Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What was that Lincoln Quote?

When Barack Obama was elected president we heard about his seeming obsession with our 16th president. He read books on Honest Abe, used his bible at his inauguration and even themed the January festivities after the top hat enthusiast's famous Gettysburg Address. Given all of this Obama must have come across one of Lincoln's most famous quotes, uttered in his famous speech named for the quote, that "A house divided against itself cannot stand." Now Lincoln was alluding to the dispicable practice of slavery in the States, but if we twist the quote a little bit and make it "A party divided against itself cannot stand," we see trouble looming for Democrats.

Yes, I'm going back into the realm of the public option. That elusive Ross and Rachel portion of the health care bill (on-again, off-again: lame Friends reference, forgive me). President Obama said back in August it wasn't essential to the bill. In September House Speaker Pelosi said it was essential while at the same time House Majority Leader Hoyer said it wasn't. In other words, there was no Democratic leadership on the issue, and that lack of leadership continues today over the public option.

It was bad enough that Schumer said a few weeks ago that an embarrassing loss in the Senate Finance Committee was really a win for the public option, but now he is saying that he and other key Democratic senators convinced the White House that the public option was the way to go.

But if Schumer and company have convinced the Obama administration to really get behind a decent public option, why are reports coming out that Obama essentially told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that he is on his own for getting votes. If the Obama administration were really behind the public option, if they were "convinced" of its validity, why would they make it clear that they would turn their back on Reid in a crucial vote-getting campaign to prevent a filibuster?

Here is why, if we get a public option, it will be watered down: the Democrats are running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Are they really unable to sit down, say this is our plan, and just stick to it? It's funny that Obama will take a risk on the 2016 Olympics for Chicago (read: going to Copenhagen without knowing for sure that Chicago would win the bid) but when it comes to insuring millions of Americans he doesn't want in unless he is guaranteed a victory. Schumer is saying one thing, and reports come out indicating the opposite. Reid could emerge as a leader on this, and Obama undermines that.

I would love to be proven wrong. I would love to get a robust public option that really shakes up the insurance industry and gives a decent level of care to millions of uninsured Americans. The problem is that no clear leader is emerging in this fight and the very backroom politics that is supposed to be used to get votes and get things done is creating miscommunications within the party and leaves the public scratching their heads and opponents on the offensive. Like Lincoln (kind of) said: "A [party] divided against itself cannot stand [for anything]." The problem is they're falling on us.

Photo - Obama and Reid (Politico)

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