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Tilting at Windmills

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December 19, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

BITTER CONFRONTATION....Paul Krugman has been criticizing Barack Obama pretty strongly in recent weeks for, in general, being too centrist, too accomodating, and too rosy-eyed about his ability to charm his opponents into compromise (see here, for example). Jon Alter disagrees:

Krugman calls Obama "naive" and an "anti-change candidate" because he favors bringing all of the players in the health care debate around a "big table" and rejects the populist message of John Edwards, who is apparently Krugman's choice for president. "Anyone who thinks the next president can achieve real change without bitter confrontation is living in a fantasy world," Krugman writes, endorsing Edwards's view that the insurance and drug industries should be excluded from any talks on health care reform because they stand to lose profits.

The columnist and his candidate both believe that Franklin D. Roosevelt succeeded by being a polarizing figure. I studied FDR for four years while writing a book about him, and this is simply untrue. It's also untrue of other successful Democratic presidents and for a simple reason: "Bitter confrontation" simply doesn't work in policy-making.

Alter goes on to make some interesting historical analogies, but I want to stop right here because it strikes me that he's misinterpreting Krugman in an important way. Krugman — I think — isn't actively recommending "bitter confrontation" as a policymaking tactic, he's simply observing that any Democratic president had better expect sustained, dogged, and bitter confrontation from their opponents if he or she tries to implement serious healthcare reform.

Krugman's fear seems to be that Obama is expecting that he can charm and negotiate his way out of this inevitable confrontation, and won't be prepared when that turns out not to work. Edwards and Clinton, by contrast, since they harbor no illusions, will be willing to play hardball from day one. That doesn't necessarily mean they're going to be out on the hustings every day during their first term hurling populist invective at pharmaceutical companies and the insurance industry, but it does mean that, like FDR, they'll be willing to use every lever of power they can think of, both public and private, to get their way.

Now, that may or may not be fair. Obama might very well know what to expect. Or Krugman might just be wrong about the reception he'll get. But bitter confrontation is what Krugman is predicting, not what he's yearning for. It's an important difference.

Kevin Drum 8:51 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (134)

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Comments

Spot on.

Let the Obama trolls now come forth with more inane irrelevancies.

Posted by: R Johnston on December 19, 2007 at 9:08 PM | PERMALINK

I think Krugman was advocating bitter confrontation, not predicting it.

Posted by: jfrey on December 19, 2007 at 9:10 PM | PERMALINK

Krugman's criticism applies to more than just Obama's position to healthcare, it also applies quite well to his positions on Iran.

Look, I want to avoid war with Iran as much as anybody, but in the course of fighting back against Bush's bats**t policies, some people, Obama included, are adopting what amounts to dangerously naive policies. Iran isn't going to just play nice, turn over a new leaf and join a grand bargain if we stop provoking them; it's a legimately dangerous country with some wacko views. The fact that Obama's approach is the least like Bush's doesn't necessarily make it the best. Sometimes you really do need to use both carrot and stick to make points.

Posted by: Gheby on December 19, 2007 at 9:13 PM | PERMALINK

Trust me, says Obama. I am so much better than Clinton and Edwards that I can accomplish more than they can without being impolite. And it is impolite of them to suggest otherwise.

Posted by: Ross Best on December 19, 2007 at 9:14 PM | PERMALINK

As I read Krugman, it's both. He's predicting bitter confrontation and yearning for a president who's tough enough to take it on rather than back away from it.

Posted by: Swift Loris on December 19, 2007 at 9:14 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Krugman. Progress can come only if the vanguard party excludes counter-revolutionaries from any share in the discussion. They are enemies of the state anyway. That's democratic centralism.

Posted by: y81 on December 19, 2007 at 9:21 PM | PERMALINK

Alter's (and Obama's) argument is just on its face bizarre.

Corporations, by their inherent nature, are concerned fundamentally with one thing: their profits.

What does Alter think that corporations will do if you threaten to take away their profits? Why, fight with every available tool to prevent it. How can this not devolve into "bitter confrontation"?

It's been pretty well established that one of the major reasons that health care is so very expensive in the US is that the insurance industry makes the management and payment of health care services so very inefficient. How do you stop that problem without cutting deeply into the revenues of the insurance industry? Why would they not rightly fight for every penny they can keep? And why would not the public, which has a profound interest in reducing the overall cost of health care, not rightly fight for every penny they can keep from paying to the insurance industry?

Posted by: frankly0 on December 19, 2007 at 9:31 PM | PERMALINK

I've already gotten hit by trolls on yglesias' blog for basically agreeing with Krugman by an Obama-ite who said
Hillary and Edwards supporters have both been trying to caricature Obama as this delusional magic negro with a messiah-complex who thinks he's Martin Luther King and JFK and Ghandi all rolled into one.
Obama may be right about being able to push his agenda with "a new kind of politics"(I doubt it), and work with republicans and corporate powers. Or he might not believe that at all and its just rhetoric to get elected. But either way, its ridiculous to completely discount Krugman's contention as some kind of water-carrying hit piece for Edwards or racially motivated as the troll i quoted seems to imply. If someone like Krugman, who's be at the vanguard of progressive media for years can't criticize Obama without that kind of crap response from other supposed progressives, its a problem.

Posted by: kahner on December 19, 2007 at 9:33 PM | PERMALINK

One way to predict whether the Obama strategy will work is to answer this question: Is there a compromise policy that delivers universal access to healthcare? If yes, then it could work. Obama may have the talent to deliver this compromise policy. If no, then it will be time to play hardball. Anyone care to propose what a possible compromise policy among all the stakeholders would look like?

Posted by: Bush Lover on December 19, 2007 at 9:34 PM | PERMALINK

Um, I'm pretty sure you're wrong, Kevin. Krugman just penned piece imploring the Dems to ride a wave of populist, anti-corporate rhetoric to the White House in the hopes of using the bully pulpit to bludgeon the GOP and their corporate backers into submission.

That's not yearning for confrontation?

Methinks you're doing your whole Rorschach thing here, only its not actually an inkblot. It is a picture of a butterfly (or whatever)

Posted by: Michael on December 19, 2007 at 9:34 PM | PERMALINK

I am in favor of returning in kind to the Republicans the exact measure of civility that was shown the Democrats for the first six years of the Bush administration. I shall pop corn and enjoy the spectacle as they whine like little bitches. They simply must be punished - severely - for their obstructionist ways that serve no purpose save willful obstreperousness and the indulgence of an innate, congenital meanness.

Do you really think these jackals would have dared be such feckless fucks if Nixon had done some time in prison? Time to reset the law & order pins.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on December 19, 2007 at 9:35 PM | PERMALINK

What *do* we know about how tough Obama can be when he needs to?

Posted by: NB on December 19, 2007 at 9:35 PM | PERMALINK

The late Arthur Barbieri understood FDR better than Alter, I think.

Barbieri was the political boss of New Haven for many years, and he had a simple method. If you opposed him, HE BEAT YOU.

Then he gave you something.

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 19, 2007 at 9:35 PM | PERMALINK

[Iran] 's a legimately dangerous country with some wacko views."

er, no it's not. Iran is a country with some wackos in it that's legitimately concerned about its own safety, following more than a century of being beaten around by the US/UK and foreign corporates. That it seeks to maximise it's own negotiating position is rational behaviour, particularly in light of the treatment of India, Pakistan and North Korea.
Moreover, the words of Ahmadinejad are refreshingly sane when compared to the words, and more importantly actions, of the real wacko, George W Bush.

Posted by: billy on December 19, 2007 at 9:42 PM | PERMALINK

>> It's also untrue of other successful
>> Democratic presidents and for a simple reason:
>> "Bitter confrontation" simply doesn't work in
>>policy-making.

Seems to have worked extremely well for Dick Cheney from October 2001, a span going on 7 years, and fairly well overall for the Republicans for the last 15 years. In fact the damage the Cheney, Addington, Norquist, and their ilk have done may be irreversible. So I would be curious to hear a bit more about how "bitter confrontation" simply doesn't work since the evidence is that it works quite well.

Cranky

If your response is, it works for Radical Republicans but not Democrats or progressives then you have a bit of splainin to do.

Posted by: Cranky Observer on December 19, 2007 at 9:46 PM | PERMALINK

But bitter confrontation is what Krugman is predicting, not what he's yearning for.

Mr Krugman has many, many good points, but.....

Posted by: Bob M on December 19, 2007 at 9:48 PM | PERMALINK

If a Democrat is elected President, and tries to reform health care, there will be a no-holds barred all-out war waged against reform by the insurance industry and their paid stooges (the press and the Republicans, as well as some Democrats). STOP SOCIALIZED MEDICINE - LET THE MAGIC OF THE FREE MARKET SOLVE ALL ILLS they'll cry.

The insurance industry kingpins will be fighting for their 7-figure paychecks and stock options, so they'll be using every dirty trick in the book. One thing they won't be doing is memorizing the words to Kumbaya or "It's a Small World."

There's no point in fighting fire with fire, either - just be prepared for a fight, and keep repeating our mantra: "Doctors don't make health care decisions in our system - the insurance companies do. Do you want really want to keep having insurance company clerks making health care decisions for you?"

Posted by: RepubAnon on December 19, 2007 at 9:49 PM | PERMALINK

Krugman is right.

Obama, unfathonably, vastly, vastly overestimates his o-someness.

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on December 19, 2007 at 9:49 PM | PERMALINK

just be prepared for a fight, and keep repeating our mantra: "Doctors don't make health care decisions in our system - the insurance companies do. Do you want really want to keep having insurance company clerks making health care decisions for you?"

Just this past weekend I was having the latest installment in the 20-year-feud about healthcare access with my bleached-blond Republican twit of a sister-in-law. Finally, exasperated, I asked her if she would be willing to let her doctor do her taxes? "Of course not!" she snorted.

And finally...after twenty fucking years, I had the bitch. I asked her why she was so damned eager to let someone with the equivalent of an H&R Block free tax course make her healthcare decisions for her?

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on December 19, 2007 at 10:00 PM | PERMALINK

Billy,

That a country is acting rationally to maximize their survival chances against a hostile US/UK means that their actions make sense; it doesn't mean those actions aren't dangerous, or that they will cease to be dangerous when we rachet down the rhetoric and actually start negotiating.

It is possible for the pendulum to swing too far in the other direction. Given the choice between Obama's foreign policy and Bush's, I'd clearly go with Obama. But our choice isn't between Obama and Bush, it's between Obama, Clinton, Edwards, and the rest. And given those options, my concern with Obama is that he's a bit too starry-eyed on his ability to succeed where others have failed.

Posted by: Gheby on December 19, 2007 at 10:01 PM | PERMALINK

Krugman was advocating bitter confrontation and joyfully predicting that it would arise from the vanguardism of Krugman and his chosen candidates. I agree exactly with y81, Krugman, Lev Davidovich Bronstein, and Bob Avakian:

"Progress can come only if the vanguard party excludes counter-revolutionaries from any share in the discussion. They are enemies of the state anyway. That's democratic centralism."

One man, one vote, one time, one Krugman.

By the way, you filthy lefties, how'd that "democratic centralism" work out in Russsia, and East Germany, and Poland, and Hungary, and Romania, and Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia, and Lithuania, and Estonia, and Latvia, and the Ukraine, and White Russia, and the eastern Stans, and Mongolia, and Red China, and North Korea, and Laos, and Cambodia, and North Vietnam, and Cuba?

You think Bush is a nightmare. That was a billion times worse nightmare. It's lucky the world survived.

Posted by: foucaultfan on December 19, 2007 at 10:04 PM | PERMALINK

Well, here is some of what we *do* know about Obama:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/30/us/politics/30obama.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/08/AR2007020802262_3.html
I'd say it looks promising.

Posted by: Bush Lover on December 19, 2007 at 10:04 PM | PERMALINK

Why is Krugman, more than most pundits, so often "misunderstood" by intelligent people?

Posted by: jk on December 19, 2007 at 10:04 PM | PERMALINK
Do you really think these jackals would have dared be such feckless fucks if Nixon had done some time in prison? Time to reset the law & order pins..

Good question. Note that although Nixon avoided prison, some of his top aides and cabinet officials served time. In fact, 25 felony convictions directly related to their work for the President, courtesy of federal prosecutor.

Note the 27 felony convictions of Reagan administration officials, courtesy of a special prosecutor.

Note the zero convictions of the Carter administration, courtesy of a special prosecutor who found nothing.

Note the zero convictions of the Clinton administration (unless you want to count stuff that had nothing to do with the U.S. government, e.g., Webb Hubbell law client over billing), courtesy of special prosecutors who just couldn’t seem to pull it off.

Note that we are probably not finished counting the felony convictions of the GWBush administration.

So, yes, my guess is that there will always be jackals for hire by the likes of the Republicans.

Posted by: little ole jim on December 19, 2007 at 10:06 PM | PERMALINK

I don't have a position in this fight, but one thing that worries me about Obama is that he's tall, handsome and articulate -- just like John Lindsay, who was a great hope for mayor of New York until his first day in office, 1966, when Mike Quill called a transit strike. That set the tone for much that followed.

He did get re-elected, but I don't think history remembers him that kindly. How ready is Obama for the Mike Quills of today? (One retort might be that he's already met them, during his rise in Chicago. That could be.)

Posted by: Dan Tompkins on December 19, 2007 at 10:08 PM | PERMALINK

I think the nays have it.

Krugman isn't simply predicting, or even hoping for a more confrontational presidency. He is salivating at the thought of sticking it to those bastards. (Not unlike Blue Girl a few comments up)

Bare-knuckle politics is often effective (Just look at how many Democrats are opposed to the Iraq war at every moment except for when it mattered. It's unlikely that they were taken in by Bush's charm and eloquence.), but it is usually more so when you deliver the gut shot with a smile. It can also backfire spectacularly, particularly if it seems mean spirited (again, see Blue Girl's comment above) or small minded (Gingrich in '98).

More to the point, it really needs to be a means to an end not an end in itself. I would be more convinced that there is a purpose behind the animus if it's supporters main argument wasn't "It feels good for me, so it will surely resonate with the great and good American people if we were just a bit more vocal."
(Rote disclosure: my candidate preference list is Obama, Giuliani, Clinton, make of that what you will)

Posted by: heedless on December 19, 2007 at 10:09 PM | PERMALINK

Hey Kevin,

You stated that Dr. Krugman is "simply observing that any Democratic president had better expect sustained, dogged, and bitter confrontation from their opponents if he or she tries to implement serious healthcare reform."

I don't think that is all Dr. Krugman has been saying.

Some of his harshest criticisms of Obama have been directed at Obama's unwillingness to adopt a more aggressive stance towards the drug and insurance companies. Dr. Krugman has even opined that by failing to engage in this more aggressive/progressive rhetoric on the campaign trail Obama is missing an historic �progressive wave� that would otherwise sweep him into office with more than just 51% of the electorate behind him.

However, Krugman's statement that Obama may not be prepared for the resistance he will face from corporate lobbyists is, I believe, not only wrong, but completely unsubstantiated.

Most of the evidence that Dr. Krugman provides to support this argument appears to be limited to Obama�s rhetoric and his stated willingness to bring everyone to the table (including representatives of insurance and pharmaceutical companies).

However, say what you will about Obama's strategy of inclusiveness (at least as a starting point); but the man is clearly very intelligent and not a newcomer to politics. If you read about his time in the Illinois State Senate you'll find that almost every person who was asked about him (Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives) describes Obama as a gifted politician, and a legislator who got things done.

But we are supposed to believe that he is "naive" and not prepared for the confrontations that will no doubt arise with powerful lobbyists- or that he will not be ready to play hardball?

Dr. Krugman does not appear to have similar doubts about John Edwards (who I also like, though he is not my first choice for President); however, isn't it a little bit naive to think that Mr. Edwards is going to be able to get his progressive agenda passed- simply because he has no illusions about big pharma or the health insurance industry?

Again, I like John Edwards, but when exactly has he demonstrated an ability to pass progressive (or difficult pieces of) legislation? During his one term as US Senator he was not particularly progressive; and before that he was a lawyer, with no previous political experience.

To say that Obama- with a life-time of working for progressive causes, 10 years working as a legislator with a history of getting progressive policies realized, and according to his colleagues a gifted politician- is naive, one has to completely ignore everything the man has achieved and everything he has learned over the course of his political career.

Posted by: Aaron M on December 19, 2007 at 10:10 PM | PERMALINK

Obama is offering us HillaryCare 2.0

Hillary learned from the first effort and isn't repeating it. Why will Obama?

Edwards stepped up and offered us something new.

Edwards -- Leadership!

Posted by: MarkH on December 19, 2007 at 10:11 PM | PERMALINK

Progressive blogsphere really has done an excellent job of misconstruing Senator Obama's approach and Krugman is just the latest (and most prominent). He's talked a great length about not demonizing the other side; proposed listening to the other sides position and recognizing it's validity (and at the same stress where he disagrees on the merits). Some how this has gotten translated into kumbaya politics.

If you think the best approach is brinksmanship, then I think Bush is your man. Negotiating for a living, I can tell you this is not a winning solution, unless your idea of winning is getting nothing done.

Posted by: Keith on December 19, 2007 at 10:14 PM | PERMALINK

Gheby it doesn't mean those actions aren't dangerous, or that they will cease to be dangerous when we rachet down the rhetoric and actually start negotiating.

actually, that's exactly what it means. Iran has never been a threat to any nation, nor has it ever expressed an interest in neighbours' land or politics. On the contrary, it has consistently made overtures to the west for talks and reconciliation, and would like nothing better than to get on with its own business.
What is most perplexing is that you, and Washington, choose to elevate your personal prejudices into the realms of global foreign policy, tossing around ideas like existential threat and pretending that "potential to maufacture weapons" is somehow the same thing as having weapons ready to fire and intending to use them. Without this kind of hysteria, this and myriad other global problems would not exist. And if your choice of vote for president is based solely on the candidates' position on Iran, then you neeed to take some serious thinking time.

Posted by: billy on December 19, 2007 at 10:18 PM | PERMALINK

Blue Girl,

First, sorry to keep singling you out, but I have a question regarding doctors and taxes: Isn't the difference that your insurance company pays for you health care (you might say that the doctor works for them, not for you). This is not an argument against universal healthcare, exactly, but you wouldn't be giving your doctor more power by turning financial control over to the government. You'd simply be changing who the bean-counters work for.

I suppose the question of who is more trustworthy, the Feds or the Insurance industry, is not one where we are likely to persuade each other. I do think we can agree, however, that the ultimate disagreement between market types and universal types is over that question.

Posted by: heedless on December 19, 2007 at 10:21 PM | PERMALINK

Keith, I won't call Obama's approach kumbayah politics but I will say I think its not going to be effective. People here seem to think Krugman is spoiling for a fight, slavating at the thought of "sticking it" to the republicans. I think he's spoiling for fight, salivating at the thought of winning and providing universal healthcare for everyone in the US and moving a progressive agenda forward. Salivating at the idea of holding both the legislative and executive branches to undo the damage of the last decades to the nation. There's a difference. Obama doesn't want to demonize his oppenents? I do, because the modern republican party and its corporate allies are demons. Krugman advocates coming out swinging with a powerful populist message because that's what's needed to win the battles we want to fight.

Posted by: kahner on December 19, 2007 at 10:24 PM | PERMALINK

also keith said
If you think the best approach is brinksmanship, then I think Bush is your man
Well, as a matter of fact, in many ways Bush and his allies have done a marvelous job governing so long as you agree with their policies. They were able to push through virtually all their priorities and maintain popular support for most of his 2 terms despite a vast series of scandals, failures and losing 2 wars. If they had actually had even a modicum of competence and desire to help the world, imagine what they could have accomplished. So if you want to call that brinkmanship, then yes I'm for it as long as its in support of smart policies that I also support. And I'm sure you're a great negotiator in whatever industry you work in, but you may have noticed over the last 6 years that the modern republican party does not like negotiating. They're a bunch of corrupt, power hungry assholes shilling for their corporate alies so they can get nice little lobbyist and VP jobs once they're done screwing the country over.

Posted by: kahner on December 19, 2007 at 10:34 PM | PERMALINK

Thesis vs. Antithesis = Synthesis

It isn't anything more than the Hegelian Dialectic restated. Krugman recognizes that real change only occurs when two polar viewpoints reach equilibrium. I don't think Obama has the cajones to define a real progressive stance. Edwards is the man.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on December 19, 2007 at 10:39 PM | PERMALINK

Kahner:

You are part right. Republicans have successfully implemented a brinksman strategy. It wasn't, however the brinksman strategy that is the root of their success, it's the spineless nature of the Democratic party. Democrats seem to have no belief in their case. They seem to worry more about looking bad than achieving results. The result: they look bad and don't achieve results. Examples: 2002 AUMF, the last supplemental war fundings, move-on.org condemnation vote, etc., etc.

As for you and Krugman's reading of Obama, I think where you both lose me is the notion that his approach and fighting like hell for the critical pieces of legislation are mutually exclusive. They aren't, at least to my mind. I can win my argument with facts, without calling you an asshole or threatening you, then I'll take that approach. If that method's not working, I still have my club in the bag and I've lost nothing in my initial approach.

Don't mistake his cool approach as evidence that he will fold under pressure. All evidence suggest this can't be farther from the truth.

Posted by: Keith on December 19, 2007 at 10:47 PM | PERMALINK

Conservative Deflator:

When in Edwards' legislative career (albeit a short one), shown these cajones to advance a progressive stance?

Posted by: Keith on December 19, 2007 at 10:50 PM | PERMALINK

y81: I agree with Krugman. Progress can come only if the vanguard party excludes counter-revolutionaries from any share in the discussion.

This may shock you, but neither Krugman nor Edwards is talking about excluding any parties that have legitimate Constitutional representation.

Ever since the property requirements for voting were eliminated in the early 19th century, we've been on the radical socialist road towards "one person, one vote" rather than "one dollar, one vote". Better get used to it, comrade.

Heck, folks should have known where we were headed when the pinkos at the Constitutional Convention decided to start their manifesto with the words "We the People". And just to rub everyone's nose in it, they wrote it in a larger font!

They are enemies of the state anyway.

No. "Enemy of the state" is a right wing term of art. The corresponding left wing term is "enemy of the people".

Posted by: alex on December 19, 2007 at 10:51 PM | PERMALINK

C'mon. Let's face it. Krugman has a soapbox. But if you have ever seen him in action -- ever seen his whole schtick -- you'd have to conclude he's basically a smart self-important academic blowhard. I'm with Alter on this.

Posted by: Obama/Webb 08 on December 19, 2007 at 10:51 PM | PERMALINK

I haven't been following Krugman vs. Obama, so none of what I am saying here should be interpreted as a criticism of either.

As a few have pointed out, Republicans and corporations know exactly what they want and have done everything they could to get what they want one way or the other. Regarding healthcare, they want fat profits for insurance companies and drug companies. You can't reason with these people and hope to get them to agree to something less than what they want.

There won't be real reforms unless someone is bold enough and smart enough to take on these "profit above anything else" interests and defeat them into submission.

Democrats tried to play nice with Bush and his party after 9/11 and look what Bush/Rove did to them! Look what they did to Kerry (or even McCain and that other ex-democratic senator who lost his limbs in Vietnam). Pretending to be on the side of the military people, they managed to ridicule and demean military heroes for political gain. What is the value of a US military medal if the President of the US decides to undermine them for political gain? These people cannot be reasoned with. They know exactly what they want and will go to any length to achieve it. You can't sit with them and have them yield to reasonable terms simply by presenting them with persuasive logic.

Posted by: rational on December 19, 2007 at 10:53 PM | PERMALINK

What makes anybody think Hillary Clinton is up for a fight with the Republicans? Honestly, what has she fought for as a Senator? On what issue has she been a leader and/or stood up to corporate interests or this administration?

Posted by: Charlie on December 19, 2007 at 10:58 PM | PERMALINK

Obama/Webb08:
Um, no I don't have to conclude that. Why is it some people (i thought mostly republicans)equate being smart and/or an academic with being a self-important blowhard. I've seen quite a bit of his "schtick" and I think he's a smart academic. And if you look back on his columns and other writings over the past several years, you'll see he was ahead on the curve on a plethora of important issues. And if people had paid him a bit more attention we'd all be better off. But you certainly made a great case with your whole name calling thing. You're clearly not a self-important blowhard, but a well informed genius.

Posted by: kahner on December 19, 2007 at 10:59 PM | PERMALINK

I have been having this fight with a friend who looks at Obama as the next great American hero. We don't need a hero, but we do need someone who can look corporate America in the eye and not flinch. Hillary has taken too much of their money and Obama does seem to have a Rodney "Can't we all just get along" King attitude. Well, the answer is, "No, we can't all just get along!" when the other side is Corporate America: Headquarters in New York, hindquarters spread all over this land. Edwards has whipped their asses before and he can and will do it again. That is our only hope for health care instead of health insurance, and just about anything else you can think of that we need.

Posted by: redterror on December 19, 2007 at 11:00 PM | PERMALINK

rational: You can't sit with them and have them yield to reasonable terms simply by presenting them with persuasive logic.

Methinks the appropriate alternate strategy was laid out in the beginning of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Harvey Logan has challenged Butch Cassidy to a knife fight:

Butch Cassidy: No, no, not yet. Not until me and Harvey get the rules straightened out.

Harvey Logan: Rules? In a knife fight? No rules.

Then Butch kicks him in the balls.

Posted by: alex on December 19, 2007 at 11:02 PM | PERMALINK

Here, from Obama's days as a state legislator, is, apparently, Obama's idea of how he envisions himself as a negotiator:

"The concept of the Health Care Justice Act was to bring the sides - the different perspectives and stakeholders - to the table," Duffett said. "In this situation, Obama was being a conduit from the insurance industry to us."

Obama later watered down the bill after hearing from insurers and after a legal precedent surfaced during the debate indicating that it would be unconstitutional for one legislative assembly to pass a law requiring a future legislative assembly to craft a healthcare plan.

During debate on the bill on May 19, 2004, Obama portrayed himself as a conciliatory figure. He acknowledged that he had "worked diligently with the insurance industry," as well as Republicans, to limit the legislation's reach and noted that the bill had undergone a "complete restructuring" after industry representatives "legitimately" raised fears that it would result in a single-payer system.

"The original presentation of the bill was the House version that we radically changed - we radically changed - and we changed in response to concerns that were raised by the insurance industry," Obama said, according to the session transcript.

During debate over the Health Care Justice Act, Obama also attacked the insurers, accusing the industry of "fear-mongering" by claiming, even after he made changes they wanted, that the bill would lead to a government takeover.


Now I ask, how inspiring is this account of how Obama served as a water carrier for the insurance industry? Is this the sort of severely compromised policy that we, as progressives, are happy to get?

Don't you just think that we might hope for a little bit more out of someone we might vote for on the Democratic side?

Posted by: frankly0 on December 19, 2007 at 11:04 PM | PERMALINK

Billy,

Of course Iran is interested in its neighbors' politics, for the simple reason that they're its neighbors. What they do affects Iran, and what Iran does affects them. It would be very irrational for them not to be interested.

I've never argued that Iran is an existential threat, or potential-to-manufacture is the same as ready-to-fire, or any of that other bs. What I AM saying is that the crazies in both countries have spent the past 7 years inflaming the relationship, and that just because we get rid of our crazies doesn't mean that they'll get rid of theirs; it just doesn't work like that. The crazies will still be in charge of Iran for the near future, and they can do a LOT of damage without ever touching another country's soil. Iran is a dangerous country.

Of course I'm not basing my vote soley on Iran. But Obama's position on Iran illustrates the problem I have with his approach to a lot of other issues (and a lot of his supporters' arguments), which is that they all seem to be based on precious little more than Obama-will-succeed-on-thorny-issues-because-there's-just-something-different-about-him. I find that notion dangerously naive from a domestic politics perspective, and potentially quite misguided

Posted by: Gheby on December 19, 2007 at 11:05 PM | PERMALINK

your insurance company pays for you health care...

I am prejudiced here - I grew up a Navy brat and my husband is retired military and I am retired from the GSA. After my solitary hitch in the Reserves, I laterally moved into the VA/DoD healthcare system. I have had government provided health care my entire life and I like it just fine. I have better care than my civvie friends or that sister-in-law. For starters, never had to fight a bean counter for a procedure or a medication. In the civvie side of my healthcare career, I didn't see a lot of problems with MediCare, either.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on December 19, 2007 at 11:07 PM | PERMALINK

Frankly0:

Thanks for posting that. Can you post an example of Edwards and Clinton kicking butt and taking names and getting healthcare reform passed at any level of government? I want to compare and contrast the frontrunners approach in real life terms. Thanks in advance.

Posted by: Keith on December 19, 2007 at 11:08 PM | PERMALINK

I love it when conservatives quote Hegel -- and Mr or Ms Deflator, if you're not conservative, don't make that the first word users encounter in your pen-name!

Claude Levi-Strauss argued that the dynamic of cultural entities circulated around "bundles of opposition" -- here the food is cooked, there the food is raw.

We seem to be in a more bloodlust environment in these United States -- here the meat is red; NO! here, the meat is redder! (Anybody who's seen Beowulf in 3D will know what it means to have a pagan pointing a sword at you.)

I don't disagree with Krugman, even if it's possible he's sired children he does not know of who happen to be schilling for Hillary. A '60s coming-of-age can sometimes do that to you, after all.

But entering Iowa, NH, South Carolina, and all those fun states on 2/5, is it possible to discover that among the Dems we are actually looking at matters of degree on health care? Should the bureaucracy of the IRS, brutally defunded by generations of Republican legislators, be considered capable of tracking those who have been good and those who have been bad as far as health care goes?

True, primaries are the place where preachers are addressing the believers -- which leads to the question: why is there no image of Mitt in his Joseph Smith longjohns? A testimony of faith I am sure we will all enjoy when the time comes -- but it feels to me that Krugman is trying to draw the tipping point between Jesuits and Dominicans in the midsts of an Inquisition.

In sum, no one is going to smell good when this is all done.

Posted by: Jackson on December 19, 2007 at 11:08 PM | PERMALINK

Can you post an example of Edwards and Clinton kicking butt and taking names and getting healthcare reform passed at any level of government?

Well, SCHIP looks a whole hell of a lot like the "Kids First" component of Hillary's failed healthcare overhaul during Bill's first term.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on December 19, 2007 at 11:12 PM | PERMALINK

Can you post an example of Edwards and Clinton kicking butt and taking names and getting healthcare reform passed at any level of government?

I'd rather see no legislation passed than botched, compromised legislation that will only stand in the way of real reform. I'd rather see, say, Hillary fail to bring about legislation on health care if it only undermined the concept of universal health care than to see her "succeed" in passing legislation that was largely dictated by the insurance industry and Republicans.

Posted by: frankly0 on December 19, 2007 at 11:14 PM | PERMALINK

Is Krugman still on the Enron payroll?

Just wondering.

Posted by: goethean on December 19, 2007 at 11:15 PM | PERMALINK

Gheby: You are right, every country has its crazies. Every country also has its sane people. The trick is for the sane people to keep the crazies under control. Yes, the crazies may get on TV and indulge in sabre rattling once in a while, but that is probably a trivial "free speech" price you pay to let the crazies get their craziness off their chests. The problem is when crazies get their hands on their nation's military assets. Actions speak much louder than words. Judge other countries on what they do, not on what some of their crazies say on TV, even if they say it hundred times a day. Why exactly is Iran a threat when there are scores of other countries in the world, some of them in Iran's own neighborhood, with lot more weapons, lot less stability, and a much less transparent political order. Iranian President may be a crazy SOB (based on his ramblings), but it appears that the saner people around him have managed to keep him on a tight leash. Can we say that about our own country?

Posted by: rational on December 19, 2007 at 11:17 PM | PERMALINK

Frankly0:

So your objection is that Obama's approach will accomplish something rather than nothing? Confusing, but okay.

And for the record, I believe Illinois has had REAL reform. Nothing in the article says that legislation was "botched" or that there was no real reform. Misconstruing the article doesn't advance your point.

Posted by: Keith on December 19, 2007 at 11:19 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks Blue Girl.

Posted by: Keith on December 19, 2007 at 11:21 PM | PERMALINK

Dude, he won a Democratic primary in Illinois. He worked in the illinois legislature.

This may be the first time in recorded history anyone has suggested that a guy who came up through Chicago Democratic politics is "too naive."

Posted by: anon on December 19, 2007 at 11:25 PM | PERMALINK

Keith, yes sometimes its better to accomplish nothing rather than something. If the something accomplished is detrimental to your long term goals, despite possibly being an apparent short term improvement. Like passing a health care reform that does enough to allow the politicians to kick the can down the road, while not actually providing a good solution.

Posted by: kahner on December 19, 2007 at 11:27 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, let's find the candidate who will man the barricades and sing feel-good revolutionary songs. Better to go down in flames standing against the man than actually get something done. Naivete runs rampant.

Posted by: urban legend on December 19, 2007 at 11:27 PM | PERMALINK

Keith,

And I guess it doesn't occur to you that a bill that is "watered down" to accommodate all the concerns of insurance companies and Republicans is pretty much inherently going to be flawed. Confusing, but okay. I think most of us imagine that that the concerns of insurance companies and Republicans are only going to protect their interests, and not those of the larger public -- you know, the public that actually votes for its politicians, including even Obama?

And, yes, as I said, nothing is better than something when something is badly compromised. If you have nothing, then the need can be addressed another day, and perhaps with another politician.

Obviously, that politician will never be Obama, because you know from day one he's going to give in big time to the parties who are the enemies of the common good. He's basically already told us that that is what he plans to do, though, of course, he doesn't put it in those words.

Posted by: frankly0 on December 19, 2007 at 11:31 PM | PERMALINK

Here's what Obama needs to do after he's elected:

At the first state dinner, stab any Republican leader with his fork and establish his crazy toughness.

And if that doesn't work bomb Iran.

Posted by: dead beat on December 19, 2007 at 11:32 PM | PERMALINK

Posted by: anon: Dude, he won a Democratic primary in Illinois.

When his opponents self-destructed.

He worked in the illinois legislature.

Where he was known primarily for being soft on some sort of bill on gang killings of policemen, as I recall.

This may be the first time in recorded history anyone has suggested that a guy who came up through Chicago Democratic politics is "too naive."

Right. He knows how to make a crooked buck with the best of them.

http://www.suntimes.com/news/politics/124171,CST-NWS-obama05.article

Obama on Rezko deal: It was a mistake

November 5, 2006

BY DAVE MCKINNEY AND CHRIS FUSCO Staff Reporters Contributing: Mark Brown

U.S. Sen. Barack Obama expressed regret late Friday for his 2005 land purchase from now-indicted political fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko in a deal that enlarged the senator's yard.

"I consider this a mistake on my part and I regret it," Obama told the Chicago Sun-Times in an exclusive and revealing question-and-answer exchange about the transaction.

In June 2005, Obama and Rezko purchased adjoining parcels in Kenwood. The state's junior senator paid $1.65 million for a Georgian revival mansion, while Rezko paid $625,000 for the adjacent, undeveloped lot. Both closed on their properties on the same day.

Last January, aiming to increase the size of his sideyard, Obama paid Rezko $104,500 for a strip of his land.

The transaction occurred at a time when it was widely known Tony Rezko was under investigation by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and as other Illinois politicians befriended by Rezko distanced themselves from him.

Posted by: Luther on December 19, 2007 at 11:36 PM | PERMALINK

One way to think about the problem with universal health care in the US is that it truly is a case in which "win-win" is not possible.

The insurance companies in America are the enemy of the common good when it comes to health care reform. It is the insurance industry, more than any other entity, which is most responsible for the extraordinary inefficiency of the health care system in the US. Replace them with, say, a single payer system, and suddenly the cost of health care goes down dramatically.

That is what makes taking their "concerns" with great seriousness a pretty unforgivable offense for someone who styles himself as a progressive. Satisfying their concerns comes at the direct cost of the public good.

So when I hear how willing Obama is to take their concerns -- as well as those of Republicans -- into account when putting together legislation, I know the guy is nothing but an impediment when it comes to implementing progressive policy.

Posted by: frankly0 on December 19, 2007 at 11:43 PM | PERMALINK

"Why is Krugman, more than most pundits, so often "misunderstood" by intelligent people?"

He talks about things that "intelligent" people are so often afraid to understand.

Posted by: Ross Best on December 19, 2007 at 11:43 PM | PERMALINK

Well I'm feeling better now. I was getting that little chill on the nape of my neck. The chill I get when a commissar gets too near.

I know, I know, Krugman doesn't have a commissar loving bone in his body. He hates them as much as I do. He leads a band of stout, good hearted men. He's a democratic liberal of the best sort. Many of his followers here seem to be frothing at the mouth, but it's just high spirits.

The chill's over now. I've learned that the poster with the cruel moniker: "redterror" thinks:

the answer is, "No, we can't all just get along!" when the other side is Corporate America: Headquarters in New York, hindquarters spread all over this land. Edwards has whipped their asses before and he can and will do it again.

I'm feeling OK. The whole reason we spun up the "plaintiff's bar" and created the "personal injury" jackpot game was to let some steam out of the system. It's worked like a charm. Some incredible percentage of the disadvantaged class have a "case" working. But the really sweet part is that it took the energies of many dangerous rabble rousers away from the streets and into the courthouses. As distasteful as it is that Lerach and Coale and all the rest have gotten so rich, it sure has taken the edge off of their social revolutionary motivations. They'd have to mobilize their own servants to cut their own throats. Michael Ratner is a possible leader of the revolution, but it sure nice to have Bruce as a brother if you ever need a spare million or five.

We're gonna be OK. Redterror will settle for Edwards "whipping their asses". I think that we can live with that. American politics is wonderful. I don't mind that it's contentious and vituperative. It's got to have some vigor to work as a substitute for slaughter.

Well, that bit of angst is gone. Now I just feel some gentle regrets. It is too bad that Glenn Greenwald and Howie Klein count as "intellectuals" for you folks. You must not get to the library much. It's too bad that ThinkProgress and MediaMatters think that a Stalinist rhetorical style is anything other than a very bad nightmare. I'm sure that "redterror" is just a youngster who doesn't know better. John Podesta and Eli Pariser and George Soros and David Brock I do not forgive.

Kevin, it's great that you're a partisan. Just remember that the hard lefties are never your friends and remember this: politics-wise you may be closer to MediaMatters, but decency-wise you're closer to The Cato Institute. The former gets its style from Koba the Dread and the latter from James Madison and Alexander Hamilton. If you think of yourself as traveling with Thomas Jefferson: he was 99.999% of the way over to the side of Madison and Hamilton when put on the scale with Koba.

Posted by: foucaultfan on December 19, 2007 at 11:57 PM | PERMALINK


Of course it's rhetoric. Obama came out of Chicago politics.

Posted by: dem on December 20, 2007 at 12:02 AM | PERMALINK

Part of Obama's possible upside is that we don't know what he can or might be able to do, and that may give him flexibility that Clinton and Edwards are unlikely to have.

The set story line is that Clinton and Edwards are ready to be as confrontational as the Republicans. But instead of giving them an advantage, that actually yields just the opposite. It assumes they are as negative as the Republicans (or the insurance companies, etc.), so the two sides begin in a position where neither side has an advantage over the other. That makes a progressive triumph harder.

On the other hand, if Obama is cagey he *might* be able to turn the opposition's intransigence to his advantage. He extends his hand (or seems to do so), they spurn it with invective, and then with more sorrow than anger, he goes into opposition to them. That would seem to give Obama an advantage in the court of public opinion to me.

Is he savvy and tactical enough to carry this out? No idea. But it *is* true that he would go into the battle appearing to the public as more conciliatory than either Clinton or Edwards so he *could* use a tactic like this whereas the other two probably couldn't.

Posted by: santamonicamr on December 20, 2007 at 12:03 AM | PERMALINK

I love Krugman both he's both itching for a fight and predicting it. And he's doing WAY too much projecting. In his reading, Clinton has been hit by the right before, so she's good to go and know what's to expect. Edwards' adoption of Gore's "people vs. the powerful" rhetoric as well as being on the end of a losing presidential campaign have him ready to do battle with the dark forces of the right.

But Obama? The guy who who was a community organizer in the rough and tumble political landscape in Chicago...man, that guy knows nothing about how to fight back against entrenched interests or stand up for what he believes in.

Give me a break.

Posted by: Mike P on December 20, 2007 at 12:06 AM | PERMALINK

urban legend: Yes, let's find the candidate who will man the barricades and sing feel-good revolutionary songs.

Much better to start a negotiation by offering your bottom line compromise.

If you don't start out swinging, you'll have nothing left to compromise on. Roll over and declare defeat! It's the Democratic way (otherwise some right wing pundit might disagree with me or even say something unkind!).

Used to be that in order to be part of the Radical Left you had to join the Weatherman or something. It's so much easier now - all you have to do is defend the current Social Security system (the best financially managed part of the government).

Posted by: alex on December 20, 2007 at 12:08 AM | PERMALINK

C'mon. Let's face it. Krugman has a soapbox. But if you have ever seen him in action -- ever seen his whole schtick -- you'd have to conclude he's basically a smart self-important academic blowhard. I'm with Alter on this.
Posted by: Obama/Webb 08 on December 19, 2007 at 10:51 PM

I saw him do a video lecture for the first time yesterday about the real estate bubble linked at Calculated Risk and it was first-rate. There wasn't one thing that he said that didn't make sense or that I didn't agree with him about. Maybe it's his delivery that you don't like. He came across to me somewhat like Richard Dreyfuss in "Jaws" telling everybody at the town meeting about the danger of The Shark.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on December 20, 2007 at 12:10 AM | PERMALINK

But Obama? The guy who who was a community organizer in the rough and tumble political landscape in Chicago...man, that guy knows nothing about how to fight back against entrenched interests or stand up for what he believes in.

Yep. And he taught law classes on substantive due process & the 14th Amendment; racism and the law, Con Law III.


Posted by: dem on December 20, 2007 at 12:11 AM | PERMALINK

I can recall a couple of American populists who also thought they could work with the opposition. Nobody called them "starry-eyed", as I recall, and they had extremely strong followings among the American people. Unfortunately, both were assassinated before they had a chance to prove their way could work.

Bill Clinton managed to get a fair bit of work done in spite of a Republican Congress that foamed at the mouth with hatred for him. It can be done. Is Obama as savvy as Slick Willie? That's not for me to say.

I like Paul Krugman, and since I always found his scathing critiques of George W. Bush's sandbox economics deeply satisfying, I must accept that he perhaps doesn't like Obama. I do, and I don't think Hillary Clinton would make a very good president. In fact, I suspect she might govern very much like a Republican, although she couldn't get drunk enough to make such a stupid job of it as Bush. I like Edwards, too, but I don't think he has a hope of getting the nomination. I think it's Clinton or Obama, and of the two, I prefer Obama.

Nobody really knows a thing about what kind of leader he'd make. Maybe this time we'll get to find out.

Posted by: Mark on December 20, 2007 at 12:17 AM | PERMALINK

To quote: Krugman
...The point is that if national health reform is going to happen, it will be as the result of a no-holds-barred fight of an entirely different order from what Obama saw in Illinois. The president’s role will have to be far more confrontational, involve far more twisting of arms and rallying of the public against the special interests, than Obama’s role as a state legislator in the Illinois case. And it will take place against a backdrop of fierce attacks not just from the industry but from Republicans who fear, rightly, that any kind of reform will move the country in a more liberal direction.

It takes a good deal of arm twisting and toughness as LBJ and the recent passage of the Medicare Prescription Drug program show. Many forget the battle of the 1993 Clinton health care proposal
...running through the administration’s argument for health care reform was the concept of “shared responsibility” between employers and employees--that no one was getting a “free ride.” Clinton’s speeches on the subject stressed the importance of bipartisanship and compromise.
By the time the administration’s proposed “Health Security Act" reached Congress on November 20, 1993, it was a watered-down proposal centered on private health maintenance organizations (HMOs)--based in part on input from the Health Insurance Association of America (HIAA).
The HIAA would later run its infamous "Harry and Louise" TV ads decrying the Clinton plan as “big government.” “This plan forces us to buy our insurance through new mandatory government health alliances,” complained Louise. “Run by tens of thousands of bureaucrats,” said Harry. “Having choices we don’t like is no choice at all,” replied Louise. “They choose, we lose,” they said.
Ultimately, insurance companies, large and small, decided that the series of concessions made by the Clintons in formulating their plan weren’t enough.
During 1993 and 1994, 660 lobbyist groups spent more than $100 million to stop health care reform. According to a report from the Center for Public Integrity, organizations with health care interests funneled $25 million to members of Congress. About a third of that went to members sitting on one of five committees overseeing health care. It was money well spent....

It will not be any easier this time either.

....The whole reason .... created the "personal injury" jackpot game was to let some steam out of the system..... foucaultfan at 11:57 PM

You're a bit behind times. Many companies demand binding arbitration first and they select the arbiters — and guess what, those that find for plaintiffs don't get selected again.
....On the other hand, 71 percent of all HMO insurance plans ask new enrollees to sign arbitration agreements. However, in most cases, these agreements only cover disputes between the plan and enrollees over contracts, including disputes over benefits...
Well, D'uh.

Posted by: Mike on December 20, 2007 at 12:17 AM | PERMALINK

Thank you.

Posted by: bob on December 20, 2007 at 12:42 AM | PERMALINK

One negotiating style is to use a tone of voice which says you are willing to listen to the other side, and compromise if their case makes sense. Then when it is shown to be self-serving bunk, hold your ground. The public should be more likely to listen to your case if you appear reasonable at first. Perhaps this approach will work for Obama. Givimg in for the sake of appearances won't.

Posted by: bigTom on December 20, 2007 at 12:42 AM | PERMALINK

Mr. Drum,

I wish you would use "may" instead of "might."

Posted by: bob on December 20, 2007 at 12:47 AM | PERMALINK

"As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I firmly believe that the issue of Iraq is not about politics. It’s about national security. We know that for at least 20 years, Saddam Hussein has obsessively sought weapons of mass destruction through every means available. We know that he has chemical and biological weapons today. He has used them in the past, and he is doing everything he can to build more. Each day he inches closer to his longtime goal of nuclear capability — a capability that could be less than a year away."
...

"The path of confronting Saddam is full of hazards. But the path of inaction is far more dangerous. This week, a week where we remember the sacrifice of thousands of innocent Americans made on 9-11, the choice could not be starker. Had we known that such attacks were imminent, we surely would have used every means at our disposal to prevent them and take out the plotters. We cannot wait for such a terrible event — or, if weapons of mass destruction are used, one far worse — to address the clear and present danger posed by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq."

Senator John Edwards (Democrat, North Carolina)
US Senate floor statement: Iraqi Dictator Must Go”
September 12, 2002

Quite the fighting, progressive hero when it really mattered.

Posted by: brucds on December 20, 2007 at 12:48 AM | PERMALINK

Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.

I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.
...
The consequences of war are dire, the sacrifices immeasurable. We may have occasion in our lifetime to once again rise up in defense of our freedom, and pay the wages of war. But we ought not – we will not – travel down that hellish path blindly. Nor should we allow those who would march off and pay the ultimate sacrifice, who would prove the full measure of devotion with their blood, to make such an awful sacrifice in vain.

Barack Obama, October 2002

Nuff said...

Posted by: brucds on December 20, 2007 at 12:57 AM | PERMALINK

I see very little mention of the fact that the Democratic position on health care is already the compromise position! Ask anyone with an understanding of health care economics and you'll be told that single-payer is the way to go in this country. It would result in generally cheaper health care than anything the Democrats are proposing, without any reduction in quality. A private/public competition, as Edwards envisions, or channeling the program entirely through the private sector, as Clinton proposes, results in huge, highly cost inefficient duplications of bureaucracies, but it allows people to maintain their current policies, a political necessity.

Problem is, the basic plans as outlined as Clinton and Edwards are the minimum necessary in order to actually deliver any sort of nationalized insurance. Any program, to be effective needs 1) mandatory community ratings; 2) subsidies for those who can't afford insurance, and 3) mandates to purchase and carry insurance.

Without 1), insurance would be unaffordable to people with bad health histories and preexisting conditions; without 2) insurance would be unaffordable to much of the middle and lower class who don't qualify for Medicaid, and without 3) the program would collapse in a death spiral of increasing premiums as healthy people opt out of insurance, driving up premiums for everyone else, driving out slightly less healthy people and poor people as subsidies fail to match increased costs, driving up premiums again, until we're left with most of the same coverage problems we're trying to solve today.

This is not controversial; this is consensus. A program without any one of these elements can not work. It might improve insurance coverage, but it can't come anywhere near the goal of universal coverage. That's just the straightforward economic, objective truth.

Obama, in his willingness to speak the language of compromise, has already indicated a willingness to compromise away a critical element without which any universal private health insurance coverage scheme is destined to fail: mandates to purchase. Obama has proposed a compromise that we know with a reasonable degree of certainty can't work!

That's what Krugman objects to from Obama. It's not Obama's stated willingness to compromise that's a problem; it's Obama's willingness to start negotiations by compromising away critical, absolutely, indisputably necessary aspects of a universal health insurance coverage scheme. Krugman's objection is that Obama has said that he's willing to concede defeat on universal coverage, not that Obama's willing to negotiate in good faith.

Posted by: r Johnston on December 20, 2007 at 1:58 AM | PERMALINK

Krugman doesn't seem to have a clue where Obama's coming from. He needs to read Moral Politics and other writings of George Lakoff, and maybe he'd understand.

With voters, and public opinion on his side, Obama will move mountains.

This correlates with that other cliche about catching more flies with honey.

Posted by: KathyF on December 20, 2007 at 2:11 AM | PERMALINK

Krugman doesn't seem to have a clue where Obama's coming from.

Krugman knows exactly where Obama's coming from; Obama's coming from a position of conceding defeat before negotiations even begin. Obama's willing to start "negotiating" by proposing a plan to possibly increase health insurance coverage--possibly not, because companies will respond to any government program by reducing health benefits to employees, possibly counteracting any increase in coverage Obama's proposed program might otherwise allow for--while conceding on the concept of universal coverage from the very start.

Krugman, a progressive, wants to see universal coverage implemented. Obama has, by virtue of his proposal that rejects mandates to purchase insurance--see my post just above--said he has no interest at all in achieving universal coverage. Krugman knows exactly what Obama's doing: promising to sell out the cause of universal coverage. Krugman's problem is that Obama's negotiating position can not work to achieve the substantive goals Krugman wants the next President to pursue.

Posted by: R Johnston on December 20, 2007 at 2:32 AM | PERMALINK

Krugman is pretty much of a sacred cow in the left blogosphere.

It is foolish to attack him rather than try for some common ground.

I can only think of one target that an attack on would generate a worse reaction. If any Democratic candidate tried to smear Dibgy then all holy hell would descend.

Posted by: MonkeyBoy on December 20, 2007 at 3:02 AM | PERMALINK

"Obama has, by virtue of his proposal that rejects mandates to purchase insurance--see my post just above--said he has no interest at all in achieving universal coverage."

People who don't know what the hell they're talking about would be better advised to not open their mouths and look like idiots.

(I'm beginning to think that includes Krugman...)

"Krugman is pretty much of a sacred cow in the left blogosphere."

And the left blogosphere, insofar as they buy into Krugman's foolishness about Obama being the least "attuned" to progressive thought, are looking like the kind of folks who worship sacred cows, i.e. idiots.

Posted by: brucds on December 20, 2007 at 3:21 AM | PERMALINK

Great thread. Best I've read on this. Two killer punches:

1) That devastating quote of Obama by FranklyO at 11:04 pm.

2) The devastating reframing of jusr why Krugman thinks Obama's plan is DOA by RJohnston at 1:58 am.

Powerful stuff, guys. Obvious why the Obama guys here are so very waspish.

Posted by: Fast Pete on December 20, 2007 at 4:27 AM | PERMALINK

Fast Pete:

Except that "that devastating quote of Obama" is also precisely what you'd expect him (a good politician with a reputation for negotiation) to say to insurance companies right after he's taken their lunch money. I don't know the exact situation -- I have to read up on it.

But is the general conclusion here that Obama needs a Dixie Chicks moment ("Not Ready to Make Nice")?

That may be one reason for HRC's appeal: despite (what appears to be) substantive lack of opposition to the Republican agenda, people know that she's been way too bruised by the system to think that she can deal with some of these people without a (metaphorical) kick in the balls.


Posted by: ask2 on December 20, 2007 at 5:34 AM | PERMALINK

Frankly has half a point -- and most likely, the wrong half: "nothing is better than something when something is badly compromised. If you have nothing, then the need can be addressed another day, and perhaps with another politician..."

And how's that been working out for us over the last decade or so on, say: Iraqimmigrationhealthcaretaxesspendingortheenvironment?

The late Henry Hyde, of all people, nailed it in 1992. As a senior Republican, he was asked to give a speech to incoming Republican freshman, the last Congress they were in their long minority. (The speech set up the political attitude that become the Contract with America, so it's particularly significant.)

He said: what's the issue on which you guys are prepared to LOSE?

Look, he explained, we make real decisions here. Because these are real choices, reasonable people can disagree. Your EMPLOYERS, the voters, might want you to vote one way but your principles and your judgment may require you to vote another. So go home tonight, and write down on a piece of paper the issue on which you know you are prepared to have an open disagreement with the people you work for, lose your job over it, and just walk away.

He said: don't cheat, either. No fair writing down "a strong national defense' if you're from a district with an Air Force base and a Navy shipyard.

You might be pro-life from a pro-choice district. You might favor same sex unions in a district that's against gay rights. You might favor gun controls in a district where every other voter belongs to the NRA.

The point is, he told 'em, if you CAN'T or WON'T write down the issue on which you know you are willing to lose, if you don't even know what it is, sooner or later, you will be no good here. You will talk about the choices you make here in squishy terms, and eventually, you will help make the choices soft on the edges, too. That's not what you're here for.

Personally, I think Clinton should make that speech now. But I'd like to know what the issues are that progressives really WOULD be willing to lose over, cuz that's not only the way to win, it's the way to make winning worth the effort.

But progressives still face their essential problem that it isn't our agenda, it's our attitude, that the public has trouble with. On issue after issue, Frankly's idea that nothing is better than something compromised, produces something BAD, instead.

Then we blame the public (Republicans, Swiftboaters, evil corporations, etc.) for what sensible people would recognize as OUR failures. Look at the mess we got left with in Congress -- it's too easy to say it's cuz Pelosi and Reid aren't vertebrates: when it counts, the progressive base is amorphous.

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 20, 2007 at 8:24 AM | PERMALINK

Why should we assume the Republican posture towards President Obama will be any different than that exhibited towards President Bill Clinton and the current Democratic Congress? They will be sore losers, and will pursue obstructionism to the maximum destructiveness they can get away with.

Posted by: bob h on December 20, 2007 at 8:33 AM | PERMALINK

Good points Ask2. Seems all senators ask for trouble when they run, it's such a tough place to look good from.

Front page of today's NY Times? Story that Obama sidestepped nearly 130 tough votes in Springfield. Link here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/20/us/politics/20obama.html

Seems to me two perceptions are missing in this and other threads:

One, just how VERRRY seriously Krugman takes the resolving of the health care mess.

Proof: not just two or three or five NYTimes columns, and not just recently, but columns up in the several dozens now, over his whole time with the NYT.

A book in themselves, in fact.

Two, he has pursued THREE great angles: (1) pain of a truly vast low-income group, with shortened lives, more diabetes, etc; (2) utterly corrupting influence of the big HMOs and pharmas; (3)a real macro-economic hit: a slide in competitivess with costs up, costs loaded on GM etc (he's sympathetic to GM), and a workforce that's ailing.

And he writes on them at least as much as an economist as a liberal.

ANY pussyfooter is going to light his fuse. It happened to be Obama; could have been any of them.

Posted by: Fast Pete on December 20, 2007 at 8:39 AM | PERMALINK

I think elites like Alter are missing a major problem with Obama. He just cannot relate to average people who have struggled or face the prospect of struggle against powerful interests and he cannot talk their language in simple and direct terms. His language may appeal to elites who are impressed with lofty high flung theoretics but a lot of people end up thinking "huh? what did he say?" after listening to Obama's lectures. Obama toggles back and forth between high flown rhetoric and fake street jive, none of it real or persuasive enough to overcome the clever market appeal that will be launched by the insurance industry. Edwards' simple, direct and emotional rhetoric is what is needed. In addition to Obama's lack of a track record in opposing the industry (thanks Frankly0) and lack of judgment regarding lobbyists like Rezko, Obama's ability to push through change clearly a lot of hype.

Posted by: Chrissy on December 20, 2007 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

Chrissy, I bet Edwards and Clinton have a great track record we can refer to. Obama's fake street jive? Wtf r u talking about?

Posted by: GOD on December 20, 2007 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

Oh my! All this anti-corporate rhetoric? What happened to the supposedly smart progressives who were part of the "reality based community?" Seeing bogeymen inside every corporation is not unlike seeing jihadists in every mosque. If our next president and supporting cast turn out to be the polar opposite of GWBush and Co., then our republic really is in decline. You fight fire with fire only if your strategy is to let everything burn itself out. But if you're trying to save a house with a roof on fire, you use water.

Krugman and Kevin Drum appear to like fire because it sells newspapers and draws page views. That's the only way I can rationalize what they've been saying about Obama recently. Krugman is a loud voice generally shouting in a good (progressive) direction. He may know a lot about particular policy details and pet economic topics, but he has demonstrated absolutely nothing about what it takes to actually govern a group of people, let alone a country.

And, even if Krugman is not advocating confrontation but expressing concern that Obama is not prepared for confrontation, since when does one have to be belligerent to be prepared for confrontation? In fact, it's exactly the opposite: the tough people in any real world setting are usually the quiet, deliberate ones. Anyone with life experience knows that. Blow-hards always cave in the end.

Posted by: huh? on December 20, 2007 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

GOD, I'm referring to Obama's "don't tell me I'm not ...." his "down with the brothers", his "y'all know" jive etc. Makes me wince. He is about as authentic as a $3 bill. And don't even go there with me, I recognize fake street when I hear it.

Posted by: Chrissy on December 20, 2007 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps the best thing that could come out of this is that Obama thinks about Krugman's points and starts to avoid talking about the Social Security "problem" and makes it clear that he will work tirelessly toward UNIVERSAL health care (i.e., mandated). If he did that, I predict that Krugman would applaud him. Then we could get back to arguing about foreign policy, which still worries me, and which I think Krugman underestimates.

Posted by: Lee Hartmann on December 20, 2007 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

Foucaultfan, you soil the memory and accomplishments of Hamilton, Madison, and Jefferson by associating them with the right-wing extremist Cato Institute. The policies they espouse, although carefully camoflauged, are exactly the policies that those brave men took up arms against.

Posted by: CN on December 20, 2007 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

I believe this has already been quoted by others in this context, but not here:

"They are unanimous in their hate for me--and I welcome their hatred."

-- Franklin Roosevelt's address announcing the Second New Deal, October 31, 1936

Roosevelt-hatred surpassed even Clinton-hatred. He is hated to this day by people who still disdain his legacy even as they, both literally and figuratively, profit from it.

Posted by: larry birnbaum on December 20, 2007 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

bob h makes an observation Barbieri understood: "sore losers... will pursue obstructionism to the maximum destructiveness they can get away with."

This is an ADVANTAGE -- if we can exploit it.

But it requires a certain humility (on which, of course, I am an expert): Consider health care in 1993-94.

While the Clinton administration worked out the elaborate Ira Magaziner plan, most Republicans and virtually all Democrats basically said "I can support that, if..." The Clinton administration didn't realize until WAY too late that NONE of that was actual support. "Support, if" means "NO, unless". And those were the guys on OUR side.

Contrast Phil Gramm on the other side, the first Republican to say, early on, there is NO way we should pass this under any circumstances.

It's hard to look at the result and think huh is right, that 'blowhards always cave in the end.'

I don't think the Clinton plan was written by blowhards, I think much of the opponents WERE blowhards: and yet it failed.

What's the lesson?

Any Democratic administration (especially with a Democratic Congress) oughta have somebody high up in the White House whose job is to coopt conservative interest groups, to give them SOMETHING, anything, so that the diehards left in the Republican party benefit WITHIN the party by being as extreme as possible: and lose.

The thing to AVOID is what happened to the Clintons that first year -- right out of Inauguration we had a divisive issue imposed on us, and then compromised away (contrast gays in the military with Reagan's performance on the PATCO strike), then progressives gave Phil Gramm, of all people, a victory on an issue of principle.

But that wasn't because the Clintons weren't prepared to fight for health care, f'r instance, nor their core issues: the economic package didn't get a single GOP vote, and it founded a decade of prosperity and the first balanced budgets in forever.

BUT -- we didn't win, and then give the other guys something, did we?

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 20, 2007 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

As far as I have seen, the only candidate who has actively touted her ability to cross the aisle, seek compromise, and work with the other side has been Ms. Hillary Clinton.

In fact, Kevin wrote a post the other day about that being one of her strengths. Now he writes a post essentially agreeing with Krugman that Obama is too wimpy to take on the Repugs, implying that Hillary is better. Nothing like consistency, huh?

Posted by: SJH on December 20, 2007 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

So, essentially, this is a disagreement over Obama's style, not substance. In Krugman's opinion, Obama is just too, too, too, too "charming" "naive" "centrist" and "rosy-eyed" to accomplish health care reform. However, Edwards and Clinton will successfully duke-it-out with powerful interests because they have more "strength" and "experience". Hmmm....this theme sounds familar....where have I heard it?

Posted by: JerseyMissouri on December 20, 2007 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

*

Posted by: mhr on December 20, 2007 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

Well, it appears that all the anti-Obamacists are yet again out in full force spewing their hatred in this forum instead of spending their time calling IA and NH voters for their preferred candidate, and I would like to encourage you folks to continue that activity.

Other than that, I'd like to point out that Bob Kerrey has sent a letter of apology to Obama, and reiterated his belief that Obama is one of the "two or three most talented people [he has] ever met in politics".

The rest of you Republicans in Dem clothing attacking Obama could learn something from Kerrey.

Posted by: Disputo on December 20, 2007 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

Lee Hartman: "Perhaps the best thing that could come out of this is that Obama thinks about Krugman's points and starts to ..."

Do opposition research on the veteran economist / writer?

Barack Obama's judicious and clever use of his superior rhetorical skills has both enabled him to become a blank political canvas upon which liberals are projecting their earnest hopes and fondest dreams, and served to obscure what otherwise might be reasonably interpreted as his clear lack of any bona fide political accomplishment that he can properly call his own whilst holding public office.

Obama's supporters respond by stating that he "successfully sponsored or co-sponsored" this or that piece of legislation, such as the 2004 Illinois Health Care Justice Act (which authorized a study of ways to implement a universal health care system statewide) during his eight years in the state legislature.

Yet in legislative termonology, sponsoring a bill means that you are endorsing or signing off on that legislation; you are not the author, which is usually the person who introduces the measure. While Obama may have been an effective public advocate for several proposals, it was clearly someone else's original idea.

For example, Obama is given credit for "overhauling Illinois' troubled capital punishment system," in fact the impetus and initiative for that reform clearly came from that state's now-incarcerated former governor, George Ryan.

While Obama effectively managed to insert himself into crucial political debates over such issues as job and housing discrimination against gays and lesbians, and the earned income tax credit for the poor, he never so much as chaired a committee, let alone authored and introduced a notable piece of legislation on his own that eventually became law in his state.

For my money, this renders him the exact sort of whimsical electoral self-indulgence that neither the Democratic Party nor our country can afford at this critical juncture in our history. In another less-pressing time or era, when he has more experience and seasoning, perhaps, but not now.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on December 20, 2007 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

Btw, I have to award bonus points to the HRC supporter above who berated Obama for offering a HRC-style health plan.

Posted by: Disputo on December 20, 2007 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK
Perhaps the best thing that could come out of this is that Obama thinks about Krugman's points and starts to avoid talking about the Social Security "problem" and makes it clear that he will work tirelessly toward UNIVERSAL health care (i.e., mandated). If he did that, I predict that Krugman would applaud him. Then we could get back to arguing about foreign policy, which still worries me, and which I think Krugman underestimates.

Perhaps, but perhaps not. If Obama's rhetoric on health care accurately reflects how he believes compromise to work, what do you think is going to happen when he starts compromising on foreign policy? It's nothing good, and it's something I certainly envision as being worse than anything Clinton has to offer on foreign policy.

It's no longer enough for Obama simply to reformulate his Social Security and universal health insurance rhetoric and plans. He has to make clear that he understands what it means to negotiate in good faith when you're starting from a moderate position and negotiating with extremists; it means taking a very hard line on substance and not letting the Republicans push the
Overton window off the right edge of the cliff.

Negotiating with the Republicans in a way that lets them push the Overton window rightwards, as Obama has proposed doing, is pretty much the biggest policy mistake any Democrat could make upon assuming the Presidency in 2009. It's a mistake that assures losses in all branches of policy, foreign and domestic. It's not a mistake that moderates, progressives, liberals, or anyone else left of the Republican mainstream can afford to overlook.

Posted by: R Johnston on December 20, 2007 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

While Obama may have been an effective public advocate for several proposals, it was clearly someone else's original idea.

I'd let something this stupid pass -- the insinuation that the "authors" of lege are doing something other than stealing and advocating the original ideas of others (for which he chides Obama) -- if it weren't for the fact that Donald is an experience paid political operative who knows better. That he is proffering this kind of disingenuous narrative suggests that he is on the payroll for one of Obama's rivals, and I think it is about time that he revealed this.

Posted by: Disputo on December 20, 2007 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

I'm probably repeating others, but Krugman's position isn't even really a "prediction," it's the current reality. The Republicans have filibustered legislation more times this term than anyone ever has in history. There's no sign they are about to compromise. If there's a Democratic president, they'll continue their all-out war on any moderate initiatives on the war, health care, global warming, and everything else.

Posted by: David in NY on December 20, 2007 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Seems like less than a real discussion: health insurance is a business, after all, and a significant part of the economy. Proposing to radically alter or abolish it, as a business, isn't exactly a matter of moving the discussion of what is or is not acceptable, the way you might in a seminar.

It's telling greater metropolitan Hartford, Connecticut to go to hell.

Isn't it?

That kind of thing has a certain political impact, yanno. There are players in the political debate who just might object to the idea of turning a major industry, and several large employers, into dust -- and they will have allies.

If you want to turn 'em into enemies: SAY SO. And name 'em. Don't be so squishy -- isn't that your message?

And it sucks as a negotiating tactic. That's not an abstraction, it's a fact.

Remember that a big chunk of the strategic error made by the Clinton health care plan WAS just proposing a plan -- very elaborate, carefully balanced and well-thought out. She told everybody when it was released that the plan was SO good, in fact, that messing with it was a mistake. It was the epitome of a progressive proposal: substantively smart and politically stoooooopid.

And yet -- most Republicans and virtually all Democrats were saying they "could support it, IF...", which of course means "NO! -- unless..."

The way she presented the plan as SO perfectly calibrated it couldn't be altered without being damaged pretty much guaranteed it would lose, that it would die the death of a thousand cuts. (Not to mention Phil Gramm's clearly superior "the hell with THIS" strategy.)

I'm all for beating the bad guys: but the idea that we're gonna propose ideas that most folks will reject in order to get around to the ones we want just misreads how it works -- not to mention the rather stark examples of how trying PRECISELY this dumbass strategy in the past, has failed.

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 20, 2007 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

He's right. I mean look at how much Bush has been denied because he uses bitter confrontation.

Typical hand wringing defeatest democratic intellectual. Bush accomplished all the bad policy he did because he fought, he didn't compromise, he didn't ask permission, he villified the oposition and he didn't back down.

The next democratic president needs to do exactly the same thing. You punch these MFers hard, and take no prisoners. You can't compromise with these right wingers.

Posted by: exhuming mccarthy on December 20, 2007 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

You're wrong.

He's yearning for it, because he wants change and that's the only way to effect it in his view. So best to do it now, and get it out of the way. That's a perfectly legitimate feeling however.

Personally I think Obama knows this very well and is showing himself as accommodating now to have maximum public support for when he turns on the companies because they are full of greedy short-sighted idiots.

Posted by: MNPundit on December 20, 2007 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

But bitter confrontation is what Krugman is predicting, not what he's yearning for. It's an important difference.

—Kevin Drum

Late to the party and sorry if this point has already been made. But there really is no effective difference here. Predicting bitter confrontation absolutely rules out the possibility that compromise can OR will be successful. It logically implies that a candidate calling for compromise is certain to be unsuccessful and, accordingly, strongly implies that he/she is, in fact, naive.

Not saying that Krugman is necessarily right; just saying that his prediction of bitter confrontation is tantamount to a call for bitter confrontation, as a matter of logic.

Posted by: Econobuzz on December 20, 2007 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

Chrissy - "fake street jive"

Now that's as fine an example of "fake street jive" as I've come across.

Ironically, the most embarrassing moment of HRC's campaign - despite her current meltdown - was that ridiculous speech she gave in Selma where she tried to sound "black." Pathetic. Also pathetic for someone who supported Goldwater in 1964 to pretend that they were somehow moved by the civil rights movement. More than a year after the March on Washington, our young liberal idealist was working to elect the guy who opposed the civil rights bill.

I guess those tens of thousands of folks in South Carolina can't tell "fake street jive" when they hear it, but Chrissy can.

I'll venture that much of the Obama-dissing is punk white liberals who fear having a black man as the Democratic standard bearer but are afraid to come out in the open and state that as their primary concern. Certainly the hype by Krugman that Obama isn't "progressive" is so far-fetched that one suspects an ulterior motive.

Posted by: brucds on December 20, 2007 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

If Obama's rhetoric on health care accurately reflects how he believes compromise to work, what do you think is going to happen when he starts compromising on foreign policy?

Indeed. He might do something stupid, like voting for AUMF -- or Kyl-Lieberman.

This strikes me as one of the more ridiculous threads. Folks can reasonably argue that Obama isn't progressive enough for their tastes. There are several ways you could demonstrate this notion, and healthcare is as good a place to begin as any. But to go from that to arguing that Edwards -- a multimillion dollar trial lawyer with no progressive legislation in his record -- or Clinton(!!!) is going to usher in Chapter Two of the New Deal is utter ridiculousness. To be sure, each of these candidates has considerable policy & electoral strength when weighed against any of the Republican challengers, and each of these Democrats has different advantages (to varying degrees) over his/her Democratic rivals, but very notion that progressives have a seat at the table with any of the three major Democratic candidates -- or, frankly, with the contemporary Democratic Party -- is simply naïve.

Posted by: junebug on December 20, 2007 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Bug sez the "very notion that progressives have a seat at the table with any of the three major Democratic candidates -- or, frankly, with the contemporary Democratic Party -- is simply naïve."

What's 'progressive' mean, then? Serious question.

We're not exactly political pals 'round here, but you may have nailed it: so drive it home.
"

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 20, 2007 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

It's going to be really nice when the Democratic nominee is selected and those shortsighted sulkers who would rather stay home than vote for said nominee have finished flouncing out of here.

I expect it to be something like the sweet, pure peace of Boxing Day, after the screaming toddlers, bickering siblings and obnoxiously drunk uncles have finally gotten the hell out.

Posted by: shortstop on December 20, 2007 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

I'll venture that much of the Obama-dissing is punk white liberals who fear having a black man as the Democratic standard bearer but are afraid to come out in the open and state that as their primary concern. Certainly the hype by Krugman that Obama isn't "progressive" is so far-fetched that one suspects an ulterior motive.

I'm too much of a punk white liberal myself to explore this further myself, but what brucds is saying here sounds about right.


Posted by: Chino Blanco on December 20, 2007 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

I have worried about whether Obama is enough of a fighter for a long time - long before the recent spat with Krugman. We know what happens to people who try to compromise with the current batch of Republicans. We see it in Congress every week. With a Dem President, there is a good chance things will get much better in Congress - no veto threat for starters - but if said President is an accomodator, we will continue to get rolled. Ugh.

Posted by: EmmaAnne on December 20, 2007 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

Disputo: "I'd let something this stupid pass -- the insinuation that the "authors" of lege are doing something other than stealing and advocating the original ideas of others (for which he chides Obama) -- if it weren't for the fact that Donald is an experience paid political operative who knows better. That he is proffering this kind of disingenuous narrative suggests that he is on the payroll for one of Obama's rivals, and I think it is about time that he revealed this."

I'm not on anyone's payroll, having quit the Hawaii legislature in December 2002 and then retired in general from active participation in the political game after the '04 election.

Further, I've never been on a campaign payroll, although I did serve pro bono for 23 months (Jan. '03 - DJune '04) as the Hawaii Democratic Party's acting executive director, because they had no funds for paid staff.

Currently, I'm a bartender and assistant manager at a popular sports bar / restaurant in downtown Honolulu, and a part-time grant writer for non-profit organizations here in the islands.

Rather, I speak from 20 years' experience as a grassroots organizer for environmental and land use issues, and from having worked for 15 years in the Hawaii State Legislature, including 7 years for House leadership as a senior legislative analyst (I wrote the legislation for the Speaker's House majority package) and communications specialist (I also wrote a lot of his speeches) -- which is something you obvviously have not done. Like Obama, you are what people in the islands describe as "all show, no go."

Therefore, we might just as well ask the same thing of you: Whose payroll are YOU on, that you would feel so compelled to make shrill and patently false allegations online about someone who you've never met, in an effort to discredit his studied observation about your favored candidate?

I'll leave you all with one final observation: For a candidate who ostensibly seeks to bring people together, Sen. Obama is sure attracting a lot of politically strident assholes, whose take-no-prisoners approach toward their fellow Democrats can only serve to undermine whatever goodwill their candidate has built up over the last year or so.

They act as though Democrats have nowhere else to go if Obama becomes the nominee. Well, I can assure these short-sighted clowns that most Democrats can and do think for themselves, and a good number of them can just as easily choose to go nowhere at all, opting instead to stay at home for the duration.

Aloha.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on December 20, 2007 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

Correction: I served pro bono for 18 months (Jan. '03 - June '04) as the Hawaii Democratic Party's acting executive director, and for five months afterward as a paid communications specialist on contract (I wrote the party's online newsletter and designed the website), for a total of 23 months. I apologize for the misinformation.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on December 20, 2007 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

Donald,

Having been through some of the same experiences you have, well, I feel your pain.

Posted by: frankly0 on December 20, 2007 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

shortstop: "It's going to be really nice when the Democratic nominee is selected and those shortsighted sulkers who would rather stay home than vote for said nominee have finished flouncing out of here."

Amen to that.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on December 20, 2007 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

"It's going to be really nice when the Democratic nominee is selected and those shortsighted sulkers who would rather stay home than vote for said nominee have finished flouncing out of here."

Bah! Comment of the thread!

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on December 20, 2007 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

Donald from Hawaii: Amen to that.

Okay, thanks, but your "amen" would appear to be distinctly at odds with this: "They act as though Democrats have nowhere else to go if Obama becomes the nominee. Well, I can assure these short-sighted clowns that most Democrats can and do think for themselves, and a good number of them can just as easily choose to go nowhere at all, opting instead to stay at home for the duration."

My comment absolutely was not singling out certain Obama supporters as exclusive nominees for the shortsighting sulking label. I hope your amen wasn't, either.

Posted by: shortstop on December 20, 2007 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

What's 'progressive' mean, then?

You're going to get different answers from different people on this, but it starts with repealing Taft-Hartley, signing on to Kyoto, funding the EPA so that it can enforce the Clean Air & Clean Water Acts, working to pass the Clean Water Restoration Act, drafting & passing meaningful campaign finance reform legislation (seeing as federally funded elections will probably never happen), establishing CAFE standards that have a backbone, and drafting & passing lobbying reform legislation. Lots can be added to this list, but the point is that a) Democrats don't have the 60 votes they need in the Senate to get any of this stuff to a vote, and b) they're not very likely to act on this stuff even if they do have the 60 votes, because, in the cases of lobbying reform & labor and environmental issues, such action would run counter to business interests that fund those Democrats, and, in the case of campaign finance reform, any action would threaten their newfound hold on power.

This isn't some Nader-ish pox-on-both-their-houses rant. There's a very real difference between moderate (and even meager) progress and no progress at all -- or, in the case of the last six years, a complete undoing of so much progress that had been made previously. A single-payer system will be great when we finally get there, but it's shortsighted & petty to criticize plans like the Health Care Justice Act that, in the interim, reduce the numbers of uninsured and, thereby, not only improve lives, but save them as well.

Posted by: junebug on December 20, 2007 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

Obama has his head up his butt and I'm honestly sick of him. The guy gives great speeches and suddenly thinks he should be president.

Give me a break.

Posted by: Jimm on December 20, 2007 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

shortstop: "My comment absolutely was not singling out certain Obama supporters as exclusive nominees for the shortsighting sulking label. I hope your amen wasn't, either."

No, it wasn't. There's been a lot of it in all campaigns to go around, with more than enough left over. I plan to fully support whoever is the Democratic nominee, including Obama, though for our party caucuses in February I'm favoring John Edwards.

I thought about my prior comment before adding my "amen", but decided to say it anyway. Frankly, all the Democratic campaigns need to ratchet down their strident rhetoric toward each other.

Two things I learned in politics were to never take your fellow Democrats for granted, and that whenever differences do arise (as they inevitably will), it's always best to to publicly agree to disagree without being publicly disagreeable.

It’s enough to clearly define your differences with this or that candidate; there's no point in taking an additional step of demonizing the other primary candidates and their respective supporters.

When you do engage in that behavior, or condone it from your supporters, while you're running for public office, it will come back to haunt you more often than not -- if not immediately, then over the long run.

For example, I pointedly sat out the 2006 Hawaii gubernatorial race, simply because a decade earlier our Democratic nominee, former state Sen. Randall Iwase, proved more than willing to publicly malign island environmentalists (myself included) and shill on behalf of development interests. His behavior toward us had left such a bad taste in my mouth that I was neither able to forget nor willing to forgive. Therefore, while I was not willing to vote for incumbent GOP Gov. Linda Lingle, I opted to leave the ballot blank.

And I wasn't alone in my feelings. As a matter of fact, in the Democratic primary eight weeks earlier, the number of blank ballots outpolled Iwase's total number of votes, which clearly rendered his gubernatorial campaign a non-starter.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on December 20, 2007 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

brucds @ 12:40PM posted: "...who fear having a black man as the Democratic standard-bearer..."
Oh, please! That's right, if you oppose Sen. Obama it's just because you're a closet racist. If that's your attitude to someone who disagrees with St. Obama, then how are you going to handle the suicidal depression that sets in when/if he doesn't get the nomination?
Not that I'm really worried...
And where does this idea of "negotiations" come from anyway? If there is to be a truly national health system, the only negotiation will be on how fast it takes to implement it.
Krugman recognizes the fact that a NHS will decimate the health insurance industry's profits. He also recognizes that once "negotiations" begin a NHS is doomed. Therefore, the leader of the Democratic Party, if that person is to implement a NHS, will have to confront those opposing it. So far, Sen. Obama has shown no willingness to do so and that is why Krugman is alarmed at the senator's talk about "meeting around a table". Talk implies there is something to negotiate and in regards to a NHS there really isn't anything to negotiate.
Instituting a NHS will be the death-knell of the present health insurance industry and they know it. And because of that they will oppose with everything they can. There will be confrontation and whoever is the next president had better be able to handle it.

Posted by: Doug on December 20, 2007 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK
I think elites like Alter are missing a major problem with Obama. He just cannot relate to average people who have struggled or face the prospect of struggle against powerful interests and he cannot talk their language in simple and direct terms..

Crissy: Not sure about Alter, but my guess is that Obama does get this. At any rate, I think your statement applies to a lot of people, including many of my Republican friends. I work for a large corporation (50,000 employees), but I had better health coverage 20 years ago. Insurance companies are calling too many of the shots. The medical practitioners that my family uses (doctors, dentists, orthodontists, specialists) are scattered all over the place, as are the medical facilities. I’m constantly running all over the metro area to get myself and the kids to appointments. If I were able to choose my own doctors, it would be very simple. And the costs just keep going up. The insurance bureaucracy is pitiful. They cannot keep their charges straight. It’s like a part time job. But I know I’m more fortunate than millions of our citizens.

Fast Pete: Right. No way is Krugman going to miss a major candidate spouting his pet peeve, which is “Social Security faces a crisis”. Same thing for any health care program that Krugman considers less than universal. He will criticize it. So, Obama supporters shouldn’t over react. Krugman has long and strong views on these particular issues. Come November 2008, he will vote for the Democratic nominee.

Shortstop: Boxing Day? To me it will be like hitting the open highway on the last day of winter and the radio plays Beatles’ Here Comes the Sun.

Posted by: little ole jim on December 20, 2007 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

Seems like sort of a narrow list, there, bug. Don't ya think?

I mean -- a sixty year old labor law, environmental protection, gas mileage, and "reforms" for campaign financing and lobbying.

(Reform can mean lots of different things -- gotta watch for when you're trying to repeal human nature. An example -- I was hanging around a Senator's office the other day, shooting the breeze with a couple women's rights activists who were waiting like I was for the same guy, and we started talking about human trafficking, which was their issue. They had a specific legislative agenda, and admitted in a heartbeat that they were splitting hairs.I know a little, not a lot about it, and I told my one real story, about mail order brides: a murder in Seattle. She promptly noted that to her surprise the most effective thing ever done to protect mail order brides wasn't her laundry list, it was simply to require a criminal background check on sponsors: sometimes the SIMPLEST way is the best. )

There are a bunch of specific issues that I'd have thought would be part of any progressive agenda worth the label: Iraq, for instance.

But more importantly: where's the THEME? What makes your items a 'progressive agenda', and yet Pelosi's priority list for '08 is NOT? Or Clinton/Edwards/Obama/Dodd's campaign platform?

I mean: if you're serious that progressives in the Democratic Party aren't at home, what exactly does that mean? That they aren't interested in repealing a law enacted under TRUMAN?

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 20, 2007 at 7:18 PM | PERMALINK

Seems like a sort of narrow list... Don't ya think?

Only if you struggle reading & miss the "it starts with..." part.

I was hanging around a Senator's office the other day...

Right. I should've seen this coming. Seriously, pack up your hand lotion & box of Kleenex and go someplace where you're less of a nuisance.

Posted by: junebug on December 20, 2007 at 11:42 PM | PERMALINK

LOL -- this is what happens when you play nice.

Bug, you said "it starts with..." repealing a SIXTY YEAR OLD LAW, and then you talked about a series of frankly minor things.

That's more than a bit schizo. LBJ could live with Taft-Hartley, but YOU think repeal is how to jumpstart a progressive movement?

To do... what, exactly?

If you were serious about the, er, more ambitious part of your Notion, I'd have expected a genuinely radical agenda. I dunno as you realize what an abject piece of surrender you posted.

F'r example, a comparable conservative approach might say -- okay, first we enact a Constitutional amendment mandating a balanced budget every year (except in times of war declared in the Constitutionally-prescribed manner) AND another amendment that establishes abortion is murder, then we repeal the 16th amendment to abolish the Federal income tax, we go on to require term limits for all Federal elected offices just like for the Presidency, maybe without an amendment just with legally-enforceable pledges, our whole approach to Congress is 'cut their pay and send them home', we get rid of the Department of Education, the BATF and the IRS... and so on.

Most folks acknowledge that this agenda is nuts, but it IS ideologically consistent (proponents would note it is principled), AND it is genuinely radical: if somebody advocating this was to say "this is a true conservative platform but true conservatives have no place in the Republican party', it'd be pretty easy to see WHY.

It's also easy to see why somebody who buys into the first part, buys into each of the others.

I look at your "it starts with" -- and I dunno as I'm the one with the kleenex and the hand lotion. What's more important, I don't think you're making the scene with a magazine, either. If a list with "fully funded" in it was political pornography, it's Donny and Marie, fully clothed, playing checkers.

It's simply not BIG enough (snicker -- don't take THAT the wrong way) to warrant feeling like you're not at home in the Democratic Party.

Which begs the question: why do you feel that way, if not cuz you LIKE it? (Cuz I doubt Donny and Marie float your boat.)

Sure, repealing a 60 year old labor law would be a sufficient start to be so radical the Democrats won't have you -- like mandating a balanced budget every year.

But conservatives go on for a LAUNDRY LIST of other, equally radical ideas.... but you want CAFE standards? With (ahem) backbone?

For the lack of THAT, you feel rejected?

LOL -- it's useless, but I cited the Senate story for two reasons: First, cuz it's true, just happened the other day and I said it as it occurred to me.

Second, it makes a point -- if your GOALS are the important thing, lots of times you can get to 'em with simpler methods than the Sturm und Drang some folks crave INSTEAD of success.

Most folks recognize that the difficulties faced by organized labor, which has become so much less significant in the economy over the past half century, have much less to do with the laws regarding organizing than they do with changes in the way people work, as well as with immigration, viz., meatpacking moving from Chicago to the Great Plains, the way the janitors union was broken in LA.

Which is why I am curious that your list is so... shallow, while your resentment is so keen.

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 21, 2007 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

LOL -- oh, what the hell, I got this brand new bottle of... oops.

As a f'r instance of a contrast: some years ago, I was trying to persuade conservatives to support what IMNSHO would be a vital, genuinely radical reform -- expanding US representation. I've long argued that we should restore the principle on which the nation was ACTUALLY founded, namely that population compels representation.

For the first 180 years or so, we honored this principle in practice: as the population grew, we added US representatives in the House. We didn't keep pace with our growth, of course -- but without exception after every Census between 1790 and 1920, we added seats to the House independently of the addition of states.

After the 1920 Census, Congress finally figured out that adding Reps simply diluted their power, so they stopped. Since then, the population has tripled -- but there are exactly the same # of reps today as there were in 1920. (We've added two states and 4 Senators, too.)

I tried to get John Fund of the WSJ to buy into this once. He snapped no, he was against it: Congress is an inherently corrupt institution. What HE wants to see, is more 'direct' democracy -- like big budget, no limits on the TV ads referenda. (Clearly no chance for corruption THERE.)

Then I tried Ralph Nader (before he ran for President): HE was against it, also -- in fact, he told me he wished we had FEWER Representatives, maybe just one per state. Keep an eye on 'em better that way. I asked how We, the People would rule ourselves in that case, and he told me (I kid you not): street demonstrations and lawsuits.

Me, I sorta like this 'a republic, if you can keep it' thing. (But then, I suppose that's just so much kleenex, huh, 'Bug?)

LOL -- I just didn't want folks to think that a GENUINELY radical progressive agenda doesn't exist or ain't possible.

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 21, 2007 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

progressivism is not a platform; it's an attitude fueled by a particular set of ideals. It will vary around the margins, but I would think (hope) that being progressive in an American political sense means valuing human beings as much as financial capital, valuing work as much as wealth, valuing citizenship as much as liberty, and believing that the future as defined by human potential will always be better than the past. Now I'm reminded of the ideas explored in Robert Wright's "Nonzero." Progress and thus political progressivism is the belief, understanding and confidence that human beings and society can be better than we currently are. A whole long list of policy goals flow from that definition of progressivism. What doesn't flow from that definition is a particular brand of politics. So, an equally important question is how progressives should behave in our pursuit of our goals. The ends never justify the means and consideration dictates that the means are in the end as important as the ends. Progressives must walk the talk and also talk the walk.

Talk is not terribly illuminating in this primary election and this voter is looking at how the candidates walk.

Another take on progressivism is that we are focused on living as opposed to competing. The political application of that means we progressives worry as much about government and governing (as necessary institutions in complex societies) as we do about political victory. The problem I see (and hear in Obama's rhetoric) is that the political landscape has been defined to such an extent by political professionals (consultants, media, lobbyists, associations, academics, et al.) that winning has become the only point of politics. That, more than any exchange of money or favors, is how our current politics is so corrupt. And that's why Obama's rhetoric resonates so strongly with thoughtful progressives.

I for one don't know if Obama can change what we as individuals and citizens cannot change ourselves. And that's why Obama needs to win his way: from the bottom up. Because if he wins any other way (and he just might if the time is right), the victory will be the same hollow political victory we've had in the last few cycles: you get to sit in the big chair but you can't lead the nation.

Perhaps America is too big and too diverse to be so governable these days. Perhaps we are fated as a nation to only advance (act for the benefit of the many) in the face of or in the aftermath of a crisis. If that's the case, then at least we know we can count on some crises in the future.

Posted by: huh? on December 21, 2007 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

Interesting -- in a baffling sorta way.

Two good pieces of advice: You can't beat something with nothing. For another, ALWAYS concede on principle.

Basically, if a President Obama says, well, 'progressives elected me because of an attitude that we can do good things together', and then tries to enact universal health insurance with a single payer, I expect Kevin will be proven correct that this is a mite naive as a negotiation strategy.

There are some VERY powerful interests involved in health insurance who aren't gonna be moved by 'an attitude that we can do good things together'. That is, they have SOMETHING.

If we have to defeat them (which seems likely) to get a single payer universal system, we can't do it with nothing.

And an attitude of merely doing good, cuz we can all help, is pretty much nothing. Right?

I suppose you could say, why, no: We don't HAVE to defeat them, because we are so superior in every way. THEY cannot provide universal coverage, because they are not a single payer. Isn't it obvious?

Maybe it is, but I keep getting accused of self-abuse for pointing out how THAT particular attitude is a consistent loser for progressives.

And isn't THAT obvious, too?

'Always concede on principle' is a different kind of practical advice, and possibly something Obama understands. (I think it is something Clinton has learned in the Senate where it is a kind of folk art.)

If you and I are debating who gets how many of the big pile of marbles on the table, and you insist that equitable distribution of the marbles is a matter of principle based on historic patterns of discrimination, I will happily concede you are right: it IS a matter of principle that the marbles will be distributed equitably.

With that concession to your principles, you get to go tell your people that you've won, the marbles will be distributed equitably according to historic patterns of discrimination -- and I get to distribute the marbles.

I will arrange that I get all the marbles and you get the principle.

There is a curious, maybe even defeatist Notion here (much like what used to be called "Ah Q-ism", the method of spiritual victory). CONSERVATIVES generally say that they have a set of principles -- liberty, small government, traditional values -- from which a set of political and legislative priorities flow. When Goldwater ran for President, he kept insisting he didn't want to pass new laws, but repeal old ones: and he lost. He rationalized his defeat by revitalizing the Republican party -- and Reagan won with that party.

I don't see progressives doing now what conservatives were doing around Christmas 1979 -- or 1993, either.

Some folks think we're looking at an historic political opportunity next year: it'd be REAL strange if progressives don't know what they want to do with it because we're either uninterested in anything beyond repealing Taft Hartley OR because we think our altitude depends exclusively on our attitude.

'Tain't a very practical approach to nutcutting legislation, don't ya think?

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 21, 2007 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

I predict that if we are to have universal health care coverage in America (mandates, single payer, whatever) it will be come about with the support of so-called corporate America. It will be enacted because it makes good social sense and it makes good business sense in a globally competitive marketplace. We cannot and do not all live in trees in Oregon. Talking in terms of the people versus the powerful is no more meaningful than setting up the dichotomy between red America and blue America.

Posted by: huh? on December 21, 2007 at 10:53 PM | PERMALINK

"I predict that if we are to have universal health care coverage in America (mandates, single payer, whatever) it will be come about with the support of so-called corporate America."

And I predict that the team which scores the most points will win the Super Bowl... that men who drink beer and eat ice cream without exercise will find their clothes shrinking... that folks who take 'Bug and Brojo and Dice seriously will discover....

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 22, 2007 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

Can profit-seeking corporations be progressive? Politically progressive? Can they support politically progressive causes? Platforms? Policies? Can they have a calculus based on more than maximizing profit?

Posted by: huh? on December 24, 2007 at 4:17 AM | PERMALINK

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