August
20th 2009
We can haz pony now?

Posted under: American history, unhappy endings

clauderainsThe Nation is shocked–shocked!–to find that gambling is going on here, with the chief croupier “America’s most progressive President in more than half a century!” 

After his brilliant beginning, the president suddenly looks weak and unreliable. [Ed. notedon't you read your own magazine, dude?  "Suddenly," my a$$.]  That will be the common interpretation around Washington of the president’s abrupt retreat on substantive heathcare reform. Give Barack Obama a hard shove, they will say, rough him up a bit and he folds. A few weeks back, the president was touting a “public option” health plan as an essential element in reform. Now he says, take it or leave it. Whatever Congress does, he’s okay with that.

The White House quickly added confusion to the outrage by insisting the president didn’t really say anything new. He’s just being flexible. He still wants what most Democrats want–a government plan that gives people a real escape from the profit-driven clutches of the insurance companies. But serious power players will not be fooled by the nimble spinners. Obama choked. He raised the white flag, even before the fight got underway in Congress.

(Via the awesome vastness and leftyness of vastleft at Corrente.)  In the past few days since this article was published, the confusion has only grown about where the White House is.  (One thing is for sure:  they thought they put a stake through Howard Dean’s heart, but he lives!  He lives!)  Well, suxxorz:  I love to say I told you so, don’t I?  Oh well:  if we can’t have meaningful health care reform this year, can we at least get a pony?

ponyclose

"When Can I Have a Pony?" by Stefani Rossi and Chloe Leisure

Here’s a deep thought that’s been troubling me lately:  one major political party (my party, that is) believes in government, and works to get government right (mostly).  The other major political party believes in politics, and really cares about getting the politics right.  It strikes me as unsustainable and downright dangerous for government and politics to be separate and antagonistic goals.  The Republicans followed George W. Bush off the cliff in the 2000s because he was great at politics, but not so great at actually running a government, and government running well still matters to a lot of people.  The Democrats look to me to be making the parallel opposite mistake, in that their inability to care about doing politics well may mean that they won’t have their hands on the levers of government for very much longer.

23 Comments »

23 Responses to “We can haz pony now?”

  1. Kathleen Lowrey on 20 Aug 2009 at 9:34 am #

    it’s not that I totally disagree with your analysis about government vs. politics but it’s just that I wonder if formulas that stay within the bounds of reason really capture the box of crazy that is the U S of A. Like the public conversation certainly includes “people who care about politics” vs. “people who care about government” but I don’t think we are going to get anywhere until we figure out what is going on with the “people enraged that America is run by a cabal of baby eating Nazi Muslims” who seem to make up so much of the discursive fabric of this great nation.

  2. Historiann on 20 Aug 2009 at 9:53 am #

    Kathleen–excellent point. Since I am a Democrat, I am perhaps like all other Dems captive to the belief that most people are rational and reasonable. Clearly, the last year and a half should have forced me to see beyond my hopes/delusions!

    I just can’t get over how good the Republicans are at politics, even when they’ve got nothin’. ESPECIALLY when they’ve got nuthin’. Whereas the Dems can’t find their ‘nads with 2 hands and an anatomy textbook even when they hold all the cards.

  3. Indyanna on 20 Aug 2009 at 10:13 am #

    Maybe they’re going with the fake punt, who knows? There seems to be this continued Obamian premise of a “new kind of politics,” where everybody just comes together and compromises. I’d contract with the good folks at Caterpillar over in Peoria for a couple dozen big rigs and start knocking down “obsolete” public works in towns where these angry citizens groups are milling. Good for jobs (in Peoria, anyway), good TV/YouTube, get some people to start paying attention for a while.

  4. Emma on 20 Aug 2009 at 10:16 am #

    but I don’t think we are going to get anywhere until we figure out what is going on with the “people enraged that America is run by a cabal of baby eating Nazi Muslims” who seem to make up so much of the discursive fabric of this great nation.

    We already know what’s going on with them, though. They’re the right-wing base being stirred up to create this cluster-f*** in service to Republicans wanting to win at politics.

    Though one has to marvel at the … whatever it is … that makes people think it’s politically and personally acceptable to paint a Hitler mustache on a Black man and call him a Nazi.

  5. Tenured Radical on 20 Aug 2009 at 10:36 am #

    We can haz end of life counseling so as not to be pumped with drugs and haz life prolonged needlessly?

    This, according to the the purveyors of “politics” is the moral equivalent of the holocaust, which is the logical endpoint of all “government.”

    So much scarier than folks wandering about fully armed at Presidential rallies, no?

  6. Emma on 20 Aug 2009 at 10:43 am #

    I think what’s stoking fears is “end of life counseling” + cuts to Medicare = health care reform. Is it reasonable? I don’t think so.

    But blame Dems for not having a plan, for relying on the personal awesomeness of the Pres. to get everybody to go along with whatever they came up with, and general mismanagement of the whole process from top to bottom.

    The only real question: was the mismanagement deliberate or not?

  7. Historiann on 20 Aug 2009 at 12:18 pm #

    Yes–blame the Dems. This is their cock-up, entirely, for all of the reasons you all suggested.

    The Republican “death panel” scare is brilliant in its simplicity: had the Dems not included details like this that could be construed as “rationing,” they would have beat the drums against the big-spending government plan that doesn’t have any cost controls ZOMG!!!111!! So they win either way: if the Dems ration, it’s death panels for the lot of us, and if the Dems don’t ration, it’s the poorhouse instead.

    You have to admire their commitment to winning.

  8. Kathleen Lowrey on 20 Aug 2009 at 2:52 pm #

    Emma — of course you are right, but the bigger question for me is why are there so many people stir-up-able by such methods? Like I just don’t get it, here we all are sharing planet earth and everybody seems pretty normal and then somebody is like, “hey, do you ever get tired of your skin crawling with teeny tiny bugs singing I’m Henery the Eighth I Am I Am in pig latin?” and 50% percent of people say, “oh, totally. I’m so sick of it”.

    That aside, it is pretty frustrating about the Dems, though, even when they *win an election* happily proving that something more than 50% of the electorate isn’t in the throes of the whole bug thing, they just WON’T USE THEIR MANDATE.

  9. Feminist Avatar on 20 Aug 2009 at 4:52 pm #

    We can haz pony now?

    Not unless you can pay for it; the state wont’ be.

  10. Historiann on 20 Aug 2009 at 5:42 pm #

    Oh, man–I was hoping for a Ponies for Clunkers program!

  11. Fratguy on 20 Aug 2009 at 7:43 pm #

    A plan beats no plan, even if your plan is to do f*ck all until the wheels well and truly come flying off the wagon. Mid tersms be damned, take the time and have a real plan. Oh, and by the way, a plan for “health insurance reform” is in no way shape manner or form “health care reform”

  12. Historiann on 20 Aug 2009 at 8:03 pm #

    Whaaaaaaa??? You mean, shoveling more money at for-profit corporations who make their money by denying care to their clients isn’t REFORM?

    Remember Thomas Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities, and his protagonist Sherman’s description of The Masters of the Universe–how he admitted that he didn’t make or do anything important–that he and his coworkers made money by just sucking up the crumbs left over from the people who are actually producing something real? That’s what the business plan of insurance companies looks like to me: they’re just skimming from what the real care providers are doing. There’s no value added there.

    Next thing you’re going to tell me is that the house always wins, FratGuy! Say it ain’t so! Tell me that the croupier is on MY side!

  13. laydeegirl on 21 Aug 2009 at 12:50 am #

    Historiann, this isn’t about Obama anymore. This is about the bare-knuckled thugs who have pulled out all the stops to defeat any change to the status quo. (I guess the opposition didn’t get the memo that Obama is pathetic and his ideas meaningless. They seem to find him AND his reforms pretty threatening.) I for one will be psyched whether it’s government or co-op…

  14. Historiann on 21 Aug 2009 at 6:57 am #

    Sorry, laydeegirl–this is about Obama really believing his own rhetoric and press that he was a “uniter, not a divider,” and not having a clear plan of action. He thought somehow that he wouldn’t be targeted with b.s. and lies like every other Dem president. (Remember the crazzy from 1993-94 about how Bill Clinton was running drugs out of the Little Rock airport, and all of the Vince Foster speculations? The “birther” lies and the militia movements ginning up and the “Obama death panels” are all of the same stripe.) Expecting that Republicans would play fair was a fatal (and totally avoidable) error, and continuing to flatter and negotiate with old liars like Chuck Grassley is just nuts.

    I sure hope Obama can turn it around, but he looks weak. That he can’t manage to rally more of his supporters at this point (maybe because he doesn’t have a plan?) makes his “brilliant social networking campaign” look like more of a gimmick than a governing strategy.

  15. Historiann on 21 Aug 2009 at 8:49 am #

    On Obama’s strategic blunders and the disaffection of his base, see today’s column by Paul Krugman, “Obama’s Trust Problem,” via an excellent commentary by Melissa at Shakeseville, “Trust Me.”

    You have to admire George W. Bush: he always took care of his base, and said hang everyone else. Now we have Dem president who is closer to catering to Bush’s base than he is to his own, and he’s “shocked and surprised.” Call the Whaaaaaaambulance!

  16. Indyanna on 21 Aug 2009 at 8:57 am #

    There was an instructive piece earlier this week (?) in the NY Times about activism-fatigue among various cells of the Obama movement in Iowa over this issue. Some rallies or networking events were scheduled by them and very conspicuously underattended. Followup press interviews indeed suggested that a lot of people had left it all on the playing field last year and just couldn’t summon that addrenalin again. Not admirable, but I guess not surprising in the human scheme of things. This episode also suggests how the seam between the Obama and Hillary Clinton wings did not really seal that much between the election and now. Because who among the latter (and I was one of them) can resist saying I thought they had the plan to get this thing done? It’s the unions, mainly, that rallied on the ground to counter the wild talkers at the town meetings, and that just to some extent reinforced the right wing message that it’s a special interest thing.

  17. Historiann on 21 Aug 2009 at 9:02 am #

    Exactly, Indyanna. Everyone thought it was so awesome and cool that Obama was firing up young people, independents, and even some Republicans. Expanding the base is great, but all along, I kept thinking: so what’s going to happen when this guy inevitably disappoints some of these people, whose support for the Dem party might be a mile wide this year but it actually about 1 mircon deep? It’s going to be us old-time Dems who are going to have to clean up this mess.

    Awesome!

    Thanks kids, but I’m not picking up the smashed beer bottles and sweeping up the glass this time. I “hope” you like the “change!”

  18. Emma on 21 Aug 2009 at 10:33 am #

    I for one will be psyched whether it’s government or co-op…,

    Good luck with that. Don’t trust me? Talk to the Krugman:

    “And let’s be clear: the supposed alternative, nonprofit co-ops, is a sham. That’s not just my opinion; it’s what the market says: stocks of health insurance companies soared on news that the Gang of Six senators trying to negotiate a bipartisan approach to health reform were dropping the public plan. Clearly, investors believe that co-ops would offer little real competition to private insurers.”

    So, like Historiann, I’ll leave you pick up the beer bottles and sweep up the glass.

  19. Digger on 21 Aug 2009 at 6:15 pm #

    People need to always be aware that private insurance companies are not in the business of providing health care. They are in the business of making whackloads of money. And they will spend whackloads of money and make stuff up and monger fear (whatever it takes!) to protect their interests to continue to do so.

    I agree, Obama seems to be out of his league here. And, he’s letting the other guys frame the argument. Always a bad move (it happened over gay rights also, where it became a fight about “family values”). Don’t rise to the red herrings, and sure as heck don’t do it politely. They are out for blood and a sense of unity. Call bullsh!t and pull out your own damn sledgehammer. WTF do you have Rahm and Joe around for? Send ‘em out swinging!

    At the risk of sounding all conspiracy-theorist, I have had similar thoughts as Emily… was this all on purpose? So when the wheels fall off, he can point at the other guys and say, “-I- tried, they stopped me!!!111″ … or is this even just wishful thinking — that at least there *is* some sort of plan beyond flailing?

  20. laydeegirl on 22 Aug 2009 at 2:01 pm #

    I could be wrong but I really sense that, H-ann, you and some others on the left take some pleasure in the prospect of Obama failing, which is a shame. As for co-ops, there are some communities where not-for-profit coops are producing great results at lowered costs. So as much as I like Krugman, I don’t let him dictate my thinking. Glad that Obama doens’t either.

  21. laydeegirl on 23 Aug 2009 at 1:09 pm #

    A few additional thoughts on health care…since I like the sound of my own voice (obviously interest has waned, alas!)

    On the “folly” of Obama reaching out to Republicans and conservative Dems:

    – One of the lessons Hillary Clinton said she learned from her poor performance in health care reform (in which she failed to gain support of key Democratic senators) was to be more bipartisan. Similarly, her health care reform efforts are largely credited for helping to usher in one of the most pernicious congresses in history.

    – If H-ann is implying that Hillary Clinton is more of a ‘real’ force for old-time Democrats and progressivism, let’s remember Clinton’s comments during the election about “vaporizing” Iran and of course her failure to contest the war on Iraq, which resulted in a million deaths, and something that some of us will never overlook. It was SO much more damnable than co-ops!

  22. Historiann on 23 Aug 2009 at 4:20 pm #

    Laydeegirl–I take a great deal of pleasure in being right, although I take less pleasure in being right about Obama. I’m a Democrat, and the Dem party’s fortunes will rise or fall with Obama’s. So, I’m rooting for him to pull his horse out of the mire and get ‘er ready to ride again. I hope he can show the same capacity for learning and mid-course correction that Clinton has.

    But, this was the risk that the party took in nominating the least experienced candidate, one who had a thin record as a legislator, no record in any administrative position, no record of taking tough positions anywhere, and no experience in any tough fights. He’s turned out to be exactly what I predicted last spring and summer–unfortunately for him, and for the rest of us.

    I’m not arguing that Clinton would have done better. I’m arguing that Obama had better DO better, because he’s all we’ve got.

  23. heatwaveincali on 30 Aug 2009 at 6:33 pm #

    Yes, I too wish Obama had more experience under his belt, though, as I thin about it, a lot of recent presidents are not the seasoned legislator/statesman types — witness the late Teddy Kennedy’s loss to a little-known peanut farmer. I have no theory as to why this is, just mulling…

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