In the Paul Krugman column I referenced below ("Not Enough Audacity"), Krugman begins:
When it comes to domestic policy, there are two Barack Obamas.
On one side there’s Barack the Policy Wonk, whose command of the issues — and ability to explain those issues in plain English — is a joy to behold.
But on the other side there’s Barack the Post-Partisan, who searches for common ground where none exists, and whose negotiations with himself lead to policies that are far too weak.
Both Baracks were on display in the president’s press conference earlier this week. First, Mr. Obama offered a crystal-clear explanation of the case for health care reform, and especially of the case for a public option competing with private insurers. “If private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality health care, if they tell us that they’re offering a good deal,” he asked, “then why is it that the government, which they say can’t run anything, suddenly is going to drive them out of business? That’s not logical.”
But when asked whether the public option was non-negotiable he waffled, declaring that there are no “lines in the sand.” That evening, Rahm Emanuel met with Democratic senators and told them — well, it’s not clear what he said. Initial reports had him declaring willingness to abandon the public option, but Senator Kent Conrad’s staff later denied that. Still, the impression everyone got was of a White House all too eager to make concessions.
I think, from what I've read, that Obama is convinced of the importance of the "public option" and might even veto a bill that doesn't include it. At this stage of the game, however, he's not going to ruffle any feathers in the Senate.
I hate to say it, but I wish Hillary were doing this now. She already went through this whole thing in the early '90s and learned a thing or two. Meanwhile the stakes today are even higher, both in terms of the number of uninsured and the rate at which medical costs are consuming our national wealth. Obama has to be really tough now, and I don't know whether he has it in him. I certainly hope so. A large majority of Americans are fed up with the status quo and expect their elected government to do something about it. Perpetuating the status quo at this point is not an option.