation and political appointees past the Senate, etc) can be traced back to his insistence on taking this path, regardless of the substantive legislative costs. Bipartisanship and compromise are two-way streets... but so far this year, they haven't been. I've read reports that Democrats are considering going it alone on health-care and looking for ways to pass this bill along party-line votes (we do have the majority, you know) so that we don't have to sacrifice any more substance at the alter of bipartisanship. We could only be so lucky.

My biggest fear now is that we will end up, once this process is over, with a bill that makes our health-care system worse... ie. a mandate for health insurance, but without a public option or any substantive consumer protections. And if that's the case, it will be a disaster for America in the important sense, and for the Democrats in the political sense. But hey, at least President Obama and Charles Grassley will still have their beautiful friendship. And that's what really matters, right?


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