Dead Man Walking?

Marc Ambinder takes sophistry and spin to a new level in a post at the Atlantic entitled “How Obama Survived August”.

Of course, for most of us, it isn’t yet clear he has survived August. We’ll see how he does tomorrow night and what, if anything, that brings before deciding if he’s still among the living, politically speaking.

But Sir Marc drives on denying that anything that happened in August mattered very much and, discovering irony, throws this jewel out there:

Another irony: the public option debate helped. It helped by offering itself up as a sacrifice. The new Maginot line, drawn by advocates of a single payer system, turned out to be a bit of a feint because it was never the sine qua non of reform.

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At best that’s whistling past the graveyard. But there was no “plan” to offer the public option up for sacrifice and Ambinder knows it. The fact that it is up for debate and perhaps exclusion has nothing – nothing- to do with Ambinder’s spin. It will most likely be dumped because Democrats missed the self-imposed August deadline to pass this in haste so they wouldn’t have to debate or defend the public option.

Their failure to do so gave people the opportunity to dig into the details of the bill passed by the House and spawned the August to remember. To pretend this was all part of a grand strategy, given the debacle that this debate has been for the Democrats, is simply laughable on its face.

Where Ambinder and I agree is where the Netroots crowd is going to end up in all of this:

Sen. Max Baucus’s health care plan has been derided by many liberal activists because it seems to be a compromise upon a compromise.

For these activists, the debate itself has been damaging because it exposed the administration’s willingness to give voice and legitimacy to sides in this debate that many liberal activists do not believe ought to be afforded those prerogatives, including Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee, PhRMA, and the insurers. The charge that Obama didn’t stand up for his principals is a hard one to rebut, but the White House would rather have the bill they’re probably going to get now and worry about Netroot anxiety later. From the start, the least convincing argument made to the White House about strategy starts with the premise that compromising with recalcitrant Republicans is inherently bad.

You have to laugh a bit at this too – Ambinder admits that the “dissent is the highest form of patriotism” crowd is adamant about excluding those they disagree with from the “debate”. Read Hamsher’s screed cited in the Van Jones article below if you doubt that.

But what is happening is inevitable in politics, regardless of which party we’re talking about. Where do the Netroots go if displeased with Obama? The same place conservatives went when displeased with McCain’s move toward the squishy center. Nowhere.

The Netroots may sit at home, or lessen their activism, realizing that their more radical dreams have no future, but they’re not going to the other side – of that Obama is certain. Democrats have exploited that little truism for decades with both the black and LGBT communities.

After that bit of reality, Ambinder heads back into sophistry:

After August, conservatives have exhausted their repertoire of arguments and many of their demagogic tricks. Public support for significant health care reform as something worth doing remains high.

As a matter of fact there is a kernel of truth in that bit of nonsense. Public support for health care reform does remain high. However public support for the Democratic version of health care reform couldn’t be lower. And that’s what is on the table for the moment.

And as with most of the left, Ambinder thinks the August outbursts were all orchestrated by “conservatives” and are waning. In fact, what continues to ebb is trust in both the president and Democrats. You’d have to thoroughly ignore the recent polls to believe that this is about “conservatives” and their “demagogic tricks”. You’d have to be willfully blind to insist this is all just about health care.

But Ambinder is convinced that it is indeed all about Democrats:

After August, Democrats have the momentum to pass the bill.

Only if they are able to do what Ambinder has successfully done – stick his head in a bucket and listen to the echo while ignoring the reality to be seen outside. Democrats have the power to pass the bill – there’s no question. But those who actually have positions at risk are very unlikely to be as glib as Ambinder when it comes to his badly flawed analysis. Momentum isn’t the word Democrats are going to be using when talking about a health care bill. “Risk” is the word they’ll be using.

I still think, as I’ve been saying, and as Ambinder contends, that something called “health care reform” will pass the Congress. I think there are enough Democrats who understand that this is indeed Obama’s presidential Waterloo and are determined to put him on the British side of things.

However, it is ludicrous to believe that a) this has all gone according to some sort of plan and b) that at this point Obama has survived it. He may get a bill that is so watered down and irrelevant that he becomes just as irrelevant. And in the world of politics that’s the equivalent of being “dead”.

It’s a little early to be singing about Obama or the Democrats having survived anything at this point.

[Crossposted at QandO]

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