We’ll soon have more to say about Thursday’s health care reform summit, but first wanted to share some good observations written by Ezra Klein of the Washington Post (a sharp, gifted young blogger-reporter who knows policy like a wonk but explains it in plain English). In a blog post titled “Sen. Lamar Alexander Explains Why There’ll Be No Compromise,” Klein observes:
At best, what you can say today is demonstrating is that there’s a sharp contrast in the philosophies on display: Democrats believe the federal government is capable of writing and implementing legislation that will take a big step forward on a hard problem. Republicans believe government doesn’t have that capability, and shouldn’t try. There’s no real compromise available between those two position, but they’re philosophies that the American people can choose between.
(This, by the way, is a good, clear way of saying from another angle what we’ve observed before about the parties’ different philosophies of governance, and shows why, if, say, you want public, government-directed investment in flood defense infrastructure or environmental protection, if you want public officials who just might believe in a social contract and a social safety net, you want to vote in as many Democrats—preferably progressive Democrats—as possible.)
Klein wrote a fine summing-up of the summit, “Obama Doubles Down on Health-Care Reform.” In his view:
The big story out of the summit is not that Republicans and Democrats extended their hands in friendship, but that the White House has dug its heels into the dirt. The Democrats are not taking reconciliation off the table, they are not paring back the bill, and they are not extricating themselves from the issue. They think they’re right on this one, and they’re going to try and pass this legislation. . . . Importantly, Harry Reid and other Democrats were not only using the word reconciliation, but defending it from attack. Obama joined them in this effort. But the question is what the handful of ambivalent Democrats in the House and Senate thought. Obama spent the day trying to convince them that passing this bill was right: Not just politically, but intellectually and morally. That was his argument for why he’s still here, lashing himself tighter to this legislation, and why they should stick by him.
We have written earlier, here (and here) and in letters to the President, that we wished he would take a more prominent and forceful stand in the health care reform campaign—especially on behalf of the public option, a good idea he touted often in his presidential campaign. We are pleased with his energetic work this week—notably with his presentation of a plan of his own (distilling Senate + House legislation) and his moral argument that expanding coverage to 30 million presently uninsured Americans is the right thing to do, and we are more confident than ever that a good bill will be passed, and fairly soon (within two to six weeks).
Photo: Stephen Crowley/The New York Times