Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Teachable Moment.

In theory I agree with Howard Dean that the bill should be killed. That's not because I loved the "Public Option" as it was configured in the House Bill or, for five seconds in the Senate Bill. And its not because I loved dropping Medicare down to 55--although I thought that was a good start on things. I think the bill should be killed because Obama and Rahm and Reid made such huge, tactical, errors and such gargantuan errors in judgement that they will be unable to do anything else if they don't learn their lesson now. The errors, which have been pretty well discussed throughout the bloggosphere, include:

Failure to assume a strong bargaining position from the beginning.
Failure to work closely with natural allies on the center/left.
Failure to activate the grass roots and the actual voters.
Failure to correctly "sell the bill" through the use of propaganda, bathos, sarcasm, and imagery.
Failure to demonize (portions) of the opposition in order to force (portions) to compromise--that would be Snowe and Collins.
Failure to eliminate or sideline opposition like Lieberman before the start.
Failure to neuter or muzzle internal opposition like Nelson, Landrieu, Lincoln and Baucus until very late in the game.
Failure to control Baucus and the timeline
Failure to force Senators to negotiate in good faith--no one who did not commit to vote for cloture should have been permitted to enter into any negotiations, private or public, or permitted to offer amendments (to other than shouts of derision.)
Failure to reward Senators who acted in good faith--that is, Senators who accepted Reid's pleas to cut back on their own amendments were not rewarded in any way when negotiations broke down.

On the other hand, I also think this may be a teachable moment for the Progressives and for Obama and Rahm. I think the Progressives should go to the White House and say "we will stick with you and the bill on several conditions."

One: remove the mandates.

Two: agree to force the good parts of the bill through reconciliation before 2010 is out.

Three: take a fucking class in negotiations.

Four: Reid and the Dems have to blow up the filibuster, immediately if possible, when the new Senate rules are hammered out in 2010 if necessary.

Five: Lieberman takes punishment. As soon as the vote is finalizes Lieberman is stripped of his chairmanship, stripped of his seniority, dumped into a coatroom for his offices, and he is not permitted to offer any legislation with a Democratic sponsor--no matter how good the legislation.

As long as the Democrats think Lieberman is indispensable for something they will continue to cater to him and that is inherently destructive of good government since Lieberman is, in fact, opposed to good government. I'm all for the results and I'd never say this if Lieberman could be shown to be trustworthy on any individual thing--like Cloture--but that ship has sailed.

Six: Nelson, too, takes punishment. Whatever it is, it should be harsh. Party discipline on major initiatives must be maintained.

I think, on balance, the Bill needs to go through, flawed though it is. But the notion that it goes through and we can "build on it" is a fantasy--Obama won't build on it if he doesn't have to. If the Democrats--the real ones--in the House and the Senate are to go to bat to preserve this flawed, botched bill they must demand something in exchange. Everyone else got their slice of the pie. Its the progressives' turn. Lieberman has shown them the way: the more you demand, and at a pivotal time, the more you get. What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. The progressives should go to the President and demand all the concessions they can get in exchange for their support for the bill. And the biggest concession of all is, to my mind, that he should fire Rahm and hire someone who actually knows what he's doing.


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