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Tilting at Windmills

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August 17, 2009

GRASSLEY'S NOT EVEN TRYING.... On MSNBC's "Morning Meeting" earlier, Dylan Ratigan asked Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) about "death panels" as part of reform. "I see that as nothing more than a distortion coming from far-left with bringing up these end-of-life concerns," Grassley said, "which are not the issue that we ought to be talking about."

I have no idea what that means. The "far-left" is responsible for a bogus claim Grassley was touting as recently as last week?

Ezra Klein was on the same program, and noticed Grassley's striking approach to reform.

First, Grassley did not speak like Lindsey Graham or Olympia Snowe. He did not come onto the program determined to present a reasonable face and comfort liberals, conservatives and independents alike. Instead, he railed against "government-run health care" and the "Pelosi health-care bill." He talked about bureaucrats and exploding deficits. He sounded like a House conservative giving a stump speech. Grassley presumably leaves his stemwinders behind when he's with the Gang of Six. But this was not a comforting sign. This was not a unifying performance.

Second, Chuck Todd asked Grassley whether he'd vote for the bill if it was a good piece of policy that he'd crafted but that couldn't attract more than a handful of Republican votes. "Certainly not," replied Grassley. Todd tried again, clarifying that this was legislation Grassley liked, and thought would move the ball forward, but was getting bogged down due to partisanship. Grassley held firm. If a good bill cannot attract Republican support, then it is not a good bill, he argued.

Grassley, in other words, is working backward from the votes. If the Gang of Six reaches a compromise that the Senate Republicans don't support, Grassley will abandon that compromise, regardless of the fact that he's the guy who built it.

If President Obama pursues reform with Democratic votes, he's being "partisan." Grassley, meanwhile, will vote against his own compromise bill unless it has lots of Republican votes, but that's not "partisan" at all.

In order for negotiations to make sense, parties have to be willing to show some good faith, and a willingness to work towards a constructive goal. With this in mind, seeking a reasonable compromise with Chuck Grassley isn't just wrong, it's crazy.

Grassley has never demonstrated any sincere interest in genuine reform, but it seems over the last couple of weeks, the conservative Iowan has simply given up even trying to appear reasonable. He's talking up "death panel" nonsense. He's touting Glenn Beck's book. He's pulling common-sense measures with bipartisan support from the negotiating table. He's taking cheap and unnecessary shots at the president. He's making cheap and unnecessary arguments about "rationing" by exploiting Ted Kennedy's cancer.

The list is much longer, but these are just some of the developments from the last two weeks.

Perhaps, in private, Grassley is a different pol. Maybe, in one-on-one chats with the president or Max Baucus, he comes across as sincere and committed to reform. But out here in the public sphere, Grassley is acting like a man who wants to kill health care reform. Basing the entire initiative on satisfying his partisan, ever-changing demands is a recipe for abject failure.

Indeed, as I argued over the weekend, I can only assume that Grassley doesn't want to be part of reform negotiations anymore, and is working on getting himself kicked out of the talks. If he keeps moving further to the right, and Dems eventually decide to cut their losses with this guy, Grassley gets to have it both ways -- he'll tell moderates, "I invested months of time and energy in bipartisan reform negotiations," and he'll tell the right, "I stuck up for conservative principles and Democrats refused to listen."

Steve Benen 3:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (40)

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Comments

Please answer me this:

Why is anyone acting like this is news?

Have you been blind and deaf for years and years?

Are you fucking brain dead?

Posted by: Go, Sestak on August 17, 2009 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

It's not the liars' fault if they continue to get away with it.

I have never seen or heard any Dem emphatically and publicly call out these guys on there lies.

Mr. Benen your outrage should be directed at Dems.

Posted by: gregor on August 17, 2009 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

Grassley is a member of the 'C Street Family,' the self-described Christian Mafia! To understand him you have to know what they are and what they're trying to do.

Posted by: Varecia on August 17, 2009 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

Given how he's behaved in the past, I now expect Obama to heap Grassley with praise and talk about how he looks forward to continued negotiations, etc.

Posted by: Doctor Whom on August 17, 2009 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

Someone needs to give the order to Baucus to drop him from the death panel. Err...I meant the Gang of Six, of course.

Posted by: KathyF on August 17, 2009 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

OK, I'll bite, what are the conservative principles in this debate? How about: "Health care reform should be supported as long as it does not change the status quo."

Posted by: jb on August 17, 2009 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

"-- he'll tell moderates, "I invested months of time and energy in bipartisan reform negotiations," and he'll tell the right, "I stuck up for conservative principles and Democrats refused to listen.""

...and that's different from any other Republican, how??

Posted by: mrspeel on August 17, 2009 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

Huh?

Benin: Indeed, as I argued over the weekend, I can only assume that Grassley doesn't want to be part of reform negotiations anymore, and is working on getting himself kicked out of the talks.

These guys are leading the race.
They ain't losing baby...
The more they lie the more they win.

Obama has hinted he is caving on one of his three principles.
If that ain't rewarding lying... what is?

Grassley and company have got this "socialist" sissy by his pencil-neck throat and they ain't letting go.

Hell, in Saturday's town hall Barack even danced a little jig with that 20-year know-everything republican prick and helped make his argument FOR HIM (all while shutting down that liberal's question).

The republican lying noise machine is just a-beginning. We are not even close to apogee...

Posted by: koreyel on August 17, 2009 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

i know that grassley is the car wreck of the week, and it's hard not to rubberneck, but goddam it, caint we just declare him insane and move along?

Posted by: neill on August 17, 2009 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

You gotta hand it to the 'thugs though... they stick together and have good party dicipline.

This is how a well-organized minority can trump the wishes and interests of the majority.

An old concept, demonstrated well by Hitler and Mussolini... those successes have not gone un-noticed by the right wing.

Democrats by contrast, are a herd of cats milling around a corporate food dish.

As a result, the country is going nowhere fast.

Posted by: Buford on August 17, 2009 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

There are, to my mind, only two ways this makes sense. One is that everyone knows that reform will be crafted by Democrats during reconciliation and therefore this pre-reconciliation period is all theater designed with post-signing positioning.

Or, two, Dems are as crazy for working with Grassley as Grassley is crazy.

Posted by: hoipolloi on August 17, 2009 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

Google: The Authoritarians by Bob Altemeyer. It is a free online book. It will tell you all you need to know about this health care reform debate. If you are interested, that is. Sometimes I think all anyone here wants to do is argue and be self-righteous (I guess I am being what I accuse others of). Starve the monster; don't feed it!

peace,
st john

Posted by: st john on August 17, 2009 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

heckofa job, Maxie.

Posted by: AlphaLiberal on August 17, 2009 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

hoipolloi said:
There are, to my mind, only two ways this makes sense. One is that everyone knows that reform will be crafted by Democrats during reconciliation and therefore this pre-reconciliation period is all theater designed with post-signing positioning.

Or, two, Dems are as crazy for working with Grassley as Grassley is crazy.

I vote for three, it's all a sham. As someone else pointed out, we don't have the best Congress money can buy. We just have a Congress that money can buy.

Before I got caught up in the post-inaugural hype, I said here that I didn't think we will ever have any real reform in health care, banking, energy or anywhere else until we have public financing of elections.

It looks like I was right.


Posted by: SteveT on August 17, 2009 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

If the Gang of Six reaches a compromise that the Senate Republicans don't support, Grassley will abandon that compromise, regardless of the fact that he's the guy who built it.

Now that's leadership.

If only the mob could get hold of some a them new-fangled things, whaddaya call'em, --torches?

Yeah, torches!

Clear up this problem in no time.

Posted by: cld on August 17, 2009 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

But he is acting no differently than Conrad or Baucus who keep buying into this guy's obstructionism. Conrad has been trying his best to prevent any real reform trying to find ways to keep the priv ins profiteering and still 'call' it reform...so he comes up with co-ops. Blue Cross-Blue Shield started out as a co-op...look how that turned out. The lobbyists in time will turn coops into disasters and Conrad knows this...he's well paid to know this by his corporate donors.

btw...go over to common dreams and read Thom Hartmann's letter to the president and sign on as he asks for Obama just to let the people buy into Medicare if they want...he makes a good proposal.

Posted by: bjobotts on August 17, 2009 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe this is Obama's brilliant strategy-keep Baucus and Conrad in a room with these cantankerous old fools until they are so pissed off they pass a good reform bill just to spite them.

Posted by: Th on August 17, 2009 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

Please answer me this:
Why is anyone acting like this is news?

Are you seriously suggesting that it's wrong to point this stuff out as it happens? Seriously, what are we supposed to blog about if we can't highlight craziness coming from the right? Nothing in this post suggests that Benen wasn't already aware of this sort of thing. But it's "news" in that Grassley just said it. That's what makes it "new." How is this a problem and why the insults?

Frankly, I find it mindboggling how often people insist on telling Benen how to write his blog. If you can do better, do it. Nobody's stopping you. But I happen to like these posts. They're the reason I followed him from his last blog, which had the advantage of being much better looking than this ugly site. We need all sorts of blogs and this one happens to be my favorite.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on August 17, 2009 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, I think that you should not have to take the abuse you do from some of your commenters. "Are you brain dead?"
You have attracted a group of commenters whose only purpose is to declare defeat and attack Democrats. They are parasites to your work; they expect you to gather a crowd by reporting developments. They then try to hijack the crowd by attacking you and advocating for punitive actions against Democrats. They could not attract a crowd on their own, which is why they dog you.
Cut em loose!

Posted by: tom in ma on August 17, 2009 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

Yup. Why the public and the elected Dems keep being surprised about this is an illustration of why Dems usually lose and don't accomplish major successes anymore. Politics is a fight. The media covers the fight. If only one side is fighting, only one side gets covered. There is nobody rating the 'high-mindedness' of either party. You are either fighting, or you are defeated, majority or no majority. And the Dems DON'T FIGHT, as some sort of misguided matter of 'principle'. So their message, if there even is one, doesn't get covered.

But this isn't as much of a conspiracy as it sounds like it is. They would be covered consistently and pretty much immediately if they actually did stand up and fight, instead of lounging around and waiting for everyone to operate on the up-and-up. Yes, of course Chuck Grassley of the modern GOP is going to vote against ANY health care bill, even one he helped craft. Got that, Dems? Any bill, he will vote against, and it was ever thus. Why did you not all know this already? Why? That is Dems' fault, not Grassley's. He's doing what he was hired to do - politics. Derail his opponents.

Posted by: onceler on August 17, 2009 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

Are there no Democrats (you know, memebers of the majority party) available to discuss heal care? Whe is it only Republicans clogging up the every moment on tv every column in the papers every article on line? No wonder reform is dead in the water. There is a concerted effort to present only on (outlandish) side. And why has the term "death panel" become the accepted term of use?

Posted by: Saint Zak on August 17, 2009 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

Grassley is a member of the C-street family? Hot diggity dog! Let's hope it'll be his turn to get caught in bed with three girls and a sheep before the health care bill comes up for a vote.

Posted by: T-Rex on August 17, 2009 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

In 2008, all Democrats supported (1) the Govt negotiating drug prices, and a (2) public insurance plan. And that included Max Baucus.

In 2009, (1) is already off the table and (2) seems to be so unclear that we have to parse every word that Kathleen Sebelius utters.

So if Obama/Baucus caved to the industry, why blame Grassley?

Posted by: Ohioan on August 17, 2009 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

Silver lining: a made MSMer like Chuck Todd pinning Grassley down so specifically, at least one of them (MSM that is) just personally witnessed what the Dems are up against.

Posted by: kth on August 17, 2009 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

Why the public and the elected Dems keep being surprised about this is an illustration of why Dems usually lose and don't accomplish major successes anymore.

I suppose you're referring to the time Republicans privatized Social Security and finally destroyed Medicare. Yeah, that loss has been seared into my memory. Or our loss on the Stimulus bill earlier this year, which Republicans successfully scuttled. Ouch, that defeat hurt. And then there were our humiliating defeats in the last two elections. I still sting from those losses.

Oh, wait. NONE of that happened. We won these battles. And perhaps you imagine there are Democrats here who thought we should lie down, but there aren't. You're speaking to no one but a strawman. Sure, there are Dems in Congress who need to hear the message you wrote, but they're about as likely to read it here as you are to deliver it to them as a fellow Congressman.

As tom in Ma suggested above, you guys are self-righteous defeatists who want Dems to lose in order for you to feel better about yourselves. Sure, you could be writing letters to Congress and newspapers pushing your views and, even better, actively working with political campaigns in order to strengthen our party. Or you could be writing comments at conservative blogs, in order to correct their lies. But instead, you're commenting at a liberal blog where most commenters agree with you, and taking potshots on Dems for always losing, even though we've been winning more than we lose. Sure, we could do much better, but the fact that we're even having this debate on healthcare reform is a huge step. So stop acting like we've lost when the battle is still being fought.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on August 17, 2009 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

How about the next time the "Farm Bill" aka "Farm Welfare" comes up for renewal progressives campaign against the "Socialized Farming" and resurrect Gen. Jack D. Ripper to talk about the government stealing our vital nutrients.

Grassley is an ass.

Posted by: Tigershark on August 17, 2009 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

At some point Mr. Benen has to recognize that it's the Democrats caving in that is the problem. Otherwise he will lose all his credibility, and be no more than the hack the likes of which you see on Fox all the time, except of course with a different political affiliation.

Posted by: gregor on August 17, 2009 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

With regard to Grassley, I think you need to return an earlier post listing the four voting groups:

Republicans (who will always vote against every proposal simply for political or financial reasons),
Maine's Senate Delegation (who, if convinced, might pull in a conservative Democrat),
Centrist and Conservative Democrats (who require a serious spanking), and
Progressive Democrats (who believe in principle over policy or politics).

Regardless what he says or how hard he says he works to build a “bipartisan compromise”, Grassley is a Republican and will not vote for reform—in any form. Obama, Emmanuel, Baucus, everyone, knows this.

We need a good come-back, an excellent talking point on obstructionism, one that the bobbleheads are forced to voice over and over again. I’ll try out some that only Frank, Frankin, Whitehouse, or Rangle would be permitted to use:

“Frankly, Sen. Grassley is being disingenuous. He is a Republican and they are totally against change or reform on health care or climate change. If he were honest, he’d just say, ‘The status quo is fine with me.’ Oh, he’ll say something else, but only his vote counts. Ditto every other Republican. While this is disgusting in a democracy, it’s still true.”

“Name one Republican who has spoken the truth to his constituents on this issue. They say one thing on national television programs their base will never watch then hand out a book by Glen Beck and talk about ‘killing grandma’ when confronted by a raucous mob back home. There are only one hundred senators for all 300 million of us and you have a single representative. They should be talking about facts, not rumors.”

“Do you remember the Bush town halls when the public had to be preapproved before allowed in and where some citizens were jailed because they wore the wrong t-shirt? We have had law suits over the Republicans denying public access and even arresting people walking on the same street as peaceful demonstrators. Some Republicans are doing the same thing now.”

“Senator Grassley has a lot of power, but it’s manufactured. Yes, he one of one hundred who represent his state and he’s a member of the Gang of Six, but those six represent three percent of the US population and get more than 20 percent of the medical-insurance-pharmaceutical (MIP) funds. Do you really think he cares about any individual other than himself or any small business. He’s all talk.”

“Bipartisan, smartisan. The Republicans have a one pony circus and can’t even afford an immigrant to shovel up the crap.”

This should grab some MSM gonads and looks like a good speechwriter game.

Posted by: Bob Johnson on August 17, 2009 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

Doctor Biobrain - Amen!

I've been reading so many defeatist idiots on liberal blogs today that I'm about to puke. Do these schmucks really think that the way forward for progressive causes is to turn on the Deomcrats and thus hand power back to the Republicans?

Obama has done more for our side in six months than anyone else has done in 40 years, and all these self-centered prigs can do is carp and whine because we haven't got it all yet, and because we might have a few setbacks along the way. Grow up!

Posted by: Virginia on August 17, 2009 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

Just emailed Senator Russ Feingold who wants a public plan and thanked him - please do it! Let us thank the stars of this and make sure we write the others and tell them they are toast!

Posted by: JS on August 17, 2009 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe, in one-on-one chats with the president or Max Baucus, he comes across as sincere and committed to reform.

Please. This whole gang of six crap has been a sham so the insurance industry and their stooges Baucus and Grassley can delay and derail anything that comes out of the more liberal House. They're all playing their part in killing reform, there is no other sane explanation from the evidence.

Posted by: Shalimar on August 17, 2009 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I gave a few bucks on Act Blue to support WHOEVER runs against this yahoo in 2010. Hopefully he won't even BE at the table much longer.
People like this give Christians a bad name. I believe Grassley is a C Streeter.
http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2009/07/21/c_street/print.html What a guy.
And JS, I just emailed Anthony Wiener (D-NY) and thanked him for his outstanding job in supporting progressive ideals. Also gave him a few bucks on Act Blue.

Posted by: jean on August 17, 2009 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

Reading Ezra Klein's comments on Chuck Todd's questioning of Charles Grassley is like contemplating the intractible linear-spatial conflict in an M.C. Escher drawing. It's a far better use of your time to just fire up the ol' bong, close your eyes and listen to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.

Posted by: Out & About in the Castro on August 17, 2009 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK
Virginia: "Obama has done more for our side in six months than anyone else has done in 40 years, and all these self-centered prigs can do is carp and whine because we haven't got it all yet, and because we might have a few setbacks along the way. Grow up!"

"Grow up"? Why don't you first practice what you preach, Virginia, because it sure sounds like you're rather far from completing the maturation cycle yourself.

Look, I agree with your general premise that we aren't going to accomplish everything right away - but really, berating fellow Democrats who are understandably frustrated with the current situation as "[whining] self-centered prigs", and further imploring them to "grow up", is hardly a way to win their hearts and minds, don'tcha think?

Posted by: Out & About in the Castro on August 17, 2009 at 7:31 PM | PERMALINK

What if Grassley is saying to POTUS on the qt..."Let me ringout some wingnut cash from these clowns before I quit the comittee...! ?

Posted by: pfina on August 17, 2009 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

It's only fair to revert to the bill as it was before Grassley's stated changes were made then, for full House vote. We tried, but they weren't willing to negotiate in good faith.

Don't let the door hit ya, Chuck, and thanks for playing.

Posted by: melior on August 17, 2009 at 8:11 PM | PERMALINK

Virginia, we have Sarah Palin crafting health care legislation....and doing it as a private citizen! Doesn't that tell you *something* is seriously amiss?

Posted by: Varecia on August 17, 2009 at 8:17 PM | PERMALINK

So let me get this straight. Forcing people to pay for health care insurance against their will is a good thing? Spending a trillion dollars or more on another big government mandate like Medicare and Medicaid that are going bankrupt is a good thing? Fining Small business if they don't provide health care insurance (which will further hurt the bottom line of small business and cause even higher unemployment) is a good thing? Telling lies to the public by assuring them that if they like their Doctor and health care insurance they can keep them (under President Obama's health care plan) is a good thing? What I do not understand is why the left is so in love with the concept of an authoritarian centralized government who has power over how to spend most of the wealth of the people. The history of this type of model does not have a very good track record. As the saying goes, "Absolute power corrupts absolutely". Even the Left has to admit that the US does not have the most honest and principled politicians in power at this time. The left needs to be honest about their goal of using the "public option" as a trojan horse with the ultimate goal of a single payer system where the government has complete control over the health care dollar with the power to make life and death decisions. So stop the lies of "more choice" and "lower costs" and "higher quality of care" because once the government is in control of everything just the opposite will happen.


Posted by: gary on August 17, 2009 at 8:56 PM | PERMALINK
So let me get this straight. Forcing people to pay for health care insurance against their will is a good thing?

Why yes, to all of your questions. Did you have a point?

Telling lies to the public

Dear heart, do feel free to point out the "lies," won't you? Alas, your example doesn't cut it.

What I do not understand is why the left is so in love with the concept of an authoritarian centralized government who has power over how to spend most of the wealth of the people.

Well, see, out here in the real world, those countries who have government-run health care and/or health insurance spend a hell of a lot less than we do, control costs better than we do, cover far more people than we do, and have better overall health outcomes than we do. The real question is why this bothers you?

The history of this type of model does not have a very good track record.

Actually, when it comes to government-run health insurance, it has a superb track record.

The left needs to be honest about their goal of using the "public option" as a trojan horse with the ultimate goal of a single payer system

Sounds good to me. Did you have a point?

because once the government is in control of everything just the opposite will happen.

ROFL.... Just like Medicare, right? Moron....

Posted by: PaulB on August 17, 2009 at 10:34 PM | PERMALINK

thanks Paul!! very well said.

Posted by: Elouise on August 17, 2009 at 11:21 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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