The Incredible Sinking 'Public Option'

Figuring out how this central component of Obama's health care reform got pushed out

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With the scrapping of the public plan looking more likely, proponents and opponents alike are deducing how this central component of Obama's health care reform got pushed out.

Dems Got Weak 
Rachel Maddow went after two prominent Democrats, Obama and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, who has been key to the process, for their reversal. "So, if Max Baucus was in favor of a public option and President Obama was in favor of a public option, and a public option survived through three House committees and one Senate committee that passed bills on health care reform so far, why is the public option dying now?" she asked. "It's dying because of a collapse of political ambition. The Democrats are too scared of their own shadow to use the majority the American people elected them to in November to actually pass something they said they favored."

Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi, appearing on Maddow's show (video above), accused Obama of planning this "dog-and-pony show" all along to appease insurance companies. "They bargained away a single-payer from the very start," he said. "This was really a handshake deal between the White House and the insurance industry and the pharmaceutical industry. Basically there was a quid pro quo. We're going to take single-payer off the table at the very start. You promise not to hammer us the way you hammered Bill Clinton when he tried to push through health care reform."

Stuck Between Left and Center 
"Obama is trapped," wrote Matthew Continetti of the Weekly Standard. He argued that Obama has been hurtling towards a "conundrum" like this since the campaign, which he won by making big and contradictory promises to liberals as well as moderates. "He needs both the left and the center to pass his bill, but satisfying one side endangers his relationship with the other."

Folly of Bipartisanship 
Keith Olbermann and Newsweek's Howard Fineman condemned Obama's "appeasement" of Republicans, saying that the White House allowed itself to be led towards dropping the public option. "I think the more that the president tries to give away in the name of trying to achieve bipartisanship, the more recalcitrant the Republicans will become because they smell blood at this point," Fineman said. Olbermann, quoting Donald Rumsfeld of all people, said, "Appease the wrong people and have you to be intellectually or morally confused to do so"

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.