Healthcare omnibus

A variety of things I've been thinking about health care reform of late, so I've decided to combine thin into one big, marginally coherent post.

1) It seems that Obama is finally taking the necessary leadership to get health care done.  Quite importantly, to use a term that I really don't like, but conveys the point, I think he's figured out the "optics" of the situation in a way that's going to help get this done.  Here, of course, I refer to the "summit" with Republican Congressional leaders.  Chait makes a couple great points on this:


I don't think that's what's going on. I actually had to read Obama's
remark twice to fully understand what he's getting at, but now that I
have, it seems pretty clear. I think Obama sees the perception that the
process is broken — that it's backroom deals and "ignoring the will of
the people" — to be the biggest impediment to passage of the bill. So
he's proposing a remedy to that perception.

The most important part is what Obama says should happen first: Democrats should settle their differences and work out a final bill.
That's crucial. Then he wants to sit down with both parties, and health
care experts, and walk through the details in a methodical way. I'd
guess he's imagining a process that might look a little like his
back-and-forth with House Republicans — they present him with wild
claims about a government takeover, and he calmly responds. They insist
that their ideas are better, and he gets to show that they're not. Then
you vote. In other words, a debate in which he gets to take center
stage, on top of the kabuki theater of a House debate. That way Obama
gets to demonstrate that the plan he has is the product of having
considered all the alternatives and arriving at the best way to solve
the problem, not just cooking up a backroom deal. The idea seems to be
to use his wonky, technocratic style to counteract the process-based
objections and sell the bill.

In a subsequent post, Chait goes on to explain why these perceptions are actually false and illogical.  

2) Ezra Klein has a similar take, I'll excerpt the heart of:

This is, first and foremost, about defusing the lines of attack that
have scared the hell out of Democratic legislators. If you talk to
people on the Hill, there's relatively little concern about the
substance of the likely compromise, but there's enormous anxiety over
the public's belief that the bill is thick with noxious deals, which is
fed by the idea that the process has been hidden from the American
people. After all, people reason, if the bill was so good, why wouldn't
they let C-SPAN into the negotiations? The White House hopes this
summit will be a clean break with that narrative.

Second, and more importantly, this creates a next step for
health-care reform. The House and the Senate have not been able to
agree on a path forward. The president, of course, cannot hold a vote
for them. But by setting this summit, he's bought them a few weeks to
figure out how to hold a vote themselves. That won't be easy, but it'll
be easier with the White House summit giving some structure and
narrative to an effort that had collapsed into murky chaos.

So, to sum up these two, I think there's considerable reason for optimism at this point.  Obama has pointedly inserted himself in the process in a way that he's really needed to; he's done so in a way designed to blunt the most potent criticisms of health care reform; he's shown Democrats in Congress a clear way forward and hopefully the summit will provide some political cover for antsy Dems.  This is all good.

Since this is an omnibus post, you get two more links on health care.  First, Ezra Klein has a post nicely summarizing the ways in which the Senate bill already encompasses key conservative ideas on health care reform.  For anybody who thinks that Republicans actually want a compromise bill, I've got a bridge to see you.  Secondly, EJ Dionne has a nice column analogizing health care reform to a kitchen remodeling.  All that's left is installing the granite countertops. 

Matt Yglesias on moral degenerates

This is certainly one of my favorite Matt Yglesias posts ever.  He takes on Bush administration torture apologist Marc Thiessen, who essentially argues that waterboarding done by Americans was not at all like waterboarding the Spanish inquisition, because they also used nasty ropes that cut into the skin.  Right– take away the mean ropes and waterboarding is all good.  Anyway, it's a terrific smackdown well-worth reading.  As for the title of this post, I'm going to take after Yglesias and mince no words on how we should refer to those who advocate torture as an appropriate policy.  


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