Sunday, August 16, 2009

Would President Hillary Clinton Have Run Away From Healthcare Reform Like President Obama Is Reportedly Going to Do?

Would President Hillary Clinton have run away from healthcare reform like President Obama is reportedly going to do? Yes, I went there, but someone needed to say it. Unfortunately, I only have time to pose the question and to offer a few comments at the moment. I will provide more analysis tomorrow.

What provokes this question? Well, for starters, the White House has been a lot less than passionate about healthcare reform. The blatantly wrong and deceitful Sarah Palin has a louder voice on the issue than President Obama.

Also, Obama campaigned on "unity," while Clinton campaigned as a "fighter." I always thought true reform required a fighter. That is certainly how it has occurred historically. But people without knowledge of history do not understand or appreciate this reality. Change does not come from chanting, and an election is not a social movement.

During the presidential campaign, many of Obama's most ardent supporters were young Web users, who enthusiastically spread his positions across the Internet and smacked down those who stood in their way. Where are they now? Hint: Summer break. Another question: Where are all of those "guy" Senators who endorsed Obama and called for Clinton to end her "divisive" campaign?

Today, the wires are reporting that Obama is prepared to drop a public plan option -- with hardly any public debate on the issue. Yet, Obama was supposed to bring us the "better-than-Clinton healthcare reform process. Say what you like about Clinton (and most people have strong opinions either way), but no one can honestly assert that she lacks passion on healthcare reform and a true drive regarding the subject.

Obama is apparently retreating because a "Gang of Six" members of the Senate Finance Committee decided to vote against it, and one of them, Sen. Kent Conrad -- a North Dakota Democrat -- has said that the Democrats lack the votes to get over a likely Republican filibuster. Conrad's "no" vote virtually guarantees this result.

It is unclear, however, why the public should give six members of one Senate committee -- not even the full committee -- so much power over this important issue. Healthcare is not in the committee's general area of expertise. Also, the Gang of Six includes the wretched Senator Charles Grassley, who along with Palin, has repeatedly described the medically sound "end-of-life counseling" provision as a death panel. The Gang of Six deleted the measure from the committee's proposed legislation. Medical professionals, however, back the provision. The six Senators did not act in good faith when they dropped this provision, which raises questions about their judgment and their honesty.

Obama has apparently ceded what he described as one of his primary policy goals to six conservatives (3 Democrats and 3 Republicans) without public debate and without much advocacy from the White House. Where I am sitting, unity looks like capitulation -- or a clever way of letting six men on one Senate committee take responsibility for killing a measure that Obama really did not want in the first place. Neither option looks that good.

PS: I had planned to offer only a "few" comments, but they turned into "several."

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why would someone who has nothing to loose, care about what others loose when no one is looking?

Anonymous said...

If you don’t care, no one will care when it matters to you.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Anonymous No. 1: Someone = ??? I am not sure whom you are targeting with this post.

Alessandro Machi said...

I think Hillary Clinton would have demanded the Republicans come up with something first, and then built upon whatever they came up with.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Alessandro: I disagree. She's been in it too long to let them set the template.

CamelsWithHammers said...

I can understand your frustration that Obama is backing down but that's hardly a positive case to prove Hillary would have done any differently. Contrasting the banner words of their campaigns "Uniter" and "Fighter" is a superficial way to analyze governing styles in practice.

Hillary's husband, if you remember, had to make similarly infamous compromises (Don't Ask Don't Tell, anyoen?) to the one it looks like Obama is being forced into (and also with a Democratic Congress!) There's only so much any president can do to force his or her agenda. The President is simply not a legislator. He or she needs majority support in both houses of Congress and it's as simple as that.

And Hillary is so much more the polarizing figure that demonizing her would be so much easier for the right wing than demonizing Obama has been. Plus their previous success in defeating her on health care would only embolden them and threaten democratic confidence that it's worth sticking their necks out for her and risking another failure.

Sorry, I just don't see where she would be in any better position to get this done.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Camels:

Actually, the contrast seems to work. Obama seems like he always caves when things get too hot. After a backlash to a simple statement in the Gates case -- let's have beer dudes. He gutted a lot out of the stimulus and put in horrific tax cuts just to get 3 moderate Republicans, and he didn't even need their votes. He has been on the sidelines -- minus moments of media fanfare -- on the healthcare issue, seeking a "consensus." But by remaining on the sidelines, the White House looked lost and uncommitted. So, while you might think the analysis is superficial, it seems to ring true.

Also, I do not conflate Bill and Hillary, so pointing to her husband adds nothing to the analysis -- unless you are trying to say that presidents compromise. OK. Here's an interesting tidbit that your argument overlooks: At least Clinton stood by his campaign promise to end the anti-gay ban. Obama has been so amorphous on healthcare since he was elected, that it's hard to know where he really stands.

You are right about one thing: Obama is not a legislator. That's true in more ways than one. I think he lack of time in the Senate is impacting his work as president.

Obama is polarizing too. I heard that trope so many times during the campaign that I thought it was being piped to my tv by Big Brother. But Hillary was only polarizing because the media heads said it over and over again. NOw that they stopped saying it, her approval ratings are around 80 percent. The campaigns taught us that the postmodern movement was correct: Our reality is socially constructed.

Today, a near majority of Republicans believe Obama is not a US citizen. The little prediction about him being less polarizing is not coming true. But I also predicted that too. The Republicans hate Democrats and vice versa.

Finally, my point is not that she would have managed to get a public plan. Instead, I believe she would have shown a greater commitment to the issue than Obama. He has been MIA.

Question: Do you really think Obama has done a good job marketing healthcare reform? Regardless of whether Congress would have agreed on a public plan, do you approve of Obama's handling of this issue? I don't, and I think Clinton would not have snoozed while Palin and Grassley grabbed the discussion.

Annie said...

She woulda had those blue dogs in check. Most of them were DLC along with her and her husband. Most of them endorsed her knowing full well she had a public option. She would have fought. Obama is a joke.

Anonymous said...

Hillary had a better plan everyone would get healthcare that congress had (a very good plan)she wouldve gotten it done. She should be our President. We told the obamaniacs time and again that Hillary was truly the one, well now look who we are stuck with. 2012 can't come soon enough.

The Gaucho Politico said...

Prof,

I agree obama has pretty much sucked on this. Im not sure though that clinton would be doing much better. Yes i think we would have seen more visible passion but im not sure that would translate into better legislation or a less recalcitrant senate. Also, Apparently the trial balloon fell flat again and they walked Sebelius back.

http://politics.theatlantic.com/2009/08/administration_official_sebelius_misspoke.php

DefiantOne said...

I doubt very much that we would not have seen the vehement opposition from the right/town hall fiascos/fearmoning were Hillary president.

However we would not see 1) Blue dogs wavering and openly defying Hillary, 2) Pelosi and Reid hijacking Hillary's healthcare agenda, and 3) Hillary looking like a wimp and caving in to big health industry lobbyists.

If we're going to lose on this issue, I'd rather my Democratic President go down swinging (Hillary-style) not go down wimpy (Obama-style).

As to Hillary being polarizing, her approval ratings are in the high 70s and low 80s, and his are in the high 40s and low 50s. And nobody think Hillary was "foreign-born". More people on the right respect Hillary than do Obama, and polls throughout 2008 indicated she would have won more GOP votes than he did. So you guys can stop the 'polarization' lie: Obama is more polarizing than Hillary.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

DefiantOne: I agree that I would rather see a fight -- on something this big especially. Sometimes we have to let things go, but every candidate -- including John McCain -- had a healthcare reform proposal. Pharma and the doctors seem to back it. But the insurance companies, deceptful conservatives in and outside of Congress and loud protestors have controlled the recent dialogue.

I agree that the rightwing would have had the same head explosion that they are currently having. After all, they believed that Hillary murdered Vince Foster (or covered up his murder).

On the polarizing issue, I said (and stand by the statement) that a lot of the polarizing image was constructed by the media. Republicans and Dems are very divided. On some level, Obama will take more heat because he is more visible than Clinton. Naturally, this will impact his numbers more. But a lot of the stigma associated with her was concocted by a blantant media campaign. After she withdrew and people realized they needed her supporters, they began praising the ground she walked on.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Gaucho: I am not saying Clinton would have been able to move people in Congress who have snubbed Obama. Instead, I believe she would have fought more and sold it to the public. Remember, lawmakers respond to the public as well. With Obama hiding his true position and not marketing the issue, the public is reticent and tilting against reform (in such a short time). Conservatives in both parties are taking advantage of his failure to rally the public. I suspect Clinton would have done things differently.

Stacy said...

Very interesting question. Given health reform was and still is such a passion for her, I think she would insist on a public option at the *very least*. In my view, if there is no strong public option, then there is no real health reform. While the insurance industry is a mess, insurance reform is NOT health reform, which is what Obama is now trying to peddle.

I'm actually stunned at how easily Obama folded on this- one has to wonder what the Dems are good for if they control the WH and Congress and still can't do anything other than shoot each other in the foot- and I'm saying that as a life-long registered democrat!

Infidel753 said...

He has been too weak and conciliatory. This is what I was worried about during the primaries.

When the Republicans controlled the Presidency and both Houses, they never forgot who was boss and never let anyone else forget. We should be the same way.

Anon 1:30 AM, I don't see your point about 2012. Do you think Hillary might get the nomination then? The only way the Democratic party will fail to re-nominate Obama is if his Presidency is a total, universally-acknowledged disaster -- and in that case, any Democrat nominated that year would probably lose.

datechguy said...

I actually think Mrs. Clinton would have been much savvier. She would have ether crafted a bill that would pass or waited for a better political moment to offer one.

In fairness to the president she does possesses what he lacks; the valuable experience that can only be taught by failure. She saw this fail before and would have used that experience to avoid mistakes.

As a conservative who is opposed to the bill i'm of course delighted. I expect many more political mistakes that will help steer the electorate toward a sensible conservative candidate.

Of course that requires us conserviates to acutally offer a sensible candidate and to ACT conservative when we return to power, otherwise what's the point? As president Cleveland once said "a democratic thief is as bad as a republican one."

Anonymous said...

Yes I believe Hillary would have had more strength. Obama still thinks he can be loved by the GOP and he is wrong.

Hillary knows how to take a punch and keep coming back. We need that kind of strength.

Nell said...

Since Obama has viewed every job he's ever held as an immediate stepping stone to the next job up the ladder, I'm beginning to believe he's already bored with the POTUS thing. Ya know, this presidentin' stuff is hard work--something alien to the' Yes We Can' Opossum. (You all remember In Vero Possumus, right?)

He's already floated the idea that he'll be content to be a one-term president if he can accomplish health care reform. That the reform will be no reform at all matters not. A bill that bears his name and affords a signing photo op will do. He can then comfortably retire at age 50, make public appearances at $50k a pop, write a few more sophomoric books for the masses, secure a perpetually renewable Viagra prescription and entertain an unending line of Obot groupies until he drops.

Welcome to my fantasy world. Hillary 2012!

Anonymous said...

Darren Hutchinson, you nailed this with your headline alone!

I expected passion, not timidity from Obama. Action, not empty oratory. Toughness not appeasement. He's on video stating clearly 3 years ago "I am a firm advocate of single-payer". He has reneagued on every campaign promise. You're right: "CHANTING'S NOT CHANGE"! His fan club comprised equally narcissistic followers with no staying power nor the maturity and guts to question Obama himself on his many broken promises.

Without passion, as Darren so poignantly and incisely pointed out here, there's no way you can be a fighter. You can only truly fight for what you believe in. And Obama it is now abundantly obvious believes in one thing: Himself. He achieved his career goal. His anorexic resume was pushed by a misogynist corporatist media and Obama's campaign sycophants on top. There were other resumes with far more experience, knowledge and passion. And Hillary Clinton did prove during her campaign that she was a FIGHTER. Before she was pushed off the stage prematurely when in fact she was winning! That's another story.

Surely, Obama's lack of belief and passion in articulating healthcare restructuring and his tragic failure to communicate and explain his message will be his waterloo in this area. It's tragic because he had a true opportunity here. He has two majorities, he has the bully pulpit all to Himself. And he blew it. Meantime, he's intimated Eric Holder into not pursuing charges against the Bush administration and prosecurint them. He voted in favour of the telecommunications companies (FISA) while Hillary Clinton kept her word.

Obama's turning out to be Carter II. Or is it Bush Term III? I'd love to find out from Darren what he thinks!

Meantime, the patient is dying while Obama has yet to lift his stethoscope.

Calling Dr. Hillary....Calling Dr. Hillary....

Mary s

Anonymous said...

DaTechGuy

"...the valuable experience that can only be taught by failure"

Yes, indeed! I concur with your deceivingly simple, brilliant assertion.! That's the key.

Hillary would have articulated the needs of the American public far more clearly and presented it in a "town hall story-telling" way that would have shortcircuited the Republican attacks. As from attacks from the Left, she would have brought forward a well-thought out Single-Payer plan first. She would have started negotiations with her strongest belief and then played it on from there. She was a far more skilled politician than Obama.

No way that Hillary would have allowed her clear message to deteriorate to the extent where Palin would have taken control! Her passion and fighting spirit would have carried this through. Plus her ability to play both "nice" and "tough" on the political theatre.

Hillary had sent a few researchers back in '93 to Ottawa to study the national single-payer Canadian healthcare system. It's that type of policy and research and doggedness that Obama needed. The Democrats really know how to take a winning strategy and lose the game.

-mary

Tom said...

For me, there has never been any comparison between Hillary and Obama. As she said during the campaign, Hillary is a workhorse, not a showhorse; and Obama is all show. Limbaugh had it right about Obama: he's a beta male. Hillary, on the other hand, is an alpha female. Our country faces real problems, and there is no leadership in Obama; there are only pretty words. And, as Rostand said (Cyrano de Bergerac), there comes a time when the heart sickens at pretty words.

I think our country is going to learn that lesson the hard way.

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