Thursday :: Dec 27, 2007

Happy Holidays from Harry and Louise!

by eriposte

Looks like Sen. Obama continues to generously spread his Politics of Hope, Change and OptimismTM during the holidays. First, as Paul Krugman pointed out, Sen. Obama has been busy equating labor unions - who have long formed the bulwark of the poor and middle class - with the anti-labor corporate interests they have been fighting against. Unsurprisingly, this is the same Sen. Obama who took over $1M from the "special interests" he only recently developed a convenient, though intermittent, aversion for (for example, he's been using "special interest" funds during his Presidential campaign and talking about the importance of negotiating with some of the anti-progressive "special interests"). Krugman hit the right notes (emphasis mine):

But now Mr. Obama has lashed out at Mr. Edwards because two 527s — independent groups that are allowed to support candidates, but are legally forbidden from coordinating directly with their campaigns — are running ads on his rival’s behalf. They are, Mr. Obama says, representative of the kind of “special interests” that “have too much influence in Washington.”

The thing, though, is that both of these 527s represent union groups — in the case of the larger group, local branches of the S.E.I.U. who consider Mr. Edwards the strongest candidate on health reform. So Mr. Obama’s attack raises a couple of questions.

First, does it make sense, in the current political and economic environment, for Democrats to lump unions in with corporate groups as examples of the special interests we need to stand up to?

Second, is Mr. Obama saying that if nominated, he’d be willing to run without support from labor 527s, which might be crucial to the Democrats? If not, how does he avoid having his own current words used against him by the Republican nominee?

Part of what happened here, I think, is that Mr. Obama, looking for a stick with which to beat an opponent who has lately acquired some momentum, either carelessly or cynically failed to think about how his rhetoric would affect the eventual ability of the Democratic nominee, whoever he or she is, to campaign effectively. In this sense, his latest gambit resembles his previous echoing of G.O.P. talking points on Social Security.

More below the fold.

Beyond that, the episode illustrates what’s wrong with campaigning on generalities about political transformation and trying to avoid sounding partisan.

It may be partisan to say that a 527 run by labor unions supporting health care reform isn’t the same thing as a 527 run by insurance companies opposing it. But it’s also the simple truth.

As it turns out, Sen. Obama's penchant for undermining progressives, Democrats and Democratic-leaning groups representing everyday Americans did not stop there. Continuing his strange war on universal healthcare (remember, he claimed he was in support of single-payer healthcare in principle when he was running for election to the IL State Senate), he decided this past week to usurp the role of the healthcare industry in attacking the Edwards and Clinton healthcare plans. As Paul Krugman wrote on his blog (emphasis mine):

A friend sends me this:

Have you seen or heard about the radio ad that Obama is running in Iowa about health care?

It has a man and a woman talking, with the man leading off saying that health care mandates “force those who cannot afford health care insurance to buy it, punishing those who don’t fall in line.”

This is what I’ve been complaining about. I was willing to cut Obama slack on the lack of mandates in his plan, even though the economics says they’re necessary; I figured that in practice, if elected, he’d end up doing the right thing.*

I started ramping up the criticism when he started attacking his opponents from the right, making the lack of mandates a principle rather than a compromise — because that was poisoning the well, making it much harder for any future Democratic president to implement a plan that will work.

And whaddya know, now he’s running an ad that bears a striking resemblance to the infamous “Harry and Louise” ads, run by the insurance industry, that helped block health care reform in 1993.

Call it the audacity of cynicism.

* Let me repeat the argument: “The point of a mandate isn’t to dictate how people should live their lives — it’s to prevent some people from gaming the system. Under the Obama plan, healthy people could choose not to buy insurance, then sign up for it if they developed health problems later. This would lead to higher premiums for everyone else. It would reward the irresponsible, while punishing those who did the right thing and bought insurance while they were healthy. ”

Kevin Drum seems to have arrived a bit late to the party:

Obama's using Harry & Louise clones to attack a key plank in progressive healthcare policy. I know that we blog readers are policy geeks and barely one person in a hundred cares about this kind of stuff. But I do, and I'm only willing to put up with the Kumbaya campaign as long as I think that, in the end, it really is going to promote progressive ends. Takeoffs on Harry & Louise decidedly don't. If that's where he's going, I'm getting off the train.

As for how progressive icon Paul Krugman is being treated for pointing out genuine and serious flaws in Sen. Obama's positions - some Obama supporters are following in the footsteps of their leader. First they spread fake rumors that Krugman's non-existent son works for the Clinton campaign. Now this (blog post by Paul Krugman):

Unfit to Serve

That’s me I’m talking about.

I’ve been getting a lot of mail from people insisting that I must be giving Obama a hard time because I want a Cabinet job in the next Clinton administration. It couldn’t be that I really care about getting a progressive agenda through, and that I’m worried by the way he keeps echoing conservative talking points.

So just to clear things up: I don’t want a job with the next administration — and it would be a big mistake to hire me. I realized a long time ago that I just don’t have the temperament for government work — remember, if you’re in public office you have to be careful about what you say, and remain tactful all the time. Plus, as every department head I’ve ever worked under knows, I’m the last person on earth who should be trusted with any kind of administrative responsibility.

Paul, didn't you know this is just the Politics of Hope, Change and OptimismTM in action?

P.S. Don't miss Krugman's article in Slate by the way (h/t Atrios). I'll hopefully say more on that next year.

eriposte :: 7:19 AM :: Comments (8) :: Digg It!