Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Men, The Moment, The Agendas: Health-Care Reform & National Security

As predicted here five weeks ago when the prospects looked especially grim, I declared that health-care reform legislation with some sort of public option would pass Congress and become law.

Fast forward to the here and now and with compromise on reform with some sort of public option highly likely and the necessary votes probably at hand, I look like a fricking genius, don't I?

Well, not really. It's just that the mainstream media and punditocracy have viewed every setback in the
contentious debate over fixing America's dysfunctional health-care system as a personal Waterloo for President Obama while forgetting three salient aspects of the man and the moment.

* Obama is a master strategist. He knew from the jump that there would be little to no Republican help and that the toughest nuts to crack would be so-called Blue Dog Democrats.

* The Democratic Party cannot hope to keep a healthy majority in Congress after the 2010 mid-term elections without passing a reform bill with teeth. Poll after poll shows ample public support for that. Maybe not a full mouth of teeth, but teeth nevertheless. The reason is less doing the right thing than keeping
the party's liberal base energized.

* Democrats have been spinning their wheels for six decades trying to enact reform. In that context, the progress made in the last few months
is breathtaking and props to Obama for largely staying above the partisan fray and reminding us that helping keep Americans healthy and helping them get better when they get sick has far more to do with the soul of this country than your political leanings.

* * * * *
There is no other way to put it: Joe Lieberman is a sack of excrement and in his own way worse than the most conservative of his colleagues.

Let's do some simple math:

* The Connecticut independent (sic) hails from a state where his constituents overwhelmingly favor the public option. Roughly 1,000 of those constituents die every year because they lack health insurance.

* Lieberman has received nearly $3.4 million in bribes
from the health-care and insurance industries.

So how will he vote on health-care reform debate cloture? Against his constituents, of course.

* * * * *
I am considerably less proud about having been ahead of the curve on something else: The Obama administration's refusal to disavow the oft-stated Bush administration canard that revealing key documents about torture and other abuses in the so-called service of fighting terrorism would compromise national security.

But that is just what this White House is doing despite promises from Obama on the campaign trail that this and other abuses of power would be history.

Take the case of former
Guantánamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed, a British national who claims that he was tortured at a CIA-run dark site. When the Bush-Cheney axis of evil was running the show, it rejected requests made by a British High Court to release certain documents about Mohamed's incarceration because of the specious claim that it would compromise national security.

Now the Obama-Biden axis is making the same argument.

To make matters worse, the Bushies threatened to cut the U.K. out of the intelligence loop if it persisted in demanding the documents. Now Secretary of State Clinton is rattling the same saber.

There is an unfortunate parallel between the strategizing over health-care reform and torture documents: While that all-important liberal base might sit on its hands come Election Day 2010 without health-care reform, it is not going to do so if Obama doesn't break with the sordid past on the torture documents.

In fact, it's inconceivable.

Top photograph by Pete Souza/The White House

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