How They Did It
May 19, 2010
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.
Beating the Street
May 05, 2010
Shortly after nine on a Monday morning in late April, Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Chairman Gary Gensler filed into a meeting room with nine senior aides. The aesthetic was what you might call “bureaucratic drab”—fluorescent lights, beige carpeting, American flag—and the mostly middle-aged men did not seem out of place. Their suits ranged from gray to charcoal and the complexions were varying degrees of pasty.
April 21, 2010
“Someone had better tell Washington that the pink elephant is on the move!” So crowed Sarah Palin earlier this month at a high-voltage campaign rally for Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann at the Minneapolis Convention Center. While chock-full of the liberal-bashing you’d expect from the dynamic duo, the event also had a weird strain of girl power running through it. The two women entered to country cutie Martina McBride’s “This One’s for the Girls,” and, in introducing Palin, Bachmann gushed about how “drop-dead gorgeous” her sister-in-arms is, both inside and out.
March 22, 2010
Earlier this month, in a profile of White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, I identified two tactical mistakes the president had made while trying to pass health care reform. The first was his extensive efforts to reach a bipartisan deal—in particular, allowing Montana Senator Max Baucus to negotiate with Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee through most of the summer before weighing in. The second was Obama’s decision to attack insurance companies late last July after months of trying to co-opt them and other powerful groups.
Democrats Discover Their Base
March 21, 2010
Health care reform would not have happened without the political skill and tenacity of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, or without the last minute round of arm twisting by President Barack Obama. But equally important was the energetic public campaign that Obama and liberal and left-wing organizations waged on behalf of it. This campaign altered the chemistry of the debate within Congress and among Democrats.
Ben Nelson's Bequest
March 15, 2010
The Hill reports on the state of negotiations in the House: Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.), who voted against the House healthcare bill in November, said on "Fox News Sunday" that he has an "open mind" about the final measure. Those kind of public comments invite long discussions with the Speaker, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and/or the president. Holding out can lead to benefits. Reps. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.) and Jim Costa (D-Calif.), who were undecided days before the Nov.
Hurry Up and Wait? (Updated)
March 11, 2010
Whether it’s Intrade, the polls, or the increasingly panicked predictions of doom from Republicans, the signs all suggest that the prospects for passing health care reform have been improving. And that's not just luck. Although President Obama and his allies have benefited from exogenous events, particularly the Blue Cross rate hikes, it seems clear they’ve made smart strategic moves, too. In particular, they’ve managed to simplify the debate and speed it up. So it’s a bit unnerving to read, and to hear, that House Democrats want to slow things down and make them more complicated.
Unready for His Close-Up?
March 11, 2010
Allow me to posit a case study: Two high-ranking government officials are the subject of multiple newspaper and magazine profiles in the span of a few weeks. The first official resists the attention. He isn’t so much as quoted in any of the pieces, whose authors glumly note his lack of enthusiasm for their projects. By contrast, the second official goes out of his way to cooperate with the profile-writers. He submits to numerous, on-the-record interviews and mounts a detailed defense of his actions.
March 03, 2010
You think it’s so great being Rahm Emanuel?
Sarah Palin, M.I.A.
February 26, 2010
Since I am back from having a tooth pulled, a second column on dentistry seems in order. My last column noted a terrific story by NPR reporter Sarah Varney about how hundreds of thousands of poor and disabled Californians have lost dental coverage through California Medicaid. Tens of thousands of these men and women have intellectual disabilities. Dentistry is a sore spot in our family. Finding a dentist willing and able to treat an intellectually disabled man for the pittance paid by Medicaid hasn't been easy. We've gotten some very shoddy care before finding the good dentist we now use.