A quick view of the Huffington Post, CNN or Politico any day this or last week would present the Obama administration as either for the public option or edging away from it – often quoting “top officials” or “senior White House staffers” and so on. Forget whiplash, some folks’ heads have clean spun off their bodies as the media, and presumably the White House, continues to try to brand the Obama administration’s position on Health Care – the operative word being “try”.
But this isn’t the first time.
Earlier this year, just after the inauguration, the Obama administration seemed to simultaneously support repeal of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) and uphold it as law. This caused a similar head spin in the GLBT community.
And then when it came to transparency in government, something Obama ran and got elected on, a similar seeming paradox – he held on-CSPAN meetings with industry leaders and law makers but didn’t release the White House guest logs.
And when it came to torture – Obama was all about looking forward which led many to believe that he had no interest in prosecuting those who led in the past.
What happened to the well-disciplined, consistently on-message Obama campaign that turned race bating into a teaching moment that all sides needed to hear – the Obama campaign that decided to not go negative but let their opponent’s vitriol explode until the voters only had one rational choice? Where is this well organized machine?
Hiding in plain sight I believe.
You see, I think there’s a pattern.
With everything handed to the President in January – the two wars – not to mention the little problem with the economy – Obama had to work on multiple fronts and he used the court of public opinion and the content hungry media to fuel many of the debates.
For the GLBT issues the Obama administration, that great group of constitutional geeks, upheld DOMA and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell because they were law, so legally they had to – as they said. But coming out soft on the repeal allowed the media to speculate as to whether Obama had changed his position. This caused the burner to be turned up on the issue. The gay community was fired up and ready to talk. Activists were energized and Progressives were worried that Obama had gone soft on the issue. So finally, now, in several states gay marriages are beginning to be recognized, Congressman Patrick Murphy is pushing through legislation to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Justice Department has come out in favor of repealing DOMA. It’s not all done yet but it’s in motion. And Obama gets to keep the debate in the realm of law rather than attacking the issue from a realm of feelings.
As for transparency – he’s releasing those White House logs.
And Holder’s investigating torture. Obama is looking forward but he’s got Holder there to look over his shoulder – and after Obama released the torture memos the court of public opinion is strongly, at the very least, disturbed by some of what has been revealed – even folks like John McCain. And people are engaged in the debate.
So Health Care, I think, has been no different.
It’s a pattern.
He said in the campaign and after he got inaugurated that he’s for the public option – he said at one point that it wasn’t the essential part of the bill and this caused many to assume he meant it wasn’t needed to be in the bill – i.e. it was expendable – that’s not what he said though – he said it wasn’t the essential part. Now here I think he hoped folks would start talking about other provisions in the proposed bills that most would agree on and I think he wanted to remind everyone that there were other items on the health care reform checklist.
However – he didn’t correct anyone when even Progressives started to accuse him of backing away from the public option. He allowed them to speculate, to worry and stay engaged on the issue on television and in their blogs – they were fired up.
And suddenly, this past week, we’re not hearing about angry people at town halls as much and death panels (except Palin of course) but we are hearing tons of speculation about the public option and the President’s position on it. It’s all we’re talking about.
Is he for it? Against it? Tune in and find out!
Why would he do all this?
Well to be fair I think some of it was blind luck – I don’t think he expected the fringe of the GOP to get as much air time as they have been getting – or to be as angry as they’ve appeared. That’s a bonus. And I don’t think he thought he’d get Laura Bush to come to his defense over his education speech. That was a bonus. And I don’t think he saw that Gates’ thing coming at all – that was a let down, not a bonus.
Now after a good rest and 40 days of the GOP’s anger turning them into a fringe party – the calm Obama can take center stage in a joint session of Congress.
There is one huge draw back to all of this – the bar has been raised incredibly high for this one single speech – and though his past supports a strong delivery he really can’t afford to screw it up.
No pressure though.