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February 02, 2010

Lawrence O'Donnell: Health Care Is Deader Than Julius Caesar

I think this is right. But I don't know the limits of what is possible -- and what the Democrats, with their handpicked parliamentarian, will decide is now possible -- in the Senate.

People like O'Donnell and Chris Matthews have a reason to push this idea: They believe the Democratic Party is headed towards catastrophe and are trying to stop this.

On the other hand, though, a lot of other Democrats are transfixed by a notion that passing some sort of bill is their least-bad option at this point.

Here are the advantages of passing one of the most unpopular bills in history:

1) They appease the nutroots, which, as usual, views this purely as a partisan spectator sport, and just want a win, or, rather, just want the despised "Rethuglikkkans" to lose. Although most of them are unhappy with the bill, they are even more unhappy that that the "Repukes" might win out on this.

2) Even though the bill is unpopular, passing it ends, to a large degree, the debate. The debate is killing Democrats. Every day they are talking about health care is a day they are losing independents and energizing the right -- and depressing the nutroots left, too, because the nutroots left kinda hates the bill almost as much as we do. Passing something -- anything -- would at least, to some extent, put the question in the past rather than the here-and-now.

There is an aphorism I always mention: It is easier to beg forgiveness than to secure permission. And it's true -- presenting someone with a fait accompli and then asking for forgiveness after the fact does work a bit better than trying to convince that person to agree to something he doesn't want. Not much better, but better.

Health care would continue to be an issue, as Republicans attempt to repeal it or restrict it by amendments every week, but it wouldn't be as big an issue. And Democrats want this issue to go away. Just go away. And I think some of them believe it's better to take the hit on it in one burst than continue the drip-drip-drip.

3) Democrats have built for themselves the ultimate wedge issue. This splits liberals and independents, and Democrats need both. They can either play to the liberals, or play to the independents, but not both, and they can't win without both.

So, confronted with this unwinnable situation, who do they play to? The liberal base. Why? Because the liberal base donates money to them, while independents mainly just vote. They are going to lose one bloc of votes or the other, but what they don't want to lose is their precious fatcat donations from Hollywood celebrities.

Besides, independents are always blowing one way or the other, and I am guessing have much shorter memories than partisans. Partisans like the nutroots -- or, frankly, like me and you -- never forget.

Now, that's why I fear these lunatics might actually go ahead and detonate the bomb they've created.

So I take some comfort in hyperpartisan hack Lawrence O'Donnell's insistence that this is all kabuki. All a dumb-show for the DUmmies.

Lawrence O’Donnell, the Democratic Senate Finance Committee staff director during the ’93-’94 health care debate, said we’re now witnessing reform’s death throes – and Democrats know it. The party will not be able to pass another reform bill through the Senate, period.

“Pelosi said that, ‘We don’t have the votes for passing the Senate bill’ and that should have just ended it. Any discussion of another scenario is juvenile,” he said. “It’s ridiculous.”

Democrats knew they lost reform with the Massachusetts election and some of them like Rep. Barney Frank essentially said so. “The first reaction to the Massachusetts election was the honest reaction,” O’Donnell said. Frank later walked back his comments.

But since Election Night, he said, Democrats have moved into “full bluff mode.”

“We’re absolutely in full fake cheerleading mode. I think Nancy Pelosi has absolutely no moves left. I think she knows that now. I think Harry Reid knows that. And that’s why they don’t bring it up,” he said. “They had a Senate leadership press conference (Thursday) and it was as if (reporters) were asking about World War I” when they asked about reform.

O’Donnell attributes the theatrics to the need to deal with a liberal base that will go bonkers if Democrats quit on reform. And the cue cards are nothing new. He pointed to Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer’s statements during the fall that the Senate would pass the public option even though “he’s smart enough to know they were never going to get it.”

“No one who went on television was free to say anything realistic,” he said.

I hope he's right.

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posted by Ace at 01:12 PM

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