Toward A Bipartisan Health Care Bill

At least according to the Times:

President Obama signaled on Wednesday that he might be willing to scale back his proposed health care overhaul to a version that could attract bipartisan support, as the White House and Congressional Democrats grappled with a political landscape transformed by the Republican victory in the Massachusetts Senate race.

"I would advise that we try to move quickly to coalesce around those elements of the package that people agree on," Mr. Obama said in an interview on ABC News, notably leaving near-universal insurance coverage off his list of core goals.

I don't know. I think it's worth reading the actual interview with ABC News, because it's not clear to me that Obama thinks a bipartisan bill is possible. That said, even after reading the full interview I did not get the sense that he had any actionable ideas about how to get this could be done. All I got was a sense of what he thought shouldn't be done.

He says this:

Well, here's , here's one thing I know and I just want to make sure that this is off the table. The Senate certainly shouldn't try to jam anything through until Scott Brown is seated. People in Massachusetts spoke. He's got to be part of that process.

And then says this:

Well, look, I'm not going to get into the legislative strategy. First of all, my job is to as president, is to send a message in terms of where we need to go. It's not to navigate how Congress.

But in his point about Scott Brown, that's exactly what he just did. What I'm seeing--admittedly from a distance--is a willingness to be strong in areas where Obama's comfortable (consensus-building) and a maddening hesitancy to deal with things that are less comfortable (the messy work of moving the bill.)

Moreover, perhaps for the first time, I'm getting the sense that Obama doesn't actually grasp the nature of his opposition. This isn't an Oxford debate over health care. And he isn't the head of Harvard's Law Review. These people are coming to take him out. I suspect that Obama gets that. I also suspect that he thinks it isn't smart to look partisan. But as a supporter, it's utterly deflating to see Obama claiming that his door is still open to Republicans, after they stalled all summer, and after the Senate Majority leader (on the same day) says that he hopes the health care bill is dead.

I think he gets it. But we need to know he gets it. We can't keep going on faith.