Update: President Obama responds to ‘Public Option Cave’ Story

Update: I told you so.  Jump to the end for a statement the President released this morning, obviously in response to the WSJ article.

The Huffington Post is running the scare headline “WHITE HOUSE MAY CAVE ON PUBLIC OPTION,” linking toxraybanner this Wall Street Journal report that seems to have Rahm Emanuel begging Republicans and Blue Dogs to punch the public option in the face:

It is more important that health-care legislation inject stiff competition among insurance plans than it is for Congress to create a pure government-run option, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said Monday.

“The goal is to have a means and a mechanism to keep the private insurers honest,” he said in an interview. “The goal is non-negotiable; the path is” negotiable.

What the frak, Rahm?  Didn’t I just get done saying how you guys punked the Blue Dogs with the $611 billion HELP committee bill that includes a public option?

Coming, as it does, on the heels of President Obama’s urging that outside groups stop attacking cojone-free Democrats on the public option, supporters of the public option are not too happy with Rahm’s comments (or “Rahmments).

Does this mean that the White House is “caving” on the public option?  And if so, why would they do that when, as gargantuan New York Senator Chuck Schumer just pointed out, the Dems now have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate?

My friend Lee Stranahan’s apoplexy notwithstanding, I have a slightly different read on this, and on the President’s plea to Leave Britney..uh, Blue Dogs Alone!  (That’s not to say that Lee should ease up one bit.  He shouldn’t.)

On the “stop attacking Blue Dogs” thing, I believe the President was more concerned with the nature of some of the ads, and the possibility that liberal groups are arming Republicans to retake those seats.  It’s one thing to say “Senator Wusspants is not listening to the people.”  It’s quite another to say “Senator Wusspants has been bought off!”

As for Rahm’s statements, there are a few things I’d like to point out.  First of all, Rahm didn’t just call up the Wall Street Journal and say “Hey, f*** the public option!”  These statements were made in the course of an interview, one for which we don’t know the questions asked.

Luckily, the White House holds press-question-thingys on an almost daily basis, and having sat through many of them myself, I have a pretty good idea how the questioning might have gone.  Here’s what the WSJ says:

“The goal is to have a means and a mechanism to keep the private insurers honest,” he said in an interview. “The goal is non-negotiable; the path is” negotiable.

His comments came as the Senate Finance Committee pushed for a bipartisan deal. To help pay for the package, the committee planned to announce an agreement Wednesday with hospitals and the White House for $155 billion over a decade in reductions to Medicare and charity-care payments for hospitals, according to a person familiar with the agreement.

Now, I wasn’t there, but I bet the question was something like this:

Rahm, the Finance Committee is pushing a bill without a public option. Is that a deal-breaker for the President?

On this question, Gibbs has been very consistent, saying that the President strongly supports the public option, but stopping short of calling it a dealbreaker.  This is a sensible position to take publicly, and in keeping with the administration’s effort to avoid being seen as bullying, to deny opponents of the public option a rallying point.

It’s a position that only works because public support for the public option is so high.  When the dust settles, the administration gets to say, “Hey, we listened to both sides, we were reasonable, but those damn American People forced us to pass the public option.”

I agree with Stranahan that a public option is a must.  Without it, the insurance companies get 46 million captive customers, and the American people get nothing.  Reading between the lines here, I’d say the Senate Finance Committee are the ones to have a go at, not the Obama administration.

Update: I told you so.  Here’s a statement by the President.  Ask the WSJ for an interview transcript, I bet it’s just like I said.

Statement from the President on Health Care Reform

“I am pleased by the progress we’re making on health care reform and still believe, as I’ve said before, that one of the best ways to bring down costs, provide more choices, and assure quality is a public option that will force the insurance companies to compete and keep them honest. I look forward to a final product that achieves these very important goals.”


  1. Mr. C,

    Do you know about this?

    The 2009 Social Security and Medicare Trustees Reports show the combined unfunded liability of these two programs has reached nearly $107 trillion in today’s dollars! That is about seven times the size of the U.S. economy and 10 times the size of the outstanding national debt.

    The unfunded liability is the difference between the benefits that have been promised to current and future retirees and what will be collected in dedicated taxes and Medicare premiums. Last year alone, this debt rose by $5 trillion. If no other reform is enacted, this funding gap can only be closed in future years by substantial tax increases, large benefit cuts or both.

    Yes, Medicare and social security are broke. You still insist that it would be a great idea for the government to expand its role in providing medical services with a “public option”. I don’t really understand in what kind of fantasyland are you living in. What is the rationale? Will the “public option” be self-financed by the premiums paid into it? Or will it be financed the same was as the “stimulus” package with our children and grandchildren money?

  2. […] when I urged my pal, Lee Stranahan, to relax (while continuing his excellent work) about the President’s urging to stop attacking Blue […]

  3. […] stick a fork in the public option since this debate began.  Off the top of my head, there was this July report that Rahm Emanuel had “caved” on the public option by answering this very question.  That story was quickly walked back by the […]

  4. […] is nothing new for the mainstream media, who have taken, or created, every opportunity they can to declare the public option […]

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