Thursday, December 17, 2009

Irrational Robert Gibbs Says Howard Dean Is Irrational

For liberals who wondered why President Obama did not pick Howard Dean to serve as the Secretary of Health and Human Services, I think it is safe to conclude (as many of us did at the time) that ideology influenced the decision. Dean, who is a medical doctor, passionately supports the creation of a public plan as a dimension of healthcare reform. President Obama also strongly supported the idea during his presidential campaign.

The White House, however, has only tepidly advocated the public plan since the election. And recently, several media outlets have reported that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel instructed Harry Reid to drop the public plan and a Medicare buy-in from pending legislation in order to appease Senator Joe Lieberman. Lieberman, who represents the state of Connecticut, has received over a million dollars from the insurance industry in campaign donations. His wife is also an insurance industry lobbyist.

Dean has apparently angered the White House by arguing that Democrats should "kill" the gutted/watered-down bill pending in the Senate and start over again. Dean most recently expressed this position in a very cogent op-ed in the Washington Post.

The White House, however, believes that Dean is behaving irrationally. Responding to questions about Dean's position, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs had very harsh words for the former presidential candidate and DNC Chair:
I don't know what piece of legislation he is reading," said Gibbs.

"I would ask Dr. Dean, how better do you address those who don't have insurance: passing a bill that will cover 30 million who don't currently have it or killing the bill?" he added. "I don't think any rational person would say killing the bill makes a whole lot of sense at this point."

Asked if Dean was acting irrationally, Gibbs replied: "I can't tell what his motives are, to be honest with you."
Gibbs Is Irrational -- Not Dean
Gibbs' argument is irrational because it reduces the public's options to either expanding coverage under the terms of the pending bill or killing this bill. Another option, which Dean advocates, would involve expanding coverage with more sensible legislation.

One of the most irrational aspects of the pending measure involves the individual mandate -- which I have defended repeatedly as within the powers given to Congress by the Constitution. Imposing a mandate without providing a lower-cost alternative to private insurance or without increasing market competition which could reduce the price of private insurance is unsound.

The Democrats have long advocated an individual mandate alongside some type of public plan. Discarding this at the last minute (whether pre-planned or otherwise) is irrational -- not Dean's argument rejecting this unwise decision:
In Washington, when major bills near final passage, an inside-the-Beltway mentality takes hold. Any bill becomes a victory. Clear thinking is thrown out the window for political calculus. In the heat of battle, decisions are being made that set an irreversible course for how future health reform is done. The result is legislation that has been crafted to get votes, not to reform health care.
Dean's argument is abundantly rational.


Elizabeth said...

Amen, Darren. I'm sorry I didn't see your post earlier, it would have saved me (and my liver) some bile. :)

Eric said...

TY sir, very nice commentary.

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