Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The big backoff: No, you weren't imagining the sudden downplaying of the public option

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In response to a pair of condescending and dishonest comments denying that the White House, earlier this week, appeard to be backing off from and downplaying the importance of a government-funded public option in the health care reform bill, I can think of no better or more succinct reply than the above clip from Monday's Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

In it, President Obama is shown in Colorado last weekend, when he stated:
"All I'm saying is though, that the public option, whether we have it or we don't have it, is not the entirety of health care reform."
Contrast this with previous statements--just weeks earlier--by White House officials and the President himself:

WH Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on July 17, 2009:
"Increased choice and competition drives down the prices for other insurance--that's why a strong public option is necessary."
Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sibelius on July 21, 2009:
"What we need is a level playing field, but a public plan, side-by-side with private plans to make sure costs come down."
President Barack Obama on July 20th, 2009:
"I've been very clear about the fact that we should have a public plan."
Subsequently, as you saw in the Daily Show clip, all three officials, on or around August 15, did what can only be termed a group-floating of trial balloons to see how people would respond if the insurance companies got their dearest wish and the public option were taken off the table. So no, readers, you weren't imagining things, and for once, this wasn't a media-created meme. The White House actually did start to back down on the one remaining cornerstone to real health-care reform: a government-funded public plan. And the reactions around the blogosphere (and even among those interviewed by the traditional media)--as expected, and gratifyingly en masse--ranged from bitter disappointment to disgust and outrage, with many accusing the White House of giving in to the opposition, plain and simple.

Which charge is entirely justified, I think. If America is truly led by a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, as opposed to one that's of, by, and for the corporations--in this case, the insurance and pharmaceutical industries--the President cannot possibly countenance this shameless capitulation to the opposition. And nor can we.

UPDATE: kathy a. points to this USA Today piece in which Robert Gibbs calls all of this a "media overreaction" and says the public option is still on the table.


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