Monday, August 31, 2009

Initial Mistakes on Health Care

E. J. Dionne is always a thoughtful liberal commentator, whose judgment I respect immensely. Here is his take on the mistakes of the Obama administration on health care:

President Obama can still secure major health-care legislation this year if
he learns from his mistakes in recent months and spends more time reminding
Americans why they were once eager for fundamental change.

His White House lost sight of the need to make a strong case that
reform would deliver specific benefits to the insured as well as the uninsured.
Absent a consistent set of arguments from reformers, advocates of the status quo
filled the vacuum -- often with outright lies.

The administration also sent mixed and confusing signals about
its position on a public insurance option. This set off a liberal firestorm and
increased the role that the public option played in the public debate -- which,
paradoxically, is exactly the opposite of what Obama's lieutenants intended.

And his aides did not foresee just how fraught the situation would
become in the Senate, where Max Baucus, the Democratic chairman of the Finance
Committee, allowed Charles Grassley, the committee's ranking Republican, to
string negotiations along indefinitely without making any commitment to voting
for a bill.

The road to compromise is not paved by offering premature concessions and vagueness. Having held back, the administration now needs to lay out clear and understandable goals, so it can bargain from a position of strength. Dare one say it? That was Ted Kennedy's way.

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