Benen on Milbank

Steve Benen is pretty spot-on in his spanking of Dana Milbank’s idiotic column attacking Harry Reid for caving to the left on the public option. Benen writes:

Obviously, Milbank is entitled to his opinion. If he thinks Reid agreed to a public option compromise — a public plan with a state opt-out — primarily to make happy, Milbank is welcome to the make the case.

But it’s not exactly a persuasive pitch, and Milbank doesn’t bolster his assertions with much of anything.

Reid had to reconcile two committee bills — one with a public option, one without. To merge the two, the Majority Leader went with a compromise that enjoys the backing of most of his caucus and most of the country.

Milbank sees Reid as caving to liberal groups who don’t care that, as he sees it, the measure doesn’t have 60 votes. I see a Majority Leader going with a proposal that Reid, the White House, most congressional Democrats, and most Americans have already embraced. And incidentally, it happens to be “good public policy.”

In fairness, I believe progressive activists definitely played a role in getting the Senate’s reform bill to where it is. Indeed, I don’t think there’s anything especially wrong with Democratic leaders shaping a public policy plan in a way that meets the expectations of the voters who elected them.

But Milbank makes it sound as if the Majority Leader yelled “How high?” because “liberal interest groups” told him to jump. And that’s just not what’s happened.

Liberal interest groups, labor unions, progressive bloggers, and Democratic voters have all spent a lot of energy convincing the Senate Democrats of the importance of including the public option in the underlying Senate bill. But frankly, I think the number one reason it’s there now is because it’s damned good policy that is easy to explain to the public. It would be great if groups like MoveOn, DFA, SEIU or AFL-CIO could dictate the actions of Harry Reid and the Senate Democratic caucus. But anyone who has spent more than a passing minute watching political dynamics between the left and elected officials in Washington know that this simply is not the case.

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