It’s always fun watching Maverick work off some of his bitterness towards The One over last year’s election and this is no exception. So painfully slow was the news this afternoon, even by usual Sunday standards, that not only is Obama’s dopey rah-rah session with Senate Democrats the lead story on Drudge right now, but the only real news to come out of it is what wasn’t mentioned there — namely, the public option.
Obama spoke for roughly 30 minutes and did not take questions, senators said afterward.
Reid told reporters that Lieberman had approached him after the meeting to note the absence of the public option, but that folks shouldn’t read too much into Obama’s silence on the issue. “That doesn’t mean it’s not an issue, because the president didn’t talk about it,” said Reid.
Obama’s reluctance to stand up for the public option has been a source of contention between Reid, who is pushing for it, and Obama. Reid has asked five progressive senators and five conservatives to work out a compromise on the public option. The group will meet again Sunday afternoon, though without guidance from the president.
White House spokesman Bill Burton also mentioned insurance reform and affordability in his statement about the meeting, but neglected to mention the public option.
He didn’t mention Nelson’s abortion amendment either, which will be introduced as early as tomorrow. I remember reading last month, after Lieberman’s much-publicized announcement that he’d filibuster a final bill that had a public option, that it was all smoke and mirrors and that Joementum wouldn’t stand in the way when the time came. Really? Check out this bit from an interview he did with the Journal this past week. Does this sound like a guy who’s preparing to have an eleventh-hour awakening to the glories of government-run insurance?
Why is he adamant? Mr. Lieberman says that while he is not “a conspiratorial person,” he believes the public option is intended as a way for the government to take over health care. “I’ve been working for health-care reform in different ways since I arrived here,” he says. “It was always about how do we make the system more efficient and less costly, and how do we expand coverage to people who can’t afford it, and how do we adopt some consumer protections from the insurance companies . . . So where did this public option come from?” It was barely a blip, he says, in last year’s presidential campaign.
“I started to ask some of my colleagues in the Democratic caucus, privately, and two of them said “some in our caucus, and some outside in interest groups, after the president won such a great victory and there were more Democrats in the Senate and the House, said this is the moment to go for single payer.'” So, I joke, the senator is, in fact, as big a “conspiracy theorist” as me. He laughingly rejoins: “But I have evidence!”
No wonder Obama’s meeting one-on-one with Queen Olympia in the Oval Office again. If Reid decides he can’t afford to piss off the left by dropping the public option, they’re likely going to need not one but two votes (at least) to get to 60: Lieberman’s a lost cause and Blanche Lincoln would be committing kamikaze by voting yes. Expect to see reports of Oval Office meetings with Susan Collins sometime soon too.
Exit question: How low will Obama’s numbers go if he’s forced to drop the public plan just weeks after breaking the left’s heart with a surge in Afghanistan? What’ll be left of the cult of Hopenchange?