Turn off MSNBC. Tune out Howard Dean and Keith Olbermann. The White House has its liberal wing in hand on health care, says White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.
“There are no liberals left to get” in the Senate, Emanuel said in an interview, shrugging off some noise from the likes of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) that a few liberals might bolt over the compromises made with conservative Democrats.
As the White House leans on conservative Democrat Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska for the 60th health care vote, Emanuel has made the case that this generation of liberal political figures will not make the mistake of their predecessors. The late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s greatest regret was not cutting a deal with Richard Nixon on universal health care. Former President Bill Clinton has forever rued the day he did not take moderate Republican Sen. John Chafee up on a compromise that could have secured a health care bill early in his presidency.
Liberal senators nearly scuttled the creation of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program -– S-CHIP –- because Clinton compromised with Republicans and agreed to take the program out of Medicaid and involve private insurers.
“Every time they’ve gotten close to the deal, they’ve passed up the opportunity and chosen to walk away from a particular where they’ve lost the forest for the trees,” Emanuel said.
Now, of course, Rahm is right. There are no more liberal votes to be had in the Senate, and the bill is being held hostage by the Joe and Ben bullshit parade, but here is the thing- YOU CAN’T SAY THAT. This is going to enrage the usual suspects. Good christ, I can hear the shrieking already “Rahm’s not taking us seriously!” and “Obama is taking us for granted” and “we got you elected.” They are probably already working on another idiotic commercial attacking Emmanuel.
And for the record, the always even-keeled Booman laid this all out the other day:
Obama can’t pass anything that doesn’t have unanimous support in the Democratic caucus because of the ruthless obstruction and opposition of the Republican Party. This forces him to govern to the center and make all his compromises with centrist Democrats and/or the two still-existing centrist Republicans in the Senate. The Republican obstruction empowers people like Joe Lieberman. It actually gives veto power to every single senator, but the only way to make up for a defecting Democrat is to win over Olympia Snowe or Susan Collins. So, if Bernie Sanders or Roland Burris revolt, he has to move the bill further to the right in response.
The left is immensely frustrated with this situation and inclined to blame the administration, but this is a simple logic tree. Obama cannot push the progressive position on pretty much anything if the centrists refuse to go along. Compounding the problem, progressives don’t really know how to influence centrists. They tend to insult them, call them whores, attack their families, and generally question their morals. Over time, this sets up the situation we saw with Lieberman where he switched positions on a Medicare buy-in proposal simply because the measure was pleasing to people who have been demonizing him for over three years. Rather than persuade the Ben Nelsons and Blanche Lincolns of the Senate, progressive tactics make them even more inclined to reject anything they perceive to be coming from the left.
I think progressives have multiple reasons to be pissed, and it sucks that Ben Nelson and Evan Bayh and the rest of the moderates get to force-feed them shit sandwiches. But there isn’t much that can be done about it. This notion that if “Obama used his bully pulpit” or “got out in front of the bill more” is just silly. The bill progressives want is not being held hostage by Obama, it is being held hostage by Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman.
And it is infuriating. Personally, if I were in the liberal wing of the Senate, I would have my staffers sniffing out every single piece of legislation Nelson is interested in and would attach pro-choice amendments to each and every one. I would be designing strategies to block or put on hold every thing on his agenda. I would block any judge from his state. I would work to make his life a living hell.
But right now, there is not much you can do. Nelson wants this bill killed, and would love it if the liberal wing does it for him. His insurance industry checks aren’t going to stop.