There’s really no other way to describe this post from Chuck Todd of NBC.
*** Fixing the public option fetish: But the speech also will be a failure if progressives — Obama’s second audience tonight — are still obsessing over the public option a week from now. We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again: Obama never made the public option the focus of his health-care ideas, in the primaries or in general election. In fact, he never uttered the words “public option” or “public plan” in his big campaign speeches on health care. But there is no doubt that the public option has fired up the left, and how he sells them near-universal coverage and lower costs — even if it means no public plan — could very well be the trickiest part of tonight’s speech. Indeed, that the White House allowed this to become the be-all, end-all on the left (“Public option or die!”) remains a mystery. On TODAY this morning, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that “there can be no reform without adequate choice and competition,” but didn’t say that choice and competition had to come from a public option.
First, I don’t know of anyone on the left who is campaigning for the public option in a “Public option or die!” context. There is no “die”, merely the desire by a very large number of House progressives to have health care legislation that includes a public health insurance option, something that the President spent seven paragraphs of his speech last night arguing in support of.
Second, Todd is clearly trying to set up a metric in which a week from now he can turn around and the President’s speech was a failure because progressives still want the legislation to include a public health insurance option. There are two things fundamentally wrong with this. To start, Obama never, ever said that the goal of the speech was to stop progressives from supporting the public option as a priority in the bill. To the contrary, the content of the speech clearly shows that he was doing no such thing. He spoke eloquently in support of a public option, though he stopped short of making it a required element.
But perhaps more importantly, it is not Todd’s job to score the process based on whether or not a a particular contingent of the Democratic Party continues to have a specific policy goal. This speech was not an argument against progressives nor was it an argument against the public option. It wasn’t even a plea by Obama to progressives to stop arguing passionately for the public option. Or at least, the speech I’ve watched and read twice wasn’t. Maybe Todd had a different “First Read Only” edition of it that was delivered directly from the floor of the House to Todd’s noggin.
Progressives are not standing in the way of change. Progressives are not blocking the President’s plan for health care. Conservative Democrats and pretty much all Republicans are. Is it possible that the progressive bloc in the House will decide that what is moving forward is unacceptable (eg for its lack of a public option) and as a result will oppose it? Of course. But that is not the scenario now. And, in fact, up to this point the press, the Senate, and the White House all seem to be acting with great certitude that the House is incapable of stopping whatever legislation comes out of the Senate, even if it does not have a public option.
Todd’s bizarre and offensive post does a number of things that no one has done before: cast progressives as key roadblocks to change, set the speech up as Obama’s moment to beat down progressive policy goals, and make clear Obama’s opposition to the public option. Nothing preceding the speech nor during the speech gives Todd any ground to stand on. He’s just making things up and, conveniently, every single bit of his fictional analysis is either a slur on progressives or something that can be used to undermine Obama’s political capital in coming days. What more do you need to know about Chuck Todd and his allegiances?