[This is a guest post by Jonathan Cohn; photo from White House Flickr stream] During the debate over health care, there were a handful of moments when President Obama presided over a serious discussion of whether to pull back--that is, to give up on comprehensive reform, at least for the moment, and hunt for quick agreement on a much smaller bill. One of these moments came in early August, as polls showed the public was turning against reform and the prospects of getting legislation out of the Senate Finance Committee seemed bleak.
This is the first of a five-part series explaining, in remarkable detail, how Obama and the Democrats came to pass health care reform. Be sure to come back tomorrow for the second part, which reveals how Ted Kennedy wooed Max Baucus and what Rahm Emanuel promised the drug industry. When the president and his closest advisers huddled in the Oval Office last August, they had every reason to panic. Their signature piece of legislation, comprehensive health care reform, was mired in the Senate Finance Committee and the public was souring on it.
The other Jonathan at TNR has put together an epic, behind-the-scenes look at health care reform and how it passed. The piece is so comprehensive, it’s going to be released in five installments (though if you’re a member of TNR Society you can download it all here now—and if you’d like to join, here’s the registration site). The first section (which goes live at midnight) dives right into the middle of the debate, in August, when many of Obama’s advisors recommended he scale back his ambitions: All week, the group had debated whether to scale back the reform effort.
I know that a lot of people in my crowd don't like Frank Rich. But I happen to find even some of his excesses entertaining. Yes, he is of the somewhat ritualized left.
I don't really know how the meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu went. But a grim early story in the New York Times tells us that it was "tense." One fact we knew already before the White House encounter was that the president's echo in all of these matters, Hillary Clinton, addressed AIPAC with the emptiest reassurances that Israel's real security will be assured in any American design for a peace agreement. But there were actually two deep disenchantments, aside from the basic one. And the second has to do with Iran. Hillary denounced the Tehran regime, alright.
Last week, my former editor Peter Beinart had an article in the Daily Beast arguing that the passage of health care reform would forever change the Democratic Party. Peter argued that the party has long been run by centrist strategists who believe that, in the fact of a presumably skeptical public, Democrats must hew close to the center and make it their highest priority to avoid provoking public ire.
You do not need insider information to know that Hillary Clinton threw a hissy fit at Bibi Netanyahu last Friday morning. And you don’t need that kind of information to know that she was sent out to do this little job by her boss.
They are not unconnected. They are not unconnected at all. Now, presumably the president didn't want to provoke the rage of the Palestinians. (Although, then again, he might just have anticipated it.) But Palestinian rage is very easy to provoke. Snap your fingers and, there, you have it. You don't even have to rent a mob. It comes free will, so to speak. The fact is that Obama did more than snap his fingers. He sent out very top members of his administration to beat up on Israel and they did.
In fact, Israel explicitly told them that it would, and Washington--with some regret, to be sure--accepted the fact. So why are the Obami having such conniptions?