Monday, June 22, 2009


Chris at AMERICAblog looks at that New York Times/CBS poll showing 72% support for a public health care option and asks:

With poll numbers like this, why are Democrats caving?

Chris asks this because he's not a Beltway insider -- he's not in the Village. Outside the Village, that's a meaningful number. Inside the Village? Well, check out how Cokie Roberts, in an NPR chat with anchorman David Greene this morning, buried that number and described the news for reform advocates as nearly all bad (audio transcript mine, emphasis added):

... COKIE ROBERTS: Well, the House Democrats put forward a plan at the end of last week that included this so-called public option, a government-backed insurance plan to compete with private insurance companies, and Republicans have just been over the weekend screaming, "No way, it's not going to happen," and some Senate Democrats seem to agree with them. So they're trying to come out with a plan this week, but they're having a lot of trouble coming up with a consensus between the two Democratically dominated committees that control the health care debate, the tax-writing Finance Committee, and the committee that writes health policy. And it was made a whole lot more difficult, David, by the Congressional Budget Office estimate last week that the health committee plan that's emerging would cost 1.6 trillion dollars. That terrified some moderate senators. Now, they did get some good news over the weekend when the pharmaceutical companies agreed to give an 80-billion-dollar break to seniors receiving prescription drugs, but that's the only good news they've gotten at the moment. They're really having a lot of trouble writing this bill.

(Nope -- this poll doesn't count as good news over the weekend. Read on.)

DAVID GREENE: These big price tags, or the possibility of a big price tag, is actually making a lot of people out in the country very afraid. These polls that we've seen on this issue -- they're a little confusing. There's a lot of public support for overhauling health care -- that's pretty clear -- but also a lot of worry about the cost, and I guess I wonder, how does that worry over red ink play itself out? Does it slow down President Obama a lot?

COKIE ROBERTS: Well, it slows down the Congress, certainly. Now, the polls do show Americans, by large majorities -- over 70 percent are saying they like this idea of a public option, but they are more and more concerned about the deficit and about the role that the government is playing in the overall economy, especially in dealing with the automobile companies. They're mad about that. In a
New York Times poll, by two to one, the respondents said the president had no clear plan for dealing with the deficit. Now, they're still blaming President Bush and the Democrats in Congress, interestingly, over the deficit. But President Obama, of course, more and more will be the owner of this economy, and that's one of the reasons that he wants to move quickly on all of these issues, before his support erodes....

So if a poll yields a result that challenges the cozy status quo you and your Republican/Democratic Blue Dog/lobbyist friends like, wrap that result in other poll results that yield the answers you and your pals prefer. (And ignore the fact that the same poll that contains those oh-so-quotable numbers on Obama's plans regarding the deficit also shows that respondents approve of Obama's handling of the economy by a 57%-35% margin.)

Oh, and while you're at it, throw in a GOP meme or two, whether or not it accurately represents reality. I'm referring to that bit about "the role that the government is playing in the overall economy, especially in dealing with the automobile companies." Um, isn't it just possible, Cokie, that resentment of the GM and Chrysler bailouts is resentment of the decision to hand tax money to very well-paid guys in really expensive suits who screwed up? That it's not about the role of government in relation to private industry in the abstract, as in the Limbaugh/Fox News/Club for Growth talking point? Isn't it possible that using government to put a curb on private insurers and drug companies would get a very different response than using government power to write checks to GM and Chrysler? ... Oh, sorry, I forgot: the GOP frame says they're both commie-fascist attacks on the free market. So that's Cokie's frame, too.

Now do you see why I'm gloomy? Now do you see why I don't take a whole lot of comfort from that Times/CBS poll?


UPDATE: Well, what do you know:

Democrats May Unite On Public Health Plan
Emboldened By Apparent Public Backing For "Public Option", Democrats May Drop Attempt To Compromise

Emboldened by polls that show public backing for a government health insurance plan, Democrats are moving to make it a politically defining issue in the debate over the future of medical care.

Behind-the-scenes attempts to get a deal with Republicans on nonprofit co-ops as an alternative to a public plan have led only to frustration, complains a key Democrat. He and his colleagues may have to go it alone, said Sen. Chuck Schumer.

The co-ops were seen as perhaps the last hope for compromise on a contentious issue that threatens any remaining prospects of bipartisan support for President Obama's sweeping plan to remake the health care system.

...Schumer's role is important because he had been acting as an intermediary between liberal Democrats and moderates who are trying to strike a deal on the issue with Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee....

Overnight, did someone kidnap the entire Democratic Party and replace it with one that actually weighs public opinion against GOP/Village conventional wisdom and dares to side with the public against the Village?

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