Obama On Healthcare In the Illinois Legislature

Paul Krugman points to a September Boston Globe article on Barack Obama's work on healthcare in the Illinois legislature. Krugman writes:

This story gives a lot of context to the debate over health reform now. Obama clearly sees himself playing the same role as president that he did as a state legislator — as a broker among groups, including the insurance industry, as someone who can find a compromise solution that’s acceptable to a wide range of opinion.

My thoughts: being president isn’t at all like being a state legislator, Illinois Republicans aren’t like the national Republican party, 2009 won’t be 2003, and the insurance industry’s opposition to national health reform — which must, if it is to mean anything, strike deep at the industry’s fundamental business — will be much harsher than its opposition to a basically quite mild state-level reform effort.

. . . My worries about Obama are that he doesn’t seem to understand this — that he thinks that in 2009, as president, he can broker a national health care reform the same way that as a state legislator, in 2003, he brokered a deal that mollified the insurance industry. That’s a recipe for getting nowhere.

Good points from Krugman.

< Triangulation Redux: Would Obama Be The 1992 Bill Clinton? And Is That What We Need Now? | Obama's Important Advantage: The Media >
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    Excellent points (none / 0) (#1)
    by Maryb2004 on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 10:30:09 AM EST
    The point is that if national health reform is going to happen, it will be as the result of a no-holds-barred fight of an entirely different order from what Obama saw in Illinois ... it will take place against a backdrop of fierce attacks not just from the industry but from Republicans who fear, rightly, that any kind of reform will move the country in a more liberal direction.

    And what he doesn't say in that last sentence that it will include rearguard attacks from the Democrats in Congress who get money from the insurance industry.  The attacks from the insurance industry will be overt (ads, speeches, etc) and covert (money to Dems).  A rearguard attack can be as simple as allowing the Republicans to use the procedures of the Senate to block any change and then shrugging and saying, "well, we tried."

    The arm twisting is going to have to be focused on Democrats and none of these candidates are Lyndon Johnson, including Obama.  

    Obama on the insurance companies in IL (none / 0) (#3)
    by joejoejoe on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 10:37:53 AM EST
    From the Boston.com piece:
    During debate over the Health Care Justice Act, Obama also attacked the insurers, accusing the industry of "fear-mongering" by claiming, even after he made changes they wanted, that the bill would lead to a government takeover.

    And passing legislation that isn't constitutional is generally a bad idea:

    Obama later watered down the bill after hearing from insurers and after a legal precedent surfaced during the debate indicating that it would be unconstitutional for one legislative assembly to pass a law requiring a future legislative assembly to craft a healthcare plan.

    Captain Ahab Krugman again after his white whale in Obama. Krugman can see the many parallels between reform in the IL Senate and in a national health care debate but the one parallel he doesn't draw is the relative power of IL State Sen. Obama and President Obama. Does a partner in a law firm behave the same way as a law clerk in the same firm? No. So why would a relatively powerless state legislator use the same negotiating strategy as the very powerful POTUS? My guess: he wouldn't.

    I think you make a good point (none / 0) (#5)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 10:43:52 AM EST
    on different negotiating strategies.

    you mar it with your ad hom on Krugman.

    There is  nothing more tiresome to me than candidate partisans who can not rationally discuss their candidates.


    Nothing is more tiresome... (none / 0) (#6)
    by joejoejoe on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 11:10:50 AM EST
    ...than Paul Krugman acolytes treating him like he's the oracle at Delphi when he talks about political strategy. He's a brilliant man and I have tremendous respect for his ideas and agree with him 90% of the time but it's my view that he's blown his stylistic disagreement with Obama into something far larger the substance of the policy disagreement and he's doing it prominently on the pages of the NYT, not in a blog comment on TalkLeft. The way I see it Krugman experienced the novel (for him) experience of blowback from the left, didn't like it, and proceeded to lash out wildly at Obama in print. That's irresponsible in my view. So the Ahab comment stands.

    I defer to you on legal issues and rightly so. I defer to Krugman on economic issues and rightly so. On politics I can throw my two cents in the same as anyone and I think Krugman and many others are in the  wonky weeds on Obama's discussion of raising the cap on SS contributions and on the detail of a mandate in a health care coverage. These details say nothing about Obama and everything about a too tight microfocus from people who follow politics so closely they make a grain of sand out to be a boulder. Sometimes a grain of sand is just a grain of sand. Obama's a solid progressive. Attempts to twist his rhetorical style or minor policy details into some kind of Liebermanesque caricature are just bogus and I'll say it wherever and whenever I'm given the space to do so.

    (thanks to TalkLeft for this forum)


    to refresh your memory (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 11:31:07 AM EST
    The Nub (none / 0) (#23)
    by joejoejoe on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 12:08:12 PM EST
    I urge Mr. Obama -- and everyone else who thinks that good will alone is enough to change the tone of our politics -- to read the speeches of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the quintessential example of a president who tackled big problems that demanded solutions.

    The basis of my disagreement with you and Krugman is that I don't accept the characterization that Obama is trying to change politics through "good will alone". You don't get to be where Obama is in American life by being Mr. Rogers. The guy has worked and fought in his own way for a long time and it's a way that I think can deliver real results. People say they like Edwards because he's a "fighter" and they want "fighting Democrasts" but what KIND of fighting? Is it always going to be a direct assault? What about judo, counter-attacks, flanking moves? I think too many people only see one style of fighting as legitimate and that is far from the case.

    I don't see Obama's style so much like FDR so much as Lincoln. This passage about Lincoln sums up Obama's style for me. From 'Lincoln's Herndon' by David Herbert Donald:

    "With Lincoln the emphasis was on casual, friendly questioning of the witnesses, free from technical matters of the law. He would good-naturedly concede nine points out of ten to the opposing counsel, until it seems he had given his case away. But on the tenth point he would insist, and it was the nub of the action. In presenting arguments to the jury Lincoln excelled. With the utmost care he would go over covered by the testimony until it seemed to his partner that he was driving his tacks with a sledgehammer. When the jury looked bored or lost, he would summarize a point in a well-told anecdote, phrased in simple earthy terms. Herndon thought that though his partner "knew nothing of the laws of evidence - of pleading or of practice, and did not care about them: he had a keen sense of justice...throwing aside forms -- methods and rules of all law." For lucidity of statement and patient explanation to a jury Lincoln had no equal in Springfield."

    I understand Obama is throwing aside forms and methods of politics that are tested by people like FDR but that does not mean the method Obama is substituting is bound to fail. It's simply a different method. I see a method to what Obama is doing that isn't triangulation but a kind of judo.  That's a fighting style of it's own, just not the method in fashion at the moment.

    As for the timeline issues, I'll take your word that I'm mistaken.


    NOTHING like Lincoln (none / 0) (#24)
    by andgarden on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 12:10:45 PM EST
    I know you are but what am I (none / 0) (#27)
    by joejoejoe on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 12:20:39 PM EST
    Does this sound like Obama or not?
    He would good-naturedly concede nine points out of ten to the opposing counsel, until it seems he had given his case away. But on the tenth point he would insist, and it was the nub of the action.

    I say it does. You say NOTHING.

    Lincoln was an extreme partisan (none / 0) (#28)
    by andgarden on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 12:23:39 PM EST
    who invited division.

    The Lieberman comparison is real (none / 0) (#7)
    by andgarden on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 11:18:06 AM EST
    and was real before Krugman said so.

    but this is nonsense (none / 0) (#11)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 11:29:36 AM EST
    In the first part of my LAST post I thoroughly debunked the notion that Krugman's thinking on this came IN REACTION to Obama's attack on him.

    It is documented and obvious to anyone that Krugman, like Me, have had these concerns about Obama since at least 2006.

    Your statements on Krugman on utter hogwash.

    You are drowning in primary insanity on this.


    you think? (none / 0) (#4)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 10:42:31 AM EST
    I don't.

    Look, the specific point is one I do not know about, but the GENERAL point about Obama's political style seems dead on to me.

    Obama helped push (none / 0) (#13)
    by Geekesque on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 11:41:37 AM EST
    big-time reform through the thoroughly corrupt IL legislature.  I don't imagine there is resistance fiercer than those s.o.b.'s when they're trying to hang on to their freebies, perqs, and rigged electoral system.

    Also, Obama is one of the 1-3 most powerful politicians in the city of Chicago.  You don't rise up there unless you're willing to throw down.  He learned a lot from the thrashing Bobby Rush gave him.


    Here's the thing (none / 0) (#14)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 11:48:53 AM EST
    Like Krugman, I think that type of experience is irrelevant to the next stage.

    Are we talking about style or experience? (none / 0) (#16)
    by Geekesque on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 11:59:21 AM EST
    Obama strikes me a someone who is most definitely not about Kumbayah, but rather choosing which fights to pick.

    Also, Alter thinks Krugman hasn't done enough reading on FDR:


    The columnist and his candidate both believe that Franklin D. Roosevelt succeeded by being a polarizing figure. I studied FDR for four years while writing a book about him, and this is simply untrue. It's also untrue of other successful Democratic presidents and for a simple reason: "Bitter confrontation" simply doesn't work in policy-making.

    Once Roosevelt tried to govern, (none / 0) (#18)
    by andgarden on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 12:04:18 PM EST
    he changed his mind. Have you ever listened to his 1936 convention speech?

    That statement is so ahistorical (none / 0) (#20)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 12:05:31 PM EST
    as to make me question if Alter knows anything at all about FDR.

    Simply ridiculous.


    You could probably make the argument (none / 0) (#22)
    by andgarden on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 12:07:52 PM EST
    that his 1932 campaign was not focused on issue-based partisanship. However, he did run against Hoover in a really nasty way. Democrats were running against Hoover for the next 30 years, and successfully.

    Of course it populist (none / 0) (#25)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 12:14:43 PM EST
    I think Alter simply does not understand what the word means.

    Look what he writes in that VERY column:

    During and after his 1936 reelection campaign, FDR--angry at the ingratitude of the rich Americans whose fortunes he had saved--adopted class-based politics.

    And he writes just after:

    Krugman is a populist. He writes that if nominated, Obama would win, "but not as big as a candidate who ran on a more populist platform." This is facile and ahistorical. How many 20th Century American presidents have been elected on a populist platform?  That would be zero, Paul.

    Does he not know what he just wrote?

    By the way, Ronald Reagan ran a populist campaign Mr. Alter, in case you missed it.

    Sheesh, some people.


    One wonders if he let a historian read his book (none / 0) (#26)
    by andgarden on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 12:16:51 PM EST
    before it was published.

    Jon alter is full of crap (none / 0) (#19)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 12:04:35 PM EST
    I do not care that he wrote a book about FDR.

    I have read on FDR as much as he has and to argue that FDR was not a poloarizing figure is to simply deny the obvious.

    Alter loses all credibility with that one.

    Ridiculous. Seriously, that is one of the stupidest things I have ever read.


    Absolutely (none / 0) (#21)
    by andgarden on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 12:06:04 PM EST
    Look at what he tried to do in 1938.

    Peter Principle? (none / 0) (#32)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 02:05:07 PM EST
    Got to ask: BTD, are you still (none / 0) (#8)
    by oculus on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 11:20:19 AM EST
    supporting Obama?  Did I miss something?  Thanks.

    Yes (none / 0) (#9)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 11:27:27 AM EST
    But not strongly as you can see.

    Thanks. Helps me filter. (none / 0) (#10)
    by oculus on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 11:28:56 AM EST
    concern trolling (none / 0) (#15)
    by Jgarza on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 11:48:55 AM EST
    Why is there this obsession by some in the blogosphere with Paul Krugman.  He is concern trolling, and wow he is doing it int he same theme as the Clinton Campaign.  He is trying to to diminish the experience Obama has as a state legislator.  Essentially by saying it isn't the right experience, something straight out of Clinton's play book.  It isn't convincing because he over weights it.  He acts like Obama bases his entire approach to health care on what he did as a state legislature, and he doesn't.

    Krugmans writing have dabbed in policy but they are all purely political attacks on Obama.  His arguments have been on minor policy issues, such as mandates, but he is trying to widen them by making up these ridiculous political hypotheticals where, as he argues Obama, will be forced to be a republican.

    Krugman is interesting when he writes about policy, he he tries to turn them into political arguments, he is out of his realm and sounds like a tool.

    This is a silly comment (none / 0) (#17)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 12:02:18 PM EST
    Krugman AND I have raised these concers since BEFORE Obama was a candidate.

    Furthermore, it seems clear that Krugman prefers John Edwards, not Hillary. And indeed, this issue is favorable to Edwards.


    I never (none / 0) (#29)
    by Jgarza on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 01:05:21 PM EST
    said he supports Clinton but Edwrads hasn't tried to define Obama Clinton has.  This comes down to a question of partisanship, clearly Krugman can't understand things that aren't framed in partisan terms.  He likes mandates, therefore mandates must be the democratic position and not wanting theme is republican. I'm sure mandates are a great idea, but they aren't republican or democrat, take Romeny and mass.

    In fact I would venture to guess these big insurance companies he wants to fight with, really want mandates, so it doesn't make sense that you would go into a negotiation with them, with that on the table already.


    Edwards (none / 0) (#31)
    by BDB on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 01:32:34 PM EST
    This argument does seem to work best for John Edwards.  He's already attacked Obama for wanting to invite insurance companies and drug companies to the table on healthcare.  I think there are good points to be made on both sides of this as a policy issue.  As a politics issue, however, I think this is a clear winner for Edwards.  

    Krugman's Off Base (none / 0) (#30)
    by reedsanchez on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 01:32:08 PM EST
    I think that Krugman's point that Obama's experiences in the Illinois State Legislature haven't prepared him for the Presidency misses the target.  I don't think that the target even existed to begin with.

    Of course Obama's experiences in the Illinois State Legislature are dissimilar to what his experiences would be in the White House.  This argument loses its credibility because it can be applied to any candidate's previous experience.  

    Among the democrats, a huge amount of attention has been paid to "experience" and how X candidate is the only one with the requisite experience for the job.

    The Presidency is unlike anything else.  I'll gladly agree with Krugman on that point.  However because there is no experience that can identically simulate the experiences of a President aside from holding the office oneself, candidates are forced to present themselves - and the electorate is forced to evaluate those candidates - on the basis of actual experience.

    While this is obviously an imperfect method of evaluation, this process of analogical comparison is the only one we have.

    Being a Southern Baptist minister is far less comparable to being the President of the United States, but that doesn't mean that Mike Huckabee's experiences as a Southern Baptist minister wouldn't influence his presidency.

    Being held captive for years in a POW camp is (hopefully) not like being the President of the United States but that experience has certainly contributed to who John McCain is and how his presidency would be.

    I realize that my argument approaches hyperbole at this point so I'll simply return to my original point.

    Being a Governor is unlike being the President.  Being a Senator is unlike being the President.  Being a House Representative is unlike being the President.  

    Being the President is like being the President.

    Because none of the candidates - on either side - have been President of the United States, none of them have perfectly applicable experience of which to boast.  As such, we must evaluate them on the basis of what their experience have been and how we believe those experiences have prepared them for the presidency.

    Analogies are almost always imperfect, but they remain the best way of comparing two dissimilar things.

    Krugman should realize that.

    Past History as a guide to Health Deals (none / 0) (#34)
    by diogenes on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 04:01:03 PM EST
    If Past history in crafting health deals is a guide, then obviously Hillary is the most colossal failure imaginable and I am sure that those who attack Obama based on his history would recognize that Hillary failed completely in her opportunity to reform health care.

    More Krugman! (none / 0) (#35)
    by BDB on Wed Dec 19, 2007 at 04:33:28 PM EST
    Krugman talks to TPM about Obama - here.

    My favorite quote, which is not directly about Obama is "The Democratic nominee is still going to be running on a platform that is substantially to the left of how Bill Clinton governed, and the Republican is going to nominate someone to the right of Attila the Hun."

    I do agree with Krugman that I've never understood why progressives find Obama to be to the left of Hillary Clinton, at least on domestic policy.  Her environmental, healthcare, and many other proposals are at least as progressive as Obama's.  Generally speaking, all of the leading Dems have some good, solid progressive policy proposals.  Now if only we could do something about the Bush dogs in the Congress who will inevitably side with the Republicans to weaken them.