Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 26, 2009

DON'T TALK TO GRASSLEY IN CONFIDENCE.... Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee and the leading conservative on "bipartisan" health care negotiations, had an interesting chat with Bloomberg's Al Hunt this week. Faiz Shakir flagged this exchange yesterday:

GRASSLEY: One of the most controversial things we are facing -- and one that the House does and Senator Kennedy's committee does -- is bring a government health insurance program into existence. He still spoke highly about that. And that's not going to get bipartisan support.

And it would have been good if he had said to the entire country what he said to me privately -- that he would look to alternatives for that. And we have a very good alternative by going with cooperatives because we've known them for 150 years in America. And allowing them to sell health insurance for more competition.

HUNT: Do you think the President could support that?

GRASSLEY: All I can tell you is -- but he didn't say this that night and he should have said it -- that he's looking for reasonable alternatives. And I think we have a reasonable bipartisan alternative in co-ops.

There are a few angles to this. The first is that Obama's commitment to a public option and a possibly private concession that he'd consider an alternative are not necessarily contradictory. It's easy to imagine the president telling Grassley, "I want a public plan, but if you can find a different mechanism that can achieve the same results, I'll gladly consider it." Grassley wants Americans to think Obama is saying one thing in public and another in private. There's little reason to think that's true.

The second is that the Republicans' co-op idea, for all the reasons Faiz explained, is a poor substitute for more meaningful reform of the system.

But the part of the Grassley-Hunt exchange that stood out for me is the fact that the president and Senate Democrats are negotiating with a conservative Republican senator who feels entirely comfortable telling national television audiences about private discussions. I have no idea what Obama did or didn't say to Grassley during their negotiations, but I suspect the president assumed he could talk to the Iowa Republican in confidence. That's apparently not the case.

Maybe it's time to stop basing the future of health care reform on Chuck Grassley's partisan perceptions?

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (17)

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When conservatives do it, it's called betraying confidences.

When liberals do it, it's called whistle-blowing or journalism.

Posted by: Al on July 26, 2009 at 8:24 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe it's time to stop treating the Republicans as good faith partners

Posted by: Lab Partner on July 26, 2009 at 8:33 AM | PERMALINK

Get this man on the Intelligence Committee, immediately. Of course, it has been proven, on both sides of the aisle, that one does not need any intelligence to serve on that committee.

Co-ops might work if they allow Ethanol dispensers in their parking lots, eh?

Posted by: berttheclock on July 26, 2009 at 8:37 AM | PERMALINK

When confidential negotiations are made public before there is an agreement it is called "Breaking off negotiations" . In English that is . Liberals speak English too , what strange jargon comes from yon right wing box ?

Posted by: FRP on July 26, 2009 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

Problem with Iowa is that for most people it connotes River City or football. Perhaps it needs to have an asterisk, followed by "a wholly owned subsidiary of ADM".

Posted by: Steve Paradis on July 26, 2009 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

Grassley should do the honorable thing and quit... or commit suicide.

Posted by: AIG exec on July 26, 2009 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

Troubles? We've got troubles right here in River City and it is spelled "G-r-a-s-s-l-y" - It will take more than 76 Ethanol pumps to fix their problems.

Posted by: berttheclock on July 26, 2009 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

Why negotiate with people whose vote you can't get anyway?

Posted by: jimbo on July 26, 2009 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

I suspect Obama is shrewd enough to think very carefully about what he says "privately" to the opposition party.

Posted by: GP on July 26, 2009 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

Obama has never shown himself to be shrewd. What he has shown is a willingness to betray the promises and constituency that elected him.

Health-care reform is dead in this country for at least another generation because Obama will betray it just like he told Grassley he would. And the media and elite will applaud him for his "compromise" and "common sense".

I look forward to voting against Obama in every election from 2010 to 2012.

Posted by: Rock on July 26, 2009 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

It troubles me , the restraint employed in these comments . How will it be possible to separate the obvious emotional content from the deeper emtional content . If only there were a way to express practical responses to practical problems .
I suppose the evidence is in , as our previous administration amply demonstrated . Practicality and all its dishwater dull , and staid friends don't sit at the same table as the sharp , sharper , sharpest , yes "Those enviable Shrewdies" grace . Lucky too . Also

Posted by: FRP on July 26, 2009 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

I've lost count of the ways in which Grassley has demonstrated he's not worth dealing with on this issue. Off the top of my head, there are his hostile Twitter messages; his absurd statement that in order for him to vote for this, he'd need the cover of an even more conservative Republican Senator's 'yea' vote; and, of course, this.

That Grassley is actually one of the better Republicans in the Senate tells you all you need to know about the Senate GOP caucus.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on July 26, 2009 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

There has been some rumor lately that Grassley may run for Iowa Gov in 2010. That would make things interesting at the Senate level. Of course, in a sensible world he would realize he is getting senile and retire to his farm.

Posted by: zeitgeist on July 26, 2009 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

Is Grassley sure that Obama wasn't saying it the same way my dad used to talk to me?

"Hey, if you can find a better way to fix your Mustang, rather than to trust your father the professional mechanic, then go right ahead."

Posted by: 2Manchu on July 26, 2009 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

There is no chance of Grassley retiring in 2010 to run for governor or for any other reason. He made sure to negotiate a deal allowing him to be ranking member on Judiciary beginning in 2011.

Also, his grandson Pat Grassley (a member of the Iowa House) is not yet old enough to run for U.S. Senate. He will be by 2016, though.

Posted by: desmoinesdem on July 26, 2009 at 8:00 PM | PERMALINK

Let me get this straight, you were talking to someone named GRASSley, and you didn't think he would break the confidence. Someone needs to start watching Rumpole says I.

Posted by: Bob Smith on July 27, 2009 at 12:25 AM | PERMALINK

For years, Sen. Grassley was the stupidest man in the senate; then my state elected Sen. Dullard, and Grassley gave up the top spot. With Dullard's retirement last year, Grassley again has the top spot all to himself. What a dimwit.

Posted by: SquareState on July 27, 2009 at 2:38 AM | PERMALINK
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