I never had any illusions about President Obama being a "leftist." I knew going in this guy was going to be a centrist - the problem is that I had forgetten just how badly screwed up the political "center" of this country is!
I'm not sure how much credence I put in reports coming out of sites like Politico about Obama being ready to jettison a robust public option in order to look bi-partisan - at this point, I'm not sure he'd dare. But based on the outstanding blogging the crew at FireDogLake and Glenn Greenwald have been doing, I have no problem believing the White House started this process viewing the public option as a bargaining chip rather than a policy goal.
It isn't a bargaining chip. The root of the health care crisis is not competition between insurers, or even the shocking number of Americans who uninsured or underinsured. The problem, as eloquently stated by Scarecrow at FireDogLake, is:
If the left's insistence on a robust public option is causing the White House political headaches, well, all I can do is remind Obama of the late lamented Molly Ivins' political maxim: You've got to dance with them what brung you. We're inflexible and unwilling to negotiate because we have nothing left to give away. If this were a situation where we had to settle for a public option in lieu of a single payer plan then maybe Obama could have sold it, but that's not the case. Single payer was never even on the table to take off the table. We're supposed to negotiate away the public option for ... what, exactly?
Sun Tzu calls territory on which you have no choice but to fight "dying ground," and sadly, we're on dying ground before the fight has even begun. There is no wiggle room, because there is no decent alternative to a public option being presented. (Co-ops? Yeah, that's like saying CSAs are going to bring down Archer Daniels Midland.) But Chinese generals of the time also said of their soldiers: "Put them on dying ground, and then they will live."
Well, since we're here we might as well live a little. President Obama's address to Congress is next Wednesday - that gives us plenty of time to make some noise: