Obama Throws House Democrats Under the Bus, Backs Over Them
The pile of victims President Obama has thrown under the bus to try to get health care reform passed is growing so large that just treating their internal injuries is going to bankrupt the national health care system.
First it was the insurance companies. When Obama realized early on that Americans weren’t chomping at the bit for socialized medicine, he subtly changed his language to imply that he was seeking “health insurance reform.” Insurance companies, to remind Obama, by definition have a vested interest in not covering costly treatments for people with a 100% risk of having a particular medical condition. But the administration nobly promised to go after, as the New York Times put it, “unpopular insurance industry practices, like refusing patients with pre-existing conditions”—also known as “providing insurance.”
Nancy Pelosi swore to oppose the “shock and awe, carpet-bombing by the health insurance industry to perpetuate the status quo”—as opposed to the couple, two-three homemade signs proffered by paid armies for Health Care for America Now, Organizing for America, SEIU, and ACORN. Obama promised to “reform the insurance companies so they can’t take advantage of you.” Pelosi slandered insurance companies as “villains.”
Surprisingly, insurance executives didn’t take kindly to being called monsters. Karen Ignagni, CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, seethed, “Attacking our community will not help get anyone covered… We have to… correct the record.”
Next it was the pharmaceutical industry: in June, Obama twisted drug companies’ arms into forking over $80 billion toward health care reform, on the condition that the government would not bargain for reduced drug prices for Medicare or mandate price rebates. Industry lobbyists, just to make sure they weren’t going to be stabbed in the back like the insurance companies, wrote the White House and secured confirmation from White House officials that these promises would be kept.
Congressional Democrats heard about these communications and had a fit. The administration subsequently claimed that no such conditions had ever been discussed. One of the House versions of the bill then emerged containing provisions mandating both government drug price negotiations and additional price rebates.
Obama then had to start sacrificing groups less involved in health care but assumed to be shoo-in supporters of his agenda. First he claimed that AARP had endorsed Congress’s health care legislation: “We have the AARP on board” and “AARP would not be endorsing a bill if it was undermining Medicare.” AARP’s terse response: “Indications that we have endorsed any of the major health care reform bills currently under consideration in Congress are inaccurate.”
Then Obama tossed 760,000 U.S. Post Office employees in the road when he argued that private health insurers wouldn’t be threatened by a public option: “If you think about it, UPS and FedEx are doing just fine. It’s the post office that’s always having problems.”
The President of the National Association of Postal Supervisors responded to this charming occupational morale booster by sending Obama a letter asking him to rescind his comments: “On behalf of the 35,000 members of our association, I am writing to express our collective disappointment that you chose to use the Postal Service as a scapegoat… [Y]our negative references to the Postal Services without knowledge of the facts was a disservice… to all postal employees… [I]t was a kick to the chest to have you take a shot at a group of federal employees who are working hard every day to support this country… [W]e would like to be treated fairly and not have our current situation misrepresented, especially by the Commander-in-Chief.”
Such Obama tactics recall his attempt to change the subject during his health care forum last month, in which he planted a question about Cambridge Police Department Sergeant James Crowley’s arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr., which gave Obama the chance to denigrate blue-collar Massachusetts police officers who support him. As department member Sergeant Kelly King stated after Obama declared that her department had acted “stupidly”: “It’s unfortunate. I supported the president. I voted for him. I will not again.”
Obama even threw his dead grandmother under the bus—again. When Sarah Palin charged that proposed legislation would lead to death panels that ration health care and decide which old people are not worth saving, Obama said he had favored his grandmother’s hip operation while she was alive, but could understand how a government panel might have calculated otherwise.
Unlike insurance companies, drug companies, the AARP, the post office, and the police, his grandmother couldn’t respond to Obama’s delightful remarks. Would Obama have dared use that example if she were alive and in need of the operation? Why doesn’t he try using it on seniors at townhall meetings who are in need of costly treatments? “I’d pay for your operation if I were your relative, but I can see how a government panel made up of people you don’t know might feel otherwise.”
The latest Obama special interest group to be Greyhounded is House Democrats. In June, Obama declared, “Any plan I sign must include an insurance exchange… including a public option.” On Sunday, Obama demurred, “The public option, whether we have it or we don’t have it, is not the entirety of health care reform.” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius insisted a public option, which House Democrats heavily favor, is “not the essential element” of the plan. Why, whatever gave you that idea? Was it inclusion of the ambiguous word “must”?
Predictably, House Democrats have not accepted this about-face without a fight. According to New York Representative Anthony Weiner, “Some of us who have gotten roughed up pretty good at town hall meetings and stuck in there because we believe in this, now kind of feel like we have a tire track on our chest where the bus that rolled over us is.”
Fortunately, House Democrats are the one party in all of this who deserve to be thrown under the bus—which is probably why the administration is already backtracking on their disavowal of the public option.