Really, Mark Warner. REALLY?

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Not to deliberately steal from the talented folks who write Update at SNL, but, really? Sen. Mark Warner said President Obama misplayed the health care debate because he didn't focus on cost containment. Really?

Well, yes, he really said that.

"I wish the president would have started the debate by explaining to the American people that our current health care system is not financially sustainable, for even another decade," Warner told the Washington Times. "Driving down health care costs should have been the focus of the debate."

This is unreality. The FIRST argument that the White House turned to about health care was about the cost of doing nothing. (It was Tom Daschle's formulation, actually, that Obama adopted during the campaign and the transition and the early part of this year.)

From December 22: ""Some may ask how at this moment of economic challenge we can afford to invest in reforming our health-care system. And I ask a different question. I ask how can we afford not to."

Progressive activists didn't like the obsessive focus on cost. And they believe that the president hemmed himself in by imposing a seemingly arbitrary $900 billion cap on costs over ten years.

The argument THEY wanted him to make--the liberal argument, if you will--is a moral argument. People are getting sick and dying because they can't afford health care in a country of plenty. But Obama subordinated that argument to focus on cost.

Whether he successfully set the frame for the debate is another question. Indeed, it has another answer: probably not. But maybe the argument isn't winnable.

Health care reform is going to be expensive; people sense this intuitively. A cost-containment argument plays well in polling, and focus groups like it, but the reality of the bill--the reality of reform that members of Congress put together--was messy and expensive. And the reality of politics is that Republicans were unlikely to support health reform as conceived of by Democrats.

Really.

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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