Comments, Now and Then

Yesterday I submitted without comment President Obama's contentions that "Every single criteria for reform I put forward is in [the healthcare] bill" and "I didn't campaign on the public option."

Other people have comments.

Zaid: "In the 2008 Obama-Biden health care plan on the campaign's website, candidate Obama promised that 'any American will have the opportunity to enroll in [a] new public plan'."

Krugman: "Obama's claim that he never campaigned on the public option has received a lot of flack, and rightly so. It was in his official campaign proposal, and he did invoke it many times this year. What is true is that the Obama inner circle never, in fact, cared much about the public option. But they allowed, you might say encouraged, progressive activists to believe otherwise."

TPM's Brian Beutler: "In fact, though the public option wasn't a regular part of his stump speech, Obama appointed the public option's intellectual father, Jacob Hacker, to his health care advisory committee, and his campaign's health care white paper prominently featured a government run plan, with no mandate requiring uninsured people to buy insurance. The bill he will likely sign next year will do the opposite."

Sam Stein and Alex Koppelman ran thorough reports late yesterday on Obama's record as a candidate in 2007 and 2008, and to make a long story short, Obama clearly endorsed the public option and included it as part of his larger policy agenda -- the plan as published online specifically touted a "public health insurance option" -- but it wasn't an element he invested much time in before Election Day.

As Stein summarized, "An examination of approximately 200 newspaper articles from the campaign, as well as debate transcripts and public speeches shows that Obama spoke remarkably infrequently about creating a government-run insurance program."

Indeed, for all the concerns that Obama should have pushed the measure more aggressively during this year's congressional deliberations, it appears the president advocated on behalf of the public option far more after getting elected than before it.
All accurate. Obama did not overtly campaign on the public option, but his team certainly allowed the belief to exist that he was a strong supporter of the public option. There were people at the time who tried desperately to point out that we were being hoodwinked. Like Krugman, who ended a Feb. 08 column with the point-blank assessment: "If Mrs. Clinton gets the Democratic nomination, there is some chance—nobody knows how big—that we'll get universal health care in the next administration. If Mr. Obama gets the nomination, it just won't happen." I remember that piece because it was linked from Shakesville at least half a dozen times.

As in this post by Quixote:
Initially, both Clinton and Obama disappointed. Without Edwards in the race, we'd still be in some insurance-pandering Stone Age on that. However, he pulled them out of it. Clinton had the sense to just co-opt his plan wholesale. Obama tried to talk the talk while walking a more industry-friendly walk. Shades of the liquefied coal mess. Krugman in op-eds and his blog and Ezra Klein have analyzed this thing to the last comma. Bottom line: "Over all, the Obama-type plan would cost $4,400 per newly insured person, the Clinton-type plan only $2,700" and "One plan achieves more or less universal coverage; the other, although it costs [nearly twice] as much, covers only about half of those currently uninsured."

Turns out that this echoes what Obama actually did in Illinois. "We radically changed [the health care bill] in response to concerns that were raised by the insurance industry," Obama said. One of those radical changes was that universal healthcare became merely a policy goal instead of state policy.
Part of the reason Obama was able to hoodwink so many people across the nation in precisely the same way he did in Illinois is because those of us who pointed out that he, indeed, wasn't campaigning on the public option got accused of being in the bag for Clinton, even if we simultaneously conveyed we'd support either candidate.

This was a fact about Barack Obama. It was obfuscated beneath ten metric fucktons of accusations of hidden agendas.

I am not doing an "I told you so." I am saying that there were people who tried to convey this fact in good faith because they felt it was an important piece of information, and they were shouted down. And I am saying it in the hope that it won't happen again, with the certain fear that it will.

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